David Beyer

David Beyer

Women Campaign to Improve the Community

Fundacion de Amazonas was founded about 6 years ago, and its original goal was to provide shelter and employment opportunities for battered women.

The project was established by Nataly Valdos, who named the organization “Amazonas” as recognition for the fact that historically, women have shown strength, resolve, and capability in situations where such characteristics were beneficial.

Working with women in the community to acquire the resources necessary to initiate and expand the program from a concept to a reality, Nataly found several people eager to assist her in achieving her goal.

What better time than October to recognize the altruistic efforts of Nataly and women like her, because this month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. BCAM is an annual global campaign by major breast cancer charities, all of which seek to increase awareness of the disease and to raise funds for research into its cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure.

It also stresses the importance of annual screening to detect the presence of the disease early, thus allowing treatment to occur before the situation becomes a major crisis.

Nataly is a cancer survivor herself; she’s 58 years old, and has been undergoing cancer treatment for the last 4 years.

In keeping with the moniker “Amazonas,” Nataly has shown her strength and resolve in maintaining the program to provide opportunities for women to find work that gives them a sense of accomplishment and simultaneously satisfies a need in the community of which they are a part. She refuses to let her own difficulties deter her from providing the essential service that is so meaningful to her, and so helpful to others.

Nataly met a friend through the Ensenada chapter of Companeros Asociacion Civil, a local partnership of people who meet to focus on, and attempt to resolve, issues within the community.

Together, they envisioned an opportunity for women to work by learning to use sewing machines to manufacture clothing and accessories which they could then sell as a means of supporting themselves.

Nataly and her friend, along with other women who joined their cause, solicited funds from the community to purchase the machines, along with the materials and accessories necessary to begin their projects and to embark upon a newly found sense of worthiness and independence.

These women, who had suffered physical and sexual abuse, neglect, domestic violence, and financial insecurity were now able to support themselves in a manner which gave them a sense of pride and accomplishment, while at the same time teaching them a new skill and fulfilling a need within their community.

Initially, the idea was to simply make clothes and sell them.

Eventually, the ladies realized that besides engaging in a sort of “retail” activity, they could assist other members of the community by providing clothing to children in orphanages and schools.

In that way, they themselves became benefactors, graduating from people in need to people now in a position to help others in need.

Their work has been gratefully received by the children, who look sharp and feel proud in wearing garments that are clean, new and stylish, clothing which was made specifically for them.

As with any charity during the Covid-19 crisis, Nataly and her organization needs donations and volunteers to continue the community service which she and her friends so unselfishly provide.

Please search for her timeline on Facebook under “Fundacion Amazonas de Ensenada” and offer whatever help you can to make life a little better for these women, who in turn make life better for struggling children and others in need.

Thank you for your support!

Baja Community Benefits Farmworkers

Debra Blake and Carol Woodruff are among the many expats working with the local community to improve the living standards for everyone.

Their group, “Feeding Farmworkers’ Families,” focuses on those  whose arduous labor provides sustenance not only for their neighbors, but also for communities outside the local area.

It all began about 41/2 – 5 years ago. Debra Blake joined a small group of volunteers, spearheaded by Barbara Bridge and Patty Rodriguez to offer an opportunity to provide some basic education, with an emphasis on English-language instruction, to the children of the farmworkers.

The volunteers hoped that once the kids were comfortable speaking some English, they could overcome their shyness regarding Gringos, and be more confident in seeking to communicate and collaborate with them; in this way, both the people from El Norte and the natives of Baja would benefit by employment options and through sharing the history and the traditions of both cultures.

The current school is very spartan, consisting of only a concrete foundation and a roof, a simple structure with no walls, having evolved to that point from teaching the kids who sat on blankets in the open air.

The boys and girls were naturally eager to have an opportunity to improve their opportunities through education, and of course their parents welcomed the chance to see their children broaden their horizons.

The school, “Escuela en Las Lomas,” quickly grew from a few families to 40 to 90 students, primarily the children of 30 Oaxacan farm worker families with whom the founding group of volunteers developed strong relationships of trust, great expectations, and hope for a brighter future. Unfortunately, the pandemic has forced the closure of this project.

The farmworkers who are the focus of the group’s efforts are very poor. Some of them live in homes provided by various church groups, but many others live with extended families in plywood and black plastic shacks with dirt floors. About half of the 30 families have no electricity, and none have running water.

Their homes, marginal as they are, can only be reached by a dirt road that is impassable during wet weather.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the families were already very poor, working hard in austere conditions to earn a meager $8 – $10 per day per person.

The pandemic very quickly resulted in the closing of schools, restaurants and other institutions dependent upon the produce that the farmworkers provided, thus reducing demand for their output by more than half.

This caused layoffs, which made an already needy community even more insecure; some families could not even afford to provide themselves with basic necessities, including food.

