13.07.2007 - 14.07.2007 34 °C
I am the only passenger in the van from Mérida to Campeche. Already it is evening and Ricardo, my driver (the same curly-haired driver I mentioned in my Quintana Roo entry), is tired; he has been driving since sunrise. I sit in the front seat to keep him company. At the border between the state of Yucantán and Campeche, the soldiers that stand guard motion us to pull over. We get out of the van so they can search it and make sure we were not transporting arms or drugs - nah, just a smelly, backpacking American. Unaccustomed to seeing men completely armed with rifles, I am very uncomfortable and stand behind Ricardo hoping that we will be able to leave soon. A 180 degree turn from my nervous body language, Ricardo stands in front of the van and uses this break as an excuse to stretch. Meanwhile, the soldiers standing around question him about his shirt that advocates the Zapatista ideals of justice and democracy. I was imagining the worst was about to occur. But like most of my worrying, nothing comes of it but an accelerated pulse and bad skin. We arrive in the city of Campeche around nine that night. The main road into the city is along the coast of the Gulf of México. I can´t help but note the impeccably clean roads; a newly paved bike path weaves beside a pedestrian walkway where people of all ages sit along the ocean wall. I roll down my window and close my eyes to the comforting feel of the ocean breeze on my face. Sitting in the front seat of the van, driving along the coast, smelling the sea air, I tell Ricardo that I feel like a normal person again. He doesn´t understand what I mean and I don´t know if I can convey to him that for these few moments I don´t feel like a foreigner. Right now, in the van, I could be any other local or even, zipping along Pacific Coast Highway, California with a good friend beside me. For a few moments I feel like I belong.
That night at the hostel, Ricardo and I sit on the rooftop with a several beers between us. We hardly talk, each of us content with the view in front of us. The hostel is located in the central plaza in front of an old cathedral. Each half hour someone would ring the large bells and the sound would echo off of the cobblestone streets and bounce along the narrow streets. Somewhere close by, I could hear classical music blaring from someone´s speakers. A few people strolled in the park in front of the cathedral and from my spot on the roof, I could make out part of the four hundred year old wall that surrounds this port city built to prevent pirate attacks. I knew I would love Campeche.
During the day, Campeche is like all cities - alive and moving; people selling trinkets and gadgets, open markets full of local food and clothes, but at night the city shuts down and becomes something special. Saturday night in Campeche is the night when the main square is blocked off and people gather to listen to live bands, vendors set up their carts, and locals play "la loteria," a game very similar to "bingo." As everything was being set up, a dark cloud also came into the main square and with it came rain and wind. I am not going to say I was too upset. I felt honored to watch the palm trees sway and rain pour down. I went to the cafe located in the center of the park, drank coffee and just enjoyed the unexpected gift the storm was giving me. I truly loved my evenings spent in Campeche.