It’s 2:30 a.m. on a Monday morning and the noise is so loud from one of the downtown bars that my house is vibrating and I can’t sleep. Welcome to the new lawless Zihuatanejo courtesy of the mayor Gustavo García Bello, who is running for re-election.
Son las 2:30 horas de la madrugada de lunes y el ruido de unos de los bares en El Centro de Zihuatanejo es tan fuerte que hace vibrar mi casa y no puedo dormir. Bienvenido al nuevo Zihuatanejo sin ley cortesía del presidente municipal Gustavo García Bello, quien busca la re-elección.
My wife, Lupita, and I just celebrated our 25th anniversary, but since we were both ill with colds we didn’t go out to celebrate. Nevertheless, my saint of a wife also had another commitment for the day of our anniversary that she wouldn’t allow herself to miss: delivering donations from generous visitors to needy students at one of our region’s many overlooked and forgotten schools, this time the school for the children of the families who inhabit Zihuatanejo’s garbage dump who essentially live off the recycled and salvaged refuse of our community.
Thanks to the generosity of a lot of people this school is able to provide educational opportunities to children who otherwise might not be able to attend school since children and parents at other schools might not receive them with the respect they deserve. In particular a huge debt of gratitude goes to the teacher Sra. Olga Sandoval Blanquel and her assistants. The small school has 40 students in all including 2 children with autism and one child mother who is barely a teen.
Also, a huge debt of gratitude goes to Mr. Sidney Reimer who works at the hotel Azul Ixtapa and who donates 4 liters of bottled water a day per student to be sure they at least have proper drinking water. Such exemplary selfless generosity is quite moving when you see the conditions of this school, a place essentially forgotten by most of the rest of the Zihuatanejo community including the government at all levels.
My wife Lupita along with our daughter Valeria and our assistant Vero made up packages of school supplies along with toothbrushes and toothpaste to deliver to all of the students at this school. While some of the students seemed a little embarrassed and shy, others expressed their gratitude with their huge warm smiles. The supplies including the toothpaste and toothbrushes were all donated by readers of my Zihuatanejo-Ixtapa Message Board. We can’t thank them enough for their generosity.
We try to save up donated items until we have enough to make packages for an entire school so that no one feels left out. This year we didn’t receive as many donations as in past years, and the outbreak of Chikungunya earlier in the year made visiting rural areas risky, so it took us longer to get the packages together and then to get them to the school we wished to help. But it is an endeavor our family is committed to because we strongly believe that after family, a community is the most valuable component of society, and the members of a community should help one another in their time of need.
If you would like to help us with your donations of school supplies for our region’s neediest children please leave a comment here or contact me via my Facebook page or simply stop by my wife’s boutique, Lupita’s Boutique, in downtown Zihuatanejo where my wife and our daughter will gladly receive them.
A real-life legend of Zihuatanejo, Oliverio Maciel Díaz was born Nov. 12, 1924 here in Zihuatanejo. By the age of 10 he was fishing and free diving, spending most of his time on and in the water. Friends from that era say he was a true sireno (merman): half man and half fish. By the time the decade of the 50’s rolled around, thanks to the introduction of the “aqualung” to the area by don Carlos Barnard in 1949, Oliverio had become the most proficient local diver, earning the nickname “El Rey Neptuno”, and for the next 4 decades he was sought by the rich, the powerful and the famous to take them diving. He also collaborated with Jacques Yves Cousteau.
Oliverio eventually became the most sought-after expert who best knew the waters of the entire Costa Grande. He had roles in numerous movies including “La Tintorera”, “Ciclón”, “El Triángulo de las Bermudas”, “El Niño y el Tiburón”, “Beyond the Reef”, “Las Pirañas Aman en Cuaresma”, “Historias del Rey Neptuno”, and “El Día de los Asesinos”. There was even a character dedicated to him in the popular comic “Chanoc”.
