The first time we went to Sayulita was in the late 1990s when it was still relatively small and quiet, although even then the surfing wave had begun to get crowded, and more than a few dozen gringos had built their trophy homes on the waterfront or on the hills above.
Fast forward. Sayulita is a boom town. It has been for fifteen years now. More houses, more tourists, more hotels, more surfers, restaurants, real estate offices, and fancy stores selling jewels, clothes, arts and crafts, and everything else. For Americans in search of a warm, sunny and semi-exotic place where they can misbehave safely, get drunk in public, and generally act out, Sayulita is ideal. Sayulita is also a breathtakingly beautiful place, a jewel of a town set on a long beach in a shallow bay with hills and a valley behind it, streams flowing through, mango and papaya and coconut trees growing everywhere, fish for the taking from the sea, waves to ride, sands to loll on—a perfect paradise, it seems. In spite of Mexico’s scary rep for violence, most of the country is safe, and aside from some burglaries and robberies every high season, there is little crime in Sayulita.
Sayulita is not unlike the Puerto Vallarta of 40 or 50 years ago. Sadly enough, it may end up like Vallarta—a small city instead of a small town—but only time will tell. At the moment, the zoning codes, at least, are keeping buildings mostly low-rise, but it is getting more dense every year. One of these days some jackass developer with enough money to pay off the right officials will probably blow the zoning code and stick a high rise on the beach, and that will be the end of Sayulita as we know it.
X DAMES (free on Amazon) is set, timewise, in the middle of the boom, as is evident in the real estate scamming that drives part of the plot. There is no need to further describe the town—everything you need to know about it is in the book or you can find it on the web. By all means, pay Sayulita a visit if you want to experience a Mexican town that is not quite Mexican but more a hybrid, being half American and half Mexican, a hippie town, a surfer town, a great town to party but not so great to learn Spanish because all the Mexicans there, or many of them, speak English. The beach is lovely if crowded, and sometimes the surf is really good. Get there soon if you plan to go. Things are changing fast.
My partner and I are surfers and have been for many years, so this turned out to be a great spot for us, and because of the nature of the town, the infrastructure, the lovely and lively youth-oriented population, and everything else, it is a perfect spot to throw a surfing contest/reality tv show. Hence the X Dames. In “real” life there have been several surfing contests held in Sayulita in recent years, and even more interesting, a Mexican reality TV show about a bunch of young people living it up in Sayulita, MI VIDA SAYULITA, has been wowing TV audiences south of the border for several years now. This has had the effect of making Sayulita not only ultra-desirable for American tourists but also for young Mexican tourists, who flock there by the hundreds—thousands!—for Spring Break (called Semana Santa or Saints Week in Mexico) and other holidays, transforming the town into party central.
We lived in Sayulita for five warm and sunny years, from 2009 to 2014, and though I had written the X Dames book before that period, after having vacationed there, most of what I wrote held true even after having experienced the town more up close and personal for half a decade. I got it pretty much right, at least for purposes of this particular story.
During that five year time I wrote several guidebooks to various parts of Mexico, worked on tourism websites, and in many ways fell in love with Mexico—and then out of love with Mexico. It is a hard place to live after while, even living in a small town on the beach. Foreign countries are so complicated!
But we will be going back, one way or another, for vacations or possibly even to live if things continue to degrade here at home, politically speaking. Time will tell. Mexico is a great escape hatch but like all such hatches, when you go through them you don’t really leave all your troubles behind, you just bring them along in another form. Some of them anyway. So it goes. Living the itinerant life that my partner and I have lived, we have learned to roll with the punches.
I do have a friend in Los Angeles who has been writing a biography of an artist not unlike the one I describe in the book, although the other artist, he who paints the private parts of ladies, is completely fictional, although the feminist artist Judy Chicago, with whom he is compared, is a real historical artist and her Dinner Party plate series is as described. There is a house that looks like the one I wrote about, up in the Malibu hills, but it does not belong to said artist or his family. It is an LA landmark of an offbeat sort.
My take on the “reality” TV biz in LA, and how a show might progress from concept to execution to completed product, is what it is. I know people in “the industry” and they gave me a few tips. Probably not exactly right, but close enough to ring true enough. In the land of make believe, that is more than enough.
Some of these characters were inspired by real people. Others I invented. That’s the way it works for me. With this book I really had no idea how I was going to resolve the unresolved plot until I got to the end and came up with the idea of having the cops see the show and then go after the crooks. As is so often the case, the bad guys get away with a lot of bad stuff here, and the victory of good over evil is a partial one, at best. Lucy lives in a world of moral relativity, a world composed of shades of gray, and though she usually makes the right choices, morally and ethically speaking, her convictions are constantly being tested and tried by circumstance. Hey, that’s life in the big city.