The food delivery program began in mid-April of this year; Carol and Debra expected (“hoped” is a better word) that the situation would be short-lived. Of course, that has not been the case.

The need for assistance to these struggling families continues to this  day.

Carol and Debra obtained the despensa (“pantry”) guidelines from DIF (Desarrollo Integral de la Familia) in April and began to procure and distribute full allotments of rice, beans, lentils, sugar, eggs, milk, oil, oatmeal, canned vegetables, tomato sauce, pasta, tuna, and other basic nutritional needs every two weeks to the families in their care.

Eva’s Garden (a local organic grower/distributor) contributes an assortment of fresh, organic veggies.

In addition to food supplies, they are able to provide sanitary products from a regular donor who purchases them from Costco and donates them to the families through this team.

Carol says, “Our donors are families and friends. The Punta Banda community has been very generous.”

As schools remained closed due to the Covid crisis, Debra and Carol became aware that the children were in need of structured activities and materials that stimulated them to become more involved in learning.

To that end, Barbara Bridge provided the students with homework, which they actually loved; it gave them an opportunity to reinforce what they had learned in a classroom setting, such as writing and math skills.

The older students are given supplemental worksheets from LaRousse Publishing, the results of which are collected by Debra and Carol, who provide feedback and award stickers to reward the kids’ efforts.

Each child learns at his or her own pace, depending on individual capability and eagerness about a given subject. Age/grade levels are not relevant in such an environment; each child’s willingness to learn dictates how fast he or she will progress.

More recently, FFF provided a mobile library, which now has 75 books in Spanish, with more on the way. The kids are so grateful for this additional opportunity to grow and learn that they have proven themselves responsible by returning the books so that they may check out others.

Some of them are already on their 3rd book in as many weeks.

Beba ‘Cosmo,’ who teaches Early Childhood Education at Alocalo University, selected and provided the books. Beba is the owner of the popular Punto en el Cosmos Restaurant in Maneadero.

Other notables who have generously given their support to FFF prep and delivery operations are Hideyo Hirada, Chris Blake, Gary Woodruff, and Kathleen Estay.

Pris Austin of Los Adoptables in Maneadero adopts and treats the sick animals that the group sometimes encounters on their travels in the hills.

As Carol says, “It takes a village, and so many people have contributed in different ways.”

The next project underway is a collaboration with Baja Networks (Carlos Munguia) to install solar panels and a microwave receiver in an empty casita in the area without electric service; this will provide internet access to families and allow kids to attend classes via tv.

If you would like to make a donation to help our community to thrive, the FFF PayPal pool is https://paypal.me/pools/c/8oDfwG0bVK. Clothing and shoe donations suitable for hill terrain, non-perishable food, and school supplies are needed and would be greatly appreciated. Contact Debra Blake or Carol Woodruff via Facebook.

Bringing Children and Horses Together In Our Community

In the course of one’s lifetime, the people who have the most significant and lasting impact on us (besides the parents) may be a nurse, a first responder, or even a teacher or professor.

The reason that’s true is because people who enter into such enterprises do so not out of a desire to become wealthy in a material way, but rather to enrich the lives of those with whom they interact, thereby making their own lives more meaningful and rewarding.

Case in point is Dawn Stephens, who grew up in a family that valued horses as companions. Her family lived in Burbank and had a ranch outside of Bakersfield, where horses roamed freely. In that environment, she learned to ride them and care for them, doing the hard work necessary to ensure that their health and sense of physical well-being were consistently and adequately attended to.

Her interaction with these magnificent creatures was temporarily interrupted when she decided to pursue a higher education.

She attended UC Davis, later studying Sport & Exercise Psychology at the University of New Mexico, finally earning her Doctorate in the same subject from UC Berkeley.

From there, she became a Professor at the University of Iowa.

When the time came for Dawn to give back to the parents who had so lovingly cared for her as a child, she suggested that the family move to Mexico. Where they could retire and reap the benefits of the casual lifestyle and Mediterranean weather that makes Mexico such a desirable destination for so many Americans when life tells them it’s time for a change.

So they came, but little did they know that retirement was simply not in the cards for Dawn.

She began to notice almost immediately that horses, once a source of inspiration, healthy exercise, and interaction with nature back in Bakersfield, were sometimes neglected or abused in her new environment.

Dawn made up her mind to prepare and maintain a sanctuary for the creatures in need, and, with her partner, Tina Jo, co-founded Tina Jo’s Promise in Punta Banda, a rich agricultural region southwest of Ensenada.

The pair have, over the years, procured 3 1-acre lots in PB, where the horses are cared for. In many cases, the horses are sick, malnourished, and frightened when brought to the sanctuary. The actions of Dawn and Tina Jo ensure that rather than being condemned to death, they are nurtured, loved, and meticulously cared for.

