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Acapulco (Officially known as Acapulco de Juárez) is a city, and major sea port in the state of Guerreromarker on the Pacificmarker coast of Mexicomarker, southwest from Mexico Citymarker. Acapulco is located on a deep, semi-circular bay. It is a port of call for shipping and cruising lines running between Panamamarker and San Franciscomarker, Californiamarker, United Statesmarker. As of the 2005 census, the population of the urbanized area was 616,394, while that of the administrative municipality was 717,766 people. The municipality, which has an area of , includes numerous small localities outside of the city. The tourist resort city of Acapulco is the largest city in the state, far larger than the state capital Chilpancingomarker.

The name "Acapulco" comes from the Nahuatl language, and means "place of big reeds".

Geography

The town was built on a narrow strip of low ground, scarcely half a mile (800 m) wide, between the shoreline and the lofty mountains that encircle the bay to the north and east. Access to the town from inland is through the mountains via a tunnel that was constructed in the 1990s. A passage through the mountains, called Abra de San Nicolas, has been constructed, and it allows cooling sea breezes to reach the city.

Climate

Acapulco's climate is Tropical wet and dry (Köppen climate classification Aw), with a marked dry season in the winter and warm to hot temperatures year-round. Precipitation is heavily concentrated in summer, while winter is mostly dry and sunny.

History

Pre-Columbian Era

Archeological evidence shows that Acapulco has been inhabited since before 3000 BC. The first vestiges of human presence consist of figures and pottery made of clay, stone, and ceramics. The pieces found in the coastal region of Puerto Marqués are the earliest known ceramics from Mexico, and they could be the oldest in Mesoamerica.

Cave paintings from 1200 BC and petroglyphs have been discovered on Pie de la Cuesta. They indicate the early presence of fishing settlements, with agriculture and hunting as secondary activities. In a mountainside near Palma Sola, situated in the Veladero National Park, calendaric beads and 18 giant granite stones engraved with anthropomorphic, zoomorphic and geometric details have been found. They were created between 200 BC and AD 600. During this period, nomadic tribes from the northeast of Mexico entered what is now the state of Guerrero. Evidence of their presence has been found near the city.

Spanish colonial period

A 1628 Spanish relief map of Acapulco Bay.
The first reference to Acapulco in the history of the Viceroyalty of New Spain was made as early as 1519, by Bernal Díaz del Castillo in his "Historia Verdadera de la Conquista de Nueva España" (True History of the Conquest of New Spain). Spanish captain Hernán Cortés sent several expeditionary groups to the Mexican Pacific coasts in order to find a new commercial route towards Asia. The expedition led by Francisco Chico discovered Acapulco on December 13, 1521, Santa Lucía's day, after whom he named the new found bay. Later, in 1523, Juan Rodríguez Villafuerte led Zacatula's expedition, arriving first at Zihuatanejomarker, where he built the first shipyard of the New Spain. Then, after producing several caravels and brigantines, he sailed to Acapulco, where he formally took possession of the port in the name of the Kings of Spain, driving in the sand the cross and the staff with the banner of Castille and Aragón.

In 1532, by royal order, Acapulco became a direct dependency of the Spanish Crown, receiving the name of Ciudad de los Reyes (City of the Kings). Later, in 1550, Carlos V, King of Spain and Emperor of Germany and the Indias Occidentales (Western Indies), promoted it to historical city by royal decree.

It soon became a major port for Spanish ships carrying spices gathered from the Asia-Pacific region.

For more than 256 years, a trading movement, known as the Manila-Acapulco Galleon, set sail from Acapulco to the Philippine Islandsmarker. Its trade started an annual merchant fair in Acapulco where traders bargained for the galleon's cargo of spices, silks, porcelain, ivory, and lacquerware.

Acapulco's yearly treasure soon attracted pirates from both England and the Netherlands, who had sailed from the Caribbeanmarker sea. In 1579, Francis Drake attacked the coast of Acapulco, but failed to capture the Spanish Galleons; but in 1587, off the coast of Cabo San Lucasmarker, Thomas Cavendish seized the Santa Anna, taking most of the treasure.

After a Dutch fleet invaded Acapulco in 1615, the Spaniards rebuilt their fort, which they christened Fort San Diego in 1617. The fort was destroyed by an earthquake in 1776 and was rebuilt by 1783. The Mexican War of Independence, between 1810 to 1821, put a permanent stop to the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade.

The Golden era of Acapulco

A beach in Acapulco
In 1933 Carlos Barnard started the first section of Hotel El Mirador, with 12 rooms on the cliffs of La Quebradamarker.

The principal architect and visionary for the development of Acapulco was Miguel Alemán Valdés, as president of Mexico from 1946 to 1952. The main avenue that runs along the Acapulco Bay is named after him.

In 1949 Carlos Barnard started the "La Perla" restaurant, adjoining his Hotel El Mirador at La Quebradamarker.

Teddy Stauffer (Mr. Acapulco) was also important. He created the first discothèque, "The Tequila a Go-Go", and the most glamorous hotel at that time (Villa Vera).

Present day Acapulco

In the early 1960s Acapulco had a population of about 50,000.

Acapulco has hosted yachting as part of the 1968 Summer Olympics. The city was devastated by Hurricane Pauline in 1997.

Acapulco as a holiday resort

Acapulco Bay
Since the 20th century, Acapulco has been a popular resort for tourists taking long holiday weekends cruises from the United States, the Mexican interior and countries in South America. Eventually, it began competing directly with the Cancúnmarker on the East Coast as a super-tourist destination. In the past three decades, air fares have become increasingly affordable as international airlines added flights and infrastructure to support the increasing air travel. The two beach resorts are located on opposite coasts oriented due East and West from the other. The city has had its star-spangled times, leading Sammy Cahn to reference it in his lyrics for "Come Fly With Me". Modern Acapulco is a featured destination for many Pacific cruise ship packages and international air carriers.

