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Traditional “drunken salsa” was made with “pulque,” an alcoholic home brew fermented from maguey, the plant used for distilling tequila. This recipe calls for beer instead, but you can use tequila instead if you are adventurous. This salsa can be kept in the refrigerator for a long time and used on tacos or with tortilla chips.

Ingredients

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On the subject of chiles, Mexican cooking experts have opinions as strong as the chiles themselves. Virtually every Mexican traditional dish uses one kind or another. To the uneducated palate, chiles taste either “hot” or “mild” and that is about it. In reality, chiles come in a wide spectrum of flavors. But if you are outside of Mexico, and the recipe calls for a “guajillo,” you may want to know what a “guajillo” is and whether you can substitute for it or do without it. This primer on chiles may help.

Chiles are relatives of the pepper family, but they are NOT peppers. They can be used in their fresh form or dried, ground up (as in cayenne pepper) or tossed into a pot with other ingredients. Often the seeds are used alone, as they are a source of the “hot” or “picante” taste. Dried chiles are easily stored at room temperature. It is best to keep them in plastic bags to preserve their flavor. Fresh chiles should be refrigerated and used within a few days of purchase. Many chiles are preserved in oil or vinegar, and used as sauce for just about any sort of Mexican food.

Most cooks classify the “heat factor” of chiles on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the hottest. These chiles most the ones most often called for in popular recipes.

Fresh Chiles:

Poblano
Poblano (1). Sometimes wrongly called an “Ancho” or “Pasilla,” it is large, thick and heart-shaped, ideal for “chiles rellenos” (stuffed chiles). They are in season during the summer. Bell peppers are a poor, but generally available substitute for stuffing purposes. Serranos are a somewhat hotter option when poblanos are called for as a flavoring agent.

Chilaca
Chilaca (1). These chiles are also relatively mild, and not nearly as large or thick as poblanos. Poblanos can be used as a substitute in recipes, but it is best to steam and peel them first, to give them the softer texture. A “Pasilla” is a dried Chilaca, but many cooks use the two names interchangeably.

Sweet Banana
Banana Chile (1). This is a sweet chile, yellow in color, but soft in texture. Do not confuse it with a yellow wax chile, which is much firmer and hotter.

Güero
Güero (2). The name means “light skinned,” and these chiles are yellow. Sometimes called “Caribe” chiles. Jalapeños and Serranos can be substituted, though they are both higher on the “heat factor” scale than Güeros.

Jalapeño

Jalapeño (3). This variety is the one most likely to be found in markets outside Mexico. They are flavorful and hot. They are at their best at the end of the summer. In autumn, look for red jalapeños instead. If you buy canned jalapeños, do not expect them to be as “picante” as the fresh ones. Fresh cayenne pepper is a possible substitute for the heat, and Serranos or Güeros for a somewhat similar flavor. Be careful, as Serranos run hotter than Jalapeños.

Serrano
Serrano (4). Whenever the recipe calls for a lot of “picante,” Serranos fill the bill. They have less flesh in the walls of the chile than Poblanos and Güeros, so steaming and peeling is usually unnecessary to make their texture tender. In a pinch, Jalapeños can be substituted, but the quantity may need to be increased to make up for their milder heat and flavor.

Habanero
Habanero (5). The Habanero is the hottest of the common varieties of fresh (not dried) chiles. They also have a distinctive, almost fruit-like taste. Habaneros are in season during the early and middle parts of summer. The standby Jalapeño or Serrano can be used instead, but more must be added to bring the “heat factor” up to 5, and there will be an inevitable compromise of flavor.

Dried Chiles

Ancho
Ancho (1). These are dried Poblanos. Do not confuse them with the smaller, Pasillas. The chile turns dark brown or even black when dried, and it wrinkles up a bit. For heavier, “earthy” flavor, substitute a Mulato if you can find one. Pasillas can be used instead.

Pasilla
Pasilla (1). The dried version of a Chilaca chile is long, wrinkled and very dark in color. It is an important ingredient in Mole. Anchos and Mulatos can be substituted, but the flavor will be noticeably different, with Anchos being milder, and Mulatos stronger.

Guajillo (2). This chile is best soaked before use in cooking, as it has a tough outer skin. They are rust-colored or darker brown and have a smooth surface. Outside of Mexico, their nearest cousins are called “New Mexico” chiles.

Mulato
Mulato (3). Prior to drying, the Mulato is a dark green that turns to a wrinkled brown or black as it cures. They are larger than most chiles, about 10 cm long and a little more than half as wide. They are roughly heart shaped and flat. The fresh version is a species of Poblano, but the dried version acquires a rich flavor sometimes identified as similar to licorice.

Chipotle
Chipotle (3). The popular Chipotle is a dried, smoked, Jalapeño with a rich flavor especially desirable in sauces. Canned Chipotles work well in most recipes, but the dried version is more versatile in the preparation of adobo sauces and marinades. Generally available outside Mexico, it is hard to find a suitable substitute with the same smoky flavor.

Chile de Arbol
Chile de Arbol (4). Those who subscribe to the myth that darker means hotter will be surprised by Chiles de Arbol. They are very hot, and stay a brilliant red after drying. A fresh version also can be purchased, but most often this chile is used in the dried form, most often mixed as a mash in oil and then spread over the food it is to season. It is best to use restraint at first. A good substitute is dried Habaneros or Chipotles.