During 1955 and 1956 after a lengthy investigation Oliverio searched for and found several cannons and anchors in Zihuatanejo Bay in the area known as El Eslabón, located between Playa La Ropa and Playa La Madera. One of the anchors was attributed to the 60-cannon ship “Centurion” that had been captained by the British corsair George Anson from when he spent time in Zihuatanejo Bay during 1741 and 1742 hunting Spanish ships including the “Nao de China” or the “Galeón de Manila”.
The cannons he recovered were attributed to the Spanish vessel “Nuestra Señora del Monte Carmelo”, known to have been intentionally sunk there by Anson on February 27, 1742. The name of Playa La Madera is allegedly attributed to the wood that washed up on the beach for several years later from this incident, and the name El Eslabón (the chain link) also derives from this incident. Some of the cannons and artifacts he found can still be seen at the Museo Arqueológico de la Costa Grande on the waterfront of downtown Zihuatanejo, and one of the anchors can still be seen at Playa Las Gatas.
Oliverio founded a diving school and diving tours business as well as a restaurant at Playa Las Gatas, Oliverio’s. The restaurant is run today by his children and grandchildren. During the middle of the 1970’s when Oliverio’s diving business was thriving, my wife Lupita Bravo became not only his apprentice but was considered almost a part of the family.
One of Lupita’s most cherished memories of that time that I find remarkable is her description of diving near the islets known as Los Morros de Potosí in Bahía de Potosí, just south of Bahía de Zihuatanejo. She says she was diving in crystalline water near the guano-covered islets with Oliverio when all of a sudden she found herself literally eye to eye with one of the greatest hunters of the oceans: a sailfish. She recalls that she grabbed onto and hid behind Oliverio who never moved but who instead floated calmly in front of the great fish, and he urged her to come out from behind him in order to better appreciate the rare experience, an experience she recalls with the same awe now as the day it occurred.
Oliverio lived out his final years in a modest home at Playa Quieta where he died on July 10, 2002. QEPD
26 Nov. 2014 – The people of Zihuatanejo are ready for the tourist season. Merchants and shop-keepers, restaurateurs and their staff, hotel operators and vacation rental owners, and workers in every aspect of our local businesses are anxiously awaiting the arrival of tourists for the upcoming season, especially foreigners from Canada and the United States. It’s been a long slow season for everyone here since the end of the last high season, and everyone is getting their shops and businesses spiffed up and ready for a bountiful season so that our visitors will enjoy memorable and relaxing vacations in our precious corner of paradise.
While we ask that our visitors overlook the shortcomings of our municipal government who seems to have dropped the ball on just about everything they’re responsible for, we hope everyone will notice the genuine effort on the part of the local people to go the extra mile to take good care of our new and returning visitors with the hope that they will return again and that they will tell all their friends and family members good things about Zihuatanejo and the surrounding region.
Our weather should be just about perfect every day from now until the beginning of the next rainy season in the middle of May. But if you have any doubts be sure to check the forecasts and conditions on my Zihuatanejo-Ixtapa Weather page.
And if you have any questions at all about anything regarding Zihuatanejo, Ixtapa, Troncones, Barra de Potosí or the surrounding region please be sure to ask them on my moderated and widely read Zihuatanejo-Ixtapa Message Board where you will also find hundreds of trip reports, anecdotes, recommendations, photos, videos, and useful answers to many previous questions.
The warmth of the local people combines with our tropical climate to warm the soul. A Zihuatanejo vacation is the perfect recipe for alleviating stress and warming chilled bones.
Just this past week a post on my Zihuatanejo-Ixtapa & Troncones Mexico Message Board regarding the possible source of a local recent rumor turned into something quite different, quite argumentative and quite amusing to me, but only because I’ve learned not to take most folks as seriously as they think they should be taken. Nevertheless, arguments on the internet are never pretty sights to most viewers, even less so to people looking for a relaxing getaway from inclement weather, their jobs and their daily lives. I have deleted it from my Message Board for obvious reasons, though I aready knew from the subject of the original post that it was not a message thread I intended on saving for very long.
