While I travel, I aim to experience each country, each town, each moment, less like a tourist and more like a local, in spite of my undeniably priviledged state of being (not having to work and with enough disposable income to afford many luxuries most locals do not have access to – hot water, 3 meals a day, a bed!).
Word of mouth
So how did I end up experiencing one of these lavish beach parties?!
I´d heard of these parties and some of my burner friends had told me that Mayan Warrior (Mexican DJs) would be playing some time in January. Simply knowing about these parties requires knowing someone who knows about them. Buying tickets may even require joining a facebook group and being accepted in order to access the online ticket sale. But if you have cash, all of this should not be a problem of course.
Before New Year´s Eve, I was horrified to hear of parties that ranged from $150-$450 (USD). I hear tables cost $1,000 per person! For Londoners and New Yorkers, aka most of the party goers, these prices may not seem outrageous, even reasonable for NYE, but in a country where the minimum wage is approx $100 USD/ month, I find this quite sickening.
My way in…
For NYE my friends and I refused to pay those prices and instead went out in town where the entry was free, the music good and the vibes high. We moved onto free beach bar La Eufemia and danced with our feet in the sand until the sun came out. My friends left and I follwed a group of Columbians who said we could access one of these exclusive parties from the beach. We went, we danced, and I was stunned by the grandiosity of the venue (Casa Malca), but was very glad that I had not spent a penny to enter. The party lasted till 3pm, by which point my sober mind could not ignore my body´s exhaustion.
One of the Columbian friends happens to be an awesome Graffitti artist: Felipe Cespedes.
We became friends and he mentioned that he would be doing a live painting for one of these parties. Part of me wished I didn´t want to go, but the truth was, curiosity was killing me. So I asked if he might need an ´assistant´. My experience with street art..? My brother used to be a grafitti artist, does that count..? Anyway, he made it work and I got a ´free entry´to the party (I did actually assist him from midnight to 3am but it felt like a priviledge to watch him work and even help). Not only was I in, but I had access to the backstage. Oh yes, of course there is a backstage, for the many performers and co. Rather than thinking of this as a party, I started to understand it was a fully immersive experience, with some of the World´s best DJs playing.
Entertainment and Rituals
Like in many parties I normally go to in London, there were obviously ´glitter stations´, for the opportunity to be beautified.
During the night there were also numerous dance shows, with beautifully dressed artists and even some on stilts.
I was also surprised to find some of these artists burning palo santo and sage throughout the party. Both are normally used in a ritualistic way to clear negative energy. I personally burn both at home and ocasionally at parties too, yet my initial reaction was one of rejection. As if these rituals belonged more to me, which I quickly recognised as false and even asked one of the sage burners to smudge me. Ultimately, the commercialisation of ancient rituals is a positive side effect of the growth of new wave spirituality.
Everywhere I looked I saw beautiful people. In the bathroom, with better lighting, I noticed similar looking faces. Noses seemed oddly perfect and boobs a little disproportionate.
Back on the dancefloor I had the weird sensation of being surrounded by ´hippie costumes´. By that I mean that it looked a little like many of these women had gone into expensive shops and spent a lot of money, buying what they thought hippies wore. The same part of me that initially rejected the use of my beloved rituals was a little bothered by this, but again, I accepted this as the current fashion in Tulum and other trendy places around the world.
After all, what is a modern hippie and what do they look like? My opinion is that hippiedom is a life philosophy and clothes are just a way of expressing this, and recognising each other. But ultimately it doesn´t matter! If wearing flowers in their hair makes women kinder to each other and walking barefoot makes them more likely to pick up rubish on the ground, then it is all positive in my eyes. And even if it doesn´t fashion trends do not belong to anyone.
So who are these people???
I obviously don´t know who all of them are, but I did dance with some of these party people throughout the night, and the next day, while I unashamedly looked at photos on instagram, I was not surprised to recognise 2 of them (an Amercian guy and a Mexican woman with a friend or bodyguard I am unsure) who both seem to be models / professional party goers with thousands of followers.
I also met a group of women who said that they had only met people from London, LA and NYC while in Tulum. This saddened me. Their experience of my ´Mexico´ is totally sterilised and prevents any real exchanges with locals, who for the most part cannot afford the entry.
Cash free zone
Another thing that surprised me was the lack of cash. People used their entry bracelets, which they could charge and then use at the bar. (I had a staff bracelet without credit but had access to the staff food and drinks which was abundant of course.) This seems to allow for a very fast bar service, yet the bar was never empty. Most people were certainly intoxicated on many different substances, which I observed without judgement. After all, haven´t we (human beings) always gathered and partied consuming some sort of poison?
As the sun came out, I looked around me and was overwhelmed with gratitude that I got to experience such a party. The music was exceptional and there were smiles all around. We had made it till sunrise – Together. All of a sudden, it seemed to me that money and status were irrelevant. The party was so good that I went back to the same venue with a friend who was visiting from LA and insisted on paying my $100 entry so we could go. And again, I had an incredible time surrounded by these beautiful party people.
I can´t help but resent the fact that these parties exclude most locals, but I also understand why those who can afford it go! There is something quite unique about watching the sun rise over the Caribbean sea with hundreds of other people dancing to electronic music.
Thanks for reading!