I was born in Mexico City, but because of his work, my father was transferred to Ciudad del Carmen and I grew up there. Not many people know where Carmen is, or even know that it exists. Carmen City is an island in Campeche, a state of Mexico. It is so tiny that it does not always appear on the map. But it is considered one of the main contributors to the economy of the country, because of its oil activity.
Mainly, it is a working place, with not many things to do recreationally. A dull city. Still, I am so glad to have grown up there because I was safe. I could be out on the street with my friends and my parents did not worry because nothing would happen–contrary to what would have had happened in CDMX. (Sadly, Mexico City is not the safest place to live.)
Despite feeling relieved that I grew up there, sometimes I was fed up. Many believe that because the city is on an island that every day is perfect for a trip to the beach for some relaxing. Everything is fun and you have nothing to worry about–just drink coconut water. However, not all the beaches are nice and almost all the streets smell like fish.
Furthermore, a lot of the beaches are covered in conchitas, or little broken seashells, that can cut your feet and make it hard to walk. Because of the construction activities, machines take sand from the sea, and being so near the seashore, walking becomes dangerous. You never know if your next step will leave you in a hole several meters deep. Many people have drowned in Carmen City and not just because of the holes– even if you know how to swim, the ocean current can drag you down.
As I said earlier, it was a boring city. With not many things to do recreationally, the young ones choose to drink on the beach until the sun comes up. Because that is something “great” about Carmen City —and maybe all over the country! Alcohol is pretty cheap and even if you are not the legal age to drink, you can still find a tiendita and they will sell you alcohol. We all know it is wrong, but still, some of us are glad that this happened when we were not old enough to drink yet.
Now onto the good stuff. Carmen City is not just about beaches with sharp conchitas, streets smelling like fish, the fear of falling into a hole, and drunk people. There are also Carmelitas, the name for natives of the town–be sure not to mix them with Campechanos (from the State of Campeche) or else you will be facing trouble. Geographically speaking, you are Mexican if you are from Mexico. So, if Carmen City is in Campeche you would think they are Campechanos, but they are not. Although they could be called both, they are extremely proud and hate being called Campechanos. I lived for more than fifteen years surrounded by Carmelitas and could never understand why they were so against their “cousins.” I found that the only possible answer is that they are really passionate about this island.
I think that the thing I love the most about Carmen City is its people. I met my best friend and some other close friends while living there. I also met some inspiring people that, despite the adversities of the island, managed to get ahead. All of them were really proud of how the city has grown and about them being Carmelitas. I could not feel that same energy, but I would have loved to. The only moments when I kind of felt it, was when I listened to a song called “Ciudad del Carmen,” by José Narváez Márquez. After hearing it I just thought about how Carmelitas are warm people; even if you were not born there, they will take you as one of them and make you feel like family. If I am in Carmen City, I am Chilanga. But if I am in Mexico, they call me Carmelita ….