Irene Swope – Living the Inspired Life

I went for a dream.” How many stories of people who inspire others and have a positive impact on their surroundings start with a phrase like this one? Irene Swope is a foundational character in the ecology of the south coast of Banderas Bay. It was a dream that brought her to Puerto Vallarta and a combination of curiosity and what might be considered the will of the universe who would take on the health and welfare of Playa Gemelas as a beacon for the betterment of the entire bay. However it is described, there was undeniably something extraordinary in the making. When Irene saw and instantly fell in love with the place she has called home since 1984 the entire Bay of Banderas would be the benefactor thereafter.
Yes, The Neighbourhood is extending its reach this week to include a reader suggestion (thank you Monika!) that isn’t directly North Shore but has impact that stretches from its origin in the south to include the entire bay. Irene’s love for the bay is unparalleled and she brags, “There is no Mexican who loves the Bahia be Banderas like I do.” Once you get to know Irene, you will likely be like this writer and apply an extrapolation of the famous words of hall of fame pitcher Dizzy Dean who said, “It ain’t bragging if you can do it.” In Irene’s case, “It ain’t bragging if it’s true.”
For 32 years she has looked with sadness at the trash that gets carelessly tossed on the beaches and into the bay and for 32 years she has worked tirelessly to collect it, provide proper containers for it and to inspire others to do likewise. All of this has been highly effective because of the latter goal; Irene is an inspired person who shares her spark with everyone she meets.
It is no wonder that Irene has enjoyed such great success in her pursuits. A stalwart champion for what is right and good in all areas of her life, she has always fought for a better way. “The student comes before the rules.” She shares when talking about her career as a teacher and telling the stories of students who needed someone to hear them and meet them where they are to provide alternatives and assistance to succeed.
She shares the story of a young man who once asked her to borrow her kayak to paddle to nearby Los Arcos which she agreed to without hesitation. Not long after that day a sizeable and gaudy tourist attraction was built just down the coast. Irene, in her constant effort to preserve the natural beauty of the bay, went to speak to the man who built the attraction and found this same young man as the owner. Instead of berating him and recalling her generosity to give him a piece of her mind, she instead spoke to him and inspired him to use his resources to paint and provide garbage containers on the beaches.
Not without controversy for her convictions, Irene has endured all manner of resistance including death threats as she lobbied again and again for what was good for the bay and therefore the community and future generations. Despite admitting, “This has been a lesson in futility with everyone.” she follows with a bright smile and an effervescing chuckle that reminds you that fighting spirit that filled her kayak with bags of trash 30 years ago is stronger than ever now.
As we talk she bubbles over with stories of people she has assisted, artists, handicapped children, ‘adopted’ children, all with their own unique challenges but all with the same truth therein; Irene inspired them to success and backed it up with compassionate aid.
She still gets in her pink kayak and paddles her beloved bay. She still stops to greet most everyone with a smile exuding positive energy. She still cares deeply and reaches out to anyone she feels is in need; just ask the young man who sells coconuts on Playa Gamelas who his best customer and salesperson is and he will say, “Irene”. Thank you Irene for all you have done and are doing for all of us to enjoy and thank you for living a life of inspiration.


  1. Oh my gosh! Anyone whose life has been touched by Irene Swope has indeed been blessed. Such an amazing teacher! A former dancer, she could convince the klutziest of us that we could fly! LOL
    Hugs to her. Glad we are neighbors! Jeanean in Mazatlan.

    1. Hi Jeanean,
      It was delightful to hear from you after all these years. Are you living in Mazatlan. Thank you for such wonderful compliments. I always loved to dance and it was such a joy to be able to share what I learned. You lived near me in Fair Oaks,Ca. also. You were never a klutz. Love, your P.E teacher

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