As in any country, there are many Mexicos that live side-by-side, often unaware of one another’s existence. Take for example the gulf between young, middle-class city dwellers who frequent a “hippie” vacation spot on the idyllic Oaxacan coast, and the isolated, Afro-descended locals with whom they briefly, often superficially, share that space. This was precisely the situation that gave rise to the 2012 documentary Vestigios del paraíso, which is available for free streaming on Vimeo.
The film’s director, Antonio Hernández, along with co-screenwriter Óscar Pichardo began to frequent the paradisiacal Lagunas de Chacahua region of the Costa Chica over eight years ago, first as mere tourists. But after sustained contact with the region led them to wonder about the deeper social reality inhabited by the town’s residents, the two close friends decided to “stop sunbathing and get out of the hammock,” putting together a documentary project with their film collective, Detona, that eventually scored funding from the National Institute of Anthropology and History.
Taking as their subjects three optimistic children who spend their lives amongst the waves and dream of one day being professional surfers, Hernández and Pichardo documented the trio’s preparation for a big surf competition in the nearby city of Puerto Escondido. It would be the three friend’s first time venturing outside of their small island, and at the film’s conclusion they are confronted with conflicting attitudes and customs never previously encountered.
Along the way, the film explores some of the ills plaguing this otherwise blissful community: migration, absentee fathers, substandard education, and the destruction of the natural environment. The documentary also closely examines the rich ecosystem of the Lagunas de Chacahua, with an abundance of unique flora and fauna that stand in stark contrast to the material poverty of its residents.
Vestigios del paraíso premiered at Mexico’s renowned Cineteca Nacional as part of the Sumario film program, before going on to play at documentary festivals across Mexico and Europe. The film will be available for streaming indefinitely, but rarely are international audiences offered such an intimate glimpse into daily life in the underrepresented region of La Costa Chica. Don’t put this one off. Watch the entire film above and for a quick preview, here’s the trailer.