Pemex Rip-Offs

While the news of pipeline gasoline thefts has been in the headlines recently, the practice of scamming customers who are refueling at the gas stations is old news. In a place where the minimum wage is roughly US $5.25 a day, everyday transactions are opportunities for workers to supplement their income. Gas station attendants sometimes take advantage of those opportunities, and that’s why they are often sporting a big smile when a gringo drives in.

Opportunity knocks loudly when you pull your rental car up to the gas pump and tell the guy to “fill it up.”  Although many stations here have implemented “attendant controls” including required smartphone input of pump number, amount to fill and employee code, not all attendants will draw your attention to the pump to show that it has been reset to zero before they start pumping. You may be paying for fuel someone else already paid for, and those extra pesos are destined for the attendant’s pocket.

While the gas is pumping, attendants will quickly ask to check the oil. Say yes and pop the hood for the next opportunity: after a minute at the front of the car screened by the open hood the attendant holds up an empty oil container to show you the car took a whole liter. You’re feeling good for doing the right thing, but he likely didn’t show you the dipstick beforehand.  You didn’t need any oil; he just showed you an empty container he keeps on the side rack and charged you 150 pesos. Too late now, but at least make sure you ask for a receipt in case you get lucky and have a rental car company that reimburses the expense.

Whether you’re in a rental or your own car, paying cash for the gas opens a couple more doors.  The number one rip off by far is by “palming.” Palming happens when the gas station attendant sees you pulling US $50’s out of your wallet for your fill up, and he pulls a US $20 from his left pocket as he takes your 50 dollar bill in his right hand – all the while chatting you up about your wonderful stay here.  He’ll turn quickly to look at the pump to double check the amount and then turn back to you showing you the $20 and apologetically tell you it’s not enough. You immediately think you messed up because you weren’t paying attention (after all, greenbacks are all green) and hand him more.  That trick is big money.

Next on the hit list is expecting change from your US dollar payment. You’ve likely noticed that each gas station posts a sign with a single rate on it, for example, “CAMBIO 18.60”. That’s the USD/MXN exchange rate – the number of pesos they will give you for each dollar.  All pumps ring up in pesos.  The attendant sees your US dollars and keys in the 750 peso pump amount on his phone and turns the phone around and shows you $42.61. You hand him $45 with a smile and say keep the change.  You might do a quick mental calculation using an easy 20 peso conversion rate to rationalize the amount and figure it’s close enough.  Meanwhile, the attendant keyed in 17.60 (not 18.60) to calculate the US amount and has now supplemented his pay with your transaction by $2.29 plus the tip. The pay is good today.

Using pesos only? Palming also works with the local currency, by gaming the number of notes you hand over.  Pass the attendant two or more notes of the same denomination along with some change, and he may fumble and accidentally drop the handful and come up showing you that you came up short by 100 or 200 pesos, then it’s his word against yours. Get out more pesos.

Think paying with a credit card is a better bet? Think again, especially if the attendant takes the card out of sight to process. Always keep the receipts to remind you of the transaction dates and check your credit card statements for unknown transactions.

The gaming is not limited to individual attendants either. Pemex stations are privately owned, and the corporation or government isn’t diligent about measuring whether each pump is correctly calibrated to metering out the correct volume of gas for each transaction.  It is possible you are getting only 30 oz. of gas when a liter is 35 oz. A few station owners use this tactic, but you’ll never know which ones are and which aren’t unless you’re on empty and fill right up. If your tank holds 50 liters and gas is priced 20 pesos per liter, and the pump total shows 1,300 pesos, then the math doesn’t add up and you are being taken, again.

So to sum it all up, you’ll unknowingly donate to the local economy just by driving a vehicle. Who knew?  Best advice is to get those US greenbacks converted to pesos and pay attention to what you are doing. Get out of the car, look at the dipstick, watch the oil get added, count out your bills as you pass them over and take the time to calculate your USD exchange on your own phone.  And just before you turn the ignition key and drive off, count your change. Last time I gassed up the attendant tried to short me 100 pesos thinking I wouldn’t notice. When I called him out on it guess what he did? – He gave me that great big Pemex smile and handed me the extra 100 pesos. The best part of a good scam is you never knew it happened! Just keep smiling.

