The economy here on Jaltemba Bay, the body of water on which sits our adopted home in Guayabitos, has received a one-two punch this year. I hope it’s not down for the count.
First of all, Mexico received more rain last summer than they have EVER received in a summer before. It was record-breaking. Most news stories have focused on the States of Oaxaca, Tabasco and Veracruz. The devastation is heart-wrenching, if one has not become inured to images of soggy humanity across the hemispheres, east and west.
But there was lots of rain here on the central Pacific Coast north of Puerto Vallarta. In fact the northbound two-lane span of the bridge which takes us from here on Jaltemba Bay to there on bigger Banderas Bay washed away completely. Here we are, not quite cut off from the airport, Sam’s Club and COSTCO (I speak with tongue in cheek), but having to expand our timelines to accommodate time spent confined to one lane each direction.
No lives here were lost on a par with Oaxaca or Veracruz, gracias a Dios, as our neighbors remind us. But being able to make a living has definitely taken a nosedive. Here in the State of Nayarit, for a period of about seven weeks this past summer we received between six and eight inches practically every night. Where does most of that water go? Away! And it carries a lot of infrastructure and landscape with it. “Worse than Kenna,” my friend Chelo intones, nodding her head sadly, referring to the 2002 hurricane from which the local market town of La Penita has never fully recovered. It was only this past winter that further progress was made in clearing the waterfront wreckage from that storm. Kenna came and went, as giant whirlwinds are wont to do. The rain this past summer was relentless, a slow pummeling of a people and economy that were already on the ropes, weakened by bad press revolving around narcotraficante wars and swine flu.
The bruises from this recent pounding are evident. The main roads into both San Pancho and Sayulita, beach towns to the south of us, are still closed. Access to those towns is by pedestrian footbridge in one case and in the other by a circuitous route that bumps and grinds its way through back streets full of potholes. Gas trucks with fresh water and butane have difficulty supplying their customers. This is not great for tourism.
There’s more. The famous surfing beach at Sayulita that attracts winter crowds of experts as well as wannabes is now a sand bar way off shore. The stretch of sand in front of Don Pedro’s Restaurant where rows of cobalt blue cabanas and beach chairs used to stand sentry over the surfers are gone. Water laps at the wall right below your “beach side” table. And the pavement on Highway 200, the artery that connects these beach towns like pendants and beads on a necklace – it can be as unpredictable as that necklace you buy on the beach. Don’t put a lot of stress on it, or it will break and scatter the pieces it’s supposed to hold together.
Number two punch, actually two short jabs right to the gut, were travel advisories issued by both the Canadian and U. S. governments. There’s nothing like putting an official stamp of approval on a rampant case of heebie-jeebies. Every time there is a shooting in Juarez or Tijuana, ten people or more cancel a trailer park reservation in Guayabitos, La Peñita, or Lo de Marcos, all of them over a thousand miles to the south. Yes there is violence along the border, but it is a rare case indeed when touring motorists are involved. On our two trips crossing the border this summer, we had no problems. We hear the same from the friends who have started trickling back into town. Their stories match ours: The Federales were present at many checkpoints, and all were solicitous that Americans and Canadians feel safe and secure in their travels. In our own case, the immigration official at the Columbia crossing west of Laredo was particularly cordial when he stamped our documents. The cleaning lady had had to go wake him up, as we were the first foreign visitors to come through in several hours. He was overjoyed to see us! And for those who are especially cautious, the Green Angels have offered free escort service to anyone who wants it.
So this is directed to those who love this area, who think of it as a second home. Are you a fair-weather friend? Your second home neighbors miss you! Get into the ring and lend a hand. Mexico wants you here. Mexico needs you here. Yes, flights into Vallarta are full of one week vacationers, but snowbirds from the frozen north — snowbirds who spend months here, not days — are the bread and butter of this coast. These are the people who provide fuel for the local economy, a hitherto growing economy fostering a burgeoning middle class, an economy that provided a buffer and defense against those narcotraficante recruitment posters that ask, “Tired of eating beans and rice? Join us!”
Come on! Do your part. Let’s stand up to the bully named FEAR. If you’re going to throw in the towel, do it on the beach!
Mexico Road Trips is a site that offers traffic and safety reports. Check them out. They are frank, up front and reliable. Dot and Bill Bell have put more miles on their car traveling Mexico’s highways than anyone else I know – 10,000 miles alone this summer, crossing the border many times.