whale shark


My friend Noah and his wife Lydia brought me to my bay house. Noah is a biologist from The Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve; he has taken me twice to dune island where whales die. They were in Tijuana because Lydia’s brother was killed there. They did not want to spend the night here, so they went to Guerrero Negro, it was almost ten o’clock at night. It was a long ride, almost a twelve-hour trip from Tijuana to here. When I arrived at the bay, Noah and Lydia first accompanied me to check the house and we discovered the door was damaged and two windows were broken. My stomach contracted when I noticed that the water container and the generator had disappeared. I felt anger and sadness. Then we went to look for Doña Yoli, she is Don Pepé’s wife, the mason who used to take care of my house. I say he used to because last June he had a heart attack, and can’t do it anymore. Doña Yoli was not home, but in the village selling hot dogs in a cart we were told by her son Pepito, and we went to the village. Noah and Lydia bid me farewell with a hug. When Doña Yoli finished selling hotdogs, she gave me a ride to her house to meet her new tenants Erick, Eulalia, and their two children. It was midnight. They asked me if I was sure I wanted to stay alone; I said yes. I had a strange feeling, it was the first time I was without my family.  The sky was amazing so I tried to think only about the wonderfulness of living that experience. I pulled the cot out on the porch and slept outside because the house was suffocated.


Very early Pepito arrived with Erick and brought me water. Erick is a nurse at the clinic and lives in a camper with his wife Eulalia and their two children. The camper is located in don Pepé’s backyard. For 500 pesos I filled a water tank and a large water tank we have buried in my backyard. I returned with them to the village to buy drinking water and food. I feel like going back to Tijuana. It’s not going to make it easy to be here without a car and without electricity. I went to the police station to file a report. A policewoman attended to me and took me to my house to clarify and assess the damage. She told me that the intruder had been a woman but she had already been taken to Ensenada. She assured me that a patrol was going to be watching the field every night.


I walked to the village before the sun came out, it’s September 16th. Five years ago Hurricane Odile woke up the people of Bahia de Los Angeles with the noise of a large river coming from the desert to the sea and collapsed my house. I bought food and water to drink and passed by Dona Yoli’s to ask for a ride; my left leg still hurts or something inside that makes me feel uncomfortable. I was invited to have breakfast, some delicious green chilaquiles. A mason friend of theirs arrived, his name is Lorenzo. She recommended him to me, I have been looking for someone to help me with my garden. He returned home with me because he was going to give me an estimate to start forming the garden. I told Erick and Eulalia that if they go to the Beach La Gringa they should pick me up because I know some beaches where we could swim and protect ourselves from the sun. Not only did they come with their two children at noon, but also Pepito, and Lalis, a sad and runaway dog that they brought in the trunk. It was so hot that when we returned from swimming, Lalis fled back to the caves where we were resting; they had to tie her up and put her back in the trunk.


I phoned Tony from The Island Store and told him I couldn’t stand it, I wanted to go back. Leaving the town is not easy, people used to ask around who goes to Ensenada or Guerrero Negro, and with a stroke of luck, the trip is put together. I bought from Mr. Martin a load of dirt to level my garden. Lorenzo even arranged the wall of tires to protect the house from the back. If I go back to Tijuana, I will spend the money anyway. I have decided to stay and move forward with my gardening project. At night, the wind from the Pacific arrives, people here call it “el weste”. Today it was very hot, the mason told me that two hurricanes came together: Lorraine and Mario. It was so hot; the sun was really burning. Lorenzo got dizzy and stopped working, later he took me to the village to buy water and food and brought me back to my house, his fees are 500 pesos a day.


Don Ramón came to his house today, I had never felt so pleased to see the neighbor who sold us the land. He took me to the village and invited me to eat. His daughter prepared some canned tuna enchiladas for us. When I said goodbye to him, Issac came from fishing. He is the boatman who took us swimming at the Coronado Volcano about eight years ago. He gave me a beautiful mullet. Don Ramon returned me to the house. I made a campfire to roast the fish, I had half of it and the other I’ll save for lunch. The brown gull has five days crying and demanding her all-white gull mom feed her. The other seagulls get fed up with her crying and all complaint at the same time. It’s fun to listen to them. The days are long and the nights even longer. I have not seen the roadrunner again however the hare comes out to me all the time when I walk by the desert. Camila gave me pepper spray, I have two lamps. It is not easy to fall asleep, to distract myself I start to associate thoughts or people with shooting stars. There are so many. It’s majestic to sleep outside with your eyes set on the Milky Way. The patrol enters the field every night. Yesterday morning a noise woke me up and I saw only the buttocks of a dog fleeing into the dunes. It was not a coyote because it had no tail, or was it?


