By Gene Kira, Sept. 17, 2001, as published in Western Outdoor News:
Mexico's tourism and sportfishing-oriented state of Baja California Sur was beginning to recover this week from the double shock of last Tuesday's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. and the resultant grounding of all U.S. air travel. By this Monday morning, the airline service so essential to the economy of Loreto, La Paz, East Cape, and the Los Cabos Corridor was beginning to come back to life, and everybody was hopeful that travel connections would soon return to something like normal in the near future.
At the height of the crisis, southern Baja had taken a collective breath of wonderment, as for the first time in most people's memory, direct travel to and from the U.S. was virtually cut off.
A few minutes after 1 p.m. last Thursday, Arturo Susarrey of Loreto looked at the special Aero California jet taking off for Tijuana, and he said "good-bye" to his last clients. "Loreto is a small town," he said on the phone afterwards. "We depend on that plane. I want to say that we in Mexico are so very sorry for what happened to you in the United States."
Arturo's Sport Fishing Fleet had no clients booked for the rest of the week, and Susarrey had no idea when he would see any.
With all U.S. airports shut down, Baja's sport fishing industry was being hit by a wave of forced cancellations during what is normally one of the slowest months of the year anyway.
Throughout Baja California Sur, guests were stranded in their hotels, and tour organizers and hotel managers were scrambling to prevent chaos and keep everyone comfortable. Some hotels were giving discounts on rooms, meals, and in some cases, even boats. Axel Valdez of East Cape's Buena Vista Beach Resort said his family's hotel was providing free rooms for all stranded clients until they could fly home.
At midweek, business was off at least 50% and still dropping, with the smaller operators hit harder than the major hotels. East Cape's Rancho Leonero and the Van Wormer resorts of Palmas de Cortez and Playa del Sol actually managed to send out a combined 31 cruisers on Friday, but they were the exception, as many independent fleets were virtually shut down over the weekend, and stranded tourists caught flights to Tijuana or rented cars and vans to drive back to the border.
But all business considerations aside, there was a sadness and concern among the people of Baja that reminds us of how closely bonded we have become to our Mexican friends and the beautiful wonderland they call home. It was a reminder of the very special relationship that we have forged together over the years.
In La Paz, Jonathan Roldan relayed the dismayed words of a Mexican fisherman: "I do not know why anyone would harm the Americans. They help everybody. I am very sad."
And, Memo Chavez, who, if you remember, began his airline career in the 1960s as a DC-3 pilot with Loreto's Flying Sportsmen Lodge, perhaps put it best:
"Mi Amigo Gene!! What can I say? I don't feel like writing a fishing report this week, knowing of the suffering of all the relatives of all the innocent, productive people murdered in that cowardly attack by a bunch of insane mad dogs. As an airline pilot, I just could not believe what I was seeing. I always had so much respect for my passengers, kids, women, men, and that beautiful machine that always brought me back home safely. I hope God guides President Bush to punish those who have to be punished, and the world lives in peace. God bless the U.S.A. God bless all the mourning families. God bless America. --From La Paz, Baja California, Mexico, Memo Chavez and family."
(Related Baja California, Mexico, articles and reports may be found at Mexfish.com's main Baja California information page. See weekly fishing news, photos, and reports from the major sportfishing vacation areas of Mexico including the Baja California area in "Mexico Fishing News.")