Monday, June 1, 2009

Loco Acapulco

April 13th to April 18th 2009

Having survived the ride into Acapulco and having had a good night's sleep, we change hotel and move away from the crowded hussle and bussle surrounding the central plaza. This is a place where it is definitely worth spending a little more to move up and get above it all....



Up a steep hill from the Zocalo is the famous "La Quebrada". This is the area that makes Acapulco famous with it's 45m cliff from which the death-defying divers perform their spectacular show. Under the steely gaze of hundreds of on-lookers, they first jump into a narrow canyon and swim through the boiling seas as the waves crash in, attempting to sweep them onto jagged rocks. Next they climb barefooted and without ropes up the near-vertical cliff face opposite, before making their dive. As if a 45 metre (150 feet) dive into the seething ocean is not treacherous enough, the water below is only 3 metres deep! Divers must time it just right to hit the the upsurge of the next wave.

There are 4 shows a night culminating in night dives with flaming torches and it's a fantastic experince....  



However, there are definitely 2 sides to Acapulco. The bay is stunning....



The weather is tropical, the water warm and the beaches are fine, with food always close at hand....



It's a playground for the well heeled with moorings for expensive yachts and a lively club scene. The fishing fleets supply hundreds of restaurants with fresh fruit del mar....
  


But there is definitely the other side to the place. 

Go a congested, rubbish strewn street or 2 back and you start to see the cracks. Beggars and down and outs are everywhere and the narrow streets are seedy and overflowing in this overcrowded jewel of yesteryear. In 1950 around 50,000 people called this place home, now there are 600,000 registered inhabitants. Noxious traffic fumes pervade the air and the sound of blaring horns cut and shred any kind of tranquilo vibe. It goes on well into the night.

The signs of former glory are easy to find with yesterday's fun palaces turned into today's cheap apartments....



Competing alongside the army of VW taxis is a fleet of collectivo buses. Brightly painted, they each have a unique theme. The "Dracula" bus is all dark and purple velvet drapes with dark gothic music booming out into the street. It all adds to the furor as they clatter and roar in search of prey....



Excaping all the commotion we visit the excellent museum housed in the 17th century Fort of San Diego built on a hilltop by the Spanish to protect their trade routes to the Philippines. It's always interesting to see alternative potrayals of historical figures from coutries on the other side of a conflict. Here we learn about Frances Drake the Pirate and other English buccaneers who marauded these waters for booty. One man's national hero is another man's pirate I guess.

The fort was incredibly successful, partly helped by the prevailing winds that drove enemy ships around the bay and directly in front of the huge cannons arrayed behind the thick fortifications. For 200 years it was a kind of medieval duck shoot with huge cannon balls. In fact the only time the fort was breached was in 1776, but that was down to an act of god, when the whole area was demolished in an enormous earthquake. Guns are still trained out into the bay awaiting the next Drake. 

Or.... Demolition job to create space for the next development??



There's also an excellent exhibition of Mexican folk art and colourful masks used in fiestas and day of the dead celebrations....



But back out on the mean streets, the thin veneer of quality is definitely fading. It's been an entertaining couple of days, but Acapulco is not what I expected really, with it's classy film star image. Guess those film stars were all in black and white and it's been a difficult transition into the days of full technicolour. It all looks just a bit too garish for me - like an ageing film actress trying just a bit too hard to capture that old magic for one last time.... 

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