Habanero Seco
Habanero (5). Like their fresh version, the dried Habanero is at the hot extreme of the spectrum. The color varies between bright orange and rust, and they are wrinkled and flat. Chile de Arbol can be substituted, though dried Habaneros are usually easier to find.

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Tacos "Al Pastor" are a favorite all over Mexico. They are thin slices or chunks of marinated meat, searved in tortillas with several different garnishes. The marinade is a special chile "adobo." In restaurants the meat is placed on a vertical rotisserie, crowned with a pineapple from which small pieces are cut and added to each portion. Tacos "Al Pastor" are served in smallish corn tortillas. Add diced onion and cilantro, a little lemon and a spicy red sauce known as "salsa borracha." At home you can make them in a skillet or griddle with great results.

Their origin derives from Middle Eastern cuisine, like the "shawarma" so popular in Europe. You can make them from lamb or beef, as well as pork, or a mixture if you like.

Preparation takes time, due to the requirement of marinating the meat, but it is truly worth the trouble.

Ingredients

  1. 1 package of small corn tortillas (approximately 20)
  2. 1 lb. lean pork in steak form or in smaller pieces
  3. 2 chiles, preferably "pasilla" o "guajillo"
  4. 2 hot chili peppers
  5. 1 "mulato" chile
  6. 3 peeled teeth of a garlic clove
  7. 8 oz. of white vinegar
  8. 1/4 tblsp of ground cumin
  9. 1/4 tblsp of ground cloves
  10. 16 oz of pineapple juice
  11. 8 oz chopped pineapple
  12. 1 large white onion, chopped
  13. 1 splash of oil

Guarnishes

  1. chopped cilantro
  2. chopped onion
  3. red hot sauce ("salsa borracha")
  4. several limes or small lemons, cut in quarters

Preparation

  1. Place chiles to cook in the vinegar until they are soft. Let cool. Cut off the stems and blend (in a blender if possible) with the vinegar in which they were cooked, together with the garlic, salt, pineapple juice, cloves and cumin.
  2. Strain the marinade mixture and then lightly sauté it with a splash of oil until it is well seasoned.
  3. Cover the meat with the marinade and let it steep in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours.
  4. Pre-heat a griddle or skillet and grill the meat rapidly. Add a little oil to prevent sticking. If the meat has not been cut into slices or small pieces prior to cooking, do so now, as it cooks.
  5. When the meat is almost done, add the chunks of pineapple and the chopped onion, stirring well.
  6. Then heat the tortillas by placing them over the meat as it finishes cooking.
  7. Serve the hot tortillas with a bit of meat on top, with the garnishes on the side so that each person can decide for himself how much to add.
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This delicious dish is always welcome when you want to prepare a meal in advance, or when it gets hot (especially in the kitchen).

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

  1. small flank steak (1 pound)
  2. 3 red tomatoes
  3. 1 onion
  4. half a head of iceberg lettuce
  5. 1/4 cup of olive oil
  6. 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
  7. 1 sliced avocado
  8. 10 olives(optional)
  9. a few diced serrano chiles (to taste)
  10. oregano
  11. salt, pepper

Preparation:

  1. In a cooking pot, place the meat, salt and half of the onion. Boil in water for one hour.
  2. Slice or dice the lettuce and tomatoes. Dice finely the other half of the onion.
  3. Shred the boiled flank steak. If necessary, cut the fibers to about 3 inches maximum length.
  4. In a mixing bowl, stir together the meat, lettuce, tomatoes and diced onion. Add olives if desired.
  5. Prepare plates with a bed of lettuce, slices of avocado and the diced chiles. Place the salpicón mixture on top.
  6. Shake together the oil, vinegar, oregano, salt and pepper. Bathe each portion well with the dressing.
  7. Serve with tostadas or tortillas.
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The best time to come to Acapulco is really a very personal decision. Four factors influence how you decide when the best time is for you to travel: climate, crowds, costs and connections.

Climate

Most travel advisers agree that Acapulco is really a year-round destination. The beautiful bay receives 300 or more sunny days per year. It seldom gets very hot, and never gets cold. The worst luck you can have is to encounter cloudy or rainy days, which are few, and occur only in certain months of the year. Look at the graphs below. There is very little fluctuation in humidity and temperature, on average. The changeable variable is the precipitation. For this reason, most tourists enjoy coming in the dry, sunny months, from mid-November to the end of April. The following tables represent monthly averages, compiled over 20 years or more. They show the average daily high temperature to be fairly consistently around 32°C (90°F) and the low to be around 24°C (75°F). In mid-summer, obviously, the highs and lows are both above that, and in winter they are below. Relative humidity stays rather stable at about 75%. Rainfall varies greatly. In the graph, 50mm is approximately an inch of rain. A "wet day" is defined as any day in which the precipitation was measurable (0.01" or more. That is 0.25mm). The source is the Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía.

The dry months are generally called “high season” in Acapulco, and of course, the hotel rates, airfares and other costs reflect the fact that most people like to travel during “high season.”

From a climactic point of view, the other months are not “low season” in any special way: the summers are a little hotter and wetter than the winters, but it is just a matter of degree. As elsewhere in the tropics, during rainy season, the clouds begin to build at the end of the afternoon, and often there will be an evening rain shower. But otherwise the days are usually bright. Occasionally tropical storms come through town. Rarely do they cause alarm, but they always dump a lot of water on Acapulco and keep back the sun for a day or two.

