In the 1950s and 1960s Acapulco, a resort city on Mexico’s Pacific Coast, was a favorite getaway for Hollywood stars.
In the last few years, violence perpetuated by organized crime groups and street gangs has scared away many international tourists. In terms of murders per capita, in 2012 Acapulco was the most violent city in Mexico and the second most violent city in the world.
In the hills outside of Acapulco, many residents have taken up arms, forming citizen police patrols to fight off extortionists and kidnappers.
Residents in many areas outside of the tourist zone along the coast continue to complain about security problems and threats from criminals.
Juan Carlos Alvarado, the Operations Chief of Acapulco’s Tourist Police, stands in front of his police truck.
Along the coast federal police, state and municipal police work together to patrol the tourist zones.
Jesus Cortez Jimenez, Acapulco’s Secretary of Public Security, explained that along the road by the beach “there’s tourist police in white shirts, state police, federal police, marines, and soldiers dressed in military camouflage.”
Acapulco’s politicians are working with Carlos Slim, Mexico’s wealthiest businessman, to revitalize the city. Slim chose Acapulco as the site for his company Telmex’s new call center.
An army truck passes in front of the Telmex center.
A taxi driver stands in front of his car. Despite improvements in security along the coastline, many taxi drivers continue to complain about extortion.
A Volkswagen beetle passes in front of the Telmex Center in Acapulco, Mexico.
Fisherman sell their catch at the beach. Many small entrepreneurs have been hurt as tourism declined over the last few years.
As part of the city’s renovation plan, the spray-painted buses will be replaced by a modern, Mexico-City style rapid transit bus system.
In addition to the fleet of aging Volkswagen beetle taxis, Acapulco currently has a system of kitschy public buses that blast reggaeton music and weave up and down the coast-front road.
Despite the ongoing security problems, the natural beauty of the bay in Acapulco continues to draw Mexican tourists from Mexico City and other parts of the country. Many cruise ships, however, still refuse to dock in Acapulco.
Matt Silverman, a tourist visiting Acapulco from Manhattan said, “Although the newspaper headlines and armed guards are a bit disconcerting, since I arrived here I’ve felt mostly safe.”
An elderly woman looks out of the window of one of Acapulco’s soon to be extinct reggaeton buses. Residents hope the positive trends of investment and renovation will help the city overcome its current struggles with crime.
Once a hideaway for the clique of Hollywood stars led by John Wayne, Cary Grant and Liz Taylor, Acapulco has more recently become home to a different type of gang. All photos by Nathaniel Parish Flannery.