Back from Guerrero tour, observations and notes

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Escrito por Adlerblick desde ( el día lunes, 19 de enero, 2009 a las 15:15:02 horas :

My friends. It was good to be back in Mother Z's lap for a few days recently and good to see some of you.

I won't write a trip report. I think TRs are a good format but insufficient for my observations.

In essence, I did a tour of much of Guerrero and ended this tour in Zihua. We started in Aca, staying in the hills while spending time there exploring the down-town area, saw the cliff-divers, explored the new Diamante resort area, went to Peurto Marquez, Barra Vieja and Pie de la Cuesta(which I highly recommend). From there we rented a car and took the Mexico-Aca autopista into the highlands of Guerrero where we took a careful look at beauty of the Guerreran highlands before stopping in Taxco. Along the way we visited the famous Las Grutas Cacahuamilpa - incredible 2km long underground caverns that I highly recommend everyone see. We greatly appreciated the colonial grandeur of Taxco and then drove back long the autopista took the early turn-off toward 200 and drove along this route carefully exploring the towns strewn along it before ending up in Zihua for 4 highly productive days.

My observations:

1) Gringo tourism in Mexico was down overall but relatively healthy in ZX. I could only imagine how much less it would have been had the peso not been so cheap compared to the dollar and airline fares been so reasonable. This was the best year economically to vacay in Mexico in the 8 years I have been travelling to Mexico. That said, it would obvious to me that tourist businesses in ZX were suffering and there had been little development in the area other than in S Zihua area over the last 3 years.

2) Marks of the narco-culture and trade were everywhere in Guerrero. What I've noticed is that hand-in-hand with narco-culture goes a deteroriation of human values. Towns like Aca are edgy because of the prominence of narco-trade resulting in deterioration of human decency. When a critical mass of people are doing hard-drugs or engaged in trading them, you find that the values of the surrounding society begins to degenerate. Acapulco is a very edgy town, where you have to be careful and always look over your shoulder and trod only the beaten paths. That said, its grandeur and beauty is perhaps the greatest of all the significant Mexican resort towns. But I would advise if you're going to go to Aca, be prepared to hustle and keep your eyes open. You won't be relaxing much if you want to experience the town and really know the place. However, Aca is narco'ed up to the gills. What surprised is how much the narco presence has now developed in Zihua. Wasn't uncommon for me to encounter young well-to-do healthy built young men wearing expensive clothes without evidence of significant education or refinement on the beaches of Zihua and downtown area. Saw plenty of said men driving expensive cars in the area. Saw much of the degeneration and edginess that has occurred in Aca, however coming primarily from non-native Zihua types. Also interestingly finally understood the allure of Zihua to many of American-Canadian tourists, who don't seem to Zihua-types and realized that they were likely coming here for the cheap cocaine and importing it back to the US where they could make almost 100k per kilo in profit. You can easily obtain cocaine almost anyplace in Zihua. Just say "tienes blanco". Zihua has quietly established a very subtle but present drug-culture for tourists as well as a way-station for traffickers who bring the stuff up from Colombia and run it through Oaxaca and Guerrero to the US. I saw little overt opposition to the narco-culture of Zihua and it has rather seamlessly incorporated itself into the area. This is something I didn't see 3 years ago. Narcos make and spend alot of money and most aren't very ostentatious.

3) A great deal of economic anxiety was present everywhere I went except Taxco which is more dependent on mining revenues than tourism. Over the last 10 years,a prominent mexican middle class has developed and this is the group that benefits greatly from tourism in places like Zihua. I can appreciate their concerns if the American economy continues to worsen or stay the same. I think the go-go years of early 2000 tourism are over but I think tourism to Zihua will always exist but some of the excess capacity here and in Aca will have to be trimmed. Just about every major Mexican tourist resort with planned development has multiple hi-rises - completed or half-completed sitting empty. Signs for condo sales or resorts abound but these projects appear to have defaulted on construction loans or have been terminated. Saw many such projests in Aca and fewer in Ixtapa. Mexico has excess tourist capacity and this will likely be trimmed in the next few years.

4) What does the future hold? For Aca, more of the same. Its degeneration into becoming the Sin-City of Mexico will deepen as will the prominence of its narco-culture. Zihua is facing massive challenges. There is now a new sewage creek from Intrawest(they have a sign claiming this is excess rain-water, the rainy season ended what 5 months ago?) leading into the bay. Fewer people than ever before are swimming in the bay. The La Boquita canal is only turned on during the night but is still actively dumping sewage into the bay. I also noticed fewer fish in the beach waters of La Ropa if any during this visit. Most tourist are now swimming only at La Barra or Isla Ixtapa and are increasingly residing in Troncones or La Barra,I noticed that tourism to La Barra from gringos has increased significantlyt. The bay is dying and the town has to make some tough choices. Meanwhile, the narco-presence in Zihua will continue to grow and be encouraged during these hard-times as foreign tourism remains below the levels of previous years. I think the same genuine heart still beats in the town of Zihua but it is harder to find the original spirit that has drawn many there. THe beauty and charm of the area continues to draw many, but increasingly these will be people in search of things the area would rather not associate with.

I came again this year, tipped generously and spent money to support the area as I always do when I am here. However, I will no longer return on an annual basis. I think Mexico has many challenges facing it. Primary among these is the fact that it is intrinsically a society that does not value highere education and because of this its very hard-working and industrious population is unable to develop businesses that can create new jobs for other mexicans and develop sectors other than tourism and mercado-based businesses. I did however see a campaign and a successful one at that to improve mexican road and eliminate pollution at the beaches and road-sides. Zihua is certainly cleaner, at least outside the water, than I have ever seen it and eco-consciousness is growing. However, I believe the way forward for the nation requires multi-billion dollar investment into education and developing world-class sanitation and sewage infrastructure. It needs to divert away from the immediate gain of building infrastructure only for tourist-based enterprise and start investing in its own people and communities. If it does this Mexico will have an economy that will rival that of Canada if not equal it. If it does not the disparity between rich and poor will grow and the country will be unable to diversify its economy away from oil, tourism and narcotics. I think Zihua is a micro-cosm of the challenges facing the country at large and the tough decision that its leadership will have to face in the short-term will define its future for generations. Zihua needs to decide if it really wants to become another Acapulco?

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