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Zihuatanejo-Ixtapa, Troncones and Barra de Potosí on the Costa Grande of Guerrero, Mexico

Zihuatanejo Mexico

Tsunami in Zihuatanejo

NOAA map of Chile tsunami 27 Feb 2010 (click to enlarge)

NOAA map of Chile tsunami 27 Feb 2010 (click to enlarge)

As the world awoke to the tragic news of an 8.8 earthquake in Chile on the morning of Saturday, February 27, 2010, here in Zihuatanejo we also awoke to a tsunami warning. It turned out that the best local source of information regarding the pending tsunami was my Zihuatanejo-Ixtapa Message Board where folks were finding and posting data from a variety of sources and keeping everyone else up to date. My family and I checked the radio and the television, but only CNN had any related news albeit not very specific to our region. No local or national media that we could find reported any helpful info until well past the event. Even the information we received by phoning the Capitanía del Puerto showed they didn’t have as much info as was available on my Message Board.

At various times between about 10:00 AM and 12:00 PM my wife and I both went to check the situation along the bayfront at the Playa Del Puerto (aka Playa Municipal aka Playa Principal) since the reports from NOAA had estimated that the tsunami could arrive as early as 10:45 AM. The cruise ship “Carnival Spirit” sat anchored in the bay offloading passengers like during any other visit. Water taxis appeared to be running passengers back and forth to Playa Las Gatas. Sport fishing boats were coming and going. Sightseeing boats full of tourists were cruising around the bay. The singer at a beachfront restaurant played without missing a beat, though he did mention something about the tsunami between songs. But most folks neither saw nor heard from any authorities until the event itself had long passed.

Apparently, around 10:30 AM local folks started hearing about a possible tsunami. The artists displaying their paintings in the Plaza del Artista began removing their works and more people seemed to show up on the beach to watch the bay. A news videographer filmed up and down the beach. Nothing unusual was to be seen, but the rumor mill was at work in town and neighbors gathered here and there to catch up on the latest info.

Around 12:15 PM I headed off to spend the day at my mother’s place in Ixtapa. Apparently right after I left reports started showing up on my Message Board describing what effects of the tsunami people had observed. Here’s what was posted:

Abigail wrote:

“Observed”

We have a good view of the bay and have been watching the bay to see how it reacts so if you are interested: As of 1:15 p.m.

Muddy swirls on both sides of the Puerto Mio jetty and that side of the town bay.

A little while ago the shore line dropped considerably and you could see about one third of the Las Gatas bay bottom. Now the waters have risen again. But Las Gatas water inside and outside the reef water looks as if it contains quite a bit of sand and debris. And murky swirl to the south of Las Gatas jetty.

One small boat was too close to shore and was “beached” when the shore line dropped.

Still people walking and swimming and sunning and parasailing on La Ropa.

Abigail’s Tsunami Photos

At 2:15 p.m. Carol commented:

The water in the bay has lowered enough that the water in the lagoon is running into the bay. Looks and smells really bad. Other than that all seems the same as any other day.

Shortly afterward Dianne posted:

My husband was just at the beach in Ixtapa this morning. At about 2:00 the hotel he was sitting in front of asked all people on the beach to leave, as a safety precaution. He said people all over the beach were being asked to leave.

And a little later Marty wrote:

“Tsunami Surge at La Ropa”

We sat on Playa La Ropa and watched the ocean level slowly go out about 50 feet and then came back with a 5 to 6 foot high surge. Just pushed water up high on the beach.

No damage, but interesting to sit there and watch.

And TJ added:

“Kudos to the Pacifica Resort Re: Tsunami”

We were at the Pacifica Resort in Ixtapa yesterday had heard about the earthquake in Chile and were well informed about the potential tsunami that may affect the area. At about noon the lower pool area and beach were vacated of all furniture and chairs and people were advised to go up to the next level or higher. The next level up (20-25 feet above sea level) consists of the reception area, a bar, restaurant and an infinity pool. At about 12:30 they brought out small sandwiches, hamburgers, hot dogs, salads deserts and began serving what ever you wanted to drink, all at no charge. Overall a excellent example of plan for the worst, hope for the best and make your customers feel appreciated and safe.