The original posthad a link to a news article about the arrest of an alleged criminal and speculated on the source of the rumor regarding child abuctions that had circulated in Zihuatanejo during late February and early March. The first inane reply came almost immediately and said “that’s why god invented bullets”. Meaning the alleged criminal accused of the child abductions for organ harvesting or whatever should be shot and not even have evidence against him presented at a trial. Since the person posting was one of my favorite “conservative types” (you know the type) I of course couldn’t resist a little jibe and a little personal entertainment (yes, I can be a bit of a mindfucker at times when things are dull). What’s amusing about an argument? Well, I’m pretty sure I’m not one of the brightest bulbs on the tree, but it amuses me to no end how much dimmer most people seem to be, but of course I could be wrong because as I said, I ain’t the sharpest knife in the kitchen drawer. Not even close.
So in reply to what I fondly referred to as the comment about GOD’S OWN BULLETS, I wrote something like: “Were those the same bullets used to massacre the indigenous folks in what is now the USA?” I could have just as easily written: “Were those the same bullets used to assassinate Lincoln, the Kennedys, Martin Luther King, Jr. or the children at Sandy Hook Elementary?”
Immediately the outrage began! First someone claimed that the Native Americans were happy on their reservations. Someone else claimed that disease killed most of them. Someone else even wrote that there were now over two and a half million Native Americans in the USA (which actually got a burst of laughter out loud from me). But not only did all these people miss the point, they ignored it glaringly. Dodge and change the subject, attack the messenger, argue about inanities. Almost immediately one person claimed I was an anti-American sexist and chauvinist, which of course got a couple of attaboys from the female peanut gallery, whom I suspect had been drinking wine.
Not one other person seemed to care about the larger question I actually touched upon by my original reply to GOD’S OWN BULLETS, to wit: injustice in the name of religion. No, they were so deep in denial and woe and caught up in the White Man’s Burden that a tirade was unleashed against me accusing me of everything from being anti-American to Communist (as if those would be labels that should cause me anguish) as well as a sexist and chauvinist.
I’ve lost count of the times in my life when some ill-mannered and disrespectful angry fool pretended to tell me what I am, and most times I simply shrug off the attempted chides because I don’t suffer fools lightly and there’s no sense in arguing with people’s prejudices. While I enjoy my freedom more than most people, I am not so foolish as to be so free with my inner self that I reveal myself to strangers or even to most people. My wife knows me. My mother knows me. My family knows me. My friends know me. But folks who have mostly never even met me and only read what I write on my Message Board don’t know anything about me of substance because I learned quite young, before I was even a teen, that you have to have different images to different sectors of people, you can’t just be yourself in front of everybody. Just like you probably don’t discuss much about your sex life with strangers, I keep most of myself private. But since I’m not exactly the cleverest ape in the tree, of course I could be wrong.
So when one particularly ill-mannered and disrespectful angry person on my Message Board pretended to pigeonhole me, I of course couldn’t resist the temptation to play the easy winning hand and publicly admonish her since the entire affair was simply just a silly game of mine to begin with and the angry players lost so rotundly.
But the icing on the cake came when the same ill-mannered and disrespectful angry person revealed her true hateful, mean-spirited and conservative self by calling another person who corrected her a “Robette”, a term originally coined and used on a website forum that has been gone for many years and that many of my readers who knew of it jokingly referred to as the “Blue Board”, because they were all such a sad and sorry lot of mostly angry, bitter, hateful, envious, and conservative blowhards. She might as well have just rolled up her sleeve and showed us her stupid tattoo. 😉
The magic of Zihuatanejo is palpable and is something most residents and visitors can see and feel all around them, beginning with the first rays of dawn and the amazing spectacle of the morning light as it illuminates Zihuatanejo Bay and everything around it. The colors seem to vibrate and give life to inanimate objects, playing tricks with the mind and one’s vision, revealing new beauty and details in old and familiar things, whether it be a flock of birds, boats in the bay, buildings on the hillsides, fishermen, a market, a street, a beach, a walkway, or a statue. Even the colors of the ocean, the hills, the clouds and the sky seem fresh and new each day.
