Santa Cruz County Visit: A new era of Nogales, where the pursuit of accomplishment is driven by the desire to be part of something

July 14, 2023
Stephanie Bermudez
We create our environment, and then our environment creates us. If you want something, you have to build it. You can decide, as a matter of choice, to strategically place your focus on taking what currently seems impossible, into something not only that’s possible, but inevitable. Who knew that what would’ve been to a lot of people just another day of speaking with colleagues, hanging out with friends, having lunch, and work of some kind, would instead turn out to be a journey of transformation, rich culture, and an experience of possibility, growth and appreciation.
Overlooking Estancia Yerba Buena, a historical gem of Santa Cruz County located in Nogales, AZ
Wherever people converge to live, work, play, and cherish each other, we witness the enigmatic dance of human potential unfolding. Too often, our focus is ensnared by society's shortcomings, and perhaps you, like me, find yourself voicing these complaints daily. However, today I am humbled to share a different perspective, a gift that I've received and feel an earnest desire to share.

Nogales, along with areas sharing its characteristics, may be known as persistently impoverished or disadvantaged communities. But when viewed through a different lens, these locales can be seen as emerging markets brimming with untapped potential.

As privileged individuals—and to me, privilege is not solely about material wealth but is deeply intertwined with feeling rich in experiences, fulfillment, and being able to walk one's soul's path (and I wholeheartedly count myself among the privileged)—we may assume we have the answers. We believe we understand the interventions necessary to elevate an area from a state of turmoil and poverty to a harmonious, thriving society. And it's critical that we continue engaging in dialogues about alleviating human suffering and promoting wellbeing.

However, real change is rooted in the seed of desire—the desire to strive, to evolve, to gain more. This desire is sparked by awareness. Awareness gives us the capacity to consider alternatives and understand that there are paths available, some leading to prosperity, others to decay. Exposure—whether it's to events that happen to us or experiences we consciously seek—cultivates this awareness.
Inside the Griffith House. Stephan Peterson and Derek Dumais discuss history and future Masterplan
As humans, we have the extraordinary gift of observing our reality and our surroundings from various vantage points. This ability to consciously shift perspectives and examine our environment provides us with unique insights and opportunities for growth.

So, let's view places like Nogales not just as regions burdened with adversity, but as emerging markets pulsating with potential. Let's leverage our privilege to elevate awareness, foster exposure, and kindle the desire for growth and prosperity. Let's remember that every community, irrespective of its current status, holds within it the seeds of transformation that only need the right conditions to flourish. Let's commit to being part of that transformative journey, not just as spectators, but as active participants.

This is a land of both challenge and opportunity, grit and perseverance. Nogales, and its surrounding area, which has been labeled as persistently impoverished, bubbles with untapped potential. But why? And how? Let's delve into that.

Firstly, we humans have a tendency to oversimplify solutions, assuming that poverty eradication is a mere matter of fiscal injection or charity. While these interventions are part of the equation, they don't fully account for the richness and complexity of the human experience and ecosystem.

An ecosystem is ever-evolving, constantly adapting to the shifts in its environment, as does the social and economic ecosystem of a place like Nogales. It isn't just about providing access to opportunity. True development stems from a deeper level of interaction—nurturing a community's desire for optionality, sparking an ambition for something more.

That's where exposure plays a crucial role. It plants seeds of what could be, nurturing aspirations and dreams. It creates the spark that ignites the pursuit of accomplishment. It's not enough to tell someone they can do better; they need to see and feel what better means.

And that brings us to the heart of our story—the emerging market that is Nogales.

Often overlooked and misunderstood, Nogales is an undiscovered gem rich with culture, innovation, and art. It's a border region, a meeting point of histories, cultures, and economic systems. This inherent diversity makes it ripe for opportunity and change. It's not just a location; it's a melting pot of possibilities.

It's a community primed for visionary leaders who see potential where others see struggle, for engineers of the future who believe in using technology to empower communities, and for incredible operators who can turn dreams into tangible realities.

As we continue to highlight Nogales, we will be showcasing projects that embrace the vibrant culture of this border region, projects that promote innovation in harmony with the community's rich heritage, and projects that amplify the voice of local art. We believe these initiatives align with the community's deep-rooted desire for transformation.
Israel Gutierrez artist located in Nogales, SON - Triangulo and Carlos Ibarra muralist painting live in Nogales, AZ - Morley Ave
In essence, Nogales is a city on the cusp of a metamorphosis. It's an emerging market not just in terms of economics, but in terms of cultural and social potential too. It's a place where the hustle and grind meet opportunity and vision, and it's this potent mix that makes it an exciting frontier for change and evolution.

As we embark on this journey to unravel the richness of Santa Cruz County, we'll paint a nuanced picture of Nogales and its people. We'll spotlight the resilience, the tenacity, and most importantly, the indomitable spirit of a community that is eager to make their mark in the world, transforming their reality one day at a time.
Israel Gutierrez artist in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico follow on Instagram isi33gutierrez
Welcome to the new era of Nogales, where the pursuit of accomplishment is driven by the desire to be part of something that truly represents the depth and breadth of this extraordinary border region.

Indeed, to bring about sustainable development and progress in a place like Nogales, it is essential to take a holistic approach, which we refer to as the I5 frame—Infrastructure, Industry, Incubation, Intrapreneurship, and Investment. These five areas are key pillars in the evolution of any ecosystem, particularly one that is as rich and complex as Santa Cruz County.

