While taking a break from the high temps and even higher humidity that is Peñasco during August and September, the Old Gringo had the opportunity to visit old friends and make some new ones up in the cool pines of Strawberry, Arizona. Casually, during conversation, many of my old friends made it a point to tell any new friends that I lived in Puerto Peñasco (or Rocky Point, which was the more likely name most mentioned). This ‘revelation’ always prompted an exchange that went something like this:
New friend: “Oh, wow! You live in Rocky Point?”
Old Gringo: “Yep.”
NF: “Full time!?”
OG: “Yep, except for August and September.”
NF: “How is it down there?”
OG: “Nice, sorta like here but with sand, sea, and no Elk. We have dolphins though.”
NF: “Do you feel safe there?”…
Now, dear reader, at this point in the conversation, I can honestly say that I am torn. While I want to extol the virtues of living in our little corner of paradise, to tell all and sundry how truly wonderful it is to live in such a beautiful and tranquil city; to live by the sea, take exhilarating walks on pristine beaches, enjoy the great food and night life, fish, SCUBA dive, boat, kayak, enjoy sunset cruises (on Del Mar Charters’ catamaran with Captain Oscar) explore the desert on our side by sides, or to expound on the ability to drive over to Valle de Guadalupe and enjoy the fine wines that region has to offer. Or to motor down the Baja Peninsula to places like San Ignacio or travel south to Guadalajara, Jalisco, Guanajuato or San Miguel de Allende. To even just sit back and watch the world go by, are some things I might like to tell them. Sadly, and I’m not sure my editor will allow this to get into print, it is not what I share. The rest of the conversation usually went like this:
OG: “No, I am fearful almost every day. The police are just waiting to nail the gringos, every store and shop is out to rip you off, and there are banditos or Federales on every highway outside of town, but especially on the road from Sonoita to Peñasco. Everything is overpriced, especially if you’re from ‘el norte.’ You can almost saddle the roaches in the hotel rooms! They hate Americans and take advantage of them every chance they get!”
NF: “Really!? Wow! I’ve heard stuff like that. How long have you lived there?”
OG: “31 years… but I’ve been visiting since 1977.”
NF: “If it is so terrible, why do you live there?”
OG: (a bit embarrassed) “Ummm…well, I kinda got used to all of it??”
So, here’s the real story; as all things do, Peñasco has changed…is changing. More and faster every year. The sleepy fishing village of the 70’s is the burgeoning tourist mecca of the 2020’s. Hotels, high rise condominiums, luxury homes and large retail stores have supplanted the small rental rooms and ‘mom & pop’ tienditas where we used to shop.
The biggest change is the sheer volume of people (and traffic) our town now accommodates. Oh, we were used to the rude and unruly college idiots that descended on our town during ‘spring break’ and even some of the rowdy biker crowd during bike week, but they were a known quantity. Those disruptions to our way of life were both anticipated and endured at specific times during the year. Fast forward to today…
With hotel occupancy and condominiums at maximum, our town today is awash with tourists and new residents. It is inevitable that the complexion of the city has changed. Not all change has been for the best, either, but change it has. Just like everywhere else north of the border, the exodus from places that have become ‘unlivable’ to places perceived to be ‘better’ has turned what was once a tranquil paradise into a hustle/bustle new city. It reminds me of the old Joni Mitchell (Google her, youngsters) song, “Big Yellow Taxi.” Do you remember the line, “don’t it always seem to go, you don’t know what ya got til its gone, you find paradise and put up a parking lot…?”
So, if I can be forgiven for wanting Peñasco to remain a little bit like it used to be, I’ll continue to tell people who ask how horrible it is to come here…and to tell their friends the same. If I can stop just one more person from coming here, it might be worth it! But I doubt it will do any good. The secret is out. Those of us who remember the old Peñasco with have to be content with those memories.
For those who find my attitude crass, want to complain and DOX me because they are offended…good luck with that, I DON’T CARE!