Posted by Cila Warncke
It is, admittedly, an enviable dilemma. I’m on day three or four (can’t remember which) in Troncones, a tiny village on the beach south of Zijuatanejo, in Guerrero, on Mexico’s Pacific Coast. My jaw has barely left the floor the entire time I’ve been here. This morning, is typical: I wake up, slid into my flip flops and walk along the beach to a wonderful café where I drink fresh coffee from a tall, slender silver pot while reading a back issue of the New Yorker. I return to my room at the other end of “town” – a not-quite-ten-minute stroll past a handful of restaurants and villas – and change clothes. At half-past-10 I meet on of the local vaqueros, Jesus, on the beach and set off on a two hour horseback ramble down the beach.
Along the way we spot whales breaching in the surf, egret courtship rituals and the graceful, endlessly fascinating soar and swoop routine of the pelicans that guard the shore. We tramp gently along white sand, splashing from time to time in the surf. Ticiana, my horse, ambling carefully through the odd patch of rocks and deigning to show enthusiasm when we finally swing ‘round to make the return journey.
Washing machines are the privilege of expensive villas, here, so later I walk three minutes up the road to the lavanderia where, for 38 pesos, they clean and dry my bagful of clothes – and turn half of them yellow. This is a mystery to me as I don’t now (nor ever have) owned anything violently yellow. Oddly tinted knickers are, somehow, unimportant here.
On the way back I detour onto the beach, splash in the surf for a while then bask dry on a rock, watching ants scurrying through tangles of dried, matted coconut husks at my feet. Walking across the damp sand of the high-water mark crabs scuttle and dance away. The littlest ones are ghostly grey spiders, no bigger than a 50p coin. Grown-ups are substantial, their bodies perhaps half the size of my fist, shadow-coloured. There are overripe papayas hanging from the tree outside my door and Jota, the house dog, sprawled on the cooling pebbles.
My just rinsed bikini and running shorts are dribbling like an inconsistent rainshower from the top of the towel rail, relics of my just-completed sunset run. Here, the sun slides like a gleaming orange ball-bearing on a caster, coasting past strips of cloud on its way into the surf. Long after it has set pale pink and darker purple linger on the mother-of-pearl surface of the sea, offsetting the reflection of a three-quarters moon rising. A class of well-tanned, well-manicured upper-middle-class North American women are huddled around a cluster of rocks; a coven from yoga retreat up the road. On the other side of the rocks Mexican kids cast for crabs using 500ml water bottles as reels for their invisible lines. Up ahead, Jesus and his horses are returning from another lap along the beach. A pelican is dying. In the morning, when we passed, it flapped its wings heavily, trying to rise. Now it only raises the hooked tip of its long bill slightly, as if in acknowledgment, its vast, dark, mottled wings slightly akimbo. I finish my run and wade into the breakers, letting the tepid saltwater splash my legs cool. This is why I should stay.
The problem with staying is: where? Next door is a compact bungalow. “Se renta” says the sign outside. Mitch, my host, shakes his head when I ask about it. “He wants a lot of money for it.” This morning, over coffee, I said hello to Café Sol’s only other occupant, a California wine country tourguide called James. He is working at the hotel up the road and paying 2500 pesos for a room with no hot water or cooking facilities. This is not hopeful. During our ride, I ask Jesus if he knows anyone with a room to let. He introduces me to Bruce and his wife, who are scraping meat into tortillas when we arrive. They have a room to let for 5000 pesos a month. I shrug. No puedo. Dos mil quinientos. Bruce shoots me a look that is very close to hostile: “you want to pay two-hundred-fifty-dollars a month. There are places here you pay two-hundred a night,” he says scornfully.
I shrug again. Soy escritora, no tengo mucho dinero. They offer to show me a place up the beach, come back at five. I do and his wife peers at me from between heavy lines of kohl. “El no quiere por dos mil quinientos.” Vale, yo voy. It is the attitude, more than the money, that gives me pause. The light that shines through the cracks in the peaceful village façade. Everyone here looks at gringos as if we have dollar signs on our foreheads. To come here, judging from Bruce’s expression of extreme distaste, without deep pockets is practically insulting. Tourism here has only really arrived in the last half-decade. Long enough for locals to begin to see whites as walking cash dispensers; not long enough for them to see the benefits of foreigners who come with love, not money.
Walking along the road I get ‘hey lady, how you doing?’ and ‘do you want to rent a horse?’ Two days ago it was, ‘you need a taxi? You come to my restaurant?’ I would get tired of the endless solicitation. It’s gentler here than in Mexico City but it’s still a hustle.
I could always throw in my lot with the well-fed, Jeep driving, sunburnt North Americans but expat communities give me the willies. That’s what I left Ibiza to avoid. The yoga teachers are toothy, excitable Americans who are immediately friendly. That is what I left America to avoid. Plus there’s the inevitable smalltown mentality. Mitch gave me a lift into town the other day when he was driving his friends to the airport, so I could pick up some groceries. On the way back in to Troncones he called a hello to two Mexican men standing by their car. The once-over they gave the scene needed no translation. “By the time my girlfriend’s been back for an afternoon at least five people will have told her I’ve had some new girl here,” Mitch sighed. He has lived here (with her, presumably) for two years. If he still gets that shit, how much more will I?
The patchy internet doesn’t appeal; nor the absolute lack of resources. Guerrero is a beautiful, rugged, wild state; a place to enjoy nature and the easy charm of rural Mexico. It is not, perhaps, the best place to work. No internet cafés, bookstores, office supplies, photo shops, newspapers or even decent bodegas. Those pelicans and the boom/shhhhhhhhhhhh/boom/shhhhhhhhhhh rhythm of the sea are siren-calls but instinct tells me it is too early to stop. There’s more to see.