Well, spring break, Semana Santa and Easter weekend are in our collective rear view. In my opinion, Peñasco still hasn’t recovered from the border closure. Oh sure, the lines are reappearing at the border, but the ‘vibe’ hasn’t returned. I keep hearing folks talk about coming to Rocky Point on some social media…in fact I read it quite a bit more than I ever have before, but it doesn’t seem to translate into action. IMHO that’s a good thing!

If you have read this column before, you know that I’m not keen to have lots of people coming to our fair city, even though tourists are the lifeblood of the town. It’s not for lack of empathy and concern for the economic impact that tourism brings either. I’m just a grouchy old guy, I suppose. The reasons are many and varied but visitors fall, broadly, into the following categories;

1) Transplants and expats who live here for part of the year or full time.

2) Second homeowners, or regular renters, who spend a week, two or more ‘at the beach’.

3) Tourists who come down for a vacation week or two and, usually, stay at the resorts on Sandy Beach or now, at Encantame or Playa Azul.

4) Motorycle enthusiasts who come in droves for “Bike Week” in November.

4) Spring breakers (both college and some high school students), from various schools north of the border who come down to party…with all that it entails.

5) Mexican nationals who descend on Peñasco en masse to celebrate Semana Santa and Easter.

Contrast those groups with ‘the way it used to be.’ 

For many years, Peñasco was just a sleepy little fishing village. Most of the gringos that visited from ‘el norte’ crossed the border at Lukeville through Arizona, as they do today, were fishermen. These hardy souls enjoyed the rustic accommodations (of which there were very few then), local food and great fishing that the area offered. Some would head further south to Santo Tomas, Desemboque, Puerto Lobos or Puerto Libertad (long before those areas had any amenities and certainly no power plant). Heading south to Kino Bay took too long so Peñasco was the generally agreed on base for everyone that came down to Old Mexico from that corner of Arizona.

My, how times have changed. Now known as “Arizona’s beach,” Puerto Peñasco has morphed into a full-blown tourist city. Thanks to that notoriety we now have so many hotels, restaurants, and various stores that, in many ways, we are indistinguishable from towns in the U.S. Of course, along with those amenities, we have lost much of the old-world charm that made this special place such a treat to visit. In fact, it is the main reason most expats love it here. In addition to the lower costs of living (that’s changing rapidly though), the slower pace of life and the wonderful Mexican people, there is something intangible about living in such a marvelous corner of the world. It simply

defies definition. You have to experience it to know what I mean. 

All of that is a way of explaining why the Old Gringo is not very thrilled to see so many others pouring into our town. The ‘old’ Peñasco is gone…run over by progress, hotels, condos and such. The complexion of the town has, and is continuing to, change in ways that are hard to gauge. If you use places like Puerto Vallarta or Mazatlan as a yardstick, the changes here do not bode well. 

If I were able to tell the ‘newcomers’ anything about how to mitigate their impact on our town and enjoy being here more, it would be to embrace the vibe and the slower pace.  Learn a few Spanish phrases (I find that learning how to pronounce the letters of the Spanish alphabet is very enlightening). Don’t worry about stores not having every conceivable item that you can get “back home”. Respect the culture, and the people. 

Learn to accept that not all roads are paved and the ones that are do have potholes. Also, learn that commercial establishments intermingle in residential areas. Use pesos instead of U.S. dollars when possible (you get a better rate that way, at least). Learn where places are not only by name, but by visiting them or having someone who knows take you there, because nobody uses street names and directions from locals usually involve knowing Spanish…references to other landmarks, and how many blocks (quadras) it is from where you are.

Anyway, those are just a few tips for those of you who are interested in enjoying your stay here a little better. Change is inevitable, but shaping how the changes affect our town requires a bit of forethought. Enjoy Peñasco.