We hopped across the Gulf of California to La Cruz de Huanacaxtle – a fishing village in Bandaras Bay, NW of Puerto Vallarta. The town is named after a tree that had been catching Scott’s woodworker eyes throughout our route. These trees provide ample shade, interesting shapes, and a coveted combo of hardwood and fast growth. We celebrated crossing the sea at the “Treehouse Bar” – an establishment that reminded us of the Alameda Maker Farm with its reused materials creating a bar surrounding the giant tree. Huanacaxtle is the Nahuatl word for this tree, parota is the Spanish. Nahua peoples are the largest indigenous group in Mexico. The Aztecs were Nahuas, and the language is spoken with variety by 1.7 million people today.
La Cruz is a haven for “cruisers” with an active daily radio net, shops and swaps, racing, and a community of sailors who decide to stay a week, awhile, or forever. We loved the Sunday market, especially one booth that sold 10 year aged cheddar, unlabeled and home-brewed mezcal, and avocados selected by the vendor to align with your eating preferences and timeline. I spent an afternoon knitting in the town’s central square in the shade of a huancaxtle and was reminded of similar times spent in parks stateside – Golden Gate, Prospect, and Central. The square has many beautiful trees and a trampoline for kids to jump in for 10 pesos a session.
The waterfront in Acapulco also had several of these trees building shade for various vendors. Here in La Crucecita, we have seen many lining boulevards during our long, hot walks about town and had a delicious Oaxaqueña breakfast atop a huanacaxtle table. We ordered groceries to the boat and had a small mixup during the dropoff. Our new amigo Jose helped us get it sorted, and I heard him say “take a right at the giant parota” in Spanish to the delivery driver.
Our next move is a seven-day sail to the Guanacaste province of Costa Rica. Guanacaste is (you guessed it) another name for the tree, which happens to be the national symbol too. We will sail by Guatemala, Nicaragua, and El Salvador, where the tree is known as the conacaste. In Panama, we will call it the coratu and on the Yucatan peninsula, we will switch to the Mayan name – pich. Once back in the states, we might call it the elephant or monkey ear after its distinctive seedpods.
This tree is a nitrogen fixer, food for livestock, support character in shade-grown coffee plantations, and coveted resource in Mexican folk medicine. Scott is dreaming of more space for wood-working projects when we land on the east coast, and bookmarking wood slab sources for this sustainable hardwood. Each day looks a bit different aboard Azimuth, and it’s been fun and comforting to play “spot the parota”. Maybe you will see it somewhere too?