Pre-Colombian style necklace by Hector Aguilar - c. 1940
Hector Aguilar and Lois Aguilar. In Zihua...circa 1977.
1. “Zihuatanejo” is not Spanish. It derives from the Indian word Cihuatlan meaning “land of women”. The –“nejo” just indicates a diminutive...meaning a small sized village.
2. The great stone “reef” at nearby Las Gatas beach is man-made, and was constructed centuries before colonization by the Spanish. It is said that powerful regional king had the reef constructed to protect the beach so that his children could play safely in the water.
3. Playa la Ropa means the beach of “clothing” or “cloth”. Legend holds that an oriental merchant vessel was sunk by pirates at the mouth of the bay, leaving Chinese silks strewn up and down the beach.
4. Las Gatas (the cats) beach was named for the harmless nurse sharks that used to be common. They have not been seen in many years.
5. Zihua was a favorite hang-out of pirates, being the closest harbor north of the major trading port of Acapulco, allowing the pirates to intercept trading ships.
6. Timothy Leary of “tune in, turn on, and drop out” fame held LSD workshops on Playa La Ropa during the 60’s where he and his followers explored magic mushrooms and other ways of achieving altered states of reality. Some of the residents of our neighborhood on La Ropa date from this period.
7. In the summer of 2006, an image in the form of the Virgin of Guadalupe, patron saint of Mexico, was discovered in the bark of a tree about 50 meters from the house (next to La Gaviota restaurant). It has become a shrine and a destination for pilgrimages. You can see wooden stairs apparently leading to nowhere, with votive candles all around. The Virgin is at the top of the stairs.
Lois Cartwright Aguilar and Hector Aguilar c. 1964
Butterfly Pin and Earrings - Hector Aguilar, c 1940
The original lower story, built in the early 1960’s, is said by locals to be the first home built on La Ropa beach. This probably accounts for its prime location, perched on high ground at the far end of the beach, facing due west for those perfect sunsets. The story goes that the site was chosen also because it is “where the 4 winds meet”, i.e., it gets great breezes that keep things cool, even in summer.
At the time of its construction, there were no roads, so materials for the home were brought by boat and donkey. The classic Mexican hacienda-style home representing the lower house was designed and built by Hector Aguilar, one of founders of Taxco’s silver jewelry industry. His designs are internationally known and his pieces are highly collectable (and very expensive!); one can still see the copper downspouts in the shape of fish that were designed by Aguilar and cast in his Taller Borda in Taxco.
After retiring from the silver trade, he and his beloved American-born wife Lois lived in the house for many years, witnessing the development of Playa La Ropa. The old well house (now an office) dates from this period. After his wife’s death, so the story goes, the Hector took to drink and ended up losing the house in a poker game to a Dutch ship builder.
Whether this colorful story is true is not known, but the house did end up in the hands of the Dutchman and his Mexican wife, who added a back room and bath on the lower floor for their twin girls, and later added the upper story with its glorious sunset view.