Guaymas: Newton’s Effects, and a Parade

Newton the Hurricane

While the crew of Galivant was in Maryland doing our summer job (home maintenance, as opposed to boat maintenance), the big event in Guaymas was Hurricane Newton on September 7. Newton lost some of its oomph crossing the Baja peninsula, but still packed significant punch as it made landfall near Guaymas in the dark of night.

There are roofs peeled off in town, trees remarkable for their absence, missing signs, etc. The crumbling dome on the classic old bank building downtown that we hoped someone would rescue ( – well, we don’t have to worry about that any more. It’s gone. Electric power went out but as happens in these cases the country pulls together to get the utilities running again, pronto, mostly. Everybody has a story but in short, Guaymas doesn’t look all that different from its usual self.

Map of storm force winds for Newton 2016

Most of the boating community weathered the storm well. We had heard from staff and from friends at Gabriel’s Marina Guaymas that Galivant was fine. When we arrived after a cross country drive two months later, we got details of what must have been a long and frightening night for Andrés, Roberto, Alejandro, Gabriel and the rest of the staff. It wasn’t so much rain as wind, they said, lots of it. The men circulated constantly, checking and tightening the boat stands, and in the end only a handful of boats got into trouble.

Up at the dry storage yard at Marina San Carlos, they weren’t so lucky. That yard hauls boats out on trailers rather than on a travelift; as a result they can be, and are, blocked up closer together. When one boat goes down, it’s more likely to take others with it.

Up in nearby San Carlos, Newton toppled a row of sailboats as if they were dominos. Photo courtesy Latitude 38.

In nearby San Carlos, Newton toppled a row of sailboats as if they were dominos. Photo courtesy Latitude 38.

The Fonatur Marina in Guaymas also took a hit. The docks were lightly built to begin with, and there were some large, and unattended, vessels,  beyond the ability of the folks on hand to deal with. In the end I believe seven boats in the water were sunk. Finger piers ripped off and the docks will need major attention.


The biggest surprise, in a ‘what’s wrong with this picture’ kind of way, was  the storage tanks in the shipyard across the lane from Galivant. They have formed the view from our cockpit while we’re out of the water – well, they blew over, all together. And it took me a hour to notice!

Hard to believe - Hurricane Newton blew these empty tanks over.
Hard to believe that Hurricane Newton could have blown these tanks over, even when empty.

A note about the dogs. It would be hard to tell if these are exactly the same dogs as in previous years – there are so many, and they have a lot of genetic material in common – but life for them appears to be poor, nasty, brutish and short (although not solitary). We’ve tried feeding the mother dog anonymously (by taking food to a location not near our boat) but she’s got my number and looks yearningly at me each time she sees me. I wish I could add some form of birth control to the tortillas and chicken bits I usually offer.


The third Monday of November is set aside to celebrate the start of the revolution in 1910 which  overthrew the aging dictator-like President Porfirio Diaz. Here’s a very abbreviated (I promise!) version of what happened next to bring this about.

There was much anger after Diaz promised an election, then rigged the results. After examining the forces arrayed against him, in 1911 Diaz accepted exile in Paris. The new president was Francisco Madero. Among Madero’s supporters were Francisco ‘Pancho’ Villa in the north, and Emiliano Zapata in the south. “(Theirs) was a locally based revolt, intent on restoring village rights to lands, forests and waters, (favoring) a self-ruling, communitarian democracy, inspired by shared traditions. It was, in many ways, a conservative revolution.”*

It turned out that Madero was less interested in these social and agrarian improvements, and more interested in political changes. So Zapata rose up against Madero in 1913; then a General Victoriano Huerta turned against him too, with the upshot that Madero and his vice president were executed.

Huerta was overthrown in 1914 by Venustiano Carranza, but the Villistas, Zapatistas and Carrancistas were still divided. This is when the US, in support of Carranza, sent troops to Mexico to capture Pancho Villa, but failed. Zapata divvied up land for the campesinos in the south but was eventually forced to retreat to the mountains. (There’s lots more to both these stories; see

And Carranza in 1917 was able to form a new constitution and hold onto power until he was succeeded by Alvaro Obregón in 1920, at which point it seems the revolution was considered over. Emiliano Zapata was assassinated in 1919. Francisco Villa was pardoned in 1920, but was killed on his ranch in 1923.

