For my money, Zihuatanejo is much more fun to visit than Ixtapa, the neighboring resort city to the north.
One of the early developments of Fonatur (the Federal Bureau for Tourist Development), high-rise Ixtapa was the second choice of the government for a west coast resort. (Fonatur is the outfit that gave us Cancun.) Originally they chose Zihuatanejo for development, but the townspeople rejected the idea, preserving it for their own enjoyment, and for ours.
Zihuatanejo remains a fishing village, at least in part, although a fair number of small-scale hotel operators have joined the fishermen.
Captain Max owns the Cobra, a boat outfitted for charter fishing. His work is easier and more lucrative than that of ordinary fishermen: no fishing in the dark, no hauling in heavy nets.
He will throw this inedible needlefish back into the ocean, hoping next time to hook a dorado.
Divers pursue spiny lobsters, a method that seems risky. But lobster brings high prices—US $10 per pound on the beach.
A rusty air compressor mounted in the middle of La Perla Negra supplies air to a diver. Exhaust from the small motor gets sucked into the compressor intake if the wind is right.
The day's catch is sold on the beach in the center of town. Local residents come early to buy today's dinner; everything is sold by 8 or 9 AM.
On offer is whatever was caught early this morning. The fish are not the carefully graded and displayed product I remember from the Sonoma Market in California. But they are much, much fresher, and they don't cost anywhere near $20 a pound.
Nobody's getting rich fishing, but this man is able to afford an early morning cigar as he waits for buyers.
The way you buy your fish, you walk along until you find one you like. Then you pick it up and haggle with the fisherman. Don't expect him to gut it or fillet it for you. He will weigh it if you insist, but most people don't bother.
Huachinango in his right hand, pesos in his left, this man is ready to deal.
No power, no refrigeration. Block ice keeps fish fresh for a few hours before it is cooked and eaten.
Selling fish is hungry work, and in Mexico, where people might be hungry, there's always someone to fill the need.
Maybe you were expecting a plastic bag to take your purchase home. Maybe someone around here has one. Probably not. It's easier just to grab your black tuna by the tail and walk away.
This customer in his Tommy Jeans tee shirt and Crocks presages Zihuatanejo's future. As the developed world crowds in, land prices rise. As in so many Mexican coastal villages, fishermen will be unable to afford to live here on what they can make. The fleet will disappear, to be replaced by jet skis and parasails.
No point in bemoaning progress. As the Mexicans say, it is what it is. Get out there and enjoy it while you can.