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Wednesday, October 17, 2018
Baja Biosphere, bracelets, tuna pens and TIPs


Jesus ‘Chuy’ Valdez - Baja Tourism and Sportfishing Visionary
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When a ship would go out of the harbor, people would stand, and they would watch that ship sail over the horizon.


Those left behind would say as the ship sails, “There she goes ... she’s gone.”


But somewhere there’s another harbor and when that ship appears on the horizon they say, “Here she comes.”


Jesus “Chuy” Valdez’s ship of life is not gone. He is but sailing toward a new horizon.


Sail on, dad, sail on. It’s a new day. – The Valdez Family


Jesus Valdez, founder of Hotel Buena Vista Beach Resort on the Sea of Cortez, died from an apparent heart attack on Sept. 22. The hotelier, fishing enthusiast and ardent conservationist was affectionately known as “Chuy” by generations of hotel guests, visiting anglers and employees.


Valdez, 75, died at the General Hospital in La Paz surrounded by his family after having played a round of golf earlier in the day. He is survived by his beloved wife and life’s partner, Imelda; sons, Esaul, Axel and Felipe, and his numerous grandchildren.


The hotel site was discovered in the mid-1950s by Mexican general and subsequent two-term Governor of the State of Baja, Augustin Olachea, where he built a Mexican hacienda. Some 20 years later in October 1976, Valdez, a young accountant, business and tourism entrepreneur from La Paz, leased the Olachea property and founded a modest fishing club called Spa Buenavista with 13 rooms primarily for anglers from California. He purchased the property in 1981; in 1982, the name was changed to the current Hotel Buena Vista Beach Resort.


It rapidly grew and with a fleet of sportfishing cruisers, pangas, dining facilities, a convention center, swimming pool, spa, manicured gardens and a cascade of rooms and cottages spilling down the hillside to the broad beach, it became part of East Cape’s rapidly-growing recreational tourism industry offering everything from fishing tournaments, to SCUBA diving, whale watching, weddings and family vacations.


Yvonne and I first met the Valdez family almost four decades ago when we attended one of the elaborate Cinco de Mayo celebrations held at their popular resort in the ’80s. The following year, we moved into “Rancho Deluxe” less than a mile down the beach, our home-away-from-home for nearly 18 years.


When we started “Baja on the Fly” in the early 1990s, Hotel Buena Vista Beach Resort was a convenient choice for some of our visiting clients. Saltwater fly-fishing, a new concept for the area, required some fine-tuning and as Baja on the Fly staff and guides worked closely with Chuy and his sons Esaul, Axel and Felipe, our friendship grew.


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HE IS SURVIVED by his beloved wife and life’s partner, Imelda; sons, Esaul, Axel and Felipe, and his numerous grandchildren.

During our initial business meeting with Chuy, we realized how very different our cultures were, and how much we had to learn. But we realized that his word was his bond. I’m not certain he ever welcomed the concept of fly-fishing, but he did welcome us, and he made a place for Baja on the Fly in his world.


When Yvonne, Fanny Krieger, Pat Magnuson and the fledgling International Women Fly Fishers held their first annual Rendezvous in Baja, it was based out of the Hotel Buena Vista Beach Resort, attracting 80-plus women from around the world. Many of the women had never been to Baja, nor even out of the country, so they needed extra care.


The Valdez family, with Chuy leading them, rose to the occasion and the first-time event offering the unique Baja saltwater fly fishing to such a large group was a memorable affair because of their efforts – from dining under the stars to linen table cloths, mariachis, and other amenities that made their stay both comfortable and exciting – the Valdez family could not have made a better impression on the large group of women, many of whom have returned time and again over the years. Chuy seemed to know exactly what to do to make the guests feel welcome.


Over the years, Valdez and I grew closer as we united in our fight for conservation and preservation of the fisheries in Baja. He took an active leadership role in protecting the sportfishing industry for future generations. He was a Representative for International Game Fish Association (IGFA), and a spokesperson for conservation and preservation of the fishing industry until the day he died.


Tracy Ehrenberg, Pisces Group,sadly noted, “He was a true legend who fought the good fight without fear for conservation and fisheries here. He leaves a big hole in the sportfishing community at a time when he is truly needed.”


Coincidently, the last time I saw Chuy was at the Bisbee East Cape Offshore Tournament in early August. Chuy and Tricia Bisbee sprinkled Baja Legend Bob Bisbee’s ashes on the Sea of Cortez before the start on the first day.


He seemed to be in good health and good spirits, and he animatedly discussed the recent proposal of The Federal Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) to create a Natural Protected Area (ANP) along the coastline of the entire state of Baja Sur.


Yvonne and I were shocked and saddened by the devastating news of his passing. Another good man has left this earth; another warrior has left an empty place in line.


“Chuy taught us a lot over the years – about strength and dignity, and the basics of doing business in another land. We feel honored to have known Chuy, and our condolences go out to his family – to his sons who we consider friends. Rest in peace, Señor. Vaya con Dios.” - Gary and Yvonne Graham


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