Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Charming Puerto Vallarta

Angie, self-portrait with 2-for-1 margarita

Enormous, waddlesome tourists clutching ice creams and fistfuls of pesos guffaw along the spotless waterfront. Tour agency spruikers attempt frantically to strike up conversation in the hope of a commission. ‘Hey, are you guys from Minneapolis?’ they ask us too brightly, their distended eyes betraying their desperation as we keep moving, heads down. We hear their anguished calls from afar: ‘Do you want to go to Yelapa??’

Restaurant spruikers block the pavement and manhandle pedestrians into their establishments. The touchy-feely one dressed in a gorilla suit seems especially popular. Taxi drivers cluster on the dark corners and offer drugs, massages or taxi rides (in that order). Plump North American students in seas of gelatinous sequins joggle in the windows of loud, flashing clubs like satiric Amsterdam window displays. They wear balloon sculptures on their heads and chug 2-for-1 margaritas. Their liquored, glossy lips mime along to the music: ‘Man, I feel like a woman’.

A block away, in the brimming tourist market, untold oceans of lurid fecal matter (or souvenirs) are on display. Listless t-shirts hang like carcases in the suffocating, breezeless air while small fans struggle valiantly to circulate the wretched atmosphere of an marketplace both figuratively and literally overcrowded. ‘I’m shy, BUT I’VE GOT A BIG DICK!!! Puerto Vallarta’ the shirts proclaim. ‘F.B.I.- Federal Breast Inspector. Puerto Vallarta’ sings another. Below the shirts are shelves filled with souvenirs- pieces of crap that have been superglued to other pieces of crap. The resulting amalgamations have then had ‘Pto. Vallarta’ scribbled on them with felt-tip marker and been thrust optimistically into the world.

In contrast to the tack of the waterfront, the people at the hotel were lovely, and even had Escher in to do the staircases

That this exists is novel and amusing at first, but it soon becomes scary and intensely depressing. All this stuff is here because that’s how people want it. They buy the shirts and guzzle the weak drinks and get groped by gorillas and look positively enthralled and come back for more next holidays. It’s everything the Gold Coast wishes it could be, and once the novelty of the spectacle had dissipated, we couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

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