Mexico…..My last post on Mexico recounted our first trip to Mexico, the Maya Riviera to be precise. Our second time to Mexico would be in the company of our great friends, the Dunlaps, who were a cruising party of 8. We had four children at the time and with our party of six, this was going to be our first cruise as a family. Mark and I had gone on river cruises within cities such as River Vltava (Prague 2017) and I have cruised the Rhine River twice (2017 Dusseldorf, 2002 Cologne) but never had we cruised internationally. We booked our cruise with the help of our most knowledgeable cruising friend and travel agent, Misty. Our cruise ship left from New Orleans which was an easy five-hour drive from home and in five days, we would have two stops: Cozumel and Yucatan (Progresso).
Misty recommended adjoining suites with a balcony view, a recommendation I was grateful for our entire trip. Our youngest were 2 and 4 years old and so having two fun days “at sea” gave us a chance to rest and enjoy the amenities aboard without any planned excursions. Having a history of motion sickness, I was certain to pack my scopolamine patches. However, I soon learned I did not need to use these as I had no symptoms while aboard the ship. Our suites were located on the second to the top deck at the front of the ship. The ship was large enough that I hardly felt any movement while at sea except for one night heading back to the Gulf Coast we experienced some turbulent waters.
The amenities on the ship were adequate with one of the highlights being the kids club where they spent a couple hours a day with their friends (the Dunlap kids) in supervised play, art and crafts. We also participated in a couple of “Mommy and Me” activities. Having the kids club afforded Mark and I some time together during which we exercised at the fitness center, caught up on leisure reading, had a dinner date and went to a comedy show. There were several meal options at any of the restaurants on the “main deck” during the day, but we chose to dine in the main dining room during scheduled time periods with the older kids having a table to themselves and the adults dining with the younger ones who needed assistance.
Our first stop was Cozumel and we decided to make it a beach day where we could carve out a spot of our own in the sand unlike the pools and waterslides on the cruise which can be somewhat crowded. After docking and disembarking the ship, we chartered a van to Paradise Beach. It was a family friendly all-inclusive accommodation with a restaurant and bar on the beach with clean and easily accessible restrooms and changing rooms. There was a fee to use the facilities for non-staying guests at the resort (fun pass). There were inflatable slides and floats one could pay to play/use. Mark and Damion took the older kids snorkeling on the west end of the beach while we, the moms, stayed back and entertained the younger children at the pool. Spending the day there was quick and went by faster than we thought such that we barely made it back in time to the ship after souvenir shopping in the stores at the port.
We cruised all night from Cozumel, north past Cancun and headed west of the coast and the next morning, the ship docked in the Yucatan (Progresso). Once off the ship via a long pier, we rode the cruise ship tour bus to the beach shore where the monument of Juan Miguel Castro stands tall. Juan Miguel Castro was a politician, benefactor and businessman who promoted the construction of the port in Progresso in the latter part of the nineteenth century. From Progresso there are opportunities to visit Mayan civilizations and other tour excursions, but we took the path of least resistance and spent another day at the beach.
The beach in Progresso had less amenities and entertainment contained in the various restaurants and establishments along the beach for their patrons only. We walked the open market about 300m adjacent to the beach in search of good deals on souvenirs, my favorite being Mexican vanilla. At the beach we paid for a few lounge chairs on the shore from where we could go swimming and watch the kids safely. Access to this beach was public and hawkers came by selling kites, keepsakes, water, and local beverages. The children had a wonderful time playing in the sand, flying their kites and the younger kids eventually took an afternoon siesta on the rented beach chairs. We noted there were jet ski rentals and beachside massages. There were no public restrooms, but the restaurants on the beach would allow use if patronizing their establishment. In what seemed like no time at all, we were back at the bus stop boarding the tour bus back to the ship.
The last day of the cruise, we were at sea and filled our remaining time with the entertainment onboard. There was the Dr. Seuss breakfast, an afternoon in the pools on deck and an evening show with late night room service for our cruising crew. Before this trip we thought the best way to travel was flying to a destination and getting “boots on the ground”. We never considered the benefits a steady paced cruise allows even the most adventurous of travelers. The cruise allowed us some rest and relaxation while catching up with family friends and accommodated and engaged our children of different ages. (including us, the biggest kids) while spending time with each other and the kids. Now that cruising has been stalled due to the pandemic, we do not know when the option will return. We are glad we booked with Misty and took up the Dunlap’s offer to join in on the cruise Mexico!
The cruise route sparked my curiosity into the first maritime ventures in these waters and specifically about the African diaspora mentioned in the previous post on Mexico. These self-identified populations were mostly in Oaxaca, Veracruz, and Guerrero. With a little research we learned the island of Cozumel was discovered by Juan de Grijalva, a Spanish conquistador, in 1518. When Hernan Cortes, another Spanish conquistador who famously led an expedition that caused the fall of the Aztec Empire came to the island on his way to conquer Teotihuacan (of now Mexico City) in 1519, he brought with him the first Africans from the island of Cuba. They were domestic slaves for the newly established Viceroyalty of New Spain by the recent Spanish settlers. Panfilo Narvaez who led another expedition to the island later that year also brought some slaves with him as well as smallpox to Cozumel which is estimated to have reduced the population from 10,000 to 332 adults between 1519 and 1552. Hundreds of thousands more slaves would arrive at other ports in Mexico mostly in central and northern regions in response to labor shortages in the mines, on plantations, ranches, cloth production, craft making, and domestics. This was due to the sharp decline in the indigenous population mostly due to disease introduced by the Europeans but also wars, relocations and ecological changes brought by Spanish settlements. Historians ascertain that between 1519 -1650 Mexico received at least 120,000 slaves from Africa mostly via the Caribbean islands. It is worth mentioning beyond the slave trade of those centuries, when Mexico abolished slavery in 1829, it became a haven for what researchers estimate was between 5, 000 to 10,000 fugitive slaves fleeing through Texas on what has been coined the “southern underground railroad”.
The Slave Trade in Mexico. Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrán. The Hispanic American Historical Review. Vol. 24, No. 3 (Aug., 1944), pp. 412-431 (20 pages)Published By: Duke University Press