Crowds

Acapulco’s tourism is both international and national. More people come to Acapulco from Mexico City, just a few hours’ drive away, than from any other place. Mexican tourists normally come for shorter stays than their international counterparts, and respond much more to the calendar than the climate. For example, the weekend right after the start of summer vacation from the schools is very busy. So also is the weekend before classes resume. “Three-day weekends” caused by a national holiday (such as National Independence Day) attract many people to the beaches starting as early as Thursday and going through the following Monday. These are called puentes (bridges). Many Mexican tourists also like to come to Acapulco for Christmas and for the New Year’s celebration on the beaches. Others make an annual visit in the week before Easter, or Holy Week. See our list of holidays and special events for complete information.

The point is that if you are looking to have fun with lots of other people, the puentes and the Christmas and Easter holidays are the times to plan a trip. If, on the other hand, you are seeking to avoid large crowds in the hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, stores and beaches, then these would be good times of the year to leave out of consideration.

Another time to seek out or avoid, according to your tastes, is Spring Break, when Acapulco’s “Golden Zone” fills with partiers from colleges and universities in Canada, the US and Mexico, all bent on welcoming Spring and saying good-bye to Winter. The dates vary each year. Generally “Spring Breakers” start appearing in mid-February, and reach their full impact in mid-March. By Easter they are usually no longer in evidence. See our page on this annual ritual here.

Costs

Prices in Acapulco generally follow the pattern of “high-season” vs. “low-season,” but with some exceptions. The exceptions involving higher than average costs apply to the week between Christmas and New Years (really, December 24 to January 2) and to the week before Easter, through Easter Monday. This is when everything in Acapulco costs a bit more. When riding the city buses or taxis on New Year’s Eve, for example, expect to pay double or even more. Many accommodations charge premium rates and also impose minimum stay requirements.

On the other end of the spectrum, two periods of the year are unusually slack. One is between the end of the Easter festivities and the start of summer vacations for school. This is roughly from mid-April to mid-June. The other is from the end of summer vacation and the beginning of the tourist season, roughly from mid-August to mid-November. Each period has a couple of “puentes” or high-spots, but these are times when a tourist can find bargains. They range from retail sales, to 2-for-1 offers at bars and restaurants, to reduced prices for hotel rooms, or free upgrades. During these times a person with an eye for bargains and bargaining can do well. Cash is much appreciated – much more than credit cards – and there will be almost no competition for taxis, tables in restaurants and places on the beach.

In these slack times the hotel rates are lower, partly because they do not always provide the same level of service as in high season. For example, not all the restaurants may be open for business, or perhaps the “Kid’s Club” is not in operation. It is always prudent to check on these details if they are important to you.
For the rest of the year – in between the times of peak traffic and the times of many vacancies – Acapulco operates at a “normal” clip. The hotels and restaurants may offer special deals from time to time, and the vendors are always glad for a sale. There may be some flexibility in prices, especially if the deal has unusually attractive aspects for the seller, but cost will not be a particularly weighty element in the consideration of whether to come or not.

Connections

If you plan to come during high season, you will have the best selection of methods of getting here. International airlines operate direct flights, national air lines put on extra flights into Acapulco, and lots of charters operate in and out of the “Pearl of the Pacific.” The important thing is to speak up quickly for your place and secure it with a deposit. The demand for transportation is greater than the supply, especially during high season, and even more especially at Christmas and Easter time.

Cruise ships operate generally from September to May, with most arriving between November and March. During the off season only a few cruise ships are available.

During less busy times, flights into and out of Acapulco may be indirect (via Mexico City) or infrequent (as in once a week from, say, Newark). The air fares tend to follow the “high-season/low-season” trend of being more expensive after November 1 and before May 1.

A useful off-season option is to arrive in Mexico City and take the bus to Acapulco. It takes about 6 hours, portal-to-portal, is comfortable and safe, and costs about $35 one way. (See our page on bus travel).

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Accomplished Acapulco shoppers may not need to study all of the tips and precautions below, but it would be a good idea to glance through them anyway. These ten tips are just specific examples of thinking ahead and using good sense.

1. Know where you are going, how you are going to get there, and how to get back. It is normal for visitors to become a bit disoriented in a new place, especially when confronting a big change in the language and culture at the same time. This is particularly true of cruise passengers, who may be on the ground for only a few hours. Write down your hotel or boat address clearly on a piece of paper and keep it with you. Then, if a taxi driver does not understand your accent (and some may not), give them the paper. You may also want to do the same thing for your objective, both to make yourself understood, and also to persuade the driver that you really want to go where you say you want to go. (Some unscrupulous drivers might take you somewhere else, where they receive a commission for bringing in tourists for shopping.) Read about taking taxis, and, if you’re climbing aboard a bus, read the tips here.

2. Currency: Buy a cheap calculator It is really very common for people new to an economy to overpay for things. This is because the local currency disorients visitors about value. Quick: Ask yourself whether 7.5 pesos for a liter of gasoline is a good deal. It's times like this that having a calculator handy (or a good head for figures) can save you from dreaded errors -- of saying “yes” when you should have said “no.” Put the peso-dollar exchange rate into memory, and remember that you’re dividing pesos to find dollars. Bone up on metric equivalents if you need to. And always, always, calculate the cost in terms you can relate to mentally and emotionally. Then you won’t make a shopping goof just because of the peso math. And that gas price question? There are 3.7857 liters in a gallon. At 7.5 pesos/liter, it's 29.06 pesos per gallon, and at 12.5 pesos to the dollar, it comes out to be $2.33 per gallon. Not bad.

