It's Not the Heat! It's Knowing How to Deal with It
Mexico has a number of cities offering temperate weather in the summer with cool, pleasant evenings most days.
Mazatlán is not one of those cities. Summers in Mazatln offer you splendid sunsets, rollicking thunderstorms and the opportunity to sweat in crevices you didn’t even know you had (knuckles sweat?).
In some areas like Mazátlan, the humidity can cause tile floors so ubiquitous in Mexico can be wet with moisture some mornings.
Two things make Mexico’s coastal summers different from Miami, New Orleans or Houston. First, air conditioning is used more sparingly in Mexico. If a store or restaurant even has it, the air is often set at barely-tolerable-degree Fahrenheit.
Saving electricity is an obsession in coastal towns in Mexico due to the way electricity is billed. You have to understand this, or your bill might come in the size of your rent someday if you're used to central air
Rooms in homes are individually cooled.You move from room to room turning mini-splits on an off. Just when you cool off, you change rooms.
In Mazatlán, the other factor is the salt in the air. Mazatlán has some of the saltiest air in the world. In the kitchen, chips go soft within hours, garlic salt hardens and the glue of cardboard boxes disintegrates so quickly that boxes in grocery stores are taped together.
Even though it’s now September, Mexican coastal towns have plenty of hot days ahead but there are ways to stay cooler, especially women (or very secure men) beyond the usual admonishments to drink a lot of water and wear light clothing.
Don’t walk around at noon. The buildings walls provide no shady side at high noon.
Use an umbrella. I was surprised how much cooler it was under an umbrella. Using one always make me feel like I'm channeling Coco Chanel.
Hand Fans (the Spanish kind) - An entire summer went by before I rediscovered folding fans. Spanish and Mexican women still use them with aplomb. A language partner of mine in Spain keeps one in every purse. Only last week she snapped out a glorious purple one she used the whole time we talked. Awesome.
In the 14th century, the use of the fan developed into a secret language used by women to communicate with young men since women were always chaperoned. For example, a woman touching her nose with her folded fan meant she thought of him every day.
Even inexpensive ones are pretty. You can buy a few at the vendor stalls in any Mexican plazuela and keep it handy for when the breeze suddenly dies or the window on a bus won’t open.
I met a guy at the immigration office who fielded the idea of the “man-fan", bringing to mind images of mud flaps, leather thongs, and eye contact that might be hard to let go of.
Frozen rolled wash cloths - I got this idea from a yoga instructor who brought them for the savasana after hot yoga classes. Soak the washcloth in water with a few drops of essential oil. Roll it up and put it in your freezer.
Before you go to the gym or a warmer outing, take it out and put it in plastic bag and take with you. In about an hour, the cloth will be perfect. You might just complete your work-out without having a stroke.
Same thing goes for water. Freeze half a bottle of water. Before you leave for the day, fill the other half with the cold water from a pitcher in your refrigerator. It should stay cold at least an hour or so.
Frozen grapes in the freezer are good to keep as a snack and last forever.
Replace electrolytes - When you get older, you sweat less. At least that is what I used to think. I believed myself no longer capable of producing the torrent that I now achieve regularly when I go to the gym.
Sweating like that depletes electrolytes. Symptoms of imbalance include weakness, twitching and seizures. Older people are particularly susceptible because we have more problems regulating our body temperature.
You can buy bottles of premixed electrolytes, but the cheaper option in Mexico is powder that is sold for babies that you mix yourself.
Coca - Cola's - I hadn’t indulged in a Coke in 10 years when I came to Mexico. Forget all those terrible things you read about how bad it is for you. I am sure that they don’t apply here.
Officially, the urban myth that Coca-colas are different in Mexico has been debunked, but oh, watch me writhe in ecstasy after that first draught. I can almost hear you across the border saying, “Drinking Coke? Not me! Never!” Ha-ha-ha (or as they say in Mexico, 'ja ja ja"). You'll learn.
Coca-Cola sells more of their product in Mexico than any other country. Go into any convenience store early in the morning and you'll see a line of day laborers with their 1.75 liter-size bottles.
When you see Mexicans doing other things you think are strange, rest assured: There is a damn good reason for it. They are descendants of an almost ancient culture, with mysteries and secrets we are only now just beginning to understand.
The final tip: (this one’s for the guys) throw yourself naked into your pool. My expat friends Oscar and Mary (especially Oscar) swear by it.
In time, your need for the sight and sound of the ocean (and Coca-Cola) every day will become so great that you will accept the heat, humidity and your clothing hanging on the line as stiff as a saltine cracker.
I have come to relish the sweat fest in much the same way I used to revel in it when I was a mountain-biker in Snowshoe, West Virginia wringing sweat and mud out of my jersey several times in a day.
Rather than take the ski lift up and doing the thrilling downhill ride all day, by riding up the mountain at least once the downhills became something I earned.
I’m not sure I’d be happy just swooping into Mazatlán for the cooler high season from November to May. Maybe we all have a little bit of Mayan in us who demands human sacrifice.
Before you start turning on those air conditioners, there is something crucial you need to know about your electric bill. Ventanas Mexico
In the summer, the storms are as exciting as the days are hot. Why I love being here in the summer.
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Next up: Mexican courtesy and your never-ending opportunity to be queen for a day.
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Hola! I'm author of "If Only I Had a Place," a new book on renting and my first love the "Interactive Guide to Learning Spanish Free Online" and a partner with Ventanas Mexico, which provides insights and resources for those considering full or part-time expat life in Mexico.
The "Interactive Guide" links you to the best free online tools with sample lesson plans and information regarding why a second language is the best thing you can do for your brain. Learning a language takes time. Why not get started today?