Their Mexican neighbors were stunned. Zihuatanejo historian Rodrigo Campus Aburto, a young teen in the 1960s, recalls that the community thought the mostly American trippers were madmen. He also recalls that older teens sometimes attended parties that IFIF hosted on the beach. “Moon, fire and beer”, that’s how he describes the parties. Some smoked marijuana (the state of Guerrero was then, and still is, a major marijuana-producing area), but “the sacrament,” as the IFIF folks called their LSD, was not shared with the locals.
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It was decades before the rise of the drug trade that caused murderous violence and devastation in Mexico. The IFIF’s only rule was that people on LSD were not allowed to leave the compound, and by all available accounts that appears to have been followed.
According to an article published in the fall of 1963 in the Saturday Evening Post entitled “Mind-Didumping Drugs: The Weird Saga of LSD,” one or two individuals ended up in hospitals in Mexico City with breakdowns.
On June 13, 1963, the Mexican government officially gave the group 20 days to leave the country. It is unclear what exactly prompted the eviction. “They broke the law,” said Mr. Aburto. The Saturday Evening Post reported that Leary expelled the group after reading a paper on LSD at the Institute for Biomedical Research of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, as it is now known. The annoyed director thought his speech was “absurd, confused, worthless” and protested to the Mexican government.
In addition to the Mexican Federals, the group faced a more original challenge. The group was 60 percent male, and Dr. Downing, the California psychiatrist and always the empirical observer, drily noted that “marriage instability marked many.”
Mr. Weil, the psychologist, brought his wife to the community and was one of the few participants whose marriage survived. “I remember a kind of loosening of sexual boundaries,” he said. “It was like a love party.”
Has the Zihuatanejo Project Achieved Its Goals? Mr. Weil is not sure. “The intent, as I’m thinking now, was to form a more concentrated network, a more concentrated group that could continue the work. How naive we were in our belief that we could change the world overnight!”