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Friday, July 25, 2008

Three Friends in Cancun

By Silvia Uribe

The best time to go on a vacation ought to be summer; a happy, hot, humid, fun time that allows for diversion, entertainment, or let's just call it, "play time." Play, that's precisely what my old friends from grammar school and I did a few weeks ago in Cancun. What a place! The last time I visited Cancun with my family was many years ago, when it was much less developed, so I feared that this time around the experience would not be as peaceful. Now we were three middle age women alone, and I did not know what to expect from a place to which the school spring breakers go, and where the "girls go wild" (according to the soft porn video commercials).

I was determined to make this vacation a relaxing one, which can pose a problem for someone who, like me, does not really know how to stop and do nothing - or like the high school crowd would say, just "kick it." But we had a plan. We made the reservations, and finally, we were on our way to the blue, turquoise, and sometimes steel colored waters of the Mayan Caribbean.

Through the airplane window, from Toluca (now a small town in the outskirts of Mexico city ) to my destination, I was lucky enough to see Mexico's four highest mountains - the "Nevado" in Toluca, the "Popo", and the "Ixta", close to the capital, and the "Pico" in Orizaba, Veracruz. They looked like enormous giants guarding the rest of the incomparable vistas of my homeland, and its -- for the most part -- humble and sincere people. It was a clear sunny day filled with all sorts of cloud formations contrasting with an intense blue sky. Armed with my new camera, I was able to get wonderful shots of these mountains that I will make large prints of to hang in my office walls. (I use pictures as an opportunity to spark conversation with known and unknown visitors alike.) Once in Cancun, the humidity and the heat welcomed us, making us rush to our hotel to change to more ad-hoc attire. We took a tour of our hotel, and it was the start to one of my most wonderful vacations.

We went swimming, and snorkeling, went to a mangrove, danced to "salsa", and among many other things we did, we went to the largest club that I have ever been to, "The Coco Bongo." From the VIP area where we were lucky enough to get a table, we watched the best variety shows (I counted 19) one after the other. We danced and danced until our feet could not do it anymore. It didn't matter to us, or anyone else for that matter, that we were the same age as some the youngest attendees' grandmas. We, like the three musketeers, were one for all and all for one even in the unexpected and quite wild, loud, and at times overwhelming nightlife experience. We left the club at 3 am and went to have some original "tacos al pastor" immediately after. Picture this, pork meat marinated in a delicious red chili sauce (not too spicy) with a hint of pineapple on top, and vertically grilled. Yu-mmy! After the tacos, we walked to our hotel, which represented a real effort. We had to do it barefooted, since we could not stand on our somewhat high heels any longer.

During the four short days that I spent with my two best lifetime friends, honoring a friendship that has overcome time, distance (both of them live in Mexico), and other obstacles that life presented us, our favorite activity of all was to talk. We talked about our school times (from the third grade until high school), our families, our accomplishments, and most importantly, our future plans. It was energizing to realize that the three of us have many dreams and goals set for the future. We also made some sort of plan, or better yet, a pact, to repeat the three friends' retreat in three years, this time going somewhere in the USA, and another one after that in Spain. Knowing ourselves, I have no doubt that we will make it happen.

Cheers to friends, friendship and fond memories!

Silvia Uribe is a freelance writer with a Latino perspective.

Cross-posted at

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Fire, Phones, & Fighting

By Silvia Uribe

About the Gap Fire events:

Blue Radio

Tiny Blue Radio

This was my first time being semi-close to a wild fire. Other than campfires and the contained ones during Christmas in my fireplace, this element was completely unknown to me. After this disclaimer, I have to admit that the long weekend of the 4th of July felt longer than I had ever expected. Unfortunately, it was not a bit fun. Having a great view of the mountains from my balcony, my family and I were able to sit for endless hours and watch the fire slowly moving down the front of the mountain. It was like a crippling beast, paralyzing us with fear and inching closer, especially at night. In addition, the fact we had no electrical power increased our feeling of powerlessness. Because of this, we developed an unhealthy (I'm sure) relationship with our tiny, battery-powered, blue radio, from which none of us could be apart from for long - fighting furiously at times over its rightful location in the house. I felt so much stress and confusion that I turned the TV on channel 20, when power was available, just to read the rolling text; even though useful, additional verbal updates were annoying to me at the time, for some reason. Warnings and evacuation orders were issued, and on our tiny blue connection to the world we learned that some were resistant to leave their homes. In disbelief I wondered why. Do we value our possessions more than our life?


As I was sitting at the Camino Real Marketplace last Friday morning, I saw people (many people, I should say) gathering around the Direct Relief International truck to get their fair share of masks to protect themselves and their family (or so they said) from the ash. So far, I have not seen one person wearing those masks in public either in Santa Barbara or in Goleta. I wonder, did they only get those masks as a free souvenir item from the Goleta GAP fire? Or maybe the masks are just too uncomfortable to wear? Either way, it defeats the purpose, don't you think?


About The New Cell Phone Law:

How it is possible that even though we knew it posed a threat to our safety to talk, text or IM on our cell phones while driving, it was not until it would cost us money that we decided to stop doing it? I wonder again, does it mean that we pay more attention to our pocket than to our safety? Do we have our priorities reversed?


About Our Acceptance of Violence in our Society:

On Saturday night I had the not too lucky opportunity, for the first time, to watch the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) at a downtown bar in Santa Barbara. I had only heard about these fights before. These two young fighters were confined and ready to fight in what seemed to me to be a cage. There was another person in the cage dressed as a referee, except this person seemed to be just an interesting accessory to the show. He enforced no rules, whatsoever. The bar patrons were paying little attention to the TV screen. The fight started and I saw all sorts of kicks on the head, torso, and legs. At times they were in what I call a "nut" position, where it was hard to determine, which part belonged to which person. I started feeling very nervous. Purposely, I focused my attention on another TV that was showing images of Dubai, which were way more inviting than the fight. At some point, and in the middle of the blaring music, the verbal exclamations of my bar peers made me turn my head and I saw their facial expression. Some had a horrified look, others were half covering their eyes, and others were screaming all sorts of things. I turned back to the fight cage screen and what I saw was unbelievable. Blood everywhere! On the fighters, covering their face and body, on the ground, on their clothes, and even drops of blood flying through the air with each blow. I had to turn my head again in horror and disbelief. It was the most savage thing I have ever seen, but believe it or not, it is legal, and people pay big bucks for a seat to see it live, or to watch it on TV through pay per view.

I thought that the Roman Circus spectacle was over and done with centuries ago, and we had become a little more civilized. People go around pleading for animals' rights; dog fighting is illegal in our country. I wonder, what about people fighting to death? No one stopped the fight until one of the fighters was presumably unconscious! What if he was dead? Does the fact that we want to assume those fighters are "capable adults" make it right? Really?

Silvia Uribe is a freelance writer with a Latino perspective.

Cross-posted at