Her work is arduous but rewarding. She attends auctions where horses are being sold and often has to outbid meat buyers, who would use the animals as a source of protein in dog food.

Dawn has names for each of the horses, many of which are taken from the classic novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. One of the beautiful creatures is named “Atticus Finch,” and another is “Harper” (after Harper Lee in the novel). Her very first rescue, however, was named Lover Boy.

Her operation is massive and expensive and is primarily dependent on public donations in order to provide the nutrition, grooming, veterinarian care and all the equipment necessary to maintain such an optimistic enterprise.

Her altruistic nature now goes beyond caring for horses.

She is active in the support of Baja Love Outreach, an enterprise that provides support for 10 orphanages in the region.

One of the many benefits she provides to the community of orphans is bringing the kids to her ranch to ride the horses or simply to pet them and enjoy the wide-open spaces outside the confines of their crowded institutions. These activities help the kids to heal from abuse or physical injuries,

Seeing the positive impact upon the children whose interactions with the animals brought them such joy, Dawn began to envision a dream whereby her efforts to improve the lives of these young orphans would ensure that their lives would be made more valuable once they were no longer wards of the system.

As she so wisely observed, “What happens to these kids when they turn 18? They are sent away from the orphanage with no further assistance. What are their prospects? Sell drugs? Enter into a life of prostitution? Work forever in an unrewarding and low-paying job, if they’re fortunate enough to find one?”

Baja Love Outreach has provided 2 cargo ship containers and had them placed on her property; these units will provide the basic structures to be modified into classrooms where the kids can come to learn skills allowing them to become proficient in a chosen profession to support them long after they leave the orphanages.

She has the wherewithal to send surveys to the kids to ascertain their interests, so that she can provide the training in the fields that interest them most.

Once she knows what the children are drawn to, she will provide training in those areas of expertise.

For example, she will provide vocational-type training for construction skills, mechanical work, computer skills, welding, sewing, etc. Some adults who are already proficient in those areas have already volunteered to provide the training.

She currently has a hydroponic fodder machine on the property.

Future plans include the development of aquaponics units; first, a large one for the ranch, then later smaller ones to be placed at each orphanage.

Aquaponics is a symbiotic system whereby live fish are nourished and the waste they accumulate is turned into bacteria, providing nourishment in the form of fertilizer to sustain a garden, which in the process of photosynthesis returns safe water to the fish.

Dawn’s vision is reflected in this statement on her website: “My religion is kindness.”

The magnitude of her love for children and for animals is awe-inspiring. By bringing them together, she improves the lives and future prospects for both.

She can’t do it alone, however. She is currently engaged in a fund-raiser to make sure that the horses have enough hay for the winter. She says that now is the time when hay is sold at the lowest price, and she would like to purchase enough of it to last one year for the animals in her care.

It costs $650 per month to provide food for the horses. If only 25 people donated $25 each per month, their most basic needs would be covered. A donation of $150 for the year by each of 50 people would help Dawn and Tina Jo provide a quality life for the horses that have thrived under their care. Their goal is to raise a total of $7,500.00 to feed the horses for a year.

Please consider making a donation to help this altruistic enterprise to continue and to grow.

Also, check out Dawn’s personal FB timeline to see the many testimonials to her loving care for both children and animals.

For more videos and photos of the heartwarming efforts on behalf of the young people and the horses, see Tina Jo’s Promise, also on FB.

Most importantly, please donate! Any amount is greatly appreciated, and will go a long way to ensure the longevity, success, and growth of this most energetic and charitable enterprise.

You can make your donation through PayPal at Donations@TinaJosPromise.org; or click on “save a life” or “adopt a horse.” You can make a one-time donation, or a monthly recurring one.

It’s a 501(c)3 organization, so any donation you make is tax-deductible by the IRS.

And remember, their mission is “to end the suffering of abused, unwanted and neglected equines and to improve the quality of their lives.”

Obviously, to help them grow is to improve the quality of life for the community at large, and by making life better for children and for animals, a better society overall is ensured.

Second Stimulus Package

The GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is the monetary value of manufactured goods and services produced within a country for a specific period of time.

During economic crises, such as the one currently being experienced as a result of the coronavirus, people have less money to spend, and are therefore unable to purchase as many of those goods and services as they would under better financial circumstances.

So, when unemployment is high, manufacturers and service providers make less money and pay less taxes, and everything from infrastructure maintenance by the government to the general welfare of the population is negatively affected.

According to Fortune magazine, 44.2 million American workers had filed for unemployment benefits as of June 11th.

Members of the US Congress, most of whom are out of touch with the realities of their constituents, have wasted months arguing over the minutiae within a proposed second relief bill.

On August 9th, President Trump signed executive orders that he claimed would provide some relief to families and businesses, including payroll tax cuts, eviction moratorium, enhanced unemployment benefits, and student loan relief.

The truth of the matter is that those executive orders provide no permanent relief, due to the manner in which the orders are written.

