Vallarta Culture: The Siesta

Learning about la Siesta was one of our favorite lessons when we arrived in Puerto Vallarta many years ago. With the coming warmer months, we will schedule this activity as mandatory, in a binding contract with our very own self, knowing full well the pup is willing to sign on, as well.

As it’s well known that “only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun” we’ve taken the sensible position of how important a power nap is to one’s existence, man or beast. One does not need to become slave to one’s own aspirations in order to sustain grand achievements. Relaxation is endemic among the successful. Several reports indicate that those who nap have less risk of heart attack and maintain better health.

Famous nappers have included Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Thomas Edison and Napoleon. The eccentric Spanish artist, Salvador Dali had his siesta perfected, as did Einstein, with a method taught by Capuchin monks, in which sleep in limited to the amount of time it takes to drop a key on a brass plate. Though we recommend a longer duration, this was a technique that not only restored energy, but also rejuvenated the creative process. One sits in a chair and holds a key between thumb and forefinger, sits back in a relaxing manner and awakes with a start to the sound of clang on metal. One second is apparently sufficient. We prefer a hammock in the shade, after a cheerful shot of tequila.

Studies have shown that Mexicans and Japanese are the hardest working cultures, putting to bed the image of a large belly under a sombrero sleeping beneath a cactus. Therefore, the siesta should never be viewed as a symbol of laziness but one of intelligent and healthy behavior. The siesta has been around since the beginning of time, when smart people in hot climates, such as Puerto Vallarta, sleep through the hottest part of the day and eat a light dinner in the cool evening hours, after the sun’s gone down.

The word siesta comes from the Latin hora sexta, which means the six hour. In a more reasonable era a day actually began at dawn, making the sixth hour noon, a perfect time to have a rest and collect one’s thoughts, following what should be the grandest meal of the day. Practiced in the Mediterranean and the South of Europe (riposo in Italy), as well as the Philippines and much of Latin America, it is common for businesses to close, giving both proprietors and guests a chance to stay at home, have a long and hearty lunch, and a well deserved rest. Siesta is not limited to countries with warm climates; many locations in South America, such as Patagonia, make it a practice.

When homeostatic sleep and circadian rhythms, the subjects of sleep, are the topic of talk shows and scientific studies, we know we have made the correct choice of living in the paradise we find in Puerto Vallarta.

Que es cómo es.


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