As revolutions go, this one, according to Fidel Castro’s recent obituary in the New York Times, was the most transformative and longest lasting in its impact of any Latin American 20th century revolution, other than Cuba’s.

Still trying to find out who this is; none of my parade neighbors could name him
A leader of the revolution, but which one? I’m guessing Emiliano Zapata. My parade neighbors couldn’t tell me!
Throughout Mexico, school children dress in honor of revolutionaries for this holiday.
Throughout Mexico, school children dress in honor of revolutionaries for this holiday.
Dancers, twirlers, acrobats from various schools, all filed past.
Dancers, drummers, twirlers and acrobats from various schools, labor groups, government offices, volunteer organization, all filed past in a parade that lasted most of the morning.
The folks on the reviewing platform stood and saluted every time a flag went by. Wikipedia indicates that the horizontal arm salute is called a Zogist salute, after it was popularized by King Zog I of Albania in the late 1920s; and that it is popular with civilians in Latin America, especially in Mexico.
The folks on the reviewing platform stood and saluted every time a flag went by, which was often. Wikipedia indicates that their horizontal arm salute is called a Zogist salute, after it was popularized by King Zog I of Albania in the late 1920s; and that it is popular with civilians in Latin America, especially in Mexico.

I was impressed by what a gentle, respectful parade this was, no duelling sound trucks or carnival-raunchy behavior. And I was impressed too by the women who made it all the way down the parade route in these shoes!

It makes my feet ache just to contemplate wearing these shoes, much less marching in a parade.
It makes my feet ache just to contemplate wearing these shoes, much less marching in a parade. And lots of women paraders wore them.

And now for a few more photos.

*  This is from a long and educational review from the NY Times about a book called Revolutionary Mexico, by John Mason Hart. Sounds interesting, even if it was published in 1987 and reviewed in 1988.

A Holiday, and a Reminder of Why

Dressing ship in honor of Benito Juarez at the Navy Base at Guaymas
Dressing ship in honor of Benito Juárez at the Navy Base at Guaymas

Merging onto the Modern Highway

We arrived back in Guaymas on the weekend of the vernal equinox, taking advantage of a break in the winter’s persistent northwesterly winds to make a jump north. Now, instead of a peaceful life in the isolated anchorages of Baja California, we’re in the throes of the 21st century. Excited to use the internet, but not about some of the news it brings. Excited to see our car, at least in its role as bodega/storage shed, but we can’t get the doors open because the battery is dead. It makes me think back to a line from a book I’m reading about the 1930s adventures of a young couple who traveled from California to Panama in a kayak.

"Machineless men, dwelling outside the currents of time and change, the faces of the villagers of Punta Duro reflected the peace and contentment that came from being presented with no problems beyond their capacity to solve." From Enchanted Vagabonds, by Dana Lamb. 1938, Harper and Brothers

We were raring to go out and see if we had the capacity to solve our problems and thereby reacquire peace and contentment on Monday , but whoa! Slow down! It’s a holiday! Honoring Benito Juárez, on March 21, this year is a holiday that segues neatly into Semana Santa, the Holy Week bookended by Palm Sunday and Easter, probably the biggest vacation week of the year in Mexico.

Overheard on the radio: “The beaches are already filling up and they’ll be so packed by Thursday that you’ll think there’s no more space. Then everybody else will come.”

Back to Benito Juárez:

I’d venture to say that there is not a town in Mexico that does not have a street named after Benito Juárez. And there he is on the twenty-peso note. He was president during tumultuous times in the 1860s. But why else would he be called Mexico’s Abraham Lincoln?

The most used piece of currency in Mexico is the 20-peso note featuring Benito Juarez. It's plastic, not paper, with secret codes embedded.

The most used piece of currency in Mexico is the 20-peso note featuring Benito Juárez. It’s a durable kind of plastic, not paper, with secret codes embedded. Each bill in Mexico is a different color, and some are different sizes too, making them easy to tell apart.

