beautiful scenery, fantastic people and a rich history
I’m going to venture a guess and say that most of you reading this are pretty adventurous. After all, you do come to Mexico. You travel – be it around the world, or just in your neighborhood – looking for those hidden gems. Some great place where you instantly feel at home and comfortable, and if you’re lucky, where you find some great people and history as well. When we find one of these places, we get this feeling, or at least I do, of stumbling across the best kept secret of all time and it often leaves me wondering, why doesn’t the world know about his place? Like when I was on the Baja in February and us girls took a day trip from Guerrero Negro to San Ignacio – what an absolutely peaceful and gorgeous bed and breakfast we found at San Ignacio Springs. I was amazed they had vacancy for the three of us for the night and felt super lucky that we just happened upon this incredible sanctuary. It’s like discovering a new kind of gold and, in my experience, you don’t happen upon these kinds of places too often unless you are really traversing the earth and looking for them. Actually, that’s not 100% accurate because I have found that Mexico is teeming with these kinds of places, one of which this story is about – in a roundabout kind of way.
I’ve always thought my childhood was pretty awesome: pre-teen years lazing on Huntington Beach while my Dad work at the oil fields on PCH; learning life skills at our remote cabin in Big Bear, like how to change a tire, ride bareback, catch horned toads, live with no electricity, and how not get eaten by a bear; and then in Lake Havasu there was boating, fishing, waterskiing, camping and other shenanigans – pretty nice, right? Well, I thought so too until I started talking to Yvonne Crewse and heard of her adventures as a child growing up in the United States (Ajo) and in Mexico and then I started feeling a little jealous. Really! Her childhood was awesome! The things she has experienced – actually all of the women in her family – are just awesome, and especially when you consider that her amazing journey began back with her grandparents (obviously before that, but that’s where I’m starting). The women in her family were true pioneers and the men were incredibly forward-thinking for their time encouraging the women to pursue their education, their dreams and to travel.
So, let me step back from the amazing Yvonne for a moment – and when you meet her, you will totally agree with me that she is awesome. And once you see her beautiful blue eyes, olive skin and practically floor-length gorgeous silver hair – you will never forget her…the hair is really amazing! See, there I go again! I have known Yvonne Crewse for many years (and a lot of you probably know her too), and the idea for this story came from a trip Mary (yes, Mary Snyder…again!) and I made down to see Yvonne and her family at Santo Tomás a few months ago. Santo Tomás is a beachfront community about an hour south of us and it owned by a group which includes Yvonne and her brother, Tom (there are other players, but I’ll introduce them later). No doubt a lot of you know Santo Tomás and probably have even visited there since they started developing the property in the late 1990s. And some of you may know Yvonne from her ties to Pueblo Viejo, the furniture store that was owned by Mary Snyder and Jose Puig (RIP) here in Rocky Point back in the day. So, she has been around a while and I have known her only superficially for a long time. Anyway, as I got talking to Yvonne during our trip down to Santo Tomás, these fascinating little gems about her family history and her childhood started popping out – some really cool stuff that I had no idea about and really could never have imagined. I thought what a great article, actually a series of articles, I could make out of her history and the history of Santo Tomás. I was intrigued, and I knew our readers would be too. Like I said above, it’s so rare these days to find that wonderful hidden gem, and then throw in all of these great people on top of it – well, somedays we just hit the winning lottery of life with our finds and experiences.
There is so much to tell as their history, and the history of Santo Tomás, goes way back to 1910 to Yvonne and Tom’s Grandfather, Francisco Reyna Sotelo who was the one that originally received the beachfront land, which is now known as Santo Tomás. The land where Santo Tomás now sits – on 2+ gorgeous miles of beachfront – was actually not the original plot of land given to Francisco (a whole other incredible story that you may have to ask Tom or Yvonne about). The original plot he was given, and very much wanted, was agricultural land nearer to the City of Caborca, but there was a mix up and that land was swapped out for an incredibly beautiful parcel of beachfront land with huge rolling sand dunes. Wow, can you imagine being the recipient of that fortunate mix-up? At the time, their grandfather wasn’t terribly thrilled, but what could he do? So, he accepted the new parcel of land and went on with his life never to realize what it would become under the stewardship of his grandkids, Tom and Yvonne.
Though they’ve been somewhat quiet over the last few years, Santo Tomás has never stopped developing – whether it be on their infrastructure or building houses and condos. They are constantly adding new amenities and coming closer and closer to their Mother’s dream of ‘Santo Tomás being a family-friendly community where you want to go to get away with family and reconnect with each other and nature and be able to have good tasting, healthy food’. I think they have actually already accomplished that, but they have plans to go way above and beyond where they are at now. Currently, along with their greenhouse and additional condos, they are working on a 3,200 sq. ft. Infinity Pool, which will include a kiddie pool, shaded cabana area, Jacuzzi style hot tubs and firepits. That’s just a simple example of one thing they are currently working on – there’s lots, lots more.
