Saturday March 25 2023

Posted by BajaInsider on January 18, 2023
  • The port of Pichilingue north of La Paz
    The port of Pichilingue north of La Paz
In nineteen years of our history, we have never taken opportunity to express our opinions as strongly as we will here.
The plan to build a new commercial port in San Juan de la Costa and change Pichingue into a cruise-ship-only port will not be a good match for La Paz and will bring the destruction of the natural beauty and attraction of the city and what makes La Paz unique.
In more than two decades here in La Paz, we have seen the inevitable collision between the desire to conserve the area's natural beauty with the forces of development. The cruise ship port will be a critical battle for the natural beauty of La Paz and the Sea.  
On January 17, 2023, it announced plans to construct a new commercial port in San Juan de la Costa on the western shores of the Bay of La Paz.
Narcisco Agunez Gomez, the head of API, the port authority, stated that the natural beauty of La Paz exists in the direction of Pichingue and includes the beaches of Balandra, Tecolote, El Tesoro, and the best locations for walkways, hotels, restaurants and tourist development.
But is it?
The developer purports that moving the commercial port facilities to San Juan de la Costa will relieve heavy truck traffic through the city. Still, over a decade ago, a new bypass road was constructed for Pichilingue that reduced downtown truck routes and made connecting truckers to Los Cabos much easier. For those gringos that live in Comitan and El Centenario, the new port will likely increase Hwy 1 traffic in your neighborhood, both north and southbound.
The new construction claims it will also be able to avoid "significant environmental impact" because the new port location is already deep enough to accommodate commercial ships and will require no dredging.
Narcisco Gomez also said that the new port would handle all food, product, and fuel deliveries from the mainland. But this makes little sense as the two diesel-powered CFE power plants in La Paz are currently receiving their fuel from the port facilities located at the Ensenada de La Paz entrance, along with all other fuels for the southern half of the peninsula.
Gomez stated that the new facilities would make Pichilingue 'similar to Cabo San Lucas.' That doesn't necessarily sound like a good idea, as the state already has one.
Without a doubt, this will cause more money to 'pass through' La Paz, but to whom? As a publisher, I witnessed the inevitable destruction of natural beauty and culture when the cruise ship industry invaded Jamaica in the 70's and St. Thomas in the 80's, and sorry to say to our Cabo San Lucas readers, your city in the 90's.
It may bring more money but only provides short-term opportunities for local entrepreneurs. As soon as the market develops, it attracts significant corporate interest. The former business owners become low-wage employees for the big fish or are required to move to another city they can afford.
What La Paz has to offer today will not continue to exist with a cruise ship flood of 5000-7000 person vessels. In the past year alone, we have seen Bahia Balandra limit the number of attendees per day to 800 persons and establish a 'locals-only day' once a month. Limits were often reached in the summer with long lines of cars as early as 9 AM. A yacht fire this past summer caused Balandra to be closed for more than two months, outraging locals against 'foreign invasion' (although the offenders were wealthy Mexicans) and resulting in a ban on overnight anchorage.
Our famous whale shark and sea lion interaction tours are already dramatically impacted by the slow increase of tourism in the city. When the weather is decent, both reach limits already set by the conservancy. These limits are natural and can not be arbitrarily reset by the tourist industry. Several years ago, the sea lions rebelled and began biting tourists in the water that ventured too close to their rookery. It was a fun warm water event for anyone local with a panga. Today you can only enter the waters of Los Islotes if in the company of an authorized tour operator, which makes you lighter by about $150 per visitor. Incidents of boat strikes on the whale sharks have also resulted in licensing and limiting of operators and bans on personal craft. An average tour is also about $150. The cost has put both activities out of the reach of most locals.
The new port will not likely benefit the businesses in El Centro, as the point of the API recreational development is to strip tourists of their money in THEIR port facilities and restaurants. 
We are not opposed to development. The Sea will eventually become the next Mediterranean-style tourist destination. We oppose the cruise ship development because of the locust-like invasion of 5000-7000 persons per vessel that come and go, usually within an 8-hour visit. It devastates local culture and only benefits businesses (and API) that can survive the time between cruise seasons. It also reduces ports to nothing more than party and shopping locations dominated by significant corporate interests. La Paz was a shopping haven in the 80's due to tax exemptions, but it has a long way to go to regain that title. 
Cruise ships are also notorious for their environmental contamination. La Paz had already had a taste of that during COVID-19 when API This prompted local outrage when large streams of sewage streamed from the vessels.
We are not bashing Cabo San Lucas for embracing the cruise industry. Cabo is now what it is. But do we need another? We believe that what makes La Paz unique will be a victim of this development and only benefit the big bucks developers. It is time for La Paz to take a long hard look in the mirror and decide what it really wants to become.  

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