In recent years, within the younger crowd, Acapulco has made up some ground on Cancún as a popular spring break destination. This growing popularity may be because Acapulco offers a different unknown experience when compared to Cancun. Apart from just the beach, Acapulco's best known island Roqueta, is a great attraction which is typically reached by glass-bottomed motor boats (enabling a clear view of the sea bottom). As in Cancún, water sports such as water skiing, para-sailing, scuba diving, deep sea fishing, sailing and snorkeling excursions are available in many price ranges amongst the picturesque coastal waters.

Several real estate, hotels and timeshares had been developed in the Acapulco Diamante (Diamond Acapulco) zone. A very important development has been built by Mayan Resorts the largest vacation club and golf operator in Mexico.

Beginning in the 1990s, the government has invested more than US$1 billion in an effort to upgrade Acapulco's infrastructure. Sewage systems have been improved and tons of trash have been hauled off the beaches. The water has once again been pronounced safe for swimming, although Mexico uses a lower standard for water quality than Europe.

Transportation

City of Acapulco
From the U.S., many airlines now fly to Acapulco Airportmarker year-round. While in the city, there are many buses and taxi services one can take to get from place to place, but most of the locals choose to walk to their destinations. However, an important mode of transportation is the government subsidized 'Colectivo' cab system. These cabs cost 10 peso per person to ride, but they are not private. The driver will pick up more passengers as long as seats are available, and will transport them to their destination based on first come first served rules. The colectivos each travel a designated area of the city, the three main ones being Costera, Colosio, Coloso, or a mixture of the three. Coloso cabs mainly travel to old Acapulco. Colosio cabs travel through most of the tourist area of Acapulco. Costera cabs drive up and down the coast of Acapulco, which is where most of the hotels for visitors are, but also includes some of old Acapulco. Where a driver will take you is partly up to his choice. Some are willing to travel to the other designated areas, especially during slow periods of the day.

Acapulco, Puerto Marquez


The bus system is highly complex, and can be rather confusing to an outsider. As far as transportation goes, it is the cheapest form other than walking in Acapulco. The most expensive buses have air conditioning, while the cheaper buses do not. For tourists, the Acapulco city government has established a system of yellow buses with Acapulco! painted on the side of them. These buses are not for tourists only, but are certainly the nicest and most uniform of the bus systems. These buses travel the tourist section of Acapulco, driving up and down the coast. There are buses with specific routes and destinations, generally written on their windshields or shouted out by a barker riding in the front seat. Perhaps the most unusual thing about the privately operated buses is the fact that they are all highly decorated and personalized, with decaling and home made interior designs that range from comic book scenes, to adult theme, and even to "Hello Kitty" themes.

Attractions

Since 1934 the La Quebrada Cliff Divers have performed their impressive jumps into the shallow water and dangerous tides that form in the bottom part of La Quebradamarker. The Acapulco cliff divers were featured regularly on the weekend sports program ABC's Wide World of Sports in the United States during the 1970s.

Nightlife

Generally, Acapulco offers a very good nightlife. Its main clubs are considered to be Alebrije (the largest in Latin America); Palladium; Baby´O, which many consider the best nightclub in Acapulco; and Classico, a branch of the original club located in Mexico City, very popular among the elite youth from the capital.

During spring break, many bars and night clubs sign special contracts with U.S.-based travel companies and cater specifically to the needs of the American crowd, which pay in advance through the travel company (the venues cater to everyone, however). Due to this, there are distinct areas in which the American spring breakers are dominant, mainly around the coast where most hotels are located. Most clubs are open bar, while the smaller bar establishments are pay on tab (these also tend to have DJ or live music and dancing).

Spring Break Controversy and Violence

In February 2009, the US State Department issued a travel alert directed at college students planning spring break trips to Acapulco. The warning—a result of violent activity springing from Mexico's drug cartel debacle—took college campuses by storm, with some schools going so far as to warn their students about the risks of travel to Mexico over spring break. An email to a listserv of The Owl Society—an underground social club at Penn—reported that former CIA director George Tenet forced his own son to cancel a trip to Acapulco after allegedly receiving intelligence that the drug cartels were planning attacks on American spring breakers, which he later admitted was made up by him. The email quickly spread across Penn's campus and reached campuses all across the country overnight. The New York Times tracked the travels of another Penn student on spring break in Acapulco just a week after the dissemination of the email, while Bill O'Reilly devoted a segment of his show, The Factor, to urge students to stay away from Acapulco. In June 2009 a number of incidents occurred between the drug cartel and the government. These included coordinated attacks on police headquarters and open battles in the streets involving large-caliber weapons and grenades. However, no incidents of violence against spring breakers were reported.

References

  1. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/32/World_Koppen_Map.png
  2. Portal de Acapulco - Acapulco y su Arquitectura
  3. World Book Encyclopedia, 1967 Edition, Vol. 1, p. 19
  4. http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/pa/pa_3028.html
  5. http://burrohall.blogspot.com/2009/03/slam-dunk.html
  6. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/11/world/americas/11cancun.html
  7. http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/americas/06/08/mexico.violence/index.html
  • [1] Armella de Fernández Castello, Corina, Acapulco, Ed. Estoril, 1997.
  • [2] Brush, Charles F., Pox Pottery: Earliest Identified Mexican Ceramic, Science, Vol. 149, No. 3680, pp. 194–195, 1965


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