Semana Santa Is Just Around The Corner

BY EDGAR GONZALEZ

For American students, this time of  year  is related to the spring break, with all its holiday activities, including college kid drunkenness or simply a fairly sane beach vacation. But for many Mexicans, this time of  year signifies “Cuaresma”, which is the preamble for the “Semana Santa,” or holy week. This is a time for celebrating the most important events in the last days of Christ. Mexico is a Catholic country by tradition, though not by law; vernacular Mexican costumes and celebrations have deep connections to  Catholicism’s important dates.

The first important event most Mexicans celebrate on this date is the “Cuaresma”, or in English,  “Lent.” This is the time for spiritual preparation for Easter. The cuaresma is a 40 day event that starts on Ash Wednesday and ends on holy Thursday, just before Good Friday.

These 40 days represent the 40 days Jesus spent on the Judea desert praying and fasting prior to his final mission. We don’t fast for 40 days, but believers are supposed to fast on this special day. It’s ok to just have one meal and no red meat, but  most people barely fast and avoid eating meat on the Cuaresma Fridays. That is why in many Mexican restaurants during Cuaresma season Fridays, they offer special versions of their dishes that do not contain red meat. Fish is acceptable, and in the last century, the church included chicken as an acceptable meat.

On Ash Wednesday, people go to church to get a cross of ash drawn on their foreheads by the priest, while he pronounces the words, “You are dust, and dust you will revert to,” a custom that is credited to Pope Gregory I. The ash comes from the burning of the holy palms that were used the previous year on Palm Sunday. The use of ash in Catholicism is a custom that goes all the way back to the third or second (depending on the source) century but its roots come from the Jewish traditions.  The ashes symbolize the temporary passing of our existence in this world, and as a reminder that our place in Heaven awaits us.

This date also signals the end of Carnaval season. Carnaval is closely related to the Holy Week, for it is the celebration that happens just before all the fasting and sacrificing that is to be done to show repentance and worthiness.  Carnaval in Latin means “goodbye to meat,” so just before all the Semana Santa doings, and maybe to liven things up for the last time, people have the great party that is Carnaval, not unlike the bachelor party before marriage. This is a custom that goes all the way back to the Romans, who held huge banquets and other bacchanalian excesses.

As the Cuaresma ends, the Semana Santa begins. This Holy week is also a national holiday for the Mexicans regardless of religion. Mexico is now a secular country, so religious holidays are not official, but most schools in Mexico have at least a week of vacation for spring break. Some allow two weeks. The Mexican labor calendar lists three days as obligatory paid vacation from what you would call, for reasons I can’t fathom, Good Friday to Easter Sunday. This vacation almost overlaps with the American spring break, but most of the time it starts at the end of your spring break.

The date of Semana Santa bounces around like crazy because it’s based on astronomy: It’s the first Sunday after the first spring full moon. This year’s festivities start on Sunday April 14th and go all the way to the next Sunday the 21st, and Cabo will be crazy with vacationers from the mainland of Mexico this week. Many of them come over on the ferry and camp out on the beach to save money.

This holy week is meant to celebrate the passion, death and resurrection of Christ, and Palm Sunday is the day it all begins, as this is the day that symbolizes when Jesus entered Jerusalem.

Then we have the Holy Monday, that day Jesus drove the merchants from the temple. On Holy Tuesday, Jesus anticipates the treason of Judas. Then we have Spy Wednesday, on this day Cuaresma ends and Easter begins. This is the day Judas conspired to sell out Jesus. On Maundy Thursday He had the last supper and at the end of that night He was arrested. On Friday He is nailed up and killed and on Holy Saturday He is mourned. The celebration comes to a crescendo on Sunday, which is the day Christ comes back to life.

