As you see yourself, I once saw myself; as you see me now, you will be seen.
      Mexican Proverb


México is the most populous Spanish-
speaking country in the world. According to the latest statistics, México's total population is over 99 million. Mestizos, of Indian and Spanish blood), make up 60% of the population, followed by indigenous peoples  (30%), whites (9%), and other ethnic minorities  (1%).

Carnaval in Mazatlan

Visitors and locals scream, sing, shout and dance amid confetti and ribbons. Bands of all kinds play the infectious rhythms of the State of Sinaloa. And the food–oh, the food–camarones (shrimp) prepared in every way possible, washed down with ice cold Pacifico beer, for it’s Carnaval Time, Mazatlán’s biggest pachanga (fiesta). 
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March 12, 2006

by Ron Butler

As Acapulco becomes ever more splashy, many long-time regulars like to go to the famous Mexican Pacific coast resort to skip all the glitz and instead sample the faded glamour of yesterday.

Thus a bunch of us were having dinner not long ago at La Cabana restaurant on Caleta Beach in an area known as Old Acapulco.

We came in two cabs. As is always the case when two cars or cabs head out for the same restaurant at the same time, we had half finished dinner when the second cab arrived, the driver apologizing that many of the old addresses are hard to find.

But we were in no hurry. Grilled sea bass, calamares, platters of shrimp, sliced limes, tortillas, shots of tequila and chilled bottles of Tecate.

Acapulco chefs long ago got a handle on preparing fresh seafood and have been improving on it ever since. La Cabana, in business for over 50 years, started out as a simple thatched palapa and grew into the beach club and restaurant it is today. Okay, it’s a bit seedy, but the atmosphere and the prices are right.

"Johnny Weissmuller used to hang out here," somebody said, a statement quickly verified by the number of photographs on the walls and over the bar of the former Olympic swimming champion who became known to the world as Tarzan. No charging cavalry coming to the rescue in Hollywood Westerns, with bugles blaring, could stir as much emotion as Tarzan swinging through the trees and yelling his famous yell. Numerous actors have played Tarzan on the screen but for those of us of a certain age, there is only one, Johnny Weissmuller, just as Sean Connery will always be the only authentic James Bond.

Time and salt air and the dim lights made the photographs on the wall difficult to see, Weissmuller fishing, hamming it up on the docks, posing with friends. I was fascinated.

The Tarzan Movies
In all, Weissmuller made 12 Tarzan movies, from Tarzan the Ape Man in 1932 to Tarzan and the Mermaids in 1948. The latter, budgeted at over $1 million, at the time the largest budget ever for a Tarzan film, was filmed in Acapulco, not far from the very restaurant we were at.

I remember as a youngster being scared half to death at some of the more graphic Tarzan scenes. Captured native warriors being tied to crossed palm trees bent to the ground. A rope was cut, the trees snapped back into place, body parts flying all over the screen. Or being thrown into a pool filled with flesh-eating piranhas, a swirling feeding frenzy, and picked-clean bones floating to the surface. I know, I know, bones can’t float, but how else would we know?

In the "Mermaids" cast was Brenda Joyce playing Jane. Maureen O’Sullivan (Mia Farrow’’s mother), who originated the role, dropped out after movie six. She’d had enough. The newly formed Hayes Office was coming down hard on the popular Tarzan movies, less for violence than for scantily clad cast members.

Making her first major role in the film was Mexican actress Linda Christian, who was not only an excellent swimmer but who counted Mexican President Miguel Aleman among her most ardent fans. She later became the wife of screen idol Tyrone Power.

Producer Sol Lesser chose Acapulco not only for its spectacular scenery but as a place to show off Johnny Weismuller’s swimming prowess, as well as Linda Christian’s who played chief mermaid Mara, selected to wed a brutal white pearl trader who poses as a native god. Intent on making "Mermaids" the classiest of all Tarzan movies, producer Lesser hired noted Hollywood film composer Dmitri Tiomkin to do the score. Interior scenes were filmed at the Churubusco Studios just outside of Mexico City.

The Aztec ruins of San Juan de Teotihuacan (Pyramid of the Sun), north of Mexico City, served as temple scenes in the film.

It was widely reported that Weissmuller’s stunt double, Raul Garcia, was killed when he was dashed against the rocks of La Quebrada while making a spectacular dive for the film. However, a number of locals contend that the story was purely hype for the movie. A carpenter did fall off the rocks during production but wasn’t seriously hurt. Raul, at 75, is still an Acapulco legend.

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