Reports in local newspapers mentioned that a few boats in the lagoon suffered minor damages as the water ran out of the lagoon, but nothing else. Someone who was in the Dorado Pacífico Hotel in Ixtapa mentioned that at around 2:00 PM the hotel manager called all the guests in from the beach, and that other hotels did the same thing. 

It took a day or two for everyone’s nerves to calm down, and for a couple of days afterwards some folks would joke with their friends and neighbors saying “viene la OLA” (the WAVE is coming).

Water recedes at beach (click to enlarge)

Water recedes at beach (click to enlarge)

Water recedes from lagoon (click to enlarge)

Water recedes from lagoon (click to enlarge)

Low water at Playa Del Puerto (click to enlarge)

Low water at Playa Del Puerto (click to enlarge)

Low water at Playa La Madera (click to enlarge)

Low water at Playa La Madera (click to enlarge)

Here is what some of the local newspapers reported:

Despertar de la Costa
Provocó temor la alerta de tsunami, pero no hubo ni siquiera oleaje alto

Diario de Zihuatanejo
Solo alarma causaron las marejadas altas

El Sur de Acapulco
Evacuan playa Las Gatas y la isla de Ixtapa y cierran Zihuatanejo a la navegación menor

Testing the Waters of Zihuatanejo

Playa La Ropa
Playa La Ropa

Things appear to be improving and the responsible authorities seem to be taking their jobs a bit more seriously regarding the testing of the ocean water at our beaches for bacteriological content. The Secretario del Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (SEMARNAT) announced that it is stepping up its monitoring program of our local beaches.

For the past 10 days SEMARNAT has been taking water samples in order to have a more realistic picture of the bacteriological conditions of the water at our local beaches, and they are reporting their findings in a more timely manner. They used to only take one sample a month and publish the findings a month or more later. Now findings for the same month can be found on the website for the Comisión Federal para la Protección contra Riesgos Sanitarios (COFEPRIS) and findings are being released to the press even sooner.

Additionally, the Sistema Sanitario Federal has applied the standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO) and lowered the unacceptable risk level from 500 to 200 enterococcos per 100 milliliters of water. I definitely see this as a step in the right direction. Now the question is if signs will actually be posted at any beaches that surpass this new level, because this has been a problem in the past.

Our local wastewater treatment plants are being repaired and upgraded by our municipal government and new ones are also being built in nearby communities to lower the risk of potential pollution to our area’s beaches. Hopefully before the end of 2010 all three of Zihuatanejo’s wastewater treatment plants will be operating as they should and Playa Principal will finally be considered a safe swimming beach by locals. The current test results still show this as the only beach that poses a potential health risk. Thankfully all our other beaches are looking good.

Playa El Palmar

Playa El Palmar

Ixtapa’s Playa El Palmar is on the verge of receiving the important distinction of becoming certified as a “Playa Limpia”. This requires strict monitoring not only of the water quality but also of other factors including even the cleanliness of the sand. This certification should help the promotion of Ixtapa by travel agents and tourism professionals. And if things go as planned then beaches such as Zihuatanejo’s Playa La Ropa should not be far behind in meeting the criteria to become certified as a “Playa Limpia”.

Good-bye SECTUR!

The proposed disappearance of the Secretaría de Turismo (SECTUR) announced by Presidente Calderón this week has drawn criticism from several locals in the tourism sector, but personally I’ve always thought SECTUR to be a waste of public resources. It’s time for us to stop allowing others to do the work we should be doing.

The paternalistic approach of SECTUR has incapacitated us locally and made us dependent on their outside help, but no outsider or bureaucrat in Mexico City is going to promote us or look after our interests better than we can ourselves right here in Zihuatanejo-Ixtapa.