For those of us fortunate to experience this magic, it recharges our batteries and invigorates the soul, reminding us to appreciate what we can while we can, for it will be different tomorrow and we may not be here. Every day is indeed something new. The past and the future meaningless abstracts to the here and now demanding our attention. Reminding us to appreciate what we have and where we are at this moment. Reminding us there’s no time like the present.
Here are a few photos mostly from my morning walks with my wife along the waterfront of downtown Zihuatanejo.
Click on any photo to see it enlarged
Here are a couple of wide-angle panoramas I took of Zihuatanejo Bay in the morning. You can move them right and left as well as zoom in. I recommend clicking on the button in the upper right-hand corner of the images to see them full screen.
Long morning shadows on the downtown beach called Playa Principal
Fishermen following pelicans during a feeding frenzy that started at Playa Principal and ended at Playa La Madera
The summer vacation period in Mexico ended yesterday and today millions and millions of children returned to classes across the country. In Zihuatanejo that meant walking to school in a light drizzle for many students. It also means streets, hotels and beaches void of tourists. An unsettling occurrence for local business and lodging owners.
More and more I think it becomes apparent to lots of local businesses that opened up here in the past decade that not only is Zihuatanejo saturated with folks looking to live off tourism, but that the government’s efforts at promotion, what little they’ve done, has completely changed our tourism, especially during the summer vacation period.
It used to be that we had a decent mix of day trippers who came by bus, car and truck and more affluent tourists who occupied local luxury homes and lodgings. But between the hotels in Ixtapa changing their marketing strategy to almost exclusively all-inclusive seeking a class of tourist with less purchasing power, effectively charging rates that the predominantly non-corporate owned Zihuatanejo lodgings simply can’t compete with, and the government’s almost exclusive promotion of “social tourism” (the folks who come in tour buses for a day at most) we now find that all of us who live and have businesses here can no longer make a sustainable living from the tourists we’re getting. In spite of this new reality, FONATUR, who for years hasn’t been able to find buyers for the lands they’ve developed for sale, continues allowing megaprojects to wipe out natural areas and privatize beaches on the one hand while FIBAZI does similarly with squatters on the other, selling Zihuatanejo’s ecological zones for political expediency if not also personal profit. The squatters of course can’t find work and the megaprojects of course can’t find buyers, but with developers that isn’t the point. They build, they get paid, they move on to repeat the process. Similarly, many squatters get their stolen land and sell it for a huge profit and move on to repeat the process.
Unfortunately with the change of political fortunes underway, no one is doing anything. It’s almost like, no it’s definitely like there is NO GOVERNMENT (except of course they still want to collect taxes).
Lots of folks from other places sure want to live off the Zihuatanejo cash cow, but it seems no one wants to do the real work of getting folks to come here, no one seems to want to engage with potential tourists, to answer their questions that help them make the decision to take their vacations here. Even the airlines seem to be conspiring against us. So I plug away here and there trying to keep Zihuatanejo in people’s thoughts, answering questions and hopefully projecting the image of a place folks will want to visit for their vacation. But man, do I ever feel like the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dike: alone in my efforts to try to salvage Zihuatanejo’s tourism and attract newcomers with the spending power needed to help at least some of us make ends meet.
The day of April 10, 2012 started off like any other day of Zihuatanejo’s peak holiday season during Semana de Pascua (Easter week). Tourists were enjoying the beaches and frolicking in the sand and the surf, even though the ocean water temperature has been extremely cool along the coast for the past few weeks, around 24-25° C (75-77° F). Many people had just arrived for the beginning of the second week of the annual traditional Semana Santa-Semana de Pascua vacation period. The beaches were filling up at Playa La Ropa, Playa Las Gatas, Playa La Madera and Playa Principal all around Zihuatanejo’s bay.
