I spent the 2018-2019 holiday season, from the 25th of December to January 6th, in two Mexican towns not far north of the border between Belize and Mexico on Mexico’s famous Yucatán Peninsula, Mahahual and Xcalak. Both became special to me, and I plan on returning hopefully at least once a year.
It was in Xcalak were I met the man who would help me come up with my New Year’s resolution. His name is Geovanni, but as he says, “mi amigos call me Keesey.”
Keesey is a Xcalak native, standing at a staggering 5’5 (and that’s being generous), with a raspy voice and long curly black hair and facial hair growing only above the corners of his mouth but not connecting in the middle of his upper lip and just enough growing on his chin to tell it’s there. Although his physical stature is not large, his presence makes up for it.
Growing up, Keesey was drawn to the sea and the surrounding lagoons of the area. He started guiding when he was 16 and was taught how to spot and put clients on bones, tarpon, and the crown jewel of saltwater fly fishing, PERMIT. Even when just talking about these fish, the boyish look on his face and the sparkle in his eye appear. To Keesey, there are only four things that matter in life: family, friends, fish, and party. He lives by this and even has a tattoo on his forearm that translates to,” life is better when fishing.” Above it there is a breaching tarpon hooked to a rod and reel.
Keesey’s house was on a pothole-filled dirt road on the south end of Xcalak, population about 375. The potholes act as the town’s speed bumps, making it difficult to get past a blazing 10mph before having to slow down again to navigate the maze of axle-breaking, neck-jerking holes. That is unless you have a “moto” (motorcycle), which you better believe mi amigo Keesey did. His moto is one of his most prized possessions. The 29-year-old fishing guide is full of stories from his not so long-ago youth about it, some of him riding single, some tandem, and even tripled up on the 250 endro-style bike, with the dirt roads in and around Xcalak as his playground. When he tells the stories, you can see him change into a kid again. His eyes widen and sparkle, making the transformation of his tired, weather-beaten face from years of being outside too much to a young boy waking up Christmas day and running to wake his parents to see what Santa has brought him. It’s a look I was lucky enough to learn. It’s the same face he makes when he, or someone he is with, catches a big fish.
It didn’t matter where we went in town, Keesey knows everyone and everyone knows Keesey. He seems to have a personal relationship with everyone in this small town. Each conversation was one a person might have with a best friend or family member, a connection with someone who has helped you out in a jam, or someone you would drop whatever you were doing if they called for your help. It was these connections that allowed us to get a boat with an outboard and kayaks for the different places that we went fishing together.
The days I spent down in Mexico and the kindness the people there, who didn’t even speak my language, showed me made this trip one of the best experiences of my life. I can’t thank the people of Xcalak and of Mahahual enough. I will talk about this adventure for as many moons I have left on this earth. Hopefully there will be many more trips to follow.
But for now, I’m going to take what I learned from my new amigo to create my New Year’s resolution. It’s going to be made with the idea that life is, in fact, better while fishing. I will be happy, and in this crazy world we all find ourselves living in, that’s all one can really hold onto.
So here it is, my new year’s resolution: I’m going to fish as much as I can, be a better husband, friend and when it’s time to cut lose, I will, but never to the detriment of the three listed before it. I truly believe if I can do those four things, everything else will fall into place.
Hope everyone has a great 2019!
- Jacob Meier