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Loreto: Adventures in Dude Town, Part 2

Twisted barnyard CPR.

Friendly whales in Magdalena Bay
Friendly whales in Magdalena Bay

Post Title: Loreto: Adventures in Dude Town, Part 2

Post Date: March 1, 2006

After several days absorbing Loreto, we became attuned to its slower place, casual atmosphere, and especially its friendly people. Everyone on the street said hola and buenos dias.

One morning, we headed out in the Jeep to cross the peninsula to the Pacific side. Gray whales migrate from Alaska in the wintertime, coming down the California coast and ending up in several bays in Baja to spawn. February is their most active month. Throughout the two-hour ride, we spotted dozens of them, often mothers and their calves swimming together.

Environmental regulations in Mexico are more relaxed than in the states. When we’d gone whale-watching off the coast of San Diego, the charter boat had to stay 200 yards from the migrating whales. In Magdalena Bay, the pangas swarm around the whales and, often, the whales say “hello” by coming up to the side of the boat and allowing humans to touch them.

We had been looking forward all week to our last night in Loreto. In the afternoon, the town would come together to celebrate carnaval and so kick off the Lenten season. We had heard about the carnaval’s cockfights all week. It lingered in the air, part rumor and part myth. No one was able to tell us exactly what time — or even which day — they were to occur. We had narrowed it down to SOMETIME on Saturday, “Maybe two, maybe three this afternoon,” according to the bartender at our hotel the night before.

After dinner at El Nido’s with some new friends (we had met at our hotel over a plastic water bottle full of homemade mezcal a few nights before), we headed up the street to where the cockfights were about to begin. The ring was well lit and full of predominantly male Mexican ranchers and their families. The beautiful and colorful fighting gallos lined the inside of the perimeter fence.

Each rancher brought his gallo into the dirt-covered ring. There, they proceeded to tie a sharp, hooked claw to one of the rooster’s legs — using red and blue string to designate the animals and make it easier for bettors. The ranchers then used a “sparring” cock to rile their contenders and make them thirsty for blood. Once appropriately riled, the ranchers would hold their roosters up to each other several times to make them combative, and then set them loose on the ground to have at it.

At first, the gallos leapt at each other, tearing with their tied-on claws. After a few passes, the roosters tired. The ranchers would then pick them up and blow into their faces…apparently to revive them vis-à-vis some twisted barnyard CPR. The roosters made a few more half-hearted lunges at each other until one finally dropped and would not get back up. It was hard to discern if there was any type of organized betting happening, so we bet each other 200 pesos on each fight.

EL GRINGO DISCLAIMER: You won’t find information on the cockfights on TripAdvisor — or even in your copy of Lonely Planet. Apparently, it is illegal for most of the year, but permits are issued for special events and festivals. Regardless of the carnage and what PETA may have to say about all of this, the cockfights were very interesting from a cultural standpoint. Your Gringo tries not to let judgment get in the way of a new cultural experience, which is part of the essence of travel.

And so we left Loreto, promising to come back as soon as possible. I think our cab driver to the airport on the way out of town expressed Loreto’s magic qualities best: “I’ve lived in Loreto all my life. I have two cabs, a nice boat, I go fishing, have a decent place to live, nice weather, beautiful sea, my family are here. I have friends who go to the work on the otra lado [other side, the U.S.]. Why? I have everything I need here. I’m not rich, but I’m happy.”

[Post edited for length]

Title: A Gringo in Mexico | Address: agringoinmexico.com

Author: W. Scott Koenig | From: College Area | Blogging since: March 2012

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Post Title: Loreto: Adventures in Dude Town, Part 2

Post Date: March 1, 2006

After several days absorbing Loreto, we became attuned to its slower place, casual atmosphere, and especially its friendly people. Everyone on the street said hola and buenos dias.

One morning, we headed out in the Jeep to cross the peninsula to the Pacific side. Gray whales migrate from Alaska in the wintertime, coming down the California coast and ending up in several bays in Baja to spawn. February is their most active month. Throughout the two-hour ride, we spotted dozens of them, often mothers and their calves swimming together.

Environmental regulations in Mexico are more relaxed than in the states. When we’d gone whale-watching off the coast of San Diego, the charter boat had to stay 200 yards from the migrating whales. In Magdalena Bay, the pangas swarm around the whales and, often, the whales say “hello” by coming up to the side of the boat and allowing humans to touch them.

We had been looking forward all week to our last night in Loreto. In the afternoon, the town would come together to celebrate carnaval and so kick off the Lenten season. We had heard about the carnaval’s cockfights all week. It lingered in the air, part rumor and part myth. No one was able to tell us exactly what time — or even which day — they were to occur. We had narrowed it down to SOMETIME on Saturday, “Maybe two, maybe three this afternoon,” according to the bartender at our hotel the night before.

After dinner at El Nido’s with some new friends (we had met at our hotel over a plastic water bottle full of homemade mezcal a few nights before), we headed up the street to where the cockfights were about to begin. The ring was well lit and full of predominantly male Mexican ranchers and their families. The beautiful and colorful fighting gallos lined the inside of the perimeter fence.

Each rancher brought his gallo into the dirt-covered ring. There, they proceeded to tie a sharp, hooked claw to one of the rooster’s legs — using red and blue string to designate the animals and make it easier for bettors. The ranchers then used a “sparring” cock to rile their contenders and make them thirsty for blood. Once appropriately riled, the ranchers would hold their roosters up to each other several times to make them combative, and then set them loose on the ground to have at it.

At first, the gallos leapt at each other, tearing with their tied-on claws. After a few passes, the roosters tired. The ranchers would then pick them up and blow into their faces…apparently to revive them vis-à-vis some twisted barnyard CPR. The roosters made a few more half-hearted lunges at each other until one finally dropped and would not get back up. It was hard to discern if there was any type of organized betting happening, so we bet each other 200 pesos on each fight.

EL GRINGO DISCLAIMER: You won’t find information on the cockfights on TripAdvisor — or even in your copy of Lonely Planet. Apparently, it is illegal for most of the year, but permits are issued for special events and festivals. Regardless of the carnage and what PETA may have to say about all of this, the cockfights were very interesting from a cultural standpoint. Your Gringo tries not to let judgment get in the way of a new cultural experience, which is part of the essence of travel.

And so we left Loreto, promising to come back as soon as possible. I think our cab driver to the airport on the way out of town expressed Loreto’s magic qualities best: “I’ve lived in Loreto all my life. I have two cabs, a nice boat, I go fishing, have a decent place to live, nice weather, beautiful sea, my family are here. I have friends who go to the work on the otra lado [other side, the U.S.]. Why? I have everything I need here. I’m not rich, but I’m happy.”

[Post edited for length]

Title: A Gringo in Mexico | Address: agringoinmexico.com

Author: W. Scott Koenig | From: College Area | Blogging since: March 2012

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