Read the small print to understand why:

Payroll taxes are the source of funds for Social Security and Medicare. Without those funds, there will be no safety net for retirees.

His proposed benefits for the unemployed are to be cut from the $600 per week in the original relief bill to $400 per week, with the added caveat that each state would have to shoulder 25% of that amount. If cash-strapped states can’t afford to make that contribution, the jobless person receives nothing.

Eviction moratoriums cease at the end of the year. At that time, accrued mortgages or rentals become due. The order does not provide for cash to cover those dues.

The same goes for student loan relief. It simply delays the payment due date.

Even though Trump has said he supports a stimulus check (he indicated that he favors a stimulus check of $1,200 or even more), his executive order does not include those checks, because the separation of powers in the US Gov’t doesn’t allow him to do so.

Why? Because Congress controls federal spending, and the two houses of Congress must approve the passage of such spending through legislative action. And members of Congress continue bickering over the details of the stimulus package while millions of US citizens continue to suffer.

Trump claims he has already addressed many of the key issues that were part of the original stimulus package, so that all Congress needs to do is approve the stimulus payments as stand-alone legislation.

What’s bad for the US is bad for Mexico. Mayor Faulconer of San Diego reported that before the economic crisis, more than $1 billion in commerce crossed the border daily. Since the Covid-19 crisis began, businesses related to travel and tourism have suffered most heavily. Unemployment and quarantine have affected almost every aspect of business. Many on both sides of the border have closed for good.

Many expats living here in Baja received payments from the first round of assistance, known as the CARES Act.

People here who experienced the longest delays in receiving their checks appear to have been those on Social Security who have their SS checks directly deposited into Mexican banks. Some locals have still not received their stimulus checks.

Deaths due to the virus are on the increase in 17 states in the US.

This can largely be attributed to Instances of defiance to the advice of medical experts and government officials.

Several extreme instances of defiance were widely reported on all major news outlets: Thousands of motorcyclists gathering for a rally in Sturgis, SD; a crowded school hallway in GA; a mask burning party in Iowa; in all these instances, large groups of people gathered together, following none of the protocols recommended by health experts.

Here in Baja, people are too busy trying to care for their families to engage in such folly. According to Wikipedia, as of August 4th, the total number of reported cases was 14,130, with the death toll at 2,712. The number of reported new cases began to drop after July 31st.

Hopefully, that trend will continue.

There are so many ways that the highly infectious virus can enter the body. Masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, shoe sterilization, and social distancing are helpful processes by which to minimize the spread.

Even here in Ensenada, where the swift precautionary actions of the mayor helped to reduce infections by strictly controlling entrance to the city from the north and the south,  that caution is somewhat defeated by actions in local scenarios, usually due to lack of information.

Exchanging cash, entering data on ATM keyboards, handling produce, bringing packages purchased in open markets into the home are but some of the dangers of exposure,

It’s difficult for everyone to be as careful as they should. But it’s essential that we all try.

The flu season is coming soon. That virus alone kills thousands. Add Covid-19 to the mix, and it could be deadly.

The prevailing wisdom is that this crisis is far from over.

Stay home if you can. Be careful if you go out.

Isla Guadalupe

Ensenada, the Cinderella of the Pacific, boasts many natural attractions, and one of its finest is Islas Guadalupe, a volcanic island about 400 kilometers southwest of the bustling city of Ensenada in the Pacific Ocean.

While the pandemic Covid-19 rages, primarily north of the border, and the news media focuses on the growing number of cases and deaths there, it’s refreshing to focus on something beautiful, something spiritual, something to restore our love for the natural world and the spirituality of man’s interaction with nature.

Guadalupe is one of 24 delagaciones (subdivisions) of the city of Ensenada, and currently has about 150 permanent residents, most of whom live in Campo Oeste (West Camp) and whose livelihood is mostly lobster and abalone fishing. The West Camp residents live on the northwestern part of the island in a small bay that provides shelter from the strong winds and Pacific swells that thrash the island during the winter months.

Electricity is provided by gasoline-powered generators.

Large quantities of water are brought to the island aboard military vessels, although there are several natural springs which serve as sources of fresh, potable water.

The island has 2 major climate zones: One is very arid and semi-hot, from sea level to an altitude of 800 meters, and the other is also very arid but temperate, at altitudes above 800 meters.

The island was formed by the eruption of 2 separate volcanoes that are now extinct.

American and Russian fur hunters were attracted to the island in the 18th and 19th centuries by the proliferation of the Guadalupe fur seal, which they had hunted to near extinction by 1844. It was reported in 1827 that a Hawaiin Islands vessel had spent several months there hunting the seals and had collected 3,000 sealskins.

