Dispatch, Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo: The roots of Zihuatanejo style

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Intern Emma Weissmann traveled on a press trip to Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo to see what the area has to offer. Her first of three dispatches follows:

A tiled terrace at La Casa que Canta.

Before I arrived at La Casa Que Canta, the host hotel for a press trip to Zihuatanejo, Mexico, I had done a Google search on the area and explored the hotel's website. The hotel's homepage featured beautiful photos of the ocean views, king-size beds adorned with flower petals and, to my delight, infinity pools.

Although I had spent time exploring the website, I was taken aback by the sheer beauty of the property when I arrived. It wasn't the beach views or the infinity pools that wowed me -- although they were impressive -- but rather the hotel's intricate attention to detail. When I arrived at my suite, I was met with a beautiful tiled terrace overlooking Zihuatanejo Bay (a fishing port that has been in use for more than 500 years), a bed adorned with flower petals arranged in an intricate design and patterned stone floors.

I was later told that the hotel was designed in a certain "Zihuatanejo style" of architecture, one which had become iconic to the city in the past 30 years. Enrique Zozaya, the architect behind La Casa Que Canta and its neighboring hotel, the Viceroy Zihuatanejo, among many other hotels in the area, designed all his buildings in the same way -- with the use of all-natural and local materials from the area, including wood, adobe stone and tule, a type of material used for palm leaf roofs.

La Casa que Canta family villa

The style "was not planned, it happened naturally," Zozaya told me.

Thirty years ago, Zozaya and his team did not have access to many materials. He never built from the ground up, but rather used the same foundation from older properties, and donkeys were used to carry materials to the construction site.

It's safe to say that Zozaya's designs have caught on in the rest of Zihuatanejo, too. Now, in addition to the hotels, Zozaya's influence can be found in more than 100 private residences in the city. It is also used as a way to promote Zihuatanejo and distinguish it from larger, more tourist-heavy destinations such as Acapulco and Cancun.

"We are trying to establish an identity," he said. "It has started to look like a city with its own style."

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