Among all the millionaire businesses such as luxury hotels, tour operators, developers, restaurants, time shares, and others (including FONATUR), it’s time they pay the tab for all the milk they have been suckling from our cash cow. As the popular Mexican song goes “toma chocolate, paga lo que debes”.

Personally, I have dedicated over 12 years promoting our tourist destination by means of my own personal website as a service for the community without selling any advertising space, paying the costs from my own pocket and with my own time. Now through my website I have “primary contact” daily with over two thousand people, and over a thousand of them visit my Message Board daily finding answers to their questions. I seek no rewards or public recognition from politicians or anyone. I do what I do out of love for my community. So, if I can do this without seeking personal gain then I believe others can do so whether it be for love of money or simply to promote their own interests or perhaps for other reasons. It’s time others raised the torch and assumed their responsibilities to promote our destination as an integral entity instead of only seeking benefits for their own businesses.

Unfortunately, in the last few decades almost all the promotion by the government has been principally for Ixtapa, and its businesses have benefitted from their proximity to Zihuatanejo without having to give anything in return except perhaps to pay the meager wages of some of their employees, many of whom aren’t even locals but were brought here or have come here from other places. Zihuatanejo, the original attraction, and I would say the main attraction, has practically been forgotten by them, but the time has arrived to work together if we want to survive this economic crisis and the changes to our reality.

The State of Guerrero’s Secretaría del Fomento Turístico (SEFOTUR) has not helped us either, and the governor should immediately fire its director, Ernesto Rodríguez Escalona, and appoint someone more capable and who has love for our state. Someone who will promote all the attractions of our state instead of just receiving a juicy paycheck and looking out for his own investments in Acapulco. Someone who won’t make such stupid declarations as Mr. Rodríguez did by telling tourists not to come to Guerrero when the A/H1N1 flu broke out. In that instant the governor should have fired him.

First, we need to get our house in order, a job that does indeed correspond to the government. Then we need to work to invest in our own future instead of leaving it to outsiders and “public servants” whose interests are very distinct from ours.

So let’s get to work friends and neighbors! Let’s see how brightly Guerrero truly shines!

Seeing Zihuatanejo through the Eyes of Gene “Cri Cri” Lysaker

Attendees at the exhibition (click to enlarge)

Attendees at the exhibition (click to enlarge)

A magical rainbow arched over the Bay of Zihuatanejo as the exhibition of images by Gene “Cri Cri” Lysaker got underway around 7 p.m. at the Museo Arqueológico de la Costa Grande last Friday evening. The exhibition consisted mostly of photographs as well as watercolor scenes and 8mm movies. Hundreds of images were displayed on easels set around the courtyard of the museum, but the highlight of the evening was a video showing more photos, watercolor scenes and the 8mm movies. The images covered the history of Zihuatanejo during the decades of the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s. The great majority of portraits were of the children of Zihuatanejo, thus the title of the exhibition was “Los Niños de Zihuatanejo de Antaño” (Zihuatanejo’s Children of Yesteryear).

The turnout was excellent! Members of many of Zihuatanejo’s oldest families were present, representing several generations, including the now-grown subjects of many of the portraits.  They wandered through the galleries of photos set up on easels around the courtyard of the museum. Many of the photos had the names of the children written under them, making identification easier.

A very slight drizzle made for a perfect evening providing relief from the heat of the day while not actually getting anyone wet.

Lupita, Rob and Judith (click to enlarge)

Lupita, Rob and Judith (click to enlarge)

As I already mentioned, the highlight of the exhibition was a video made by Cri Cri of still photos accompanied by music of the era. At the end of the video was  some 8mm movie footage, also made by Cri Cri, showing scenes of Zihuatanejo and the Catalina Hotel from the early 1950’s.

The crowd at the exhibition awaits the video presentation (click to enlarge)

The crowd at the exhibition awaits the video presentation (click to enlarge)

The entire video was narrated by Doro Tellechéa, who knew the names of most of the people and children as well as the locations of the photos. He did an excellent job, and whenever he needed help with a name there were plenty of members in the audience who shouted them out.

