Around 3am on January 16 2017 The Blue Parrot died in a hail of bullets. Its untwitching corpse still lies where it fell on that night the BPM Festival closed for good in Playa del Carmen.
Not resting or stunned; definitely deceased.
I took the above and rather poignant pic above last month of the defunct venue which has now been abandoned for half a decade behind boards that have been fully doodled on.
According to reports, the incident began with a 'disagreement' at the front entrance on Calle 12. Three members of The Blue Parrot's security detail were listed amongst the fatalities, which rose to a total of six in number following the passing of the last in hospital around a week later.
The sound of gunfire created panic inside and a mass movement towards the barriers on the beach side (to the right in the pic above) during which a young woman was crushed to death.
Take another look at the original photo above. Where has the beach gone?
I am sure that when the stampede started it was still there. I had participated in a largely Israeli rave event at the same venue the previous May and the beach was definitely present.
When V and I used to go to The Blue Parrot in the late nineties and early noughties there was a smallish wooden dance floor right behind where those boards are lined up now. There were no barriers back then because there was no entrance fee and one could approach and enter from the beach.
The playlist there was poppy, but to the rear there was a sandier shape-chucking space which resembled some of those fantastical locations then available to mover el esqueleto — virtually — in Second life, to an altogether trancier soundtrack.
We have fond memories of taking a break from what I then considered the best bar in Central America and walking towards the shoreline to take in the twinkling lights of Cozumel on the horizon across many metres of now vanished white sand.
The Blue Parrot was at that time a nightspot within one of the leftover boutique hotels from the Bohemian, 'old Playa' era. The sand came all the way in and surrounded the bar with its swing seats which, during the sun-lit hours, was the centrepiece of an initially private beach club.
The highlight was always the 'Fire Dance' which commenced around 2am...
In the late noughties the hotel part of the set-up became an off the twig 'Norwegian Blue' thanks to all the clangorous competing clubs which sprung up along Calle 12.
The sea is now finishing the job that the noise started. (That other beach club in the foreground of the first pic has maybe a couple of years left thanks to a stack of sandbags.)
One can endure the cacophany. And I suppose one can also endure climate change right up until the moment one can't. But the bullets...
Last Tuesday someone showed up at Mamita's Beach and shot the Argentinian manager dead.
And there was another incident just a few days earlier at the Xcaret resort, which authorities (somewhat) excused as the result of a deadly dispute between Canadian guests with pre-existing criminal records.
There is no question however that the level of vice and its associated violence has reached unprecedented levels in and around Playa during the pandemic months.
There has been talk of up to a dozen belligerent small gangs (boutique cartels?) contending for territory along the coast whose sobriquet The Mayan Riviera rings ever more hollow.
I took this snap on the evening of the Sunday before Christmas when I'd been left a little agape by the extent and variety of heavy-calibre options on display in a resort that has kind of had to reinvent itself as 'family friendly' since it ceased to be the Mexican Ibiza at the start of 2017.
That same morning I had been walking down La Quinta almost alongside three members of La Marina bearing assault rifles and this did not deter a figure from darting over from a shopfront to offer me some cocaine within earshot of my ostensible escort. Les peló.
La Quinta was always a tight channel of occasionally bizarre verbal inducements. I used to write them down in my notebook, in part because they were typically vague yet comprehensive, though nowadays they are almost always highly specific and as such, unremarkable: "You want weed, blow, girls?" And reduplicated almost every block, the prefix of "hey amigo" now invariably dispensed with.
An hour further south, Tulum's travails have been well documented: algae, property piracy, Instagram etc. Ironically its demise may have been accelerated by that very shoot out around the GOT throne in the entry passage of The Blue Parrot, because the EDM crowd was thereby collectively displaced an hour southwards, to largely ruinous effect.
Shots have been fired as well as lined up in Tulum too.
I took this pic as I departed on my last visit during March 2021, which with hindsight, may very well be my last visit.
At the time I rather glibly quipped that the first gringo/a to die in the crossfire would — out of sheer statistical necessity — have to be either a DJ or an Instagram influencer.
In the end it was the latter. Anjali Ryot's final dispatch from the front line featured fetching poses from some of the boutiquey beach-side cabañas which now tend to cost more than a night at one of London's luxury hotels, and yet — perhaps revealingly for the medium within which she had established herself — she was to perish inside a rather grotty taqueria called La Malquerida set well back in the increasingly Kabul-esque township that has metastasised along Carretera Federal 307.
On that same visit I went to check what had happened to Las Ranitas, the charming Yucatec eco-guesthouse run by a French couple I had discovered around fifteen years ago. Perhaps rather fancifully, the decor always reminded me of Jessie's beachside hide-out on Cozumel (in reality Isla Mujeres) in Against All Odds.
The Froggies themselves eventually sold up and moved to Mérida, and the new owners immediately expanded (i.e. ruined) the place by taking the roof off the sala (above) and adding a humungous palapa plus the inevitable DJ and Yoga units. Even before this changeover, the appearance of Bulgari soaps in the bathroom and a preposterous American 'mixologist' by the drinks cupboard had signalled trouble ahead.
Up and down the beach I wandered last Spring, certain I was in the right place, yet I couldn't find it. And then I remembered I'd passed another of those empty stretches behind boards. And there it was, or rather wasn't, because when I pressed my eye to a gap in the barrier all I could see was weedy desolation. It was as if Las Ranitas had never been there. Only a a scattering of ripio remained.
Perhaps someone should similarly press reset on that whole stretch of beach.