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Rosarito Beach moves forward after postponement of surf contest amid growing drug war hype

March 25, 2009 |  9:59 am

A longboarder rides a wave.

Not long ago, Rosarito Beach proudly announced it was hosting a pro surfing contest in early April to coincide with spring break and divert attention from a highly publicized drug war that has tarnished the northern Baja California city's image and devastated its economy.

More recently, the city reluctantly announced the contest has been postponed until Aug. 7-9. The marketing firm helping to stage the Assn. of Surfing Professionals' qualifying series contest cited a need for more time to secure adequate sponsorship and said the new dates would be more attractive to prospective competitors.

Translation: It's not easy to land sponsors or lure a large field when the negative media spotlight shines so glaringly on a coastal party town in which -- and this needs stressing -- not a single tourist has been killed since Mexico's drug cartels and factions within those cartels ramped up their bloody turf war two years ago.

The postponement is a shame because Rosarito Beach, which during the past year has taken many admirable steps to make tourists feel safe, could use the kind of boost a surf contest might provide sooner rather than later.

Mayor Hugo Torres and Convention and Visitors Bureau President Laura Wong expressed disappointment with the postponement. Unfortunately, the city and its large ex-pat community have grown accustomed to these kinds of setbacks.

They've also developed a bitterness toward the U.S. media outlets, which have been quick to jump on a gruesome discovery of headless bodies somewhere inside or outside of city limits, but not so quick to mention that the bodies are almost always those of people involved in the illicit drug trade.

The resort town features rides on the sand.

Mexican print media outlets are even worse. Enrique Krauze, in a recent editorial for the New York Times, wrote from Mexico City that "our print media has gone beyond the necessary and legitimate communication of information by continuously publishing photographs of the most atrocious aspects of the drug war, a practice that some feel verges on a pornography of violence."

Krauze correctly observed that "press photos of horrors like decapitated heads provide free publicity for drug cartels," whose brutal methods against each other are purely for intimidation but have placed worldwide attention on the issue.

The U.S., finally acknowledging this as a two-nation problem, has pledged more money and personnel and has vowed to stem the flow of guns and money into Mexico and the hands of criminals. CNN will be reporting on "The War Next Door" from the border tonight and Thursday night.

Meanwhile, Rosarito Beach will proceed as best it can. Upcoming events include the long-popular Rosarito-to-Ensenada Bike Ride, the Cinco de Mayo Festival, an International Volleyball Festival and a seafood fair.

Eventually, the surf contest will lure competitors from both sides of the border. Perhaps a crowd of tourists will even gather to watch.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo (top): A longboarder rides a wave. Credit: Rosarito Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Photo (bottom): The resort town features rides on the sand. Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times

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