by Michael Hixon
(Updated: Wednesday, June 29, 2011 4:57 PM PDT)
Reports of widespread violence in Mexico instigated a visit from officials from La Paz, Redondo Beach’s sister city, and other Mexican officials to emphasize that the Baja California Sur city is one of the safest in North America and will soon be one of the country’s flourishing tourist destinations.
Redondo and La Paz have been sister cities for more than five decades, and the recently formed La Paz Tourism Board and local city officials used the city’s historic library overlooking the Pacific on Tuesday to launch an awareness campaign, named “La Paz: City of Peace and Abundance on the Sea of Cortez,” highlighting La Paz’s safety and the $1 billion in environmentally sensitive developments that will take place over the next five years. According to stats from 2009 recently released by the Irvine-based Competitive Analytics, with a population of more than 220,000, La Paz would rank third, behind Murrieta and Mission Viejo and just above Huntington Beach, in comparable California cities with a population between 100,000 and 500,000, as the third safest in murder and
Newly elected La Paz Mayor Esthela Ponce said through an interpreter that anyone who visits the city would become “addicted to our natural wonders.”
“I have been in power for only two months and I have four and a half years to go with a lot of work to do to have the tourist infrastructure and the security needed to become the new Mexican tourist destination,” Ponce said.
La Paz Mayor Esthela Ponce, Rubin Reachi Lugo, secretary of tourism for Baja California Sur, and Augustin Olachea, president of the La Paz Tourism Board, came to Redondo beach to promote Redondo’s sister city. (photo by Chris Miller)
Augustin Olachea, president of the La Paz Tourism Board, said that hotel occupancy has been steady and tourism hasn’t suffered much in La Paz despite negative press. This is mainly because currently tourism isn’t the largest attraction to the city.
“We don’t have anything related to what’s happening and what we’re seeing on the news about Mexico,” Olachea said.
Redondo Beach Mayor Mike Gin touted the long relationship and the similarities between the two cities.
“Here in Redondo Beach we are very environmentally sensitive in protecting our oceans. Eco-tourism is a big industry as well,” Gin said. “There are so many wonderful parallels that we are here to celebrate. As we move forward, we will continue to strengthen our relationship and to look for ways to promote greater exchanges.”
Gentil Smith, president of Redondo Beach’s Sister City Committee, expressed the importance of the organization as a conduit for teens through its youth exchange program with La Paz. Teens from Redondo Union High School who were youth ambassadors in 2006 “got this spark” by visiting La Paz and have traveled to other parts of the world, including Bogot‡, Beijing and Costa Rica, to do “good work,” she added.
“They’re going into the community doing good work visiting the orphanages, going to the schools and interacting with the people of La Paz, which is really what this is all about for us, people to people,” Smith said. “Reaching through the children is really one of the greatest things I think we can do as part of this organization.”