PROLOGUE: Sayulita is a quaint fishing/surfing village located 45 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. It lies in the state of Nayarit and is part of the 'Mexican Riviera' (a Mexican government initiative aptly named to attract more tourists to this part of the country). Many local shops and restaurants are scattered about the tiny town of cobblestone streets, casitas and bungalows. This little hippie village has become my home-away-from home and you need to experience it for yourself one day…
Rebuilding the ‘Mexican Riviera’ by Ginger Conrad, Outdoor Retailer Marketing Manager, Oct 1, 2010
(image: let's get 'er done!)
I made a conscious decision not to cancel my impending trip to Sayulita when I learned of the horrible devastation caused by heavy rainfall and flooding 10 days before my departure date. After all, I had visited Sayulita around the time the Mexican drug wars surfaced, and then again during the H1N1 virus scare. Nothing would stop me from being there. From my experience, Sayulita was a safe haven, despite all of the harmful rumors and the decline in visitors over the past two years. AS soon as I learned of their troubles, I became intent on trying to make a difference and helping to rebuild the town and the morale of its people. But I could never have fully understood what I would experience this time around.
The reality of circumstances started to set in the day after I arrived into town. I met an adorable young couple from Portland Oregon, Santina and Ben, at Chocobanana: the favorite local restaurant/hangout spot in the town square. Santina and Ben recounted that they had been robbed the day before, while Ben was out tackling the brown surf, and Santina was having a leisurely breakfast at Chocobanana. The thieves looted the couple’s most costly possessions – computers, iPods, a new Sony digital camera, Nike running shoes, high-end make-up and much more. A week prior, they had sold their car and packed their bags for an adventure of a lifetime – to live in Sayulita for 6 months, maybe more if they could figure out how to make a living there. Needless to say, this incident started to tarnish their view of Mexico in general and weakened their dreams of making Sayulita a temporary residence.
Later that same day, I learned of several more break-ins that happened to both gringo & local Mexican households in town – I got the feeling that thieves were omni-present and not prejudice against any particular stereotype. They were raiding the rich and the poor. Was it out of desperation for survival? Or were they simply taking advantage of the situation at hand – the total mayhem throughout Sayulita that the flooding had caused.
I have traveled to Sayulita so many times that I am now considered a local. I was staying in my preferred casita, which is about a 20 minute walk from the center of town, and I hadn’t let the power outages on the first night at my little Hansel & Gretel hideaway bother me too much, until I started putting two and two together – reported break-ins all over town, my immediate neighbors gone for the season, frequent power outages combined with the fact that I was all alone in what was now feeling like the middle of nowhere. It hit me all at once– the harsh reality that if I wanted to stay safe I had to be in a more secure place close to town immediately. At first it was discouraging to admit that I was at any more of a risk during this trip than any of the previous tumultuous times I had come to Sayulita, but later I learned about the broken window and door jam at my casita that very night I moved out. Out in the nick of time I’d say…
I felt very secure at my new rental – a bungalow that came with round-the-clock security. I was able to focus my attention away from fear for my own safety and on to rebuilding the tarnished Sayulita landscape that had been carefully crafted over the years to attract new visitors.
I worked with the locals for many hours on cleaning up the beaches that were filled with broken glass, plastic and the plethora of ‘basura’ brought in by the river and the mudslides onto the shore. Hundreds of Sayulita residents joined in the cleaning efforts and the progress we made was both astounding and gratifying. I now have a better understanding for the saying, “many hands make light work”.
As for rebuilding the tarnished image of Sayulita and the Mexican Riviera in general, I will do what I can (in an honest and open way) to promote the oasis I’ve come to love and call home. I’ve been helping out two of the local hangouts in town by creating Facebook pages and taking and uploading pictures of their establishments and the people that come to enjoy their ambiances. I hope that these small efforts can help raise the hopes of the local Sayulita businesses toward positive futures and success for their establishments.
It may not have been the week of escape in Paradise that I had originally expected months before when I booked the flight, but all said and done, I remain content with my decision to travel to Mexico during yet another rather chaotic period of time. Let’s face it; we in the outdoor industry crave this kind of adventure accompanied with a sense of accomplishment, no?
- Ben and Santina haven't left Sayulita and are willing to stick it out for another couple of months to see their new surroundings in a better light during the ‘good’ season (November – February).
- I am going back to Sayulita in December and will stay in my original casita at the north end of town. Times will be better, and my neighbors will have returned home!
- Please search ‘Chocobanana’ and ‘Burrito Revolution’ on Facebook and ‘like’ the fan pages!
- To follow the progress of the rebuilding of Sayulita, visit www.sayulitalife.com and sign up for the weekly newsletter. Also check out www.sayulitason.com for the latest news in the region.
- If you've already been to Sayulita, I know that you feel my pain and would have been on the beach with us for clean up!
(The Choco crew – Chocobanana closed 'shop' all morning to help in the efforts!)
(now there is only muddy river water where the sand used to lay peacefully)
(Alejandro leaves no trace…)
(playa de los meurtos after our hard work!)
(ready to call it a day!)