Bucerias Beat: Beautiful Baños

If you haven’t noticed the stunning murals dignifying the walls of Bucerias’ public beach bathrooms, then you’re not paying attention. The final mural was finished this week and, thanks in large part to the inspiration, perseverance, and support of Harold Sokolove and Sue Fornoff, we now have seven beautifully adorned baños, one for each andador (public beach access).  I spent time down at Bucerias’ andadores this week talking to tourists, beach sellers, and the few residents who have taken on responsibility for their care and upkeep.

My first chance to discuss the restrooms came early one morning as a group of beach vendors gathered to make change for one another, use the facilities, and prepare in the shade for another hot round in the sun. We spoke about how helpful the baños are for those who work on the sand, and one man commented that Bucerias is his “favorite beach to sell along, because of such shady places to sit un-harassed, with clean bathrooms and showers to use.” In addition to clean toilets, sinks, and showers each access point also provides trashcans, recycling bins and free plastic bags for visitors to pack their garbage, wrap-up wet clothes, or take their new shell collections home.

The next andador I visited is proudly maintained by a husband and wife team who have cleaned and cared for their baño on Calle Augustín Melgar for more than three years. Hugo and Norberta explained how they earn a small income by selling toilet paper and exchanging the plastic and aluminum they collect from people’s garbage. Some folks also give them tips for their service, but they receive no money from the government. Hugo shared that he enjoys helping visitors understand the process of separating their garbage, as many tourists they encounter have never been taught to recycle, nor question the lingering effects of plastics in our bay.  Norberta’s smile was genuine as she explained that she and her husband know they are doing something important for the town of Bucerias, and for the environment we all share.

Lastly, I spent some “andador-time” with Harold, who was refilling the plastic bag dispensers, while admiring the final mural to be completed. He explained the wins and losses throughout the two-year process he and his team endured to get these beach bathrooms painted.  Spanning two municipal administrations (they practically had to start over when political power changed hands last year), there is nothing like Mexican bureaucracy to make one want to throw in the beach towel. Harold credits Claudia Guzman-Vidal from the new Office of Municipal Tourism for helping their vision finally become a reality. She’s worked hard with his team of private donors and artists to finish this year and each baño now features a different local muralist!

Harold’s vision for beautifying Bucerias does not end with bathrooms, and we spoke about the current trend to highlight and commission urban street art. “This is the Bucerias Art District!” Harold exclaimed, “I would love to see a lot more murals instead of concrete walls. We have many talented artists in our town, and if you check out shops like Bici Bucerias and Galeria Monarca, their murals have already become popular tourist attractions.” In fact, a quick online search now leads to hundreds of “Street Art Tours” in cities from Guadalajara to Berlin to New York.

As Bucerias hosts more and more visitors annually, with it’s weekly “Art Walk” along the South end galleries, I too would love to see original street art gracing our ever-expanding walls, and more community support for similar projects that keep our beaches clean and our town unique.

If you’d like to get involved in beautifying Bucerias, from mural painting to plastic bag donations, give Harold and Sue a shout at harold.sokolove@gmail.com.