I have been in the province of Oaxaca longer than I had been travelling through Mexico 19 years ago and I have been in Mazunte, where I have my yogic training, considerably longer than expected. Apparently that is the story with Mazunte, as it is with Zipolite.
Too Hot to Leave
People plan to stay for a few days or weeks and end op staying weeks, months or even years on end. Zipolite has a very laid-back vibe, which makes lying in a hammock and getting intoxicated rather appealing and its far easier maintained for several weeks or months than one thinks. Sure, you can do so some yoga or other activity, but in general, that is not what people come to Zipolite for. Mazunte, less than 10 minutes-drive towards the west, attracts a different crowd. The village is officially certified as Pueblo Magico, or magic village, and the locals are very keen to tell you that. The tiny town of around 1500 inhabitants contains no less than four yoga schools, a centre for turtle conservation and a natural cosmetic store, the latter selling products across Mexico. You can imagine therefor that the village attracts a fair amounts of yogis, hippies, spiritual seekers, and those interested in animal conservation.
Located in the province of Oaxaca, Mazunte has the land tip Punta Cometa in its borders, which is considered the southern-most tip of the North American mainland. It is argued that this piece of land emits large amounts of bio-energetic vibes and has therefor been an important breeding place for sea turtles.
Mazunte got inhabited only recently. While nearby Zipolite started to develop as a hippy mecca in the 1960 and ’70s, people of the close by larger town Pochutla started to have a closer look at the jungles of what is now Mazunte. They came over with their machetes and claimed the land as theirs. The first Mazunte-born person in modern history is only in their early forties, meaning that Mazunte didn’t become populated until the 1970s. Due to the abundance of sea turtles, the town became the country’s main centre for the slaughter and trading of turtle meat. Although Mexicans were keen consumers, the US greatly encouraged this trade.
From Killing to Keeping
Somewhere in the early 1990s the turtle population started to dwindle considerably and somebody saw the light; rather than slaughtering animals one can preserve them and so the town became an eco-tourist destination, rather than a place of certain death for a prehistoric species. As neighbouring Zipolite already had a hippy-reputation, Mazunte reasoned it could be a bit ‘alternative’ as well. In 1995 the village got an official government certification labelling it as pueblo magico, which involved some government corruption I was informed by an insider. This certification entails that no big tourist developments like large hotels or resorts can be constructed and big corporations like MacDonalds or Starbuck are not allowed to settle in town. This means that whichever private person or entity- with perhaps some good connections to government- owns the land can rest assured that they won’t be forced to sell or donate it.
I haven’t visited the turtle conservation centre, which is a very short walk from the school. I have been informed, however by a local guy who works there, that if you don’t like a zoo-like environment, which I don’t, you won’t enjoy it, so I am likely to give it a miss and I’m rather occupied travelling along the yogic spiritual path. Punta Cometa draws dozens, if not hundreds of people in high seasons, every evening, who come and enjoy the sunset. There are several routes taking you there through the local forest and along rocks offering stunning views over the Pacific Ocean.
Visitors and Water Challenges
The town draws the Mexican middle classes and national and international alternative people. Many of which stay longer than expected and/ or make it their home. Despite the national and international attention and the magic, the town does have its challenges. Like more places along the Oaxacan coast, it’s very much prone to storms and hurricanes, that do some considerable damage. Still, concrete constructions are build right at the seafront, and you wonder how long it will last. Water shortage is an issue as well. Pretty much everyone uses water tanks, that only get refilled when they completely run out, so being soaped-up under the shower ready to rinse yourself only for no water to appear from the tap is a common phenomenon.
I too have been staying longer than previously anticipated, as I have gained so much wisdom at the Hridaya yoga centre and met such wonderful people. After I have finished module 2 and the 10-day silent retreat I will be doing straight after that, I think I’m ready to move on. There so much more of Mexico that I haven’t seen and that needs to be explored.