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¿What Happened to the People of San Blas?

by Tom Nelson

Published: December 1, 2002
Carl and I met Tom Nelson at a campground near Santa Cruz, a few miles south of San Blas, several years ago. A couple days after Hurricane Kenna, Tom emailed us about what had happened in San Blas
Shortly after Tom's articles appeared on The People's Guide to Mexico website, people started asking about how they could help, I asked Tom if he would be willing to start a fund to help the poorest people of San Blas. He’s agreed and you can read how to send money here.

Tom also generously agreed to answer emails from people concerned about friends in San Blas. Following are some of his replies over the last month. I’m publishing them on the website both for general interest and for others who may be wondering about the same friends in San Blas. I have not always included the original letter. Lorena

Hi Tom, We appreciate your updates about San Blas. How is the Vazquez family doing at the Hotel Garza Canela? We know the family quite well and are concerned about them and their hotel since they are so close to the river and the beach. Thanks,

Tom’s reply: I haven’t been inside the Garza Canela, but it is still standing. I heard they suffered heavy damage, probably broken glass and water damage. The shrimp lab in front of them was wiped out. The Carza Canela is open and and busy cleaning.

.....Tom’s reply: When I drove by Playa Amor there were a lot of palm trees down. Other then that it looked fine. I don’t know what kind of damage was done to the bank though. Los Cocos was hit harder then Aticama and Santa Cruz/Miramar, but not as hard as San Blas. Most houses at Los Cocos lost their windows and, I’m sure, suffered water damage.

Hi Tom, Thanks for your San Blas info. Is it possible for you to go to the Hotel Garza Canela and tell them that we are thinking about them? We keep phoning and don't get through and emails aren't working either. Ask then how is Julio as well as Vazquez family. We have spent 10 Christmas times with them. What state is the beach? We wonder about the palapa families? Is the old beach hotel standing?

Tom’s reply: I’ll try to get by there. That area just got power yesterday and should have phone service in a couple of days. All the beach palapas are gone and the families that were living there are without houses. I haven’t been to the old hotel Playa Hermosa yet, but heard it was blown down. The palapa people are getting very concerned as tourist season is approaching and the govt. loans may be a long way off.

Tom, It was great to find your letters on the "net" about San Blas. I had spent several hours a few days ago and was only able to find the basic wire service type reports. It sounds much worse than I had thought. Several of us have vacationed in San Blas for 2 to 4 weeks every winter for about the last10 years and so are very anxious to hear first hand accounts of what it is like down there.

We always have stayed at the Suites San Blas, and 6 of us were planning to be down there for three weeks next January to early February. We thought that the best way to help out the town might be to go back again and spend our money, despite the storm damage, but it sounds pretty bad. Do you think that the Suites San Blas will be open for business then?

Also, some of us had also talked about donating some money for the needy if we could figure out some way to do it and be sure that it went to the right people. Have you had money donated through your account and been able to get it wired down to San Blas? How do you envision distributing donations?

What is your relationship to San Blas? Are you a permanent resident? How long? etc. Thanks in advance for any news and advice that you can provide us.

Tom’s reply: I think the Suites San Blas will be operating. The owner was here and plans to put everything back in order. They should have power and phones any day now and Victor can give you all the information.

The town is still very busy cleaning up and many ramadas plan to rebuild on the beach.

I’ve been wiring money from my acct. in the U S to Mexico for the past 5 years without a problem. As far as how donated money would be spent, I was thinking it depends on how much we receive. For example right now the govt. has given the people corrugated tar paper roofing, but when their roofs blew away so did the wood slats it rested on. So some of the poorer people have roofing material, but can’t put it up yet.

This type of help wouldn’t cost much. If we get bigger donations we could help a family rebuild their house. It also depends on what the govt. ends up doing. There was talk of loans earlier but after several meetings it sounds like the loans will only go to business. The donations will go to fill in the gaps.

I’ve lived in the San Blas area for 5 years as a permanent resident. 3 years in Santa Cruz/Miramar and 2 years here in San Blas. My wife works at the secondary school here and we are just about finished building a house and 2 bungalows and 2 rooms to rent. We live at Chiapas 26 between the prepatory school and the new ministerio publico.

I agree coming here as a tourist and spending money is a great way to help San Blas. It looks a little different, but the beach is still here as well as all the other things that makes it what it is. Come by and say “hi” when you are in San Blas.

Dear Tom, We have read with interest your reports on the current San Blas situation on the Peoples Guide To Mexico website. Probably the most detailed information we've had.

We've been going to San Blas every winter for about 6 years now, staying 2 or 3 months, and consider it our second home, so we were devastated by what happened. We've always rented an old, small house on the grounds of the Garza Canela, which suits our needs very well. We have become close to the Vazquez family, and also the Morales family of the Shrimp Lab which I understand was destroyed. Have not heard directly from anyone there.

