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
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
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.