Infrastructure sets the stage for development. It’s about creating physical and digital spaces that foster growth, such as roads, schools, libraries, internet access, and public spaces. But infrastructure also implies establishing social structures that support and protect the community, fostering a sense of safety and belonging.

Industry is vital to economic growth. It is about promoting sectors that provide jobs and stimulate economic activity. In Nogales, we're not just talking about traditional industries, but also about harnessing the unique culture and diversity of the region to create new avenues of commerce.

Incubation is about nurturing ideas and innovation. It's about creating an environment where creativity and enterprise can flourish, where people feel safe to take risks and innovate. This could be achieved through business incubators, mentorship programs, or by creating platforms that encourage collaborative problem-solving.

Intrapreneurship goes one step further, encouraging employees within existing systems to think and act like entrepreneurs. It’s about fostering a culture of innovation and initiative within organizations, boosting productivity and creating a ripple effect of progress across the community.

And lastly, Investment is the lifeblood of any growth story. It's about attracting funding, not only for startups and businesses, but also for social initiatives, arts, culture, and projects aimed at preserving the region's rich heritage.

When all these elements come together, synergistically and iteratively, we begin to see an upliftment that is infectious and joyful. It changes the atmosphere, the mindset, and the spirit of the place.

My experience at La Roca exemplifies this beautifully. When a community feels valued and empowered, it takes pride in its craft and service. Whether that is serving up culinary delights, creating a welcoming space, or providing excellent customer service, these experiences embody the essence of development—people taking joy in their contributions and striving to create rich experiences for others.
La Roca Restaurant located in Nogales, Sonora.
Such experiences form the building blocks of a thriving ecosystem. It’s through this lens that we view Nogales, as a place that is not just developing, but blossoming with joy, resilience, and a spirit of shared growth. It’s a place that is continually unfolding, driven by the infectious optimism of its people and their belief in the power of community, collaboration, and celebration.

And it's these stories that we aim to bring to the fore, to show the world that Nogales, and Santa Cruz County as a whole, is not just an emerging market, but a blossoming ecosystem of human potential and joyful collaboration.

The journey from a hustle to a sustainable operation is marked by a series of crucial steps that include access to simple and efficient financial tools and infrastructures, as well as the transition to more sophisticated systems that enhance growth while maintaining nimbleness.
Overlooking Estancia Yerba Buena in Nogales, Arizona. Stephen Peterson and Derek Dumais.
In the context of Nogales, addressing the barriers such as food deserts, inadequate internet infrastructure, housing shortages and ineffective transportation systems becomes a priority. To cultivate an emerging market, these foundational issues must be remedied. They provide the essential framework for businesses to flourish and for the wellbeing of the community to be elevated.

As we look towards the next 5-10 years, a methodical and committed plan is necessary. Utilizing lean finance methods, which focus on minimizing waste and optimizing resources, will be crucial in driving economic development. Similarly, mentorship will play a pivotal role in empowering local businesses and individuals, fostering a community that is not only self-reliant but also self-enriching.

At the same time, it's crucial to remember that this journey isn't a sprint, it's a marathon. It's about slow and steady progress, about taking one step at a time, and about staying the course, no matter the challenges that may arise. It's about a collective resolve to see Nogales transform, not just in terms of its infrastructure and economy, but in terms of its spirit and aspirations too.

Prosperity, in its truest sense, is multidimensional. It goes beyond financial success to include cultural preservation, social equity, environmental sustainability, and personal wellbeing. And that's the kind of prosperity we envisage for Nogales—a prosperity that cherishes the past, celebrates the present, and welcomes the future with open arms.

We envision a Nogales that represents the spirit of its people—resilient, innovative, and vibrant. A Nogales that, from remediation to prosperity, is a testament to the power of community, collaboration, and unwavering commitment.

Indeed, the path ahead is filled with both challenges and opportunities, but we believe that with the right plan, the right resources, and most importantly, the right people, we can turn this vision into reality. As we embark on this journey, let's remember that every step we take is a step towards a brighter, more prosperous Nogales. As long as we each decide and stay the course, the next version of Nogales will embody the transformation we all aspire to see.
Stephen Peterson and Stephanie Bermudez at Underground Recording Studio in Nogales, AZ
In conclusion, the evolution of a place like Nogales is not unlike the journey from a caterpillar to a butterfly—a process of metamorphosis that seems miraculous, yet is deeply rooted in the natural order of life. It's about going from the seemingly impossible, to the improbable, then to the possible, and finally, to the inevitable. It's about transforming challenges into stepping stones, turning dreams into visions, and visions into reality.

And what fuels this journey? It's the undying spirit of the builders—the visionary leaders, the ingenious engineers, the industrious operators, and the relentless hustlers who aren't just dreaming of a new Nogales, but are rolling up their sleeves and building it, brick by brick.

This is the essence of the Nogales story. It's not about erasing the past, but about learning from it. It's not about rejecting the present, but about embracing it. And most importantly, it's about believing in the future—a future that is vibrant, prosperous, and representative of the rich culture and heritage of this extraordinary border region.

If you're intrigued by the Nogales narrative and want to delve deeper into its journey, be sure to check out our podcast, produced by D Lo at Underground Recording Studios ( The production quality is incredible and I got a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the hustle, the grind, and the sheer determination that is driving the Nogales transformation.

A shout out to all the builders out there, the unsung heroes of the New Nogales. Your unwavering belief and tireless efforts are not just creating ripples, but waves of change. Keep pushing, keep striving, and keep believing because the New Nogales is not only possible, it's inevitable.

Stephen Jace Peterson

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