On Holy Saturday a lot of town churches present a play that represents the whole ordeal, which is called Via Crucis. They reenact the passion of Christ. Passion week is so named because of the passion with which Jesus willingly went to the cross in order to pay for the sins of the people.  This is an event that attracts a lot of people, believers and non-believers. The biggest Via Crucis in Mexico is the one organized in Iztapalapa in Mexico City. This Via Crucis has had in attendance a crowd of two million spectators and 3,000 amateur actors playing their parts.

Local Winery Honors Prominent Women

El Cielo Winery, located in the Guadalupe Valley, celebrated last month the contributions of women to the wine and food production by offering them awards during a gala dinner in their restaurant.

Marcos Flores, president of the Mexican Association of Sommeliers and Gustavo Ortega, founder, and director of El Cielo Wines presented the awards to 7 women, that with their professionalism, dedication and commitment to their crafts are revolutionizing the world of wine and gastronomy.

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“It’s an honor for me to be able to host these successful women in the world of food and wine to celebrate them. I’ve always admired women for their fortitude and dedication bringing a different vision to great projects as are the ones in wine production.” Stated Ortega during his welcoming speech.

El Cielo is planning to award different women every year, and on this first year the ones honored were:

  1. Lourdes Martinez. An experienced oenologist, born in Ensenada but with several years of experience studying and working in France, she co-founded “Bodega Henri Lurton”, named after the owner of Château Brane-Cantenac in France, Henri Lurton, with whom she decided to interpret the graciousness of Baja’s nature and terroir by producing excellent wines.
  2. Tru Miller. Owner of Adobe Guadalupe winery and pioneer of wine tourism in the valley. Dutch by birth, Mexican by heart. She founded the winery with her late husband Donald A. Miller in the nineties, planning on dedicating herself to breeding horses while her husband focused on the vineyard part of their property. After he passed, she successfully took over the wine part of the business too, improving on her husband’s legacy.
  3. Laura Zamora. An oenologist born in Ensenada, with more than 30 years of experience in high-quality winemaking, she was the first woman responsible of the winery Bodegas de Santo Tomas. Her success is based on the depth of her knowledge of the vineyards, the elaboration process and the different phases of production. She now runs her own winery aptly named “Casa Zamora”.
  4. Gina Estrada. Outstanding Sommelier, ambassador of El Cielo wines, Ultra-premium Emma Gin and spokesperson for Louis XII cognac, she is vice-president of the Mexican Association of Sommeliers and general manager of @GinaSommelier, a national leader in consulting for the wine and distilled beverages industry. She is certified by Court Masters Sommeliers and has been a judge in numerous beverage ranking contests.
  5. Myrna de Liceaga. Owner of Viña de Liceaga, a project that started with her late husband Eduardo Liceaga in San Antonio de las Minas back in 1982, she has successfully grown the legacy of her husband, receiving numerous award along the way. Her “wine forest” is one of the most sought-of venues for all kinds of events in the valley.
  6. Chef Sabina Bandera. Creator of “La Guerrerense”, the most famous seafood street cart in Baja and the world, having earned prizes in street food competitions worldwide. Originally from the state of Guerrero, she arrived at Ensenada at a very young age. Better known as “La guerita” or the “little blonde” Sabina is the star of her business. She offers 14 different kinds of ceviches and cocktails. Her street cart has grown into three restaurants in Ensenada, Mexico City, and Monterrey.
  7. Chef Yerika Muñoz. Renowned Chef with years of experience on international cuisine, with lots of influence from Peruvian cuisine, she is a goal-oriented woman with a passion for food that solidifies and structure her life. Yerika works only in what she believes in, and every day continues to conquer more palates.

All the food for the night was prepared by Chefs Sabina Bandera and Yerika Muñoz, paired by Gina Estrada with wines selected from Adobe Guadalupe, Casa Zamora, Henri Lurton and El Cielo.

Friends of the Library Has a Lot Going On!

The Friends of the Library have been busy this winter. For years the FOL has realized that much of the local population does not have access to local libraries. Last summer, a pop-up library was opened two days a week in the Reforma area and met with some success, but this only aided a small segment of Rosarito. The FOL Board then set their sights on obtaining a mobile solution and settled on the idea of obtaining a bookmobile.

