Sunday, March 25, 2007

Paradise, not yet lost

LaManzanilla, Jalisco, Mexico -- I woke up this morning to the sounds of people walking by on the main street below my second-story window, a gentle breeze floating in, and the subtle thump of the surf. I could hear pleasant early-morning subdued voices of a few early risers, and once in a while a family walking toward the church up the street. It was a happy contrast to the noisy bar patrons laughing and talking loudly that prevailed when we finally put the light late Saturday night. They were happy too, but I was sleepy.
This town has about 2,000 residents, mostly Mexican and a few norteamericanos who have settled here for the peace and quiet and lovely beaches and warm weather.
Peace and quiet is a relative thing, as the bar patron on the loud motorcycle reminded us late last night. With all the windows open all the time, whatever is going on outside is what you hear. But with few exceptions, it is peaceful and quiet.
And peace and quite may be a vanishing commodity. A lot of folks think this little bit of Pacific Coast is in the verge of a land rush that will make Oklahoma's look comparatively mild. Think of Miami before the railroad came. Think Sanibel Island before the causeway, and before condos were invented on Florida beaches.
The rules, laws and attitudes are changing fast here. The land cooperatives which actually own a lot of the land, including miles of prime beach front property, have recently been allowed to claim clear title, and thus the right to sell off land that the rich of several countries lust for. The government is encouraging this economic development, and people who previously have owned very little and lived at subsistence level find themselves in line for a sudden influx of big cash.
I'd like to think this might turn out well, but I suspect that in 20 or 30 years this place will start to look like Purto Vallarta, or worse, Miami. Maybe, maybe not. But in one case we know of the lot prices jumped from $40,000 for oceanfront to a package deal requiring more like $110,000 almost overnight, the result of a land speculator coming through making offers left and right. Our landlord here expects the prices to be over $200,000 quickly, and feels the sky is the limit.
But I like the idea of being able to walk down the street at 10 p.m. and feel secure, the idea that the surf is the loudest noise you can hear on the beach side and that everybody can get to the water anytime anywhere they want. I like the street-side taco stands and the frail old man in a hammock who lives in a room across the street who did his best to help me find coffee filters early in the morning. I like the idea that when I am in most streetside cafes there are more Mexican families than tourists. Even most of the tourists are Mexican, having a good time, genial and tolerant of their sometimes bad-mannered American and Canadian neighbors.
I like fact that merchants and residents spray water on the street twice a day to keep the dust down, and it works quite well. And you might see a burro being ridden on the edge of town.
You'll know the end is near, a friend told me, when they decide to pave Main Street. It may be cobblestone, or concrete. But surely a traffic light will follow. And condos.
I know I am whining, and there must be room for all these fertile people on the planet and the rich always get first call on everything.
But I also remember that Pogo was right: we have seen the enemy, and he is us.

No comments: