BY LEE ROY AMATE
In 1995, as an immigrant to Ensenada from Oakland, California, I was invited to be a partner in a leading Ensenada law firm. The firm had power of attorney for three of Mexico’s most powerful banks. Including Bancomer, whose investment strategy was aggressively seeking foreign investment; this policy was exemplified by their marketing to international real estate buyers in the form of “bank trusts,” the only guarantee for ownership rights available to foreign property owners.
Bancomer contracted our law firm to conduct a title search to insure a trust contract. The developer, Carlos Teran, had signed a joint venture agreement with the “ejido” (a farming cooperative), which had illegally taken possession of the land to be developed. Ejido lands are regulated by the government agency RAN, which determines the legitimacy of lands being classified as ejido land (as opposed to private or government properties).
Someone at RAN adjusted the map at a time Teran started his development to include the Punta Banda peninsula. A false report of title was issued, with the intent to defraud the foreign buyer into believing the ejido had the legal right to transfer title.
At the same time, local county and state government officials turned a blind eye to the development of Teran, thereby avoiding the bureaucracy and the costs of completing environmental impact requirements, land use, and building permits.
After 20 years, the title demand came before the Mexican Supreme Court. The ejido, Carlos Teran and 200 foreign investors lost the case to the legal property owners – Jorge Cortina’s father and his associates. As a result, 90 million dollars of foreign investment was lost. Many buyers sacrificed most of their retirement savings for a dream house on the beach they could afford.
The biggest loser was Baja California real estate investment and the environment. Construction was done with no review of environmental damage. While the fear of Punta Banda lives on in the minds of foreign investors– it was an international scandal.
Cortina has survived all of this and has created what I call a cultural center for the southern bay of Ensenada. His father built the “Baja Beach Hotel” there, referred by many Ensenada residents as the “Cantinflas project”. The actor appeared at the groundbreaking ceremony but was never a partner in the project. Jorge, unlike his siblings and his father’s former partners, decided he would spend the rest of his life dedicated to making the peninsula a successful property.
A musician himself, Jorge’s business plan is deeply rooted in promoting music by local artists, who combine their talents with retired “world-class” U.S.A. immigrant musicians. Jorge does this to enrich the music scene and provide employment for restaurant, bar, home maintenance and security employees.
Beginning on July 25th and proceeding through the 29th, Jorge has agreed to sponsor a 5-day spectacle to help several local non-profit groups: Los Abuelos, an assisted living center for older Mexicans whose retirement income is not sufficient for a dignified life; Los Adoptables, a rescue center for stray dogs and cats; an orphanage; a fishing club and an amateur baseball team that is a pride of Punta Banda.
This 5-day fiesta-celebration will bring Rock and Roll, Latin Rhythms and Blues to celebrate the wealth of talent we enjoy in the Southern Bay. That should be enough for the price of a ticket, but there is more! A world-renowned magician from San Francisco, plus our local illusionist Magic Mike, will also perform. Tickets are reasonably priced at $10 USD. Food and drinks are discounted by 20%. Profits will be donated by Jorge Cortina to participating donor groups.
I am pleased to see this community come together! It is the largest enclave of foreigners living in Ensenada. They are a much appreciated “new demographic” by this old immigrant resident.
Because of the internet, they are younger professionals who can work from home on the internet, a demographic that is assimilating with school-age children into the fabric of Ensenada.
Ensenada has always has been a welcome home to immigrants, even to Chilangos like Jorge Cortina! Thanks my friend, your dedication is much appreciated.
Photo by: Statelife.com