We tendered into the port of Zihuatanejo, which is a sleepy little fishing village where the fishermen gather on the beaches and sell their daily catch and there are beautiful unspoiled beaches. Just a few kilometres away from here is the modern resort town of Ixtapa – pronounced – Ish-tapa,- one of Mexico’s most popular tourist destinations with high rise hotels lining the beaches, built especially for tourists around 1978. (Hotels, golf and beaches, but no schools, or churches or gas stations, I’m told.)
However I was not heading that way today. I was heading back in time to an old family-run tropical plantation where they grow coconuts, bananas, mangoes, pineapples, star fruit, papaya, avocado and just about anything else it seems. They say if you drop a seed on the ground today, it will be a plant tomorrow. If you leave a coconut on the ground within four months it will have rooted and in about five years you will have a full grown tree that will produce coconuts for the next 80 years. The soil is very fertile, mainly because of the many volcanoes in the area. It rains almost everyday, but mostly at night and we were told there are a lot of mosquitoes between the hours of six and eight o’clock. I was surprised to hear they have javelina here also. I am familiar with these peccaries having lived in Arizona for many years.
Coconut is their number one export. The population is about 120 thousand. Schooling is free and all students must wear uniforms. Many people live in very simple or primitive homes. But there are houses in Ixtapa that are government built. If you qualify you can “buy” one of these homes. The government takes the money from your salary until it is paid. After you own it, you can sell it, but it cannot have a mortgage again. According to our guide, the government has done this in many parts of Mexico.
After the plantation, we headed to the archeological zone at Soledad de Maciel, known as Xihuacan. These Mesoamerican ruins include a temple and an ancient ball field. It was all buried by a natural disaster and the ruins were not discovered until 1941 and are still under excavation. Over the years and before the government started to work on it, many items large and small were taken. Some have been returned. It was interesting so see a ‘work-in-progress’ archaeological site. There was also a small museum there with some interesting pieces. They say this important ceremonial centre was the site of agricultural and religious rites with Olmec and Teotihuacan influence. However they have found some small Mayan pieces here as well. This site was probably occupied around 2500 BC to 200 AD and the name Xihuacan means “place of the turquoise owners.”
Something of interest to note. There was a good sized police presence close to the little port and along the narrow road to the highway and we didn’t think much of it there. But when we got to the plantation, the marine and local police were still with us. Then they followed us to the museum and archaeological site where they either stood around with their backs to us, or stayed in the open backs of their trucks. All the time with automatic weapons at the ready. It was a little disconcerting and we were speculating whether they were protecting us or making sure we behaved. Some police were videoing us and others were taking pictures. They followed us again when we went to a lookout spot and again all the way back to the port.
We asked our guide why they were taking photos and videos of us and he replied “they think you look good.” And we said come on now….. so then he said, they want to be able to show their bosses they were working that day…. We didn’t believe that either, but somewhere on file they have photos & videos of us. One guest surmised it may be in case we got kidnapped and they would know what we looked like and who to look for.
But I felt safe having them around with their automatic weapons. I guess…… Personally , I think they do not want something to happen to a cruise ship passenger or any other tourist for that matter. They realize tourism brings in big bucks, so they are going to want to protect that income. It was interesting though, the photograph I took of THEM did not turn out.