3. Bargaining: Know when not to accept the initial price quoted. Sometimes the quoted price is the price you pay, as in super markets and shopping malls. But most small vendors do not start off by quoting you the price they hope to end up with. Depending upon how different you look and talk from the way the vendor looks and talks, this opening price may be only a little bit higher, or it could be double the real price - or even more! This phenomenon also occurs with negotiated fares for taxis. If you don’t like bargaining, find someone who does, and go shopping with that person. Try to avoid becoming attached to things that catch your eye until after the bargaining is done. Being able to walk away from a deal is a strong tool in bargaining for the right price. If the vendor is more eager to sell than you are to buy, the price will come out in your favor. The reverse is also true. Some shoppers ask first for the opening price and then offer 50% back. Perhaps this is a good rule of thumb, but in truth, each sale is different. With some experience, you may be able to guess the wholesale price and then mark it up in your mind by a fair amount and offer that. Sometimes it is a good tactic not to ask for a price, which forces the vendor to size you up first. Rather, you make the opening offer. Either way, a transaction will be started that can end with a sale at a price you consider a bargain. This sort of bargaining requires an investment of time, and sometimes multiple visits to the vendor. If time is scarce, or if there’s little fun left in the haggling, then cut to the chase – make a final offer a fair amount above your notional floor price (to show some respect for the vendor and his or her merchandise), and call it a day. Remember that not everything is subject to this sort of buying and selling, though almost everything can be sold at a discount if you buy several of a single item or otherwise spend a lot of money with the vendor. Some say that shopping is an art, and perhaps it is. But bargaining is mainly a skill, like playing poker. Some people are just better at it than others. The vendor is probably a lot more experienced at it than you are, so do not expect easy victories. On the other hand, the vendors are grateful for the tourists, and normally will not try to hurt or abuse them. And they do expect to engage in a little give and take.

4. Hours of Operation: Check hours of operation in advance. This tip is especially important if the place to be visited is a fair distance away. Acapulco shops follow no particular rules about when they are open. It is safe to assume that shops are open by 10 am and stay open until around 6 pm. But a few shops open earlier, and a good many do not close their doors until 7, 9 or 10 at night. Often the store hours are prolonged slightly on weekends. Be careful not to rely on stores to be open on Sunday. Some may open later or close much earlier on Sunday. This is less true, of course, in the shopping malls and commercial centers than in the more traditional parts of town. As in other countries, the stores that make up a commercial center will usually all follow the same operating schedule. The lesson here is, check the hours if you are hoping to go early, late or on a Sunday.

5. Money: “Paper or Plastic?” Take Enough. Be sure to take enough money, and in the right format, for the shopping you intend to accomplish. Change is sometimes hard to find in Mexico, so the $500 peso note (for example) may prove to be hard to spend. Try to change it for $100 peso notes at a bank or at the hotel desk. Depending upon what sort of shopping is about to take place, decide if paper money (called "efectivo" or "contado") or credit cards will be the means of payment. In some contexts, where bargaining is involved, an offer to pay in cash may gain a small discount, as the vendor avoids the credit card fees and also receives the money on the spot. In some other contexts, paying with plastic is just not even thinkable. Plastic is probably out of the question when browsing the open air markets and "tianguis" for gifts and crafts. Otherwise, plastic works fine in the shopping malls, bodegas and boutiques all along the Costera. Not every credit card is as welcome as every other. Almost all shops will take Visa or MasterCard. More upscale stores may also accept American Express, and perhaps Discover. Traveler’s Checks may be more secure than money or even credit cards, but relatively few places accept them other than hotels, restaurants and the higher-end shops. Personal checks are, well, nearly useless. Security, of course, is an important consideration. It is always a good idea not to set out with a lot of extra cash in your wallet, against the rare occurrence that someone tries to steal it. Figure out how much you think you’ll need, and maybe give your self a small safety margin. But leave the rest of the stash behind.

Just as it is smart not to carry excess cash, it always makes sense to leave the room with only one credit card (one that you know will work) plus a driver’s license to prove your signature. If someone steals your card, you have less trouble because you have to cancel only one of them. (See our Tip on Credit Card Management.)

6. Security: Safeguard your Valuables and Look out for Pickpockets. Acapulco, like any other tourist destination, attracts its share of undesirable types, who try to live at the advantage of tourists. Some are con men, but many are simply thieves, expert at creating a small disturbance and then lifting a wallet out from pocket or purse without detection. Here are three suggestions to help you relax in the face of this problem.

  • Get a secure way to carry valuables and leave most of your valuables back at the room. The waist pack (which Americans call "fanny packs" to the sporadic delight of their British cousins) is probably the safest means of all. Mexicans call it a “cangurero,” or kangaroo-pouch, and this is a much more sensible name. Wear it tight around the waist, with the pack in front, where you can protect it -- not in back, where it becomes a target. If wearing such a pack is not an option (some people think they look "geeky"), get a purse that has a sturdy shoulder strap, so a thief can not just grab it away or cut it free. Men may want to use a money belt or keep their funds in a front pants pocket, which thieves have more trouble picking. The ideal shopping tool is really the front-placed waist pack with room for glasses, camera, and other necessary items. Before adding in your cell phone, consider whether you will ever need it on your shopping trip. Before putting on a watch, decide if you need to know the time with much precision. Do not go out with that big, fat wallet. There’s no reason to lose the movie rental cards, the carwash punch card, your family photos, the miscellaneous coupons, and all the other irrelevant stuff you brought along with it. A small zipper purse for the Mexican peso coins and bills is what locals typically use. (It’s called a “monedero”).
  • Use the hotel safe for valuables left in the hotel. If the in-room safe is not electronic (permitting you to enter your own security-code as the combination), you should consider using a deposit box at the front desk. Put your passport, tickets home, wallet, and all other valuables in there. The reception desk security is more reliable that any key-operated in-room safes. You will not need your passport on a shopping trip. Stolen passports have a high street value. It is not intelligent to run that risk.
  • Divide up the Money. Separate out a little extra cash and put it in a different location or pocket, as a reserve for getting home - even if you overspend or are robbed. If two of you are traveling together, make sure each has enough cash to get back to the hotel if one of you spends or loses all of his or her money.