My wife, Lupita Bravo, had been planning and working on this exhibition for months. She had intended to hold the event a few weeks ago at the Zócalo, but rain caused her to postpone the event. She used the time to prepare even more photos and to organize the event even better: having a carpenter friend build dozens of easels to display the photos, as well as having water, wine and snack foods available for the attendees.

Lupita, Doro and Irma (click to enlarge)

Lupita, Doro and Irma (click to enlarge)

Lupita also received invaluable assistance from Irma López Ibarra, the Coordinadora de Eventos Culturales y Especiales for the Casa de Cultura.

 

People were fascinated by the photos (click to enlarge)

People were fascinated by the photos (click to enlarge)

 

Awaiting the video at the museum (click to enlarge)

Awaiting the video at the museum (click to enlarge)

 

A full house at the museum (click to enlarge)

A full house at the museum (click to enlarge)

The exhibition not only served to remember bygone friends and family members, but also to remember the lifestyle of Zihuatanejo based on the closeness its inhabitants had with the gifts of nature. Residents from those times enjoyed a healthy ecosystem, a pristine bay, clean beaches, an abundance of fresh water,  and clean lagoons, especially the beautiful lagoon next to the school, now a problematic canal and source of pollution.

Photos by Gene Lysaker aka Cri Cri (click to enlarge)

Photos by Gene Lysaker aka Cri Cri (click to enlarge)

Folks also remembered the healthy lifestyle they enjoyed just a few decades ago. There was no television, and most families and friends met and walked and played on the beaches daily. One thing that several folks commented upon was that there were almost NO overweight people in Zihuatanejo back then.

Everyone who attended the exhibition expressed their gratitude to Cri Cri for the effort he put into his photos and especially for sharing them with us.

Gene -Cri Cri- Lysaker (click to enlarge)

Gene -Cri Cri- Lysaker (click to enlarge)

For those who have never heard of Gene Lysaker, Gene is  native of Twin Valley, Minnesota who visited Zihuatanejo frequently during the decades of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. He befriended many local families during his visits, and the children gave him his nickname of Cri Cri from the click-click sound of his camera. Many of the photos he took of locals and their children still hang in local family homes.

I was fortunate to meet Gene through my website. He last visited Zihuatanejo in 1998, but he still keeps up with local goings on through my Zihuatanejo Message Board.

A big thanks goes to my wife Lupita who worked harder than anyone will ever know to bring about this event in honor of her beloved Zihuatanejo and especially in honor of Cri Cri. Also to Irma López and the folks in charge of the museum for providing the venue and all the little details that helped make the event a success. And also to Doro who spent time with us trying to get all the names right and who provided the audio-visual equipment to allow everyone to view Cri Cri’s two-and-a-half hour video. Also to my ahijado Jaime and the two Julian’s from Tlamacazapa as well as to Ricardo for helping prepare all the photos as well as to our young ahijada Ana Karen for her assistance in labeling them.

But most of all thanks go to Cri Cri without whose photos, watercolors, home movies and videos none of this would have been possible.

We hope to have another exhibition in the near future in order to show the second video of photos that Cri Cri put together.

Tropical Storm Andres Aftermath

Playa Principal

Waves washed over entire beach up to the walkway

The waves in Zihuatanejo’s bay washed almost all the way into the streets of downtown Zihuatanejo last night. We could hear them thundering all night long as Tropical Storm Andres churned past Zihuatanejo just a few miles off our coast. In some places they actually reached the top of the walkway and started to spill over, such as into the park called Plaza del Artista where the sand piled up even with the walkway as seen in the photo above.

The wind kept gusting much of the night, blowing trees and plants around as well as bringing rain through windows. The rain finally tapered down to an off-and-on sprinkle, letting up this morning. The sun has finally come out and revealed the aftermath of last night’s storm in all its living color.