So I read about him on Wikipedia. I’m trying to keep my summary short and sweet, but these were very confused times in Mexico and some hard-to-imagine things occurred. Kind of like current events.

Importantly, Benito Juárez was a indigenous Mexican, not Spanish, but Zapotec, born in 1806. His parents were peasants who died when he was young; he was a shepherd and farmer until he was 12, when he walked to the city of Oaxaca to go to school (and learn Spanish). An acquaintance who was impressed by his intelligence arranged for his education.

Eventually he became a lawyer, and in his 30s, a judge, and in his early 40s governor of Oaxaca and the husband of a 20-years-younger white woman, which was notable considering the prevailing racism and social stratification of the era.

Benito Juárez with his sister Nela (right) and his wife Margarita Maza (left), 1843. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia, Benito Juárez entry

Meantime, the Mexican War with the Americans was taking place; Juarez was exiled for several years and worked in a cigar factory in New Orleans. But he returned as the Liberal party regained power. In this Reform Period, an effort was made “to create a modern civil society and capitalist economy based on the model of the United States. The Ley Juárez (Juárez Law) of 1855 declared all citizens equal before the law and severely restricted the privileges of the Catholic Church.” (Wikipedia)

Juarez, as interim president of the country, headed the liberal side in the  turbulent Mexican civil war known as the Reform Wars through the late 1850s.

He was eventually elected president in his own right in 1861 but the country’s infrastructure and economy had been badly damaged by the wars; Mexico defaulted on debts owed to England, Spain and France.

So France, with the support of the Conservatives from the Reform Wars, invaded, and Napoleon III installed the Hapsburg duke Maximillian as Emperor of Mexico. Juárez  ran a government in exile in Chihuahua until 1867 when the French were finally defeated and Maximillian executed.

Juárez won election twice after that, once ‘clean’ and later ‘widespread controversy and fraud’. He died of a heart attack at the age of 66 while reading the newspaper at his desk.

The period of his leadership is known in Mexican history as La Reforma del Norte (The Reform of the North), and constituted a liberal political and social revolution with major institutional consequences: the expropriation of church lands, the subordination of the army to civilian control, liquidation of peasant communal land holdings, the separation of church and state in public affairs, and also the almost-complete disenfranchisement of bishops, priests, nuns and lay brothers, codified in the “Juarez Law” or “Ley Juárez”. Wikipedia, Benito Juárez.

His life did overlap Lincoln’s, and parts of their life stories and political agendas have substantial similarity, and reforms worth fighting for, so I guess it’s a viable comparison. But in one way they were quite different, Lincoln being notably tall and lanky, and Juárez ‘peaking’ at only four feet, six inches tall.

UPDATE: I’ve found a way better write-up here:

The author commented that Lincoln in one sense was lucky to have been ‘martyred’ at the height of his success and thus spared the frustrations and disillusionment of Juárez’s last five years.

I can’t help but try to imagine how the wild and wooly events of Mexico in the 1860s would be described by today’s journalists and commentators. And wonder where the likes of today’s politicians and plutocrats would have found themselves in the 1860 landscape. There’s a bit more analysis of Juárez’s legacy from Wikipedia as a footnote.

While banks are closed today, I don’t think Diá Benito Juárez is a retail shopping extravaganza, at least not here in Guaymas and not at the battery store. I do hope that everyone is making the best of the day!

Sailboat sinks after hitting a whale

Because, on a more somber note, we are also thinking about a friend whose sailboat sank beneath him this week, after he hit a whale in the pre-dawn darkness. In twenty minutes, from his dinghy, he watched his very well-tended pride and joy sink in thousands of feet of water, thirty-odd miles short of Guaymas.

The good news is that the safety net we don’t want to count on but secretly do, consisting of an EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) and the person or institution it notifies (in this case Canadian authorities and through them the Mexican Navy) – that system worked exactly as it should.

Our friend was safe ashore very quickly. He did have insurance, and had prepared himself well for the voyage by having his ditch bags and liferaft ready in the cockpit. So although he needed to borrow shoes and clothes, he had his paperwork and electronics, etc. And his life. But his floating home is gone forever.

