Are you a SmartTraveler?

Are you a US Citizen who is a long-term resident of Baja California?  Or a casual tourist, just visiting for a few days?

Either way, there’s a great free resource for you available from the US State Department!  Smart Traveler is the official State Department app for U.S. travelers.  It provides access to frequently-updated official country information, travel alerts, travel warnings, maps, U.S. embassy locations, and more. With Smart Traveler, you can create personal itineraries, add notes, and organize your trips.

Smart Traveler also provides access to the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP enrollment enables the State Department to better assist you in emergencies such as natural disasters, unrest in foreign countries, or lost/stolen passports overseas. During your travels, STEP can help your family and friends reach you in an emergency. Smart Traveler also provides quick access to the Department’s Consular Affairs Facebook and Twitter pages.

To get started, go to your app store and search for “Smart Traveler”.  Download the app to your mobile device, and follow the on-screen directions to register for STEP.  Part of the process includes identifying where you are (or will be), and for how long, as well as providing identification and address details.  This allows email alerts specific to your geographical location to be sent in the event of natural disasters or other issues

Wherever you’re going, stay safer and use the SmartTraveler app and STEP.  You’ll be glad you did!

Astronomical Views in Tijuana

I discovered something new this week – well, new to me. While driving the “Sentri route” through Tijuana, one passes all these green “El Trompo” signs featuring an illustration of a spinning top. El Trompo is an interactive museum in Parque Morales near CECUT and CEART Tijuana.

Coincidentally, Ms. Rosario Ruiz Camacho, Director of said Museum, spoke at the weekly meeting of the Rosarito Press Club AC, and revealed new major happenings at El Trompo.

On August 23rd, the museum inaugurated a new planetarium project, open to the public six days a week, but geared to primary and secondary students. Constructed by Planetarium de Torreon, the El Trompo planetarium salon measures nine meters in diameter with a 180-degree projection screen and has a capacity for 50 people per showing with accommodations for the physically challenged. The laser projector system is a state-of-the-art laser with 4K image quality, coupled with a Surround Sound digital system.

Some believe that to be a planetarium the location must include a telescope but in reality, a planetarium is a theatre for presenting educational programs about astronomy, and in this case, astronautics, “the theory and practice of travel beyond Earth’s atmosphere.” (Thank you, Wikipedia).

The primary functions of this ambitious project are the development of astronomical research, instrumental and technological development, and the teaching and communicating of science. El Trompo planetarium will be an innovative tool to foster the interest in the sciences, not only for educational scholars but for the general community as well.  Whereas the programming is geared toward students of the primary and secondary grades, this should not stop adults from attending.

Four films will alternate in the planetarium’s programming; “Tochitli: The Adventures of the Lunar Rabbit,” “Losing the Darkness,” “From the Earth to the Universe,” and “Mayan Arqueoastronomia (astronomical archeology): Observations of the Universe.” Other topics will include current astronomical research being done in Mexico, light pollution, Mayan myths, and other modern topics that will help us to understand our place in the cosmos.

This is the only planetarium in Tijuana and only the third planetary museum nationwide with this high of a quality projection system. El Trompo is open Tuesday through Friday 9:00 – 5:00, Saturday and Sunday 10:00 – 6:00. Astronomical programs are shown Tuesday through Friday at 2:00 pm, Saturday and Sunday at 12:00, 3:00 and 5:00 pm. The most popular hours are Wednesday and Thursday, 1:00 – 4:00 pm, and since programming is created to interest students (read: school groups), it could be a bit noisy during these hours. Admission for the general public is 50 pesos and the school package including interactive rooms is 45 pesos. Check out their informative sites at www.ElTrompo.org or on Facebook.com/ElTrompo.

Some of the major donors for this project are the Tijuana Rotary Club, Grupo Tress International, the Tijuana Development Council (CDT), Student Council of Science and Technology of Baja California (COCITBC), and the Business Trust of Baja California (FIDEM).

Mexican Immigration Is Checking Your Status

A few checkpoints and even some raids have been set up by the Mexican Immigration Office in Tijuana in order to check the immigration status of foreigners living here.

Alejandro Ruiz, head of the office in Baja California, stated that these efforts were initiated because of the massive influx of Central American immigrants that got here in recent months, but that they were not limited to them. Any foreigner that passes through an immigration checkpoint will be asked for its documents, and Ruiz says that these operations will continue for months to come. Although there have not been any reported deportation of US citizens this might be an excellent time to consider legalizing your status here. At the time authorities are being lenient with people that have expired permits but are they are said to be following up on their renewal.

Alexander Magnum, the coordinator of the Foreign Residents Attention Office in Rosarito, stated in FRAO’s facebook page that it was important for all Americans living here to have legal residency documents in order. He is gathering signatures from foreigners to try and lower the USD 1,200 minimum income requirement for temporary residency to $900.

