May 8, 2022

Hualienrainbow

We Bring Good Things to Life

Among the Revellers at Ondalinda, Burning Man’s More Exclusive Cousin

Conferences are on the wane these days. CES? Scaled back. Davos? Deferred. Where’s a moneyed professional in need of camaraderie to go? Filippo Brignone, a member of the founding family of Costa Careyes, a gated community in the Mexican state of Jalisco, thinks that “the network of Careyes” may be able to serve as a substitute. Every year, Careyes hosts Ondalinda, a five-day festival. The theme of the most recent edition was mycelium, the fuzz of fungal threads through which plants purportedly communicate. “Nature’s Internet,” a pre-festival marketing e-mail called it, linking to a dress-code mood board.

“We get compared to Burning Man, but we didn’t want Ondalinda to be that,” Brignone said, seated in the palapa of his Pacific-front home. He wore flip-flops, a Schaffhausen watch, and several beaded chakra bracelets; his graying hair was slicked back. “We have incredible houses,” he went on. When the festival was new, in 2016, “we were getting calls, like, ‘Can I see a photo of the bathroom?’ ‘Can I see a photo of the toilet?’ Now it’s ‘Please, can I have a house, any house—whatever you have?’ ”

In 1968, Brignone’s father, Gian Franco, an Italian real-estate developer, bought the twenty thousand acres after seeing them from a plane. “It was quite deserted,” Brignone said. “Not good for agriculture.” But perfect for cliff-top villas with screening rooms and infinity pools. Gian Franco, when setting up his community, which he envisioned as “a little Positano,” sold only to buyers who met his twenty-seven criteria. (“24. To have faced serious financial problems. 25. To have a sense of humor.”) Heidi Klum and Seal used to own a house there; Cindy Crawford, Mick Jagger, and Uma Thurman have passed through.

“At one time, my father didn’t want any Americans,” Brignone said. “You want people who have a certain level of consciousness.” He has described the right type of people as “not interested in watches and cars” but seeking “something that helps them.” In 2011, Lulu Luchaire, a Parisian looking for respite from her job helping lead Apple’s global retail strategy, heard about the place. Five years later, she and Brignone started Ondalinda, which translates to “beautiful wave,” and whose proceeds partially go to benefit local Indigenous communities. (Luchaire didn’t make it to the mycelium festival because of a green-card snafu.)

Seven hundred and fifty people convened at Ondalinda in November; negative COVID tests were required. “There was a big debate about if we were going to test everybody again,” Brignone said. “It’s expensive.” (They did.) Among the offerings was a chocolate-fungi workshop with Parker Roe, who describes himself as a “mushroom-and-plant-medicine product designer.” Roe stood under a ceiba tree in front of an array of Bunsen burners and blenders, and addressed the class: “Now start weighing out the ingredients with a scale.”

“Parker!” a student called. “If we were going to add psilocybin, how much per bar should we do?”

“Have you experimented with the medicine before?” Roe asked. He nodded. “O.K. I’ll let you be the judge.” Magic mushrooms were not included in the workshop, to the dismay of some attendees. “I didn’t pay eighty dollars to make a mushroom-flavored chocolate bar,” a man in a white fedora said.

Other substances were plentiful. Erika Valero Tlazohtiani, a shaman in a white gown, told attendees, “Tobacco is a way to talk with God.” She led a cacao ceremony that involved drinking ritualistically prepared hot chocolate and taking a puff from a communal pipe. (Possible side effects: happiness, contentment.) “With this smoke, say thank you to your mothers,” Tlazohtiani said.

Less prescriptive: pop-up shops, disco naps, pool parties at private villas. “I’ve been to Ibiza, Mykonos, Vegas,” a man with salt-and-pepper hair and John Lennon sunglasses said, half submerged in the pool at Casa Selva (six bedrooms, live-in staff, thirty-one hundred dollars a night). “Nothing compares to this.”

“It feels safe,” a woman next to him said. “You know there’s no riffraff.”

Ticket prices, which don’t include lodging, start at eighteen hundred and fifty dollars. “We avoid the generation of twentysomethings who come with the idea of a rave in their heads,” Brignone said. “It’s rich people with an intellectual level. Artists, successful businessmen—you know, opinion leaders.” At one mycelium party, bass thumped across a polo field illuminated by ten thousand candles and towering neon mushroom puppets with red-rimmed eyes. L.E.D. lassos swirled.

“That’s a crazy-awesome outfit, even if you’re not on a lot of drugs,” a guy in a glow-in-the-dark T-shirt said, watching a couple in matching sequinned tie-dyed jumpsuits.

“It’s like adult recess on crack, but all the kids on the playground want to play with you,” a philanthropist named Gillian Wynn—the daughter of Steve Wynn—said. “It’s not an unsavory thing like Las Vegas. There’s a wholesome component.” She added, “Everything is tasteful.”

Connections were made. A shirtless L.A. real-estate developer in latex pants gestured at a man near the ice-cream buffet. “I used to work with that guy at Morgan Stanley,” he said. “He didn’t recognize me without my tie on.” ♦