The Coast News Group
Catching the local bus into town. Photo by Steve Anear
Catching the local bus into town. Photo by Steve Anear
Rancho Santa Fe

A cantina, rum and a fight

This is the fourth in a series of articles on the Swami’s Surfing Association, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

In 1966 the Swami’s Surfing Association had made its way down to San Blas Mexico and was enjoying the clean waves of a well organized surfing safari.

Every nightfall the group would board an aging jitney and lurch its way into town where they would be deposited at a local cantina.  In this hostelry the décor was split down the middle.  On one side lay large rough-hewn furniture patrolled by strolling mariachis.  On the other, modern chrome and glass provided a contrasting motif along with a less than adept rock band that would thrash through its sets to an audience oblivious to the missed chords hurled at them in high decibel format.


One night a fight broke out amongst the local patrons and it culminated in a drama befitting a Tarantino movie.  Right in the center of the cantina was a large terrarium containing a collection of full-grown alligators.  As the fight reached its climax a member of the losing side was hung upside down over the terrarium as the alligators carefully turned their stony gazes towards the unexpected entrée.  Order was restored however before further bloodshed and the event would become another tale to be embellished when the club returned to its northern shores.

As the trip drew to its conclusion there was one highlight left.  The local Barcardi rum distributor threw a party for the visiting Americans.  The event was on the club’s last night in San Blas in the dimly lit municipal square.  Here, long tables draped in colorful linens were hastily arranged and loaded up with the local fare as visitors and residents began to arrive.  There was a third group indirectly involved as the town jail was located adjacent to the square.  Here, pressed against the rusting bars of their cell windows, was a selection of the local lawbreakers who showed great interest in the activities of the free world unfolding just beyond their grasp.

The sponsor, at his expense, invited the club members to enjoy any drink they desired provided it contained Barcardi rum.  Many of the attendees needed no second bidding and enjoyed a raucous evening telling tall tales and making new friends only to pay the price the next morning.

The evening concluded with club president Steve Anear making a speech thanking the townspeople and the sponsor for their hospitality.

The next day, as the club made its journey north, there remained one last memento of the trip.

While everyone had been mindful of avoiding foodstuffs that might cause dietary upsets, no one had considered the ice that floated innocently in many of the drinks that were served that night.  It would take a couple of days north of the border before all members would be restored to their normal youthful vigor

Next week:  Culture shock derails the club.