I remember taking trips out there, back in the 90s as they were making the road from Hwy. 2 – no easy feat to say the least. Since then, I’ve taken numerous day trips but hadn’t been in a couple years before the trip Mary and I took. It sure has grown! I was pretty amazed at how many houses (and condos) are out there now, and what amenities and activities they offer.
They do have condos and houses, but will remain low-density, which means no high-rises and houses will not be packed in on top of one another. They are currently constructing their own greenhouse garden so they can grow a lot of their own food, and they are bringing in food-producing trees. There is a restaurant, MamaChita’s on-site, which is named after the nickname of Tom and Yvonne’s Mother, Grandmother and Great-Grandmother. It even offers vegetarian and vegan options as well as a full menu for us carnivores. Santo Tomás offers condo and house rentals as well, which I will be taking advantage of as I love it down there. You can walk the virtually untouched beach for miles and see shells and sea life that we don’t always see around Puerto Peñasco. I remember seeing my first big bright blue jellyfish out there (I didn’t know exactly what it was at the time) and finding beautiful (inhabited) Lettered Olive Shells like I had seen nowhere else. You can go horseback riding along the beach, rent paddleboards and kayaks, boogie board, go hiking through the dunes and desert, skim surf, do yoga, fish, do yoga on paddleboards (yikes), ride ATVs, kitesurf, and stroll along their pristine beach. There is a winery close by and it is only an hour (less if you drive with Mary or me haha) from Peñasco and an hour to Caborca and other fun locations. There are other fantastic treasures out there, but I can’t tell you about them, so you’ll have to ask Tom or Yvonne as I don’t want to divulge too many secrets.
So, there’s a little bit about the development itself. It is a great day trip and is definitely worth the drive just to check it out or if you are actually looking for another place to build or buy if Rocky Point has become too busy for you – which I actually do hear from a lot of people. Getting there is easy, and Google Maps is accurate, plus there is signage. The entire road is pretty good except for (usually) a small patch after the Playa Encanto turn-off to a few miles past the Mayan Palace – and a few potholes here and there. There is one checkpoint about 25 miles outside of Peñasco and they just ask to see your identification and registration for your vehicle – easy peasy. Like I said, I assume most of you reading the Rocky Point Times are adventurers, so Santo Tomás should definitely be on your list of places to visit. It’s a nice drive, it’s safe and you can thank me later :). They are off the main Coastal Hwy, going south towards Caborca. You can check out their websites at www.santoTomás.com and www.santotomasrentals.com or give them a call at (480) 582-2436 – I know they would love to show you around.
You can also check out www.santoTomásretreats.com for Santo Tomás Retreats, which is run by Erin and Hanna, Yvonne’s daughters. (All of Yvonne’s kids have grown up at Santo Tomás and her other daughter, Leeanne helped with advertising in the beginning and her son, Ted, spent an entire summer building a cattle corral.) Hanna and Erin’s all-inclusive retreats introduce guests to a rich variety of wellness and healthy living elements with the focus of refreshing, rejuvenating, and unwinding you. You get to do yoga, get massages, paddleboard, sightsee, eat healthy and relax. Gee, sounds pretty good to me right about now! The girls also offer a couple retreats in Arizona as well, so check out their website. And I’m telling you…I am nowhere near a vegetarian, but Hanna’s cooking is amazing!! So delicious and she makes it look for effortless. I need her to be my life coach, teach me how to cook like she does, and sell me some of her amazingly delicious vegan cheeses (we sampled two different ones she made during our visit…delish!).
Allrighty, back to my conversation with Yvonne. Let me say that I plan to talk to everyone in the family because they all have their own memories, perspectives, talents and each is involved in Santo Tomás in one way or another. I’ll spell out the family dynamics in the Part II of this series, it is very interesting and really very heartwarming. And I’ll delve deeper into the family history and Yvonne’s amazing childhood in Ajo and Mexico. Yes, you read that right – Ajo – so much fascinating history right there in itself with her Dad working at the bank and her Mom being a teacher!
So, I’ll leave you with this last little tidbit…it’s the 70s and Yvonne’s Mother, Paulina is driving from Ajo to Santo Tomás with the kids (Yvonne and Tom) in the car. Their Dad had passed away by this time and their Mother drove…by herself…with 2 kids…to Santo Tomás. Mind you, this was a 5- or 6-hour trek at that time being that you had to go from Sonoyta to Caborca then backtrack to Santo Tomás. Not only that, but Paulina was the one who initially started building on the Santo Tomás land back then – looking for the water table and all kinds of stuff that us commonfolk would have no idea about. Really? A single woman in the 70s, traversing through countries, building, negotiating, and taking life by the reins…wow!
Until next month…so many people still to interview…Tom (brother, mastermind, developer and co-founder of Santo Tomás), Doug (co-founder, Civil Engineer, developer and Father of Yvonne’s boys) and Hanna and Erin (retreat owners, visionaries and Yvonne’s daughters) as well as Leeanne, Ted and MamaChita’s chef and owner, David Quiñones. Until then – go take a trip out to Santo Tomás – I know you will find it just as wonderful as I do.