Sonora, Mexico

A region with beauty and brawn.

Sonora Area Growth and Expansion

In 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), designed to encourage trade among the United States, Canada and Mexico by eliminating tariffs and lifting many restrictions on various categories of trade goods, went into effect. Sonora capitalized on the opportunity by building many maquiladoras (assembly plants) for the production of goods that support such companies as Ford and Sara Lee. Others make electrical appliances, computer circuits and vacuum cleaners for foreign and domestic markets.

General service-based companies and trade activities together account for about 19 percent of Sonora’s economy.

This is followed by manufacturing at 18 percent, finance and insurance at 15 percent, agriculture and livestock at 15 percent, transportation and communications at 9 percent, construction at 3 percent and mining at 2 percent. Because its economy relies mostly on cattle ranching and agriculture, Sonora has vast stretches of unpopulated desert areas.

Sonora Area Education

Sonora’s education system, one of the most respected in Mexico, includes Universidad de Sonora, Universidad La Salle, Universidad del Noreste and Instituto Tecnologico de Sonora.

Sonora Area Tourism

Sonora’s extensive tourism industry targets mostly Americans living in California, New Mexico and Arizona but also caters to Mexican nationals. Ecotourism and adventure tourism is strongly promoted in Sonora. Among the more popular activities are mountain biking, horseback riding, scuba diving, fishing and camping.

Facts and Figures

Capital: Hermosillo

Major Cities (population): Hermosillo (701,838) Ciudad Obregon (357,800) Nogales (193,517) San Luis Rio Colorado (157,076) Navajoa (144,598)

Size/Area: 70,290 square miles

Population: 2,394,861 (2005 Census)

Year of statehood: 1830

Slightly larger than North Dakota, Sonora is the second largest Mexican state after Chihuahua.

Some of the most famous Mexican athletes in history are from Sonora—notably, Fernando Valenzuela (baseball), Julio César Chavez (boxing) and Ana Gabriela Guevara (track and field).

The most popular musical styles in Sonora are rancheras (tales of lost loves), corridos (long narrative poems) and huapangos (rhythmic songs often played at bullfights).

Nearby Recreation

El Golfo

One of the least developed stretches of coastline along the Sea of Cortez borders the small Mexican town of El Golfo, a shortened nickname for El Golfo de Santa Clara. It lies near the U.S. border, about 56 miles south of San Luis, Arizona. Though it is a port town, residents enjoy a secluded, family-oriented society with small shops and locally owned cafes catering to the few tourists who make their way into the village. Sand dunes draw visitors to the sandy beach areas during events and competitions.


The sandy beach forming the coastline of the Sea of Cortez at El Golfo stretches for 50 miles, affording endless opportunities for shelling, clam digging, sunbathing and swimming in the warm waters of the Sea of Cortez, with an average water temperature of 72.86 degrees F through the fall and early winter. Boats carry local fishermen as well as visitors who angle for sole and totoaba. Sightseeing expeditions, snorkelers and scuba divers traverse the sea, the Colorado River and nearby islands of Montague and El Pelicano.

Dune Racing

ATV enthusiasts converge on the sand dunes during weekend festivals or competitions. Off-road dune buggies, sandrails and four-wheel drive vehicles converge on the beach during holidays such as the Holy Week of Semana Sancta as well as Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends. Live bands, DJs, and beach parties add to the festive environment.

Marine Reserve

The Sea of Cortez and the Colorado River converge near El Golfo with divergent fresh and sea waters, forming a portion of the 2.3 million-acre Upper Sea of Cortez and Colorado River Delta Biosphere Reserve, designated by the Mexican government. It is home to myriad habitats, marine zones and at least 80 species of migratory or resident land and marine birds, including the fishing eagle, seagulls, white and brown pelicans, sea quails, ducks and geese. Diverse populations of reptiles roam the reserve, and it contains about 75 percent of all types of vegetation found in Mexico. Tourists can explore natural habitats near El Golfo and learn about protecting fragile ecosystems.

RV Camping

The RV crowd can take advantage of the only camping resort on the shores of El Golfo. The El Golfo Beach Resort offers oceanfront RV camping on the shores of the Sea of Cortez, with a poolside cabana and cantina, clubhouse, barbecue facilities, planned activities and a recreation center. The grounds have 24-hour security and a weekly shuttle service across the border from the resort’s sister property in Yuma, Arizona, about an hour away. Guidance on deep-sea fishing tours, diving, snorkeling and ATV routes are provided by the resort staff.

Border Crossing

Foreign visitors must abide by border regulations governing entry into the country of Mexico. A passport from your country of residence is generally required; visitors are urged to check with the appropriate authorities before entering the border patrol checkpoint. Vehicle registration and proof of auto insurance might also be requested when crossing the border in any type of vehicle.

Missions Route

The Missions Route attracts thousands of travelers each year. Visitors can follow the same trails traveled by Father Eusebio Francisco Kino, the Catholic priest who established Sonora’s first missions in 1687.Taking at least three days to complete, the Missions Route leads through the desert where most of the original missions were built. A 19th-century mission, Tabutama, was established practically in the middle of the desert.

Rocky Point

The community of Puerto Peñasco (Rocky Point) features beaches that stretch 100 kilometers (62 miles) along the coastline. The area is sunny almost year-round and has little rainfall. About 51 kilometers (32 miles) northeast of Rocky Point stands El Pinacate, one of the country’s many non-active volcanoes. Rocky Point has become a favorite destination for those who enjoy rugged outdoor sports and natural settings.

Rocky Point had the highest population growth rate in the region between 2007 and 2008 of 5.8 percent. Nogales had the second highest growth rate for border municipios at 2.5 percent followed by Altar with an increase in population of 2.4 percent. Rocky Point is a popular tourist destination for people from the U.S. with a growing leisure and hospitality economic subsector. The prospect of job opportunities in this subsector makes migration desirable for individuals seeking employment.

Contact 4FrontED

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Phone (US & Mexico)
US M 717-405-5231
Mex M +52 (686)2-62-03-24