Wave damage

Wave damage

La Playa Principal

La Playa Principal

La Playa Principal lost a lot of sand last night, and the waves washed into seating areas of several beachfront restaurants. The beach-soccer area that was set up for an ongoing tournament got torn apart as the waves rolled right through it. In the fishermen’s area boats were battered around like toys with some stacked on top of others. Only the wind blowing towards the shore kept many from being washed out to sea.

Fishing boats scattered along the beach after being tossed around by waves

Fishing boats scattered along the beach after being tossed around by waves

Downtown Zihuatanejo also awoke to no water this morning. Even so, people could be seen in front of their homes and businesses sweeping and picking up debris. No real damage could be seen except to a few plants. The downtown streets seems to have drained pretty well.

During the rain last evening I caught 3 kids who had stolen a large canvas banner from my neighbor as they ran away towards the museum. The kids returned it without any fuss after saying they had only wanted it for the roof of their house. I almost felt bad for stopping them, but my neighbor paid good money for it and she thanked me for my good deed. Of course my wife was angry that I could’ve been stabbed by the 3 kids, since times are desperate and life is cheap. She tends to worry like that a lot.

20 Years Ago Today… or Last Sunday

May 7, 1989 - Jean Claude, Doro, Noyo, Lupita, Lalo, and me at the muelle on day 3 of the Torneo de Pez Vela (click to enlarge)

May 7, 1989 – from left: Mayte Tamayo, Jean Claude, Nelli, Doro, Noyo, Lupita, Lalo, and me at the muelle on day 3 of the Torneo de Pez Vela (click to enlarge)

I walked from my home at Playa La Ropa into downtown Zihuatanejo, a man on a mission. It was Sunday, May 7th, 1989. I’d been in Zihuatanejo since mid-April with my soon-to-be ex-wife and our 4-year old daughter on our last-chance-for-romance “vacation”. The romance had flamed out and we had decided to separate amicably. Zihuatanejo was recharging my batteries while my almost-ex was anxious to return to “civilization”. So I decided that today was the day to re-introduce myself to my childhood sweetheart from 15 years earlier when I had first lived here but with whom I’d had no contact all that time. Actually, I had walked by her boutique a couple of times and glanced at her, but I couldn’t bring myself to take that next step… until today.

It was the third and final day of the annual Torneo de Pez Vela, though I didn’t know that until I got to town. I went to Lupita’s Boutique (then called “Nando’s”) and walked in with as much calm courage as I could muster after the long hot walk to town, ready for one of those blast-from-the-past moments. But as fate would have it, Lupita wasn’t in her boutique. The girl who was minding the store told me that Lupita had gone to the pier with some friends for the tournament celebration. Okay, minor inconvenience but no major setback. So off I strolled along the waterfront into the throng of hundreds, eyeballs rolling this way and that trying to recognize someone I hadn’t seen face-to-face for 15 years (except at a distance a couple of times through her shop window the previous week).

The pier was crowded all right, and I walked up it and down it and back up and down it again. No Lupita. I walked back along the waterfront until I came to Elvira’s Restaurant and decided I needed to boost my courage back up with a cold dark beer while practicing my introduction in my rudimentary Spanish. Two beers later I was pretty sure I saw Lupita stroll by towards the pier, though she seemed to be surrounded by a bunch of guys, one of whom I recognized as Lalo, the guy who sold my mother her pickup truck.

Reinvigorated and only slightly nervous I paid my tab and followed the group out to the pier. As casually as I could I let out a hearty greeting to my friend Lalo. The group stopped and turned to look my way. I saw Lupita smile and time stood still while everyone else and all the cacophony faded into the background. Lupita had my full attention, and apparently I had hers. Before anyone could break the spell I walked right up to her and in my poor Spanish said “¿recuérdame?”, immediately realizing I had goofed my line. I should have said “¿me recuerdas?” But Lupita didn’t miss a beat. She flashed that angelic smile and said “sí, pero no, pero ayúdame para recordar”, all the time gazing into my eyes and showing that she recognized me. It was love at first sight for us for the second time in 15 years.

