We’ve been back in La Paz for many weeks now but time has escaped this blog. It’s easy to do. I confess that over the last few weeks I have felt too busy to take a moment to sit and write. What could we possibly be busy with you ask? After all, aren’t we sipping cocktails in the cockpit while watching the sun set over the horizon day after day? Well, yes and no. I’ve been updating websites and baking bread (it’s finally cool enough!), while Grant’s been changing oil, patching our dinghy, fixing the mount to our windlass, and fixing the head. Maluhia is getting ready to cross the Sea of Cortez.
That’s right, we are leaving Baja. The thought of leaving La Paz makes us both sad and excited. Sad to leave such a wonderful place we’ve called home for the last year. But, excited to explore the Mexican mainland with our friends in search of a new place to plant the hook for awhile. We are hoping for a drama free 48 hours of sailing to cross to the mainland.
Here are some highlights and photos from the last several weeks.
Exploring New Territory: Our time up in the sea wasn’t all hurricanes and chubascos. We explored many new anchorages and set foot on new islands such as Isla Coronados, Isla Monserrate, and Isla San Jose.
Catching Up With Old Friends: Fall is the time of year when all of those smart people who left to avoid the summer of Baja, begin returning from their exotic vacations to Europe, Canada and the United States. Boats that went super North into the sea make their way South toward La Paz, then start heading to cross the Sea of Cortez, stopping in Mazatlan, Isla Isabella, and ended up in Banderas Bay. We’ve been catching up with all of our old friends, sharing stories from the summer, and comparing cruising plans.
Dia de Los Muertos: Se Habla La Paz (the local spanish language school) had a cultural presentation about The Day of The Dead and we went to learn a little more about this popular celebration and its history.
Prior to the Spanish exploration and conquest during the 16th century, the Mezoamerica civilizations of Mexico (There are many but more widely known are the Olmecs, Mayans, and Aztecs.) considered death a passage to a new life. It was common practice for these civilizations to keep skulls as trophies and display them during rituals to symbolize death and rebirth. The deceased were buried with two types of personal objects, those the deceased used throughout their life and those the deceased would need during their transit to the afterlife.
For these indigenous tribes the notion of life after death had no connection to the Catholic religion. The ancient Mexicans believed that the fate of the soul of the dead was determined by the type of death and behavior of the individual during their life.
After the Spanish Conquest by Hernán Cortéz the Catholic religion and its principals were introduced to the Mexican civilizations by the Spanish Europeans. The ancient civilizations were told to give up their idols, stop human sacrifices, and instead build churches to worship one God instead of many. For some who wanted to become allies to Cortéz and his men defeating the Aztecs, the change was accepted. But for others it wasn’t that easy. Efforts of Christian evangelization had to yield to the force of many indigenous beliefs, which resulted in a unique Catholicism characterized by a blend of pre-Hispanic religion and Catholicism.
The syncretism between Spanish and indigenous traditions originated what is today called the Day of the Dead. Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is celebrated in Mexico on November 1st and 2nd of each year, and coincides with the Catholic tradition of celebrating All Saints Day (November 1st) and All Souls Day (November 2nd).
An elaborate display of altars dedicated to the deceased are displayed throughout the homes and public areas of the city. It is believed that the spirit of the individual returns to the world to visit with the family during these days and comfort and console them for their loss.
The altars are colorfully decorated with multiple levels signifying the journey after death from earth to the heavens. Additional key items are placed on the altar celebrating the life of the loved one, including the favorite food of the individual.
Among the elements most represented are a photo of the deceased looking into a mirror so they can see the reflection of their relatives.
- A cross to incorporate the veneration of the soul often made of ash or salt.
- Copal and incense, a pre-Hispanic element that cleans and purifies energy.
- Photographs of a saint.
- Pan is a symbol of the eucharist added by Spanish missionaries that is decorated with shapes of bones in the form of a cross, sprinkled with sugar, and made with anise.
- An arch constructed on top of the altar symbolizes the entrance to the afterlife and is often adorned with the marigold flower (flor de cempasúchil).
- Colorful confetti paper represents happiness and the wind.
- Candles are a symbol of a guiding light.
- A glass of water is very important reflecting the purity of the soul and regeneration of life. The water also helps satisfy the thirst of the loved one after their trip.
- Sometimes soap and a towel accompany the water so the dead can groom themselves.
- Sugar skulls are considered an allusion of death and to remind the living of the present.
Whale Sharks: After a year, we finally went snorkeling with the largest fish in the world! We got to share the experience with our friends Eduardo and Lillian. It was AMAZING to say the least! From early winter to late spring these gentle giants can be found feeding on plankton, microscopic plants, and occasionally small fish in the Bay of La Paz!
The shark we snorkeled with was at least 10 meters long. These sharks can weigh as much as 79,000 pounds and live as much as 70 years. They have very large mouths but no teeth, which helps ease the mind a bit when observing them from the water!
La Paz is a wonderful city located in Baja California Sur located at the doorstep to some of the most interesting islands, anchorages, stunning clear water, and friendly small communities we’ve ever seen. Perhaps we will return, or perhaps we will move on, only time will tell. We have a very healthy habit of liking the places we sail to, and staying for an extended time, or at least wanting to stay. We thought Ventura was one of those places, until we found Catalina Island. After Catalina we found La Paz, the city of peace, is definately one of those places. Next, we are heading to explore the mainland of Mexico. We will find another La Paz?