This is the story of my experiences living as an ex-pat in Mexico since 2003. It's to culminate in a p‍‍‍ublished book. With your help, I'll be editing, selecting a title, and cover art: a participatory project. Your comments encouraged!

Letters from Mexico‍‍‍

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More than Beaches and Ba‍‍‍nana Boats‍‍‍

Acapulco

By George (Jake) Jaquith

The comments on my last blog‍‍‍ were contradictory. Do you thin‍‍‍k I need to offer more positive views?

My friend Jake is posting this as a guest. As a part-time resident of Acapulco, Mexico, he has a more positive viewpoint than mine. See his bio at the end of this Letter.

An incredible beach in the ‍‍‍bay of Acapulco.

Isla Roqueta, an ‍‍‍the largest island off Acapulco, has a beach and wooded trails.

Jardin Botánico de Acapulco, Guerrero (YouTube‍‍‍ video by Xhandeghá)

‍‍‍Constructed in the 17th century in Acapulco, Fort San Diego is now a museum.

Palma Sola wi‍‍‍‍‍‍th it's petroglyphs, is an archeological site near a national park. (Video by Don Karp)‍‍‍

When Mexicans and international visitors think of Acapulco, beaches, water sports, and the famous cliff divers come to mind. Less seemly images are narco trafficking and high homicide rates.  

Part-time residents of Acapulco since 2010, my wife Nancy and I know and treasure other dimensions of the port that add depth and interest.  Not just a beach community of 800,000 spread out over a large area, Acapulco is most enriching for those who study, work, and retire in this ancient port, known as The Pearl of the Pacific.

Isla Roqueta

Isla Roqueta has captivated island sojourners from the earliest times of the indigenous and pirates down to present day trippers. I take an old launch to hike the perimeter of the 1.5 by 1.6 km island on the wooded trails. The dramatic views from all sides, out to the ocean, and the mountains encircling the Bay of Bahia, leave one speechless. Cliffs hundreds of feet high to the West receive magnificent swells from Asia and the Americas that crash on the rock-bound coast. ‍‍‍I look forward to a refreshing swim after hiking on a hot day.  

The Marines and Federal government have‍‍‍ designated the island a protected area.  

With no electricity, roads or motorized vehicles, the island permits no night visitors. All must leave on the last launch by 6 pm. Swimming, kayaking, snorkeling, and several palapa style restaurants keep visitors happy and occupied.

The island features a light house at the highest point, with a museum under construction to portray maritime history.  It has three beaches. One of them is well protected from the open Pacific. Two smaller ones are more exposed to the open sea. Water quality checks show Roqueta is a safe beach.  

Jardin Botanico de Acapulco

Up the mountain from the Loyola University of the Pacific, on the Southeast side of the Bay, a group of visionary women started a botanic garden 15 years ago.  Well-funded by local, federal, and international donations, the garden operates seven days a week, all year, to the delight of plant and bird lovers.  

One ascends a series of paths past plantings ending at an adventure trail still under construction. A restaurant near the garden entrance, a gift shop, water fountains, a creek that flows in the rainy season, and a small amphitheater for musical events,‍‍‍ all help to create memorable moments.  

Volunteers give back to the community and promote nature. Day camps do much to teach participants.

The Jardin works with other botanic groups in tropical areas to propagate and protect threatened species.

The Fort of San Diego‍‍‍‍‍‍

In the middle of the 17th century, to protect the tiny pueblo of Acapulco from pirate attacks, guard merchandise and arms, and to foster trade with Asia, they constructed The Fort of San Diego.

This world class museum adds much as a tourist and cultural attraction. ‍‍‍The National Institute of Anthropology operates this museum of the city and maritime trade.  On the Costera Miguel Aleman, at the dock for the cruise ships, the Fort occupies a high piece of land that made it a natural defensive point in earlier times.

The fort hosts events such as the Festival of the Nao of China. It fosters cultural sharing and greater trade connections between Acapulco and Pacific Nations.  

The Nao is a replica of the Spanish galleons constructed in Acapulco sent to the Philippines and Japan on trade missions. The Nao is in Papagayo, the Central Park of the City.  Every year features a different country showcasing its film, dance, theater, drama,‍‍‍ and art.  In 2017, for example, Japan sent dozens of artists, performers and scholars to give presentations.

Palma Sola‍‍‍

Archeological ruins and ceremonial sites in Guerrero testify to a well-organized culture for fishing, agriculture, and trade.  

Palma Sola was occupied for thousands of years by various indigenous groups before its discovery by the Spanish in 1521.  

As a ceremonial place, it has well preserved paintings and etchings on the cliffs and inside shallow caves.  There is no admission fee. One first enters a small museum where a guide explains the history, shows photos, and artifacts. He then leads individuals and groups through winding trails to the top for breathtaking vistas.

The National Park El Veladero, continues on the hill top.  Created in 1981, the National Park Service plans to integrate hiking trails with logical entry points but lacks funds at the present.  Bushwhacking anyone? One shouldn't hike alone and should be out before dark. We have yet to venture in and the authorities do not recommend it, wanting to avoid the possibility of danger and bad press.

The Orquesta Filarmonica (Philharmonic Orchestra) De Acapulco‍‍‍

Now celebrating its 20th anniversary, the Orquesta Filarmonica de Acapulco presents over a hundred concerts a year in three seasons.   Listeners hear virtuoso musicians without charge, since the different levels of government, including generous private donors, underwrite operating costs. The State of Guerrero places great importance on culture. Even though one of the poorer states in the country, the opportunity to hear great music is not denied to anyone. The hall fills up when the Canadian and American snowbirds come for the winter.

Besides Mexicans, many of the musicians come from Europe and South America. Conducted by its charismatic founder, Maestro Eduardo Alvarez, this band entertains and inspires every other Friday in the Juan Alarcon Theater.  

They play in different venues. For example, the amphitheater Sinfonia Del Mar, over the Pacific within view of La Quebrada, the home of the iconic cliff divers. They also appear in Zihuatanejo, Taxco, Mexico City, and other cities of national importance. They play inside a cave, the Grutas de Cacahhuamilpa National Park, near Taxco.  

In one sample video, they honored British music.  

The orchestra board, administration, and musicians, promote the music of Mexican composers, ethnic music, and dance in Guerrero. ‍‍‍Ethnic musicians receive extra focus. They invite dancers to practice and perform with the orchestra.  

To close on a musical note, since words can only communicate so much, I leave you with a finale, the Ode to Joy from the Beethoven Ninth Symphony with Maestro Alvarez conducting. With a joint orchestra and a large chorus, the power of Beethoven speaks to the potential of Acapulco as a community that continues to amaze in so many ways.  

I love the Acapulqueños for their non-materialist and humble ways. Their life centers on work, school, family, and enjoying a year round paradise. Life is difficult for these noble people. ‍‍‍They maintain hope for a better day, free of corruption and‍‍‍ crime.

George (Jake) Jaquith,  is the author of this Letter: Acapulco.

After a varied and interesting career in public school teaching and counseling, Jake retired to Mexico in 2008, from Minnesota.  With his energetic and beautiful wife, Nancy, they divide time between St. Paul, Minnesota; Tepoztlan, Morelos; and Acapulco, Guerrero. Together they have four adult children and four grandchildren. He lives his dream, living in the tropical part of the Pacific, where he swims daily and marvels at nature.

You can leave him a message in the comments below or contact him here.

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February 24, 20‍‍‍18‍‍‍

Download: Acapulco.mp3

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