Gringo Gazette

Gringo Gazette

Policemen Protest And Take City Hall

About 900 municipal police agents from Ensenada took to the streets yesterday protesting that their salary, that was due on the 23rd, wasn’t paid yet. They were also complaining that their holiday bonus hasn’t been paid and is already two weeks due.

The group marched from the Macroplaza mall in Transpeninsular all the way to City Hall with signs and banners demanding the payment of their salary.

“Policeman live day to day, if we don’t get paid, we don’t have means to feed our family, I say this so citizens of Ensenada can understand us, we are not doing this because we like it, we need that money in our homes and delays in our salary can’t happen” said Rafael Ruiz, local agent.

A local cop salary starts at about $650 USD per month. Of course it can be more, depending on their rank and seniority.

Other policeman complained that their credit score was affected when the last city administration didn’t make payments on loans the agents got, even when those payments where directly discounted from their paychecks.

Before the day ended, their salary was deposited into their bank accounts but not yet their holiday bonus.

City officials said they were doing everything in their power to get more resources in order pay the amount they owe the police and that they were hoping to make the payment on the holiday bonus this coming Friday.

 

With information from El Vigia

Reflections on the Baja 1000

Congratulations to Justin Morgan of El Cajon, CA, whose Honda (Pro Moto Unlimited Class) crossed the finish line 28 seconds ahead of Second Place Winner Cameron Steel of San Clemente, CA, in his SCORE Trophy Truck.

In all, there were 285 entrants, most of whom were from SoCal, although there were a few from widely scattered places such as Las Vegas, NV, and other regions such as Utah, Alabama, Colorado and New Mexico, plus Mexicans from places such as Mexico City, Puebla and yes, Ensenada!

The Baja 1000 is a grueling event, and the only vehicles that make it to the finish line have been constructed to withstand severely rigorous conditions. It’s not a sport for the faint of heart: The drivers take a beating along with the pounding endured by their cars or trucks.

Not everyone affected by the presence of the racers and their entourages is a fan of these events (the Baja 1000 is held annually in mid-November, while the Baja 500 begins May 30th and ends June 3rd), but like it or not, these events appear to be traditions that are here to stay.

In their defense, they bring a voluminous amount of revenue to the city coffers. The hotels, motels, restaurants, cafes and bars are filled to capacity, prior to and during the events.

Contrarily, they cause local traffic mayhem that raises the blood pressure and tries the patience of the local residents, who still have to go to work, school or place of worship, and have to do so in many instances by adjusting their schedules and their usual routes. Blvd Costero (the coast road), from Playa Hermosa to the end of town is the focal point of the race, and is especially constricted in the area bordered by the Riviera, CEARTE and Museo Carocol. That’s where the racers set up their trailers and pits and retail kiosks. Local vendors also set up food carts. Musicians roam the area. Foot traffic is heavy, vehicle traffic is highly restricted.

As a result, many motorists choose to use alternate roadways, such as Pedro Loyola and Reforma, thereby causing congestion on those arteries as well.

Ultimately, there is a traffic burden testing everyone’s patience from Zona Centro to Playa Hermosa, and all primary routes into and out of  the city.

I used to experience angry meltdowns when caught in one of these traffic traps, but eventually I learned to roll with it.

Now I actually enjoy the festive atmosphere and the period of lucrative exchange that the local vendors enjoy serving our strange but wealthy visitors from other worlds.

The operative word is “wealthy.” In case you hadn’t noticed, the vehicles that are trailored into town to compete in these big events are expensive, and their entourages include pit crews, mechanics, family members, support vehicles carrying spare parts, etc.

The drivers themselves are either rich and/or have sponsors with deep pockets.

Anyway, my change of heart came about a couple of years ago. I was in the parking lot of a Calimax in Zona Centro, preparing to use their ATM, when one of those monster trucks pulled up next to me and parked.

When its driver went into the store, I got out of my car to take a close look at the thing, marvelling at all the expensive hardware adorning it. I noticed a skinny, pimply-faced teenage boy sitting shotgun, watching me gawk at the truck.

