The deaf coconut seller in Isla Mujeres

I walk with my friends from the huge catamaran onto the esplanade, its so hot. People walk in every direction, golf club cars in their numbers drive past, driven by tourists mainly but also local people. Local hawkers offer to sell you anything they can think of. I spontaneously buy some coconut ice cream, we walk a few blocks to your corner of the road.

Your stall has about 25 coconuts all sitting in neat rows, read to be cut open for drinking and further cut for coconut slices and wobbly bits too. It is clear to me that you have been looking out for us, working on your stall. You introduce yourself as Wayne, using standard American Sign Language. You eagerly agree to be photographed and for the art of coconut splitting to be filmed a few times. I can tell other deaf tourists have been to your stall with similar approaches. I buy 3 coconuts for my friends and I, we drink enthusiastically as you remind us that the kidneys benefit greatly from this drink.

You are a flirt, you love women and you talk about a few ladies already within the first ten mins of our presence. You go on a bit more and then Jorge tells you I’m gay, awkward 10seconds follows and then all was fine again! I kind of wish Jorge had waited a bit but then again everyone seems so open in Mexico I guess its normal.

You are one of only 5 deaf residents on this island but the other 4 do not sign. You occasionally meet deaf visitors when they come to the island and your stall is on Facebook as Cocos Frios. You grew up on the island and with your father passing away so recently, you have had to rise to the challenge of keeping the family business going; coconuts, a gift shop, renting out a few golf carts and a hotel.

I notice you are wearing a long sleeved swim top underneath the Cocos Frios t-shirt… it is roasting sweltering hot and you seem used to it. Of course its to protect you from too much sun, but it feels so warm looking at you working hard wearing two layered top. Had I not chatted with you much, I would have thought you only worked on a coconut stall and made a small income. Instead it transpires that your diversified income is putting you and your family in good position. Your jeep looks lovely outside your shop. Its 50 pesos per coconut, about 2pounds. You regularly go to Cancun to buy batches and bring them back to the island to sell.

I wonder what its like to live on an island, especially with no signing deaf friends nearby. I wonder what it is you do regularly, e.g. every Friday night. I know you use your mobile phone regularly but do you you get lonesome on this island? You are clearly dedicated to your elderly Mother who sits next to you in the shade all day at your coconut stall.

I watch you converse with several visitors to your stall, there is an immediate starting point to tell them that you are deaf and to directly communicate with them. There is no big cry out for interpreters and access, just plain and simple direct communication. Some of these visitors have been before, they immediately sign/gesture to you. Its brilliant to see how deaf awareness is being spread this way.

I can’t imagine it. I will confess to that. I can’t just imagine having to get up each day to this routine, to this type of work. I know I have such a low boredom threshold. You impress me though, there is this constant energy about you, and a clear set of family values. You are like a grocer who works at Romford market and whose family has always sold apples and pears.

Coconuts are sometimes used to describe people who are one part outwards and another part inwards. Black and white. Deaf and hearing. I wonder if there is some distinct analogy in describing you as a coconut for you seem genuine. Perhaps it’s the outward message, your aura, of being fine and busy, when inwards I suspect you have bouts of frustration, wanting to live nearer to a deaf community? Or maybe its just me, me who cannot imagine a life of a daily routine and being too far away from my deaf friends/family.


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