In the 1940´s, Felix Ruiz was a young man who was determined to live to become an old one. At that time land disputes were common thoughout Oaxaca and when a quarrel in the region of Santa Maria Huatulco escalated into an all out war, eight of his friends had perished. Fed up with the fighting, he left “Rancho Las Palmas” where he was born to start a new life in a nearby region on the coast.
Felix says that there was absolutely nothing in what is now “The Bays of Huatulco”. He staked a claim of 110 hectares in the area that is currently the “Ecological Archeological Park” between la Bocana and Copalita. All he had to do was to register it at the land office in Santa Maria and it was his to work. After the backbreaking job of clearing the land manually he planted corn. Since there was no one nearby to whom he could sell it, he had to carry his crop to the market in Santa Maria along a narrow pathway via Cacaluta; the walk took him 6 hours each way. As he tilled the soil he had no idea that there was a treasure of priceless antiquity just below the surface!
Shortly after settling in the region Felix was enchanted by the charming Isobel Navaez Castillo from Barra de la Cruz. She was twenty when they were married and she is still his lovely bride after more than 50 years. Eventually they were able to buy a few cows enabling Isobel to make cheese to sell along with their corn. They believed that life was good although it was a rather severe existence.
Their rancho was so isolated that when Isobel became pregnant there was no one to assist her in labor, not even a midwife. Felix himself delivered all 3 of their children. After all, he had experience delivering goats and cow, how different could it be? Life for Felix and his family was carefree and happy with the children running loose and playing simple games. They had no money but the land provided what they needed. Without roads or electricity there was little contact with the outside world and no desire for material possessions.
When FONATUR (the federal agency that developed Huatulco) began to develop here a lot of people were skeptical about the changes and about giving up their lands. Even before the Revolution land has been an important issue in Oaxaca. In exchange for his Rancho, Felix and his family were given 5 plots of land in La Bocana. One of those lots sits on the right side facing the beach and his daughter Floraliz runs the restaurant that bears the same name, “La Bocana”. Over the years they have developed a good business and have met people from around the world in their seafood restaurant.
When he traded his Rancho, Felix was given a job as a “velador” (watchman) in the “vivero” (where the ornamental plants are propagated for the boulevards and sold to the public). As an employee of FONATUR, he and his family benefited from “seguros” which include free health care and he has been collecting a pension from the government for the past several years. Felix had no opportunity to attend school but he is proud that all three of his children completed secundaria (grade 9). His other daughter runs another small restaurant in the area that is frequented by local workers, his son works in the USA and a grandson lives in Switzerland. His world has expanded a great deal since Felix was a boy in Santa Maria Huatulco.
Felix feels he made a wise decision to leave Santa Maria to avoid the conflict. He had no idea how his life would change when he first accepted the offer to trade his Rancho when FONATUR began to develop but he believes it turned out very well for him and for his children. In January he celebrated his 90th birthday and the entire family including 9 grandchildren returned to La Bocana where a huge fiesta was planned in his honor. Much has changed since the young man from “Rancho Las Palmas” began his new life near la Bocana but he did manage to become an old one.
Brooke Gazer operates “Agua Azul la Villa”, a B&B in Huatulco, www.bbaguaazul.com