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Okay, Mexico. We Love You, But You Need to Chill

December 13, 2013 at 1:28 PM | by | Comments (3)

Our Assistant Editor is on patrol down in Mexico, exploring the greater Puerto Vallarta region on the west coast of the mainland. He has, it seems, reached a boiling point when it comes to one aspect of tourism that has grown all too prevalent across our southern neighbor.

When I talked with the owner of Mezcalito in Sayulita, a small surfing village north of Punta Mita, he told us that he wouldn’t have opened his tiny cafe had the town not caught on with tourists. There wouldn’t be enough people to sustain it otherwise, he said.

I smiled. This is precisely the hope with tourism growth, that authentic businesses arise to accommodate the desires of authentic travelers. Unfortunately, we have seen many destinations across the globe (and in Mexico) go the other direction, filling their ports and seaside towns with souvenir shops and bad restaurants with aggressive hostesses. We’ll talk more about this in a separate piece to come, but I think Sayulita has done a great job thus far in this realm, creating businesses that are there because of the tourists but still true to the locals.

This year, the AP reported that Mexico was in danger of dropping out of the top ten travel destinations in the world, a slip that is being chalked up to border violence, a decline in cruise ship stopovers, and the economy in general. Let me add another reason to that list that's infecting Mexico from Cancun to Cabo: A lack of authenticity in its main tourist towns.

I don't want to pick on Puerto Vallarta because it is certainly not the only guilty destination, but I also don't want to get carried away with how far I expand this out, so for the sake of this discussion I'll stay focused on the city I've spent the past two weeks exploring. Puerto Vallarta is beautiful and has a lot to offer, but the souvenir vendors are pretty much unbearable in many parts of the city and certain beaches.

Bracelets with sports teams on them. Two-hour old shrimp on a stick. Temporary Tattoos. Chips and fried pork skin. Cigars. Wooden objects. More Cigars. You can't relax on the beach for ten minutes without having your conversation interrupted. You can't walk through town and window shop without being called into stores across the street. My friends and I have started a joke about it. We call these areas "No Gracias Zones," because you spend all your time telling people you don't want to buy what they're selling. It's funny at first, but then it gets frustrating.

My simple request to Puerto Vallarta, Mismaloya, Boca, and others with organized vendor services is to chill out a little bit. I know people are only trying to make money, but if the intensity could be turned down, that would be great. Focus on creating good products at good prices and travelers will be interested and it will be better for the community as well. You have to understand how it feels to have to constantly navigate endless requests for your attention when you have no interest in shopping. For those of us who are looking to actually connect with the local atmosphere and scenery, it is extremely distracting. I think the aggressive approach and lack of authenticity scares off just as many travelers as it ropes in.

I guess the answer is for me to go to a different beach, one outside of town where no vendors can find me (maybe to Veracruz??). But you don't want me to do that, right? So, please, chill! And I might even buy a pair of sunglasses when I inevitably lose my own.

[Photo: LA Times]

Comments (3)

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I agree!

I agree, this is a huge issue with Mexican travel. They would get more tourists, and make more money, if the vendors weren't so pushy! Beach time is not as much fun when you are constantly interrupted.

Maybe you should open you eyes and explore

well my opinion is the author has only visited main tourist area locations in Vallarta. Having lived in Vallarta for five years my suggestion is perhaps if they were to go more than 5 blocks inland from Olas Altos or the beach they would find what they are looking for. I live in Old Town but in a traditional neighborhood that still has posadas, street festivals and restaurants that cater to locals and I am a 10 minute walk from the beach. It is the same in any tourist destination even in the USA. So the author had really ought to stop being biased in his writings. For the record I have been to Boca Raton numerous times and never been harassed by beach vendors. Another beach to try would be Punta Negra. Open your eyes a little bit, take off your blinders and you can find what you seek.

Re: Maybe you should open you eyes and explore

Okay, I think you're being a little defensive and throwing stones. Despite what you say, I've done my research, been from Quimixto all the way to Sayulita, from Playa Negra to Conchas Chinas to Playa Gemelas, from Negolita to Paso Ancho. I know all about your town and, like I said in the piece, I'm not picking on it. There are TONS of great places to visit, many of which you name. My point to the vendors was/is that they might be driving people to those beaches far out of town, people that might opt to hang downtown if things were a little different. Here's a little more if you are interested: http://wakeandwander.com/2013/12/13/a-follow-up-to-my-recent-rant-re-mexican-tourism/

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