Pablo built the palapas you see in the photos below with very basic tools and supplies. He used a lot of haywire to fasten the cross ribs to the upright support posts and to lash the date palm fronds to the frame at the roof and sides. There were few trees in the region, so Pablo was always on the lookout for dead branches. I think he said he used palo verde branches or trunks for the main upright posts. For the cross ribs and the roofing ribs, he used the ribs of dead cardón cacti. I’m standing by a fairly large cardón cactus in the photo above.
When a cactus died, the inside ribs, usually about 20 of them, dried up and were very strong. Frequently, I had seen Pablo carry a huge bundle of these ribs, 10 to 15 feet long from someplace in the desert where he had found a dead cactus. He also stockpiled a collection of date palm fronds for making the walls and ceiling in much the same way we use cedar shingles to make a shake roof, overlapping them to keep the rain off.
Palapa under construction. Turkey vultures are waiting for the construction workers to keel over in the heat.
Pablo’s eyesight was poor and he was in the habit of carrying binoculars around his neck in case it was important for him to see something. One day he and two of his sons were working on the roof of the palapa pictured above. A young Italian lady was staying in one of the palapas farther down the beach. She had the kind of body you see in the Sports Illustrated, Swimsuit Edition, and a very uninhibited nature to go with it. The singer Ray Stevens must have known her because just like his “Little Egypt” she “came out strutting wearing nothing but a button and a bow-oh-whoa-whoa.”
Well, it’s a wonder Pablo didn’t fall out of the palapa rafters and break his legs as he felt around, looking for his binoculars without taking his half blind eyes off “Little Italy.” Pablo’s sons didn’t get much work done for the next half hour as she held their undivided attention.
Later, Pablo complained to me, “The one time I leave my binoculars at home….”
Orion’s Gift is waiting for you.