As I have often mentioned, this column is written about a month in advance of publication, so please forgive any inconsistencies between the writing and when you read it.

The border closure, and re-opening is in our collective rear view mirrors, but the reverberations of it are still being felt in our town. Driving through the border at Lukeville, now, is not what it was pre-shut-down. On any given day there are no lines waiting to cross, in either direction. The Malecon, here in Peñasco, is still fairly empty and the people from “el norte” have not returned in the numbers that we all were used to. Such is the power of suggestion via mass media, and the politics of the moment.

What’s to be done about the terrible economic impact the closure had on businesses on both sides of the border I do not know. Time will tell how crippled we are, and whether we will fully recover. I’m betting on Peñasco.

In the meantime, the Old Gringo has been traveling down ‘Baja Way’ with a couple of friends from the ‘states revisiting some of my favorite places and going whale watching in Laguna San Ignacio. Never a disappointment, San Ignacio lagoon is always full of mama California gray whales and their babies during February, March and April, before the behemoths begin their long swim back to the Chukchi Sea north of the Bering Straits. They are pretty used to the humans and their small pangas (open fishing boats to you non seafarers) crowding around on the surface to watch them feed, dive and exercise the babies, getting them ready for the long haul ahead.

While in the town of Loreto we got to see a ceremony marking the 107th anniversary of the Mexican constitution. It was a nice tribute, attended by various dignitaries from all the military branches, several regional politicians and the lovely Mayor of Loreto, Arly Arce Peralta. Such a beautiful lady representing a beautiful city. As well, local school children were present to watch, listen and enjoy the event, which culminated with dancing by a troupe of young women from Nayarit, dressed in traditional garb. The entire event was simply wonderful, and it lasted only one hour! Politicians north of Mexico could take a lesson!

The downside of the celebration, for visitors, was that the local museums were closed for the holiday. My friends did not get to see the museum at Mision de Nuestra Señora de Loreto Concho. Since Loreto is the oldest town in Baja California (north and south), and since it was established by the laying of the first stones to erect this magnificent building on October 25, 1697, it was sad that they could not enjoy the fascinating artifacts in the museum. But there is always next time.

I had video footage of Loreto taken during a visit in 2003. The changes to the city were immediately noticeable to me and to my friends after they viewed the DVD. I was surprised by how much that city has grown in the intervening 21 years. Tourism has morphed this once bucolic slice of Baja with only about 5,000 residents in 2000, into a small (16,000 people) version of Puerto Peñasco (60,000 today…and counting). While we know that the only constant in this world is change, it is still a shock when your memories collide with reality.

San Felipe, south of Mexicali in Baja Norte, is a good example of what Peñasco was like 40 or so years ago. It, too, has been changed by time and tourism. If you want to see what Peñasco was like 40 years ago (not exactly but close) take a trip over to San Felipe. It’s only a 5-hour drive from our fair city. Make your comparisons, have a meal (or three) and come on back. You’ll notice that Peñasco has a lot more ‘gringo friendly’ amenities than San Felipe, although Californians are heavily represented, and invested there. That population is transforming San Felipe drastically as well.

Returning to Puerto Peñasco I am reminded of the sleepy town I first visited in 1977. My how things have changed. If you are reading this, I assume you are in town (or you have a subscription) so let me say to any newcomers “welcome,” enjoy this special place, and Mexico, and come back often! Bienvenido amigos!