For a slice of tucked away, unspoiled rural life of Mexico, look no further than the fishing village of Popotla. Leaving the hustle and bustle of the free road, you turn in under the dilapidated arch adjacent to the Baja Studios. Once you reach the end of the dirt road and politely decline offers of parking, as if by magic, your senses are assailed. Veering left you catch sight of a crescent-shaped cove framed with colorful ramshakle structures housing restaurants. The beach is lined with fish stalls and pangas offering the catch of the day on their bow.
You can park anywhere along the side. The sand is so compacted there is no risk of getting mired in a U-turn. A walk past each merchant is a feast for the eyes. I usually visit between 10 am and noon when most of the morning fleet returns. Although offerings vary with the season, you can count on white and black sea bass, red snapper, rock cod, clams and crab. Once or twice I have been lucky enough to find a toothy lingcod-they taste better than they look. It’s sheer delight to watch pangueros beaching their craft with hordes of pelicans and gulls in their wake. I was told fishing trips can be arranged.
The only street through the village is flanked by restaurants. Built, precariously it seems, on stilts many have stairways down to a rocky beach on the north side or a sandy beach on the south side. My favorite, La Ceiba, has neither located as it is at the very end right over the rocks, sprayed by breaking surf and swept over by sea birds. I have been taking friends and relatives there for years, yet I never tire of the spectacle. Ceviche, oysters on the half shell, and crab are what I go for, but companions have also praised the fish soup you can watch be prepared and “pescado zarandeado,” a butterflied whole fish rubbed with achiote, citrus and chiles and blackened on a grill. Children as well as adults are amused by the crab presented on a board with a large pebble. Imagine the ensuing bedlam with tableware jumping on the table syncopated by contented yums.
Marisol and Hector run the place and are the most gracious and accommodating hosts. You can bring your wine – no corkage fee. Part of the ritual has been, as we leave, handing Marisol my car key so she can navigate my car in reverse out of the maze and head it in the right direction. “I love to drive your truck” says she as a parting greeting.
We always go on a week day preferring to enjoy the serenity of Popoptla without crowd and loud music. This is how Puerto Nuevo was in the 70’s. I fervently hope Popotla will remain unspoiled.