Islas Guadalupe shares the California Chaparral and Woodlands Ecoregion with the Channel Islands of California in the US, but unfortunately, most of the interesting and exotic plant life on the island has been wiped out by herds of feral goats, which were brought there in the 19th century by European whalers and sealers as provisions for when they made stopovers there.

The eradication of the plant life included many species of trees, including Guadalupe palm, Guadalupe pine, Guadalupe cypress and island oak.

Removing the goats from the island became a priority, and those that are taken off Guadalupe are sold to the state of Sonora, by permission of the Mexican government (including SEMARNAT) and the conservation group Grupo de Ecologia y Conservacion de Islas. By 2007, the goat removal process was complete.

On April 25th, 2005, Guadalupe was designated as a biosphere preserve.

The island is also well-known for the proliferation of great white sharks off its shores. Marine biologists have studied them for years, but little is known about the juveniles, so the studies are concentrated on expanding the knowledge regarding the movement and habitat use of the adult sharks.

What little is known about the juveniles comes primarily from studying juveniles in captivity and those that were tagged and followed from marine biology centers in the US and followed via tracking devices as they migrated to the Baja island.

Researchers found that while juvenile white sharks stayed close to the island during the day, adults moved offshore during the day and moved in close to the island at night, indicating that the adults had a higher tolerance for cooler temperatures than the young sharks.

Adults patrolled in deeper waters in November and December, when northern elephant seals returned to the island to give birth to their pups during the winter post-breeding migration.

Research also revealed that young great whites remained in close proximity to the island for 12-14 months before departing to deeper waters, while adults began coastal migrations prior to their offshore migrations.

The sharks are attracted to the island because of the diversity of prey.

Islas Guadalupe has a long and storied history, and, as any ecologically rich environment, has suffered at the hands of greedy humans who plundered its wealth to the point of extinction.

Thankfully, the Mexican government has finally declared the island  a biosphere preserve.

What this means is that the natural beauty of Islas Guadalupe will be able to heal, at least as much as possible, by the patient and loving hands of Mother Nature.

Tips for Health & Safety While Food Shopping

Dr Jeffery Van Wingen, a Michigan surgeon, has offered some tips on how to prevent contamination from covid-19 when buying food, bringing it into your home, and storing it properly to ensure that you do not inadvertently introduce coronavirus from the supermarket or pharmacy into your living environment.

Anyone who has ventured out into the world to purchase goods that we take into our bodies has undoubtedly noticed that many people still aren’t wearing gloves or masks when they mingle with others during the course of a trip to the grocery store or pharmacy. Such people may be contaminating the containers of the products to be purchased. The people stocking the shelves, bagging the items, or filling the orders may be touching the containers of goods, or the goods themselves.

Remember that almost everything you buy has been handled by a number of people from the farm or factory down the road to your shopping venue.

First of all, the most obvious suggestion is to wipe down the handles of the shopping cart or basket with a sterilized cloth or paper towel. The virus can survive on hard surfaces for up to 3 days or more.

Secondly, take a list of the items you need, and commit to buying only those goods. The reasoning here is that it is best to spend as little time as possible in an environment where social distancing cannot be practiced.

Next, don’t go out at all if you have symptoms of the virus, or any respiratory issues whatsoever. Be committed to protecting others as well as yourself.

Plan for no more than two weeks of necessities. There is no rationing taking place. Farm workers are still harvesting fruits and vegetables. Shippers are still delivering goods to retail outlets. At least as of now, there is no need for panic buying. By hoarding necessities, you are only depriving your friends and neighbors from having an adequate supply of the same goods.

Many people are now using cloth bags when they go to the market. Remember to consider those bags “dirty” after you have filled them at the market. Don’t use them again until they have been washed or sanitized.

Once you’ve taken the groceries home, don’t bring them into the house unless they require refrigeration or are otherwise perishable. If possible, leave them on your porch, garage or any safe storage spot for 3 days if possible. And just to be safe, there are more tips for unbagging the items you have bought:

Clean the surface of the counter top where you plan to unpack the groceries and medications.

Wipe down the containers of medications, because you know those have been handled by human hands that may not have been gloved.

With items such as cereals, which have inner containers, remove the inner sealed bag from the outer box and discard the box.

Wipe down cans, bottles and jars.

Fruit, such as oranges, have peels that are porous, just like our skin. These need to be washed for at least 20 seconds in soapy water, rinsed thoroughly, then placed in a clean container such as Tupperware.

Vegetables must also be washed and rinsed individually.

Things like bread may be removed from its original container, dumped into a sterile container (again, like Tupperware); then discard the original bag.

Plasticized containers (such as boxed milk, potato chip bags, etc.), are ok with just wiping down the container itself. These items are generally hermetically sealed.

Remember to continually wash your hands during the process of unpacking your groceries.

What about take-out or delivery food? No problem.

First of all, don’t invite the delivery person into your house.