After many months of searching for the right solution, they located a small bus in the United States that could be successfully converted into a mobile reading vehicle. After many months (and many dollars), the bus was approved for entrance into Mexico. Much thanks to Len Merson and the FOL Board members who spent a lot of time and money on getting the necessary approvals for the bus’s import to Mexico. But it is still just a bus. Much more money is needed to convert the bus into a mobile library.

And some of that money comes from unusual places. Leonardo Galvan, a young man in Canada, sent his uncle, a member of the FOL Board, $100 Canadian that he earned while house sitting “so hopefully you can get some stuff with that,” when he heard about the multiple fundraisers that the FOL was hosting.  Now if a child donates his hard-earned money to another far-off country (even if it is Canadian), we locals can pull together a few dollars for the effort.

On March 30th, the Friends of the Library will hold a gala at CEART (current home of said bus and future bookmobile), introducing Rosarito to sculptor, Pancho Jimenez.

If that name sounds familiar, it is because the sculptor is the son of author Francisco “Panchito” Gomez, whose books Rosarito has been reading for many years now, and the subject of the Copa Panchito reading tournaments held each spring.

The Gala concludes the Celebration of Literature, Arts, and Culture event March 28th – 30th, which includes the 2019 Copa Panchito Finale with Author, Dr. Francisco Jimenez at the Plaza Municipal; an Academic Forum on “The Transformative Power of Education and Literature” on the 29th, and a “Meet and Greet” with Sculptor Pancho Jimenez and local artists before the Gala on March 30th. Complete information on these events may be found in the Gringo Gazette Calendar section.

The Gala will be preceded by photos taken on the red carpet in the CEART courtyard. In the foyer, Hors D’oeuvres prepared by the renowned Plascencia Group and Dessert by Brown Dog Gelato, will be offered with wine and other beverages prior to the Ceramic Sculpture Exhibit ribbon cutting. Tickets to this event are available at the FOL website, www.friendsofthelibrary.com.mx.

Sole exhibitor in the main gallery, Sculptor Pancho Jimenez, holds an MFA in Sculptural Ceramics from San Francisco State University and exhibits mostly in the San Francisco Bay area, but has also been exhibited in universities, private galleries and civic spaces. He has been featured in the Ceramics Monthly, and “art ltd” proclaimed his solo show at Santa Clara’s Triton Museum of Art “one of the Top Ten Best in Northern California.”

Pancho Jimenez began working with clay at a young age. With a background in history as well as art, some of his influence comes from the ancient ruins of Mesoamerica. Jimenez’s work assigns meaning to symbols which is apparent in every piece in his exhibition.

His work is comprised of several series including the “Head Series,” influenced by pre-Columbian Olmec Heads; “the “Carved Series,” displaying meaning he has found in the ruins of ancient Mexico that captures the “mystery, that ‘eternal presence’ of ancient art forms”; and the “Memory Series” depicting dense carved geometric and organic designs sometimes found in ancient art. He has graciously (and lovingly) conveyed many pieces of his extensive collection to Rosarito especially for this event. Jimenez has donated one piece to be raffled off to one of the lucky VIP ticket-holders at the Gala.

But that’s not all. Another new addition to the Reading Program of Rosarito is the new public reading room at CEART Rosarito, dedicated on a gloomy rainy January 31st. The ribbon-cutting ceremony included dignitaries including Mayor Mirna Rincon, and Rosarito IMAC and CEART department leaders including Xochitl Contreras, Marco Nunio, and Armando Gonzalez, who is also the VP of the FOL.

The new Reading Room was painted, furnished and decorated by the Board of the Friends of the Library with artwork and furnishings from their homes. Additional bookshelves are being built for the adult portion of the reading corner.

The books in the collection include modern favorites, the complete Harry Potter series and the books of Francisco “Pancho” Jimenez. Whereas the books are of interest to readers of all ages, they primarily focus on younger-aged readers. The reading corner has become so popular that many new books are needed, especially for the younger children. Attendance to the CEART reading corner starts when the building opens in the morning and the last reader is ushered out at closing time.

