My husband had already volunteered to stay behind and guard the ship. He’s very gallant. We decided to disembark just to visit the markets that were inside the terminal itself, then we’d hightail it back to our sunny spot on the Lido Deck. We were pleased with this plan, and needed only to confirm when and where the ship would hold Easter services before we put it into action.
On Saturday evening, I stopped by the guest services desk to inquire about morning services, which we had confirmed with our booking agent to be planned. Imagine our surprise to learn that we had been misinformed! There was nothing at all planned for this holiest day of the year for approximately 77% of those onboard. Even the most dubious Christians (like me) often find their way to church on Easter! Sigh. Someone was going to have to write a letter.
But in the meantime, we were stepping into the very catholic land of Mexico, and I figured that we could easily find a church within the parameters of our safe haven. Back to guest services we went, where the attendant confirmed that there were two churches in very close proximity to the dock. One we would see from the ship, and although it was only about 3 blocks away, they were long blocks and she suggested that we board a shuttle bus and ask to be dropped off. The other church was located downtown, right next to Papa’s and Beer.
It seemed logical to go to the one that was closest to the ship, but I was concerned that with only one-way transportation arranged ahead of time, we’d end up stuck there. The other location was close to the bus station where we could easily grab a return ride, and we all agreed that this was a better option. We had a good plan B.
In the morning, we were thrilled to wake up in port
and even more thrilled that the Easter Bunny had found us at sea, despite ominous warnings that would have indicated otherwise.
After enjoying the fitness center and the jelly beans, off we all set to the shuttle busses, where we engaged in a comical discourse about the benefits of round trip vs. one-way fare and station vs. location drop off. We ended up giving Pablo $20 to drive us directly to the church and then come back to retrieve us about 90 minutes later.
We had been told that mass was at noon, but when Pablo dropped us off at 11:20 there was a service in session. We popped in to ascertain where they were in the mass, and quickly determined that although we had missed the readings, we were pre-Gospel and Eucharist, so we were golden. We filed in and found a pew, settled ourselves and quieted down, and then we looked around.
It was a neighborhood church, small and open to the beautiful day with a pretty pitched roof. It was full of families in varying shapes and sizes. The priest was efficient and precise, the rituals familiar enough to be easily understood despite the language barrier. It was comfortable, interesting, and enjoyable. We were a step or two behind with the sitting and kneeling and standing – there seemed to be specific points when certain members of the congregation stood or sat, as if the act of doing one or the other served to communicate some sort of response. It didn’t matter much though, everyone was smiley and welcoming of the conspicuous, white, swaying sore thumbs in their midst.
And then the music started, and congregants raised up their hands and began to sing the Our Father, El Padre Nuestro. The man next to me belted it out with a rich baritone. The tiny old woman in front of us lent her warbling soprano through an open and toothless smile. It seemed not a voice was silent. A group with guitars took up the tune and broke into exquisite harmony. Everywhere you looked, faces and voices and arms were raised to the heavens, rejoicing in the prayer and the music and the service and the day. It was magnificent. Mom and I squeezed hands, both of our arms were alight with goosebumps. Dad smiled at us over the heads of the awestruck children. Bill’s gaze moved around the room at the spectacle. You could practically hear the click of our collective mental snapshot.
Our smiles were steadfast. When we were invited to share the sign of peace, people were literally scrambling over pews to reach each other and wish “La Paz” with a hearty handshake or a hug. This was good stuff. This is how church is supposed to make us feel.
When mass ended, we had more than an hour to fill before our scheduled rendezvous with Pablo. It was such a lovely day, we started to meander down the road a bit, being careful to note the landmarks that would take us back to that corner. The closer we got to the heart of downtown, the merrier the streets became. Music pumped out of the bars and vendors were simply delighted to show us their wares. I pointed out that although we’d be abandoning poor Pablo, he had already been paid and we could just hop in another cab if we strayed too far from the meeting point. And stray we did, directly to our happy place, where 7 bottles of Bohemia, 2 bottles of fresca, and 1 shitload of chips and salsa set us back a cool $24.
When we finally meandered along, we stopped frequently to barter or mock the plethora of goods and goodies and oddities that lined the streets.
We kept the giant flag of Mexico as our guidepost; it flew from the cruise terminal, which was quite suddenly just ahead.
We enjoyed the walk back to our ship, and transformed back into our Lido Deck lounging selves.
When the deck started to shake beneath our chaises at 4:30, we thought it was the ship’s engine being turned on in preparation for our departure. It wasn’t until later that night that we learned of the 7.2 earthquake centered about 160 miles away. Someone must have been watching over us that day.
Gracias, el Padre Nuestro!