by Patricia A. Burke
It's our first day on the island, late afternoon, the fierce sun burns small red patches on my face. The Hotel Garrafon overlooks the multi-hued Caribbean waters off Isla Mujeres– the Island of Women. All of its twelve rooms face the ocean. I sit on my small balcony on the third floor and peer through flashes of bright sun bouncing randomly off white-crested waves. The breeze is stiff, warm, alive.
There is a group of snorklers to my left, tourists bobbing in the water in bright yellow life vests (they are shipped over from Cancun every day on tour boats), trying to catch a glimpse of exotic fish that inhabit the once teeming, but now barely surviving coral reef at the Garrafon National Park, next door. It was decimated in the hurricane a few years ago. About fifty yards from shore, a two-masted yacht bobbing in the moderate swells is crammed with a higher class of tourists, laughing, raising glasses of expensive imported wine to the red disk in the sky.
There are two boys below my balcony, both natives, small framed, with characteristically thick, jet black hair (one has a tuft sticking out from the left side of his head), round Mayan faces, and eyes to match their hair. Oblivious to the American, German, and Dutch tourists shiny with tropical oils and coconut lotions, who play in the water, saunter along the dock, or set themselves up in lounges on the white sand beach, the boys run back and forth across a small patch of faded lawn, laughing wildly, dragging small kites along the ground. One kite is made of an old piece of paper, the other a scrap of plastic. Thin, straight slivers of wood, like used barbeque skewers fashioned in an "X" inside a square, hold each taught. Several long strips of plastic tied in knots trail behind; each tail longer than both boys are tall.
The younger of the two stops and looks down at his great invention, the other kneels, scratches his head, and begins fiddling with the sticks on his younger friend's kite, as if he is the world's greatest authority on kite construction (which he may well be). The younger boy seems to know he is being watched and suddenly looks up. I smile. He smiles. I wave. He waves. And without looking down, reaches for his friend, rubs the older boy's head vigorously, telling him in Spanish to, "Look up! Look up there!" The other boy releases the kite, looks up, and waves. We all smile and wave. They chatter in Spanish, then run off giggling, with what can only be described as sheer delight at having been seen, their makeshift kites finally catching the strong breeze and flying high above them in the warm currents.
Copyright 2000, Patricia A. Burke. All Rights Reserved.