Day 10 – Puerto Chiapas, Mexico – Find Insignia now on CruiseMapper
We probably all know the experience of familiarity breeding contempt and have learned it can apply to travel as well as to prophets and other common objects. After all, who among us hasn’t entertained a house guest thrilled by an attraction in our hometown that we had never bothered to visit?
If you grew up in Southern California like Doris did, Mexico fell a bit under the familiarity cloud, its architecture, landscape and culture way too much like home to exert much gravitational pull as a travel destination. Especially in border towns like Ensenada, the biggest attractions tended to be joints like Hussong’s Cantina (our first international stop on Insignia!), which opened in 1892.
But experiencing Mexico’s west coast from the water while being showered with informative lectures and guides has unexpectedly turned the Mexican Riviera from a “been-there-done-that” ride to “Who knew?!?”, at least for the Yankee half of Partout.
For example, who knew that Asia is considered one of the four root cultures of Mexico along with Indian, African and Spanish?
It turns out that once the Spaniards made their way to the friendly natural harbors that line what is today called the Mexican Riviera, they opened trade with the Philippines and elsewhere in the Far East. Silver, tobacco, corn, Spanish and native warriors sailed west to Asia; spices, silk and palm trees sailed east to Mexico.
Right. Mexico has no native palm trees. All those coconuts, bananas, dates and other palm-tree delights we associate with our southern neighbor? From Asia.
Meanwhile, some of the warriors and sailors who sailed west to Asia stayed there, establishing indigenous North American enclaves that reportedly endure to this day.
(The coconut, fyi, is the largest seed in nature. Such is the new knowledge that traveling on a floating education center can confer.)
As Seen from the Sea
The coastline itself has been another revelation. Doris has driven Baja California from border to tip and back and road-tripped the Pacific mainland from Nogales, Arizona, as far south as Manzanillo. She has also dropped from the skies into quite a few Mexican beach towns over the years.
As it turns out, approaching these destinations from air or land doesn’t have the same impact as approaching from sea. The precipitous coastal mountains with their dramatic plunges to the water, the postcard-perfect bays and coves, strands of endless white-sand beaches – all are more eye-popping from the water than from land. Even a traffic-clogged and troubled metropolis of 2 million like Acapulco can impress.
For this reason alone, it is probably no accident that the so-called Mexican Riviera owes its modern fame to boats.
By the 1920s, Hollywood’s glitterati were embracing its charming fishing villages as backyard yachting destinations. Swashbuckling Errol Flynn’s twin-masted yacht became a familiar sight in the bay at Mazatlan. John Wayne and his best buddies became so smitten with Acapulco they bought the Flamingo Hotel to occupy on their visits. Princess Cruise Line began marketing the coast as the “Mexican Riviera.” Television’s The Love Boat set 10 years of episodes and some sequels on it.
The rest – as they say – is history but a history that was not so familiar to us with the exception of one iconic sight: the cliff divers of Acapulco.
Once mostly young men out to show off, the divers today are unionized professionals with a training program and a performance schedule. Watching them from land, they were surely no less breathtaking to us than when the Duke moseyed down from his Flamingo Hotel to watch them.