Originally funded by the FOL, Marco Nunio’s office will begin funding 7000 pesos per month through CEART to hire a full time person to staff the reading corner. But this funding may not be permanent so the fundraisers may help to support this position as well as fund the bookmobile, purchase books, and other programs the FOL sponsors.

Tickets and $20 memberships to the Friends of the Library may be purchased online at their website, www.friendsofthelibrary.com.mx. Their monthly meetings are held the second Wednesday of every month and are open to the public. For more information, please visit their website. And remember their motto: Read today for a Quality of Life Tomorrow.

Luxury Living In the Heart of Tijuana

Tijuana has been historically overlooked by expats moving to Baja who until recently favored almost exclusively beachfront properties. With Tijuana’s rapid business growth and its newly-found vocation as one of the country’s hottest gastronomy hubs, that trend is changing; and now, every day we’re seeing more and more Americans choosing to live in Tijuana to take advantage of its big city feel and especially its closeness to the United States.

Dalias by Hacienda offers a guarded, double-gated community nestled inside one of the most sought-after, and safest communities in Tijuana: Hacienda Agua Caliente. Well-known for its park, and beautifully kept gardens, Hacienda has been able to improve the quality of living of its residents since it opened more than 20 years ago.

Residents here don’t have to worry about the inconsistency on city services as Hacienda provides its residents with its own trash pickup service, street cleaning, public lighting, sewage maintenance, and water pumping as well as gardening of common areas.

Designed by the award-winning “Anonimous” (sic) architectural firm from Mexico City, every home in Dalias makes perfect use of each foot of space.

Two basic models are being offered: Glow and Golden, although variations of each can be chosen. The Glow model features 2,950 sq/ft of construction, two-story, 3-bedroom homes with 3-½ bathrooms, while the Golden model offers 3,800 sq/ft of living space, also offering 3 bedrooms but with bigger spaces, 4 complete bathrooms plus 2 half-bathrooms and a gorgeous game room on the third floor. Both models have  fully-equipped service rooms on the lower floor and spacious outdoor patios and carports.

The way these houses have been perfectly designed in a way that takes advantage of natural light in every corner is impressive, and gives each property a special positive feeling.

Its location is unmatchable, being just 15 minutes from malls, the border, Caliente stadium, and  Campestre Golf Club. Dalias is right in the middle of everything good going on in Tijuana.

Houses range from $340,000 to $560,000 depending on the model, lot size, and finishes you choose. With less than a year on the market and only 28 properties left, the remaining properties are not expected to last long.

In-house direct financing is available from 30% down, with the rest to be paid in 10 years; qualified individuals can also get a loan from local banks that could be paid in 20 or more years, with a much lower monthly payment.

If you’re up for an interesting living space, right in the middle of one of the fastest growing cities in Mexico, Dalias is definitely the place for you.

To learn more, please visit their website at www.haciendaaguacaliente.com or call them at (664) 397-7621. Mention the code GNHAC01 when you call; that will get you a free $100 USD Starbucks card if you qualify for an appointment.

Houses in San Antonio Barely Standing Still

Home owners in the ocean front community of San Antonio del Mar have been worrying about the integrity of their homes for a couple of years now.

Neighbors on the oceanfront part of Isla Street have seen the back street of their cliff homes being swept off by the sea for several years now; around 40 feet of land in total has fallen into the sea, but recent rains did the most damage, eroding most of the land up to the edge of the structures, jeopardizing the houses.

Click here to open a 360 image that shows the erosion

We talked to Marvin Standsberry, owner of the house most affected currently. He told us that he bought his dream oceanfront property back in 2002. At that time, he says, he didn’t have any idea of the ordeal he was getting into. “I had probably 40 feet of land behind my house separating my property and the 20-foot drop to the beach at that time, it was plenty of land, so I never thought it was going to get this bad. Now my house is just inches from the cliff, we just don’t think the house is going to make it through another rain season”.

