Sunday, 16 March 2008

Day Trippers

Around mid morning, they start to arrive. Driving warily through the outskirts of town in their rented car, eyes looking every which way, or disgorged from the bowels of tour buses, the Day Trippers are back in town.

The Species “Tourist”, sub genus “Day Tripper” is seasonal, with peak migrations around Christmas and President’s week. They can be recognized easily by their plumage which is entirely different from that displayed by the local species: usually clean golf shirts, shorts or golf pants with sneakers for the male, variations on cruise wear for the females, and always a camera clutched in one hand and deployed at the first sign of Real Mexican Life. Some specialized water-borne tribes (rumored to live on the floating cities that pull into Cabo San Lucas bay daily) have little labels with names to make identification of each other easier, and in case they become lost in the huge metropolis of Todos Santos. Day Trippers can only be found within the core three streets in town unofficially designated as the real historical core (though officially it extends way beyond this area into parts believed actually to be occupied by local Mexicans).

Day Trippers cluster around some key landmarks in town: The Hotel California, the other Hotel California restaurant and t-shirt shop (no connection) across the street, the Santa Fe restaurant (It’s THE place to eat, dear” ), and the seemingly-without-end tourist knickknack stores, where they can buy Genuine Mexican Sarapes lovingly handcrafted in Indonesia and other such gems. These stores have taken a leaf from Starbuck’s playbook and taken it to the ultimate level. Not content with a store on every corner, they fill every available niche in town, swallowing up new mini malls whole.

By early afternoon, when their initial picture snapping frenzy is over, it’s possible to engage Day Trippers in conversation. Usually, the comments on the town fall into one of two camps. Either it’s “What a wonderfully cute town you live in!”, or it’s “Where is the town? “There’s nothing here!”. Of course, neither is a true reflection of what Todos Santos residents believe about the place.

Cuteness is a characteristic of a superficial view of Todos Santos as if it were an anachronistic relic or living museum. Of course, it is likely that some parties in town (the developers) would like to play on this perspective, turning the town center into a veritable heritage village, devoid of mess, cars and trucks, and with a showpiece authentically reengineered traditional Zocolo that probably no-one will use (just as now). Maybe they could hire locals to dress in authentic Baja costumes and wander around town to provide more “cute” photo opportunities?

Residents here are aware of the downside of the “cuteness”, like the ever-present dust, the limited (though vastly improved) availability of day-to-day merchandise amongst the sarapes, the noise of dogs, music and macho trucks. They have to learn to live with these characteristic of a real Mexican town.

The view of Todos Santos being a place devoid of content or value is also a product of a filtered perspective. Certainly it is no Las Vegas and does not have the venues to provide continual frenetic entertainment. The treasures of Todos Santos are hidden from the sight of these Day Trippers. They would need to go both physically deeper into and around the town, and internally deeper to appreciate things that do not appear on Entertainment Tonight. The song of birds, the light filtering through trees, the vista of ocean and endless beach – these are all things that Day Trippers cannot see. Maybe they wouldn’t even want to.

So, by late afternoon, when the rental cars and the buses have carted away the last of the Species, I often wonder what warped pictures of Todos Santos they take away in their heads. Even more, though, I wonder just who amongst us, if anyone, does have a real, unfiltered picture of the place?

1 comment:

Jennifer Weber said...

Right... we each have our own lens and depending on what place in life we are at, the lens changes. When I travel, I want to eat up the charm of a new locale, but fear keeps me in the 'touristy' places. These touristy places are warped, and leave me with sadness... I feel that I've no clue of what life is like for these people – and I feel that we (the tourist’s) are raping their home and taking what is good and leaving nothing of real value behind. I have such mixed feelings about traveling, obviously. I’d love to have a more in depth conversation!