Suddenly around 11:00 a.m. phone calls started arriving to the offices of the police and the fire department, reports of a fire, though no one could specify exactly where it was. Some folks thought it was a warning sign for a tsunami, and there were even a few calls by folks frightened that it was the arrival of a UFO.
Photos by Jorge Luis Tomás García
At first the reports of a strange white cloud only came from Ixtapa, where Playa El Palmar was suddenly enveloped in dense white cloud spilling in from the ocean and between the low hills from Playa Linda and Playa Quieta.
A maid at one condominium project in Ixtapa thought it was the end of the world, thanks to all the media hysteria over the Mayan calendar and so-called predictions by Nostradamus and the fictional movie “2012”, and she started to walk off the job to go home so she could spend her “final moments” with her children. Her co-workers eventually convinced her that it was only fog and she returned to her job.
While we have seen fog in Zihuatanejo on rare occasions over the years, no one could recall ever seeing such a dense and low fog bank like this roll in during the middle of the day. Like a white version of the smoke monster from LOST, the fog bank seemed to reach into the bay like a long finger and touch part of La Ropa Beach and the small hill between La Ropa and La Madera before dissipating upward. The eerie effect was enhanced because it looked like a low cloud rolling along the surface of the ocean reminiscent of a popular horror movie.
Photos by Judith Whitehead
Photos by Michael Hackett
All around the bay the folks on beaches were standing around watching the unusual fog bank and taking videos and photos as it blew in from the ocean and tumbled over the low parts of the hills along the coast.
I guess it was around Thursday or so that the weather map first hinted that a tropical storm was forming in the Bahía de Tehuántepec off the coast of Oaxaca, and news reports showed that they were getting some rain. By Saturday things had shaped up and it became apparent our first real rain of the season was on its way.
We had only received 2 or three short showers and a few sprinkles beginning in late May, but no real groundsoaking rains. Our last real rain was in October, 2010. We had been having some extremely hot and humid weather, the kind where you break out sweating before even drying off after a shower, and where no fan at any speed was able to cool you down but only stir up the heavy hot and humid air. So rain in any way, shape or form was looking like the relief we needed and the answer to many prayers.
Sunday began damn hot and humid like we had been suffering for over a month, often without any city water to bathe or cool down with. But something different happened on Sunday: the clouds moved in and the skies became overcast. The shade was welcome, but it was still damn hot and humid. However, the weather forecast looked promising: we were definitely going to get a visit from the then Tropical Storm Beatriz. Whether a direct hit or a near miss, the promise of some real soaker rains was an added bonus to Father’s Day, and by Sunday evening a few sprinkles and brief showers blew through.
[click on images to enlarge them]
During the wee hours of Monday morning a few more rainshowers passed through, so we awoke to wet streets and dripping trees. Just before 8 o’clock we noticed classes had been cancelled at neighboring Vicente Guerrero school and the well-dressed children were walking back home, most accompanied by their parents. Shortly after 8 o’clock the rain started, first as a drizzle, then a sprinkle, then a downpour. It rained steadily hour after hour at varying intensities, and by around 10 o’clock the wind began to gust a little, blowing over a large plant on our rooftop.
It rained and rained and rained, and around 5pm the weather services announced that Beatriz had become a hurricane. Oh boy! We’re having some fun now!
But apart from the rain, which had intensified by the evening, and the surf, which had steadily grown louder and higher, there still were no heavy winds in the downtown Zihuatanejo area, probably owing to the fact that the surrounding hills of our bay form a near perfect shelter. A friend of mine near Barra de Potosí, which faces open ocean, said they had been having some heavy winds and that they were getting pretty tired of them, but he said the beach was still okay even though the big waves were taking some of the sand. I imagine some of the beachfront restaurants out there had water in them, and probably some of those beachfront condo and home owners were thinking maybe they had built too close to the beach (which of course they had most certainly done).