We had plenty of time to contemplate all the above as we came the same way the following night, scanning the darkness for debris, and for a concussed, angry, or dead whale, seeing nothing.

It’s a reminder just how fast a situation can change. With that in mind, let the Mexicans enjoy their holiday, and let us enjoy it too.

Footnote…a bit more about Mexican political history and Juárez’s legacy, from Wikipedia

“*La Reforma represented the triumph of Mexico’s liberal, federalist, anti-clerical, and pro-capitalist forces over the conservative, centralist, corporatist, and theocratic elements that sought to reconstitute a locally-run version of the old colonial system. It replaced a semi-feudal social system with a more market-driven one, but following Juárez’s death, the lack of adequate democratic and institutional stability soon led to a return to centralized autocracy and economic exploitation under the regime of Porfirio Díaz. The Porfiriato(Porfirist era), in turn, collapsed at the beginning of the Mexican Revolution.”

So much, from more than a hundred years ago, sounds so familiar in this description.

Out of Guaymas, Out of the Sea of Cortez

In the spring, we left Galivant propped on stands, out of the water, in Guaymas for the summer, as we had done the year before. We drove back across the country to Maryland, smelling some roses on the way, to finish some house projects. And then in October we drove back in a minivan loaded with boat bits, arriving again in Guaymas at the end of the month, about when the Sonoran summer weather began to cool down to the 70s and 80s.

Flooding in Guaymas

We had seen photos of flooding in Guaymas, the result of over a meter of rain in just a couple hours on October 2, which left thousands at least temporarily homeless and roads washed out, according to So we weren’t sure what we’d find.

There was a whole lot of rain in a brief period and this was the result, but it only lasted a couple hours, I was told.
There was a meter of rain in just a few hours, overwhelming the roads and sewers.
In the far far background a mile or two away is the dry-storage yard where Galivant was hauled out. We got excited when we saw this picture, but there apparently were no similar consequences.
The malecon flooded too. In the far far background on the other side of the bay is the dry-storage boatyard where Galivant was hauled out. We got excited when we saw this picture, but there apparently the boatyard stayed high and well-drained. Photos from

Everyone we asked in the downtown area pictured above just shrugged.  In short, downtown was dried out and back in business with no problems readily discernible to the outsider.

Roadwork too

But there is a lot of new, and necessary, road work going on. There is major work on the road to the boatyard, involving an extensive excavation one foot over and three feet down from every passing tire. New water pipe awaits installation nearby. There were numerous shifting detours through pot-holed and puddled neighborhoods. Washed-out dirt-rock side roads are gradually being graded, even paved. Poles, piles of rocks, and other eclectic markers keep the alert day-time driver clear of missing manhole covers. Driving in town was quite the adventure this year.

The new gobernadora* may be the one responsible, or maybe it’s been in the mill for years, brought forward by the big rain. Certainly,  everyone, –drivers and water users, roadside business owners, bus passengers and cyclists– anyone who uses the roads or depends upon those who do  — will breathe a huge sigh of relief when the holes, ruts, potholes, and ditches are finally filled in and evenly paved.

A public banner showing a couple happy and relieved at the state of the new road behind them. This is a bad picture, and from the state of Nayarit not Sonora besides, but the sentiments are surely the same. The companion poster shows workers putting bright yellow paint on a speed bump, which would also be cause for rejoicing were it the new standard.
A public banner showing a couple delighted at the state of the new road behind them. This is a badly exposed picture, and from the state of Nayarit (looks like the Punta de Mita road) not Sonora besides. But the sentiments are surely the same. The companion banner showed workers applying bright yellow paint to a speed bump (tope), which would also be cause for rejoicing were it the new standard.

 We spent a long month out of the water at Gabriel’s Marina Guaymas working on things. We still like it there, finding it a friendly and straightforward do-it-yourself yard. What’s to Like about living in the shipyard tells you more about that! Nonetheless, we’re not motivated to linger longer than necessary when there’s so much to see and do over the horizon.

Finally free to move, we faced a decision: should we head back to familiar places on the Baja side of the Sea of Cortez?

