For many, the thought of a trip to Mexico conjures up images of crashing surf, giant sombreros and cold margaritas. But on the East Coast, in the cities along the coastline of the Gulf of Mexico, there is another side to America's southern neighbor. Altamira, Mexico native and drifter legend, Estefania Garcia Mendoza, takes us on a tour there, and introduces us to a part of real, every day Tampico life that only a few travelers have explored.
Growing up in a place surrounded by water has been an incredible blessing. When coming back home from an adventure abroad, as my plane lands in beautiful Tampico, I absolutely love to see from the air the rivers, lagoons and ocean that surround our city.
Although I live in a small town called “Altamira”, I am pretty close to other towns, such as Madero and Tampico, and the history behind the name of this last city has a lot to do with the fact that we are surrounded by water.
The indigenous people named the place Tampico because of one of the creatures that were abundant in the lagoons in those days; tam, meaning “place” in the Huasteco language and pico meaning “dogs.”
Wait, place of dogs? As funny as that sounds, apparently the indigenous people used the name “water dogs” to refer to those very interesting river otters, pretty little creatures that were once commonly seen in our lagoons. Sadly, because of the modern day industrial growth of the city, the number of river otter specimens started to decrease.
Right there, in the 'Heart of Tampico', there’s a beautiful lagoon called “Laguna del Carpintero” which contains one of the most popular attractions of the city. These attractions are so popular that even the famous Steve Irwin came to visit there. Any guesses?
Yes, you guessed right! There are crocodiles in the lagoon!
Sunbathing with City Reptiles
The “Laguna del Carpintero” is next to a mangrove swamp. It’s connected to the Panuco River, which is no deeper than 6 meters (19.6 ft). My favorite part of coming here is that, even though it is right there in the city, you can still see all kinds of wild animals such as seagulls, turtles, diving ducks, pelicans, iguanas and of course the friendly dinosaurs a.k.a. crocs! It’s almost like going on a safari but close to home.
Bringing your camera is a great idea! All year round you can see families with their kids jumping and running around since the place has a lot of space to just have fun. People come here bright and early to jog or even just to sit down on the benches and eat their lunch.
A Typical Visit on Friendly Neighbors
Okay, so maybe I'm exaggerating a little bit by referring to them as “friendly”, but the truth is that these crocodiles aren’t as aggressive as their relatives in other parts of the world. Their breed is known as moreletti. The moreletti crocs are considered to be the most “pacific” of all the crocodiles.
The biggest and oldest one is around 3.5 meters (11.4ft long), and the local people lovingly call him “Juancho”.
I remember growing up and visiting friends that lived near the lagoon, there were always new stories about the crocodiles coming out from the water and ending up in one of their backyards! But now the lagoon is surrounded by a fence so they aren’t able to come out as easily. Still, from time to time, some of them manage to get out somehow.
But don't worry, when Steve Irwin came to check them out, he said these were some of the mildest crocodiles in the world! So don’t be shy! Go ahead and snap a picture! Just don’t get dangerously close. Although they are mild, they are still crocodiles.
The Grass is Greener This Side of Home
As I got old enough to start traveling alone, I found myself starting to feel annoyed whenever I was at home in between travels. Yes, it's true, traveling is highly addictive! I would constantly complain about how everywhere else was way more fun and far more interesting than it was at home.
But, the truth is that sometimes we get so excited about how green the grass is on the other side that we forget to take the time to see how green our own grass is!
So take your time, explore your surroundings, and you might realize, as I finally did, that there are a lot of hidden touristy gems in your very own hometown, you just have to go out there and dig them up.
Contributing Blogger: Estefania Garcia Mendoza
I'm JR. I come from a long line of adventurers, some were nomadic explorers of the sea and others wandering cultivators of the earth. Ultimately, this legacy of drifters has deeply affected my view of travel. Read more...