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Mike Davis on billionaires and super-storms


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In the wake of Hurricane Patricia’s pummeling of Mexico, radical geographer Mike Davis offers a brief history of billionaires who’ve build compounds on the very coast that the hurricane targeted. An excerpt:

While waiting, with trepidation, for the first reports of damage and mortality from Mexico, I can’t help but note the irony that the eye of the super-hurricane was reported to have come ashore at Cuixmala, 60 miles north of Manzanillo, where English robber baron Sir James Goldsmith built his Xanadu, La Loma, in the 1980s as a refuge from the apocalypse that he believed was inevitable. Like Hearst’s San Simeon, Goldsmith’s “mad castle” — which took 2,000 workers two years to build — commands a godly view of a wild Pacific. In emulation of Citizen Kane, Goldsmith turned loose African antelope and zebras on his sprawling estate, although in tropical Mexico they faced more formidable predators (indigenous crocodiles and jaguars) than in Central California.

Goldsmith was originally attracted to Jalisco’s “Virgin Coast” by the Italian real estate pirates the Brignones, who pioneered the first resorts for the super-rich in the region. In his last years, Goldsmith — obsessed with imminent environmental and economic catastrophes as well as resurgent Communism — developed his 25,000-acre realm at Cuixmala first and above all as a survivalist paradise for himself, his three families and numerous mistresses. (La Loma, as a result, is massively reinforced with steel and presumably survived even Patricia’s 200-mile-an-hour winds.) But he also made it a retreat for friends and anti-Communist co-thinkers: Kissinger, Nixon, Reagan, Murdoch. Given the global power that was mongered there, Cuixmala might well have been the location for a James Bond film.

Image of Hurricane Patricia via Slate.