“Wow, quite a machine,” I offered.

“Yeah, it’s my Dad’s! He’s really proud of it. He works on it all the time. It’s kind of his hobby,” the little geek replied.

“Hobby?!?” I thought. “Wow…”

Well, who am I to judge? There’s nothing wrong with being wealthy and building a great big gas-guzzling monster truck, is there?

And heck, who’s to blame the guy for taking it to a foreign country, tearing up a few thousand acres of desert, perhaps accidentally killing a few indigenous and/or domesticated animals (and the occasional human being), for sport and profit?

Welcome to Baja! Thanks for coming! See y’all in a few months, when we can all share and enjoy the desert together.

Mexican Gas Stations Seeing Changes

Costco opened its first gas station in the state of Guanajuato this week, its fourth in Mexico. The spiffy new station cost $3.3 million. They’re selling Costco’s Kirkland Signature gasoline brand, and sure it comes from the States, but so does most gas. Mexico has very little refining capabilities. Maybe that goes a long way toward explaining the cost of a gallon of gas costing about $3.65 a gallon.

The company assured customers that they will get what they pay for and won’t be short-poured here. Yes, he actually said that, acknowledging the elephant in the room where gas is sold. They will only accept credit or debit cards and members who use their Costco credit card get a 3% discount.

Meanwhile, The British oil and gas company BP continues its expansion into Mexico by opening its first ToGo convenience store in this country, where it also introduced its Wild Bean Café to customers. This station is in Guadalajara. The new store and its coffee is part of a strategy to transform the concept of service stations in Mexico, now that stations other than Pemex are allowed. BP operates the Wild Bean Café brand in 1,200 convenience stores in 11 countries. In Mexico, the company has more than 350 gas stations. And looking at the overall picture, it does appear that BP’s convenience store is a lot nicer than the OXXO’s.

Meanwhile, stodgy old Pemex appears to be running scared, as the government-owned oil company is sporting a new look. The new gas station design was officially inaugurated last week in the state of México. Poo. Always at the end of the line, Baja doesn’t get anything cool.

The head of the company’s industrial transformation division said the new design will be incorporated at 45 stations this year, eight new ones and 37 boring old stations will be renovated. Carlos Murrieta Cummings said the new concept “is intended to maintain the franchise’s leadership in the domestic market.” See? They just admitted they’re running scared.  “The new image breaks with the conventional and projects a new Pemex: a highly competitive business in an open market,” he said in the announcement.

Murrieta added that the new design reflects an eagle in flight, “a leader, strong and agile, with its wings extended towards new challenges.” Murrieta also said the company’s objective is to provide the highest standards of customer service, offering its clients experience, reliability, modernity and innovation. Ha ha ha! Since when? Since President Pena Nieto broke Pemex’s stranglehold on the gas monopoly and invited in competition! Since then they’re trying a tiny bit harder. They’re still short-pouring and short-changing, and they’re still losing buckets of money.

Well, the general manager of the first Pemex franchise to sport the new look did say its sales have doubled since the new design was incorporated in mid-June. With prices fixed, maybe appearances and service do count.

Santas Needed!

This is the time of year to be thinking about giving. If you are still looking for a group worthy of your hearts and thoughts this holiday season, please consider adopting a Kumiai (Kumeyaay) or other local family for Christmas. There are 65 families in the Kumiai community, an Indian reserve one hour into the hills above La Mision, and so many other families also in the hills that have no one to think about them.

Food boxes will feature chicken, fresh produce (purchased the day before delivery), and dry goods, priced at $20. Blankets are $10. Or you can make up your own gift box of food, goods, and gifts, and bring to one of the drop off locations. In return, you will receive a Christmas Thank You card and photo from the family you have helped. You are even invited to accompany Sara and group to San Jose de La Zorra to deliver the holiday gifts.

