It seemed like no sooner than we returned home from Guaymas for the Christmas Parade, we turned around and went back. This time we were there for El Festival del Camarón, the Shrimp Festival. Guaymas is a shrimp fishing port and very well known for the abundance of and the size of shrimp caught in the waters of the Sea of Cortez along its coast. The season typically begins in September, and its length is determined by the government, so as not to deplete the supply. Throughout the fall, many men leave their “day jobs” for the opportunity to earn some fast cash. Fishermen appear in the parking lots of area grocery stores and on street corners selling their shrimp. The stalls along the main street in Empalme and fish markets in Guaymas are filled with fresh shrimp catches. This is definitely a good time for a shrimp eater in Sonora!
So, of course, there is a festival to celebrate not only shrimp, but also the fisherman who bring it to us. The Visitors Center in San Carlos arranged for a shuttle to take hungry, shrimp loving folks like us to the malecón in Guaymas for the hoopla. Steve and I had never taken a shuttle with the Center before, and I have to admit it was very nice to not have to worry about traffic or parking downtown. We were able to buy our shrimp tasting tickets on the bus. This meant no standing in line for them once we arrived. We jumped off the bus and started sampling immediately!
There were about six local restaurants participating and even a cooking school! Anything that could be made with shrimp was available for tasting. We sampled chile rellenos with shrimp, empanadas, machaca, shrimp lasagna, ceviche, and fresh, made right in front of us, corn tortillas overflowing with shrimp, cheese, and vegetables. (I feel a little bit like Bubba from the Forest Gump movie.) I discovered a new to me restaurant and found myself in line for their creation more than once. One restaurant even included rice, salad, and a dinner roll with its offering. Needless to say, our eyes were bigger then our stomachs, and we passed on some of our extra tickets to a vender, who had just happened to sell us a beautiful handmade basket earlier in the day.
Musicians entertained the crowd from a center stage. The highlight, however, was the folkloric dancers. Wow! Wearing traditional, brightly colored dresses women were spun across the dance “floor” by their partners. It was impossible to hold still during the energetic displays. The audience was caught up in the excitement, clapping, stomping, and trilling. Even the festival characters dressed in salsa bottle costumes got into the act, dancing with the onlookers. For a moment I forgot that I was in the middle of a bustling city, imaging myself at a boda del campo, or country wedding, instead.
Venders mingled amongst the crowd selling cotton candy, chamoy apples, churros, elote, and other festival favorites- -just in case you were there for something other than shrimp. (And yes, I was seriously tempted by the churros but passed this time.) Children begged parents for balloons and other popular festival toys available. There were blankets, baskets, embroidered blouses, and other typical handicrafts for sale. Steve and I visited the Christmas tree and other holiday decorations displayed on the malecón without the overwhelming crowds from the night before. This also gave us ample opportunity to walk off our lunch!
All too soon it was time to board the bus for our return home. It is no secret that San Carlos is an expat retirement community. Therefore, many of its residents are just a wee bit older than the two of us. We had barely left the parking lot when Steve and I noticed that many of our fellow passengers had nodded off, revealing just one more benefit of taking the shuttle!