Last winter we stayed in the Sea of Cortez, and we enjoyed it thoroughly. We found the rugged Baja scenery striking, and liked the exotic emptiness of the landscape. I read as much as I could about the area (a lot about geology), and would like look around some more.

It was nice, but it was also  – well, cold would be an exaggeration, perhaps an offense to those under the chilly mantle of actual winter. In fact, despite the occasional dips of overnight temperatures into the low fifties, the days were usually sunny and seventy plus – pretty pleasant in my book. But I do like to don my snorkel and mask, but not my wetsuit, and swim along the shoreline looking at whatever there is to see. And the water temperature never got above the mid-sixties, which is – cold!  Too cold for a whiney woman in a lycra suit, anyhow.

So this year, lured by daily morning radio reports from other boats of balmy temperatures (“water in the pool 83 degrees”), we turned south from Guaymas.

Heading South

The trip out of the Sea of Cortez can be broken into comfortable legs with stops along the Baja peninsula, but we took the straight-down-the-middle approach, which made for a roughly 600-mile trip to Punta de Mita at the mouth of Banderas Bay. It took us five days.

Satellite image of mexico track labeled copy
This is not our actual track, which was more of a downwind zig-zag. Map courtesy of, I think.

The winds at this time of year are almost always northwest or some variant thereof, which, since we were going southeast, might be considered a fair breeze. Driven by systems ‘across the fence’ (that’s how Geary the weather guy refers to the US and Canada), the northerlies can be strong and persistent. Those steady 20+-knot winds that send us south (and keep us there!) also chunk the seas up into short square blocks. “Seas five to eight feet at five seconds” is not an uncommon weather report, and one that makes for uncomfortable sailing conditions.

So when you wish your friends “fair winds”, make sure to add on “smooth seas” too. Also, by the time we got moving, the moon was in its last quarter, rising after 2 am and dimly, when not clouded over entirely. I seem to have spent a lot of time in my life waiting for a moon to rise, then being surprised by it when it does!

The trip south was a mix of screaming along downwind at the northern end and drifting along in not-enough wind at the southern end. We’re a little cautious (or is that lazy?) about sailing efficiently in the dark of night. It’s a complicated rig of hardware, poles and guys, that keeps the sails from crumpling as we roll off the waves. We mainly don’t want to have to spend much time on a rollicking foredeck when we can’t really see all that’s happening. So we tend to reef early and accept compromises to speed in the name of comfort.

Afloat in the universe

The occasional freighter bound for Guaymas or Topolabampo passed at a distance but otherwise, it was just us and our modest red, green and grey navigation and instrument lights. While one of us sleeps, the other sits alone in the dark in the middle of the sea contemplating the universe. I suspect there is sometimes napping as well.

Anyhow, there’s plenty to think about. The firmament, for one, beneath whose dome only we two know that we are here, a minuscule moving mote. I think about the generations long gone who studied and named the night sky, and of the eons beyond counting that the stars have endured, and will endure, beyond whatever we can do to our planet. So, alone, even melancholy, and yet exhilarated too, by the luxury of real darkness in this age of artificial light.

The heavens may be “empty” and silent, but the nearer world of water, ceaselessly sloshing inches away, is anything but quiet or still. The waves do the same thing over and over, only differently each time. It’s mesmerizing. The laws of physics seem quite reliable, gravity in particular.

Breathing metaphors come to mind, heaves and pants, hisses and sighs. It does seem wrong to associate the ocean with breath, because of course it’s the last thing you can do in it. So stay on the boat, keep the water out and maintain buoyancy throughout at all costs!

We always think these shortish coastal passages are harder on the crew than ocean passages lasting weeks. On the short haul, it’s harder to find the rhythm of sleep and watch-keeping, and closer to land, there are more ways to get into trouble. But short trips end soon enough, and then you’ll wake up to find someplace new and different.

sunrise, calm seas, toenail and cleat
Out the galley window as we arrive in La Cruz de Huancaxtel, Banderas Bay. I wonder what’s in there?

*There was a nationwide election in Mexico in June 2015, and the winner for governor in the state of Sonora was the PRI candidate, Claudia Pavlovich, the blonde woman on the political posters which sprouted on roadsides throughout the spring. Although she lost Guaymas proper to the PAN, she won statewide with about 47 percent of the vote.