Then, remove the food itself from the plastic, foil, or box container that it comes in. Fortunately, the virus pathogens do not do well in food, especially if it is hot; heat destabilizes the virus. It’s ok (even recommended) to heat the food in a microwave, even briefly. Then, dump the food onto a sterile container from your cupboard, WASH YOUR HANDS, sit down, eat and enjoy.

With frozen goods, not so bueno. Viruses can live for up to 2 years in a frozen environment.

So, with a frozen pizza, for example, take the box out of the freezer, discard the box, place the pizza on a safe container or microwave or cook it in the oven.

With ice cream, sterilize the plasticized container before putting it into your freezer.

That’s about it. Some of these techniques are time-consuming, but if they work to keep you healthy during this pandemic, then, ultimately, you will be able to eat what you want safely, having protected yourself from the invasion of an unwanted and dangerous disease into your household.

The good doctor asked that his video be shared widely. If you’d like to see it for yourself, here’s the link:  https://youtu.be/sjDuwc9KBps

Eat, drink & be merry!

Giving Thanks

The spooks and ghouls of Halloween have gone into hiding; the departed loved ones who were honored during Day of the Dead await their next visit to their living counterparts.

The languid, lazy days of summer are over. School is back in session. Days are short, and flu season is back with a vengeance.

So how do we deal with the crisp fall months and the promise of another winter season?

We go shopping, of course!

Once upon a time (but well before MY time, I’m fairly certain), each holiday was representative of a corresponding season and usually was representative of a religious (or spiritual) observance.

Now that we’ve become indoctrinated by the corporate guidelines of product release dates and numeric progressions (we’re up to iPhone 11 and Samsung Galaxy S-10), we know what Junior wants to find in his Christmas stocking well before the younger kids go trick-or-treating.

Nothing wrong with that. We’re evolving as a race. We want everyone to be happy and fulfilled.

But way back in our memory banks the true meaning of each holiday still resides. We know that, well before our time, many people paid some significant dues in order to guarantee that we would have the freedom to worship and to celebrate each and every holiday in whatever manner we so choose.

Thanksgiving is celebrated in countries other than the United States, but is generally accepted in each of them to be a time of recognizing and honoring a power greater than ourselves, a power that governs the seasons and the bounty of the earth itself, and is therefore respectfully paid tribute to by either fasting during lean times or feasting during successful ones.

Pilgrims and Puritans who emigrated from England in the 1620’s and 1630’s celebrated Days of Fasting and Days of Thanksgiving in their home country and brought those traditions with them to their new home in North America.

In 1619, possibly the first Thanksgiving feast was celebrated by a group of 38 English settlers at Charles City County, Virginia. This event had been decreed as a religious celebration in recognition of the grace of God, by whose blessing the travelers reached their destination safely.

In 1621, another group of settlers celebrated at Plymouth Rock in what is now Massachusetts. They were fortunate in that the Native American Indians were generous and kind, and provided them with a bountiful feast to celebrate the success of their long journey.

Subsequent celebrations in New England included another celebration in Plymouth in 1623 and a Puritan holiday in Boston in 1631.

Up until 1682, religious leaders proclaimed that annual celebrations be held in reverence and appreciation for the bountiful gifts provided by successful harvests, most of which occurred well before the November date which later became set as the last Thursday of each November.

As the first President of the United States, George Washington decreed that November 26th be recognized as a national holiday, “as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of Almighty God.”

Later, President Franklin D. Roosevelt made Thanksgiving a celebration to be held on the last Thursday of November, providing for a four-day holiday for many workers and their families.

So here we are! As with many if not all of the traditional holidays, Thanksgiving has evolved into a shopping frenzy, this one happening just before  Christmas. “Black Friday” has become an annual circus during which adults flock to the brick-and-mortar retail outlets to fight each other over the latest gadget from Apple or Microsoft to place beneath the aluminum Christmas tree for their beloved children.

In reality, the beauty of Thanksgiving is that it is a time for family members to enjoy a brief reunion, to give thanks for their health and safety, and to enjoy a few days of relaxation away from the stress of the workplace and a return to the comfort of home, sweet home.

Although Thanksgiving is not officially a holiday in Mexico, many ex-pats living in the Mediterranean warmth and security of Baja celebrate here anyway.

Many restaurants have Thanksgiving specials, catering to the people who cherish that holiday as a time to take stock of their many blessings and give thanks accordingly.

Also, as Thanksgiving is a signpost that Christmas is almost upon us, many people show their appreciation for their good fortune by donating to local shelters, orphanages, and institutions such as Cruz Roja.

Giving thanks by giving back is the most spiritual way one can show his or her appreciation for the good life here in Baja.

Facial Recognition Technology is Here

In Steven Spielberg’s 2002 film, “The Minority Report,” facial recognition technology was present at every transit center and port of entry in every city, allowing the government to track the movements of any- and everyone. A person wanted for questioning or in the process of committing an unlawful act could easily be tracked and thereby quickly located and apprehended by authorities.

