An Homage to Gloria

An Homage to Gloria Esperanza

Pinky, Fred and I recently had the pleasure of spending a lovely afternoon with Gloria Esperanza, a fascinating lady with some very interesting stories to tell. Gloria had been a legend to me ever since my first visit to Zipolite a few years ago. I mentioned Shambhala, her rambling, rustic resort that sits on the hills at the north end of the beach, in another one of my blog posts. She was, quite truly, the original Flower Child of Zipolite.
I have found her story—how she came to Zipolite in 1969 and ended up staying, and building this rather remarkable place called Shambhala—to be an amazing testimony to the power wielded by a determined female.
I had met Angelica, the woman who runs Gloria’s beachside restaurant, Lo Bohemio, and asked her if she could arrange for me to meet Gloria, and to see some of the jewelry she’s created over the years. I thought that there was a possibility that Gloria might be somewhat intimidating, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. She’s one of those people you meet and feel like you’ve known for a while. Her little dog, Dharma, and Pinky got along just fine. As we visited I heard stories of her first trip to this area, in the late ’60’s. They got off the bus in what was then the small village of Puerto Angel–and they got off in the wrong town. They were trying to go to Puerto Escondido, a larger town further up the coast. They decided to walk the coast a bit, following a dirt path that is now the highway. They ended up in Zipolite, not yet on the map. There was one fish shack, one small tienda, a few local families. There was no drinking water to be had for these gringas from Los Angeles. There were also no toilets, no electricity, and no hotels. The ladies had to camp on the beach and carry big bottles of drinking water along that dirt path from Puerto Angel.
As soon as she saw the cliffs at the end of Zipolite beach, Gloria was hooked. She stayed. Long story short: she married a local fisherman and settled in to life south of the border. One can only imagine what a liberated woman she was in the early ’70’s and because she experienced the macho side of the culture as a wife, the marriage ended 3 years later. But Gloria managed to eventually own the rocky north end of the beach in Zipolite. Paths had to be cut. Jungle had to be cleared. A well had to be dug. Gloria managed to pay a couple of local guys to help her. She also cut, cleared, and dug. But the well water still had to be boiled. Gloria did yoga. She chanted. She had a vision of Shambhala that started as a vegetarian restaurant and became a spiritual retreat. The seekers and the wanna-be hippies started to come. Drinking, drugs, and nudity were not allowed. Gloria continued to build. Shambhala grew. In 1994, Hurricane Pauline happened, and wrecked havoc with Shambhala. Much had to be re-built. Her personal home was damaged, and her jeweler’s tools were destroyed. At that point she started to just work with beads, and those are the pieces I saw. I liked what she had done—in fact, I came away with two necklaces.
At this point, Gloria has had some health setbacks. She finds it almost impossible to get down the hill from Shambhala, so she seems like a permanent part of it, in a house full of her artwork and stories and memories. The gleam is still in her eyes, and she still chants. She chanted while I looked at her jewelry.
Things never stay the same, and I hope that as Gloria is ready to hand It off to the next person (she now is offering part of it as lease to buy) that person will be able to find a way to carry on Gloria’s Shambhala. There is a sign right outside the restaurant that says, “Shambhala, where the 60’s never end. A continuation of the original situation. Welcoming the Return of the Flower Child.” I think Gloria could definitely bring out someone’s Inner Flower Child.