Que Pasa In Baja?

Germans interested in our wine. A group of Bavarian businessmen visited the wine valley last week in order to analyze the production potential of the area and the possibilities of collaborating with local wineries on different projects.

Specifically, local wineries were invited by the German company Nuremberg Messe to participate in upcoming beverage fairs from the Bavarian region that will include a section of international wines this year.

The executives visited several local wineries, including Roganto and Decantos, and also had a chance to enjoy the wine museum.

Baja safe for tourists. But very dangerous for criminals, at least that’s what our state tourism honcho, Oscar Escobedo, is preaching around Baja. He also stated that Baja has a lower crime rate among tourists than the state of California in the US. When asked about the spiking murder rates, he was quick to give the now official response “the majority of those cases are from folks in illicit activities.”

Off-road museum still no go. The controversial off-road museum in Ensenada still hasn’t been able to break ground, even though the state government says that the project is funded and the construction project done.

The state is saying that the project needs to be executed and managed by the local business groups, focusing on making the museum self-sustainable from ticket sales or trinkets sold at its gift shop.

The museum has been controversial because a big part of the community in Ensenada is against the project. The biggest issue is that the building would be just next to CEARTE, the local art museum, in a piece of land that was initially destined to build classrooms for art students.

Meter wars go on. Ensenada doesn’t make up its mind regarding the placement of parking meters around downtown; first the council approved the proposal to put up the meters, and now, after a contract has already been signed with a private company, the city is saying it wants to back out of the deal because of the enormous backlash they got from the citizens of Ensenada.

At this point, it’s cheaper to just install the parking meters and let the contract run its 18-year course than to pay the millions of pesos the company will demand if the council prohibits its operation; but of course, there is a political cost of approving such an unpopular move that no one wants to pay.

Baja Speaks English. That is the name of an initiative presented by congressman Carlos Torres, with the support of educative authorities and business groups, for concrete actions to take Baja all the way to the number one in the list of states with higher percentages of bilingual folks.

“Today, there is a language that can open doors to our kids and young boys and girls. A tool that allows us to even the opportunities between the privileged and the ones that have had less opportunities”, said Torres.

Baja California is the 57th region in the world with the most people that are able to speak a foreign language; Mexico as a country is 14th on the list.

Torres stated that a person who is fluent in English has the opportunity to earn 30% more than his non-bilingual counterparts.

The program will consist of a special set of benefits for companies that offer English class scholarships for its workers, and also by providing these benefits to English-language schools.

Hell breaks loose in San Felipe. After the Navy “accidentally” shot a Totoaba poacher in San Felipe, several fishermen protested violently at the Naval base and the protection agency office by burning cars, pangas, and buildings. Two more people were shot when protestors started throwing Molotov cocktails at the naval base buildings.

Fishing for Totoaba has been illegal in San Felipe for several years now because of its protected species status, and also because the area is declared as a protected space in an effort to save the Vaquita porpoise.

Better think twice about that beach bonfire. Rosarito officials from ZOFEMAT (the ones in charge of the federal zone at the beach), stated that they will be coordinating with the local police to crack down on beach fires; they are saying the activity is now prohibited because of the high level of contamination that the fires leave on the beach.

They also said that 110 new trash cans are being installed in local beaches so tourists can easily take their trash to the can and not leave it in the sand.

We’re going to be rich! A new initiative by state congressman Alejandro Arregui will allow citizens to collect damages when something bad happens because of the condition of the road.

If the law is passed, you will be able to sue the local government if you bust a tire, or your suspension when you fall in one of those enormous potholes that abound around here.

If that doesn’t seem far fetched, Arregui also proposed that the government has to take into consideration the amount of money “not earned” because of the time lost due to the accident, and says that it all has to be resolved in a maximum of 30 days by city or state officials.

If this initiative passes, our cities will go broke in 5 minutes, probably 2 for Ensenada!

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.

Que Pasa In Baja?

Hurraaay, we’re getting parking meters! Said no one ever, especially the citizens of Ensenada, who are pretty pissed about a new ordinance passed by city council that will allow a private company “Iberparking S.A. de C.V.” to install the meters in downtown Ensenada.

The city will get 30% of all income generated by the 3,500 meters that are going to be installed downtown, while the other 70% goes to Iberparking. The parking fee will be 10 pesos per hour (about 55 cents US).

