Our Bestial Neighbors With Sombreros

Melodie Langevin

© Copyright 2024 by Melodie Langevin

Photo by Karl Hedin on Unsplash
Photo by Karl Hedin on Unsplash

It was on a warm, sunny afternoon when I was out shopping that I saw him for the first time: Mister The President. From the top of his low concrete wall, he looked at me coldly. I was in Mexico, face to face with a medium-sized iguana, enthroned on the grayish concrete wall surrounding my neighbor's house across the street. Originally from Quebec, Canada, and accustomed to North American wildlife, I discovered a new animal horizon while living in Mexico for just over a year.

In the region where I was staying, Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, lizards, and iguanas are often seen basking in the sun as soon as you pass by a tree or a patch of vegetation. As someone who had always been fascinated by reptiles, but had only ever seen them in the vivariums of friends who kept them as pets, it was a pleasure to be able to see lizards on every street corner, simply by leaving my house.

In fact, I was surprised to find that there were even lizards in the houses! But these were a different, smaller species: common geckos. Adults can measure between 7.5 and 15 centimeters, while babies are really tiny, just 2 to 5 centimeters long. At any time of day, they emit a little sound similar to a kiss, but higher pitched. Cute, small, and mosquito-eating, they were easy to welcome and cohabit with.

The "little" invasives

Another little creature you have to get used to sharing your home with is seen as somewhat less charming by some: cucarachas or cockroaches. At night, in the silence and darkness, I could hear their restless footsteps as they nibbled at any crumb of forgotten food, no matter how small. There are cockroaches in Canada too, but they're only 1 or 2 centimeters long, while Mexican cockroaches can range from 4 to 7 centimeters, considering the length of their antennae and legs.

An effective weapon against these swarming invasives is a cat. I used to live in a house with my partner and we had recently adopted a kitten. It was so charming how it hunted cockroaches, then brought us the corpses as an offering...

After the President, the King of the Heights

Accustomed to my snogging roommates as much as to the nibblers, my next wildlife discovery came on a cycling trip. Having ventured out on a country road far from the city center, I saw him standing proudly atop an electric pole.

(Photo of the vulture - Image source : https://unsplash.com/fr/photos/oiseau-noir-et-brun-en-gros-plan-GyCLvucS6Vs)

The air was hot and dry. In the distance, I could see the warm-weather mirage on the asphalt, like a damp wave dancing over the distant horizon. No cars or trucks had passed by for several minutes. The vulture stood on its pole, proud, cold, intimidating, and surveying its surroundings. I stopped a few yards away, got off my bike, and watched the graceful scavenger bird for a moment. It had a small red head on a larger body covered with bushy black feathers. Motionless, it seemed out of time.

I set off again on my bike. The vulture glared at me as I passed him. Fortunately, unless I was crushed under a truck and turned to carrion, he wasn't interested in my flesh.

Hairy legs

Vultures pose no real danger as long as you're alive. Not so for another dark-colored creature I came across.

It was very early in the morning. So early that it was still dark at that hour. I was a smoker in those days, so to accompany my morning coffee, I'd go out into the backyard to have a cigarette. I don't know if you could call the place we had behind the house a backyard. From the kitchen, by opening the patio door, it opens directly onto a space about two meters deep and five meters wide. All surrounded by a low concrete wall, as is customary in Mexico. A tree outside was adjacent to the wall, its branches intruding into our concrete square, giving it a bit of greenery and a compacted mini-jungle feel.

Sitting on an outdoor plastic chair, I was taking large, relaxing puffs of cigarettes while sipping my coffee, when I saw movement on the wall in a dark corner of the "backyard". Curious, I looked carefully, trying to identify the moving thing two feet above the ground, without success. My partner was not far away; inside, making himself a coffee. I hesitated to share my observation with him. Just as I stood up to take a closer look, the patio door, which was still open by a few centimeters, let through our wild-tempered little cat, who rushed at the source of movement.

I shouted our little fur ball's name: - Lady! My partner heard and rushed outside armed with a flashlight. That's when I could see what it was: a tarantula! The cat was trying to jump at the animal, but it was high enough on the wall to be out of reach. My partner handed me the flashlight to illuminate the scene as he grabbed the cat and put it back inside. We were so afraid that the cat would be bitten or injured.

It was during this brief lapse of time that the tarantula slipped away, never to be seen again.

After that day, I started getting up a little later so I could smoke my cigarette and drink my morning coffee in the light.

The fluffy family

Fortunately, there are some cute furry creatures in Mexico too, and I was lucky enough to see a whole family of them.

There are gray, rainy days in the Caribbean, yet it was again on a bright sunny day that I came across a small group of furry mammals. Given the fine weather, I decided to go to the beach. To get there, I had to take a dirt track through a few dozen meters of undisturbed jungle, linking a street parallel to the beach. The path was screened, but the vegetation was so dense that it didn't detract from the sense of nature. In addition to trees, shrubs, and tropical bushes, there were also small ponds in which one could imagine life teeming.

As I didn't go there during busy times, the path was practically deserted, with only two other passers-by. I was halfway along when I saw the family of fluffy animals. I imagined them conferring before crossing the path, planning their moves like a small group of spies leading an expedition. A coati passed by, running fast on its little legs, furtively looking around. Then a second. Then a duo. Like little agents on a mission. Then a mother with her cub. In all, a family of eight coatis passed before my eyes. Coatis remind me a little of raccoons, which are in the same family in Canada. Amazed by these hairy creatures, I continued on my way and spent a wonderful afternoon at the beach.

Further discoveries

Traveling brings with it the sight of new landscapes, the discovery of new gastronomies, but also the exploration of an entirely different animal fauna. After becoming familiar with the creatures of Quebec, I learned to love those of Mexico too. Planning to travel to Australia next summer, the abundant and atypical biodiversity that exists there is one of my main areas of interest for this destination. I'm continuing my adventures and will soon be discovering, this time, our bestial surfing and Vegemite-nibbling neighbors.

French-Canadian and a lover of languages and linguistics, Mélodie Langevin uses her mastery of words and languages to transport us into incredible fictional universes. After a career in administration, she quickly turned to writing and linguistics, unable to contain her explosive creativity. Passionate about philosophy, personal development, and protecting the environment, she includes these themes in her stories, making us think while entertaining us.
 I'm an unpublished writer, currently only writing online for free on platforms such as Medium or on a voluntary basis (in French, with a community newspaper).

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