When that film was released, facial recognition technology was science fiction; although it was in research and development stages in reality then, it was far too expensive to be put into practical use.

As interest in the technology grew, several mega-corporations began competing to develop it into a viable product that could be sold to governments for use at border crossings, airports, and other transit centers, ostensibly to track bad guys and apprehend them before they could wreak havoc on government installations or on the population in general.

The US Customs and Border Protection agency announced in August that it is set to begin expanding the use of facial recognition technology at border crossings in California and Texas to screen people entering the country. In fact, it has already formally requested bids from companies for development and installation of the technology at the crossing sites.

The plan is to replace the static inspection kiosks with dynamic mobile biometric systems. In other words, documents (i.e., passports) and fingerprint tracking will be enhanced and ultimately replaced by the biometric system.

CBP has sought bids for a “test phase,” which will begin in December and continue as long as through May 2025. The bid is rumored to be worth as much as $960 million USD.

Currently, the three major corporations capable of developing and supporting the technology are Microsoft Corp., Amazon.com Inc., and Google.

The government document that announced the request for bids to develop the technology for practical and widespread use at border crossings states that “A biometric-based approach allows threats to be pushed out further beyond our borders before travelers arrive to the U.S.” In other words, troublemakers will be identified and detained before they are even close to entering the country.

San Francisco was the first city to ban the use of such technology, citing privacy and civil rights issues. Other cities are set to follow suit.

The problem that many see with the technology is that as software designs have improved and computing costs have diminished, the use of facial recognition promises to be put into use by more and more entities, not limited in any way to the government’s use of it at international border crossings.

As in Spielberg’s film, such technology was employed by police departments, using it to arrest and detain people for “Pre-crimes,” with the assumption that spying on people enabled them to predict by a person’s behavior that he was imminently going to commit a crime before actually doing it.

CBP is already under serious criticism for its policies of separating children from their parents at the border. Many fear that their inhumane policies will only become more severe with the use of a technology that is based on software applications that are still in the developmental stages, and have not been tested on a large scale in practical situations.

The inherent dangers are obvious.

Over the last decade, CBP has made several deals with tech companies to enhance its surveillance capabilities. In 2013, CBP awarded a multi-million dollar contract to Northrup Grumman Corp (a manufacturer of fighter bomber jets, among other things) to develop biometric software that is currently in use at 15 airports around the country. The agency’s goal is to have such technology cover virtually every major U.S. airport by 2021.

At present, CBP tracks over 1 million individuals and about 280,000 vehicles daily. Its software is currently maintained by Amazon Web Services and Salesforce Inc. Although the staff of San Francisco-based Salesforce lobbied for the firm to cut ties with CBP, the CEO of Salesforce announced that he will continue to honor its contract with the agency.

Privacy? What privacy? Your cell phone is already a GPS tracker. You’re always being watched by a system of satellites.

Why not facial recognition? What have you got to hide?

Sadly, it doesn’t matter. They see you coming….

What’s Going On In Playa Hermosa?

Playa Hermosa is rapidly becoming much more than just a beautiful place to relax in the sun and frolic in the waves; it’s fast evolving into a multi-faceted complex of unique entertainment, shopping, exercise and industrial outlets, from the free public access beach to retail and industrial enterprises leased from the federal government.

The area with the most intense activity is along Blvd Costero, between Blvd Estancia and Ave Esmeralda. Costero (the “beach road”) connects points north, i.e., TJ, Rosarito and El Sauzal de Rodriguez, to the highway that goes all the way to La Paz or turns off onto La Carretera La Bufadora and the famous tourist attraction known to Gringos as “The Blow Hole.”

This area is being developed by some very creative individuals and groups.

One of the most visible enterprises is the shopping mall that is being constructed from cargo containers abandoned by the shipping companies. A conglomerate of businessmen leased the land from the federal government, and has constructed a complex of units that will boast cafes, bars, restaurants, boutiques and other retail establishments.

The two towers above the second-story of the complex will have a space and planetary observatory that will be open year-round.

The mall will also have unparalleled views of the Pacific Ocean, the islands and the peninsula that is home to Punta Banda and La Bufadora.

The level of activity at the site has become very intense lately. The good weather is allowing for painting of the exterior to commence (the primer coat has already been applied, and the color coats have just begun to dress the place up). Wood floors have been installed, as well as staircases leading up to the units on the second floor.

CFE powered the place up months ago; the water supply is backed up by pilas and pumps, just like the ones used by the hotels in the area.

A sports complex is also planned, with a jogging track, basketball hoops, and a variety of exercise platforms for the fitness enthusiasts to tone themselves physically.

A safe  playground area for youngsters is part of the plan, and will provide a safe and protected environment for toddlers and young children to channel their energies.

