Red Zone Tour, February 26, 2013
NOTE: this tour no longer exists.
Puerto Vallarta is a tourism town. There are myriads of adventure tours, cultural tours, bar crawls, gay bar crawls, fishing tours and whale watching tours. There are free tours and expensive tours and almost any interest can be satisfied by a guided or planned adventure.
Only one tour is not well known nor widely advertised or sold in Vallarta: The Red Zone Tour, a tour of some of the prostitution bars and “dance clubs” that are found on its back streets.
There are many expensive “gentlemen’s” and gay strip clubs in plain sight on the main drags but these are very obvious and very well advertised on their own. Places like Candy’s strip club even openly sponsor parasail rides on the beaches. Charging thousands of pesos for sexual adventures, they can afford to. Taxi drivers will automatically take you to these large commercial locales because they get up to a 500 peso incentive for doing so. If you ask to go to anything off of the main strip the taxistas will often tell you that they are not “safe” or “clean.” This is bullshit except in a few cases. Jaja. But that’s what a tour like this is for… to show you what is good and what is not.
Generally, prostitution is not really illegal in Mexico, nor is it considered in the same negative light as in Canada or the US. For that matter, sex, itself, is looked upon in a much more liberal way here, also.
The Red Zone Tour is unique.
I sit here and wonder what to write. I know that I will be condemned by some for “supporting what is frequently thought of as the enslavement or exploitation of women and I will be praised by far fewer for supporting a woman’s right to do what she thinks is the most expeditious in her quest for survival. Bar girls and street walkers are not often thought of in the same way as call girls and this tour examines them all because the tour guide also runs an escort service.
The tour is by appointment only and is given only once or twice a week. The guide is a bilingual gringo. He is open and honest almost to a fault, a nice guy you think would be a school teacher if you met him in other circumstances. On this particular night he brought his small dog and a woman named “Sara” with him. Sara is a working girl who claims to have a Masters degree in psychology with a family counseling business on the side. She iss bilingual and intelligent enough for me not to question those claims. Both Sara and the dog were definitely ice breakers.
I and another guy were picked up at about 8:30 pm at the Vallarta Walmart and 3 more men were picked up at a hotel in Nuevo. After introductions we headed to our first location, Oasis and its associated motel near Bucerias. Here is a good time to mention that a “motel” in Mexico is for having sex. A “hotel” is for sleeping.
Because it was early at Oasis, the bar was empty, most of the girls were not ready and we stayed only a few minutes. Nothing was going on that was interesting. As at all of the following places, we were each introduced personally to the girls that were there, shaking hands and exchanging the traditional cheek kiss.
The only prostitutes I normally run into here in Vallarta are the street walkers on Calle Madero and in a few cantinas like the Ballena Azul, Ridiculo or the former La Gloria y El Infierno and they are generally older and not very attractive. By contrast, the women in the places we went to on this tour, even those on the street, were attractive and all seemed to be younger than about 30.
I should put a disclaimer here that I do not generally patronize prostitutes. I’ve been married for about 45 years (to 3 different women) and one of my wives was a hooker before we met. That doesn’t count for much in this situation but it does give me a bit of insight that most men do not have.
When I lived in San Francisco I had many friends and associates who were prostitutes and I often published in my magazine the writing of members of Margo St. Jame’s Coyote prostitutes union. I have no moral, political or religious objections to any type of sex between any consenting adults.
Heading back toward Vallarta from Bucerias, we pulled off the highway just after the Ameca River bridge and headed to a large back-road cantina called Los Corrales. This place looks like it is set up for heavy drinking and partying. Dozens of tables, oysters and steaks on the menu and a juke box behind steel bars, literally.
A mariachi band was playing when we arrived and only about 5 of the 50 or so tables were occupied, probably because it was a Tuesday night. Four girls were working as waitresses/hostesses. When they were not with customers they were stocking the beer cooler and waiting tables. The girls were pretty and friendly (and their charges were low).
As with the other places we visited this night, we were the only gringos. This was the only place we stayed long enough for me to have a couple of beers. I don’t know if any of the other guys were nervous but I am normally shy and this tour was outside of my normal comfort zone so I appreciated the time to have a cerveza and listen to mariachi music while getting used to the scene. Los Corrales was the only “real” bar we were to go to this night. All of the other places were specifically set up for the sex trade.
Back in the van, we drove to downtown Vallarta to check out the street scene in Cinco de Diciembre, a colonia just north of Centro. On one corner there are the transsexuals/transvestites and on another there are girls. The girls’ corner has a little place set up with “rooms” inside. The price is 500 pesos for the girl and the room. The girls on this corner changed rapidly and came and went in cabs. I never saw anyone go into the “rooms” but I saw many girls come and go. If you were looking for something better in the way of comfort, around the corner there is a small hotel that charges 180 pesos a night or 150 pesos for a few hours and is much cleaner and nicer. It is recommended if you are interested in the services provided on this street. Surprisingly to some of the men on the tour, the trannies seemed much prettier than the girls. Either would readily tell you their sex if asked so nothing was hidden. These corners are very viable and inexpensive alternatives to the cantinas, bars and clubs.
On a nearby corner, we dropped in to a small restaurant for tacos and beer because the night was young. Recharged, we were ready to head to the real Zona Roja where lap dance is king and the activity is high.