Though Hurricane Beatriz was literally brushing our coast, it soon became obvious that it was continuing on a northwesterly track and that we appeared to have been spared any hurricane strength winds and the serious damage they can cause.
But there was still the ocean to worry about, and just after 10pm a quick walk over to the beach in front of downtown Zihuatanejo during a lull in the rain revealed the waves were washing completely up the beach to the walkway. Fishermen were nervously keeping an eye on their beached pangas, and all the beachfront restaurants were empty and closed. Muddy water was rushing out of Canal “La Boquita” next to the museum, but waves were also rushing about a hundred meters up into the canal. The beach was suffering some erosion and a few restaurants were in danger of losing the land they lease from the federal government (which they shouldn’t be able to lease in the first place).
Of course, the all night long rain and cool temperatures brought by the storm made for terrific sleeping weather!
As dawn broke it became obvious that the storm had passed us. The rain stopped and gave the cleaning crews a chance to clean the garbage off the beaches. Not nearly as bad as in past years.
As I write this late Tuesday morning it’s sprinkling again, and the weather forecast calls for more intermittent rains as the remains of Beatriz are dragged past us, but we finally got our long awaited ground soaking rain! The heat spell has been broken! And Life is Good!
Taking a morning walk with my wife and one of the other regular morning walkers asks me if I knew if we were going to have a tsunami. Tsu what? Whatsup? First I heard about any possible tsunami. Why am I always the last one to know these things? Why did I not get the MEMO?
So there went the morning walk as Lupita and I rushed back home and turned on the news and the computer. Dang, unplug yourself from the world for a night and all hell breaks loose!
So the first thing I do is find is a graph estimating the arrival time. Then I told everyone it might start arriving around 11:00 or 12:00 because I forgot to notice the PST time indicator. Oops. Drink more coffee. Go back and fix error. Ahem!
On the radio a lady calls in to the morning talk show program asking if a wave and an earthquake were going to strike her home high on the hill at El Hujal. Looks like I’m not the only one having a morning brainfart…
So after finding out the estimated arrival time was actually shortly after 2:30 p.m. and getting my computer set up upstairs just in case, I grabbed my camera and walked down the waterfront towards the pier. A friend of mine said he thought the water was just starting to run out of the Las Salinas lagoon, so I hurried over to the bridge crossing the lagoon at El Almacén to get a good spot. Turns out I got there just in time as the show was getting started at 3:20 p.m.
There were three surges that I witnessed, but I heard there were more. Each cycle lasting about 10 minutes and each one just a little more intense than the last. Fishermen were out minding their boats, and lots of people came to the bridge and shores of the lagoon to watch and film the eerie event. Surprisingly, no real stench arose from the swirling waters of lagoon. It smelled mostly like old mud. Nevertheless, folks were almost cheering as they watched the black water run out of the lagoon, hoping it would get a much needed flushing out. Unfortunately, the water that ran back in seemed to be the very same water that ran out. Oh well. Guess it’ll take more than a tsunami…
The birds were squawking and chirping and flying about quite agitated, and fish in the lagoon weren’t sure which way they should be fleeing to. Since we don’t see too many of these, folks were excited and enjoying the entertainment. Yes, even a tsunami can be fun, as long as it’s just a little one.
As I headed back towards the pier and the Playa Del Puerto, folks were giddy and chattering with excitement. We’d just had a tsunami! Everyone was talking about it. Even tourists were enjoying the added attraction.
But what struck me as really odd was seeing tourists swimming at the beach. It was clear even to folks away from their TV sets and news sources that something was going on, even though the bay appeared calm and the waves were gently lapping the beach.
Fortunately it was an extremely low tide when the tsunami hit at about 3:20 p.m. The height looked like it was just a about a meter in sea level height between the high water mark and the low water that I saw. Thank goodness it appears there’s no damage to report. Surges were still being reported at 11:00 p.m. that night and we noticed them still happening for several days afterwards.