I guess what I'd like to hear, if possible, is a recent update on the condition of the hotel. I understand the family is all well, and at last report were working to get things going again. I'm sure we'll hear from them before long, but I realize it's hard to get information out of San Blas right now, and when they can I'm sure they'll have lots of people to contact.

We plan to head south around the first of December this year. Looking forward to hearing from you. Thanks for keeping an eye on things!

Tom’s reply: My wife, Trini, talked to Hector, a son of the owner of Garza Canela, yesterday and he said the damage was mainly to the gardens and roof tile. A few windows were broken and a door facing the ocean. A lot of cleaning up, but other then that I think things are fine. Their power was restored a couple of days ago and I think that area should have phone service soon.

....Tom’s reply: Federico and Lucia are now running a restaurant across the street from the Cocodrillo. They are living with Lucia’s mother right now. I don’t know what their plans are for the beach. Thanks for the pledge for a donation.

Dear Tom, My family and others have come to San Blas for Christmas every year for the last 4 or 5 years and are planning again to come this year. We don't quite know who to contact to get info on the shape of the beaches and surrounding area.

We actually stay just outside of Aticama, just south of San Blas and we stay at a camp ground known as "Playa Amor". First of all, can you tell me anything about the beach or is there one left? Or can you get me in touch with some one in that area to call and talk to. Second, what can we do to help. There will be about 30 some odd people coming and we could rebuild or do whatever San Blas needs. It has been good to us so we need to return the favor.

Tom’s reply: All the beaches are fine, there just aren’t any restaurants right now. But I’m sure there will be when you get here. I think Playa Amor is OK. They lost several palm trees, but when I drove by that was the only damage I saw there.

All of the restaurants in Aticama were gutted with the waves, but the structures are still standing and I think they will be back in business soon.

What can you do to help? Just about everyone suffered an economic loss and as I wrote earlier the people with the least suffered the most. My wife and I have set up Friends of San Blas here are are taking donations. The information is at

Or when you get here I’m sure there will be many people who need help and you can help as you see fit. You can bring used clothing, especially for children. It’s always appreciated.

Tom, I have known people in San Blas since 1963. Could you tell me anything about the following individuals:........ Any information you can provide would be appreciated.

Tom’s reply: Tono Aguayo live just down the street from me and is fine, I see him just about everyday. Fredrico & Lucia are now running a restaurant in the center or town across the street from the Cocodrillo. The only bank in San Blas is Banamex. I’m fairly sure all of San Blas now has power and water. Many parts still don’t have phone service. I found several photos of the destruction of hurricane Kenna, mostly of P V but some of San Blas through the Yahoo search.

Tom, i can't believe i found you thru the web--i have been trying 2 find information--i'm in seattle and there is no news---i am a friend of maria ascension-of casa maria--if you know please reply and tell me how she is, her family--muchas gracias

Tom’s reply: Maria and her family are fine and were very lucky. Casa Maria was one of the few places that suffered no damage.

....Tom’s reply: Don’t worry. Federico & Lucia are fine. They lost their restaurant on the beach of course, but have opened a new restaurant in the center or town across the street from the cocodrillo. It’s called Frederico & Lucia II

Tom, I hope you are well and that San Blas is recovering from the terrible storm of October. Could you please tell me of the welfare of Mr and Mrs Norm Goldie. We have heard nothing of them and hope they are well.

Tom’s reply: They lost their roof in the hurricane and a few days later Norm ended up in the hospital with heart problems. As of a few days ago he was still in the hospital in Puerto Vallarta. I don’t know if they have phone service yet.

Dear Tom, I know that you must have your hands full with the rebuilding. We are quite concerned. We have cruised Mexico for several years, and are now back in the States. We knew people in Chacala and in a development on the beach between Chacala and San Blas called Turtle Beach. We have emailed, but no response. Do you know how these areas fared? Any information would be helpful. Also, have you come up with a way to make donations? What is needed? Thanks.

Tom’s reply: I haven’t been to Chacala but heard it was hit hard and I imagine Turtle Beach was as well since it is almost at sea level. That’s all the information I have now. Check for donation information.

....Tom’s reply: All the roads from Mazatlan to Puerto Vallarta are open.

....Tom’s reply: Rudolfo is still in good shape and working at the store almost daily. The store is fine. It didn’t suffer much from the hurricane. I talked to Rudolfo a few days ago and he and his family are fine.

....Tom’s reply: Yes I know Fernando and Pepe quite well. They are both fine. Their businesses weren’t hurt at all surprisingly. Fernando had some minor damage to his house and Pepe’s house is fine.

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