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Foreigners Not Discouraged by Recent Violence

By: David Real | Real Acapulco News - 12 April, 2011

(Acapulco, CNN 12 April) In a special CNN report by Rafael Romo, Senior Latin American Affairs Editor, the Cable News Network focused on the permanent residents in Acapulco who come from Canada, Europe and the United States. In a series of interviews, he found that the expatriate community is very positive on Acapulco and understands that the violence is concentrated in areas far from the breezes and the beaches.

For example, German-born Pascal Clemens has been here for 17 years and directs a real estate company. He praised the weather: "It's not only good, it's excellent, it's outstanding, every day! Have you seen any rain here?" He looked up to the deep blue sky over a sandy beach on a pleasant spring morning. Romo´s article points to the temperatures (mid to upper 80’s), sun, clear skies, and gentle breezes as one reason that so many have come to Acapulco over the years. The Hotel Los Flamingos, once owned by John Wayne, still welcomes visitors on its cliff high above the Pacific waves. Other celebrities have visited often or lived here for a time. Most often mentioned are Elizabeth Taylor, Johnny Weissmuller (of Tarzan fame) and Luis Miguel. Today the resort area is filled with lushly landscaped villas, elegant mansions and luxury hotels that look out on this hemisphere’s most beautiful bay.

No one knows for sure how many expatriates live in Acapulco, but one official guess is around 3,000. That seems low. It also ignores the thousands of “snowbirds” who come every year for a period of six months. They are considered tourists rather than residents, even though they spend half their time here.

Recently rival drug gangs have fought turf wars in the poorer neighborhoods several miles away from the resort areas; but the press does not draw a distinction between the tourist area and the industrial suburbs or slums. Journalists do make the distinction in violent cities like LA and Chicago, but they report on Acapulco as if the drug executions were taking place right on the beach. Ignorant or irresponsible reporting cost Acapulco its “springbreaker” market this year.

Members of the expatriate community know better, as do the national tourists, who still faithfully come to Acapulco, especially for the holiday weekends. As a result, the hotels that depend on foreign tourists are suffering more than anyone else. According to Pascal Clemens, the local real estate market is holding up fairly well. “Rents for luxury villas have dropped,” he says, “but sales are holding their own.”

Others interviewed by CNN included Natalie Farmer, who lives in Canada and who has come to Acapulco yearly since she was a child. “I've always felt safe here,” she said. “Certainly you don't go looking for trouble and . . . go out in groups. And I think it's safe.”

Acapulco Mayor Manuel Añorve Baños often repeats the same message: All three levels of government (national, state, municipal) are working hard to end the violence. “Acapulco is standing on its feet . . . Acapulco is bigger than its problems,” he says.

Another young European, Shana Dewale of Belgium, comes to Acapulco every spring. “I see more violence in my country, in Belgium, than I see here in Acapulco. I never saw anything here as a tourist. I love it. I come every year and it's the best vacation I have,” she says.

American Joyce Patterson is an English teacher at Acapulco’s American University. A 35-year resident of Acapulco, she says the recent violence worries her, but it’s not even close to making her think of leaving. She mentions the “spell of the coast” – the embrujo costeño – that makes it hard for anyone to leave. She said, “We’ve got the beach, we’ve got the breeze. It’s a beautiful place to live.”