The deadline is near! The last day to adopt a local or Kumiai family is December 10! For additional information, contact Sara Vega at 661-850-4855 or email to saraenmovimiento@hotmail.com, or contact her on Facebook on either of the pages “Sara Vega” or “Sara.enmovimiento.”

There are several ways to donate to this philanthropic cause: Cash donations may be made through PayPal by contacting Sara at her email address. Or you may make a donation at any local OXXO, into the account 4766-8403-0084-5794. Save your donation receipt and send a photocopy to Sara so she knows whom to thank.

You may donate non-perishable food items, blankets, jackets, or any other winter-related item to either Charley’s Place (k 37) or Betty’s Burgers (on the boulevard just south of the 7-11 / cuota on and off ramps.

Anyone wishing to join the caravan to the Kumiai camp, contact Sara Vega ASAP for cabin reservations, instructions, and logistics of the trip.

The need of the people is great and varied. If you are building your own donation box and in need of suggestions, please contact Sara. Merry Christmas!

Anthony’s Bar Building On Fire Once Again

Yesterday morning a once popular bar in Ensenada caught fire for the second time, on its top floor, where it has several rooms for rent.

The fire was reportedly caused by a failure on the electrical wiring of the building. Local firemen where able to control it in a little less than an hour with no one injured.

Four years ago, on September 2, 2014, the same top floor of the building caught fire, at that time authorities said the fire could had been intentional, but no one was apprehended.

The bar, that was almost a landmark in Ensenada with its huge gorilla, has been out of business for a couple of years now.

Watch out for those Santa Ana winds

Health authorities from Baja are recommending staying at home when Santa Ana winds are active. Problems in the respiratory tract, eyes and skin have been reported during the winds, and thus they are recommending staying home with doors and windows closed.

Dr. David Perez, chief of medical services, stated that these winds affect the health because they carry a lot of dirt with them because of the severe dryness. He also recommended to stay away from street food during this condition, as it can get easily contaminated by pathogens in the wind and can induce gastric diseases.

Perez emphasized the importance of drinking enough water and making sure house pets have enough clean water, which should be changed more often to avoid having them drink contaminated liquids.

Do we really need more signs?

At least in Ensenada, authorities and business leaders think so. The third ENSENADA “letters” sign was officially inaugurated in the cruise ships terminal, focused on more national motifs than regional, since it’s almost exclusively going to be seen by cruisers. The sign features the agave plant, charros and the Aztec calendar.

The first one was installed in Playa Hermosa, featuring local animals; the second one, featuring a cruise ship and the cranes in the port, was placed in the “Ventana al Mar” Malecon.

Each of these signs is costing around $7,500 USD and the original project planned for 8, some in the city, one in San Quintin and other ones in the Guadalupe Valley.

The money is coming from a trust managed by local business people, called FIDEM, funded by the state government, through giving back 5% of all payroll taxes that businesses paid during the year.

There is one more sign at the entrance of Ensenada, but that one was placed in there by our tourism officials with federal funds, as they have done in most tourist cities in Mexico.

Should You Get Dentistry Here?

Mexico is touted as a great place to get dentistry done, and most of that touting is from the industry itself. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a great savings or it’s not safe, it just means slow down and do your due diligence. Find out who you’re going to trust your health to. Make no mistake, just because your mouth is kind of on the edge of your health, it is still your health. We know a woman who got a tooth so badly infected the pain went into her neck and shoulder and she went to a chiropractor, not even realizing the pain started in her mouth. It took her almost a year to find a doctor who figured out it was coming from an infection in a tooth she had had work done on in a Mexican border town.

The cost here is a fraction of what it is in the States, and you need to ask yourself why? OK, so we’re asking: Why? Because these dentists don’t carry insurance. Fine, if nothing goes wrong.

Another reason for cheap dentistry is they pay such low wages. As a friend and business owner told me when I complained about his lousy service, “Sorry about that but I pay peanuts, so I get monkeys.” Do you want someone making way less than $1000 a month drilling holes in your gums? Fine, that’s understandable. Dentistry is costly, we get that.

