There are some parts of the world that take their religious morals really seriously, and although the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico isn't one of them, there are some countries in Central America where you have to be careful not to cause offence... and we're planning to visit some of them.
Consider the case of 19-year-old Glenda Xiomara Cruz in El Salvador, who went to hospital with abdominal pains and severe bleeding back in October 2012. It turned out she was having a miscarriage, but she didn't even know she was pregnant, as her menstrual cycle and her weight were practically unchanged and she'd had a negative pregnancy test six months before. She lost the baby, and four days later she was charged with the murder of her unborn child; abortion is illegal in El Salvador, and the legal system in a number of central American countries – including El Salvador and, surprisingly, Mexico – is that you are guilty until proven innocent, so it's easy for the authorities to believe claims that miscarriages are intentionally induced when they aren't, and there's not a lot the defendant can do about it (in this case, it was claims by Cruz's abusive ex-husband that swayed the judges). Cruz started a ten-year sentence for murder last month. Welcome to Central America.
With this in mind, we've been looking for wedding rings, so that we don't accidentally offend any overly zealous sensibilities when booking into hotel rooms with double beds. We left our proper rings back in England, as the combined value of them comes to around twice the per capita gross domestic product for El Salvador, according to the 2012 IMF figures; translated into western figures, this would be the equivalent of walking around London with £57,000 of bling on your fingers, but in a country with a rather more liberal attitude to taking what you want without worrying about the niceties. That's probably asking for trouble, so we left them at home.
We first tried to get cheap wedding rings in Argos back in London, but we'd left it too late as they didn't have anything in our sizes (interestingly, we met a girl at the same counter who was buying a wedding ring for exactly the same purpose; perhaps it's travellers who buy wedding rings from Argos, as I've often wondered who does). We also looked around in Playa del Carmen, but they don't sell cheap tat, they sell expensive tat, and they claim that everything is 'the real silver' when it's clearly not. Hallmarking is a technology that has yet to reach the touts of Mexico, so after trawling through a few shops, we figured we'd do better elsewhere.
We weren't expecting to find the answer to our prayers in Valladolid, but we did. There in the foyer of the Hotel Zaci – Zaci being the ancient Mayan name for the town before the Spanish wrestled it from their hands – was a small display of books and jewellery, and there, at one end, was a collection of bone rings that looked pretty wedding-shaped, and which were retailing at the princely sum of 15 pesos each, or just over 70p. We tried them on and they fitted, and the woman couldn't believe her ears when we said I'd like to buy one for my wife and, yes, one for me too.
And so we've effectively renewed our vows under Mayan skies, and we can both stop absently feeling the ring fingers on our left hands, wondering where our lovely little bands of platinum have gone. They're back, and although the surrogates are just a little cheaper than the originals, they're still completely priceless to us.