I can barely sleep, I’m exhausted, swimming three hours every day: in the morning before the sun rises, at noon because of heat and boredom and in the afternoons because I’m fascinated by the sunset, it’s spectacular, I’m lucky to be here moving and floating in this warm, silvery, purple sea and it’s pink or red mountains. I saw from afar the fin of a whale shark; they are called peregrine fish, carpet fish, he carries on his back the Milky Way says, Tony. The whale shark has dimmed teeth that it doesn’t even use to feed itself, humans are not food for whale sharks. Three years ago, when we camped at the Coronado Volcano we saw three on the village ramp for the first time. It was impressive to see their size, perhaps they were a family, the largest average being more than 15 meters. It’s like a giant manta ray, its face, its mouth, its eyes, are so strange, they look like they’re from another planet.

A few hours ago, Rubencito, Don Pepé’s grandson, rented me his car and told me what the “tricks” were in case it wouldn’t turn on. I can’t believe how lucky I am, I can go to the village easily and it will be less long to wait until Tony, Sofia and my dog Calypso arrive.

I have cleaned the house little by little, I found in a drawer in the closet of the small room a dry pig, the head of a swordfish, and a whole dry puffer fish too, thank goodness. I think the woman who got into the house put them there because outside on the porch she also left a bag with figs and I don’t know what kind of mollusk that stinks horrible, I had to wipe with water several times and it still smells weird.


Last night I was falling asleep and the rain woke me up. I got in the house, it was suffocating, I couldn’t sleep, and the blue porch got wet. I ended up in the blue armchair very uncomfortable but in the end, fatigue overcame me.

Again came the grey heron, they are very suspicious. The “juanitos” -as they are called here in the bay- to the mice squirrels, they are so curious and mischievous, they approach little by little to the house and then run to hide if they hear a noise. Today I laughed so much because I burped to the hand and a “Juanito” came out in terror. Pepito sells them; Don Pepé made him an ingenious wooden trap to hunt them down. Pelicans are as primitive and solitary as the osprey. There are several “tijeretas”, the first time I saw them was in La Paz with my friend Carla, they are called albatrosses and I think they emigrated from the South, it seems that from Chile. I should have studied biology. I am thinking of the morphology of seabirds and their differences from desert birds. The woman who entered my house to sleep and defecated, was a squid fisherwoman, they say and they also say that she got together with a fisherman addicted to crack and she also became addicted. I did not contain myself and made myself at sunrise a self-portrait with the copal.

I went to the restaurant Las Hamacas to connect to the internet and to charge my cell phone, I talked with three ladies, one is the owner and the other two are the cooks but as there is no tourism yet, they were with me enjoying the hot weather. Mercedes is the nicest, she has a teenage daughter named Pamela and likes to draw with her cell phone. She came to the restaurant and joined us after her classes at the Telesecundaria, and it struck me that she ate a cup of noodles with Monterey Jack cheese.


I’ve been here alone for a week now. The mason did his job in three days. I still sleep outside; the nights are so long and sometimes I’m scared. But today was a wonderful day. It was like two o’clock in the afternoon, it was so hot, Don Ramón came to water his plants, he lives in the village. The woman also invaded his property, destroyed drawers, and graffiti some walls. I went to greet him, I had to talk to someone, sometimes I was scolding the seagulls. He offered me two bean burritos and a coke. He is a slow and wise man. We saw several fins near the shore, I asked him if they were dolphins, he told me they were possibly whale sharks. I told him I was going to go in to see if I could catch up with them, he told me he wouldn’t recommend it to me. I kept looking and saw a fin right in front of my house, it was closer than the others, so I didn’t ask for permission and I said, “Now I’m coming, I’m going to try to catch up with it”! I ran out and threw my clothes to the shore of the beach, I started swimming with the technique of salvation, there were waves, not high but there were waves, I kept advancing like 200 meters to where the fin was, a boat with tourists came, they saw me swimming towards him, I wanted to get there, and I arrived. I raised my camera several times, I had to be accurate. Suddenly there was his strange mouth and his eyes a few inches from my body, I started screaming with pleasure and submerging the camera, I couldn’t believe it. I was there with him, letting the waves move us both. But the dance only lasted a few minutes, because when the whale shark heard the engine that arrived he submerged so as not to go out anymore. I went back to the shore; Don Ramón saw me with the astonishment and tranquility of a pelican. I went back to rinse my camera with fresh water and he was still sitting on his porch. He smiled at me and exclaimed:! “You are in great condition”!


Yesterday was spectacular. I can’t believe I swam with the whale shark, I didn’t dare touch it, everything was so fast, it was awesome to have his mouth near me. I am glad I decided to stay. The sunset was mad, I don’t want to take any more pictures. I had never seen the fruits of the copal, they look like miniature apples, they smell wonderful. They open your nostrils. After Hurricane Odile, I paid more attention to the fragility, strength, and intelligence of the flora. With Hurricane Odile, I discovered that his underground body is three times larger than the plant on the surface and he showed me his long roots in the form of a spiral to cling in the sand. Although they are pollinated in spring, it is not the same for all, there are some that are cyclical and can take ten years to bloom, I have also seen that each ecosystem is the result of a catastrophe, and the example I have with the smoke tree that germinated a fortnight after Hurricane Odile, that means that its seeds were dormant and the conditions of humidity and friction made it germinate after many, many years and change the landscape and the atmosphere. The boatmen told me they call this tree “bad woman”, I defended myself when I heard it. The vegetation is another cosmos, the ‘torotes’, the ‘cirios’ that are endemic, the ‘cardones’, the ‘copal’, the miniature flowers of all colors that come out in the sand, sometimes they are only insight for a month, a week, or a day. They look like neurons, or corals, or slugs.

DAY 10

I have my hair knotted. I swam very early, it’s wonderful. A black dog followed some tourists and I started to whistle, it stopped, saw me and came swimming with me. The more I talked to it the more it came inward, it was so funny. I think it could hold out for more than ten minutes swimming. My Nikonos V camera doesn’t work properly, the rewind button is broken, so I only take 36 photos on each trip, and sometimes I don’t take any. At night two men appeared on the beach. I wasn’t afraid, I faced them. They carried a small lamp and walked in a hurry. I asked them what they were doing at midnight walking along the beach, they told me that they came from the field where the “Clown” lives; it was like a movie because after five minutes the patrol went through the field and I went out to yell at them and let them know that two men had just passed towards the village, I told them that they had told me that their panga broke down. With the light of my lamp, I saw myself in the reflection of the door with that hair made knots and my blanket dragging, made me feel that they could believe that I was that “woman” who went to defecate and sleep at my house. It makes me laugh but it’s scarier.

Cleaning and fixing up my house, I gathered some fishing items like a plumb, hooks, and synthetic bait, for Don Rafa, a fisherman who had asked us for plumb. He was not there, I was attended by his wife and his six dogs, I told them that I brought a gift for them, but I asked her if she had “pretty”, it is my favorite fish, it is richer than tuna, she said yes and she gladly gave some to me. I boiled it in a campfire to thaw it and cook it sooner. It was a lot, so that evening, I went to get Eulalia and Erick’s house to share with them and invited them for breakfast on Sunday, and play with their children on the beach.

DAY 11

Some seagulls fight above my house. The dolphins have swum in front of my house. It was too long for it to rain and in three days butterflies of all colors came out, yellow, black, white, many dragonflies. Bumblebees with orange wings and litmus blue bodies are fascinating. A turtle threatened stranded, the seagulls and vultures made him round. When watering the cardons came out a scorpion the size of my hand, about five years ago I got bit by one on the big toe of the right foot. We went to the village office and they injected me, although before arriving I squeezed my finger and a thick liquid and coffee came out. Nothing happened to me, just my foot swelling like a tamal for a week. I told Mrs. Yoli about my encounter with the scorpion; they have so many amazing stories, funny and worth telling about animals. They almost hit me because I told them I let it run away. In the afternoon when I watered the cardons again and the scorpion appeared, this time I put it in a plastic jar to take it to the desert. Doña Yoli warned me that if I did not kill it, I would soon have a nest of scorpions trying to enter my house. I have almost two weeks here, alone, it’s been a very long day. I have talked to the cooks at the restaurant Las Hamacas and in the Hotel Guillermos and nobody likes to swim, they say that it takes years for them to get into the water. I would love to teach them how to swim. Every time I swim, I see stone-travelers, they are of all sizes. I wonder if they are on an island and if the tides drag them.

