Thursday, March 31, 2016

Passing of a Baja Legend

Spending the better part of two decades living down here in Baja, I have met my fair share of characters and personalities. The very nature of this peninsula, its rugged life and at times unforgiving spirit seems to forge these unforgetful types; perhaps hardened and tempered by the harsh conditions and challenging terrain.

And these same, difficult conditions have produced some very special icons of Baja and one in particular that I was extremely fortunate to have cross my path sometime ago. Antonio Resendiz Sanchez Hidalgo, known by many as "Super Tony" and simply "Toño" to his closest friends and family.

Tony was born in Coyoacan, a district of Mexico City back in 1954. Even as a young boy Tony was very independent and he was considered both a leader

and a rebel growing up. But as he watched his friends and family members seek their place at respected schools and universities nearer to Mexico City, Tony followed a different calling that lead him all the way to the port city of Ensenada, Baja California. Back in the early 70's that was considered a world away from his safe environment of home and many were surprised that he would make such a bold and risky move. He made the decision to pursue a career in marine biology and Tony enrolled in the new University of Oceanography that was established in Ensenada. He wanted to be close to the Pacific Ocean and Sea of Cortez; following the footsteps of one of his childhood idols - Jacques Cousteau.

Shortly after graduating from the UABC School of Oceanography, Tony setup residence in a tent along the beach in Bahia de Los Angeles; a place he had come to know during his field studies back at school. From that simple and humble beginning, Tony began a lifelong dedication to work with the local marine life and along the way educate thousands of visitors to the area who came to visit the magic that lives in the Sea of Cortez.

Tony was a true friend of sea turtles as well as whales and marine mammals in general. He was an environmental advocate and an overall great human being with a highly contagious, intense personality. He often returned to Ensenada to lecture at the campus where he studied and became a favorite of students and teachers alike. He played a very important role in pushing legislation for the protection of marine species. He was relentless in his drive to raise consciousness for the cause of ecosystem conservation and especially the sea turtles.

Along the way Tony met Bety, who would become his wife, partner and mother to their children Toñito and Ale. She also brought a softer balance to his life; something sorely missing according to some who were close to him back in the 70's. With Bety they built a lifetime together at their beloved Camp Archelon, alongside the Sea of Cortez.

While the softer, more patient side of Tony was evident in the way he could sit down and share with locals and tourists alike his passion for the sea turtles, their care and preservation, he saved his burning inner fire for the fight against corruption within the Mexican government. He declared war against a system that allowed unregulated fisheries to slowly and methodically kill off sea turtles and other marine species along with the ecosystems and worked tirelessly to stop it. Even in the face of death threats he never once wavered.

His family back home in Mexico City would follow along with Tony's work and crusades through his stories, carried back to them by correspondence; letters the family would often refer to as the "Gospel according to San Antonio..."

There was so very much more to this man's life that it would be impossible for me to even pretend to list it all here. Just let me say that from the moment I met this special man, I knew that I was blessed to forge a friendship with such an accomplished, "larger than life" individual who inspired the very best in you. And I suppose that is one of the greatest accomplishments one could ever hope for in this life; to be able to so inspire others to do great things. He certainly raised the bar for me in my pursuits that I shared with him that day of our chance encounter. 

Tony's flame blew out last Monday afternoon; a legend suddenly and tragically disappeared from our midst. But I continue to believe that his light shines on through his wife Bety, their children, his work and all of us whom he touched and inspired over the years. Tony's ashes will now return to become part of the very environment he worked so hard to preserve and protect, through a lifetime of hard work, dedication and love. Quite fitting I suppose and a life very, very well lived.

Vaya con Dios amigo...

Antonio Resendiz Sanchez Hidalgo
1954- 2016