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Zihua Sailfest Gives Young Scholars Hope

For indigenous kids from Zihua’s hillside communities, a day at the beach isn’t all that common. But during Sailfest many of them enjoy beach games with the cruisers and frolicking in the surf of Zihua Bay.

© 2011 Margaret Reid

Throughout Mexico and Central America there’s a long tradition of cruising sailors giving both their time and money to worthwhile causes. But none has been so fruitful — that is, helped more local people — than the annual Zihuatanejo Sailfest. Every winter visiting cruisers and expats-in-residence join local business people and volunteers to raise funds in support of schools for indigenous children.

The 10th edition of this week-long, fun-filled festival raised nearly $36,000 USD (431,000 pesos) which will all go to educational projects of the nonprofit Por Los Niños de Zihuatanejo, a Mexican foundation created specifically to aid local grade-school-aged children. Forty-four sailboats and several power boats participated in a full slate of activities which included a pursuit race, a parade of sail, and four sold-out benefit concerts by local and international performers. See a complete report in the March edition of Latitude 38.

The ‘Catch 22’ of Mexico’s mainstream school system is that you can’t attend unless you speak Spanish. Sailfest funded classrooms help to bridge the language gap.

© 2011 Lynn Bradbrook

Unfortunately, shortly after the event ended, a rumor began to circulate that the Mexican development organization FONATUR planned to charge 150 pesos per day for sailors to anchor in Zihua Bay. This still-peaceful fishing town has long been regarded as a favorite cruiser hangout due to its tranquil, no-hassle nature. So naturally, many longtime visitors were upset by news of the imminent regulation.

A favorite stopover for cruisers, the tranquil nature of Zihua Bay has faced many threats, including a proposed cruise ship terminal several years ago which was shot down thanks to outcry from the local community and from sailors.

© 2011 Margaret Reid

We’re happy to report, however, that the rumor was unfounded. After discussions with FONATUR Port Administrator Fernando Gaytan, Sailfest organizer and permanent Zihua resident Lorenzo Marbut has advised us that there was simply some sort of "misunderstanding." Gaytan assured Marbut that FONATUR greatly appreciates the volunteerism of the cruisers, and would do nothing to hamper their efforts to help the children of Zihuatanejo. To learn more about this worthwhile event and its charity components, visit the website. The schedule of events for Sailfest 2012 will be posted there soon.

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