In 1970, Gloria Hope Johnson moved from Southern California to Puerto Angel with her two children and $300.00. They camped on Zipolite Beach. There on the beach, just below the hill that is now Shambhala, she fell in love with a fisherman and diver named Tomas Lopez. In the first 6 months, they saw two tourists.
Gloria became a Mexican citizen. In 1973, Gloria and Tomas married and bought the spectacular hill overlooking Zipolite. She Literally dug into the hill to build a restaurant and hammock place. The business began operation in 1975 under the "Arca de Noe."
A year later, Gloria began serving vegetarian food at the place on the hill and changed its name to "Shambhala." The name "Arca de Noe" was given to a new restaurant at the bottom of the hill (now used only as a palapa).
Although the 1800 acres of land behind Zipolite beach was owned communally, in 1970, the governor of Oaxaca illegally "sold" parts of Zipolite to private interests. With Gloria's help, the community protested and, on August 27, 1979, succeeded in having the land returned to the community.
Shambhala is located on the border between Mazunte community to the west and Zipolite Community to the east. Because the Mazunte land is in an ecological reserve, it is protected from "development" by the big hotels. Gloria and others are working to extend this protection to the Zipolite (beach) area as well.
Zipolite offers the best of the modern and ancient worlds. It has become a Mecca for budget travelers from all over the world, who reach it easily by modern transportation systems and find a variety of inexpensive accommodations on and near the beach. At the same time, it has been spared the environmental destruction of modern "development", which would crowd Zipolite's beautiful beach with expensive hotel rooms, bars and parking lots. And in keeping with its nonconformist history, Zipolite continues its tradition as a "clothing optional" beach -- now officially tolerated by the government.
Shambhala's success has spawned numerous competing "hammock places", which now line Zipolite from one end to the other. Shambhala itself has grown steadily, adding numerous living units and some modern conveniences (flush toilets even!) over the years. Gloria has lost her husband and her daughter (who died at age 22). Her son, Mario Anthony, lives in Los Angeles. But Gloria still reigns from her stunningly beautiful command post overlooking Zipolite.
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