I met her couple of years back. Times have changed in her world and the world of her family. They've changed in mine as well.
She was the operator of a hot dog stand proudly positioned in the town square of Bahia de Los Angeles. The next time we visited she was there, and the next and the next. We frequented her stand at first because it was the only place in the village offering Mexican hot dogs. We continued - the food was limited but good and we were learning her personality, and that of her husband and son. The name of her stand was La Reina, the Queen. Her husbands name is Selino.
On our recent trip to Bahia de Los Angeles we went first as always to Las Hamacas for lunch. We discovered, via the waitress, that the scene had changed there. They had no scallops and no pescado empanizado. They had no permissions to sell cerveza, vino or liquores.
As we enjoy sharing time with others over our meals and because I talk too much we were interested in discovering how the village would deal with this evolving situation. We asked Doc, we asked others, we tried all the other restaurants in town which we already knew. They are all good.
Gringos tend to group at Costa del Sol. Their food is superior. The palapas offer breezes off the sea and vistas beyond comparison. Unless you want a great, intimate moment at Guillermos and bacon-wrapped scallops as an entrée.
But of all the restaurants we experienced on this trip, the small palapa on the right entering town from the highway offered the very best atmosphere. It changes of course, from time to time, but we tried several dishes at Palapa Reina, with four inside tables and one outside. October weather was warm and Mary Ann and I ordered tacos or pescado empanizado and other dishes randomly and they were all well prepared. Who could have expected otherwise? All the restaurants in the village are good.
On an afternoon over a beer and a Coke and a meal at Reina's her husband introduced himself to us. His name is Selino. He sat with us at the outdoor table. We knew their family from the food cart days. Their son was nearby, playing with the camp pup and an older dog from the village. We shared conversation for an hour or more, learning of each other and swapping experiences. They were from the mainland, had come to Baja for a buck or a peso and who knows what else. We're all wanting to experience something new in life.
Over the days, weeks we experienced more of Reina's family. Selino, in the afternoon's when the restaurant business is slow, makes his circuit to the campos along the water of the bay, selling tee shirts, wood carvings and other goods the backwater tourists that come to the bay might like.
Across time we learn from each other. Mary Ann and I absorb details of his family, of a difficult and yet very full life. We have discrete opportunities to watch their son playing...their pets...the caring efforts they put into their environment.
One other afternoon we're in the village and looking for lunch. Friends from Gecko are dining at OUR table at Reina's and we opt to leave them their space and head for Guillermo's, which was closed. We returned to Palapa Reina to join with our pals. They were talking with Reina and Selino about music as we pulled chairs up and joined with the conversation.
Selino grabbed a guitar and gently strokes a few bars, fingers placed just so across cleffs. Reina's eyes drifted away from the conversation as if caught in an invisible web. Conversation stopped but not awkwardly, in anticipation, although we knew not what to expect.
Simple gut-string pluckings across a mid-afternoon, sitting in the shade of a fronded palapa with a cerveza, a good wife, close friends we are still discovering, and warm music is hard to beat.
Selino's soon playing hearty but disassociated chords and Reina's looking misty eyed. The rest of us anticipate. Reina looks into the eyes of Selino. I, at least, recognize a connection, a simple communication of desire, of heart.
Selino connects a few chords and I instinctively know a song is working between them. And then it comes, a merging of talents and spirits, in a great wave, in my mind at least: Selino tocando la guitara, touching the guitar, and Reina llorando las palabras, crying the words. A proud woman voicing melodically her pent up frustrations at life in an unfair world. My words, not hers.
Selino and Reina played several songs and soon our friends were headed down the long stretch of dirt from Bahia de Los Angeles to San Raphael for a visit with friends they knew well. Mary Ann and I wished them well and listened to the music and then ordered a taco plate we shared. There were no other customers to disrupt our conversations that lazy afternoon on a beautiful day in the Bay of L.A.
The weather is great during the right times of the year, the fishing can be wonderful and the wildlife cannot be matched anywhere. Many of us familiar with the bay know this already. The everchanging heart of the bay keeps us alive. In a single word to me tonight, at least, it is: simplicity.