An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of September 5, 2010
Issued from Hacienda Chichen Resort adjoining Chichén Itzá Ruin in
YUCATÁN, MÉXICO

A VISIT TO PISTÉ

Pisté, Yucatan, Mexico

At least once a week during the last ten months I've walked -- during the last month, biked -- into Pisté, mostly to buy fruit. By now lots of people along the way recognize me and we speak or nod to one another. I'd never thought that a place like Pisté might someday start feeling like a "hometown," but that's become the case. Above you can see a view of Pisté's downtown area, with my fruit-buying place, the Frutería "Dorcy," just beyond the big blue truck at the right.

That picture was taken last Sunday morning at about ten o'clock. After a clear dawn, clouds already were curdling up for the afternoon downpour and the air was so hot and humid that drops of sweat constantly had to be shaken from the tip of my nose because they tickled. My blue shirt was dark-blotched wet, and stuck to my body.

At a little left of the picture's center you might notice a shaded clutter at the roadside where you can sit on the sidewalk and drink something cold, or go into the dark, loud tortillaría beside you and buy hot, freshly baked tortillas, or bucket-size masses of masa (moist corn paste) for baking your own tortillas over a fire, on a comal, back home. That's the way it is in Pisté, lots of unexpected juxtapositions, everything kind of a hodgepodge, really, all with a friendly, homey feeling to it.

Pisté extends two or three blocks away from both sides of the highway, which is Hwy 180 running between Mérida and Cancún. The farther from the highway, the more countrylike the streets become, the lusher the vegetation, the more thatch-roofed huts you see, the more goats and roosters you hear, and the more interesting the plants around people's houses. Streets generally end as weedy dirt trials continuing to ever-more rustic homes.

Actually, backstreet Pisté is vibrant: Gaudy-flowering greenery overflowing stone walls, kids everywhere playing, crying, peeping around corners, sounds of tortillas being patted into existence or maybe methodical tapping from shops chiseling authentic Maya wood carvings for sale in the ruins, dogs barking, a little girl in yellow shorts and a pink Tweety-Pie T-shirt coming down the street holding a clear plastic bag of crushed ice in one hand and a liter plastic bottle of black Coca-Cola in the other, behind her a muddy pig chasing a dusty turkey... The animation goes on and on, never ending, never going silent, and one never tires of gawking, of letting the mind float down street after street.

In fact, I used to think I'd like to live somewhere like that, in a simple little hut amidst such vivacious, colorful, congenial clutter. But, then I thought of the noise. If a house has a radio, it's played full blast, and the music is heavy on accordions unless there's a teenager in the family, and then it's hip-hop, boom-boom-boom, full blast. And on every street there's at least one dog barking all day and night, every day, year after year. And babies crying,and all those crowing roosters, bleating goats and sheep, gobbling turkeys, etc.

But, that's how life so often is: You're attracted to something, feel like you really need it, but then you get closer and it starts driving you crazy. In fact, every trip to Pisté evokes in me that whole train of thought, about it being human nature to overlook problems associated with whatever it is you want really badly.

So, when I go into Pisté I'm always glad to experience the town's charm and friendliness, but then before long I'm more than happy to get back to my own world, which may not be as colorful and congenial-feeling, but at least I don't have to listen all day and night to bleating goats, accordions or hip-hop boom-boom-boom. Facebook Icon.