7. Spanish: Have a Spanish speaker handy, if you can. As strange as it may seem, some English-speaking tourists imagine that everyone in Acapulco speaks English. If they run into trouble, they just speak English more loudly, thinking, apparently, that the locals are just hard of hearing. Most vendors who rely on tourist trade do speak some English, or French, and they will work hard to understand and to make themselves understood. Even so, a review of the numbers in Spanish might help move things along for you. And if your outing is to a place somewhat off the beaten path for tourists (either in terms of where you are headed or what you are buying), take along a Spanish-speaker as company. He or she will surely make the excursion end more quickly and successfully.

8. Beach Vendors: A fact of life on the sand. Consider sales on the beach to be like a transaction in any other open-air market. The city does not control or license ambulatory vendors, so they are everywhere, and sunbathers are on their own. Everything from sculptures, mobiles and jewelry to sunglasses and tattoos are on sale. Tourists will have a chance to have a massage, or put up their hair in cornrow braids, or be serenaded by musicians. An endless parade of food vendors will pass by, offering snacks, quesadillas, tamales, shell fish, drinks and ice cream. A few young kids have learned to beg, and just go up and down the beaches collecting pesos from the kind-hearted. Unless something really sparks your interest, just say "No, gracias" and wag your index finger left and right (like a windshield wiper). This should do the trick. If you would like to check out a vendor's wares, just nod receptively, and the transaction will easily unfold. Though many use only a few words of English, communication does take place. Prices on the beach are usually fully negotiable, so regard it as a bargaining opportunity.

9. Street Vendors: Approach with Caution. A table or booth in an established open-air market is one thing. Someone set up informally on the sidewalk with a table of merchandise is likely to fit in the category of beach vendor. Only the sand is missing. Approach these opportunities to spend money with a little caution. If the wares are food, usually it’s safe to give it a try. The “raspadas” (shaved ice) and “agua de sabor” (fruit flavor drink) are made with water that has been purified. The ice cream is also unlikely to cause problems. Tortillas and anything fully cooked is also in the sage category, like tacos. Some fruits and most vegetables require some discretion. A lot depends on the person, and whether things like lettuce cause problems. In a case of doubt, take a pass. For other kinds of merchandise, be assured that if it has a logo it is not the real thing. If it has a cover on it (like a CD), it is pirated. Knock-offs and pirated goods sometimes cause woes when going through US Customs, so be forewarned. Otherwise, just approach this as any other open-air market bargaining opportunity.

10. Special Case: Sunglasses. Some people can pay a zillion dollars for elegant, designer sunglasses and hold on to them until they wear out (or go out of style). Others, well, are not responsible enough to be the owner of expensive frames. For them, Acapulco has great selection. Whether on the beach or in an open-air market, it is possible to find a wide selection of really cheap sunglasses. And the deals get better if you buy in quantity. Some tourists come every year and take enough pairs home to get them through until next year's vacation. The nice thing about buying the cheap sunglasses is that you can immediately judge how sturdy and effective the merchandise is. Logo merchandise, of course, is not authentic, but the glasses may work well anyway. Even though many locals have put away their sunglasses and have not taken them out for years (they put them in the same place they stashed their watch), visitors should be mindful that the glare can be hard on the eyes. It's a simple and sensible precaution to put on a pair of shades while tooling around Paradise.

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The tropics are acknowledged as a place where insects abound. And to be technical about it, scorpions and spiders are arachnids and in a different class from the ordinary collection of flying insects and ants. This article just touches the high spots of the most amazing arthropods amongst Acapulco's fauna. We will leave the research on flies and mosquitoes to the reader.

Scorpions

The Spanish word for Scorpion is alacrán (of Arabic origin). They come in various sizes and colors: Black, red, and pale beige. The beige ones (güeros) are the worst. They sting, and although rarely fatal (unless you have a heart problem, are very young or very old) it HURTS a lot and can induce fever, sweating, trembling and even coma. They can be anywhere, but in truth you are unlikely to see one. The basic rule is that the more expensive your hotel/villa, the less likely you are to find one. However, since we are not all going to be staying in 5 star hotels and villas and for those of us who do not intend to spend a fortune on accommodation and prefer a friendly place in Pie de la Cuesta, here are are a few rules to avoid unnecessary pain.

Tarantulas

The poor Tarantula has a terrible reputation, and must be up there as one of the most feared and misunderstood of all animals. They are really, shy, and relatively defenseless things that have been about for as much as 265 million years. Although you may be reluctant to believe it, there is not a single record of anyone dying from a tarantula bite in this country since records began. The tarantula is nocturnal. It sets out at night to hunt. It preys on insects, but it might find the odd small rodent or baby bird.

