by Meera Subramanian
S. AND I SIT ON A LOG on a San Pancho beach of western Mexico’s Nayarit coast, watching. Soon, we’ve been told, there will be a release of sea turtles, but we don’t know quite where, so we observe the movement of humans on the beach—couples in beach chairs; groups of young, tattooed surfers smoking cigarettes and weed; a woman reading a book. An older man races by in a dune buggy with a woman beside him, and then returns a moment later without her, rousing a trio of short-legged mutts to chase after him, barking and chomping at the tires. Where he has left the woman, a coalescing is under way, and we move toward it.
There we find Odette Brunel, a Mexican ecologist with long brown hair and reading glasses looped around her neck, holding a tan plastic bin. A hundred tiny turtles writhe within. They’re only a few inches long, dark flippers and dark shells barely containing an eager energy. Nearby, an eleven-year-old named Ananda holds another bin with more. A growing crowd crane their necks to look in. Children gather. Parents gather. Cell phone cameras, including mine, are at the ready.
Odette goes hoarse explaining anything she can to anyone who will listen, in English and Spanish. Her soft voice stretches over the sound of island music blaring from a nearby hotel that reaches its square body onto the sand of the beach.
“We call this tortuga golfina. It’s the smallest of the sea turtles that come here.”
And here’s a rough-cut video I made of the evening: