Sonora Time

Today, I returned from a quick trip to Guaymas, Sonora, Mexico. I spent a couple days meeting with our team at Horst Engineering de Mexico. Like the past couple of trips, I stayed in San Carlos, a quaint little town north of Guaymas on the Sea of Cortez. San Carlos is a community that is made up mostly of “gringos,” especially at this time of year. Many Mexicans have “summer homes” in San Carlos, but they only come on vacation. Whereas, many Canadian and American snowbirds make their way south in the winter to spend time in Sonora. There are several RV parks. Some folks also live on their boats. Others have second homes.

San Carlos also has a handful of residents who are expatriates working as managers in the Guaymas maquiladoras. Our maquiladora is only a short drive from the airport. On Wednesday and Thursday, I was able to get up early (thanks to the two-hour time difference) and run with my headlamp at sunrise. I also caught a couple of sunsets. I like to run with my camera because there are always interesting images to shoot when in San Carlos. I was the only one doing laps in the hotel pool. The 70 degree Fahrenheit air temperature is freezing for most Sonorans. I was the crazy guy in the pool, but I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity considering that I left on Tuesday in the middle of a snowstorm.

San Carlos is heavily dependent on tourism, and the tourist economy has been hammered by the recession. It is a beautiful place, but it is rundown in spots, and there are many other warmer options in Mexico. San Carlos is very popular for sport fisherman, sailors, and divers, but there isn’t much else besides the beaches. The town has the feel that its glory days were some years ago. The town fills up during Semana Santa (Easter Week) with Mexican college students on their traditional “spring break,” and it is busier during the summer when the Sea of Cortez warms up and the fish are running.

There were more boats on land than in the marina, which is a sign that times are tough. On the other hand, Guaymas, a much larger city, is industrial and has several hundred thousand Mexican residents. It used to be known as a commercial fishing port, but now has a lot of industry. The government is working hard to bring precision manufacturing to Sonora and that is one reason why we have expanded there.

Both Guaymas and San Carlos were hurt by Hurricane Jimena, which was a major disruption back in August 2009. 24 inches of rain in 24 hours washed away the main road in several places. Bridges are still out and detours are in place. Thankfully, Sonorans are resilient and the rebuilding is happening rather quickly.

It is almost comical how many gas stations and convenience stores are in Guaymas and San Carlos. In Guaymas, there is a Pemex station every several hundred meters. In San Carlos, where I already said they could use some more tourists to perk up the economy, they are building another new convenience store. Maybe they business people know something about economic growth that I’m missing. From my own experience, I know that the fact that they are getting their own Wal-Mart (the closest one is 80 minutes away in Hermosillo) will impact the convenience store business ever so slightly…

Regardless, we are hoping that the Mexican and United States economies pick up soon. We could use the business too.

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