The Fun Side of President Trump’s Wall – A Dispatch From Loreto’s New Resort

By on June 7th, 2018

Media outlets often report about President Donald Trump’s approval rating among Americans – some of whom even vote (I mean, in addition to texts into the “American Idol” television show).  How do Mexicans rank Donald Trump, though?  While the billionaire in the Casa Blanca sometimes inadvertently (or purposefully) offends U.S. citizens, it seems he more than occasionally makes Mexicans the target of his little-fingered jabs.  Donald Trump, in his campaign, even referred to Mexican illegal immigrants as “criminals and rapists.”

I decided to conduct some informal polling while on a recent sojourn south of the border: How do Mexicans respond when asked about El Presidente de los Estados Unidos?

Loreto is a very old village of 10,000 inhabitants, but it is the growing, new “it” destination in the middle of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula on the Sea of Cortez. Midway between Tijuana and Cabo San Lucas, Loreto Bay – an 800 square-mile national park teeming with jumping dolphins among the countless creatures thriving in the protected environment—the luxurious new Villa del Palmar Beach Resort and Spa bills itself as a “million-star resort” due to the astronomical numbers of twinkling stars visible from the hammocks, Adirondack rocking chairs, open-air restaurants, swimming pools, huge Jacuzzi, fire pits, and the beach at its remote, dark skies location.  The daytime view from the hotel suite balconies and dramatic new golf course reveals a sweeping panorama of volcanic islands and mountains. The golf course, TPC Danzante Bay, was designed by famed golf architect Rees Jones who created, in Michigan, Black Lake Golf Course in Onaway and Thousand Oaks Golf Club in Grand Rapids.

“Black Lake and Thousand Oaks are golf courses people want to go back and play again and again,” Jones told me.  He feels the same about his new TPC Danzante Bay. “It has dunes, desert, mountains, arroyos and canyons. It’s more diverse than any site in the world and it’s overlooking the Sea of Cortez.”  When I playfully reminded Jones that some classic old golf courses in Scotland and Ireland have stone walls running through them, Jones took the bait: “I think that Donald Trump’s wall will be built a little north of us…”

In fact, it’s over 1,000 miles from the resort to the U.S. border, but 40 minutes away in the 17th century mission village of Loreto near the airport, a shop sells t-shirts emblazoned with the phrase “Be Calm – You Are On The Fun Side Of The Wall.”  

An electronic room key is programmed into a disposable, hospital-style plastic bracelet for the guests, so one needn’t carry a key card to the pool or beach.  That’s just one of the resort’s most practical conveniences.  Imagine if border wall immigration were that simple?

I began polling Mexicans about President Trump as soon as I hit Villa del Palmar’s front desk. The attendant, who was probably expecting me to ask where the five turtle-shaped swimming pools are, winced at my question.  “I don’t like him. He’s kind of rude,” she said, “but for some people that works as long as he does what he needs to do for the country. Who am I to judge? Our president is not easy, either.”             

Mexico’s president Enrique Pena Nieto has not spent much time reacting to his American counterpart, but Andres Manuel Lopez –Obrador, former Mexico City mayor who, after two previous tries, is leading in the polls ahead of the July 1 presidential election, told followers at a campaign stop during my visit he would take a different approach. “If he makes an offensive tweet I am going to take responsibility for answering him. I think Trump is going to understand he has to get himself under control. That he cannot go around offending the Mexican people. We don’t want confrontations with him but we are going to ask him to respect us,” Lopez-Obrador said.

It seemed that Lopez-Obrador will be getting the vote of a treatment provider in the hotels’ expansive, 39,000 square-foot Sabila Spa who said, when asked about Trump, “Our president is a donkey.  So we have some of the same problems,” she said.

Laughter erupted when I asked the lively amigos who operate the Danzante Tours snorkel and sightseeing boat what they thought about President Trump.  “He is loco!” one of them exclaimed while watching to see how I’d react. “El loco presidente!”  We all shrugged and then went back to spotting dolphins jumping beside the zodiac boat as we zipped along the protected, indigo waters. The Baja Peninsula’s rugged Sierra de la Giganta range made for a scenic contrast against the placid waters.    

The response was anything but placid when Trump’s photo appeared on a magazine cover, according to the high-end American publication’s editor whom I met during a fresh fish taco lunch in the resort’s beachside Casa Mia restaurant.

“Putting Trump on the cover turned out to be the most polarizing thing we have ever done…easily,” he admitted. “We had some advertiser complaints and the Trump organization was difficult to deal with. They were very choosy about the images we used.”

Speaking of images, the 4,447-acre, low-density Villa del Palmar resort turned out, during my stay anyway, to have a number of guests with Trump connections, including a well-known golf enthusiast and Instagram star who competed in the “Miss USA” Pageant when Trump owned it.  “I was 22 years-old so I was star-struck when I met him. He lined all the contestants up and looked each of us over, head to toe, one by one,” recalled he woman, who did not win the Miss USA title. “He didn’t really speak with us; he just examined us and made notes.”       

The woman, sitting poolside, remembered meeting Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen.  “When one of the contestants was involved in a lawsuit, he came and asked us what we knew about it and instructed us what to say,” she said. “They seemed very serious about it and I was young so I didn’t know any better.”             

Another woman at the resort said she’d met Trump on a number of occasions in a professional setting.  “At one point Trump was a bit of a ‘germaphobe,’ and he purposely sat behind a very large desk so when people were ushered in to see him they could not reach him to shake hands,” she recalled. “He did pay great attention to detail, too.  At a luxury property he purchased in New Jersey he had his builders come in and move all of the door knobs in the building to a different height….by one inch.”  During the meetings the woman attended, Trump always had extra staff people in the room to confirm his opinions.  “’Am I right? What do you think?’ he would ask them. Of course their answer was ‘Yes, Mr. Trump.’”        

In any case, my busman’s holiday south of the border yielded more Trump tales than I thought it might. Each of the stories was mainly harmless and good-natured. After all, I was not about to be disrespectful to an American president while outside the United States – or inside America, for that matter, no matter which party is in power. While there may be mixed opinions about the White House occupants, the esteem for the office must remain intact.

For information on vacationing or owning at Villa del Palmar, call the resort at 1-800-790-4187 or log on to www.VillaGroupResorts.com

Michael Patrick Shiels

Michael Patrick Shiels hosts a capital-based, award-winning, syndicated morning radio program broadcast across Michigan. For a list of affiliate stations or podcasts see MiBigShow.com. He may be contacted at [email protected]

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