Guerrero Orange-legged tarantuala

Should you chance upon a tarantula by day (usually they can be seen crossing the road) It is probably a male in search of sex. The females are inclined to stay in their holes, which could be in the ground or a tree. The adult male does not live much longer than eighteen months, but the female can live for up to twenty years, and it takes her eight to ten years to reach sexual maturity. Think long and hard about squashing one of either sex (as if you could tell the difference). The mating process is not a deeply joyous experience and involves a fierce fight. The male has to keep the female at a distance by means of structures on its front legs called tibia hooks, in order to prevent himself from being eaten. This also allows him access to her genitalia, which are to be found under her abdomen. The male deposits his sperm there using the tips of his pedipalpus where his sexual organ is located. Having dealt with this, the male needs to make a swift and nimble exit, and the sperm will be stored there until the following summer when the female wakes up from her hibernation. Only then will she look for a suitable place to make her nest.

The female lays between 600 and 1,200 eggs, of which about half will hatch. Then begin three stages of growth - the infant, the juvenile and then the adult. The infants will shed their skin a couple of times in their first year. Should they make it to adulthood, they will only shed it once a year. Because of their short lives, males frequently don't even have the luxury of changing their skin.

All the big, hairy, heavy spiders come under the family of Theraphosidae and, in Mexico, there are a total of 111 species of tarantulas, of the most abundant are the aphonopelma and brachypelma. They can be found all over the country, but there are more, obviously, in the tropical and desert regions. It is important to note that nearly all tarantulas of the brachypelma species are in danger of extinction. This is possibly due to the fact that they are among the most colorful, which makes them favorite pets. Also, they are less well camouflaged and so more easily visible to their predators, which include birds, rodents, weasels and especially a particularly unkind wasp that lays her eggs on the tarantula's body so the larvae get a good start in life by eating their host alive. Ants are particularly fond of newly laid tarantula eggs.

Tarantulas have a reasonably well-developed set of defense systems; the best known is, of course, its notorious bite, which, should you need reminding, IS NOT FATAL. Less known is the fact that the hairs on the upper part of the abdomen can cause uncomfortable irritation or even stinging, according to the species and the sensitivity of the attacker. They also use these hairs to protect the entrance of their holes. Should they find themselves cornered, the first defense tactic is to rear up and show the size of their teeth, Should that fail, they will throw themselves at the attacker and rub their hair all over them.

All spiders have eight eyes, set in different ways depending on the species, but to make matters particularly difficult, Tarantulas are almost blind. To locate and capture their prey, they rely on vibrations sensed through their feet and can pick up the slightest current of air with their hairs. They build webs, which are not generally used for capturing their prey, but rather, for reproductive purposes and to camouflage the nest entrance.

As both hunter and hunted, tarantulas have an important place in the ecological balance. Leave them alone, they have enough enemies without having to be beaten up and murdered by some hysterical maid with a broom. True, they look like something out of your worst nightmare, but they do not behave that way at all. Tarantulas are also very boring pets. Even if they are good for scaring Granny, they don't do much else.

Types of tarantula found in Guerrero include the Mexican pink tarantulas (BrachypelmaKlaasi), Mexican red-kneed tarantula (Brachypelma Smithi) and the Guerrero orange-legged tarantula (Brachypelma Boehmei).

Ants

It is said that in one square kilometer of the Amazon rain forest there are more ants than there are people in the world. If you have ever been there, you know it's true. Acapulco is a close second. Any potential visitor to Acapulco should be aware that ants are everywhere, from the smartest hotel to the poorest hovel, in the middle of the road, in the middle of a swamp, and certainly in the middle to the sugar bowl if you leave it out for more than a few minutes. In the kitchen there are little tiny ones that are little bigger than a grain of sugar. Sugar is what they are after. If it is sweet, they will go for it. They also seem partial to fish. Even a few misplaced drops of milk or a bit of Coca-Cola that didn't make it into the glass can attract ants to the cleanest of kitchens, and in a matter of minutes. The good thing is that they don't really bother anything that much.

On the floor at night another variety emerges -- much bigger and rather slow. They eat and nest in wood. They don't sting. Leave them alone. They will leave you alone.

The other domestic variety is the Arriera or leaf cutter. They are not in the house, but just outside, in the garden. They are really destructive and can strip a good sized Bougainvillea of all its leaves in just one night. They are the gardener's enemy number one, but they are fun to watch.

Once you go outside there are any number of varieties of ants that sting and bite. Stand too long in one place on a lawn and they'll get you. Just keep moving. Otherwise, they'll be up your trouser leg in a flash. The good hotels fumigate regularly (the Princess does it daily), so ants are not much of a problem there. But do not try sunbathing on someone's lawn.

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Dolphins

The Bottlenose

Dolphins are not fish. They are mammals. Thus, they have teeth, are warm-blooded, have a four-chambered heart, and nurse their young from mammary glands. They even have hair - but not a lot! The mothers feed milk to their young for months and the young calf stays with the mother and other dolphins in the pod for years. Dolphins have one blow hole on top of their head and, depending on the species, age and physical condition, can stay submerged for more than 20 minutes. They can travel as much as 80 or 90 miles in a day . Their smooth and oily body enables them to streak through the water with great efficiency and speed. The up-and-down motion of their tail propels them through the water and allows them to jump in the air. They appear to 'enjoy' riding the bow of fast moving vessels, where they can be pushed by the wave and surf effortlessly. Most societies revere or at least respect dolphins as highly intelligent animals. The Japanese, however, prefer them sliced and served with wasabe… The Faeroe Islanders are also partial to dolphin steak. They slaughter them by the thousand every year. Man is the dolphin's greatest predator. More than 100,000 individuals die each year as a result from hunting or being caught in fishing nets and drowned. Sharks take their toll, especially in areas of high concentration (sharks that is) like South Africa and Australia. The other major predator are other dolphins; the bigger ones preying on their smaller cousins. At the top of this chain are the Orcas or Killer Whales (nevertheless dolphins), who like to eat them without the wasabe. Most dolphins have curved dorsal fins and flippers that vary in size and shape from one species to the next. Their beaks are well defined, and they all generally have small, conical, sharp teeth arranged in both the upper and lower jaw.

