A couple winters ago, in an effort to avoid an incoming cold snap, I moseyed on down to San Felipe to camp on the Sea of Cortez in Mexico.
I heard about a quiet, somewhat remote campground from a few other nomads who were there and enjoying the warmth from their waterfront campsites. I ended up meeting four fellow souls for the first time as we met up there one by one and settled in for what was to be a nice, calm, warm, and enjoyable few weeks there.
A lovely couple ran the camp for a local family who owned the land. The husband was Mexican and last lived in Hawaii where he met his current wife so it made for an interesting and lively combo. I warmed up to them right away because of their kindness and generousity in making sure I had everything I needed as I settled into camp.
The other nomads were from different places, all in the States. I met them through their blogs sharing their travels. One was stopping by on her way further south, the rest of us were just escapees from the cold.
The first few days were blissful — the campground bordered a preserve so it was one of those places of sublime beauty that had a quiet intensity to it. I spent quite a bit of time exploring the preserve in my kayak and by hiking on the cliffs overseeing the sea.
With Christmas day approaching, we all decided to cook up a grand feast where each of us brought something to dinner. The host couple took care of organizing and rounding up everything needed, including setting up a dining room with a large table to fit the six of us, including our hosts.
It was going to be an authentic Mexican Christmas dinner with warm laughs and a sharing of common bonds and stories so I was really looking forward to it. Everyone seemed to get along and I felt close to the host couple for taking me around town and meeting their friends and family. Bonds were already deepening in a matter of days.
On the big day, we were all rustling around doing our own thing preparing our portions for the Christmas dinner.
Then BOOM! I felt a door slam hard and a big argument erupting from the campground kitchen area. I saw several of the nomads bolting into their own campers and the host simmering in a corner. Being deaf, I had no idea what happened so I walked over to the host. Shocked, I saw angry tears in the husband’s eyes and the grave stillness of his wife.
My heart sank when he told me he had been accused of stealing one of the nomad’s bags of shrimp bought for the dinner. The other nomads ganged up on him about it, further inflaming the situation.
The host swore on his life he hadn’t taken anything. He was so angry and upset at being accused. It hurt to see the sadness in his wife’s eyes seeing her husband suffer.
I was dismayed to see accusations fly so quickly without taking the time to get to the bottom of things, especially after we all had seemingly bonded so well…
In an effort to save the day and our special dinner, I attempted to mediate and see if we could find out what really happened. My fellow nomads were not interested; their minds were made up. In fact, they were packing up and readying their campers to move out abruptly.
All this chaos on a beautiful beach on what was supposed to be a very special Christmas evening broke my heart. It was further broken by witnessing tragedy inflicted upon the couple and broken again by the non-willingness of my own fellow nomads to let calmer heads prevail and sort the situation out.
After everyone left, I ventured over to the host couple, offering profuse apologies for everyone and expressing my own sorrow at how it all unfolded.
The wife stood up and said she wasn’t going to let this ruin a special night and asked me to stay for dinner for the three of us. She strode off into the campground kitchen to finish it up. By then her husband had calmed down somewhat although I could still see the anger in his eyes.
He told me in Mexican culture it was a deep abrogation of honor to make an accusation like that and he took it very personally. They are a couple that weren’t well off by any means and honor was important to them… only to have it taken away with no proof of any sort.
Just at that moment his wife came back, holding up the missing back of shrimp. It had fallen out of sight behind a bag of vegetables in the fridge.
I sighed heavily. While it was good to find the missing shrimp, it didn’t make things any better because the damage was already done, esp. in the couple’s hearts.
I asked how much the bag was worth. Six American dollars, she said. All this drama and honor taken over a bag of shrimp worth six bucks.
Despite all that, we ended up having a very nice, quaint Christmas dinner and talked the evening away over wine and stories of each other’s lives, further deepening our own bonds.
The moral of the story? Maybe it was prejudice, I don’t know, but it’s wrong to make accusations based on speculation and gossip. It’s wrong to jump to conclusions and not to at least make an effort to get to the truth.
Instead, a lovely couple’s honor gets stolen and their hearts shattered. All over a $6 bag of shrimp.
(Names were omitted for reasons of privacy)