My eyes are fixed on my five-year-old. His eyes are fixed on the prize wheel. He watches it, hypnotized as it spins ever slower. The flapper (bizarrely attached to a dog figurine) tick, tick, ticks past each nail, inching closer and closer to his chosen card – the Mexican flag.
My child is gambling. I’m not sure how I feel about this. Or maybe I am sure. I feel… uneasy, conflicted. I mean, all the Mexican kids are doing it, it’s just a bit of fun, right? But it’s gambling!
The wheel slows almost to a stop. The holographic tab pings into place and finally comes to rest. “La bandera de Mexico!” the croupier shouts and Thomas’ face lights up. He has won! He grins widely at his success and runs to me, completely missing the fact that he has a prize to collect. The croupier hands him seven one-peso coins (quite a gain on his original one peso investment!) and signals him to place new bets.
I have booked an apartment for two weeks in the sleepy little town of Tulum, hoping to get some much-needed rest from our hitherto constant travel schedule. Two days after we arrive, an 11 day Mayan festival starts. I really don’t know what to expect from a Mexican fiesta, but it turns out it mainly involves pyromaniacs lighting rockets at ten minute intervals all day and LOUD live entertainment performed on a stage nearby from 11pm to 4am each night. Throw in some bullfighting and illegal/immoral gambling and you have a fiesta.
The rockets set my nerves on edge and the nightly entertainment leaves me sleep-deprived. But we can’t beat them, so we join them and visit the fiesta several times over it’s course.
We eat delicious (and viciously unhealthy) street food. Vegetarians and wheat/sugar/carb-free dieters should look away now.
But it turns out my child is not much of a gambler. He decides not to bet his winnings and chooses to buy a rabbit with them instead. Baby rabbits sure are cute, but are probably not super-practical travelling companions so I talk him into a bag of plastic sea creatures. A couple of plastic seals, whales, sharks and a brightly coloured octopus are the fruits of his ill-gotten gains. I guess it is just harmless fun after all!