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JJ's Cantina in Cholla Bay


mexico cantina beach

Under giant salt cedars, on this terrace stair-stepping down to the edge of the high-tide line, you can watch Cholla Bay go by at the pace of the ever-changing tides. Of course, this is JJ’s Cantina where almost every visitor to Rocky Point will spend some time. After all, “If you haven’t been to JJ’s, you haven’t been to Rocky Point.” For 26 years, JJ’s Cantina has been an icon and the undisputed first stop for the newcomer to Cholla Bay.

Regulars stop by to find Cesar or Pancho (who have worked behind this bar for a combined total of 41 years) ready to hand them their favorite drink. First timers are mesmerized by the cantina walls, which are covered with over 380 picture frames documenting 26 years of diversion. Each frame contains a photo mosaic of parties, fiestas, fishing tournaments, golf tournaments and bathtub races. And, hundreds of proud fishermen show off their Catch of the Day!

Weekends find the cantina full of fun and laughter. Music drifts across the Bay and draws the crowd. The pool table is busy, bartenders are hopping and everyone is enjoying their weekend. There is no reason to miss a game as big screen TV’s are scattered inside and outside. Towards afternoon, sunburned fishermen return to snag an ice cold drink, sit in the shade and remind each other who caught the big one! Other tired water sports enthusiasts will crash on the terrace with their refreshing drinks. Late on Sunday afternoon, the “weekend warriors” will be found grabbing a last taco, or a hamburger, fries and a soda before their drive home.

JJ’s Cantina is intriguing and unique. It's fun, rowdy and loud, but the owner wants also makes sure that it is “clean, safe and enjoyable.” This favorite Mexican cantina and its owner have a history which is equally intriguing.

Joe Anecleto, a cabinet door manufacturer trudging through his daily routine in El Paso, was feeling despondent late in 1981. Portuguese by birth and a fisherman who loved the ocean, Joe knew that a trip to the ocean would be the cure. Early in October, he traveled over 500 miles to discover Sonora, Mexico.

And so it began. Joe purchased a home the following year and by 1983, had set his sites on a run-down, funky little bar owned by Eva Ibarra, the wife of former mayor, Eduard Ibarra. The “Club La Pesca de Cholla” had seen better days and in 1983 was locally known as “the dirty bar.” It was going to take a load of work to transform the existing building into a cantina. Joe partnered with John Fowler, a kitchen remodeler from Denver and enlisted the legal assistance of Lic. Alejandro Gonzalez, a golfing acquaintance from El Paso. Together they pursued the daunting task of their dream - legal ownership of the first foreign-owned bar in the area.

As Joe unlocked the front door, right beside him was Pancho, a loyal friend who has continued tending bar for 26 years. At that time, there were only four other bars with legal licenses in the area: Villa Granada, Hermosa, The Hollywood and Senorial. However, JJ’s Cantina opened on June 4, 1984, with a crew of two employees. By the end of the first year, there were 9 employees, the bar was a legally owned foreign bar and Joe was tending the bar and occasionally sleeping there after busy nights.

The original building sat at the top of a steep and sandy incline to the rocky beach and marina area below. Joe planned an extensive terrace addition which would be built around the existing salt cedars, or tamarisk trees. Completed in 1986, this terrace is a favorite place to relax, gossip and enjoy the sun or the shade. On quieter weekday afternoons it just may be the perfect place to contemplate the past or the future…or even write a song (as Roger Kline has been know to do).

A new addition to the bar is JJ’s private labeled tequila, which was introduced in 2003 in conjunction with Manny Sanchez of Manny’s Tequila. The top of the line is JJ’s Anejo Antigua, bottled in a blown glass tall bottle with a stamped metal label. The bottle itself is a fantastic design and the deep-hued anejo tequila has a smooth and wonderful taste. This is no margarita mixing tequila. For this one, dig out the cognac glass and sip it slowly with pleasure.

This story is a series of love stories: Joe’s lasting love for Glenda, his wife of 22 years who is truly “a wonderful lady!” His love affair with fishing. His love affair with the sea. His love for Cholla Bay. A recent love affair with the blue agave and the area of Tequila, Mexico. And always, his love for this Mexican Cantina, which is “not too shabby!”


Did you like this article? Then you'll like these: Freedom in the Yucatan, Oaxaca, Road Tripping along the Michoacán Coast, Bahia de Solimán, Álamos, Cobá, Toniná, Isla Mujeres, Chiapas and Taxco Silver City.

By Naomi Black
I love to travel in Mexico. I grew up in Arizona and yet never visited Mexico until I was married.... For several years, my husband and I operated...
06 Oct 2009

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