Escalara Nautica

San Felipe, Baja, Mexico

A marina for the future...

La Escalera Nautica, a 1.9 billion dollar project, is Mexico's recent attempt to develop tourism in Baja California, Mexico. It entails building a "ladder," or nautical route, of marinas and tourist sites along the coasts of the Peninsula, as well as the West Coast of the mainland. Construction of new marinas and roads have been underway for some time now. In addition to the marinas, the Federal Tourism Promotion Fund (Fonatur) is planning a 70 mile 'land bridge' from Santa Rosalia (on the Pacific side) to Bahia de los Angeles (on the Sea of Cortez side) to facilitate yacht delivery (up to 55 feet in length) into the calm waters of Baja's eastern side.

Existing ports to be used for the project include Ensenada, Cabo San Lucas, La Paz, Guaymas and Mazatlan. Ports that will be expanded include San Carlos, Loreto, Mulege, Santa Rosalia, Puerto Pensaco and Topolobampo. Ports to be built from scratch include Cabo Colonet, Puerto Canoa, Santa Rosalilitta, Bahia de Tortuga, Punta Abreojos, San Juanico, Bahia de los Angeles and Bahia San Luis Gonzaga on the Baja Peninsula, Bahia Kino in the state of Sonora and Altata in the state of Sinaloa.

Mexico's President Vicente Fox considers the tourist industry a passport towards modernity and says the Escalera Nautica represents a crucial and strategic megaproject for the development of the country and that it will make possible decades of tourist development for the northwest region of Mexico.

After the success of the Fonatur in the development of tourist resorts like Cancun, Ixtapa and Huatulco, and after almost nineteen years without any new major tourist destinations being developed, the Mexican federal government, together with the governments of Baja California Norte, Baja California Sur, Sinaloa, Sonora, as well as diverse public and private parties, defined the megaprojects of the Escalera Nautica and the Mayan Riviera as being Mexico's current focus of tourist development for the next six years.

The Escalera Nautica megaproject was formalized February 21st, 2001 in La Paz, Baja California Sur, with signatures of agreement between president Vicente Fox, the Secretary of Tourism Leticia Navarro, the Director of Fonatur John McCarthy and the governors of Sonora, Baja California, Baja California Sur and Sinaloa.

The states governors, along with President Vicente Fox, insist the projects will economically invigorate the Pacífico-Noroeste zone of Mexico and that the Sea of Cortez will emerge as a world-wide class touristic destination.

The result of the venture will certainly be a marked increase in land speculation in Baja, designed to attract wealthy American retirees and sportsmen with ready marinas, golf courses and Cancun-style hotel chains.

Every coin has two sides and while Mexico struggles to increase foreign investment and create an atmosphere of trust, they perhaps lose sight of a holistic approach to their problem. The Escalera Nautica has been a concern for environmentalists and groups aligned to ensure that the Sea of Cortez remains as close to pristine as possible. At the same time, the Mexican governement hopes the project will stimulate the economy to provide more jobs for the people of Baja and west coast mainland.