Mexico: Exploring Zihuatanejo

Finn Mennuti

I have never been enthralled by all-inclusive resorts. I feel that although they are economically beneficial for those who work there, they dilute the local culture by creating an artificial atmosphere. When I stayed at a Club Med resort in Ixtapa, Mexico over Thanksgiving break, I explored outside the large brick walls of the resort in the local town of Zihuatanejo.

After several days of experiencing all that the resort had to offer, namely never-ending buffets and a small beach and pool, I traveled with some of my mom’s coworkers to Zihuatanejo. We hailed a taxi from the resort, and the driver drove us over a hill through the slums, towards the city’s square. On the ride into Zihuatanejo, we passed sheet metal shanties, wandering unclothed children, trash bags lining the streets and the twisted carcasses of decrepit vehicles.

The town of Zihuatanejo, however, was more developed than the ride in had led me to believe. There were stalls lining the streets, promising that the garments and handwoven blankets they offered were cheaper there than anywhere else. The nearby resorts had influenced its development, with many signs in broken English advertising cheap drinks and food, cantinas with “Western nights,” and plenty of souvenirs.

SUNSET VIEWS This balcony overlooking the beach and ocean is the best view of the setting sun at the resort. In the background, Isla Ixtapa, a small island near Club Med can be seen.

However, as I looked around, the tourists seemed to be few and far between. It seemed as though that all the vendors had prepared for an onslaught of tourists that never appeared. Once we arrived, we told the taxi driver that we would find another ride back, but he told us that he would rather wait for us. He explained that there were so many taxi drivers that make so little that it was preferable to have a guaranteed fare rather than to look for one.

From listening to the taxi driver and observing differences in prices, it seems that for the average citizen, tourism has had a minimal influence on their lives. Vendors and restaurateurs are able to raise prices, but their businesses were not designed primarily with tourism in mind. Businesses were forced to adapt to the shifting economic landscape. For a select few, specifically those who work at the resort, tourism has been a massive windfall, but the majority of residents near Club Med are largely unaffected.

If you don’t like huge, corporate resorts, there were several inns in Zihuatanejo. If you enjoy fishing, off-roading or if you are interested in dipping your toes in the world of international travel, Zihuatanejo is a destination worth visiting.

ACADEMIC ADVENTURE Above Zihuatanejo’s sky-line, in one of the poorer districts, a young child walks home from school.