On January 25-26, 2016, Rocky Point Mayor Ernesto “Kiko” Munro and I switched roles as part of a two-day exchange where I traveled to Rocky Point and he came to Tucson. The purpose of this exchange was to begin developing bi-national economic and cultural ties and to promote economic development and tourism between the two regions.

We were greeted with warm smiles and open arms by City Council members and local business and community leaders at the Puerto Peñasco City Hall. Staff presented on the newly elected Mayor Munro’s priorities during his first 100 days in office. This includes: modernization of the Lukeville border crossing, improving their water management system, increasing community safety to enhance tourism, cultivating growth and export of agricultural commodities, exploring renewable energy and developing a home port for cruise ships. These ambitious proposals complement many of Pima County’s Economic Development Plan objectives of enhancing our relationship with Mexico. Our plan involves increasing border crossing efficiency, broadening import/export trade and developing tourism. Pima County and Rocky Point will both benefit by strengthening their relationship in pursuing mutually desired goals.

In two days, we toured noteworthy local facilities like the Instituto Tecnológico Superior de Puerto Peñasco, Rocky Point’s Technical University, DIF (Desarrollo Integral de la Familia) Community Center and Developmental Rehabilitation facility and Organismo Operador Municipal de Agua Potable, OOMAPAS, the municipal water company. We also visited Crater Elegante at Pinacate Reservoir, interviewed on Rocky Point’s local radio station and met with prominent military and public safety figures at the Navy Marina. I stopped by the American Legion and talked with ex-patriots. Many of them expressed how much they enjoyed living in Rocky Point because of its cultural richness, friendly citizens and affordability as a beach town.

On February 2, 2016, the Board of Supervisors approved and presented a proclamation that states that Pima County officially joins with Rocky Point to form “A Sister Region.” It is important to foster this relationship because when one area benefits, the other does as well.

I truly feel that the elected official exchange with Mayor Munro was a success. It helped me better understand Rocky Point and its residents, beyond U.S. media misrepresentations of it being “unsafe” for American tourists. I feel completely safe and at ease whenever I visit Rocky Point. The most recent U.S. Department of State’s Mexico travel alert is misguided and we must support efforts to promote tourism and business between Pima County and Puerto Peñasco.

I am proud to have participated in this bi-national exchange program because it is the first of its kind. My hope is that it will become a program prototype for encouraging different regions to find areas to collaborate. When we look past perceived differences, we find that cultivating such efforts prove to be mutually beneficial. We must focus on building bridges, not walls.

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