At about that point the hackles went up on the other guys, especially Noyo, who let out a string of insults, the gist being a rather protective “don’t mess with this girl” attitude. We bought beers and tequilas at the pier while Lalo introduced me around. While the guys were playing macho games with me a photographer strolled up and asked if he could take our photo. Two or three of the guys there declined, but the rest of us hammed it up for the camera.

We strolled back along the waterfront and had a large table set up for us at Banana’s, which was where Tata’s is now located on the beach side of Hotel Avila. The manager Doro took excellent care of us that day, joining in with the rest of the guys who kept trying to run me off since everyone could see that Lupita and I were having a love-at-first-sight moment. I took the abuse in good spirits, and my bilingual friend Lalo even helped Lupita and me to communicate with each other as we remembered our romance of 15 years earlier.

Lupita and I will celebrate 19 years of marriage this fall (Sept. 2009), and we both still feel like we’re honeymooners. Fate, destiny, karma or whatever it is that brought two people from such different worlds together. Our romance is still in full bloom and we are both happier than ever, and very thankful to have found each other.

If only more folks could find the happiness and love that we have enjoyed for so many years, the world would be a much more peaceful and harmonious place, for sure. Maybe it’s something in the water… or the beer and tequila.

Lupita and I want to thank our good friend Doro for recovering the old photo and sending us a copy.

Lupita and me more recently (click to enlarge)

Lupita and me more recently (click to enlarge)

Weathering the Flu Psychosis in Zihuatanejo

A fisherman casts his net for baitfish in Zihuatanejo Bay

A fisherman casts his net for baitfish in Zihuatanejo Bay (click to enlarge)

Since the recent outbreak of  this new flu, known first in Mexico as gripe (or gripa) porcina (swine flu) before being renamed influenza A H1N1, became the focus of every news media in the world, a psychosis has begun to develop around the world that has unfortunately also affected us here in Zihuatanejo where we depend on tourism. Extreme measures were first implemented in Mexico State and in Mexico City to try to contain the virus and prevent its spread, though apparently it had already spread to other regions and countries.

In Zihuatanejo, where to date no cases have been reported, some of the rather extreme measures and the psychosis that all the media coverage has generated have had a profoundly negative impact on our local economy and our livelihoods as well as our local culture. One of the rather extreme measures was the postponement this year of the XXVI Torneo de Pez Vela, an annual sportfishing tournament for sailfish, marlin and dorado in which vehicles are awarded to the winners. The event usually takes place on the first Friday, Saturday and Sunday in May and attracts a good number of out-of-towners and foreigners as well as a high number of local participants, with usually between 150 to 200 entries each year. The new date for the tournament is tentatively set for May 29, 30 and 31, though the turnout is expected to be significantly lower.

Another rather extreme measure was the closure of our cinemas and enclosed restaurants and bars. While many of us don’t miss the drunks roaming the streets and scandalizing at all hours of the evenings, again, since there have been no cases reported locally, many of these local businesses are really taking a hit since this latest blow to our local economy comes on the heels of all the overblown reporting on narcoviolence in Mexico this year that had already cost us a significant amount of tourism. Local businesses have been hurting for months, and now this.

With all the bad news about one calamity after another, the 5.7 earthquake near San Marcos, Guerrero on April 27  almost went unnoticed and created an almost surreal apocolyptic atmosphere.

When the schools were closed nationwide last Tuesday until May 6 by federal order, almost immediately some tourists began arriving from the inland cities, including Mexico City. While the locals are somewhat concerned about the flu possibly arriving with the tourists, we are nevertheless grateful for their business. Which is why many of us believe the Secretario de Fomento Turístico del Estado de Guerrero (Sefotur), Ernesto Rodríguez Escalona, should renounce or be fired from his position for declaring publically the day before yesterday that people should not come to Guerrero. Apparently he was more concerned for his own hide than for anyone who lives and works here and depends on tourism. And it’s worth mentioning that when the discos and nightclubs in Acapulco were closed by their mayor earlier this week, two that remained open all night long anyway in an upscale area of Acapulco are owned by family members of Rodríguez Escalona. Personally I can’t think of  any positive impact that person has had on Guerrero’s tourism.