Reason three that dentistry is cheaper here is that most Mexicans can’t afford to pay even the price you think is so cheap. Therefore, dentists are hungry for business from foreigners. The price you’re chortling over is a godsend to them.

Do they have the same training as US dentists? No.

There were 83 dental schools registered in the last official national count in 2007. Half are public, half are private. Admission to dental schools in Mexico requires a high school diploma, and to obtain a license in Mexico, dental students must complete a 3 to 5 year program plus a year of community service. But this  is scary: No formal nationwide standard curriculum exists, so who knows if your dentist went to a Mickey Mouse stay and vay or to a tough school where they had to learn their craft? And did you just notice we said that dentists here have four fewer years of school than US dentists? Of course a case can be made that those four years our dentists spend in college before they get to dental school are wasted since they never see a tooth.

There are 195,000 dentists in the US, and 153,000 dentists in Mexico. There are 312 million Americans and 129 million Mexicans. Clearly there are too many dentists here, especially considering how many of the very poor people never open wide for a dentist.

So, why are so many Mexican dentists trained in the United States? Look closer to that diploma on the wall they’re so proud of, especially if it says graduated from a US school. Most of them are a course lasting a week or two on a specialty. No doubt the dentist wants to improve his craft, but being able to say he’s US trained makes that couple weeks a very good investment.

And who over sees dentists in Mexico? Nobody. In the US, a dentist must pass three tests in the state he/she intends to practice in and show a hepatitis B test, finger prints, a course in infection control, and oh yes, “be of good character” whatever that entails. And they belong to the American Dental Ass., a trade organization where you can start the process of complaint.

Good luck suing a Mexican dentist if something goes wrong. There is no tort law in this country. (Tort law provides relief to injured parties for harms caused by others, and to impose liability on parties responsible for the harm).

All of this sounds negative and is not meant to be, it’s just a counter point to the one big, huge, and very good reason to get dentistry done here: Price. You can save a bundle.

Big Fines for Small Tools

Drones can invade privacy, they can cause accidents, they annoy birds, and they can really piss off pilots in actual airplanes. They can also be incredible tools for scientists, photographers, and anyone in the tourism industry. In some countries, licenses are required. The International Civil Aviation Organization insists on a license too. And, of course, there are regulations. But that doesn’t stop anyone from buying a drone off the internet, and those drones are high-tech.

For example, the DJI Phantom 4 is a model from a few years ago but still very popular. It fits into a piece of hand luggage. It has the ability to fly 20 meters per second, reach 6000 meters above sea level, and fly for about half an hour on a single battery. The drone costs around 840 USD. The DJI Inspire 2 is an up-to-date professional machine. It also has a flight time of about  half an hour, but a range of 7 km and a max speed of 58 mph. Inspire 2 costs a little over 2,700 USD. As tools, these drones have great potential. Their cameras are capable of getting great still shots as well as video.  Mexico has some rules on the books in regard to flying drones, but now the government is pushing ahead, full throttle.

New regulations, which go into effect in December this year, will require all drone users to obtain a license. However, getting that license might be tricky. First, you must be 18 years or older, then you need to be Mexican by birth (sorry Gringos), you need to provide your military release card, have a high school diploma, and be in good health. If those rules don’t sound ridiculous enough, then the fine that goes along with flying without a license (in a country that hardly gives out parking tickets), is enough to have you rolling on the floor.

If the police catch you flying, and you can’t show your license, you’ll be fined as much as 20,000 USD. Of course, you could probably give the officer a few 500 peso notes and a quick flight lesson and everyone will walk away with smiles.

The Mexican government has identified a problem: Drones have the capability of killing people in manned aircraft, so they are taking steps to solve the problem. But more than likely a cop will not even stop you, especially if you’re in the middle of the desert 100 kilometers from the nearest town. The police need to cover huge spaces with few resources (they most likely don’t have a drone).  Also, they probably have better things to do, like setting up speed traps to catch unsuspecting Gringos. Although it might not be completely necessary, it’s always good to follow the rules when in another country. And that’s our disclaimer.

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