A psychedelic trip to Timothy Leary’s Catalina Resort in Mexico

Their Mexican neighbors were perplexed. Zihuatanejo historian Rodrigo Campus Aburto, a young teenager in the 1960s, recalls the community thinking the mostly American trippers were crazy. He also recalls that older teenagers sometimes attended IFIF parties on the beach. “Moon, fire and beer” is how he describes the holidays. Some smoked marijuana (the state of Guerrero was then, and still is, a major marijuana growing area), but “the sacrament,” as the folks at IFIF called their LSD, was not shared with the inhabitants.

It was decades before the rise of the narcotics trade that sowed deadly violence and wreaked havoc in Mexico. The only rule at IFIF was that people on LSD were not to leave the compound, and by all available evidence this appears to have been followed.

According to a Saturday Evening Post article published in the fall of 1963, entitled “Mind-Distorting Drugs: The Weird Saga of LSD”, one or two people ended up in hospitals in Mexico City with breakdowns.

On June 13, 1963, the Mexican government officially gave the band 20 days to leave the country. It is unclear what exactly prompted the expulsion. “They were breaking the law,” Mr. Aburto said. The Saturday Evening Post reported that Leary had the group expelled after reading an article about LSD at the Biomedical Research Institute of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, as it is now known. The outraged director called his remarks “absurd, confused, worthless” and protested to the Mexican government.

Besides the Mexican federations, the group faced a more primitive challenge. The group was 60 percent male, and Dr. Downing, a Californian psychiatrist and ever empirical observer, curtly noted that “marital instability characterized many of them.”

Mr. Weil, the psychologist, brought his wife into the community and was among the few participants whose marriage survived. “I remember a kind of loosening of sexual ties,” he said. “It was like a love party.”

Did the Zihuatanejo project achieve its objectives? Mr. Weil is not sure. “The intention, as I think now, was to form a more focused network, a more focused group that could carry on the work. How naive we were in our belief that we could change the world overnight!

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