While I have lived here for nearly a year and a half, there are many places I have not discovered or experienced in Guaymas/San Carlos. With the help and recommendations (and directions) from many kind friends, I am uncovering more of my new to me home everyday. And yes, I still do “touristy” things like dolphin cruises, horseback rides, and sunset viewing from the trendy swings at the local beach bar. But I also travel 35 minutes and brave parking in El Centro just to buy warm tortillas and the best totopitos in town. I know where to find the freshest churros. I will bypass the convenience of Ley or Walmart to buy fresh fruits and vegetables from produce stands at the Municipal Market.
Every once in a while, my husband and I get the chance to be tour guides to folks who know less about our home than we do. Steve’s employer sees many business travelers, and occasionally, their visits include weekends. When someone asks, “So, what do you do for fun around here?” we don’t necessarily want to answer with, “Well, we spend a lot of time napping and reading on the beach.” Even if it is true. This is our chance to show off the city we have come to love.
The gazebo in Plaza 13 de Julio was designed by Gustav Eiffel. Yes that Eiffel! Iglesia San Fernando, built in 1850, is the oldest church in Guaymas. Its doors are open daily, and mass is still held on Sunday mornings. Many people listen to mass from the shade in the plaza. Plaza de los Tres Presidentes honors the three Mexican presidents from Guaymas. It overlooks el Palacio Municipal, home of the local government. The malecón offers stunning views of the Sea of Cortez and surrounding mountains. A statue honoring Guaymas’ fishing history is found here.
Despite reviews on Trip Advisor and other travel sites that bemoan Guaymas and its failure to “realize its potential”, I love to be downtown in the middle of it all. I do understand the criticism, however. The beautiful, historic buildings are in severe disrepair. No two curbs are the same height. Sidewalks are pockmarked and crumbling in places. Large potholes exist in the main thoroughfares. Garbage pickup is sporadic. Old cities in Europe manage to remain enchanting. I have heard Guaymas described as “crummy, but authentic”.
And it is the authenticity of the city that appeals to me. Every morning shopkeepers are in front of their stores, sweeping the debris from those crumbling sidewalks and washing their windows. Those sellers without an actual storefront, unload and arrange their goods on tables, lining the main avenue- -an eclectic mix of clothing, backpacks, jewelry, mixed nuts, and fresh fruit. Food trucks line Calle 19, and it does not take long before the enticing smells of tacos, tostadas, and churros overpower fumes from the buses.
There is a buzz of activity, no matter the day of the week. The sidewalks are jammed with shoppers and students on their way to and from school. Groups of men gather around the shoeshine chair to chat. Farmers park their pickup trucks at the busiest corners, full of fresh oranges, watermelons, asparagus, and elote. There are at least eight barbershops in a two block area, and each is bustling. Loud music spills onto the streets from various stores around the city market, each playing something different. Men pitch their goods using microphones and portable speakers. A busy grocery store does brisk business. But so does the family selling homegrown tomatoes, peppers, and onions. And the woman removing the tines from and cutting the nopal cactus into bite size pieces.
It is the friendliness and the positive attitudes of the people I meet and see when I am in Guaymas that stands out the most. There is always a smile and a “buen día” given in passing. And due to the crowds, there are a lot of these greetings. The beauty of Guaymas is its people. And a closer look at them reveals that Guaymas has definitely realized its potential.