It wasn’t until 2004 when Marvin noticed that the rainwater drainage channel that was built right next to his house had begun to crumble. He took some pictures and went on to report it to San Antonio’s Homeowners Association, but no action was taken. He did it again and again with no response.

This photo was taken in 2016, when the house still had a backyard.

As the land below the drainage channel started to wash out to sea with the rains, the channel that had no support below completely crumbled up to its last remaining part. Marvin was quick to report this to the HOA and city authorities, including the civil protection office, the water company and urban control, but once again, nobody offered any assistance, and just pointed in each other’s directions.

With the rainwater channel destroyed, things have started to get out of control; now every rain takes huge chunks of land behind the homes since all the water that passes through the channel just goes everywhere, washing away everything in its path. To make things even worse, the channel not only receives rainwater but also treated gray water that is sent to the ocean 24/7, eroding the land even more.

In his opinion, the HOA should get involved to repair the rainwater channel that could benefit (or affect) the whole community. “How can I be expected to pay my dues, if they won’t help when I need them?”

HOA fees in San Antonio are $50 dollars every month for houses and $25 for vacant lots and has over 600 properties, although it is well known that not all of the property owners pay their dues.

At the very least, he says he would like to have the HOA on his side in order to pressure the city into doing the repairs.

 

With more rains expected in the upcoming days, he and his wife Susana are worried that their very lives could be in danger, even after the local civil protection office said a couple weeks ago that at that moment the house didn’t seem to have any structural damage. He is sure that their assessment would probably be different by now, since this last week the floor and walls have started to crack.

Marvin said he has already hired legal counsel in order to figure out who is responsible for repairing the rainwater channel in order to stop the land erosion that is threatening to wash away his dream of a peaceful retirement by the ocean.

El Descanso Announces New Stage on Its Development

Descanso Sunset, nestled in the El Descanso community in Rosarito, offers a private community of 101 houses adapted to the lifestyle of their clients. This exclusive community will feature a spectacular and modern club house with an infinity pool and ocean views, jacuzzi, gym, restaurant, bar and a panoramic view to enjoy its magnificent surroundings. A business center will also be available,  featuring a conference room, terrace and fireplace.

All these in their exclusive location, within close proximity to a dazzling variety of fine restaurants, exclusive clubs, cultural events and exciting sport activities, but far enough away from the city bustle to give you and your loved ones peace and privacy in an intimate setting.

A short 30-minute drive will take you from Descanso sunset to San Diego, Tijuana or the Wine Valley.

For over 26 years PromoCasa has developed around 32,000 houses in Mexicali, Tijuana, Tecate, Rosarito and, more recently, in Los Cabos, since 1992. At each of these developments the developer has been able to adapt to the changes in the market, transforming constantly to offer innovation in each home built. For this project they joined in a partnership with the Santana Group, who provided the land.

Descanso Sunset is offering 2 spacious one-level home options, with 2 or 3 bedrooms, sitting on 3,200+ square feet lots. They both feature a nice roof terrace with beautiful ocean views.

Starting at just $230,000 USD, and considering the current shortage of inventory in this price range for sale in Rosarito, as recently stated by Gustavo Torres – head of the AMPI Real Estate Association in the city – this new development is not expected to last long on the market.

Drop by their offices at the development in Rancho Mision El Descanso, on K 55.4 on the Ensenada-Tijuana toll road. You can call for an appointment at (661) 614-1039. More information available on their website www.descanso.com.mx.

Tax Fairness For Americans Abroad Act of 2018

Americans are taxed on the basis of their citizenship, not residency. A US citizen, no matter where he or she resides and regardless of the type and source of income, is subject to US federal income tax, if certain income thresholds are met, and that individual must file a tax return with all the associated forms and schedules and, as called for, pay tax.

