The popular beach in Salina Cruz

A day of festivities

By Diomedes | Robert O'Reilly | 12 Apr 2023



Joel had a strange history, obviously, for anyone ending up here. He’d been through university and had a law degree and even practiced a few years in Seattle. He was thin and handsome and must never had met the girl with enough magnetism to keep him there. So something snapped in his brain and he took all his savings and moved to this desolate place, where he could stare at sunsets on an empty beach, beer in hand, and wonder about the mysteries of life. In our one-week car trip and the odyssey that followed he certainly vied for Sanita’s attentions as much as I did. But he was jobless and going right back to the place and poverty she was escaping from.

His savings were enough to last him years. He was staying with a poor Mexican family. He had his private bedroom in a small house near the beach and they were also providing him meals for a hundred dollars a month. The peso was so devalued at the time (after the earthquake which destroyed Veracruz that September) that an American dollar was worth 220 of them. A common meal cost about twenty cents. I forget the details, never paying attention to such trivia but I remember when we arrived and exchanged American dollars our money went about four times further then we though it would. We could eat at the finest restaurants for five dollars a plate.

We drove him to his place and he showed us to the motel near the beach. We rented two rooms, Louie and Robin taking one (at the far end) and I taking the next, in a one story, modest, stucco structure that had maybe six rooms in all, in a row and facing the cove beach about two hundred yards away, above a sandy path winding down to it through small mounds of sand, sparsely covered with a tall, scraggly grass.

On the beach there was a palapa serving beer, with one picnic table in front of it, plenty of seating for all the customers it got. This was no ‘Playa Grande’ or resort, and probably not even on the map. But down we went, the three of us, where we met Sanita and her Argentinian boyfriend, a large, hairy man with a bushy beard in a skimpy bathing suit, almost a ‘Speedo’. She wore an equally skimpy bikini but her body, her arms and legs and chest, were so skinny it seemed appropriate, even attractive. On him it seemed gross.


Alex in the palapa.

We introduced ourselves and joined them with beers. Robin nudged in next to Sanita, with Louie, Joel and I sitting across from them. We made light talk (they knew Joel well) and they seemed like any normal, pleasant couple. Robin was a hairdresser, (her hair now dyed white from the crimson of the summer before). She mentioned this and Sanita asked her if she could trim her hair the next day. She agreed. We soon parted and spent the rest of that afternoon driving around with Joel to a few bars and to dinner.


Sanita on the beach

The next morning, from our windows, we saw Sanita and her boyfriend fixed at the same picnic table exactly like the picture of the day before. It was only nine a.m. and he was on his first beer. This was his only interest and activity, drinking and staring at the ocean, while he waited for phone lines to be repaired and money wired to him from Argentina. He was stuck there until the money did arrive as he was living on credit with the motel owners who knew him well. He started drinking early each day and lasted till about three in the morning. Robin kept her promise and went down and began clipping Sanita’s hair while Louie and I sat, waiting for Joel to show up. The boyfriend wasn’t much of a conversationalist, brooding in fact. Joel arrived. Robin finished up and the four of us set off. The day after Christmas is a special holiday in Mexico and Joel wanted to introduce us to a friend he’d made, a local living in the deepest slums of Salina Cruz.

This man seemed out of place, as he spoke near perfect English but was poor. His abode was a one room, tin shack that looked like it might collapse at any moment, with a dirt floor, as the whole structure was leaning, worse than the tower of Pisa. It had only a few wooden beams and one wall was cardboard, not tin. We entered through a wool blanket and he introduced us to his obese Mexican wife, (who spoke no English) and his three small children, all smiling delightfully. He leaves them and takes us out.

This was a day of celebration, a drunk-fest, and he walks us through the slums, narrating on the richness of life here, to a shack where we each bought a coconut with a straw, filled with so much tequila that we were plastered by noon. We stumbled to various bars and restaurants all afternoon, tasting seafood delicacies at his recommendation, in a happy daze, we paying his way and leaving him with a large tip for being the best tour guide ever. I don’t remember what it was, but probably a twenty, and more income than he’d make in a month. Yet he and his family certainly deserved it, wealth inequality once again piercing my heart.

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B.A. in Latin and Greek from U.C. Berkley. Writer, Blogger and retired Electrician.

Robert O'Reilly
Robert O'Reilly

I am educated in the Western Classical Tradition, B.A. from U.C. Berkeley in Latin and Greek, English major, one year at U. of Toronto, studied under Alain Renoir and Northrop Frye, read most classics full time for many years after university in French, English, Latin and Greek to the modern day. I am interested in the near future of technology, what changes it imposes upon our heritage and character as humans. Short stories and Essays are my medium.

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