Acapulco, 13 March 2005
Pie de la Cuesta is a miles-long beach of white sand north of Acapulco. Acapulco, as I said before, is a detestable place. It was once beautiful with its emerald belt of mountains and hills, its tranquil bay, its fine sand beaches. That was way back then, when it was only a small fishing harbor. It has regrettably transformed itself in an overcrowded, polluted and dirty metropolis, ridden with traffic and humongous hotels covering the hills and hiding the bay. Not a place to come to if you can avoid it or unless you have an old friend there that you happen to cherish.
Well, to come back to Pie de la Cuesta. I don’t know how long its beach could be. For all I know, it might go all the way up to the frontera. The waves are a bit brutal for safe bathing but little palapas are planted here and there along the beach, shadowed with coconut trees and hung with hammocks. They also shelter small restaurants that serve grilled fish and shrimp, drinks and cold coconuts. I hasn’t changed much since I first knew it, more years ago than I care to remember. You can walk along that beach, at least during the week, without meeting anybody. You, the sky, the ocean and nothing else. So I was a bit surprised the other day to find a whole pineapple abandoned on the beach and, further on, a soldier in full regalia gesturing at me with his gun, indicating quite clearly that I had to turn around. Oh yes, the military base, I had forgotten about that…I obeyed but made sure to pick up the pineapple first.
Across from the beach is a laguna, calm and idyllic with its smooth waters contrasting with the roaring waves of the Pacific on the other side. It is fringed with tall, lanky coconut trees – an entire grove actually – swaying in the breeze like undisciplined children with mussed up hair. That laguna probably is one of the most beautiful places in Mexico, if not on earth. Except that the laguna is no more. I mean yes, it is still there but you can’t see it anymore from the road. Greedy real estate developers have set their dirty minds and dirty paws on it and built and built until all you could see anymore would be restaurants and shacks, some more luxurious than others, but still shacks as far as I’m concerned. Further on, there is the military base of course and, beyond its limit, you are not welcome. The Pie de la Cuesta laguna and what happened to it break my heart.
Something else related to the laguna had also broken my heart several years ago. We used to stop sometimes at Steve’s Hideaway a little bar on the edge of the laguna. It had rough tables under thatched roofs and we used to sit, have a couple of beers, watch the sunset on one side and contemplate the laguna on the other. One evening, we came and found ourselves greeted by an exuberant American woman in a fancy caftan who seemed totally out of place and totally delighted to see us. She kept insisting that we also have dinner there: shrimps and steaks on the menu. Somehow, we were the only customers and a bit taken off course. Where was our usual little bar ? She started to explain that she and her new Mexican husband had just bought the place and that he was going to build her a big house on the laguna. She had even brought her hi-fi from the States which, for the time being, sat outside blaring loud American songs. So far, so good, until the husband arrived, whose mood certainly didn’t match hers or perhaps wasn’t he as good at dissimulating. He looked somber and disgruntled. Either business was not going so good, the marriage was not going so good, he suffered from severe heartburn or all of the above.
That’s when I noticed the sadness and despair in her eyes. She knew that we wouldn’t stay for dinner, that the big house would never be built and that customers, sensing such impending disaster in the air, chose to stay away. I could very well imagine that middle-aged American having been courted by her Latin lover of a husband; I could hear him promising her the world in a big house on an idyllic laguna. I imagine her falling head over heels in love and realizing, once here, that the dream was over, that the prince was actually a frog and the promises nothing more but words. I felt miserable for her and her lost illusions. I don’t know what I felt for him, he just looked mean and furious.
We paid and left. The next time we were in Pie de la Cuesta, the bar was not there anymore. I hope for that woman that she’s back in the States and happy. I don’t know why that illustration of lost illusions remained etched in my mind in such vivid colors after all that time. I can still see her eye…
I took the pineapple home. It was delicious.