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A Psychedelic Trip to Timothy Leary’s Catalina Resort in Mexico

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Their Mexican neighbors were bemused. The Zihuatanejo historian Rodrigo Campus Aburto, a young teen within the Sixties, recalls that the community thought the mostly American trippers were lunatics. He also remembers older teens sometimes attended fiestas that IFIF hosted on the beach. “Moon, fire and beer,” is how he describes the parties. Some smoked marijuana (Guerrero state was then, and still is, a significant marijuana producing area), but “the sacrament,” because the IFIF people called their LSD, was not shared with the locals.

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It was many years before the rise of the narco-trafficking that has wreaked murderous violence and havoc on Mexico. The one rule of IFIF was that folks on LSD weren’t to depart the compound, and by all available accounts, that seems to have been followed.

One or two individuals did wind up in Mexico City hospitals with breakdowns, in response to a Saturday Evening Post article published in the autumn of 1963, titled “Mind-Distorting Drugs: The Weird Saga of LSD.”

On June 13, 1963, the Mexican government formally gave the group 20 days to depart the country. It’s unclear exactly what prompted the expulsion. “They were breaking the law,” Mr. Aburto said. The Saturday Evening Post reported Leary got the group deported after he read a paper on LSD on the National Autonomous University of Mexico’s Institute of Biomedical Research, because it is now known. The scandalized director deemed his talk “absurd, confused, valueless,” and protested to the Mexican government.

Besides the Mexican federales, the group faced a more primeval challenge. The group was 60 percent male, and Dr. Downing, the California psychiatrist and ever the empirical observer, dryly noted that “marital instability characterised many.”

Mr. Weil, the psychologist, brought his wife to the community and was among the many few participants whose marriage survived. “I do remember a type of loosening of sexual bounds,” he said. “It was like a love fest.”

Did the Zihuatanejo Project achieve its goals? Mr. Weil isn’t sure. “The intent, as I reflect now, was to form a more concentrated network, a more concentrated group who could carry on the work. How naïve we were when it comes to our belief that we could change the world overnight!”

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