Partying at the Taj Miguel

Palapas on Mexican beach.

My typical Mexican abode looks like this.

I like huts and I like vans. I don’t exactly like tents, but I feel at home in the bastards. When I go on a trip to Mexico, I expect to spend the majority of my time camping in the dirt or sand, with rudimentary bathroom facilities and numerous coolers. I do not expect to spend my time in a pseudo-Moorish palace, replete with minarets and sculptures of Nubian slaves.

A reunion of the family of friends that centered around Eve and John Muir, the founders of JMP publishing (the original publishers of The People’s Guide to Mexico, along with several other hippie cult classics such as How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive), Beach Party 2014 took a lot of planning. Forty-five people, three generations, two weeks, flights, accommodations, dinner plans…*It sounded like a logistical nightmare. After I agreed to attend, I tried to stay out of the planning process, to the point that I didn’t actually bother to look at the links to the places where we’d be staying. So the Taj Miguel came as a surprise.

Piled on a jungled hillside like a cascading sculpture of marshmallow cream, the Taj Miguel is pure spectacle. Officially called “Villas Paradise” but known to the locals as the Taj Miguel (evidently, the guy who conceived of it was named Miguel), the villas look like they sprang directly from the rural Mexican imagination. The Villas Paradise are a palace as imagined by a ranchero who made the big time.

Villas Paradise in San Pancho, Mexico

my typical Mexican residence does not normally look like this

The Taj Miguel is classy with a “k,” lavish to the point of ludicrous, but not quite luxurious. By that I mean, the villas are chock full of elephant sculptures and low on amenities. For example, the penthouse suite featured a huge kitchen stocked with one pan, a smattering of silverware, and maybe three plastic mugs. Actually, I liked the weird tropical funkiness of the place: the cracked plaster, the questionable artwork, the sloping tiled piazza. All these bizarre, quintessentially Mexican details made me feel better about forsaking my usual ethos of avoiding anything that might even marginally resemble a resort.

Of course, it’s easy for me to sing the praises of dysfunction because Lorena and I were actually staying at the nearby Casa Romero, a comfortable beach house with a well-appointed kitchen. Thus, we had the best of both worlds. We spent our days on the beach or in a spacious house, and then in the evening we wandered up to the penthouse suite of the Taj Miguel to enjoy the moonlit expanse of the terrace, which was about the size of a football field. Here beach party denizens would gather to listen to the musical stylings of the reunited “Banda Supermercado.” At night, the garish decor couldn’t diminish the actual beauty of the place: minarets ghostly in the moonlight,  the panoramic view of San Pancho’s gorgeous beach, the echo of laughter in Moorish domes.

San Pancho, Mexico DSCF9316 DSCF9329 DSCF9334 DSCF9337 DSCF9340 DSCF9183 DSCF9181

Although the actual residents of Villas Paradise did complain about the hotel’s creative re-invisioning of luxury, I think we all agreed that the place was a good fit for us. After all, this family of friends is distinctly outlandish, funky, and prone to hedonism, so where better to reunite than at a Mexican party palace inspired by the Taj Mahal? Lurid paintings of Siberian tigers and forty-foot columns painted to look like elephant legs only stoked the fire. The location was as over-the-top as its temporary inhabitants; like the beach party family, the Taj Miguel has a magnificence born of equal parts true beauty and epic absurdity.


*Thanks to Cree and Fred for doing the footwork.





14 Responses to “Partying at the Taj Miguel”

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  1. -El Codo- says:

    Wotta Freakin’ Hoot !!!

    An “Only -ElCodo- Can Come Up With Something Like This” moment…

    Outdoor facilities for the ladies. After the 214th ragging…

    Went to a Balconaria (metal working shop.

    Had them use 1/2″ diameter VARILLA re-bar

    30″ long. Curl one end into a loop

    Sharpen the opposite end to a point

    Pound into the ground far enough down to be comfortable and stable.

    An upwards yank removes them for the “next use”.

    Wrap the curl with tape to increase comfort while gripping.

    Hang a ziploc of col (lime) to dust the area after use.

    A real life-saver women tell me when they have a hangover.

  2. Maria PLT says:

    I always wondered what it was like in there! I’m not disappointed to hear that it is as eccentric on the inside as the outside. Thanks for sharing this. Maria

  3. churpa says:

    Thanks for reading Maria. If you can ever infiltrate the Taj Miguel, it’s definitely worth a look.

  4. Elizabeth Burleigh says:

    Great write-up, Churpa! We thought the palace fit the group perfectly, too. Funky Mexican-Moroccan elegance, costume parties and a fashion show, a great band and great company, not to mention piña coladas on the beach. Hope we do it again soon. Love, Ellie

  5. Carl Franz says:

    Although it will take me a while to clean the bits of muffin I honked into the keyboard of this laptop, I want to thank you, Churpa, for a great laugh. By karmic coincidence, the original Muir gatherings were held in a collection of relatively modest bungalows — set on a beautiful cove in the five-star shadow of the newly minted “Las Hadas” resort. Las Hadas had the dubious honor of establishing the Ali Baba-cum- Moorish castle as the go-to architecture for generations of wannabe Mexican architects. Not surprisingly, it is also the preferred style in the genre known as “narco-tecture”.

    Nonetheless, quite a hoot!

  6. churpa says:

    Las Hadas was the first thing I thought when I saw the Taj Miguel. Right after “What the fuck?”

  7. laura panica says:

    Lovely writing Churpa. I’ve had great difficulty trying to describe the Taj Miguel and you did it beautifully!!!

  8. Thanks for the memories.

  9. -El Codo- says:

    Some of these structures are a trip. Moorish. Domes, cupolas – etc. All that is missing is a minaret and the call of a Muezzin for evening prayers. I gotta admit I dig the Castelo dos Mouros effect. It seems to be an appreciated departure from the normal run-of-the-mill Mexican “Erector Set” architecture “Cubism”.

  10. Byron Case says:

    Loved reading your story. I was glad to be invited to the beach party and meet so many cool people. Loved Mexico and can’t wait to go back.