I had occasion, recently, to hear a visitor to our fair city griping about an item that they couldn’t find in any of our myriad stores or shops. After listening to the complaint and innocently asking the person, “did you expect Mexico to be like Arizona, with shopping centers on every corner?” Their response was telling…typically, it seems, that this particular person was under the impression that since Peñasco was a popular tourist destination it should cater to the tastes and wants of the Americans and other ‘norteños’ who visit [as if it doesn’t]. They were not the least concerned about, or understanding of, the differences between Mexico and the consumer culture north of the border.

From that exchange, I got to rummaging around in my head (always a dangerous thing to do!), reminiscing about what our beautiful city was like forty-five years ago, and how things have changed. As our esteemed editor, Lanette Phipps, posted in last month’s editorial, that was then…this is now.

“What’s a good, place to stay overnight?
Then: Pitaya, Manny’s, Viña del Mar…maybe a trailer somewhere…cheap and clean.

Now: Everywhere any anywhere…but be prepared to pay!

“Where can I buy groceries?”
Then: El Pueblo, El Carniceria, local Tienditas in just about any neighborhood, the fruteria was a tar paper shack erected on the corner of Sinaloa and Calla Magnolias…
Now: Sam’s Club, Bodega Aurrera, Ley Express, Super Ley, El Carniceria, Local Mercados, Tienditas (still!) in just about any neighborhood…

“Where can I get one of these ‘thingamajigs’ (any hardware item) to fix…”

Then: Maybe Los Pinos, maybe a local ferreteria (Nacho’s hardware store or some such) if you know where one is.”

Now: Los Pinos, Expotile, Kuroda, Nacho’s, LTH, Auto Zone…Oasa, Made, many more!

“What’s a good place to grab a bite to eat?”

Then: La Curva, Casa del Capitan, local taco stands, small local restaurants (a few, in the neighborhoods), Manny’s (maybe) Playa Bonita.

Now: La Curva, Casa del Capitan (still!), Pollo Lucas, local street vendors and taco stands, small local restaurants, Mariachi’s on Rodeo Drive, Pane e Vino, Chef Mickey’s, Rocky Point BBQ, Garufa’s, Bandito’s, Tekila Bar, Boo Bar, Señor Amigos, Regina’s, Mare Blu, Ramon’s…and so many more it would not possibly fit into this column…

“How about some local clothing and fashions?”

Then: Good luck with that. Other than tee shirts, sombreros, baseball caps or serapes…nada!

Now: (Mexican) Rodeo Drive, Sam’s, Bodega Aurera, Coppel, many, many little local shops…

“What is there to do, beside sunbathe?”

Then: Camp on the beach, shelling, fish, drink, Scuba, snorkel, carouse (The Old Gringo liked carousing, but I’m not naming names!)

Now: Motorhome camping, sunbathing, fishing, swim up bars, nightclubbing, banana boat rides, parasailing, moonlight cruises, carousing (still not naming names!), cruises for whale watching or to Isla San Jorge (Bird Island), scuba diving, snorkeling, attend a concert, go to the museums, attend Mermaid’s Market, shop Rodeo Drive, walk and shop on the Malecón…and much more!

“What about coming to Peñasco from Arizona?”

Then: Drive on SR 85 to Lukeville. Tip the Mexican “border guards” a buck and get your “Turista” sticker on your windshield. If you were bringing a pet (dog) a nod and a wave. Take Route 8…rough, only wide enough for one car or bus at a time (if another vehicle approached coming the opposite direction, both stopped and maneuvered around each other) with an 18” drop off on either shoulder. It usually took about two to three hours to drive from Sonoita to Peñasco at night. Stop at Vasquez’ store after crossing in to Sonoita to get a few cases of beer and tequila and head south! If you wanted to go to Santo Tomas or further, you had to go through town on Blvd. Fremont to the railroad crossing to catch route #3…no bypass!

Now: Drive on SR 85 to Lukeville, cross the border and wait for a green light, or if red, get your vehicle inspected for contraband by the border guards, show rabies paperwork for your pets. If you have more than your allotted $300 in merchandise, go to the Aduana and pay import tax. Drive no more than 25 MPH (40 KM per hour) through Sonoita (speed trap!) Head south on Route 8 (a very nicely paved two lane highway, with wide shoulders and rest areas) for about an hour…cross the overpass over route 3 to Caborca and you’re in Peñasco! Or…if you wanted to go to the Mayan Palace, Playa Miramar, Playa Dorada, Playa Azul, Encantame Resorts, Santo Tomas or points south…take the Route #3 bypass southeast at the underpass.

“Heading home after a fun filled vacation?”

Then: Retrace your route on Route #3 north, in daylight, and cross back into Arizona. Rarely was there a line at the border, but if there was, you put your car, or truck, in “Park” turned off your engine and bought some tortillas, tacos, tamales or whatever was being hawked by the locals selling from car to car, and wait to go back across and home.

Now: If you don’t time it right, you’ll be waiting a looonnggg time to cross the border, especially on a holiday weekend. My advice, should you encounter this situation…put your car, or truck, in “Park” turn off your engine and buy some tortillas, tacos, tamales or whatever was being hawked by the locals and wait to go home.

Editor’s note: This old photo of Puerto Peñasco was courtesy of Janice and has been in our archives. You can see Sandy Beach and Competition Hill in the background. I’m guessing this is back when the end of Calle 13 was all Playa Hermosa.