Actually Vallarta now seems to have two Zona Rojas. The first that we went to is relatively new in Pitillal, off of Prisciliana Sanchez (the road next to Sam’s Club). There are 2 clubs next to each other there, El y Ella and Osiris.
Osiris is the larger of the two, with many girls sitting along the wall and a big pole dance floor in the center of the room. To enter it you walk between the legs of a giant woman’s crotch “sculpture.” Not exactly art but kind of camp. We didn’t stay long there because we were told that the prices were a little high and that you had to watch out for bill padding AND, probably more importantly, because we had just had a great time at El y Ella next door where the beer was cheap, the girls very friendly and where 3 of our group had had extended lap dances.
El y Ella is by far the cleanest of the places we went to all night. Even with its 25 pesos beer, it managed to have clean table cloths and constant pole dancers. If you bought a 125 peso a beer for a girl, you could have a lap dance for as long as the beer lasted. How long the beer lasted was totally up to the girl. And you could keep buying those beers if you wanted. Here, unlike in the US, a lap dance includes the freedom to touch, as long as the girl likes it.
The images are still burned into my brain from John, one of the guys on the tour, having a half hour lap dance that we should have made into a movie. John is a big guy, tall and heavy and he wore a leather cowboy hat. His choice for the dance (the first for any of us this night) was a short, thin girl with long black hair and a big smile. She jumped on John like he was a bucking bronc and began riding him to hell (and back). She grabbed his hat and waved it like bronc riders do. Occasionally she would slow down to take a sip of beer or to pet the guide’s dog that was sitting on the chair next to them. She and John laughed a lot. The rest of us smiled a lot. One of the attendants in the bar turned on the air conditioner behind John (and this is in the middle of winter here). Two of the other guys also had lap dances but John had our attention.
One thing I noticed, and this may not be important, was that only two out of dozens of the girls we met this night had boob jobs. One was a pole dancer and one was a trannie. My preference has always been for natural women so this pleased me.
After El y Ella we all took a big sigh (it was hard work watching John) and went next door to Osiris where we just sat and had a beer and watched the show. In each place the show is different. In each place the dancers were good. In some places the show was on the stage and in some it was in the audience. On good nights it is in both. One customer we saw on the other side of the room bought a lap dance for his woman companion and he (and we) watched. Each place has public and private areas. If you want to be part of the show, you stay in the public areas. Each place also has access to rooms for more intimate activities.
Outside of each of the Zona Roja bars were men sitting. One is usually the local drug dealer and one or more a bouncer or greeter. You don’t need to know Spanish but these bars are definitely more for locals than for tourists. Almost all of the customers that we saw were middle or working class Mexican men, with a few women (accompanied by men because any single woman in any of these bars is considered to be a prostitute). There was one group of mixed sex college students having a very good time.
If you want to take a girl up or out to a room at one of these places, it would cost 1500 pesos, with 1000 of that going to the girl and 500 going to the bar. These ratios vary some, according to the bar. This is pretty much the same price you would pay for a call-girl experience here in Vallarta. With call girls you get to see only photos (which may or may not be real) before you make a transaction and at these bars you get to see the real person. If you pick up a girl in a regular cantina, you normally have to pay the bartender a 200 peso exit fee to cover her salary for the night and then whatever she wants for the service. Single women in cantinas are usually paid about 200 pesos by the bar to be there.
Still having visions of John in El y Ella, we got back in the van and headed to Vallarta’s original Zona Roja which is off of the bull ring road, very close to the new city government administration building. This is probably just a coincidence (?). If anyone from the old days speaks of the Zona Roja, this is the place they mean.
Here there was a second Osiris (same owner as at the other Zona), a trannie bar, another bar whose name I don’t remember and what looked like a new gigantic club ready to open up soon. I was a little drunk by this time and it was late but I could almost swear that this new place looked like it was going to be as big as Walmart.
First we went into the “unnamed” bar, probably the least appealing place of the night because it was a tad on the seedy side. It was the kind of place where you didn’t really want to sit on the chairs. There we just met the girls, walked around a little and left. Some guy in front of Osiris next door jeered at us for going there but we just ignored him because we were probably as drunk as he was. I should probably mention here that our guide did not drink at all during this tour. But some of us did.
We then walked back to the Osiris where the owner apologized for the drunk yelling at us and we stayed for a while and had a couple of beers while some of the guys on the tour decided what kind of ending they wanted for the night. We watched the show and kicked back. One of our group went back to the “seedy” place for a blow job, one went back to the “seedy” place for a hamburger because there was small kitchen outside of it. The rest of us just relaxed. The burger guy came back and the rest of us went for burgers because they were very, very good for the price (40 pesos).
The tour ended and the guide took some of the guys home. One of the guys decided to go find a girl and I stayed and finished my burger. All of a sudden I was alone and talking to a guy from the “seedy” place about living as a gringo in Vallarta. He tried hustling me first but quickly saw that I was just tired and interested in eating so we just chatted. It was a slow night for him. After the burger I got a cab and headed home. It was a good night.
This tour costs between 500 pesos and 700 pesos, depending on how many go. The more people go, the less the cost. It includes pickup and delivery but not food, drink and girls. I can’t think of any tour in Vallarta at anywhere near that price that comes anywhere close to it for value. Btw, women are also welcome on this tour.