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Colimilla, Colima: The freshest seafood in Mexico

Wendy Devlin

"When you return from your friends in Guadalajara, I will take you to the freshest, finest seafood in Colima!" promised Nestor, as we left the hotel that he managed in Melaque, Jalisco. Well, I do not like to think that I can be "bought" but every woman has her price and Nestor may have just named mine.

So I promised that Josh, Rose and myself would dine with him upon our return manaña. Nestor had one day off from work on the customary Sunday although he could substitute Monday if an occasion demanded it. When we arrived back at the hotel several days later, he proposed that we met him in front of the church in Barra de Navidad at 2 p.m. on Monday. He stated that he had a family reunion from noon to 2 p.m., but then he would be free to go out for a meal. I happily accepted the invitation, as this would be our first time with him outside the lobby of the hotel.

But as is my way, I assumed wrongly that we would be dining in Barra. Nestor instead, led us to his parked Jeep Wagonner. Now I wasn't too sure where exactly the freshest seafood in Colima lurked! Nestor headed out to Hwy. 200 and as we hurtled towards the river that marks the boundary between between the states of Jalisco and Colima, I managed to discover that we were heading for coastal village of Colimilla. I use the word, "discover" because Nestor spoke rapid-fire Spanish, which allowed me only to catch the gist of the conversation as we drove along.

So when Nestor turned off the main highway on a side road towards the ocean, I only guessed at where we were going. Vast coconut plantations stretched endlessly away from either side of the road. A herd of large Brahmin cattle ambled across the road slowing Nestor's driving to a crawl. I had a ringside seat of a Brahmin cow's butt end while I quizzed Nestor as to our ultimate destination. Along this road, aside from a few decaying, tangled fences and the road, there were no visible signs of habitation. So it stunned me when suddenly the ocean sand dunes gave way to groomed boulevards and swaying palms. "Ahhhh, mi amiga, this development is only for the very rich!' confided Nestor when I queried him about our location.

A new-looking security booth appeared to block the roadway. A heavily armed, unsmiling man strode towards our vehicle. I was accustomed to security checks abroad the buses in Mexico and when travelling in our family RV during previous trips but I was venturing into unknown territory here. Nestor spoke to the guard and seconds later we were permitted through. " What did he ask you?" I questioned Nestor. "He asked me where exactly were we going and how long did we intend to stay there?" quipped Nestor and then in his kind, reassuring manner he added, " They know me here, amiga, do not worry!" So I relaxed to enjoy the surrounding landscape of profusely flowered boulevards, lush green ways for golfing and abundant artificial lagoons. "Who owns this property?" I asked. Nestor informed me, "It is mostly foreign money, American and German combined with Mexican business interests. It is very exclusive. You must have much money to buy here. Many of the properties are waiting to be sold. It's very beautiful, is it not?" "Yes," I replied, my perception tugging at my social conscience, "But I thought that foreigners can not buy coastal property in Mexico." Nestor answered, " There are ways that it can be done. And the rich know all of the ways!"

The new development was stunningly beautiful in an opulent kind of way. It served again to remind me of the gap between the rich and the poor in Mexico. But then all foreign tourists appear materialistically wealthy in comparison to the majority of Mexicans. I am a rich woman down there! We soon passed another gated security entrance to the tiny coastal village of Colimilla.

I gasped at my first impression of the place! Colimilla resembled no other village that I had ever seen in Mexico. It was picture postcard perfect! The cobblestone streets were straight, the houses all neat, washed and tile roofed. Glorious pastel bougainvilla trailed from every perfect wall. There was not a scrap of litter upon the street and nary a child or mangy dog to be seen. I pinched myself to see if I was still in Mexico! It seemed like a Walt Disney version of a Mexican village. What could be next?

Nestor parked his Jeep in the shade. Josh, Rose and I walked with him to a large palapa restaurant at the water's edge. The view took my breath away!

In the far distance to the east, the sierras stretched forever into the heartland of Mexico. Mangrove swamps mixed with huge tracts of coconut palms in every direction. The afternoon sun sparkled on the calming waters of the large ocean lagoon, which gently lapped at my feet. Sticks holding fishing nets jutted in a ramshackle fashion from the shore. Although one panga plied a small group of tourists from Barra de Navidad, we seemed to have the whole beach to ourselves.

Hence our waitress was delighted to see us as she joked with Nestor. He, of course, offered up many fine piropos (verbal flattery) to her. In my culture, tossing gallantries at girls is at an all time low! So I enjoyed the easy flow of banter between them. So what was on the menu? Seafood, the freshest and finest in Colima! My mouth was watering at the very names and descriptions on the menu. Unfortunately, Josh and I had recently had a bout of twenty-four hour food poisoning so that our tummies were still a little sensitive. Wrong time for a seafood feast! So we all agreed that a lovely platter of fresh shrimp and scallops would be the ticket.

This traditional smorgasbord of raw or marinated seafood is called cerviche. It is considered an aphrodisiac. Its efficacy is open to debate but it nevertheless occupies a tiny but interesting niche in social relations. Ours was to be washed down with cool cervezas and refrescos naturally and eaten with a song. A man with a guitar approached the table and Nestor commissioned him to sing. And then another song!

Mexicans have all the romantic angles in life figured out in advance. As a married woman travelling alone for the first time, I consider it important to understand as much about the Mexican culture as is personally possible. Learning the "ropes", whatever they entail, takes time and patience and abundant good humor. For example: this trip I had developed a taste for tableside troubadours. I quickly recognized the danger of an impending addiction to handsome men who play guitars and sing hauntingly beautiful music directly by tables of fresh seafood by the ocean.

And even if I managed to break the romantic spell of this ambience, my reason could still justify spending unlimited monies on mariachis. Why these fine men must have women and children at home to feed! I must subsidize this romantic tradition. My ultimate downfall faced me straight in the face!

I looked over to my teens and noticed that they were not hooked on the ambience like I was. Ahhhhh! The blessing of the generation gap! They would help me eventually leave the table and go back to our hotel alone! Still I imagined that when I am an old woman travelling in Mexico, that they will have to freeze my pension checks. This to prevent the problem developing of "our mother who would blow her whole pension on mariachis in Mexico!" As I said at the beginning, every woman has her price. And mine appears to be matched at every turn in Mexico.

Published or Updated on: November 1, 1998 by Wendy Devlin © 1998
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