Dolphins are cetaceans, a group which includes all whales and dolphins. Some cetaceans, like the blue and humpback whales, are baleen whales and have horny plates hanging from their upper jaw. These are used to strain krill from the ocean. Others, like dolphins, orcas and porpoises are 'toothed whales' and thoroughly carnivorous.

Within the group of toothed whales, there are several subgroups: oceanic dolphins (32 species), river dolphins (5 species), sperm whales (3 species), beaked whales (19 species), beluga and narwhal (2 species) and porpoises (6 species). They all use echolocation as a means of navigation and vocalize as a means of communication. As far as Acapulco is concerned, if you take a boat out of the bay, you are fairly likely to see dolphins, riding the bow wave, swimming along side or jumping. The best time is sunrise or sunset. It is a wonderful sight and should not be missed. The types you are most likely to come across are: the Common, the Spotted and the Spinner.

And then again if you don't fancy the idea of getting up before dawn or are nervous about being out at sea at night, you might trot along to CiCi on the Costera and swim with the ones in the aquarium. They are are spinner dolphins.

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Sharks

Sharks do not normally attack people, and only about 25 species of sharks have ever been known to do so. Fewer than 100 ocurrences are reported in any year. Humans are much more likely to be killed by bees, lightning or food poisoning than by sharks.

The sharks most dangerous to people are the Great White, the Tiger Shark, the Bull Shark and the Ocean White Tip Shark. The Bull Shark is the most frequent attacker of people, as it swims in very shallow waters where people swim, and is very plentiful. Some of the other sharks known to have attacked people include the gray shark, blue shark, hammerhead, mako shark, nurse shark, black tip reef shark, wobbegongs, sandtiger, spitting sharks and the porbeagle. Fortunately not ALL the above are to be found in sea around Acapulco.

Experts believe that sharks mistake people (especially people swimming on surf boards) for seals and sea lions, some of their favorite foods. Why people should not be a favorite shark food is hard to say. Perhaps we just do not taste that good. Add to that the fact that there are no seals in the Acapulco area, and you would think that people ought to be guzzled up every day. But they are not. Here is the list of sharks that swim our little patch of the Pacific ocean. It is a bit alarming, but as far as I know there has never been a shark attack in the area. This would have to be explained by the fact that there is plenty of other food. The fact that sharks are food for people might also be considered. Next time you bite into a "pescadilla" or "quesadilla de cazon," please bear in mind that you eating the very young offspring of one of the following.

