The Dirty Underbelly of Swim Up Bar Margaritas


There’s no doubt that Cabo San Lucas is beautiful.  The rock formations jut out of the water in perfect, rugged precision.  The waves are tumultuous, angry, exciting.  The sand is hot and white and the landscape is littered with enough orchestrated marble to alleviate the underlying poverty. For someone who might not want to know, like me.

I said I’d never go to an all-inclusive resort again, in part due to a margarita headache that lasted me for weeks after my return from Cancun years ago, and in part to an overall ickiness that overcomes me when I’m in Mexico, one I’ve never been able to explain.  But when our good friends invited us to their wedding in Cabo San Lucas, we really couldn’t say no.  An enormously fun group of friends, all in one place. The opportunity to honour one of our favourite couples in the world.  A warm sun and a week unplugged.  It didn’t sound so awful.

And it wasn’t.  Conversation and laughter flowed and during the ceremony my eyes prickled and I remembered how lucky I am to have found the one man in the Universe who can put up with me.  Jude jumped in pools, giddy with delight at the sun and the water.

In the morning, Corey and I would take turns getting up at the crack of dawn with our sleepless toddler.  The breakfast buffet was stunningly vast, and plates were laden with quesadillas  and homemade salsa, expensive french cheeses and organic juices.  Make-your- own omelette stations were attended by stoic, omni-beaming operators, and coffee pots sat on every table, continually steaming and refreshed quietly.  Every day I ate, enjoyed my overly full stomach and then fleetingly, uncomfortably wondered: how much waste happens here every night?

One of the waiters always had an extra smile for Jude and a twinkle in his eye and one night as he served us a glass of wine I asked him,”Didn’t I see you working here this morning?”

“Ah, yes!” he replied cheerfully,”7 am start.”

“But it’s 8:30 at night,” I said, alarmed.

“12 hour days,” he said,”6 days a week.”

Ick.  Return of the ick.  All the excess and the splendor and the shuttered-off corridors, a vague sense to being really white and really damned privileged.

The next morning I tasted bile when an older woman ignored her waitresses “good morning” to instead scowl and point at her empty drink.  And my stomach fell to my feet when I was confronted with the sour smell of vomit in a stairwell, a solemn Mexican worker scrubbing away the remains of reckless excess.  At the swim up bar I saw a middle-aged woman in a too-small bikini ground her body against a man wearing sunglasses at night and felt embarrassed, for her and for me.

The waves are pretty, but the excesses of the resort don’t mask the sadness underneath and have nothing to do with the real Mexico, which. Despite several trips to the country, I’ve never seen it.

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