Easter Feast

The cars just keep coming. Most of them are trucks actually. And they are loaded to the gunnels with chairs, tents, barbecuing equipment and people. People and more people. Men and women. Children. Dogs. And they are all coming to the beach.

It is Semana Santa, Holy Week, and everyone in Mexico is on their way to the beach.

Any other day of the year, we see very few cars pass in front of our property each day. There are more every year, but since October things have fallen off to 2004 levels again. We might see six vehicles per day. During the summer, when all the snow birds have returned to their respective countries, the numbers ebb to a trickle.

There must have been 200 cars passing today. Easily.

The beaches are filling with bodies and tents and cars, trucks and ATVs. City folk are running around like they’ve been released from a prison, jumping up and down and running into the sea with all their clothes on.

Seriously.

They are that excited. Well, it may have to do with some of the mores of dressing here, but I think it is a combination of unfettered excitement and the fact that many women don’t wear bathing suits. They are too revealing in this conservative Catholic country.

They play soccer and jog on the beach. They get sunburns and eat lots of barbecued meat.

Those who have them ride their ATVs ferociously up and down the beach, spinning donuts and figure eights. Some even stop to photograph their “impressive” tracks in the sand. Ah, memories.

The men fish with hand lines. And catch bait with nets.

A group of men are seen with a section of drift net out in the water – using cheap plastic inner tubes to take it out to greater depths where presumably they think they’ll catch a big one. There are red snapper, rooster fish, sierra, skip jack and, if they are lucky, sea bass. There are also sea turtles.

Photo credit: Thierry Lannoy

Unfortunately, Easter is the time of year in Mexico when many sea turtles will meet their end at the hands of one of these fervent revelers. It is TRADITION! A turtle will be caught, suffer inhumane treatment for possibly many days and then be decapitated and its meat cooked in a soup.

In Mexico, sea turtle “meat” is considered fish by tradition, but this is based in ignorance. It is not. Sea turtles are reptiles, just like a snake, a crocodile or a lizard. During the catholic period of Lent, it is custom that red meat is not eaten. Meat is given up “for Lent”. Fish is acceptable however. Hence, historically, turtles were eaten during Lent as a religious observance.

At other times of year sea turtle meat, blood and eggs are eaten to increase virility. It is a deep seated belief. Not even ubiquitous Viagra has toppled sea turtle products as the male enhancement product of choice.

The practice of eating sea turtle meat originated at a time when turtles were plentiful. And people were isolated and hungry. There were so many turtles in the Sea of Cortez, in fact, that it was reported one could walk on their backs for miles during mating season when they would form huge aggregations – males on top of males on top of females, clamoring for reproductive success.

Over-harvesting of sea turtles for meat and “tortoiseshell” (a misnomer) in the 50s and 60s reduced sea turtle numbers drastically to the point that all seven species of sea turtle are now endangered, several critically. Still more are drown by industrial fishing nets, particularly shrimp nets.

Despite the fact that the capture or killing of sea turtles is illegal in Mexico, 35,000 sea turtles are estimated to be murdered every year in the state of Baja California alone. Of those as many as 10,000 are killed during Semana Santa. How many must therefore die in the rest of Mexico and Latin America!!! In 2002, San Diego-based conservation organization WildCoast approached Pope John Paul II with the request that he declare turtle to be “meat.”

We’re still waiting.

Photo credit: Thierry Lannoy

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For more information on sea turtle conservation click here!

To donate to Wildcoast’s campaign to eradicate the consumption of sea turtle meat click HERE!
(Note: WildCoast received a four-star rating from Charity Navigator for the last three years running)

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3 thoughts on “Easter Feast

  1. Popes never offered solutions to world problems. To the contrary. Let’s be aware what a devastating influence Popes had and have concerning the HIV/AIDS issue. Turtles and humans should not count on Popes.On common sense will be better.

  2. Your blog makes it all the more amazing to me that the turtle I saw laying her eggs on the beach and then cover and that I surrounded by drift wood and marked only days before the Easter revelers arrived has (also amazingly) survived the Holiday! Seems that some Mexicans are respectful of wildlife. Nice posting!

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