Puerto Vallarta has long been an LGBTQ+ destination known for its nightlife, but the more remote coastal town of Zipolite in Oaxaca has something P.V. doesn’t.
Zipolite is somewhat isolated; after arriving in Mexico City, a visitor can fly in to either Puerto Escondido, which is closer to the surf, or Huatulco, which is deeper inland. Both airports are approximately an additional hour’s drive from Zipolite, either by bus or private taxi.
The home of the only legal nude beach, which itself is a one-and-a-quarter-mile stretch simply called Playa, Zipolite has a long history of being a countercultural zone. In 1970, Gloria Hope Johnson moved from California to Puerto Angel, camped on Zipolite Beach, and fell in love with one of the local fishermen, Tomas Lopez. A few years later they began renting hammocks on the beach and built a restaurant. Their business, Shambhala, is still in operation, offering various-sized cabanas and a vegetarian menu.
The lovely staff at ChizMe
While the clothing-optional beach is a huge draw and the region’s gay-friendly reputation well-established, there wasn’t a specifically queer destination in Zipolite until 2018, when a man with the one-named moniker of Vincente opened ChiZme. It’s a play on the pronunciation of the word chisme, which doesn’t just mean gossip, it means the real juicy stuff.
Vincente explains, “When I moved here to Zipolite, there was no gay café or bar, and it seemed like we needed a space to call our own. And I needed something to do here, so I found a cool space, made the best of it, and used my college days experience to open the first gay cafe-bar here.”
Vincente’s gamble paid off. “Three and half years later we have moved to a new, larger space,” he says. “I basically rented a ruin and transformed it into today’s ChiZme! The reason the bar is called ChiZme is because I love the sound of the word, and this town lives on chisme.”
Zipolite is Mexico’s only legal nude beach
While both cell phone and internet services are spotty in Zipolite, the entertainment is plentiful, and at ChiZme that’s four to five nights a week, ranging from traditional Oaxacan music to burlesque and magic shows.
“The bar is a space where I can create fun, crazy ideas, play with light, and provide a space for quality live music and yet still have a choice for cocktails that are beyond the basics.” And as Vincente says, “The better the cocktails, the more enhanced the chisme!”
This piece originally ran in Out Traveler print magazine. The Spring 2022 issue is now available on newsstands.