Los Cabos and its residents demonstrate resiliency following Hurricane Odile
By Chris Sands
Anyone who has ever visited Baja California Sur would agree that it is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Verdant mountains tower above sparse desert-like landscapes. Long stretches of golden sand hug serpentine coasts lined with hillside villas and beachfront luxury resorts. Evocatively shaped granite monuments stand as a dramatic demarcation between the crystalline waters of the Sea of Cortés and the powerful, slow-rolling waves that travel thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean before lapping the shores of resort areas like Cabo San Lucas and Todos Santos.
But even beautiful places have imperfections. In Los Cabos, these scars are subtle but distinctive. Walking the cobblestone streets of San José del Cabo’s historic Art District, one might glimpse a gallery with a missing window, incongruent as a gapped tooth, or a restaurant whose palapa roof seems noticeably short of palm leaves. In Cabo San Lucas, it is still possible to see immaculately tended storefronts in the downtown shopping area shaded by faded, shredded strips of what were once brightly colored awnings.
In time, makeup will hide these few remaining scars, but as of now they are clear and visible reminders of one of the most devastating natural disasters ever to hit the southernmost part of the Baja California Peninsula.
On Sunday night, September 14, Hurricane Odile made landfall in Los Cabos. Although originally anticipated to blow out to sea, the Category 3 hurricane made a late-course change and rampaged right up the center of the peninsula, wreaking havoc with winds that gusted up to 165 miles per hour.
Although casualties were few, the damage was profound. Thousands of windows were blown out. Mature palm trees were snapped in half. Cars were flipped over. Electricity, water, Internet—all the amenities we take for granted in this modern age—were knocked out everywhere south of La Paz, the state’s capital.
That the Los Cabos International Airport reopened less than a month later and tourism resumed immediately might be termed a miracle, although in reality it is a testament to the resiliency of the region’s inhabitants. Major credit is also due to the rapid response efforts engineered by President Enrique Peña Nieto and the Mexican government. Within days of the storm, thousands of army, navy, federal police, and CFE (the federal electricity company) employees were working to clear debris and return basic services. Los Cabos’ remoteness is a positive in the eyes of locals and visitors, but delayed aid as supplies had to be ferried or airlifted from the mainland.
Cabeños (residents of Los Cabos) like to have a good time, but they are also as rugged and industrious a lot as you will find anywhere. The tormenta (storm) had scarcely passed before people were repairing damages to their property. And the next day, they went back to work, beginning the long and arduous process of repairing and reopening businesses—hotels, boutiques, restaurants, golf courses, fishing boats, day spas, nightclubs—the lifeblood of the local economy.
It was a time of tremendous generosity, courage, and fortitude. Honestly, it needed to be. Like most resort areas, Los Cabos has a high season and a low season, and Hurricane Odile struck at the very end of the low season (basically, June to September). In other words, high season was fast approaching and the idea of a truncated tourist season—or worse, none at all—was a terrifying prospect for local business owners and their employees.
There was a certain esprit de corps that developed during that first month following the storm. Army and federal police were thanked for their tireless efforts by virtually every local they encountered, and CFE workers were openly applauded in the streets. And the locals worked just as tirelessly, banding together to achieve a common goal: to ready every last bit of Cabo San Lucas, San José del Cabo, and the connecting Tourist Corridor for high season.
Campaigns such as #CaboStrong and #Unstoppable were launched, and every post hurricane first—first hotel reopening, first international flight, first destination wedding—was treated as a celebration of the indomitable spirit of Los Cabos and its inhabitants. Which, by the way, it was. Every victory, however small, was well and truly earned.
The big victory? The fact that you are reading this magazine. Tourists are an important part of the Los Cabos community. Many visit at least once a year, and some have been coming regularly for generations. But whether you are here for the first or 50th time, on a half-day cruise ship stopover or a month-long vacation, the important thing is that you are here.
To which we say, ¡Bienvenidos! Welcome. It has been a challenging year, but Los Cabos is still strong. We thank you for visiting and making it stronger. Please enjoy all the wonderful things that make our area so special: the gorgeous beaches, first-class fine dining, lively nightlife, and most of all, the people.
And, if you happen to see a little scar here or there, don’t worry. We’re healing fast.