Most business groups have already stated their displeasure at the new ordinance, saying that at only 30% of income it’s a bad deal for the city and a potential problem for their businesses.

The reality is that the city is strapped for cash, looking at every option to make an extra penny without having to spend one and this looks like a good option for them. Not only will they get income from the meters themselves but also from the parking tickets generated from people parked at expired meters.

State Congress representatives for the city of Ensenada have already stated their displeasure with the new ordinance and are planning to create a commission to analyze the deal and find some way to revoke it.

Money for infrastructure. Although Ensenada was publicly recognized last year as part of the Tijuana, Tecate, Rosarito and Ensenada metropolitan zone, it wasn’t until last week that it was declared part of it in the federal law.

This will allow the city to access a piece of the 180 million USD in funds available for metropolitan zones in Mexico this year. The fund has allowed cities like Tijuana and Mexicali to fund major infrastructure projects.

It’s now up to the state government to integrate a local metropolitan development council to submit projects to get the funds. First on the list, road repairs.

Wait a minute! Just a couple of days after the Citizens Council for Public Security stated that Tijuana was the most violent city in the world, based on its murder rate, our state governor Kiko Vega came to the rescue stating that “no way TJ is that!”.

Governor Vega said that Tijuana has seen steadily lower rates in vehicle theft, commerce theft, violent robberies, and kidnapping.

He minimized the murder rate stating, “Violence should be measured based on the total of crimes and not only by one”. He also said that 90% of the murders in the city are directly related to drug trafficking, so it doesn’t count. Well, maybe those weren’t his exact words, but that was the idea.

So that’s what it was. After a big backlash by the local chambers of commerce regarding the change in the start place of the Baja 500 off-road race from downtown Ensenada to the Estero Beach Hotel (owned by Ensenada’s mayor’s family), Score officials stated that it was all an honest mistake because they were wrongly informed that the local elections would be in July, and by the time they found out they were actually in June, exactly on the last day of the race, it was already too late to make any changes in the calendar and they had to change the venue to avoid any disruptions in the election process.

In order to keep the local businesses happy, and get the $30,000 USD that they get from the local tourism board, Score has agreed to have their Tech and contingency event in downtown Ensenada on May 30th.

Monkeys announced in the Valley. The Jersey Zoo and Kids Park in the Guadalupe Valley announced that its currently building a new attraction called the monkey island, and although they don’t yet have an opening date, they say the island will hold from 12 to 20 monkeys that visitors will be able to watch from a distance.

The zoo already hosts about 250 animals and it has become an interesting attraction for locals and tourists alike. The entrance fee is $50 pesos per person plus $30 pesos for parking, if you want to use the pools inside your entrance fee goes up to $130 pesos. The park is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.. Keep the beers in the car as they won’t allow any alcoholic beverages inside the park.

Lower taxes working for Baja. It looks like the lower taxes for the border zone is working, as the Metropolitan Center for Economic Information (CEMDI) stated that sales had increased for the month of January in a whopping 25% compared to the same month last year.

Although the tax break isn’t for everyone, most major retailers were quick to reduce their taxes, reducing final consumer prices by about 8%.

CEMDI also stated that Baja California lowered its inflation rate by -1.52%, making it the biggest decrease in inflation in the entire country.

New mayor guaranteed for Rosarito. Mirna Rincon, current Rosarito Mayor, lost the nomination for the PAN party to Maria Ana Medina Perez in the internal election of the party this past March 3rd.

With 312 votes in favor, Ana Medina is now the confirmed candidate for Rosarito Mayor in the coming elections.

Hang in there. Spring  Break has started for US schools and at least 2,500 students are expected to visit Rosarito during the school break. Yes, we know it’s not super nice to have all those people drunk in our streets, shouting and singing, but remember, we’ve all been there!

Dinora Soto, head of the tourism and conventions committee for the city of Rosarito, stated that “For me Spring Break is an indicator that foreigners still trust Baja California and especially Rosarito. This weekend we will receive lots of students and whoever accompanies them and we already have 4 major concerts scheduled.”

Dinora also stated that this is the third year that spring breakers have come back to Rosarito, after several years of not having any major groups here in town. “Some of these young people come to our city with their whole families, and this means to us that Rosarito is still an attractive destination, and that is important for us”, she concluded.

Is Satan Relocating To La Mision?

