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I roused myself, left the bus and stood in the taxi line, which moved quickly. I told the
driver, “Take me to the center of town,” thinking there would be a traditional center. The
driver pulled up in front of the Holiday Inn on Avenida Heroes across from the Museo
Maya and the tourist office. The Center for the Arts was around the corner.
The “center” of Chetumal was the Mercado, a vast commercial shopping mall. It was act-
ive but without charm, and Holiday Inn was not exactly my idea of Mexico. I checked in
at the reception desk. I asked the clerk, “Could you suggest an economical hotel?”
Immediately, he recommended a nearby hotel. “Hotel Arges is three blocks toward the bay,
on a side street. It's newly remodeled.”
Hotel Arges was one-third the price of the Holiday Inn, modest, clean, comfortable and
quiet, until my neighbor in the next room turned on the TV at 5 a.m. Noise is tolerated
and ignored in Mexico. How it's transmitted and amplified by cement walls is a Mexican
So, I got an early start. Shops were already opening. Sidewalk vendors were unpacking
boxes and setting up displays. There was little traffic on the street. I walked down Avenida
Heroes, which took me directly to the bay port and the Centenario Plaza where an obelisk
honored the fallen heroes of the 1919-1920 Revolution. Off to the side, band members
were gathering under a thatched-roofed bandstand for a practice session.
I arrived at Chetumal Bay and looked across the bay, gazing towards the Caribbean. Bel-
ize could be seen in the distance. I had bused across Mexico's extremes, from Tijuana to
Chetumal, from north to south, west to east, from the Pacific to the Atlantic. I'd made it
from California to Guatemala, and soon I'd claim from Tijuana to Cancun as I traveled
north along the Mayan coast and visited Bacalar, Tulum, Playa del Carmen. Then I would
fly home from Cancun. I'd explored a vast Mexican mosaic, and I felt a real joy in having
accomplished the journey by bus.
I looked over the calm sea, shimmering in the morning light, and I put on my sunglasses.
The horizon was a bright blue. It was hot and humid; my cap was damp with sweat.
I reflected that this was once pirate country. I walked the palm- and magnolia-tree-lined
bayside paseo. A young couple sat under the shade of a palm tree, he leaning against the
sea wall, she against him. A yellow rowboat was beached, turned upside down as if pirates
had just landed.
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