One of the associated forms requires reporting of information about specified foreign financial assets, including foreign deposit and custodial accounts and certain other foreign assets. Rules provide, as part of the regular income tax return, a foreign earned income exclusion, which can include a housing cost amount. Tax credits can be claimed to offset US tax, but not to the extent of foreign taxes that are allocable to excluded income. This benefit, in effect, is a type of partial residency-based tax treatment for some individuals. Upon an individual’s death, if the individual was a US citizen, his or her estate, if it is of a certain size, must file an estate tax return and pay estate tax with respect to its worldwide assets. A US citizen is generally subject to gift taxation, regardless of where the individual resides and where the assets are situated. Special rules deal with the tax treatment of expatriation. In addition, if certain thresholds are met, a US citizen must report foreign bank account information.

On December 20, 2018, Congressman George Holding (R) North Carolina, introduced the Tax Fairness for Americans Abroad Act of 2018 (H.R. 7358). The goal of the legislation is to replace the current citizenship-based taxation with residency-based taxation. In general, this, (the TFAA) would enact, alongside existing section 911, an alternative for Qualified Nonresident Citizens (QNCs) of the US living abroad.

With limited exceptions, the foreign-source income of Qualified Nonresident Citizens will be taxed like nonresident aliens, that is to say not taxed by the US. QNCs would remain US taxpayers and fully taxable, and subject to normal filing requirements, on US-source income.

The American Citizens Abroad explanation of TFAA outlines the tax treatment of both foreign earned and foreign unearned income. “The explanation is an attempt to lay out all the various income streams and assess how the proposed TFAA legislation will be applied to these income streams, how they will be taxed by the US, and what will not be taxed by the US,” said Marylouise Serrato, ACA Executive Director.

“The explanation is by no means an official technical explanation, and it should not be attributed to any degree to any person other than ACA,” added Charles Bruce, ACA Legal Counsel. “It’s important for the community and those working on the legislation to have a complete outline of the various areas of the current tax code that might be affected by the bill and how these changes might play out. The Holding bill lays down an important marker.

“ACA is obviously very much interested in helping develop and enact a final bill. Working on background subjects and then the drafting details, ACA is now turning to pushing for adoption of residency-based taxation,” said Marylouise Serrato.

ACA was the first organization to develop an approach to residency-based taxation (RBT) and to run unofficial revenue estimates on that approach. The work was widely presented to the offices that developed

TFAA, and ACA data and knowledge, we believe, was very valuable to that process. The American Citizens Abroad looks forward to continuing to develop its thinking on the subject of tax reform for Americans abroad and working with Members of Congress, the Administration and stakeholders of all stripes.

American Citizens Abroad’s (ACA, Inc.) mission is to educate, advocate and inform both the US Government and US Citizens living and working abroad on issues of concern to the overseas American community. Contact: info@americansabroad.org, +1 202 322 8441.

From Cleaning Crime Scenes in the US to Roasting Coffee in TJ

One of the wonderful things about Baja is the people that live here and the stories they have to tell. I am especially fascinated by the young expats who have decided to leave their home countries and immerse themselves in their local communities, just like regular locals.

Benjamin Davis is originally from Seattle, but we could say that he is a “Tijuanense,” because by now as he has been around here for 15 years. He is happily married to Cynthia, a Tijuana native, with whom he has two children, Rhys and Samantha, both born in Mexico.

 

His story starts in Seattle, where he ran a janitorial business that serviced, among other clients, funeral homes. At that point he only did regular cleaning until he was approached by one of the owners of a funerary asking if he could provide cleaning services where someone had died; he was hesitant at first, but after seeing what those kinds of services charged, he went all in.

For 3 years he was cleaning it all with his bio-recovery service (a better name for cleaning after the dead), crime scenes, suicides and natural deaths. Although I immediately thought crime scenes were the hardest part of the job, he tells me the hardest were actually natural deaths, where the dead person was not found until a couple days after dying, leaving an especially hard to clean trail of bodily fluids behind.

In two days of hard work, he was making more money than his dad made in 2 months. “At those times, you could almost charge whatever you wanted for the service, as there were not a lot of providers for the service,” says Ben.

Business was booming, but he says he didn’t feel complete inside, he wanted something else from life. He had been sponsoring a child to go to school in Tijuana through a local Christian non-profit, so one day he decided to give them a call and ask if they needed any more help. They happily accepted.

