"I left my husband at home this time," she says. "We drove down with no problem."

Predictably, most Rocky Point vacationers told New Times they don't feel threatened or unsafe coming to Mexico. But they think about the risk.

"Would I feel better if I had a gun in the RV? Yes," says Steve Phillips, the camper from Oregon.

A larger-than-life fisherman and his catch watch over the renovation of Old Port's Malecon district.
Ray Stern
A larger-than-life fisherman and his catch watch over the renovation of Old Port's Malecon district.
El Elegante Crater, about a mile in diameter.
Ray Stern
El Elegante Crater, about a mile in diameter.

Details

New Times fellow Gregory Pratt provided some of the Spanish translation for this article.

Eva Partel of Vernon, British Columbia, has been coming down to the Mayan Palace for the past three years with her husband, Bill Lim. She's been traveling to Mexico for "years and years," often to Acapulco or Cancún. Rocky Point, an "absolutely gorgeous place," is closer.

"We drove down in four days," says the white-haired senior citizen, holding a novel as she reclines in a lounge chair. She and Lim were the only people poolside. "The first time we went to Rocky Point, my daughter-in-law said, 'You can't do that!'"

She doesn't believe the area is dangerous, but "I know that you have to be careful."

With family in Phoenix, Sigmar Willnauer of Mannheim, Germany, decided to visit Rocky Point for the first time in February with his 7-year-old daughter. He researched the crime situation and even phoned local police before coming, he says. After a few relaxing days on Sandy Beach, he was headed to the Grand Canyon.

On the other side of town, in Las Conchas, the scene at the CEDO oceanographic institute was utterly peaceful. Several Tucson middle-school students and their chaperones were lodged on the institute's second floor, where they were staying for a few days to learn about life in the Sea of Cortez and have fun.

Lisa Foxx, dressed in a black tank top and shorts, points out her 11-year-old daughter on the beach below as she talks with us in the building's courtyard. This summer, she says, her daughter will be coming to the CEDO facility without her — and she's not worried.

"I'll only be jealous," the Tucson mom says with a smile. "I can't say this year I'm anymore nervous — we've been doing this for five years."

Truly, on a such a nice day at the beach, it's difficult to imagine the place suddenly erupting in violence.

And if a visitor does feel a tingle of fear, it's probably nothing a cerveza can't help.


As Americans mull their vacation options, people who live and work in Rocky Point grow more worried about their future. This being Mexico, the difference between rich and poor always has been dramatic. Now unemployment is soaring as cash-strapped businesses close their doors or scale back operations.

Las Palomas, one of the largest high-rise condo towers on Sandy Beach, recently laid off hundreds of workers. Many were unpaid for their last three months of work, says Marco Leon, who works the front desk at the Sonoran Sky. Many of the laid-off employees are his friends.

Some managed to find jobs at restaurants in Old Port. Others moved out of town.

"They used to have one apartment each," Leon says. "Now, it's four people in one apartment."

Israel Garcia, a seafood vendor at the Malecon, says, "People are desperate from the bad economy."

He claims U.S. cities and vacation spots competing for tourists pump out "malicious propaganda" to make Rocky Point and other Mexican destinations look bad.

"If the people of Phoenix say that it is dangerous out here, tell them it is more violent there," he says.

Jose Chavez Ortiz, an 82-year-old resident who lives in a tiny barrio house he built 40 years ago, puts it more bluntly: Son bien miedosos, which translates roughly to "pussies."

His younger relative, Lupe, and her 1-year-old son live with him. She's blind from diabetes and can't get decent medical care, Ortiz says. He has two daughters in the United States, but they don't send him money because they're broke, too, he complains.

"It isn't getting better," he says.

Charitable help from Americans has been reduced in the past couple of years, according to religious organizations that bring good Samaritans to Rocky Point to build homes or help with medical clinics.

One Mission, which owns an RV park on the town's main drag for its charity work, had 1,700 people sign up for home-building last year. Only 1,050 made the trip, says Jason Law, the mission's founder. One house can be built for each 20 people who contribute, which means that, theoretically, 35 fewer homes for the poor were constructed.

People usually call about a week before planned trips and say their moms talked them out of going, or that they saw something on the news that caused them to reconsider, Law says.


A mural hanging in a conference room at the new aeropuerto just north of the Mayan Palace resort displays the history of aviation in Rocky Point. On the left is Al Capone's buddy's airport (an area now covered with houses). The middle section depicts a more modern facility, also now defunct. And to the right is the new Mar de Cortes International Airport, built by GrupoVidanta and opened in November 2009.

Rocky Point officials hope the airport, which can handle 737- and 757-size jets, eventually will usher in a new era for the region — one in which Americans and Canadians will arrive in style, as they have in Cancún and Puerto Vallarta.

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1 comments
Nikkidog
Nikkidog

Just heard when crossing the boarder into mexico, the mexicans are taking turkey, steaks, hamburger meat and dog food from the Americans.  Not a very good thing to be doing when it's Thanksgiving and a lot of people will be going down there.

 
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