Monday, April 20, 2009

Curiousity Capers

I've always been the kind of person that isn't satisfied with the 'official tour'. When I was a kid my parents took us to Hearst Castle in San Simeon. I was thrilled with the tales of Hollywood big wigs and the massively overdone architecture. I longed to jump into the Neptune Pool or climb the tower but was herded back by the sharp eyed tour hostess. By the time I reached college I had honed my skill at gaining admittance "behind the ropes" and my insatiable lust for exploring forbidden properties increased ten fold. I knew I was truly hooked when one fateful afternoon a boyfriend of mine was arrested for trespassing when he attempted to climb into what I had thought was an abandoned Victorian mansion in Portland's west hills. Although the house was uninhabited, it WAS filled with valuable antiques and a security system. I had encouraged him to help me find access to yet another historical venue and yet I walked away scot free. As the patrol car drove slowly away bearing my latest suitor, I waved sadly but considered this episode just a small detour in my chosen hobby. The years passed and along the way I finagled my way into an assortment of fascinating 'off limits' structures always accompanied by some poor soul who had been blindsided into reluctant participation. My husband is now my, albeit somewhat bemused, partner in crime and has helped me explore such places as The Empress Hotel in Victoria, the attic of one of the Great Western Lodges in the US and a rambling 14th century Chateau outside Toulouse, France. So when we began to visit Zihuatanejo it was only a matter of time before I noticed the grand structure up on the hill above Playa La Ropa, known locally as "The Parthenon". I was determined to gain admittance.
A little history about The Parthenon of Zih: It was built by Durazo Moreno, the former infamous police chief of Mexico City. He was appointed Chief by the former President of Mexico, Jose Lopez Portillo a childhood friend of Durazo. Moreno soon took advantage of his new position to greatly enhance his wealth and power. As detailed in the wildly popular Mexican bestseller, "Lo Negro del Negro Durazo" written by Durazo's body guard, Jose Gonzolez, Durazo, played the system to promote corruption and drug trafficking, resulting in the ability to live a lavish and decadent lifestyle. At times, using his own police officers as laborers, he constructed several palatial homes throughout Mexico. One of these was The Parthenon in the hills above Zihuatanejo. The authorities turned a blind eye to his Dionysian extravaganzas. At times hundreds of guests would be flown in to attend one of his many parties. When asked how he managed to live in such a manner on his modest salary of about 65.00 US, Durazo is said to have answered, "My wife is very thrifty." Well, all good things must come to an end and when he found out he was under indictment in the US for drug trafficking he fled to Costa Rica. Eventfully he was extradited to Mexico, convicted and jailed for a few years before being released. He is said to have lived out the rest of his life in Acapulco dying in August of 2000 at age 80.

So..back in Zih and how we came to be inside this place..