The Police Chief’s Residence
03 March 2008 | Zihuatanejo, Mexico
Zihuatanejo is a beautiful bay surrounded by lovely steep hills that are not entirely filled with homes, condos, hotels and restaurants. Not long after arriving here in the bay, John and I noticed a building high on the hill between the Madera and La Ropa anchorages. It caught our eye because the architecture was quite different from anything else in the area- it looks like a Greek temple. From the boat we could see 8 huge columns supporting a roof topped with a pediment, a triangular gable decorated with sculpture. (Can you tell I've been making use of our Encyclopedia Brittanica DVD?)
Shortly after we noticed "The Parthenon", a fellow cruiser mentioned it during the morning radio net. He said it was one of several residences that belonged to a corrupt Chief of Police who has since died in jail. Good stuff! He said it's now abandoned but if you ask the security guard nicely he might let you look around.
Anyway, we were finally reunited with our friends on Tin Soldier who arrived in Zihuat this past Friday. (We hadn't seen them since Mazatlan, two and a half months ago!) During our celebratory Happy Hour we pointed out "The Parthenon". They were intrigued as well and on Sunday they radioed us in the morning to see if we'd like to take a hike up the hill to explore it. Of course we would!
We dinghied to shore and started up the steep hill. We had some difficulty finding access to the property itself but after wandering a bit- and then John asking a local- we were able to discover the long-abandoned and overgrown drive that led up to the house.
As we walked up the drive we began to see the property and it was obvious that nobody had been looking after this place for many years. The pavement of the drive was cracked and overgrown with weeds, and the Greek-style statues that once decorated the grounds were fallen and broken. At the top of the drive we found huge iron gates (nearly 30 feet tall!) that blocked access to the primary residence. Just to the left, outside the gates, were what appeared to be staff quarters and a carport. The carport was divided by large stone columns, and could accommodate at least a dozen vehicles.
Reclining on a hammock in the carport was a little old man who we took to be the security guard, even though he looked more like a homeless man. Unfortunately his English was even worse than our Spanish, so it took a little time to explain to him what we wanted to do. Actually I think he understood quite well what we had in mind but acting like he didn't enhanced his negotiating position. And negotiate he did. At first he acted surprised that we would ask to look around. He then played coy while we suggested that maybe we could pay to look around. "But this is private property! I can't let just anyone go wandering around in there", he seemed to be saying. We offered him five dollars. No go. He wanted twenty and was rather insistent. We decided ten dollars was fair (there were eight of us) and let him know it was ten or nada. He decided that was a good deal after all and got up to retrieve the key to the service gate.
Our little friend decided to accompany us on our tour. He actually had lots of information to impart, unfortunately most of it was lost in translation. Basically the place has been abandoned for 20+ years. That made sense, as much of the interior décor was decidedly late 70's or early 80's. Outside the main residence was a cage that supposedly once housed a lion! There's an aqueduct on the hillside, which fed a large manmade waterfall.
As we walked through the front door we saw the floors and walls were covered in Italian marble. There were huge frescoes painted on the walls. The entryway opened up to a huge outdoor living area overlooking the bay. (Britannica calls this a portice-an area with a roof supported by columns. Neat, huh?) The view was amazing. There were steps leading from the portice down to a large classically-shaped swimming pool and an outdoor "disco", a domed-roof area with a wet bar and disco lights suspended over a dance floor. It was obvious to us that this place was designed almost exclusively for entertaining on a lavish scale.
Our guide indicated that the former owner (who seemed to be preoccupied with "el Diablo" given the nature of the frescoes) did indeed die in jail and the government now owns the property. For a mere ten million U.S. dollars you too can own a little bit of paradise. Probably not that great of a deal given the state of disrepair... and the bats living in the closets!