SHORT FIN MAKO SHARK The short-finned mako shark (Isurus oxyrincus), also known as the bonito, is the fastest shark on earth and can also leap out of the water to a prodigious height. It has a cone-shaped snout, and long gill slits. Short-finned Makos average 5-8 feet (1.5-2.5 m) long but can reach 12 feet (3.7 m) long, weighing 1,000 pounds (455 kg). The Mako is considered dangerous to people. It reproduces via aplecental viviparity and the pups are cannibalistic in the womb. Makos can maintain a body temperature higher than that of the surrounding water.
SANDTIGER SHARK Sandtigers (Eugomphodus taurus) are also known as the Ragged tooth shark, the grey nurse shark, the sand shark, and the spotted ragged-tooth shark. They are widespread Mackerel sharks that range from gray to brown and are about 10-12 feet(3-3.7 m) long. They are fish-eaters with long, sharp teeth in a narrow snout. They eat and migrate in groups and are especially active at night. They are found mostly near coastlines, from the surface down to depths of 3,900 ft (1,200 m). While developing in the womb the embryos are cannibalistic, eating their siblings,so although many embryos are produced, only the two meanest are eventually born, one from each uterine chamber. The gestation period is about 8-9 months and the pups (the little darlings) are roughly 3.3 feet (1 m) long at birth.
SILKY SHARK The silky shark, Carcharhinus falciformis, is a widespread, deep-water shark,ranging from black to gray on top (and white to cream on the belly). These long,tapered sharks are fast swimmers and are about 10 feet (3 m) long. They have along, pointed snout. The teeth in the upper jaws are long, triangular, and serrated,but in the lower jaws are only slightly serrated. Silky sharks eat fish, squid,and crabs. They sometimes travel in schools segregated by sex, but nobody seems to know why. Females give birth to litters of 6-12 live pups, which are 29-31inches (75-80 cm) long at birth. These sharks are harvested commercially for their meat, liver and fins so are not as common as they should to be.
BIGNOSE SHARK The bignose shark (Carcharhinus altimus) is also known as Knopp's shark. This bottom dweller is found in warm-temperate and tropical seas. It is up to about10 ft (3 m) long. The skin is pale gray, but is lighter on the belly, with dark-tipped fins. Bony fish are the mainstay of their diet (they particularly like mackerel). The big nose produces litters which contain from 3 to 11 pups. Newborns are 27 to 35 inches (70-90 cm) long.
BLACKTIP SHARK Carcharhinus limbatus is also known as the spinner shark and is a common fish with black marking on the tips of the dorsal and pectoral fins. It is grayish on top and white underneath, with a white stripe running along the side of the body. It has a very long snout and can reach up to 9 feet ( 2.8 m) in length.It is harmless to people unless provoked or while eating. Try to avoid swimming with them at lunch time. It is found all over the place; in the western and eastern Atlantic Ocean, and the central, western, and eastern Pacific Ocean. Black tip sharks live at the surface and in shallows, and they migrate along the coasts.Their diet consists mostly of small fish, squid, and crustaceans. They are not averse to the occasional leg or elbow. They have been seen jumping out of the water during feeding. Females give birth to 4-8 live young (10 inches or 25 cm long) after a gestation period of about 10 to 11 months.
BLUE SHARK Prince glauca, the blue shark, as its name suggests, is an indigo-colored shark.It is sleek with long, pointed fins and a pointed nose. It has large eyes and grows to be up to 12.5 feet (3.8 m) long. Its diet consists mostly of squid, but it will eat almost anything, including adults, large and small children and animals and is found worldwide, but it is endangered due to over fishing, leaving it low on the list of potential dangers.
BULL SHARK Carcharhinus leucas has many names: the Ganges shark, Cub shark, the River shark, the Zambezi shark, the Shovel nose shark, the Slipway gray shark, the Square-nose shark, the Nicaragua shark, the Swan River Whaler, and Van Rooyen's shark. It is a large, fierce predator that eats almost anything fish, including other sharks,ray, birds and turtles. It has been known to attack people and will venture far into fresh water. It has been found over 1700 miles up the Mississippi and in Peru 2600 miles up the Amazon. This is probably the most dangerous of all sharks to people. It is best to avoid it.
LEOPARD SHARK The leopard shark, is a beautiful and completely harmless shark with leopard-like markings. This gentle animal can grow to be up to 6 ft (1.8 m) long. This cat shark has small, sharp, pointed teeth with which it catches fish worms, clams, crabs,shrimp, and octopus. It is a social shark and travels in schools. It is found off the North American coast from Oregon, USA to Mexico. It gives birth to up to 24 pups each spring. This shark is being depleted by over-fishing.
OCEANIC WHITETIP SHARK Carcharinus longimanus is a large, thick-bodied, slow-moving shark with very large,paddle-shaped pectoral fins and white tips on its pectoral, and dorsal fins and tail and is found in all tropical and subtropical waters. It can grow to be about 13'(4 m) long, but is normally about 10 feet (3 m) long. A potentially dangerous predator, it is very aggressive and eats just about anything, fortunately it lives far offshore and at depths of up to 500 feet (150 m). Litters are of up to 15pups (the number increasing with the size of the mother) after a 1 year gestation period.
SHARPNOSE SHARK The Sharpnose Shark (Rhizoprionodon terraenovae) is a harmless, edible, requiem shark (Family Carcharinidae). The Sharpnose is a small, slender shark with 5 gill slits, two dorsal fins, an anal fin, no fin spines, the mouth behind the eyes,and nictitating eyelids. It has a long, sharp snout, black-edged dorsal and caudal fins (which fade with age), and furrowed or wrinkled corners of the mouth. It is brown to olive-gray colored with white on the belly and is from 2 to 4 feet(60-120 cm) long. A carnivore, it eats small fish, mollusks and shrimp. The sharpnosehas litters of 4 to 7 pups.
MANTA RAY Manta rays (Manta birostris) are closely related to sharks. These elegant and graceful swimmers, which can regularly be seen performing outside the bay, are up to 29.5 ft (9 m) wide, but average about 22 ft (6.7 m) wide. Mantas are dark brown to black on top; they are mostly white underneath. These huge rays have a short tail and no stinging spine and are absolutely harmless. Mantas eat microscopicplankton, small fish, and tiny crustaceans. The largest weighs about 3,000 pounds(1350 kg). They are very acrobatic; they can even leap from the water. Mantas are common and are found worldwide in tropical seas, living both close to shore and in open seas.
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Sea Turtles in Acapulco

Sea Turtles

During the rainy season from June to November each year, sea turtles begin to arrive on the sandy beaches of Acapulco to lay their eggs. Each female sea turtle lays about 100 eggs which she buries under the protective cover of the the sand. Forty-five to fifty days later, the little tortugas emerge and struggle to make their way to the relative safely of the sea (before they get snatched by hungry birds above).

In Acapulco, two main areas have established sea turtle camps for their study and preservation. They are at opposite ends of town: one at Pie de la Cuesta, and on the grounds of the Fairmont complex.

Turtle lovers take time stay abreast of the struggle between sea turtles and the poachers, who kill the turtles for their meat and eggs. The national and state governments have recently recognized how serious the plight of the sea turtles has become. And while they have devoted more attention to the issue by strengthening penalties against the poachers and making the occasional high profile arrest, this activity is not close to being enough. While the sale of turtle meat and eggs has been banned in Mexico since 1990, and it carries a penalty of up to nine years in prison, turtle meat is sadly considered a delicacy. So turtles are disappearing at an alarming rate.

Mexico is loosing the war against poachers. It is tragic that sea turtles may soon be extinct.

How Can You Help? You can contact PROFEPA, Mexico's premiere environmental organization, Green Peace Mexico,or the The Sea Turtle Restoration Project (STRP)for more information.