A Bit of History

Aug 8, 2020 by The Old Gringo

What with all of this COVID stuff going on, and the wide variety of reactions to it, by the governments and the people, Peñasco has been pretty much frozen in place. Where this will all end is anyone’s guess, so the best thing to do is ‘go with the flow’ as they say.

Puerto Peñasco was originally named Rocky Point by a retired British Royal Navy captain named Robert William Hale Hardy in 1826. He was sailing this area of the northern Sea of Cortez in search of pearls, and precious metals. The name Rocky Point appeared on marine maps until President Lazaro Cardenas changed the name in the 1930’s to Puerto Punta Peñasco. Later, ‘punta’ was dropped and it became just Puerto Peñasco. For a time, it was called Punta de Piedra o Punta Peñasco.

Originally, prior to the 1920’s, the area was safe harbor and camping spot for fishermen from Guaymas, Bahia Kino, Puerto Lobos and Puerto Libertad when they ventured north to fish for the Totoaba, not for its food value, but for its medicinal uses. Though fishermen from Arizona were coming as early as the 19th century, the area was not settled more permanently because there was no drinking water.

Originally Puerto Peñasco was part of Caborca. In the 1930’s President Cardenas had a railroad built to connect Baja California to the mainland and the line ran right by the area of Puerto Peñasco. The railroad line created new population centers and in the 1940’s, the general grid layout of Peñasco began to take shape. The community began to grow and eventually, in 1952, it was separated into the municipality of Sonoyta, Bahia la Choya, 21 de Marzo and Cuauhtémoc.

The village of Puerto Peñasco continued to grow, becoming an important shrimp producing center. In 1989, the municipality of Plutarco Elias Calles was split from Puerto Peñasco. Until the 1990’s there was little tourism to our fair town except for campers, and motor homes, and then…

Do you know that Cancun and Peñasco have something in common? I mean beside beautiful beaches? Both areas were selected by both government and private investors for development. Since the shrimp population had declined in the area, tourism was touted as the new source of commerce.

In the early 1990’s there were no high-rise hotels on Sandy Beach. The instability of 1994 and 1995 slowed the growth potential, but not for long. Back before the construction boom on Sandy Beach there was not one structure between the Reef and Playa Bonita Resort (which was, and is, a popular destination for many of our visitors Rv’ers and tourists). Of course, today, the area just described is jam packed with high rise resorts, restaurants and other entertainment venues. They start from Mare Blu, a fine dining establishment with a killer piano bar, and go all the way to Playa Bonita. The once desolate fisherman’s camping place of safe harbors now boasts a population of over 60,000 residents and is a favorite tourist/recreation spot for folks from Arizona, California, Nevada and other states as well as from towns and cities throughout Mexico! This is evidenced by the number of condo owners and renters.

The real estate bust in 2007 through 2009 hurt the local economy, but once Peñasco had been ‘discovered’ there was just not stopping the development. Today, condominium construction is going on at a prodigious rate with Encantame Towers the latest entry into that market.

All told, economic growth in Puerto Peñasco, once a sleepy little fishing town, shows no signs of slowing down. For as long as people seek their own little slice of paradise here in Sonora, Peñasco will continue to thrive…post pandemic of course.

In the meantime, you who are reading this are probably not in town or out on the playas, so please stay tuned to social media or wherever you get your information and come back to Peñasco just as soon as you can! Stay healthy! See you soon!!

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