Mexico has one of the richest cultural histories in the world. I love learning about the Aztecs, pyramids, ancient food and styles of living. I love meeting natives and listening to their stories. That’s why I was so excited when Capella Ixtapa’s Personal Assistant Christian arranged for the Historical And Cultural Tour of Ixtapa Zihuatanejo, which included a visit to the traditional brick factory and a coconut plantation.
Mr. Oliverio, Ixtapa Zihuatanejo native and knowledgeable tour guide, picked me up at the resort, and off we went! While driving through Ixtapa and seeing some of the highlights of this modern resort area, Oliverio talked briefly about the fascinating history of our town. “In the pre-hispanic era, the territory of Ixtapa Zihuatanejo was inhabited by the cuitlatecos, whose main activities were agriculture and handcrafts. They were well known for their cotton blankets and carved sea shells. Cihuatlán, as it was known back then, was abandoned in 1497 after the Mexicas dominated them and forced them to pay tributes. A part of this history can be found in today’s Zihuatanejo, near La Madera beach, where they discovered remains of a sanctuary built in honor of Goddess Cihuatetco. She was considered to be the mother of the human race and the goddess of women who died while giving birth and of warriors who died in battle. The legend says that this Goddess walks next to the sun every day, until it disappears into the sea in the evening.”
Mr. Oliverio went onto explain the origins of the names Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo. Ixtapa comes from nahuatl, the ancient Aztec language, and can be translated to the place which has white on top. Zihuatanejo comes from the nahuatl word ZIHUATLÁN which means the land of women, the Spanish conquerors modified it to CIHUATAN and added a pejorative sufix EJO.
After the drive we arrived to our first stop: brick factory and coconut plantation. I was curious about the traditional techniques for making bricks, and Mr. Oliverio explained that it is an ancient technique, which has been kept since the beginning of the times. “We extract the clay from the natural dirt and mix it with water and with the help of a wooden mold we create the traditional adobe bricks. Afterwards we place the bricks in a brick oven (built with the same bricks) and heat them up by burning coconut shells. After the bricks are baked, they reach the resistance qualities required for construction. This is the old artisan way to make bricks. They are of course different than those that are mass produced in large factories. The difference lies in their irregularities, which are a result of the handmade process of creating them one-by-one. And these irregularities are what make them singular and appreciated by many architects, constructors and users who see the beauty of handcrafting in their homes.”
Holding the coconut shell, Mr. Oliverio continues the tour: “Did you know that until 1970-ies, Ixtapa Zihuatanejo was one big coconut plantation? Coconut has been one of the main materials since ancient times in the region. The way of using it makes it absolutely sustainable by not wasting any of the coconut palm tree, and the use of their products is still very popular. The palm trunk, the palm leaves, and the shells of the coconut are used in construction, furniture, handcrafts, and so on. The palm leaves are used to cover roofs and to make doors. Coconut water, its shell and the pulp are some of the most appreciated items; out of them we make oil, soaps, necklaces, earrings, purses, fresh drinks, and so much more. Coconut is a premium raw material in Ixtapa Zihuatanejo!” I understood his enthusiasm for the fruit as I thought of the amazing dishes our chefs at Capella Ixtapa like to prepare with coconut. (To read more from Mr. Oliverio, please check out my interview with him!)
We wrapped our tour in Barra de Potosí, a small fishing village nearby, where we relaxed in hammocks, enjoyed piña coladas (served in a coconut shell), and watched the fisherman catch their fish by hand, crowded by a group of pelicans. A perfect way to wrap up the Historical And Cultural Tour of Ixtapa Zihuatanejo!
If you’d like to learn more about Mexico and Ixtapa Zihuatanejo’s history or participate in your own Historical And Cultural Tour of our destination, don’t hesitate to ask our Personal Assistant to help plan the perfect experience for you.
Photos: Oliverio Guzmán, Sunnyside DMC Ixtapa.