Puerto Penasco, Mexico (nick named Rocky Point) is a great destination for an upcoming beach vacation with its close proximity to Phoenix and outstanding weather.
But did you know?
1. The city was founded officially in 1928, although unofficially for centuries before many humans traveled here and called it home.
2. Inhabitants of Rocky Point were once referred to “as people in the sand”. In 1698 Padre Kino created this name for the early settlers.
3. Whale Hill and parts known as old town had rock caves and flesh eating creatures. According to research compiled by a Brown family history page, what we know as Whale Hill was once a beacon, a landmark reaching out in the middle of the sea attracting traveling tribesman and other nomadic tribes. Native Americans, specifically the Hohokam Indians from Arizona are said to have journeyed down to the sea for trade, salt, and fresh fish as well as many other adventurous wanderers. One historical document describes very early visitors practicing cannibalism. I like to think, luckily, the sweetness of the Rocky Point shrimp helped changed that.
4. In 1826 Lieutenant William Hale Hardy, a retired official from the Royal Naval English Army visited Penasco and charted the hill in present day Old Town as Rocky Point (Puerto Penasco). Shortly after, Spanish charts referred to the hill as Punta Penasco.
5. The Al Capone connection- yes, the notorious mobster Al Capone visited Rocky Point. His excursions to Rocky Point have been cited in several historical sources. Go try a slice of pie at Capone’s pizza place and ask for the history or stop by La Roca hotel in Old Port and talk to the owner. He will give you the facts, a few stories and if you’re lucky enough (or if you book a night at the hotel) he might just give you the tour. During prohibition Al Capone and numerous prominent friends gambled, drank and partied the night away in Puerto Penasco. You can even stay where they partied. Check out some prohibition gangster history while in town. Just goes to show, even a guy from Chicago back in the late 1920′s knew a good thing when he found it.
6. Rocky Point’s first airline service was Scenic Airlines. In the 1920′s and 1930′s an American, John Stone established an airline called Scenic Airlines offering direct flights from Tucson and Phoenix. (Hmm…sounds like a man before his time. Where are you now Scenic Airlines?)
7. Americans traveled to Mexico to drink alcohol in 1920′s. John Stone, who owned Hotel Cornelia in Ajo Arizona journeyed down the road and built a hotel with gambling, and of course alcohol, attracting American tourists who were not legally allowed to drink in the USA. (History does repeat itself)
8. At one time there was a movie theatre in Penasco. It was located in an old building in Old Port. It’s been a long time since movies graced a big screen in town; most forget, and long for the entertainment of film. NOW open, a 6 plex in the new Portfolio complex located by the harbor on your way to old port. http://www.citicinemas.mx/
9. Major railroad was built by the Mexican government in 1930′s. It wasn’t until 1936 that Rocky Point had another opportunity to develop. Mexico President Lazar Cardenas started the process of building a railroad connecting the area to central Mexico with a major railroad and sea port at Rocky Point.
10. World War II history documents the United States military paved the road from Lakeville to Rocky Point, with the intention of completing a port for military use. The American port was never completed.
11. In 1941 the village had approximately 187 residents.
12. Puerto Penasco separated from Caborca and elected their first mayor in 1952.
13. Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, joined fellow space mates Alan Shepard and Buzz Aldine and practiced moon walking for their upcoming Apollo 14 spaceflight at the Pinacate Biosphere. The terrain was discovered to be the closest resemblance to the moon. Follow in their footsteps and take a tour or hike at the Pinacate Biosphere Visitors Center. (The center is located 27 miles north of town, on the way in from the Lakeville border)
14. Cholla Bay did not have electricity until 2000. What? How did they see? Guess they used the brilliant stars to guide them. Some had solar, others had generators. Not too many blow dryers or microwaves were used at night.
15. In the boom of 2005, 2006 Sylvester Stallone with a group of investors looked into buying property in Sandy Beach and Golfer Tom Lehman checked out the master plan of Sandy Beach Resorts.
16. 14 years ago you couldn’t own property as a US citizen. There were 99 year leases and other type of arrangements, but in the mid to late 1990′s the fideicomiso, what we know as a bank trust was available to serve as the legal instrument for non-Mexican citizens to purchase property (my look how far we have come in such a short time).
17. In 1999 you could ride an ATV from Playa Bonita resort to the Reef campground and not pass any high rises. It was a long empty piece of sand until the Princesa was started in 1999 and completed in 2000. Now over 44 multi-level towers (count ‘em) and a housing community takes up the majority of the once empty beach and skyline. WOW all that in less than 12 years!
It’s valuable and interesting to look back to the future. Puerto Peñasco is relatively a very young town compared to other historical cities in Mexico, its only just begun and has a bright future ahead. Still a young teenager navigates its adolescent years, its teenage angst struggling with gossip, the up and down of growth spurts and fitting in with the crowd. Peñasco has no colonial walls or haciendas from 300 years ago, but what it does have is dedicated residents and business marking their place in history.
Think of it as the young soul of the Sea of Cortez. The exciting news is, just like a typical teenager, we all have the opportunity to see her grow and come into her own.
In researching history of beach towns, you inevitably run across the tale of one’s grandfather, having the opportunity to buy beach front property in some beach town perhaps it was Newport Beach, California in the 70′s where dirt roads connected the neighbors and not all areas had electricity. Beach shacks were everywhere. Or Cabo San Lucas, when trailer parks once stood and the roads were dirt with no airport. No matter where you look back in time especially at beachfront property, a similar story of what was then, will surface. It’s the principle of supply and demand. They’re not making any more of it. Charming sea-towns like Puerto Peñasco are rare. Puerto Penasco or Rocky Point, whatever you like to call it, is still in its teenage years, it’s nice to look back at the short historical moments…but I can hardly wait for the future. To quote a song…The futures so bright I got to wear shades.