A walk through the streets of Cozumel can cause a collision of the senses. One could measure distances in smells, sound, and colors.
Upon leaving my house this morning, the scent of fresh fried fish from the fish market across the street reverberated through the air competing with the snap and crack of the pork rinds that another neighbor was cooking. The aroma from the fried turnovers sold at the house on the next corner clung to my nostrils until I passed the tortilla factory. Within half a mile I had been lifted up by the smell of slightly toasted corn, subjugated by the whiff of black waters, and rescued again by a bouquet of freshly squeezed citrus juices. Further ahead, that scent of firewood that reminds me of the trips to the beach of my childhood seized my memory shrouding it in seaweed, saltpeter, and laughter.
The ever-changing colors of the sea tease the imagination with waves of pulsating jade, indulgent turquoise, aged indigo. The sky reflects a violent peace that intensifies in the rainy afternoons of summer. The streets, cracked with the passage of cars and the seasons, ooze conformity and ambivalence.
Even with the use of clichés one is short of adjectives and analogies when trying to describe the essence of the neighborhoods…a rainbow display, a painter’s palette, a melting pot, a Crayola box… Here even the mausoleums show off spirited hues – an ode to life in the final resting place of the dead.
The walls that have not been touched by dazzling synthetic colors have been sprinkled with the ashen passage of time and no matter how simple or humble a place is, color is always present in the form of flowers that add the shades of cherry, banana, carrot, lime, and guava so favored in this region. There are façades covered with tile, stoneware, wood, cardboard, love, and hope, and there is a house with a column covered in mirrors.
The house of mirrors is located on the corner of an intersection that I pass almost every day. A majestic bougainvillea crowns the garage entrance and two rectangular columns demarcate the terrace of the second floor. One of these columns is lined with mirrors.
For years the little perfectionist in me has hoped that one day the owners would cover the other column in mirrors, if only for the sake of uniformity, while my curious nature had almost lost all hope of finding an explanation for the use of mirrors on such an unusual place – until I finally met the owner.
It turns out that the mirrors have a purpose and an end, she told me, in the mischievous yet solemn tone of one who is used to explaining what others may consider odd or flat-out bizarre: to return wishes to the wisher.
Aha! Love, good luck, envy, jealousy, health, good or ill fortune – any positive or negative thought sent in the direction of this house, will be reflected in the mirrors and returned to the source.
It is what captivates me about Cozumel. This is a place where magic and religion coexist, where superstitions in many instances drive faith, where the ordinary is extraordinary and a façade can give or take away from you that which you wish upon others. And isn’t this, after all, a good rule to live by?
The Universe is a palace of mirrors. What we wish for our neighbor, will affect us. What we see in another person is a reflection of ourselves. Our environment is a manifestation of who we are. Our words, thoughts, and actions are a kaleidoscope of desires that can cut and hurt or build and heal.
Take a look around you. What image does the mirror return – a spot or a spark?