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.
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.
I posted a couple of years ago on another blog of mine about helping the children in the schools of Cayacal, and I have also posted on my Message Board about where donations go that my wife, Lupita, and I receive from the many generous visitors who frequent my website. On January 7th of this year Lupita and I delivered school supplies, clothing and money that was again donated by many generous readers of my website to a small remote village in the neighboring municipio of Petatlán called La Soledad de Maciel, also known as La Chole.
Lupita and our daughter, Valeria, worked late into the previous night sorting donations and putting together bags of school supplies for the younger and older children of the escuela primaria “Benito Juárez” in La Chole.
Our friends Adán and José Guadalupe Veléz, who are also La Chole residents and attended this school in their youth, picked us up at 10:00 a.m. in their pick-up to carry all the supplies to the school. When we arrived at the school the children were all milling about, but word quickly spread as they saw us coming and the atmosphere changed dramatically as the children ran to their classrooms.
As we carried the boxes and bags of supplies from the truck, the teachers had all the children form lines in front of the classrooms. One of the teachers was shouting out marching-style orders that had the kids face this way and that like Gomer Pyle’s drill sargeant, apparently showing their parade marching skills, but which also meant that some were standing in the sun. While this was helpful as we distributed packages to the children in different grades, I could tell by the looks on the children’s faces that things were a little too formal for them to relax and enjoy the moment. After realizing that my little pep talk about the importance of education was about as helpful as tossing a handful of dust into the wind, to break the ice I whipped out my camera and had the kids break ranks so they could be in the shade while I walked around joking with them and snapping some photos.
The teachers, the children and the parents who were present were ecstatic that so many people whom they’ve never met had taken the time to think about them and send them much-needed school supplies. The appreciation was evident on every face and in every smile.
From the children of the Benito Juárez school in La Chole, Guerrero… a BIG THANK YOU to the folks who made this day possible!