These two stops were a continuation of our overland trip across the state of Oaxaca en route to Chiapas and then on to Guatemala. First stop was Bahías de Huatulco, Mexico’s newest planned tourist development area. Unlike Cancun or Ixtapa, though, Huatulco is still pretty low key. The tourist area spans nine bays along the Pacific coast with lots of undeveloped space between them. There’s a relatively local town known as La Crucecita where we could go in the evening for mescal and some decent food. And to watch the end of a painful Green Bay Packer playoff game.
While much of the tourism here centers on big all-inclusive resorts, we stayed at Villa Fa-Sol, a little place with maybe 15 or 20 rooms built up on hill over a tiny private beach. It was a pretty space, though our room suffered from one of the great sins of beach resorts. Our room had a big sliding glass door with a view of the sea, but even though we were on the second floor it opened onto the passageway that others would use to get to their rooms. So yes, there was potentially a great view, but you had to keep the shades fully drawn if you wanted any privacy at all. Just one of those “what were they thinking?” moments.
One of the great things about the hotel, though, was a big breakfast table where you would sit with other guests and chat, get to know them, talk about what to do and what to see in the area. Definitely leads to a more social atmosphere than separate tables for everyone. One of the things we learned our first morning there was that the best beach in the area was in a private residential development just down the hill. You could get a day pass that covered your lunch costs and use their beach all day, so that was how we spent our two full days in Huatulco. It was apparent, though, that this new development had blocked the sea view and access for most of the local community. Allegedly, former Mexican President Vincente Fox gave development rights to a friend on his way out of office. Sad.
After three days in Huatulco it was off to Juchitán de Zaragoza. Since we’re working our way down to Guatemala I always want to say we were going south to Juchitan, but because the coast here runs largely east-west, we really headed northeast to get there.
Bus rides in Mexico are interesting. The buses, so far at least, have been genuinely comfortable – big and cushy – but there’s always something. Speed bumps, for instance. Apparently Mexico just loves speed bumps and in some places, particularly in built-up areas, they’re just one after another, with the bus and pretty much all other vehicles slowing to all but a full stop to get over them. One report I saw said that there are 200 speed bumps on the route form Acapulco to Huatulco, seriously inhibiting the kind of domestic tourism that would fill the resorts down here. And the temperature. You can never tell if the bus for any trip will be warm or have the AC blasting. The bus to Juchitán was the latter; arriving there I was wearing a heavy sweatshirt and still pretty much freezing.
Next up, Juchitán de Zaragoza. It’s a city of 70,000 in far eastern Oaxaca, and we figured it would be a decent way to break up the trip to San Cristóbal. It’s not at all a tourist destination and in fact there is really limited tourist infrastructure. Our hotel, for instance, was as nice as anything in town, and the room cost $25. (If you’re wondering, that’s the second-cheapest hotel we’ve stayed in. The cheapest was a two-night stop in Stung Treng, Cambodia in November 2013 where we paid $17 a night.)
Never heard of Juchitan? Neither had I, but a few years ago Mark had read an article about the town. While for the most part there’s nothing noteworthy about the town it is unusual, perhaps even unique, in one way. The city is known for its muxes – openly gay, often cross-dressing men – who are fully accepted in their communities. And apparently Elle magazine once wrote an article about the city calling it “the last matriarchy.”
It turns out that arriving at 7:00 PM and then leaving the next morning at 9:00 AM doesn’t give you much time explore that unusual aspect of local culture. At our pre-dinner stop for a couple shots of mescal at a typical local bar, though, we were nearly certain that the woman making our bar snacks had been born as a boy. We’re intrigued to find these little oases of decency in a too-often hostile world. Intrigued and curious, of course. Why here? Why here and not everywhere?
We’ll keep looking for answers. Meanwhile, after our quick one-night stop in Juchitan it’s off on a long bus ride to San Cristóbal and then eventually to the Guatemalan border.