Sunday, January 24, 2016

Zihuatanejo: Mariposas, Mangos and Margaritas

It's lush, fragrant and green on the way to the beach
I just returned from a 10-day trip to Zihuatanejo. I was on my way to my Saturday morning yoga class yesterday, when one of my many fans (and it's mutual dude) rode by on his bike and told me that he was looking forward to what I had to say on the topic of Zihua.

Since a writer cannot be read without readers, and because I truly enjoy sharing travel experiences, along with ongoing musing about aging, art, creativity and life on the earth plane, here goes.

I decided to take a seaside holiday in Mexico to celebrate my 75th birthday. Which is not happening until the end of April, but these days the ship I operate is flying the flags of Choose Joy and Eat Dessert First. In that spirit I think it was logical to start celebrating my birthday early.

The entry to El Tamarindo
I had never been to Zihua, or Z if you really like to be succinct. It is "not a village" as my old friend Mitzi L. points out. Located north of Acapulco, its population is around 100,000.

Zihua is remembered by some folks as a location in the film The Shawshank Redemption. I still haven't seen that film. Therefore, I had no prior concepts, except for my ongoing Tropical Beach Fantasies, which are a longterm condition with me. And for this lingering thirst, I found Zihua quenching. Its wide bay sparkles with clear, calm water--warm salty water perfect for delicious swimming that is freeing, relaxing, utterly marvelous.

And of course, in counterpoint, unseen bugs are making their marks on one's flesh.

Processions of gringos in variegated regalia pass along the beach. Mexican families appear with their children. Solitary locals wade out in the water with their fishing nets.

Boats, ships and sailing vessels of various shapes and capabilities come and go. And everywhere, butterflies of all sizes and colors flutter through the air, their luminous, fragile bodies igniting a sense of joy and delight.


“I embrace emerging experience.
I participate in discovery.
I am a butterfly.
I am not a butterfly collector.
I want the experience of the butterfly.”


--Oregon poet William Stafford

In the patio of the large casa

I stayed in a very pleasant studio at El Tamarindo, which I booked through Airbnb. It's located about two blocks from Playa La Ropa, which is considered to be the primo beach in the area. El Tamarindo studios are part of a lovely large home which contains a variety of rental units. It's a beautiful, clean, friendly place, very well run by Carol Juk, who has been living in Z for 20 years now. She and her husband John took me into El Centro one day and showed me some restaurants, markets and other local places of interest.  They and everyone on their staff are so relaxed and kind.

A street for strolling in El Centro
There was a wonderful collection of books available, too and I enjoyed the pleasure of galloping through several of them in between the pleasures of swimming and sunning, exploring, and eating. No computer, no phone, no email. Just those books.

I read a wild travelogue by Peter Moore titled The Whole Montezuma. I finished two novels--Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver and The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. Both marvelous. And then there was Configurations, a wonderful book containing the poetry of Octavio Paz in both Spanish and English. While in Z, I was thoroughly drenched with the magic of words.

Speaking of words, it's said that one possible meaning of Zihuatanejo might derive from the Nahuatl language, referring to the "place of women" the western paradise of the Nahuatl universe, "the home of the goddess women."

I just leave that as a seed for the imagination. And there is some evidence. For one thing, there are seven statues of women scattered through El Centro and they are meant to represent the seven areas of Guerrero.

I took photos of several of them. Beautiful, no? Yes. I think you will agree.

Last January when I was in Ensenada in northern Baja,  I took a photo of a large statue that ornaments one of the city's oldest parks. The statue depicts a breastfeeding mother. Unfortunately it is hard to imagine finding one like it in the US. But I will not get into that right now....

Mexico is different. And that is one of the things I love about it. Because after all, women are half of the human experience.

No doubt there is plenty to be said about each of these statues, but I am not an authority on the topic, so you will have to find somebody else to say it. All I can report here is that they are quite lovely. And I am glad that they grace Zihuatanejo.

La Barra de Potosi, a village near Zihua


Two friends from Ashland were staying up the road while I was in Z, and we swam, explored and enjoyed some tasty meals together. I enjoyed their company. One day we took a ride out to La Barra de Potosi in a taxi driven by the charming Antonio, who was born in Z. "And so was my father and my grandfather," he told us.

La Barra de Potosi is a small fishing village with about 600 inhabitants. The village faces an expansive bay, and includes a lagoon area which has a large mangrove estuary filled with birds. In the winter season the bay hosts humpback whales, which can be seen leaping from the water with their white fins outstretched like wings. What a tranquil, wonderful place.

La Sirena Gorda

I had to stop at  La Sirena Gorda "The Fat Mermaid" for a meal one day. Well, just because....

The food was good and there were many paintings and sculptures of zaftig, voluptuous, chubby, fat mermaids adorning the walls.

I like the Mexican sense of humor. And it's refreshing to be in a culture that appreciates the fleshly contours of women.

These are just two of the many paintings of plump mermaids I saw there at La Sirena Gorda.

Having a Good Time

One day I was in a small fruit stand outside of the Mercado Campesino. I tried to move aside to let an old woman pass. She was petite: the top of her head came to my heart area. Her gray hair was pulled back into a bun. Her thin brown face was well wrinkled. She was carrying an umbrella and wore a loose cotton dress that would have been at home in the 1930s.

I stepped to one side, and so did she. I stepped to the other side, and she did too. Then she raised her umbrella in a flourish, looked up at me and smiled. She began to dance, gracefully and in earnest. Of course, I had to dance too, not just to be polite for heaven's sake, but because when two old women meet that way among the mangos and tomatoes, it's good to celebrate the moment. And I wish I understood what she said to me when we ended our dance together. Here's what I think she said. "Nice to meet you, sister. May the Dance be with you." And with you I told her with my eyes.