Tales of Retirement in Paradise
|Chapter 12: You're Invited to Party - Vallarta Style|
Polly G. Vicars
It isn't true, as some of our state-side friends say, that all we do is party since we retired to Puerto Vallarta, but when we do party, it is neither ordinary nor humdrum! (That certainly hasn't changed in the ensuing years. We still party, neither ordinarily, nor humdrumily!)
|Colorful piñata constructed by Máma Martha for Yesi's third and Alex's first birthdays.|
|Papá Melchor holds Alex after his mordida, bite out of the birthday cake, while Yesi ponders the situation.|
|The guests and the two beautiful cakes made by Yesi & Alex's Grandmother, Señora Flores.|
|The Kids of Las Juntas & Los Veranos coming for their candy.|
|Friends, many now passed on, enjoying the OK Corral and beautiful Blanca's service.|
Scene One - a small casa in Pitillal, a suburb of Vallarta...
Transport yourself to a never-never land where there is nothing but love and laughter and caring. The setting - a little house made of brick and concrete, still waiting to be painted, but lacking in none of the important elements.
The Event - the first birthday of Melchor Alejandro Cortez Flores and the third birthday of Martha Yesenia Cortez Flores, the children of Maestro Melchor. Mamá spent weeks constructing colorful and fanciful piñatas filled with sweet treats. She and Melchor also constructed a huge box and filled it with balloons. Pulling the box's attached rope over the wire stretched across the yard for the raising and lowering of the piñatas, they planned to conclude their party with a dramatic balloon drop.
Favors, carefully constructed and hand lettered, commemorated the event for each adult. Popped corn, enclosed in colorful bags, lined the counter for the little ones. Long boards, held up by piles of concrete blocks, placed in the tiny, still grassless yard, served as seating.
Abuela (Grandmother) Cortez designed and stitched a pink satin dress for Yesi to wear to her special Mass for three-year-olds and to the party. She created a white satin outfit for Alex. Abuela Flores baked and fancifully decorated separate cakes for each birthday child: a pink butterfly adorned with three candles and a blue rabbit with only one.
We arrived a little late (we'd been the first and only guests at too many Mexican parties) and were relieved to see the boards groaning with aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors and perhaps a few passers-by. Tío (uncle) dutifully hoisted piñatas while Tía (aunt) put blindfolds on the little ones. To cries of arriba! or abajo! (up or down) the revelers urged on the combatants to bash open the clown or the parrot so that sour balls, suckers and other sweet treats would rain down.
Everywhere you looked there were kids - running kids, laughing kids, jumping kids, dancing kids (of course there was music) celebrating life as it should be celebrated. I did not see one Mamá or Papá reprimand a child, nor did I see a child deserving of a swat or a frown. I saw no pouts, nor heard a single cry or whine. (How do they do that?)
After the piñatas lay in pieces, their spilled goodies snatched up by the guests, the kids gathered around a large makeshift table where Abuela had proudly placed the cakes. Each birthday child blew out his or her candle(s) and then, in the tradition of this country, took the first bite directly from the cake, leaving tiny mouths rimmed with a line of sweet white icing and telltale holes in the cakes. Mamá and Papá cut the cakes and everyone helped serve cake and fresh fruit punch.
We left before the balloon drop, but Maestro Melchor told us the fun and games continued until the sun sank into the Pacific and the eyes of the little ones began to droop. Mamá and Papá put the tired, but contented little ones to bed, put the casa back in order, and climbed into bed themselves, secure in knowing that Yesi and Alex had shared a day of love and laughter with their friends and their diverse, but devoted, extended family.
Scene Two - the O.K. Corral...
A friend told a friend who told us of a restaurant about ten miles south, in the tiny pueblo of Las Juntas & Los Veranos. The owner had worked at a well-known tourist restaurant where, no matter what anyone asked him to do, he answered with "O.K." - thus his nickname. O.K. decided to open a restaurant adjacent to his home, just across the river from his former employer, so he could earn a living and be at home with his wife and growing family (a new one is about ready to grace the scene.) (Now all the little ones have little ones of their own, and grandchildren grace the premises.)
On our first visit a year or so ago, the family warmly welcomed us. Though more than ten of us trooped in, they quickly put tables together, took our orders and brought out guacamole, freshly made tortilla chips and the ubiquitous, but delicious, salsa Mexicana.
The availability of the items on the limited menu - Huachinango (red snapper, Langostino (crawdad), and Camarones (shrimp) often depends on the day's catch. Quesadillas (cheese filled tortillas) and Carne Asada (grilled beef) are always served. The fresh entrees, prepared to your liking, come with rice, steamed vegetables, salad and hot tortillas, as well as buttered Bolillos (Mexican hard rolls.) You can count on an ample supply of cold beer, soft drinks and a small selection of bar favorites.
Lovely and efficient Blanca, the only non-family member, has been waiting tables since opening day; she sees to your every need and adds to the beauty and gaiety of your party. The generous portions and the reasonable prices offer pleasant surprises to first time visitors.
The ambience of O.K.'s enhances the excellent food and service; an open air dining area overlooks the river. Chickens, dogs, cats, pigs, and horses roam the dirt road that winds by (the chickens, cats and dogs often wander in to say hello.) Fighting cocks, housed in little wire casas, dot the yard across the road, and children are everywhere.
The kids of the pueblo watch for our van. They know we always bring sacks of Dulces (candy) to share with them. Shy or boisterous, they come by to collect their treats, their lilting "gracias" and wide smiles bring bonuses to the event.
This July 4th was not only the 219th anniversary of the U.S. of A., but was also Husband's and my 44th. We chose O.K.'s for our celebration. Fishing friends from Seattle and two of their youngsters (twelve and seventeen) had just flown into town. Two special friends from Oklahoma City (yes, they were there during the Federal Building bombing, and both, being doctors, helped with the emergency) were in town for a couple of weeks. Friends from Toronto had come in for just a week to breathe some of this magic air before returning north for another few months.
We invited them all! Though we went for lunch, we stayed until the sun was about ready to set. Finally, with stomachs full of fine food and hearts full with shared fellowship, we reluctantly said goodbye to O.K. and his family. Some of us had another party to attend...
Polly G. Vicars and her husband of 57 years, Hubert (a.k.a. "Husband") retired to Puerto Vallarta in 1988 and soon became active members of several charitable organizations. Polly is the author of "Tales of Retirement in Paradise: Life in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico" [a sell-out!] and "More Tales of Retirement in Puerto Vallarta and Around the World." Proceeds from the sale of her books go to the America-Mexico Foundation, a scholarship foundation that is their passion.
Click HERE for more articles by Polly Vicars.