For any use of my photos, please contact me at monika.wieland (at) gmail (dot) com

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Streets of Puerto Peñasco: A Gringo's Perspective

I have to jump ahead and out of order in my blog posts here in order to reflect on a non-wildlife component of our trip while the thoughts are fresh in my mind. I don't say any of this to pass judgement or make claims about life here in Mexico, but merely to record my reflections!

Visiting this part of Mexico has been a culture shock; from the moment we got waved across the border without exchanging a single word with the border guard who didn't even want to see our passports, it was clear things are done differently here. While the horror stories of what can happen to you in Mexico are mostly, in my opinion, fear-mongering, we had heard enough about people being asked to pay in US cash on the spot for speeding tickets that we decided to obey the posted limits at all times. This clearly put us in the minority, for as we made our way from the border to Puerto Peñasco, I was passed dozens of times by locals and Americans alike. Granted, the posted speed limits are insanely slow - roads that would be 80 kph in the US (50 mph) are often 20 or 40 kph (15-20mph) here, which is seemingly begging you to speed!

Speaking of driving, you don't really appreciate the importance of traffic signs and signals until they're absent. There are no lane markers here, and little in the way of municipal signs, so it's not always clear which intersections are 4-way stops and which are not. There aren't many electric traffic lights, but where they do exist, many of the lights are out, so when green goes away you might be left with no illuminated lights and a guess at what to do. Similarly there are no railroad crossing gates, so you are on your own to look for trains. In general there is just less a concern for road safety; I do think the US overdoes it when it comes to safety standard and regulations, so the contrast is striking here!

No motorcyclists, bicyclists, or ATV drivers wear helmets, and you often see other surprising sights, such as marines sitting in the back of a truck with machine guns (I was not quite bold enough to take their photo), or this mobile gantry crane near the shipyard being maneuvered in the street while traffic continued to flow underneath it.

On the streets you also see graffiti everywhere, though to me Americans have a pretty negative connotation to the word graffiti, because what you see here is more like street art. There are incredibly beautiful works of art all over the place on buildings, sidewalks, and walls.

I have a feeling a lot of Americans come for the all-inclusive resort experience, because you don't tend to hear much about the rest of the city. While we do love the beaches, the high class resort isn't really our style, so we've made a point of visiting many different parts of the city. There are a lot of checkpoints that limit access to areas where resorts, hotels, or rentals are; being an American seemingly gives you a more or less free pass into these areas. They do stop us and ask us what we're going for, but then just take our name and let us in. I'm not clear whether these security measures are needed or if they are just to provide the feeling of safety.

In the main parts of the city, you can't help but notice the trash everywhere. The main streets are paved, but many side streets are dirt and we found one part of town where it was as if the roads were half sand, half garbage.

And the poverty is everywhere. One would hope a bustling tourist town would support a local economy, but as I suspect is often the case in foreign countries, many of the resorts and tourist attractions are probably foreign-owned and thus much of the money doesn't reach the local community. There are many properties or shelters that look abandoned, but when you look closer you realize they are occupied.

There are lots of street dogs, too, and street children? At least children who weren't in school.

On the whole, though, the people have all been incredibly friendly. You do get your stereotypical street vendors who follow you and try to sell you things, some of whom are drinking are smoking while they work.

These guys, Bud Light in hand, were trying to get us to come into their "farmacia" ("pharmacy")
But mostly everyone has been very kind and gracious, and either good with English or more than tolerant of my barely passable Spanish.

I've found myself wondering how booming the tourist industry even is here. For every glamorous new resort that is going up, it seems like there are two others that were either never fully constructed or have been left to decay. The juxtaposition between new construction and dilapidated buildings has been the most puzzling and unexpected thing we've seen. I don't understand at all where the money is coming from and/or why so many buildings are being left unused.

Newly painted condos next to rusting and falling over rebar from incomplete construction
A not-so-old looking beachfront resort left to be reclaimed by the sand dunes
A newly opened hotel
Across the street, a never completed hotel
Empty condos (Recently built and never sold?) with rusting paint and metalwork and open sliding glass doors on every unit
While we came for the nature and wildlife, it has been a very thought-provoking cultural experience, as well, one I'm sure we'll be talking about for a long time!

1 comment:

Vera said...

Super interesting blog. Thanks! You have a way of observing things that we don't see, although the last time we were there I don't recall abandoned hotels or much new in the way of condos.....