I let out a small gasp as our boat approaches remote El Pardito. Small buildings cling to the tiny island. As the turquoise waves of the Sea of Cortez crash against the shore, the descendants of fisherman Juan Cuevas come forward to bring our boat to anchor.
The island has no fresh water, no phone and no internet. Life on El Pardito is as it has been for decades. The faces of generations has changed but the the remote living in fish filled seas of Baja Mexico continues.
As our guides, who are friends of the villagers, tour us through the tiny rock village we see no more than a handful of people. The children we understand are in school in the city of La Paz. The younger generations are not as interested in the remote lifestyle as they were even a generation prior.
Fishing the Lifeblood of El Pardito
Fishing remains the heart of the community. The gulls scream with glee as the fish receive their cleaning. We stand watching, melting in the 35C heat. Without refrigeration, the fish move next to the salting table. Preservation techniques on El Pardito are as they were almost a century ago.
Selling fish to markets in the Baja keeps the island alive. One of the ladies sells small handicrafts made from shells found on or near El Pardito. Since no formal tours come here I can not imagine sales are booming.
In 2012 it was reported that 298 species of fish swim in the waters near El Pardito. This represents almost half of the fish diversity in the Sea of Cortez.
The people of the island are actively fishing but also work with a regional NGO on fish conservation. The area on the backside of the island is protected from all fishing. When wind conditions allow, this makes a superb snorkeling spot.
Our video below a glimpse of our arrival to El Pardito and snorkeling in the turquoise, protected waters.
In 2005 the documentary Here Lies My Heart was filmed on El Pardito Island. The feature focuses on the prediction of a disappearing lifestyle in the Baja.
When the crew returned to the island in 2015 they found far less villagers living on the island than a decade earlier. This along with some buildings in disrepair saddened the film crew to see their predictions coming true.
Could tourism be the savior El Pardito needs?
It is with some hesitation I write about El Pardito. Our local guides feel that tourism would bring the young people back to the island. Without them the way of life may be lost forever. As I stood on the shores I shuddered at the thought of what hordes of tourists might do to a place such as this.
Standing beside the Jesus of the Sea statue, similar to the giant figure in the city of La Paz I ponder. Would tourism be the savior El Pardito Island needs? Or the end of a way of life forever?