| MEXICO CITY
MEXICO CITY Forget Acapulco and Cancun.
Mexico's latest beach attraction is a splatter of sand near a
noisy road junction in the capital that has raised eyebrows
about the spending priorities of the city's new mayor.
Sandwiched between a traffic-choked ring road and a busy
main avenue, the inner-city beach is missing some of the chic
that made an instant fashion hit of its inspiration, the Paris
Plage beach on the banks of the Seine that opened in the summer
Even so, Mexico City's first beach was already buzzing by
mid-afternoon on Tuesday, the official launch day, with
paddling pools and volleyball to entertain the throngs.
This week is the Easter holiday in Mexico, when cities
empty as middle-class residents flee to distant beaches. The
capital's poor, normally forgotten in the exodus, this year get
to recreate the experience within city limits.
Critics of the project -- built on sports fields surrounded
by grimy high rise housing projects -- say the cash-strapped
metropolis, plagued by water shortages and crime, has more
urgent uses for the $200,000 spent to ship in palm trees and
hundreds of tons of sand.
But Mayor Marcelo Ebrard brushed off such criticism.
"There are those upset by the artificial beaches. Perhaps
they can get to other beaches, but this was built for the
majority, and it's free," he said.
Municipal artificial beaches attracted notice when
fashionable Parisians tanned themselves on the banks of the
river Seine, sparking a decree to ban nude sunbathing and the
wearing of G-strings.
Nakedness is not likely to be a problem in predominantly
Catholic Mexico City.
The beaches will stay in place indefinitely and if popular
the city government promised to build more.