Primal Scene

In Puerto Peñasco, Meet The Creatures Of The Sea Right Next Door To Their Natural Environment.
By Kevin Franklin

THE DARK WATERS of the Sea of Cortez lap quietly at your feet near Puerto Peñasco, Mexico.

The stars shimmer on the water, while farther up the beach, a small haze of light marks the location of the Pitahaya Bar. Pop music flows out over the midnight sand. You sip your beer and stare wistfully into the sea. Then, quite close to shore, something breaks the surface of the water. Startled, you strain to see what it is, but it's already gone. Scenes from Jaws and that silly giant squid special you watched during summer re-runs replay in your mind.

Out There You pick up your sandy beer and retreat to a tidal pool farther up the beach. Ahh. This is safe. Nothing too dangerous in a little pool like this. But you spot creatures moving around in the shallow water. Strange crabs and something that looks like an armored tennis ball. Then, what you thought was a rock moves. It looks like a large, rotten squash swiveling around--or maybe the god of all Tequila worms. You drop your beer and sprint back toward civilization, guided by the nurturing sound of the Macarena.

After telling your friends about the sea monsters you saw and enduring general ridicule, there are two things you can do: stick to your vow never to set foot in any water larger than a bathtub, or wander over to the new aquarium at El Centro de Estudios por los Tecnólogicos del Mar, a.k.a. Cetmar, and get yourself educated.

The federal technical prep school's aquarium, meant for residents and visitors to Puerto Peñasco, is the brainchild of instructors Ruben Espinoza and Juan Rolon. They wanted a place where people could see the creatures that live in the neighboring waters. The idea, Espinoza said, is to educate people about these animals and move from fearing and harming them to understanding their ecological and economic importance to the region.

Cetmar, the school, has five distinct departments. Students come to learn marine refrigeration technologies, motor repair, food processing, fish company administration or aqua culture.

Espinoza works in the aqua culture department teaching students how to raise captive marine life much in the same way farmers grow terrestrial crops. Since Espinoza and Rolon had to set up all the fish tanks for their aqua culture classes anyway, they decided to go a step further by making it into a public aquarium.

Espinoza has tried to label most of the 30 tanks in English and Spanish. Naturally, this leads to some odd translations. One tank full of what I grew up on the seashore calling "fiddler crabs" says "violinist crabs." I mention this to fellow Out There beach bum Chris Brooks, and he points out that, unlike the crustaceans I associated with, these are classically trained.

Espinoza's English is about as good as my Spanish--meaning communication is rudimentary at best. So if you have specific questions regarding certain marine life, you should have a Spanish-speaking friend write them down for you, or bring a translator along.

But some things need no translation. There are two tidal pools full of castaway marine life set up in the aquarium. Espinoza picks up a sea urchin and clearly demonstrates that it's neither poisonous nor aggressive. Espinoza is hoping the upcoming tourist season will bring in some additional cash for the aquarium's maintenance and expansion. Most of the revenue for its operation comes from the $1 admission charge at the door.

While certainly no Baltimore Aquarium, the low-key Cetmar Aquarium provides a venue for people to see the local marine life and dispel some of the fear of the unknown. Just don't put your hand in the sting-ray tank.


After entering Puerto Peñasco on Boulevard Benito Juarez, look for Boulevard Fremont, or the road to Las Conchas and Caborca on your left, just before the municipal building. The fire station and Cruz Roja is on this road. Following this road, keep an eye out on the right for a main dirt road heading off to Las Conchas. Follow it to within 100 yards of the Las Conchas guard gate, then follow the signs directing you to the parking area for the Cetmar Aquarium. TW

Image Map - Alternate Text is at bottom of Page

Arizona Links
The Best of Tucson Online
Tucson Weekly's Review Forum

 Page Back  Last Week  Current Week  Next Week  Page Forward

Home | Currents | City Week | Music | Review | Cinema | Back Page | Forums | Search

Weekly Wire    © 1995-97 Tucson Weekly . Info Booth