After Mazatlan, we continued south down the coast, making a few stops here and there, until eventually we discovered a tiny Riviera Nayarit gem, known as San Pancho. A town filled with so much do-it-yourself originality, art, culture, and accessibility. There is such a beautiful alchemy of magic in this town that quickly we fell under its spell, and without even realizing it, ended up staying for nine weeks- nine weeks which could have easily been a lifetime, as we considered maybe never leaving. A colorful mix of grassroots local culture, Mexican nationals, indiginous lineage, and conscious international expats makes this place unique to say the least, and a fantastic place for families, with lots of activities to enrich both children and adults alike. We SO enjoyed our time here, getting sucked into the vortex of good vibes, taking in the amazing sunsets, making wonderful friends that we will not soon forget, and feeling how truly wonderful it can be to be embraced by community.
Our introduction to San Pancho of course included watching our first mesmerizing sunset on the beach. Soon we learned that this is one of the towns sweet-but-simple traditions; gathering together at sundown to watch el dia slip dazzlingly into la noche. Every evening, as the sun gets lower in the sky, you begin to see more and more foot traffic as the village's population prepares for this evening ritual. Many small businesses close down and families and friends all congregate together in the sand to watch the massive waves break powerfully on the shore as the sun sets. We loved this tradition and looked forward to it each day.
Often at sunset, we were able to witness the release of baby sea turtles back to the ocean. Since the early 1990's, the conservation efforts in San Pancho have resulted in the collection, incubation, and release of over 1 million previously-endangered sea turtles. Watching them crawl into the sea merely hours after hatching from their eggs is a really special experience, particluarly with a spectacular sunset and a crowd of people cheering.
Another San Pancho original is Circo de los Niños, the circus school for children, that was created by the artistic director of Cirque du Solei. It is a huge state-of-the-art gymnasium with equiptment of all kinds, and a programming specifically designed for children and young adults, to increase their confidence, motor skills, and performance ability. To raise money and interest, the students perform annually in the town's Plaza del Sol before an audience of 800 spectators. We put José into the Saturday morning program for children ages 2-4. It was an energetic mixture of acro yoga, hula hoops, somersaults, trampoline, balance beam, tight rope, aeriel silks, and trapese, plus songs and dances. He loved being able to release some of his boundless energy in this highly physical environment.
We spent a ton of time at Entreamigos. A huge reason San Pancho is so special is because there is a thriving not-for-profit community center that was created by the locals, served mostly by volunteers and funded by private donations. It is a cluster of re-purposed warehouses that provide a wide-range of services, from a children's library, playground, hands-on play area, technology center, recycling center, event center, community garden, indoor soccer field, and thrift store. There was always something interesting happening here, from children's art classes, adult language classes, re-purposing household items, and lots of festivities for the whole family. A lot of these programs are hard-to-come by in Mexico, like recycling, for instance. But the residents here recognize a need for this kind of programming and have created this place from the ground up, with very little but an ambitously minimal grass-roots approach. This, I think, is the real spirit of San Pancho: see what happens when everyone comes together with the resources they have and the commitment to community, resulting in some really progressive, d-i-y magic
If art is your thing, you will find vibrant expressions all over town, from the extensive street art, murals, and installations, often made from recycled and re-purposed materials.
I recieved personal instruction on making dreamcatchers out of locally-sourced jungle vines from one of San Pancho's finest craftsman, Freddie "the dreamcatcher guy." My massive feather collection came to good use and I was also able to re-purpose various random forget-me-nots from our travels.
The town was small enough to walk pretty much anywhere, but borrowing a rickshaw proved to be faster, and more fun! PS: Real men ride tricycles.
Lots of friendly neighbors offered Joey toys to borrow and return. This laidback attitude and warm generosity was much appreciated. He learned how to ride a scooter, a tricycle, and a skateboard in San Pancho, all lent lovingly to him by new friends.
We also befriended a few of the non-human residents of San Pancho.
Celebrating the Mexican Revolution with a festive parade honoring the countries independance.
We sampled nearly all of the diverse local offerings, ranging from the delicious street tacos abound, to the poke bowls at Organik, the Pacific Island cuisine of Lovo, the homemade ice-cream y paletas from Naturals, rich raw cacao truffles from Mexicolate, fancy teas from Darjeeling, maracuya and mezcal libations from Baracuda, and probably more smoothies than we can count. There were many options to satisfy a health foodie or a vegetarian, and a wide range of budgets.
So impressed with this funky little village, we wanted to share it with some friends from back home. We received a very special visit from afar when our friends Jayme and Bryan arrived for ten days of fun. We spent some quality time entertaining the three monkeys (18-month-old twins Seraphina and Persephone and our own 27-month-old Joseph) and also enjoying a taste of home and conjuring up all kinds of bliss with sunsets, beach days, bellydance, raw cacao, live music, market wanderings, jungle trailblazing, and more.
Every week, there is a colorful market with food, live music, and artesanas. We fell in love with this adorable handmade, hand-dyed childrens clothing from Oxaca and Chiapas.
We also had a blast saying adios to 2016...ringing in the New Year with a lantern on the beach.
We had some amazing adventures in this charming little town. We made friends from all over the world and all over Mexico. We couldn't walk down the street without seeing familiar faces and friendly strangers. We shared birthdays and memorable meals, stories and kindred laughter. We felt that we were a part of something here. And no matter where we end up in the world, San Pancho will always be in our hearts.