Lifeguards will be on duty during times of peak activity, and Playa Hermosa is patrolled regularly by local, state and federal police. The fire department (“bomberos”) have mobile units manned by alert personnel with search and rescue capabilities; they even have surfboards!

Access to the area will be through a gatehouse manned by a federal guard (next to the VIP Market and BP gas station complex).

Another noteworthy activity at Playa Hermosa is the daily research and development of drones by the Bay Area company known as Cape. They also have leased the land from the federal government.

Cape also provides its coverage of the beach area directly to the local police department.

In addition to the drone coverage, the feds have their own set of cameras monitoring the area 24/7; the cameras and floodlights are powered by solar panels.

Across from the Navy Base, further east from the prime location of the Playa Hermosa entertainment complex, is the newly constructed City Express Hotel, which is nearing completion and will possibly be open in time for the summer tourist season.

A weekend buffet restaurant has been open on Costero for years, and a large construction project has recently begun adjacent to it.

If you haven’t been to Playa Hermosa lately, be prepared to be amazed. It’s already Ensenada’s most popular recreational site, and it’s rapidly becoming a  safe, sane and educational center for the entire family.

Of course, access to the beach is still free. You can enjoy the simplicity of it, and  take in the new developments at your own pace. Please remember to take your trash with you when you leave, and respect the environment that we all share and love.

Eyes in the Sky Assist First Responders

The first time I met with Gerardo Cervantes, local Operations Manager for the Bay Area commercial drone software developer Cape, he had just successfully completed a contract with the city of Ensenada for a test project of drone-assisted first responder enhancement in cooperation with the local police department.

Mayor Marco Antonio Novelo had approved the test project, and reported to the public in June 2018 that the result of that effort was a 10% reduction in crime and more than 500 arrests, notably by  apprehending perpetrators in the act of attempting home burglaries or other felonious activities.

Cape-enabled drones also proved invaluable in respect to the allocation of resources to assist first responders in many crisis situations, such as traffic accidents and critical medical emergencies.

Although Cape is based in the San Francisco Bay Area, they maintain a headquarters here in Ensenada, with an office in the Ensenada Business Center (on 4th Street in Zona Centro). They have a research and development team here, with Hector Elias (an Ensenada native) as the primary “test pilot” for Cape’s ongoing efforts to streamline and improve their state-of-the-art software.

Hector showed me some of the features of Cape’s technology that makes his company’s products superior to any other software on the market:

Drones equipped with the Cape Aerial Telepresence platform can be operated remotely from anywhere in the world.From his post near Playa Hermosa, he monitors a drone that is being teleoperated by an engineer in Redwood City, California.

Cape always utilizes the most sophisticated hardware available, including DJI M200 and M210 models, whose surveillance capabilities are second to none.

Currently, Cape is finalizing the details of a contract with the police department of Mexico City.

This arrangement was secured by Cape’s marketing specialist, Edgar Avalos, who I had the pleasure of meeting (along with Gerardo) on January 2nd.

Edgar told me that the cops there already have an operational drone program, but they are looking to improve their cybersecurity with the assistance of Cape’s software innovations. They’ll have Cape personnel present to train them and to assist them in any capacity necessary for rapid implementation of the new software to their existing (and additional) drones.

Both Edgar and Gerardo recall with pride the many situations in which they have interacted with local authorities to ensure safety and to improve response time in any critical event.

Cape provided surveillance for Peno Nieto when he came to Ensenada, as well as for AMLO when he was here campaigning.

They have been present at almost every activity where large crowds are present, such as music festivals and carnivals.

Notably, they provided aerial monitoring and drone security for the Baja 500 and Baja 1000 road races, from the starting lines to accident scenes along the routes.

In regards to the Mexico City implementation, Edgar said that the police department of that metropolis has such a massive number of personnel that Cape’s trainers will be training their trainers, and will have technicians present to assist in any manner necessary.

The benefit of having an R&D program here in Ensenada is primarily the absence of the air traffic regulations that are necessarily strict in the U.S. However (to my surprise), Edgar told me there is more air traffic here than most people realize, such as military and private helicopters, and the military air force base inside the city limits.

As a result, Cape maintains a 120-meter maximum to ensure the safety of other aircrafts, as well as of its own products.

Cape technology is versatile and impactful, and has repeatedly proven the ability to adapt expeditiously to the requirements of any given situation or event to which its assistance is requested.

As Gerardo says, “There is no competition.”

Cape is a dynamic organization, highly competitive, a close-knit team that is fiercely proud of its achievements, and is incessantly striving to improve upon its already remarkable software designs.

It is also transparent. As such, it offers to anyone who wishes to experience the thrill of flying a drone a program to satisfy that desire. It’s available weekdays from 8 am to 4 pm, and can be accessed through fly.cape.com.

Try it, you’ll like it! A trained technician will guide you through the 3-minute flight.

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