You probably haven’t missed it when driving by La Mision in either the free or toll road. How can you? It has a huge horned male creature sticking up in the middle of it, along with several ladies, gargoyles and other satanic statues dancing around.

It is, to say the least, the most interesting and eclectic house around town.

I’m at the gates of the house and I literally didn’t know what to expect; what will the house be like on the inside? What kind of person is the owner?

Once I enter the house and meet Tony Wells, the owner, my whole perception changed. At that point, I realized that my perception of him and the house was created by all the rumors I had heard from people, which were not actually based on reality.

The house on the inside is very well-lit and has beautiful, colored LED lighting all around, with soft Latin music playing on a house-wide Sonos speaker system.

At this point I’m a little confused: wasn’t this a Satanic House?

That is actually the first question I asked Tony and he replied, “Whatever you heard about this house is probably true!” and starts laughing.

I immediately ask about the horned creature that is the most visible sculpture at his house. He tells me its not Satan, but a mix of Pan from the Greek mythology and himself

He takes me to a guest room that has spectacular ocean views and has a fireplace that warms the room. Now, this is starting to actually feel cozy; in fact, this is the opposite of what I had originally thought. I share my feelings with Tony and he laughs, stating “this is where we do the human sacrifices, did I say that out loud?” and he laughs even harder.

After talking to Tony, I noticed that he has heard all the stories about his house, and likes to have fun with it, but I think he likes being controversial the most.

There is no obscure or negative vibe in the house, I even could say that the opposite is true. I toured the rest of the house and noticed the eclectic collection of items in every hall and room within it. I especially noticed the huge collection of chandeliers adorning the house, Tony told me that he invested more than $400K just in chandeliers, and that some are more than 100 years old.

This is definitely not your normal Baja beachfront house; it actually feels a lot like something in between a museum and a home. Every piece of art and item in the house has a story and Tony knows them all. When we get to the master bedroom, he tells me the bed in it was used by the late Elvis Presley and that he got it in an auction for about $450K.

In order to realize his dream, he hired local artists Javier Arellanes, Laura Mas and Javier Filadelfo to build his sculptures, paint them and give them the finishes touches respectively. They work almost every day on projects that “El patron,” as Javier calls Tony, gives them. Even though you won’t find a lot of space to put new things, “El patron” says that the house is still unfinished and still needs some work.

The house also features pieces of artwork from other local artists, every time Tony drives by a place and sees something he likes, he buys it and has it installed in the house. Javier tells me that it would be impossible for them to build every one of the statues in the house itself.

After hanging out with him for a while, engaging in interesting conversation, an idea comes to mind: if this guy is really the devil, we won’t have a chance! He is cool, has a great personality and is kind. There will be long lines to get into his church!

This is not Tony’s first rodeo; he already owns another interesting property in the States, the Alexandra Bordello apartment building in Venice Beach, but that’s in the US where there are lots of rules and regulations to follow, the kind of regulations that wouldn’t allow Tony to completely fulfill his dream project, which is why he decided to build this project in Baja, where he found land that would be the perfect canvas to build his dream home, completely as he imagined it, without limitations.

Of course, not everyone is a fan of his work: many have questioned his style, saying it looks more kitsch than gothic. Everyone has a different opinion about it; some love it while some hate it.

I tell him a story about a post I read on my social media from a Christian friend who said that this was “La Casa del Diablo” or the devil’s house and that he wasn’t even joking. He proceeded to tell me that “Christians are actually my main promoters; they are the ones that have made my house famous so fast. I’ve even had a few knocks at my door from people who say ‘I know what’s going on here!’ – you know – just to complete their sentences a few seconds later with – ‘can we see your house inside?’ – After they meet me and see the house inside, they depart with a whole different idea.”

The property has become a tourist attraction here. In about an hour that I was in there, I saw 10 cars stopping on the road to photograph the house; another 4 groups knocked on the door to see if they could get a glimpse inside the house. Tony says he would like his house to make Baja more interesting for tourists, giving them one more thing to see here in Baja, adding  to what we have to offer “It’s my gift to Mexico,” he says.

If you’re interested in getting to know the property, just knock, Tony says he gladly lets people into his house when they ask nicely, although he only does that when he’s there, and he doesn’t live there full-time, so it could be tricky to catch him. Drop by anyway, his staff is always there, and they can tell you if he is there to welcome you into his house.

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.

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