Gunfight in Nayarit

Spring is in the air! Here in the Riviera Nayarit that means water temps are slowly inching back to tropical and we’re having to fire up the ol’ AC for the first time in over three months.

It also means Easter is just around the corner. In Mexico, Easter is a huge deal, which isn’t a big surprise in this predominately Catholic country.

What has been a surprise is discovering how Mexicans spend their holiday.

In Guatemala, folks head back to their hometowns and villages to practice their faith and devotion in big ways. Spending Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Antigua Guatemala a few years back was one of the most fascinating and profoundly moving travel experiences that Lori and I have experienced.

We know that Mexico has its share of devotees, but by and large this particular time of year is celebrating en masse in a much different way.

It seems that the great majority of Mexicans who can afford it abandon their cities, towns, and villages for the beach.

And Sayulita is a particularly popular destination for travelers visiting from Guadalajara, one of the largest cities in Mexico.

So, we’ve decided that this year we’re going to head to the mountains for a week while Noe’s school is on break. The second week of his break (Easter Week), we’ve got some special guests visiting (Grammy, Grampy and a couple of close family friends). It’ll be our first guests we’ve hosted in well over three years so we’re pretty excited about that.

In the meantime, we’re enjoying the March sunshine and perfect climate.

Something else we’re loving about March are the sunsets! The sun has moved north far enough to see it set over the Pacific from town, without having to make the trek the western beaches of Caricitos or Patzcuarito.

The paramotorists are loving the conditions as well, it seems. And the boys are always stoked about that.

This guy is a pizza fiend.

Noe likes pizza, but doesn’t seem to crave it or anything, and he would never request it out of the blue.

Riley, on the other hand demands it, at least once a week if not more. We typically try to visit our favorite pizza place once every couple of weeks, but Riley would probably prefer we go every day…for every meal.

On Saturday, we had just finished up brunch at one of our favorite local cafes.

It was a gorgeous, cloudless morning, so Lori took the boys to what we call “rock beach” (because there are a lot of smooth river stones just below the surface) and I went back home to do a load of laundry (which is a more laborious affair in our house than I would like).

When I returned to the house, I noticed a number of Mexican National Guard set up right in front of our gate.

I didn’t actually think much about it because this happens at least once a month, when the pensioners receive their pensions at the community center across the street from where we live. The National Guard are usually there to keep the peace and protect the cash payments, presumably.

I texted Lori that the pensioner day came early this month. She replied telling me that there were also a number of national guard trucks at the beach entrance where she and the boys were playing. Lori then told me that all of the guardsmen (a dozen or so) suddenly vacated the beach, ran back to their vehicles and sped off.

I heard some commotion outside our front gate and went to investigate. One truck still remained, but the other two had left in a cloud of dust.

Hmm. Coffee break?

An hour later, Lori received this message and forwarded it to me.

Allow me to translate:

“CIVILIANS TAKE COVER. From Sayulita to Las Varas armed groups deployed as well as the National Guard. THE CONFRONTATION CONTINUES.”

(their choice of all caps, not mine)

Uh huh.


Well, interesting.

I suggested Lori think about returning home while I look into this a bit deeper. After all, our place was probably the safest place to be in the entire town during something like these. We’ve got our own National Guard unit right out front. Or maybe that makes our area a target…

Lori’s Facebook mom’s group, as you might expect, was blowing up. Lori and I felt like more details and guidance were in order before freaking out, but that didn’t stop others.

Having lived and spent quite a bit of time in places where the security situation is fluid and unpredictable, and emergency bulletins aren’t always reliable (particularly from media outlets rather than from a government source, in this case, #RadioGuayami), a few more key things needed to happen before getting too concerned about what was going on.

Details were few initially, but later in the day we were able to get a bit more from the local news outlets. Apparently, a gunfight had broken out in the beach town of Rincon de Guayabitos, which is about 20 miles up Highway 200 from here.

National Guard moved in and secured the area after engaging with heavily armed narcos (firing assault weapons and throwing grenades) for more than an hour. Highway 200 (the main north-south highway that runs along the Pacific Coast) was closed from Sayulita north to Las Varas, and residents along the route were advised to shelter in place until the situation was resolved.

There are mixed reports on what started the gunfight, but it sounds like it was most likely either a turf skirmish between two rival cartels, or a thwarted attempted assassination of a high ranking official.

There were no reported casualties.

Now, it’s important to note that, despite Mexico’s reputation for cartel-related violence (and having one of the highest murder rates in the world), these sorts of occurrences in Mexico are extremely rare, particularly in broad daylight and in a tourist destination like Rincon.

Nationwide, Mexico’s total number of murders was about twice that of the U.S. last year. In Mexico, however, the vast majority of homicides tend to be linked to involvement in cartel activity.

That’s of course not to diminish Mexico’s epidemic of drug-related violence that is on the rise. It is insanely horrendous and continues to impact every aspect of Mexican society.

However, there is little incentive for the narcos to target tourists in Mexico (and numerous disincentives), unless of course those tourists decide to get caught up in cartel activity (which obviously wouldn’t be the smartest thing, but it happens).

By mid afternoon, traffic was again flowing along the highway and the morning’s excitement had been largely forgotten here in Sayulita.

The next morning, we hailed an Uber and headed north a few miles to San Pancho. We were glad we made Sunday our San Pancho day instead of the Saturday, for we may very well have found ourselves stranded there for a few hours more than planned.

Lori’s been wanting to try the DoughJoe, the area’s only donut joint. Sayulita has nothing like this place. Last time, we noticed they also had biscuits and gravy on the menu. We’re big B&G fans and thought, why not.

Our expectations were low. After all, this is Mexico, not the American South.

We were floored by what came out.

Quite possibly one of the biggest (and most delicious) biscuits and gravy plates we’ve ever had. And did I mention huge? IT WAS HUGE!

With REAL hash browns. Not sure when the last time was that I had hash browns like these. AWESOME.

and with live music as well…

Noe wanted to recreate his photo in this spot from last year, but with Riley. Riley had other ideas.

The number of beach chairs and umbrellas seems to multiply every time we visit San Pancho. The first time we visited last October, there was only a short row of 4-5 white lounge chairs. Now, I can’t count them all.

Outside the used bookshop and cafe back in Sayulita.

Heading to the far north of North beach to escape the glut of beachgoers closer to town.

A sunset visit to Carricitos.

Nap time.

At the end of March, we rented a car and headed to the mountain town of Mascota for a week to escape the Holy Week crowds on the coast.

We rented the car the night before we were due to leave Sayulita, so we thought why not drive three miles north to San Pancho for sundowners on the beach and dinner.

We’ve been to San Pancho a number of the times over the past several months, but never in the evening around dinner time.

Like Bucerias, most restaurants in San Pancho only seem to be open for dinner.

1 thought on “Gunfight in Nayarit”

  1. Shirley Northcraft

    Your photos truly capture the experience. I absolutely love the photo of the boys sitting together in the golf cart.


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