Tucsonans who live only 90 miles from the Mexican border are familiar with coastal destinations like Rocky Point, Guaymas, La Paz, Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, Acapulco and a few others, but I wonder how many have heard of Huatulco? Certainly not I, and the simple reason is that it did not exist as a resort town until 2008 when Fonatur, the Mexican government’s agency in charge of developing tourism throughout the country, came to this small sleepy dusty village and embarked on an ambitious and ecologically sensitive project to create a complete tourist destination.
I am totally charmed by the result and highly recommend it to someone who would enjoy a seaside vacation in an inviting and laid back atmosphere. The Huatulco area is in the state of Oaxaca, and stretches 22 miles along the coastline, encompassing nine bays – five of which are being developed and four of which are being saved in their native state. The result is a community of attractive and complete facilities that brush shoulder to shoulder with nature at its best. The development has earned The Green Globe International Certification, which gives worldwide recognition to sustainable development that makes use of the environment without destroying it, and enables the locals to benefit from tourism without destroying their roots, customs, and culture. There’s an international airport ten miles out of town and Huatulco is easily accessible by major airline carriers.
Progressively higher mountain ranges march inland from the the Huatulco coast to the capital city Oaxaca, reachable by a six (or more) hour bus ride through what I have been told is jaw-dropping spectacular scenery, where the view out the windows of the modern, comfortable buses is often a sheer drop of a thousand feet to the (invisible) river at the valley floor. Sadly we don’t have time to fit in an expedition to this beautiful old city with its colonial buildings, great museums, archaeological wonders of the Aztec culture, and a vibrant artisanal community. We are held hostage to the weather and the necessity to keep making our way south for our Panama Canal crossing.
Recreational opportunities here include white water kayaking, moonlight river rafting, bird watching, boating, sport fishing, swimming, snorkeling and diving, surfing, visits to a coffee plantation or a tropical botanical garden, horseback rides – or just lazing about on the beach or by the pool enjoying a relaxed pace in charming surroundings and being pampered. The city is clean and attractive with an appearance in tune with its cultural history. The architecture is colorful and charming with soft plasters and adornments, and the parks and gardens are lush and refreshing. There are no big box stores or McDonald’s to be seen, and also nothing visible of the extreme Mexican poverty that so sadly appears in other cities.
Here in Huatulco the buildings are not allowed to exceed four stories in height, and colonia style is encouraged. The nearby small traditional village of La Crucecita abounds with small restaurants and boutique shops that sell crafts created throughout the state of Oaxaca. There are stunning silver creations from the finest artisan families in Taxco, whimsical alejibres from Oaxaca, black pottery, talavera pottery, wood carvings, locally woven cloth. The prices are not especially a bargain, as the cruise ships stop here at least twice a week disgorging ready buyers, but on the plus side that creates a supply and demand scenario that allows the small shops to stock an abundance of quality merchandise.
My shopping expedition to La Crucecita yesterday resulted in the acquisition of a luminous fire opal and silver necklace, a hand-woven cloth bedspread that I bought practically straight off the loom from its creator, some beautifully carved wooden caballos, and a cute wooden toucan mobile with flapping wings. I also acquired a friend named Edgar, who latched on to me in one of the shops and then led me to his ‘other store’ where he bargained so fiercely on my behalf that I think he may get fired for his generosity! He then proceded to give me a guided tour to all the best attractions in town including the handicrafts museum and the mezcal tasting market where one could sample not only mezcal but also Mexican drinking chocolate and an assortment of other tasty treats. He carried my increasingly heavy shopping bags, pointed out every tripping hazard on the sidewalk, and enthused about the cleanliness of the streets. He joined me for lunch at what he assured me was the best café in La Crucecita, and finally led me to the lovely Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. This modern church was attractive on the outside, but inside the painted walls and ceiling were absolutely stunning – merging the best of a starry night and the Cistine Chapel.
Over lunch Edgar told me his story – how he had entered the U.S. when he was 16 looking for work and stayed for fourteen years, harvesting tobacco and fruit crops and working construction in a variety of jobs in multiple states that included North Carolina, Kentucky, Florida, Tennessee and Ohio. He built a life and a family there, and has American born children (US citizens) ranging in age from 5 to 14. Two years ago he was stopped by the police for no wrong-doing except for his ethnicity, and was detained and deported. Once officially deported by ICE, U.S. policy will not even consider allowing reentry under any circumstances for ten years – so Edgar lives alone here Huatulco separated from his children and their mother who still live in the states. President Obama’s new executive deportation policy would have saved Edgar from this sad fate. He now works in Huatulco seven days a week, twelve hours each day, to make ends meet – earning 800 pesos per week which works out to about $55 per day, and keeps in touch with his kids by phone.
We’re off tomorrow, having adjusted our plans to take into account that weather in the Gulf of Tehuantepec is not going to cut us a break. The wind has died down from its worst of a couple of days ago but is still pretty fierce. Our plan now is to sail an overnighter to Puerto Madero, where we’ll file our final clearance documentation for departure from Mexico. We’ll hug the coast by daylight and by nightfall the wind should die down and we should be past the worst of it, hopefully sailing further offshore to avoid the rocky coastline.
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