That’s when he loaded his pickup truck and drove 1,300 miles to get to Tijuana. He started helping kids anyway he could until he founded Didaque ministries in 2009, focused on running the same private elementary school he was supporting from back in Seattle.

Four months ago, Ben decided to embark on a new venture, one that reflected two of his passions: Mexico and good coffee. That’s how he decided to open Ben Tostador de Café (Coffee Roasters), where he focuses on selling in-house roasted coffee beans from the Pluma region of Oaxaca and Veracruz, although he also offers espresso beverages and brewed coffee in his cozy Playas de Tijuana location.

He gets all his green coffee in small shipments directly from the growing regions.

Coffee prices are more than reasonable at 50 pesos for half a pound (actually 250 grams) of Veracruz coffee or 65 pesos for the Pluma, Oaxaca variety.

Drop by his store at Ave. Baja California Sur #688 in the Costa Hermosa section of Playas de Tijuana. He is open Monday to Friday from 6:00 am to 12:00 pm, and then from 2:00 to 8:00 pm, Saturdays from 3:00 to 9:00 pm. He has a Google Maps link in his website, www.cafeben.com.

If you want to help Ben support Tijuana kids in need, visit Didaque’s website at www.didaque.org, They are a fully registered 501(c)3 non-profit corporation in the US, making your donations tax-deductible.

Drew Juvinall Dead at 82 Years Old

There’s a lot of joy and laughter in heaven these days. Drew Juvinall just arrived!

We’ll all miss this one-of-a-kind, witty, candid, amusingly irreverent, real estate ‘guru’ – and remarkable man – forever.  Heaven’s gain is our loss!

Drew came into this world at San Francisco Children’s Hospital and spent the first two-thirds of his 82 years in the Bay Area.

He was bigger than life, incredibly energetic – and delighted in living.  And he did it his way!  He was passionate about real estate, fast cars, the 49ers and barbecuing.

He adored his daughter Leigh, and always said how fortunate he was to have found his soulmate, Lana, his partner in real estate, as well as in life.

He formed the commercial real estate company of Juvinall-Neiman, with offices in Santa Rosa and Marin, with 40 agents, which he sold to Grubb & Ellis before moving to Visalia in 1989.  He and Lana worked for the Fresno office of Grubb & Ellis until the parent company set up an unprecedented satellite office for him in Visalia.

Drew and Lana Jordan then formed Jordan & Juvinall Commercial Real Estate in Visalia. Then, after building their oceanfront “vacation” home in Baja, they moved there permanently, and established Rosarito Beach Realty, which became as successful as Drew’s many other endeavors.  Never one to be content with the status quo, in February, 2018, he opened a second office in the La Fonda-La Mision area, which Lana will continue, as Drew wanted.

In 1992, he gathered together a group of prominent Visalia business and civic leaders to found the Tulare-Kings Counties Business and Industry Forecast.  It was attended each year by more than 500 business persons. He qualified for the prestigious Society of Industrial and Office Realtors, was a member of the International Council of Shopping Centers and Tulare County Economic Development Corporation.

In Baja, he was instrumental in founding the Rosarito Chapter of AMPI (Mexican National Assn. of Realtors).  He was one of the first proponents for real estate licensing in the State of Baja California, and both he and Lana became licensed Baja brokers.  He always retained his California Real Estate Brokers License and continued as a member of NARS.

He delighted children in orphanages and in the hills above Rosarito in his Santa Claus suit, where he passed out presents with a hearty “Ho!Ho!Ho!”.

Above all, he was infamous for his “priest robes”, always saying “bless you my children” and relishing everyone’s reactions.  With that twinkle in his eye, he was equally believable as a benevolent priest and as jolly old St. Nick.

He leaves behind his wife, Lana Jordan Juvinall, daughter Leigh Konopka (son-in-law Jeff), as well as grandchildren, other close relatives, and many close friends.

A celebration of life to be announced.  Memories are welcome and may be shared at bajadrew@gmail.com.

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