Several weeks ago I visited La Cruz de Huanacaxtle for yet another wonderful show at the Tree House Bar in the Octopus’ Garden (Coral 66) by my favorite group Tatewari. Alfredo Jimenez and his wife Maria de Jesus are the owners of Tree House Bar, which is built around, actually in, an ancient Huanacaxtle tree that has seen much history over the years.
In around 1990, it welcomed the arrival of Wayland Combe Wright and Aruna Piroshki when they came to La Cruz in their hand built 36 foot catamaran from the English Cotswolds via Costa Rica and many other stops spanning eight years travel time, and established a graphics business, Huichol art shop and hostel under its shade. (see https://www.octopusgarden.mx/our-history/ for a full and exciting story). They called their business the Octopus’ Garden after the many-armed machine used in the printing business. The space now houses the Tree House Bar instead of the printing equipment.
When I visit for a show I usually stay in a room in the hostel where the venue is located and head back to Puerto Vallarta the morning after. Alfredo and Maria de Jesus have been working non-stop for months with other volunteers from the area collecting, purchasing and taking supplies to the victims of Hurricane Wilma which sort of passed us by in Puerto Vallarta but hit northern Nayarit very hard with flooding. The people are still struggling to pull their lives together. I wanted to at least make a small donation to the cause before my departure so I walked up the street to where I might find an ATM.
A few blocks from Octopus’ Garden on Coral Street, there is a property that has always intrigued me. Behind an iron fence and ornate gate is a rustic path down to a jungle-like garden. Among the foliage one perceives hints of a mysterious dwelling where the sun manages to get through and illuminate the reds and ochres of terra cota and stucco. That particular morning there was a gentleman sweeping the sidewalk outside when I passed. On my return trip I had the courage to ask him about the garden. He told me it belonged to friends of his who now live in Mascota. He asked if I had come to town for the concert and when I answered in the affirmative he told me that the fellows from the band Tatewari had taken their first guitar lessons in that house with the owner of the house, Russell, when they were quite young. I knew that story and was glad to put an actual location to the legend. In our conversation he told me of a book written by another local man, Fernando Medina Miralrio, about the history of the city of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle and offered to sell me a copy. I was delighted to acquire it.
Returning to Octopus’ Garden I found both Esau and Dany of Tatewari having breakfast and finishing up details from the concert the night before. We all examined the book and found it fascinating especially the history of the Caleros (producers of lime). They explained to me that the town had once produced major supplies of lime for construction. The rocks were collected, cooked and broken down then dried using an ancient method employed by the Aztecs. Then it was shipped by small sailing vessels to Puerto Vallarta to build the Hotel Rosarita and other hotels along the malecon. Since that time, local lime as a building material seems to have lost some of it’s appeal and indeed the ovens used to cure the material were replaced by the market buildings at the new marina and its importance to the economy of the town in more recent years was supplanted by fishing.
Alfredo and Maria de Jesus of Tree House Bar are hoping to improve the economic prospects of the town by expanding La Cruz’ reputation as an entertainment center for the southern Nayarit area. They opened their restaurant/bar and entertainment venue a couple of years ago and have been encouraging more and more groups to come to town to play. La Cruz de Huanacaxtle already has a large expat population and a beautiful new marina that brings in more and more people from abroad in their sea crafts, ranging from the super rich to mom and pops adventurers. As Maria de Jesus points out, a town like La Cruz de Huanacaxtle cannot support itself forever with fishing alone, especially with a growing population. They aim to build another livelihood for the community by attracting more music loving tourists to their beautiful town.
In addition to their beloved flamenco group Tatewari and renowned Bavarian born flamenco guitarist Wolfgang (Lobo) Fink, also a long time resident of La Cruz, they have attracted groups like Media Luna, Piel Canela, Cheko Ruiz, Diego Mondragon and many other popular entertainers from Puerto Vallarta to share their talents with the people of La Cruz and surrounding areas with great success. The couple definitely has the well-being of their extended community in their hearts and continues to do relief work and engage in community activities for the improvement of the lives of the residents.
We admire their forwarding looking attitude! Viva La Cruz and Viva la Música!