According to Wikipedia:

Claudia Artemiza Pavlovich Arellano (born 17 June 1969) is a Mexican politician and lawyer affiliated to the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). She currently serves as Governor of Sonora, the first woman to govern the state. Her family is of Montenegrin descent. [1] Previously she served as Senator of the LXII Legislature of the Mexican Congress representing Sonora.[2]

And the PRI is the party that ruled Mexico for much of the previous century. It is also the party of the country’s current president, Enrique Peña Nieto.

Guaymas, Sonora, Mexico

marina town center mountains behind

From our sailboat-centric point of view, Guaymas has a lot going for it, despite a relative dearth of  ‘pretty’ or ‘colonial’ or ‘quaint’. The Snapshot Gallery at the end of this post  may tell you more about the Guaymas that we have come to appreciate and feel comfortable in.

view over Guaymas
View over central Guaymas towards the port

It’s a working city with plenty of parts and services, if you can make do with not-yacht stuff. And if you can’t, well,  shippers deliver to Arizona, only a few hours/250 miles away on the Tufesa bus. I would say it is also a city of entrepreneurs and small businesses, some rising and some waning. As befits a port city, there are numerous skilled mechanics and welders and machine shops lurking behind those unmarked doors. 

Probably you could have anything done, if you could find someone to tell you where to look. Can’t get the right sized zincs? The guy at the foundry down the road (really? there’s a foundry there?) will custom mold them for you this afternoon. It’s another advantage of being in a place with a fishing fleet, with people who both know how to do things, and how to improvise. You just have to be clear in your mind what you want.

A Thumbnail Sketch of Guaymas

aerial view of Guaymas looking to seaward
The downtown Fonatur Marina and the main port are just beyond the left end of the picture, and the shipyard Guayma Marina Seca, to the right,  but you get the idea, I hope. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia-Guaymas-Sonora.

One thing that makes Guaymas tick is its port, the main port of the state of Sonora. The port serves a fishing fleet; the fleet serves some canneries, and of course seafood is on the menu everywhere.  Ships move Pemex (the government oil company) products around, bring in coal for the power plant, trans-ship grain and other agricultural products, plus copper, gypsum and other extracted resources.

Googling around I find reference to potential port expansion, and hopes of closer commercial ties with Tucson and beyond using the existing rail line and more containers, plus a plan for Guaymas to take up the slack as California ports suffer from overcrowding. The harbor will need some dredging in spots but it has a fine natural location.

Guaymas is also touted as a city with a manufacturing tradition, and its backers are proud to mention an industrial park, Roca Fuerte, as a “better choice for offshoring than China”. They mention competitive pricing, that location again, and strong connections with the local community, leading to low rates of employee turnover and absenteeism.

On the outskirts, as the highway north goes through town, you’ll find what you find everywhere these days, the chain store sprawl zone, albeit in somewhat smaller boxes. Walmart, (and the Mexican supermarket chains, Soriana, and Ley),  Autozone, Home Depot, Burger King, McDonalds, they’re all in a  jumble out there. On my personal map of north Guaymas is the ice plant, just before the airport, and the turn off that will take you on the back road along the water, or the road via Miramar, if you want a more natural view.

A very short and possibly inaccurate history

This area was first explored in 1539 but it sounds like there were only occasional small settlements, for example, in 1821, “one house, occupied by a thief.” Then the pace picked up, to the point of battles with Americans in 1846 and French in 1865-66. Mexico’s history is complicated, and told by those, generally, who won, or at least lived to fight again. But three of Mexico’s presidents did come from this area, and are memorialized in a large, and largely empty, plaza near the waterfront, centro and marina.

Plaza with three obelisks and their statues of three of Mexico's presidents.
Three of Mexico’s presidents were from this area and are memorialized here. It’s a wonderful public space but seems for some reason underutilized.

In the late 1800s…

A monthly steamer visited from San Francisco, and “quality goods” came from Germany. [Don’t they still?] I’d like to know more about this German connection. The mayor of Guaymas has a German name. And the music all over the country sounds like Bavaria, full of accordions and tubas and a yodel-y, oompah, polka-ish sound.