Nationally and locally celebrations were cancelled for Día de los Niños yesterday, and today there was no parade for Día de los Trabajadores. Even some churches are cancelling mass or else holding them outdoors. All other local sporting events such as soccer, baseball and basketball have been cancelled. National soccer teams are playing in empty stadiums closed to the public. National baseball teams have postponed their games until further notice. Even Presidente Felipe Calderón Hinojosa gave a nationwide address urging people to stay indoors and at home until May 6.

All of these measures have created a psychosis among people in Mexico as well as in other countries. People on vacation have been seen at the beach and in the water wearing surgical facemasks. People can even be seen driving alone in their vehicles wearing facemasks. The facemask phenomenon is one of the strangest I’ve ever seen. It’s one thing to use them in crowded and confined areas, but another altogether to wear them outdoors while away from people and crowds.

Some countries have cancelled flights to Mexico and have treated arriving Mexicans rather poorly. Nevertheless, Mexicans find it strange that those same countries have not cancelled flights to the USA or to other countries where the new flu has already spread.

But the most important thing to bear in mind is that this is only a new flu and it is completely curable, especially if treated within the first 48 hours. It really should be seen for what it is instead of what it isn’t. While it is important to raise awareness to the fact that it is a new strain of flu that may not be affected by current vaccines, and that people with flu symptoms should seek medical attention immediately, it is not a “killer plague” and there is no reason people should change their travel plans or treat Mexicans as pariahs. Thanks to the national awareness campaign, folks in Mexico with flu-like symptoms are now following the recommendations by public authorities to seek immediate medical attention, wear facemasks in public, wash their hands often, and stay at home until they are well. Hopefully the psychosis created in the news media will begin to wear off and people’s lives will return to normal and everyone will be able to open their businesses once again. The slow but steady arrival of tourists in Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa this week is a positive sign for those of us who live and work here. And hopefully we will experience no new calamities this year and tourism will soon return to its normal levels.

Meanwhile, most of Zihuatanejo’s businesses are open and awaiting customers. There is virtually no waiting to be seated at restaurants.  There are plenty of places on the beach to spread your towel and there are no crowds to deal with. Wandering troubadors everywhere are awaiting to serenade you. Fishing boats are ready to take you fishing. Tour guides are available for some terrific excursions. And with the possible exception of a bit of smoke in the mornings from all the fires that are common at this time of year as farmers clear fields in anticipation of the upcoming rainy season, it’s an ideal time to visit Zihuatanejo and miss all the crowds. ¡Te esperamos!

Responsible Economics for Zihuatanejo

Zihuatanejo circa 1971  (photo by Gene "Cri-Cri" Lysaker)

Zihuatanejo circa 1971 (photo by Gene "Cri-Cri" Lysaker)

The reason capitalism is slowly but surely falling apart at the seams is because there is no incentive to be ethical or even rational in the use of resources or the distribution of profits. There is no incentive to be a good neighbor or a positive asset to a community. You don’t even have to treat your workers well. The only incentive is to make a profit at any and all cost, which often involves deception not only of folks outside the corporation but also within. So now the big capitalist countries are bailing out their BANKS and LARGE CORPORATIONS that should have failed and disappeared and been replaced by banks and corporations that implemented better business practices, according to laissez faire economics. While millions of good citizens are losing their jobs and homes. This is the consequence of years of failed economic policies such as Reagan’s “trickle down economics”. It’s also the result of glorifying greed.

