Seeing so many new folks coming into our town; renting condos, building new homes, refurbishing old ones and generally buying their own little slice of heaven, one has to wonder, where will it end? Are we destined to be another Cabo San Lucas, Puerta Vallarta or Mazatlán?

What a lot of folks don’t see, or possibly do see but ignore, are the systemic and cultural changes that are being wrought by the ‘discovery’ of the little slice of paradise known as Puerto Peñasco. Change, of course, is inevitable. In fact the only constant in this life on planet Earth is change, so it shouldn’t come as a total shock to anyone that Peñasco has changed, markedly, in the past 20 or so years.

I say the past twenty years because that’s about the time that the first condo tower appeared on our shores. It was followed by resorts like the Mayan Palace and, once those floodgates opened, well…it was “Katie, bar the door!” which is old people speak for, “Damn, how do we stop this flood of people!”

If I may, I’ll refer to Peñasco in two ways, “old” Peñasco and “new” Peñasco and make no apologies for my characterizations of the people I describe. If the shoe fits…

Cultural changes aside the tone and texture of living in our town have become coarser. Not a word I use lightly. The explosion of construction projects has engendered a large influx of workers from all over Mexico. This is so because Peñasco was, until the late 1990’s, a fishing village. That translates into not much in the way of construction savvy on the part of the local work force…at least not much in the way of high-rise building construction.

With the inflow of new workers, the property crime rate rose. In old Peñasco, almost everyone was an integral part of the community. Most folks knew each other and even the expats who spent a lot of time here knew enough people to be considered ‘family.’  Most respected the personal integrity of other people and the community worked like a well-oiled machine. If something was not yours, you didn’t take it. If you could help someone, you did and did not expect to be paid for your help. It was the neighborly thing to do.

In new Peñasco, the influx of so many new workers and other people made the previous arrangement necessarily untenable. Where before, personal integrity and a genuine honesty and friendliness were the order of the day, disrespect (in both directions), want, greed and indifference on the part of the new arrivals made one not feel as secure.

Indeed, on the playas, property crimes such as burglary and petty theft spiked whenever new construction crews were around. The police are spread pretty thin to begin with and had no interest in providing patrols to prevent these crimes, so it was left up to the individual residents, or groups of residents, to do it. Interesting times, these.

In old Peñasco, parking at some of the more popular stores was really limited. When you pulled up to a ferreteria (that’s ‘hardware store’ for the monolingual among you), you left your keys in your vehicle so it could be moved if the guy you parked behind needed to leave before you came out. No one worried much about having their vehicle stolen.  After all, as small as the town was, if someone did take your vehicle, another person would notice and think… “there goes Juan driving the old gringo’s truck.” So, there wasn’t much in the way of that kind of crime here.

In new Peñasco, if you were foolish enough to leave you keys in your vehicle, you could almost bet it would not only be gone in a flash, but probably painted another color and resold within the day. Such is the way of ‘progress’ in our sunny little corner of the world.

While decrying the loss of the innocence that was old Peñasco, it does not go without notice that the prosperity and relative elevation of the standard of living for most of the city residents brought about by the arrival of so many new residents, tourists and expats has made life much more comfortable for the local people.

I guess the trick is going to be how to incorporate the new Peñasco into the mold of the old Peñasco, if such a thing is even possible. I know the people of the town would like to see it happen…and so would many of us who can still remember what paradise was like before we lost it.