Zihuatanejo and the upset butcher

Posted by Kitara Julian On 9:55 AM

August 5th post about stopping the Kinetic art show in Paris, 1966 reminded me of another event. It began in good ‘old Mexico in a sleepy village called Zihuatanejo, from a Nahuatl word meaning "place of women" because it was a matriarchal society.

In 1964 Zihuatanejo was unknown. We drove there by jeep from Acapulco through dense forest. The “garbage collectors” were pigs and the only reference to the modern world was a rusty Coca-Cola sign.

We rented a room in a house on Playa la Madera, owned by the lone schoolteacher and his wife. Zihuatanejo has a famous playa, Playa las Gatas. Legend has it that in pre-Columbian times, a Tarascan leader (see illustration) constructed the rock barrier (now also a reef), to provide a sheltered swimming area and harbour for the women and children.

At night Manta Rays would come into the bay to play, giving a magnificent phosphorescent display. Coconut palms grew almost to the shoreline; the beach was a very fine, white sand. Mostly I slept in a hammock tied between two coconut palm trees.

Another beach, Playa la Ropa, had a few houses plus one building that looked like a small factory with chimney. Intrigued by the idea of a “factory” in such a location, I strolled over to check it out. To my dismay I noticed a contained ‘sea-pool’ which had dozens of Green Sea Turtles. Each was tied by one leg on a string.

The owner, a German and his wife, were producing Turtle Sausages! He hired young Mexican boys to catch them and wages were $1 per turtle. For the youngsters, a fortune in those days.

Back at our room, my landlady did a lot of sewing and had some scissors. That night (the moon was only a ‘fingernail-clipping’), I quietly approached the sea-pool, and cut off the strings from the turtles’ legs. They all scurried back into the ocean, free! while I slept the sleep of the innocent in my hammock.

Early next morning I heard the German screaming, “What has happened to my Turtles! Who the (blank) has cut these strings? I’ll get them! I am ruined!” etc, etc. Because I speak German, I went over and quietly asked, “What’s all the commotion?” They never knew who the “culprit” was. Adios. Auf wiederhoren. Henri

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