DAY 12

I have finished cleaning the whole house, it has not been easy because of the heat. I found some printed photos of 4 by 6 inches in the kitchen. They have been forgotten or hidden here for more than ten years. They are some characters from three families who live in La Bahía de Los Angeles. I will describe the first: Brisa and Génaro are part of five brothers who take care of the San Borja Mission. I know their names because we have gone several times to that mountain range of succulents. In the photos Brisa is with her daughter who is a baby, she has red lips and a red hat, I think I took these pictures in 2004, shortly after that we came back and she had changed, she could not even greet us, her younger sister told us that she had postpartum depression, as she was not attended, so she has personality changes. The second character is Adrianita, daughter of the “Clown” the owner of the field “Los Amigos”, was the first space where we camped in Bahía de Los Angeles. Adrianita is smiling with a toy that Tony gave her. She now lives in San Quentin, the DIF took her away years ago because her mother has schizophrenia and Andres the “Clown” is addicted to crack. The other photos are two girls visiting their fisherman father in Las Animas, a small bay that is three hours from here heading south. I never knew their names, she is a ten-year-old girl who carries her one-year-old sister and behind there are two white islets, I remember I gave those photos of those girls in the store The island, someone who told me knew them and I trusted them, this image was misplaced with the others in the house.

DIA 13

I forgot to write that the day the two men appeared walking along the beach, I kept hearing a noise. It could be a flute or maybe it was the wind sticking in a bottle, my ears were punctured, I stopped hearing it until I changed the position of the cot. As everything is known in the village, I went to the Hotel Villa Bahia which is 500 meters from the house because Génaro and Brisa’s uncle works there, to deliver the photos of his nephews, but he was not there, I got out of the car and shouted: ¡”Salvador”! A girl and a boy came out, they were around 12 years old and their dog, they told me that they would give the photos to Génaro who sometimes visited them, I trusted again. I went to the restaurant Las Hamacas to deliver the photo of Adrianita to a sister-in-law of the “Clown” who works there as a waitress. All that remained in my hands was the photograph of the two girls I portrayed in Bahía Las Animas. I was about to throw it away, because I assumed that those girls were older and no one was going to recognize them but one of the cooks named Mercedes started telling me, those are my daughters. I didn’t believe her. It was an impossible coincidence and I showed it to her quickly and then I showed it upside down and asked her where they were and she replied without hesitation: “¡At Las ánimas!”. I gave it to her and she started to cry. I was told, the one-year-old girl her sister carries is Pamela, the young woman who came to eat her noodle soup here with us two days ago. I told her that I had delivered those pictures years ago at The Island Store and I asked her if they had received them. She said no. I promised to look for those negatives and print them all over again, I was dying of pleasure. I can’t believe it. My associations lead me to rampage to write that a cosmos is on top of a whale shark, where the measure of all things fits.

DAY 14

When I enter the desert to see the plants I dodge the footprints of the snakes. There are mockingbirds, hummingbirds, and many other birds that I don’t recognize. Once in La Misión San Borja, we saw a rattlesnake drinking water for more than ten minutes in a water spring. At dawn I saw a coyote by the seashore, it was so confident. The stranded turtle disappeared. Today was the most pronounced day at low tide. Those at the Reserve invited me to pick up garbage, I wanted to start the car and it did not work. I walked along the beach. When I reached the lighthouse, it was very difficult to go out to the village, through the dunes and the mud. When I arrived, they had already finished. I didn’t even see the release of 80 turtle eggs, Alicia, Don Ramón’s sister-in-law, told me when she gave me a ride back to my house. Again, my left leg hurts inside. I found several scallops, I’ll keep them for Tony to share with him, he’s supposed to arrive this afternoon. There is no date here, it doesn’t matter if it’s Monday or Sunday. The vultures are menacing. I feel like crying.

Angelica Escoto

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