San Carlos, Sonora and the Impact of this Global Recession

I was back in Mexico this week. I was overdue to visit Horst Engineering’s maquiladora in Guaymas, Sonora. So, I made the journey through Charlotte and Phoenix to get to Guaymas. I was prepared for the heat (nearly 100 degrees Fahrenheit) and the humidity (like 60%), but you are still slammed by the intensity of the combination. Fortunately, the plant is air conditioned. Of course, the electric bill is painful to read.

San Carlos Harbor and the iconic Teta Kawi

Like last time, I stayed in San Carlos, an adjacent community that is known more for its tourism and snowbirds than for its manufacturing. San Carlos has a wonderful natural harbor and is one of those towns that benefits from the juxtaposition of mountains and the sea. The Sea of Cortez is an amazing body of water that is right on the San Andreas fault. The Gulf of California, separates Baja California from the mainland of Mexico (Sonora and Sinaloa).

Sea of Cortez Swimming Hole

After each work day, I was able to get a little open water swimming in the 86F degree water. It was like taking a bath. It wasn’t refreshing at all, but it beat being in the pool with 25 screaming kids. I got a couple of early morning runs in before sunrise and didn’t stop sweating for about three hours after I finished.

Sonora isn’t a hotbed for soccer (football), but there was still a strong interest in last Wednesday night’s match between the US and Mexican national teams. The match was in Ciudad Mexico, a long ways away, but the bars were still filled with supporters.

Gulf of California Islands

San Carlos and all of Mexico have been devastated by the triple whammy of the global recession, Mexican drug violence, and the Swine Flu. In Sonora, some refer to it as the Phantom Flu because it never penetrated. The media has whipped the American public into  a frenzy, which has significantly cut into the tourism economy. It was stunningly quiet. The hotel only had a handful of Mexican tourists and a smattering of business people as guests. Unemployment in Sonora has skyrocketed and many US and European companies have downsized or left, so even business travel is down.

I ate out both nights that I was in town. One night, my colleague, Andy Law, and I were the only customers at a quaint beachside restaurant. There were four wait staff and the kitchen help for two of us. I’m pretty sure that they didn’t make any money that night. It was quite sad. The State of Sonora is doing its best to promote the virtues and safety of the area, but it doesn’t seem to be working. A group of businesses and sponsors have even banded together and have a Sonora is Safe website up and running. San Carlos is particularly known for deep water sport fishing. I don’t think I saw one charter go out while I was there. Granted, I was there Monday through Wednesday, but you would think that in August, there would be customers during the week.

A little sunset entertainment.

Not so this year. I saw the impact of the recession all over on this trip. From the airports to the towns, you get a sense that it is going to take some time for spending and growth to return.

1 Response to “San Carlos, Sonora and the Impact of this Global Recession”


  1. 1 pjtriman 6 January 2010 at 6:10 pm

    I have been going to San Carlos for 15 years now since I moved to Nogales, AZ from Buffalo, NY. Met my wife in San Carlos about 10 years ago. San Carlos in August is pretty dead…I have to agree with you…but if you go during Semana Santa (Easter Week) look out. You won’t find a hotel room or much room on the beach. Otherwise it is supported by snow birds and Tucson/Phoenix residents looking to get away. The violence currently in Mexico I believe is a death nail to tourism in Mexico and if not rectified will lead to devastating economic consequences for that country. However, I believe things will get better and hopefully San Carlos will not get too commercialized.


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