Acapulco cliff divers drive tourism, put their lives on the line
Mexico’s beach resort of Acapulco is living through one of the most violent periods in the region’s history.
Yet for tourists, there’s one group of people who risk their lives daily for decades.
CGTN’s Alasdair Baverstock reports.
28-year-old Alejandro Rivera dropped out of school at the age of 11. He’s never considered learning a trade. In his family, there’s only one occupation. Five times a day, come rain or shine, he takes the 35-meter plunge from a sheer cliff face into the Pacific Ocean.
Pair of divers going off the cliff, cliff diver image on Acapulco road signs. He’s one of Acapulco’s clavadistas or cliff divers, a famous tourist attraction in the town.
“It’s an adrenaline-fueled activity. Most people won’t feel adrenaline more than three or four times in a month, while we feel it five to seven times a day. It’s a feeling that puts you in the moment and alert,” said Alejandro Rivera an Acapulco cliff diver.
The practice started 85 years ago when local fishermen took higher leaps of faith. Today, it draws thousands of visitors a year according to the Clavadistas association based in Acapulco.
“This activity involves a mortal risk. No-one’s ever died, but injuries are common. Things like detached retinas, ruptured eardrums, spinal cord injuries, lower back problems, we’ve seen broken arms, broken wrists and elbows, there’s a lot of risk,” said Jorge Ramirez of the Clavadistas Association Vice-President.
Alejandro Rivera said it’s a career that comes with risks but ultimately the decision to pursue it is left up to the individual.
“When you get injured for the first time, that’s when you decide whether to make this your career. It’s your trial by fire, after which you’ll either try again to get better, or get scared by the thought of another injury, and give it up forever,” said Alejandro Rivera an Acapulco cliff diver.
Despite all this Alejandro can’t see himself doing anything else.
“I won’t stop cliff diving, because it’s a sport, a tradition, and an art-form. And it’s something that lets me earn money for doing something I love, like any other professional sportsman,” said Alejandro Rivera an Acapulco cliff diver.
Alejandro will continue to dive off this cliff for as long as his body will allow it, and only then might he consider a more traditional line of work. He said it’s to honor his home town over everything else.