December 2020. Did you ever think it would get here? Me either! What a year! Of course, with everything dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is hard to write a straight “newsy” article, but there really was a lot that happened here in beautiful Puerto Peñasco that didn’t directly involve the disease…I just can’t think of any good ones.
Early in the year, there were rumblings of the Port construction starting back up. Depending on who you talk to, and whose ox is being gored, so to speak, that is either a good thing or not. The cruise ships seem to be gaining popularity, along with our town, and that bodes well for them to continue. The way the cruises are, or were, packaged, the cruisers never really got to spend any time in town exposed to our wonderful restaurants, shopping and culture. Instead, the cruisers were debarked at other cities along their route of travel, simply boarding and leaving from our town. The business people felt a bit cheated by the supposed boom in the economy that was touted (especially after many of them were asked to kick in money to help with the port development) with the onset of the cruises and port, but which never materialized. How that will play out, post COVID, will bear watching.
By February, the disease struck world-wide and everyone scrambled to try to figure out what to do. As I have said previously, Mayor Munro did a good job of keeping the city from becoming a center for the disease. Unfortunately, the medicine hurt worse than the disease. Locking entry down and quarantining a city as large a Peñasco down is no small feat (try doing it in, say, Goodyear), but it not only got done, it worked! The incidence of the sickness was minuscule compared to what could have happened. The economic impact was what hurt the most, with tourism virtually at a standstill, the Malecon a ghost town, and the towers at Sandy Beach empty as owners from out of town were proscribed from getting to them. Liken it to driving a high-performance sports car and suddenly losing 10 of the 12 cylinders. That’s what happened here. 200 MPH to a dead walk in a heartbeat.
Even if you’re a long time Peñasco aficionado, local, expat or regular visitor, seeing the Malecon devoid of people is unsettling. Not being able to go to your favorite places is just as bad. Think of the store owners, vendors and other support people unseen behind the scenes who keep our town humming, suddenly stopped in their tracks.
We’ve all experienced that to one degree or another during this difficult year, no matter where we live. The thing that shines about Peñasco, though, is it does not have the massive infrastructure or supply chain of the larger cities to the north, or in Mexico either. Yet, the impact that the quarantine COULD have had; economically devastating the town, driving people not only out of work, but out of their homes and so forth, never fully materialized.
Our community did what it always has done. We came together. When Barb’s Dog Rescue water system broke down, folks got busy, collected donations, and ran water trucks out to keep the pups cool. Folks who had more, gave to those who had need (remember my Thanksgiving column for reference). People out of work did whatever ELSE they could to keep the lights on. Most men in town have construction skills, and with the two massive windstorms that ravaged the beach communities from Las Conchas to the Mayan Palace, found enough work to keep afloat.
Almost everyone respected the mayor’s mask rules and the government’s beach edicts, and there were very few, if any, gross violations (with at least one notable exception that I am aware of).
As the disease became better understood more tourists decided to brave the trip from points north and things really opened up once more. The Encantame towers project leads a high-profile list of exciting new developments, and a lot more people have discovered our secret paradise.
Since I usually run north as soon as the humidity and temperatures rise above 90°F, I had the wonderful experience of being asked by friends, and friends of friends, what Peñasco was like. Never shy, I told them. Many made plans to visit soon, on the spot, asking for recommendations from lodging to dining to entertainment to shopping.
So here we are at the end of one of the most miserable years for our town, and the world, that I can remember…and I’m really old…but we are still standing. Still smiling, laughing, singing, dancing and sharing! So, I’m taking the opportunity to wish each and every one of you reading this magazine Feliz Navidad y Prospero Año! See you in 2021, bound to be a better year!!