A Bit of History


This booklet is an informal guide and checklist to the animals and plants a visitor is likely to see in a short visit to Playa Blanca, the wide white-sand beach lying south of Zihuatanejo on the Pacific coast of Mexico. This is a spectacularly well-preserved natural area, and it features a much richer and more diverse environment than can be covered in a simple publication like this. But even having a little guidance in directing your attention to what you see here can boost your understanding and appreciation for this treasure of a place.

In choosing the entries, we tried to focus on things that are typical of the area. The idea is to help you identify a majority of the plants and animals you will see on a visit. If you are observant and a bit lucky, you readily can see almost everything listed here in only a few hours.

A Bit of History

The beach that bends and wraps Bahia de Potosi or the Bay of Potosi stretches for 15 kilometers and is popularly known as Playa Blanca. But technically that name applies to the 100 beach front lots, each 100 meters by 100 meters that were carved into the official records of the municipalities of Zihuatanejo and Petalan . Lot 1 is on the beach road a bit south of the Zihuatanejo airport. Lot 100 is some way south of the village of Barra de Potosi, across the outlet to the lagoon. Many of the original hectare lots have been subdivided and today Playa Blanca encompasses a mix of open lots, some small hotels and B&B’s, and private homes ranging from the very humble to very luxurious. There are two villages along the beach road; Los Farrollones, a small informal cluster of houses near lot 40 and Barra de Potosi, a fishing village of about 500 people located at the south end of the beach by the mouth of the lagoon.

People undoubtedly have inhabited this area off and on for thousands of years, and the nearby Maciel site on the way south to Petalan has some interesting pre-Columbian digs. Modern development of the beach area started in 1934 when Leonardo Garcia Chavaria and his four brothers came to Barra de Potosi to hunt sharks. The protected lagoon offered a safe place to launch and land small boats. His daughter “Dona Edelmira” and son “Nayito” still own enramada restaurants here and most of the families in Barra de Potosi are descendents of the early fishermen. Mexico City architect Pepe Rivera is credited with building the first vacation home here in the 1960's before there were roads.

In 1985, a major earthquake stuck just kilometers away and the resulting tsumani washed away most of the wooden structures that made up the original village of Barra de Potosi. The Italian Red Cross, with aid from the Japanese, provided the funds and engineers to rebuild the village. To protect against future flooding, it was moved away from the beach to its present location where they built 64 identical one-room concrete houses. Many of the houses have since been modified, but the village still remains three unpaved streets wide by three equally unpaved streets long.

Big-time development has missed Playa Blanca, so far. Barra de Potosi remains a working fishing village; the pangas are launched from the lagoon or beach every day and the men go to sea with their nets and lines in search of huachinango, pargo and almost whatever else they can find. Elsewhere along the beach, the locals work in the coco plantations or as general laborers wherever they can find a job. Life is quiet and synchronized with the ocean, the sun and the rains. It is hard to spend much time here without noticing how powerfully nature influences the area. It abounds here. One goal of this guide is to help visitors get a bit more deeply in touch with it while they are here.