Acapulco: The golden and not so golden years of Mexico's first tourist beach
Updated: May 27, 2020
On assignment for Nat Geo Travel, documenting 85 years of Acapulco’s cliff diving tradition which began as a bet between two fishermen. Divers begin to train around 12-14 years of age and will jump up to 35 meters (135 feet) about five times per day, many for more than 20 years. Diver (clavadista) Angel David, not pictured, says “fear is your friend,” and one must remain humble, despite his storied bravado, in this sport which the divers say is an art as well as a steady job. Considered the first Mexican vacation town, Acapulco is now a bustling metropolis of more than 1 million. It’s estimated that 90-95 percent of tourists are Mexican, and foreign tourists have been on the decline for several years. Turned away by a perhaps unfair mala fama (bad reputation) and the growth of other major vacation destinations in the country, the numbers now seem to be rising. Reports from the tourism board and airport have numbers of flights from abroad at 800,000 passengers so far in 2020, more than the total for all of 2019. I heard Polish, French, German and English this evening as I watched men scale a massive rock face barefoot, kiss a statue of the Virgen of Guadalupe and launch themselves into a narrow and shallow pool of Pacific waves. Acapulco is Mexico. And Guerrero is not going anywhere. Neither are the divers.