The border town of Plutarco Elías Calles, Sonora (known as Sonoyta), with a population of approximately 20,000, sits across from the U.S. border crossing of Lukeville, AZ and is the gateway into Mexico when heading to sun and sand vacations in Puerto Peñasco after entering from AZ Highway 85. A place where beach bound vacation traffic may stop for some tequila at Vazquez liquors, to calm that first taco craving after crossing the border, or even to top off gas, Sonoyta is an intersection of highways stretching toward Tijuana to the west, Caborca and the rest of Mexico to the south, and of course Puerto Peñasco to the southwest.
When members of the Sonoyta community decided to block the road into Sonoyta near the US border this past weekend – following Sonora Governor Claudia Pavlovich’s announcement to only allow essential travel into Sonora over the U.S. 4th of July holiday – the impact was definitely felt in Puerto Peñasco. These steps had been taken under the precept of reducing possible spread of coronavirus by reducing mobility coming across the border.
Puerto Peñasco business, tourism, and government leaders successfully petitioned the Governor to reconsider the impact on Puerto Peñasco of such a measure, as tourism is an essential business for the city, but the community-led Sonoyta roadblock remained in place from late Thursday afternoon through Saturday. Several from the border community presented a list of grievances as to why they intended to keep the roadblock in effect, mostly related to healthcare, prevention and protective supplies, and limited entry to Puerto Peñasco during the present coronavirus pandemic.
On Saturday afternoon (July 4th), Sonoyta mayor José Ramoz Arzate met with Puerto Peñasco Municipal Secretary Terencio Gutierrez, State Health representative Marco Antonio Ramírez Wakamatsu for the VI Health District, members of the Sonoyta City Council, and demonstration leaders, to see if an agreement could be reached that would benefit all. An agreement was indeed reached, full implementation of which will take place in coming days.
On Sunday morning, July 5th, both northbound and southbound traffic was again flowing through Sonoyta, and a municipal health filter is in place near the border entry just after people go through customs when entering Mexico from Arizona.
In the July 4th letter from Puerto Peñasco mayor Ernesto Kiko Munro to his Sonoyta counterpart (Document No. PM7524/2020), the following agreements are detailed as both communities continue to confront daily challenges of healthcare and preventing virus spread in the age of Covid-19:
- The health filter at the entry to Sonoyta will remain in operation, and standardize protocols with the health filter in Puerto Peñasco.
- The Puerto Peñasco Convention and Visitors Bureau will provide both health filters (Sonoyta and Puerto Peñasco) with daily updated information regarding reservation lists of tourists and visitors to verify who is traveling to Puerto Peñasco, in complying with preventive protocol.
- The State Health Secretary and Municipality of Puerto Peñasco commit to facilitate rapid Covid-19 detection tests to the health filter in Sonoyta, to be applied by accredited paramedic staff and for persons whose final destination is Sonoyta.
- The Puerto Peñasco Convention and Visitors Bureau will establish a recommended requirement that those traveling with a reservation to Puerto Peñasco NOT stop in Sonoyta for any activity, under any circumstance (this means all vehicles whose final destination is Puerto Peñasco will travel through Sonoyta without stopping until arriving in Puerto Peñasco).
- The municipality of Puerto Peñasco commits to donate preventive medical equipment, such as safety face shields, masks, overalls, and oxygen tanks, among other items, to be used by health staff in the municipality of Sonoyta, as part of the cooperation and collaboration to confront the present pandemic as bordering municipalities.
- As part of Phase 5 of Peñasco’s reactivation plan, residents of Sonoyta will be permitted access who accredit their presence for essential activities including banking, food purchases, and medical appointments, among others, provided they can demonstrate residence in Sonoyta, and must comply with the anti-Covid protocols of Puerto Peñasco; this does not limit the entry of Sonoyta residents who may program their visit to Puerto Peñasco as tourists, in which case they must abide to the measures outlined for tourism in general. This measure must be proposed immediately to the Municipal Public Safety Advisory Board of Puerto Peñasco, Sonora.
- Both cities, by means of their municipal authorities, will maintain close collaboration and communication in order to jointly combat the spread of Covid-19.
- Equipping of a sanitizing tunnel (in Sonoyta) that complies with preventive protocol, which will be installed in a high-traffic area of the city.
Mayor Kiko Munro delivered this agreement to the mayor of Sonoyta early this morning, and it will go into effect following approval by the Health and Safety Board which meets on Tuesday, July 7th. For the time being, residents of Sonoyta can continue entering Puerto Peñasco for medical attention, provided they accredit their residence in Sonoyta and whatever activity they will be doing – such as proof of medical appointment or prescription information to be filled.