Coconut Mafia Friendship Club
By Luke Armstrong

When a foreigner moves down Lake Atitlan to a new village, he finds that switching vendors comes with a sack full of emotional baggage.

Coconuts in Guatemala

I select one of the ten coconuts Alberto The Coconut Man has forced my hand to buy and place it on the grass in front of me. I raise my machete high until it catches a shimmer of midday sun.

Nowadays, I’m a tried hand. I know the secret of the coconut. “How,” big muscled gringos wonder, “are old women and scrawny children so much more effective than me at halving a coconut?”

It’s about the motion and the follow through. With machete raised, I focus on the big green coconut below me in all its husked glory.

Don’t imagine you’re here to split the coconut. Go beyond the nut. Imagine driving the machete through it into the ground. Don’t look at the blade. Think golf. Keep your eye on the ball. In one motion like hurricane wind, bring the blade down.

Whoosh—your coconut should be halved.

Now you must harvest the meat. Turn a spoon upside down like you are trying to make eating cereal impossible. Press deep beneath the meat. It should detach and become the MVF (most valuable fruit) of your smoothie. With practice, you will become a coconut master too.

Changing of Towns, Changing Coconut Men

This easy process of splitting and de-meating a coconut once involved a lot of frustration (and swearing). It used to look like I wasn’t so much splitting the coconut as I was trying to teach it a lesson. Life can be like this—we put ourselves through all sorts of unnecessary hassle because we don’t know any better.

Riding the rails of this train of thought, I think about the source of the coconut I’m enjoying—Alberto, the Coconut man of San Marcos la Laguna, Guatemala. I think about how he located me. How he gathered intel from my friends and somehow found out where I’d moved. How he tracked me down and forced me to buy a sack of coconuts and renew my coconut subscription.

a pile of coconuts

How the Coconut Mafia Tracked Me Down

In a land where nutrition packed coconuts costs $0.70 and coconut venders are eager to deliver them to your door, the only sane thing to do is to say, “Let it be so—I’ll take ten a week.”

So for a year in San Marcos de la Laguna, Guatemala, Alberto the Coconut Man came to my door to deliver a sack of coconuts. He even macheted most of the husk off for my easy access.

Then I changed villages. I moved from San Marcos to Tzununa on Lake Atitlan and got a new coconut guy—Johnny Cocos. But Alberto wasn’t about to let his number one coconut client go.

“Alberto’s asking about you,” friends told me.

He asked all the gringos he saw me hanging with the previous year how to find me. He now knew my new village but not my whereabouts within. On a visit back in San Marcos, he caught sight of me and rushed towards me.

“Where are you living now?” he asked, “I’ll bring you ten coconuts.”

This was uncomfortable. How could I tell Alberto about Johnny Cocos? I made some noncommittal remarks and jotted down his phone number. “I’ll call you,” I told him, “If I want coconuts.”

I left him that day looking disheartened. But whatever, I thought, I’m supporting the younger coconut upstart of the new village. It makes more sense to get coconuts from the coconut man of Tzununa than for Alberto to take a 5km tuk-tuk ride from San Marcos to deliver them.

papers for a novel on a woven mat

Then one bright Central American morning, I had just sat down to work on my novel, The Release of Jerry the Hamster, and there was a knock at my door. One of the refreshing things about moving a bit out of town to a sleepier village was no one knew my whereabouts. In San Marcos, people used to stop by sporadically throughout the day. My Mayan Cakchiquel teacher popped by to say hello, friends wanting to hang out, the landlord from next door borrowed me frequently to translate conversations with his gringo tenants, women selling mangos and avocados came throughout the day, a family selling baskets, a man came selling woven mats—It felt like the moment I sat down to write, someone always knocked on my door.

So I was irritated to see Alberto at my door.

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Read this article online at: Coconut Mafia Friendship Club

Copyright (C) Perceptive Travel 2018. All rights reserved.

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