Perspective in/on Place

At Tulum Ruins, overlooking the sea

It has been two months since my 40th birthday. In the middle of the spring semester, in the middle of my busy life, I marked it with a trip to Tulum, a town on the Caribbean coast of the Yucatan peninsula. My aunt Susan and my dear friend and travel companion Lisa met me in Mexico. We had been planning the trip steadily, if not obsessively, for two months.

I was wary of the idea of perfection. I knew enough not to let myself become the target of a tourism culture shaped by Instagram and travel blogs, but I also knew that it had been over a decade since I'd traveled internationally, and I knew little about Mexico and less about the Yucatan. 

What I found was a place with a fragile beauty located in the cracks and at the borders. Literal cracks, like the fissures in the Mayan ruins now inhabited by iguanas, and the deep cenotes, filled with blue light and black catfish. Borders between ecstatic adoration and ravenous consumption. Between marketing and appreciation. 

Tulum is under development, but that development occurs wryly, in fits and starts, steps and missteps.  Organically, with a heavy dose of government support and foreign investment. 

We stayed in one of the oldest "eco chic" resorts, Amansala. For us, it was ideal.  My aunt spent every day on the beach, punctuated by massage therapy, yoga classes, and truly excellent fresh food. Lisa and I explored the town. We walked miles and biked more. We rode across bumpy roads in vans filled with fellow travelers and kayaked in mangroves, pierced by the intensity of sunshine and overwhelmed by moonlight and breezes filled with birdcalls. As our guide in Sian Kaan said, "Este una chulada." 

In my graduate studies this spring, I have been immersed in theory. I've learned about the "longue duree" of the Annales School which reminded me of the Mayan people and the land and water of the Yucatan. I learned about "Domination" which made me think of the Spanish conquest, and the Mexican planters, and the international tourists, and the "Arts of Resistance" present in the choice of a construction worker to go back to his family farm when he's tired of working on a condo project. I have begun (or re-begun) to see the world through a prism, and my head is spinning. 

This trip was exactly what I needed, when I needed it. And life keeps going. The rhythms of it ebb and flow like breath and like weather. My place is in the storm and in the eye (I). The land endures, and its people endure. Their food, and their languages, and their anger, and their love. And I strive to become mostly gratitude. 

Moonlight, Amansala Beach

Amansala Beach

My first view of Amansala

View from my balcony

Black coral sea fan


Sunrise on the beach

Iguana at Tulum Ruins

Iguana Habitat

New Construction

New Construction, Paused

Sunrise from my balcony

Hammock, Utopia

Amansala rooftops

Mangrove Kayaks, Sian Kaan

Sunset, Sian Kaan

Puffer fish, Sian Kaan

Vendors getting ready for market at Chichen Itsa

Chichen Itsa Temple

Chichen Itsa Ball Court

Bromeliads, Chichen Itsa

Serpent Head Temple, Chichen Itsa

Spanish Colonial Courtyard, Valladolid


Valladolid Cathedral, built from Mayan Temple Stones

Cenote X'ux Ha Entrance

Black Catfish at Cenote X'ux Ha

Inside Cenote X'ux Ha
Coming out of Cenote X'ux Ha

After Swimming in Cenote X'ux Ha


Susan G said…
Grateful for the poetic recap of an incredibly 'perfect' celebration of you! Pleased that we all got the magical vacaion we needed.
Hermosa alma - te quiero, mi sobrina.

Tu amorosa tia de la playa.
Adina Langer said…
¡Gracias, Tia! ¡Tu español es muy impresionante después de tu visita a Costa Rica!