CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico — The Cultural Pavilion near the marina area here was packed each of the four nights the Los Cabos International Film Festival was underway Nov. 12 to 16. While that wasn't unusual for a festival that has grown rapidly in the three years since its founding, it was especially impressive for a region still recovering from Hurricane Odile.
The Category 4 storm, which struck on Sept. 14, was the strongest ever to make landfall on Mexico's Baja peninsula. Yet, only weeks later, the festival's general director, Alonso Aguilar-Castillo, announced, "This show must go on and will go on. We did not change the dates. Los Cabos will be ready, and we want to use the event to shine a spotlight on the destination."
The curtain went up on schedule, and much of Los Cabos was ready on opening night. Thousands crowded into the open-air venue to hear actress Reese Witherspoon, in town for the premiere of her film "Wild," praise the recovery efforts and resilience of the choyeros, people native to the Mexican state of Baja California Sur.
"I love Los Cabos," Witherspoon said. "I will be back."
Los Cabos, or at least much of it, looked surprisingly good. Signs of damage were still evident as cranes removed bent-over palm trees, workers wire-cut mangled cyclone fences and some stores still remained shuttered. But tourists sunned on Medano Beach, drank mango margaritas in bars and beach huts that lined the shore and climbed aboard catamarans and party boats to view sunsets at El Arco, Cabo's signature rock formation in the Sea of Cortes.
The storm damage became more evident traveling north along the 25-mile corridor that links party-hearty Cabo San Lucas with the more tranquil San Jose del Cabo.
Major resorts remain closed, including the Hilton, Las Ventanas al Paraiso, the Hyatt Ziva, Hyatt Place, Esperanza, One&Only Palmilla, the Westin Resort & Spa, Dreams Los Cabos and the Resort at Pedregal (formerly Capella Pedregal).
Opening dates, subject to change, range from the end of December to the second quarter of 2015.
"However, of the 14,000 hotel rooms in Los Cabos, 7,100 now are open, and we'll have a total of 10,000 rooms in operation by the end of this month," said Maren Figaredo Wunsche of the Los Cabos Tourism Board.
In the courtyard of the Sheraton Hacienda del Mar Resort & Spa, which reopened Nov. 1, two specialty restaurants were still undergoing repairs.
"The hurricane winds and waters brought fish from the Sea of Cortes right up onto our main plaza," reported Samantha Rojo, the hotel's national group sales manager.
The plaza itself lost many of its tiles, and palapas were blown down everywhere, as were 50% of the palm trees.
The Sheraton had 200 guests at the time of the storm, among some 30,000 tourists in Los Cabos when Odile hit. All were evacuated safely with the help of government and military relief flights, which got most people out within three to four days.
On the grounds at Secrets Puerto Los Cabos, a stunning 500-room property that reopened Nov. 15, damage to some retaining walls was still evident.
Ricardo Ruiz, a driver with TransCabo Transport, spent four hours during the height of the storm huddled in the bathtub in his home with his wife and two children.
"We were scared, very scared," he said.
Raul Lopez of the Los Cabos Golf Resort, where 56 of 74 rooms now are open, said there was a six-week wait for red roof tiles: "We get them from Guadalajara, and they can't make them fast enough."
Indeed, rooftops all over the region bore testament to storm damage.
Even so, Los Cabos had made remarkable progress since the hurricane, offering testimonial to the marketing claim by the Mexico Tourism Board that the people and the region are "unstoppable."