Rational planning that incorporates not only rational use of resources but just as importantly good ethics and respect for communities, meaning their environment AND their people, must be the next step in economic evolution. It will obviously take a more socialistic approach to reach that step since it is plain as day that the large corporations won’t do the right thing even when on the verge of collapse and bankruptcy. We need a new economic model that takes into account the rational use of resources (including mandatory recycling instead of disposability) as well as social and environmental responsibility. No more bailouts for “burn baby burn” corporate toadies!

So under an ethically and socially responsible economic system, for example, if a store like WalMart wishes to open in a small community like Zihuatanejo where they will put dozens if not hundreds of families out of work via economic displacement in a finite market, they should have to hire and train only locals. Same with the big hotels. But this hasn’t ever been the case here, and instead of prosperity with our region’s economic growth we’ve seen more marginalization and more impoverishment as more and more outsiders suck on the teats of Zihuatanejo’s cash cow.

(Another) Zihuatanejo Earthquake

Just before 7:30 this morning I was awakened by my wife shouting frantically from downstairs “¡está temblando!” – it’s quaking! –

The sound of a freight train roaring in the distance quickly jolted me out of a perfect sleep because the closest train tracks are about 50 miles (80 km) away in Lázaro Cárdenas. I tripped into my shorts and sandals and hopped, skipped and jumped downstairs, all the time thinking “¡café! ¡café! ¿dónde está mi café?”

My wife and daughter were already on the ground floor with the front door open. I went into the street and looked up and down. Everything looked okay. Lampposts were still wobbling a bit. I was surprised that only a couple of other neighbors had bothered going outside. You’d think folks would at least try to save themselves. If it had been “the big one” we’d have had a lot of buried neighbors.

Fortunately this one appeared to have passed without any damage, and so far there haven’t been any replicas. But it sure set off a flurry of activity on my message board by other ex-pats in the region from Barra de Potosí to Troncones as well as by folks in other parts of Mexico, some who were surprised and/or concerned.

The official data from the Servicio Sismológico Nacional showed it to be a 5.3 on the Richter scale, occurring at 7:24:58 in the morning with an epicenter 44 kilometers west of Zihuatanejo at the coordinates (latitude) 17.54 and (longitude) -101.96 and at a depth of 25 km.

Shortly afterward I finally got that perfect cup of coffee I’d been hankering for, along with some fresh-squeezed orange juice with a delicious and still warm tamal de maiz as well as a tasty bolillo con requesón. Just another perfect day in Zihuatanejo, Mexico! ¡Ajuuuaaaa!

Zihuatanejo Earthquake 31 JAN 09

Helping Young and Old in La Chole

Apart from the much appreciated donations by readers of my Message Board that my wife and I recently delivered to the children of the elementary school “Benito Juárez” in La Soledad de Maciel (La Chole), we also received cash gifts, baby clothing and knitting yarn to distribute at our discretion. It wasn’t hard locating needy and expectant mothers to deliver the baby clothes and yarn to.  Here they are as they received their gifts.

Happy Mother and Baby Receive Clothing

Happy Mother and Baby Receive Clothing

Expectant Mother Receives Clothing

An Expectant Mother Receives Clothing

Another Expectant Mother Receives Clothing

Another Receives Baby Clothes

Another Expectant Mother Receives Yarn

Another Expectant Mother Gets Yarn

We also sought out the neediest man and the neediest woman in the village to give them cash donations we had received from some very generous people. Our friend Adán had no trouble finding the two people who most needed this kind of help.

Elderly Woman Receives Donation

An Elderly Woman Receives Donation

Elderly Man Receives Donation

An Elderly Man Receives Donation

Every little bit helps, and all of these recipients of your generosity were genuinely grateful that folks like you took the time and made the effort to help them. Although most folks in La Chole have never seen a computer or the internet and have very little idea what the World Wide Web is, they understood your selfless gesture and took it in the right spirit. Lupita and I were truly humbled to be able to distribute such gifts to such needy yet noble people. The recipients of your donations in La Chole thank you, and so do Lupita and I. The folks who make things like this possible make this world a better place for all of us.