Sunday, June 5, 2011
The coast of Oaxaca curves around a south-facing bulge almost at Mexico's far end. These thin strips of sand laid against the steep green sierra, once remote and hidden, are no longer the mysterious wild places of years past, yet they retain the sleepy feel of surf-bum beach communities. During the winter, Northern sunseekers come here to escape snow, and in the spring,the hotels fill with vacationing Mexican families. On the edge of summer, however, San Agustinillo is near abandoned, the few tourists who wander the one street wrapped along the beach looking like off-course pilgrims as they pass empty restaurants and shuttered hotels.
This low season weighs heavy on the town, like the tropical heat that creeps under the thatched roofs and lurks just beyond the thin shade. Proprietors sweep sand from their floors and sit, bored, gazing out across the untracked beach. Even a local boogieboarding competition is greeted with relative indifference.
In these months, the glittering sea that stretches out from San Agustinillo sometimes unleashes its wrath upon the coast. Like watery broncos driven up from the depths of the Pacific by offshore winds and new moon tides, the waves rear on the edges of the land, white manes of spray blowing behind. Arching upward they pause, towering bodies suspended at the climax, then crash down, foaming hooves exploding against defiant rocks. The phenomenon, known as mar del fondo, pounds the shore, sweeping at the posts of palapas and gnawing at seawalls. In a place where the ocean is life, the destruction is hard to swallow. Few fishermen attempt to leave the beach, those that do are turned back by the waves. At night, the thundering of the breakers makes it hard to sleep.
Eventually, the storm surge will calm, and life will return to the normal sleepy offseason patterns. Palapas will be repaired and itinerant travelers will relax on the now-quiet beach, and lanchas will chase the splashes of feeding tuna.