The Allegory of the Iguanas and the Well-Meaning American

On a recent trip to Mexico, Ruby and I heard that the break-wall for the marina was teaming with iguanas, so we trekked down the beach with our sketch gear in my backpack and our sandals dangling from our fingers. We talked about art. We talked about the beach. We talked about nothing in particular.

drawing of a Mexican Iguana by David Borden (c) 2015
Mexican Iguana (c) 2015 by David Borden
We sat in the blinding heat across from several rocks that hosted five iguanas of varying sizes. By this time of morning, they had mostly moved from sunny positions to shade. Some crazy tropical plant with broad lily-pad shaped leaves protected them from the sun. They paid us little attention as we got ourselves and our supplies settled. I covered my sunburned feet with my backpack. Though we sat somewhat off the beaten path, other tourists in bathing suits, curious about the break-wall and its colony of iguanas periodically walked by and pointed at the creatures and took photos.

As I was sizing up my first subject, a twenty-something blond woman wearing cut off shorts and a bikini top that sported stars on one breast and stripes on the other paused at the iguanas. She told the older woman she was with that she wanted to give them some water. She moved toward the animals, and they grew restless. One of them fled.

Ruby said, "I hope she doesn't scare them off."

"Let's just wait for her to leave before we start."

The woman found a dry leaf from the plant under which they shaded themselves. She poured water from her plastic disposable bottle onto the leaf. Most of it rolled right off. The iguanas moved farther away as she addressed them as a group and individually, as if they were dogs. She kept trying to entice them to her leaf drinking pool.

The iguanas stared at her in that bored-French-existentialist way they do.

Finally, she abandoned the leaf and strolled down the break-wall with her elder companion.

The iguanas slowly rearranged themselves on the rocks now that the threatening creature with American flag mammaries had left . Ruby and I sketched.

"Mine moved," Ruby was frustrated.

"That's the problem with drawing anything alive-- living things move. It requires practice and patience."

As we finished up, Bikini Woman returned. She looked over my shoulder at my drawing. "That looks exactly like it. Wow. I couldn't draw anything."
sketch of sunning Mexican Iguana by David Borden (c) 2015
Sunning Iguana (c) 2015 by David Borden

I said thank you, but otherwise ignored her. I didn't want the iguanas to see me fraternizing with her. I wanted them to continue to let me sketch them.

It was so hot I had to remove my glasses several times and clean the sweat that kept dripping on the lenses. "I'm really hot. Are you ready to go?" I asked Ruby.


We put away our gear. Ruby said, "The water that lady put in the leaf has already evaporated."

We laughed. "What did you think of what she did?"

"Seemed pretty stupid. She doesn't know anything about reptiles."

(Editorial Note: Iguanas get most of their water through the food they eat.)

"They looked like they could take care of themselves pretty well."

"I was afraid she was going to scare them all away."

"Me too. I don't ever want us to travel like that woman... we'd miss so much."

#drawing #nature #travel #Mexico #iguana #beach #family #art #sketching #ExistentialistIguanaStare


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