Last month a crowd of locals gathered at the arch in front of the Rosarito Beach Hotel as Calle Magnolia, a 2 ½ block street in front of the Rosarito Beach Hotel, was renamed Calle Hugo Torres Chabert in a 45-minute ceremony. Due to a spelling error the original sign remained under cover during the event, but but that was all patched up within a couple of hours.
The soft-spoken Torres thanked everyone present, including family and friends, for showing up. He was joined by his wife Rosa Maria Ramirez, and his five grown children who are all active in the community, government, and local businesses.
“I am very thankful for this honor. Rosarito has been my life’s work, and it is gratifying that part of it will carry my name into the future,” he said in his short speech.
Other speakers included Rafael Chrostwhite of the CCE (local business group); Oscar Escobedo Carignan, Secretary of Tourism; and Silvano Abarca Mayor of Rosarito, in perhaps h is last official function.
Don Hugo moved to the Rosarito Beach Hotel the first time in 1943 to live with his aunt Maria Chabert, in the then 50-room hotel, living here until he left for military boarding school many years later. In 1966, when he was working in Mexico City, his aunt called him back to manage the hotel.
He soon added more rooms to make better use of the land; then began promoting the hell out of it. In 1968 he purchased the hotel and began making plans for the renovations that would become the 500+ room resort the Rosarito Beach Hotel it is today.
Torres spearheaded the movement to create the city of Playas de Rosarito, carving it out of the city of Tijuana. He said he felt Tijuana wasn’t representing Rosarito’s interests, just taking our tax money, but others, not so kind, wonder if as the largest property tax payer, he wanted his taxes to stay where they would do his property the most good. Anyway, the separation has worked well for us. Rosarito broke away in 1995 and the rest is history.
Torres was the first Rosarito mayor, and spent his salary feeding the school children of Rosarito.
When the crime rate soared in 2007, he ran for and became mayor again. He insisted all police officers turn in their guns and submit to polygraph tests. Most of Torres’ time in office was spent trying to re-populate the police force when a whopping 70% of the officers did not pass their polygraphs, mostly due to their relations with local drug cartels.
And even though we see the incidence of crimes, including murder and robberies on the rise again, it’s still not a bad place to live.
During slumps in the economy, Torres has not laid off any of his employees, preferring to suck it up and somehow get through the tough times intact with his team.
He relinquished the reins of running the hotel last year but still shows up to his office nearly every day, walking through the grand entrance, shaking hands and greeting visitors. He lives adjacent to the hotel.
Hugo Torres supports every charitable organization of Rosarito in some way, discounting rooms for the Baja Blues Fest and other events, proffering free meeting rooms throughout the year, and offering special meal prices for monthly breakfast or luncheon meetings. He donated the land used for the original Boys and Girls club next to the Rosarito Beach Hotel, and now supports the club at their new site, in the hills above Rosarito.
Victor Loza, a long-time friend, recalls Halloween of 2010, when he, Torres, and Ken Bell were discussing the perception people had about feeling insecure in the city. These friends convinced Torres to go out trick-or-treating that evening to let the residents know it was safe to venture out at night. A couple of years later Torres convinced Victor to continue organizing the Baja Sand event, when he was almost ready to throw in the towel.
Hugo Torres has had an impact on every resident of Rosarito. Flash him a smile the next time you see him.