Mexico…For Dummies

Oct 4, 2013 by Mark Paliscak

Happy October to everyone! My favorite month of the year for many reasons…the heat is over, Halloween and Thanksgiving are coming, football season is in full swing, the season of giving is almost upon us and oh yeah, did I mention the heat is over? AHHH! Actually, for those of you that were in Rocky Point during late July and August, the weather was remarkably nice!

For all the Americans, Canadians and even Mexicans it is always a good idea to know a bit of history about the place we call home, albeit for some it is a part time home or weekend retreat or a few times a year getaway. Just the same, when we are in Rocky Point, it IS our home and knowledge of Mexico and Rocky Point’s past help us to create and paint our future. Mexico is a land of vast differences from the cool, inland mountains to the tropical southern beaches to the high altitude populous cities like Guadalajara and Mexico City to the scorching, beautiful deserts. Let’s take a trip to the past and learn more about Mexico and yes, Rocky Point!

Mexico’s first known society, the Olmecs, settled on the Gulf Coast near what is now Veracruz. The Olmecs were known for their large head sculptures that they carved out of the native stone and made Mexico their home from as far back as 1200 B.C. By 300 B.C., many pueblos or small towns began to spring up throughout southern Mexico and were based on agriculture and hunting. Some of these towns were known to have as many as 10,000 inhabitants! Between 100 BC and 700 AD, Teotihuacan was constructed in what is now Mexico City. The city grew to as many as 200,000 citizens and the Teotihuacans controlled much of southern Mexico. During this time, the Mayans also thrived and built many cities that functioned as hubs for the surrounding farming towns. The cities showcased many plazas surrounded by large pyramids. The Mayans developed a calendar and a writing system as well as canals and irrigational ingenuity to sustain their farmlands. The Mayan civilization collapsed somewhere around the 10th century due to what is likely overpopulation and damage sustained to its ecological imbalance.

The Toltec civilization also influenced Mexico’s history. The Toltecs came near the 10th century to central Mexico. Their population, although not as great as the Mayans, rose to approximately 40,000 people. The Aztecs rose to prominence in the mid 1400’s by befriending both the Mayans and the Toltecs. (Hey, diplomacy worked back then too!) The trifecta of three cultures combined and united to become the Aztec empire which scanned from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf Coast. At their climax, the Aztecs ruled about 5 million people! The Aztecs had smaller governing units that created schools, armies and temples.

The next major and influential part of Mexico’s history came when Spaniard Herman Cortes (where we get the name of our Sea of Cortes) arrived in Veracruz in 1519. Believing he was a serpent god, the Aztec King, Moctezuma II, invited Cortes to come to the capital city and along the way Cortes made many friends and supporters. These friends and supporters later helped him to overthrow the Aztecs in 1521. Cortes and boat loads of supporters from old Spain later colonized the area and named in Nueva España. By 1574, Spain controlled much of the Aztec empire and enslaved most of the indigenous population. Their conquering of the Aztecs and the myriad of diseases they brought with them from Europe is estimated to have killed over 24 million people leading up to 1605.

The Catholic influence began in 1523 when many missionaries began arriving, and they built many monasteries and converted millions of people to Catholicism. They disdained the enslavement of the people and were growing more powerful until King Carlos II of Spain expelled the Jesuits from Nueva España in the late 1700’s. On September 16, 1810 (hence the street names throughout Mexico of 16 de Septiembre) Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a priest from the town of Dolores, issued a call for rebellion. In response, rebel leader Vicente Guerrero and Agustin de Iturbide combined to defeat Cortes and gain Mexico’s independence from Spain in 1821.

Rocky Point’s history even dates farther back than even the Olmecs! About 20,000 years ago nomadic migrants lived in the Ajo Valley which stretched from present day Ajo, Arizona, USA to Rocky Point. Many carved caves containing tools and other living essentials are found along the route. Back then, the area was supported by water sources that long ago disappeared from the landscape. Over the centuries, many tribes thrived on what is now Whale Hill in the Old Port section of Rocky Point. In general, the tribes got along well as there is no evidence of war or conflict (quite shocking that it all happened without the invention of tequila which didn’t come until the 1700’s!). Between 700 and 1500 AD the warm gulf waters supported an abundance of sea life attracting the Hohokam Indians from what is now Phoenix, Arizona USA to get fish and salt and trade goods. In 1698 Padre Kino met the Peñasco people he named, the people of the sand. Kino visited Puerto Peñasco many times and we have historical records showing his ceaseless efforts to teach the locals many skills including the art of pearl diving. Kino’s word of pearls and other minerals in the area led to a gold rush of explorers flooding in from Spain to search for the gems from Ajo down to Rocky Point.

After Mexico’s independence in 1821, Rocky Point continued to be a magnet for those seeking a way of life via the abundant resources of the Sea of Cortez. Pancho Villa often visited Rocky Point in the early 1900’s as he evaded government troops constantly on the lookout for him. In the 1920’s, the arrival of “permanent settlers” to Rocky Point became a milestone. American John Richardson built Rocky Point’s first hotel near Whale Hill in Old Port. Shortly after, the dreaded prohibition hit the United States. This led to an influx of “visitors” from America and the hotel’s main order of business became selling beer, wine and whiskey. Soon after, Thomas Childs, a bar owner from Ajo, came to town with none other than Al Capone. Together, along with several other fishermen, they formed the town’s center which began attracting Mexican citizens from other areas. Capone lived on and off in Rocky Point for many years as he bootlegged liquor into the United States and came to relax, escape and regroup on Rocky Point’s beaches.

Boats started showing up in the harbor in the 30’s and 40’s and the government declared the area strategic and built a railroad all the way to Mexicali in 1940. Shortly after, WWII began and the United States was looking for another access to the sea, and the world’s waters. The US government quickly secured Rocky Point harbor as a Joint Contingency Plan. The Americans agreement to jointly defend the Mexicans allowed the Americans access to the sea. During the war, many military encounters with the Japanese occurred right off Rocky Point’s coast! By the early 50’s many more Mexicans arrived in Rocky Point, and the city was recognized in 1952 with city status. By the mid 60’s, the price of shrimp rose dramatically and the commercial ships began arriving to take advantage of the area’s abundance of shrimp which produced large profits for the shrimping companies. In 1969, the first high school was completed in Rocky Point. By the mid 70’s, the Mexican government had built city water pipelines, pumping systems as well as sewer systems. In the 1980’s, many more citizens on both sides of the border began making Rocky Point their home. Many homes were built all over the area during this time. In the 1990’s, Rocky Point was being flooded with U.S. investors, coming eager to buy and build and construct on countless parcels throughout Rocky Point.

One consistent fact about Rocky Point and Mexico in general, is change is constant. Like the economic crisis that hit the U.S.’s housing industry in 2007, Rocky Point’s housing market dried up shortly after and prices plummeted. Today, Rocky Point is on the rebound and real estate is a hot commodity. The government has doled out millions and millions of pesos to enhance the city via its infrastructure, new convention center, new airport and I know it’s not a rumor anymore, our soon to be Port-a-Call for cruise ships. We can look back at the past and learn so much about how Mexico and Rocky Point came to be today. I so look forward to our future here in Rocky Point and feel confident the positive changes occur in our city on a monthly basis. As famous author Jay Asher wrote, “You can’t stop the future, you can’t rewind the past, and the only way to learn the secret is to press play”. So PRESS PLAY mi amigos and carry on to a banner closing of 2013 and always keep an eye out for the friend in need. One day, the roles may reverse…Until then, keep smiling….everyone will wonder what you are up to! See you at the beach! God Bless! ADIOS AMIGOS!!!

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