Wikipedia tells me that there were a number of Catholic Germans in Texas who sided with Mexico during the Mexican-American war of 1848 and resettled in Mexico afterwards. The Emperor Maximilian I brought in some German settlers around 1865. Later President Porfirio Dias and the German Prince Otto von Bismarck conspired to bring more Germans, mainly to the south (coffee plantations we saw). A  wave of Mennonites came to some northern areas in the 1920s. [Wikipedia says that by their community rules, the men may speak Spanish, but the women must continue only in PlattDeutsch – I wonder if this is true?] And finally, there was a lot of German immigration during and after World War II.

So maybe that’s  why so much music around here sounds so German (and the beer is good!) Now, back to regular programming….

The Santa Rosalia Connection

The railway line construction began in 1880; in the night, across the bay, you can sometimes hear the whistle blow. Eighty miles across the Gulf of California in Santa Rosalia, copper production began in 1885; that copper was shipped to Guaymas and thence overseas.

old photo of downtown Guaymas
Guaymas in its early days of vigor, looking west up Avenida Serdan. This is still the heart of ‘centro‘. There’s more of everything now (horse power in a different form).

“In 1890, the population of Guaymas was 10,000. These people were proud to live in a city with modern services: electricity, telegraph, urban railroad and especially a communication with the principal ports of the world across big shipping companies. The economy of the port was of great importance.” (from


Av. Serdan centro looking west
Av. Serdan is still a main commercial center. This photo taken looking the same way as last century’s, a couple blocks further on.
Guaymas 1900s era bank building columns, cornices and dome, in disrepair.
We’d like to see an ‘architectural angel’ swoop in to rescue this building, and a couple others. Pronto! Good thing they don’t get much rain here or it would already be gone.

So Guaymas is a working city, with an economy whose  reasons for being have little to do with the visitors/tourists, except as they need support in the satellite town of San Carlos. We visitors are barely a blip among the (possibly) 150,000 metropolitan inhabitants. The fact that people hardly notice us  may be my most favorite thing of all about Guaymas. It’s a real relief not to be the lynchpin of the economy. And yet, look lost or ask a question, and you’ll almost invariably be met with a smile and real help. We’ve become quite comfortable here!

What about San Carlos?

San Carlos, a half hour bus ride to the north and west is much more a gringo zone. When we crossed the international border, San Carlos is where they assumed we were coming. There are two marinas with dry storage yards, and a nascent resort town with hotels, restaurants, curio shops and the other sundry accoutrements. There’s a big RV park; but I’ll bet most of the visitor population lives in the several housing developments (aka ranchitos ) you can see spreading back into the hinterland. To me they look kind of mono-cultural, but at least they’re not in Alberta!

sunlit mountains marina foreground
Looking over San Carlos Marina toward the scenic Tetakawi “Goat Tits” (literal translation) mountains. Photo courtesy of siesta

Of the San Carlos area, the Lonely Planet guide said something to the effect of  “beautiful desert-and-bay landscape presided over by the dramatic twin-peaked Cerro Tetakawi” and “full of norte-americanos from October to April.” Somewhere else I read that these winter people only spoke English and didn’t bother to exchange their dollars for pesos.

We are them, I guess. We went to Hammerhead’s, a sports bar in San Carlos, several times as U of Alabama moved towards the (US) national collegiate football championship; spent pesos alright, but spoke English. And fit right in. But Alabama didn’t.

bar crowd watching football
The national collegiate football semifinals drew a partisan crowd at Hammerhead’s sports bar in San Carlos. 

When I repeated the remark, I was tartly reminded that many norte-americanos also did their best to support the economy and numerous of them supported good works, in particular the local orphanages and animal shelters. Point taken.

A friend who likes to play basketball pointed out that he looked in vain for courts in San Carlos. Finally he realized that basketball courts are usually at the schools, and there are no schools in San Carlos because the locals mostly live in Guaymas and take the late bus home.

Enough of the lecture. Here are some random photos of Guaymas over the course of several months.