Although the process of getting your temporary or permanent residency in order is not as difficult as it is in the US, most foreigners never start the paperwork since immigration laws were not really enforced around here.

Love at First Bark

Kyle, left, 1 year old; Sarah, right, 3 years old. A love story from Los Adoptables, the magic kingdom where dogs and cats find happiness, a safe and healthy environment, and learn that humans make good pets!

Contact Los Adoptables for information about adopting Rock or any of his friends at the shelter. Call them at: (646) 187 8693, email info@losadoptables.org or visit their website www.losadoptables.org.

Rosarito Calendar of Events

Every Monday through Friday, 9:30 am – 12:30 pm; Pickleball at the Rosarito Pickleball Complex and Training Camp at Parque Reforma (west of Pabellon center – turn left at Oxxo). Three courts. $2 court fee per day. Bring water and folding chair. Facebook.com/ Rosarito Pickleball for all information.

Every Monday, 10:45 am, duplicate bridge at Baja Gold Bridge Club, KM 42 at the Rosarito Beach Christian Church. bajagoldcoastbridgeclub@gmail.com.

Every Tuesday, 10 – 11 am, Chair Yoga at IMAC Rosarito, Salon 3 (behind Banamex). To register, send name and phone number to wellnesshealingliving@gmail.com.

Every Second Tuesday, 1 pm; The Baja Business Club Unlimited Meeting (BBCU) at Ruben’s Restaurant (k 43). Network with other local business professionals. Chuck Smith: Gorgeouswomenofbaja@gmail.com for more information.

Every Tuesday – Rotary Club meets at Rosarito Beach Hotel. 664-376-2620.

Every Tuesday, 10 – 11 am; Chair Yoga with Erendira Abel at IMAC, Salon 3. eabel@bajaexpatservices.pro.

Every Wednesday, 10:30 am – 12 pm; Learn Spanish Naturally at IMAC Rosarito, at the Library. To register, send name and phone number to eabel@bajaexpatservices.pro.

Every Wednesday, 10:30 am – 12 pm; Speak Spanish Naturally with Erendira Abel at IMAC Library. eabel@bajaexpatservices.pro.

Every Wednesday, 10am – 12pm; Adult painting class at IMAC Rosarito in the main park. Bilingual instructor. 200 peso registration/ 300 pesos per month. IMACRosarito@gmail.com; Facebook/imacrosarito.

Every Wednesday, 7:30 – 9:00 am; Tai Chi classes with certified instructor Eugenio Encinas at Galeria Fausto Polanco Rosarito. 350 pesos per month. Alyce: 664-368-6733; Alberto: 661-125-9191.

Every Second Wednesday (except December). 10 am. Friends of the Library meeting at CEART Rosarito. Promotes reading and literacy in Rosarito. www.friendsofthelibrary.com.mx. 661-612-3659.

Every Third Wednesday of the Month (except December), Flying Samaritan’s General Meeting at Villas Del Mar (k 31.5). www.flyingsamaritansrosarito.org;  Susansmithz@hotmail.com; 1-858-234-2360; 661-100-6066.

Every Third Wednesday (except December) 1:00 – 4:00 pm, Flying Samaritan’s Outrageous Bingo at Popotla Jr. Restaurant (across from El Nido – formerly California Fresh), Food and Drink specials; free parking behind restaurant; Six games, 4 cards for $10; Karen: kajomc@yahoo.coojm; (US) 1-818-515-0067l (MX) 664-609-3419.

Second and Fourth Wednesday, 1 pm; Cruz Roja Primo Tapia Bingo at El Pescador Restaurant. 6 games/ 2 cards for $5. Reduced price menu; Jamesphausmann@gmail.com; 1-623-217-9795.

Every Other Thursday 12 pm; Baja Wordsmiths Writing group meets at L’Estancia Restaurant (turn at the wooden water wheel). Bring something to write with. RSVP to Facebook.com/ Baja Wordsmiths for date.

Every Thursday. 8:30 am. Local Board of Realtors (APIR) meets at Oceana Grill. Good place for buyers or sellers to find a Realtor

Every Second Thursday. 10 am. Cruz Roja Volunteers, Rosarito Chapter General Meeting NOW at Beach Comber Rest. . www.cruzrojarosarito.org.mx; President: Mary Moreno, miqueridomx@yahoo.com.

Every Third Thursday. 10 am. General Meeting for FRAO, Foreign Residents Assistance Office. Open to the public. Calafia Hotel.  Speaker’s presentation. FRAO@Rosarito.gob.mx.

Every Friday, 12 – 2 pm; Adult painting class at IMAC Rosarito in the main park. Bilingual instructor. 200 pesos registration/ 300 pesos monthly. IMAC Rosarito@gmail.com; Facebook/imacrosarito.

Every Monday and Friday (that is NOT a Mexican holiday) 11 am – 1 pm; Free beginner and intermediate Spanish Classes at the Palacio Municpal, through the FRAO office. Contact Liz for information: 661-614-9600, ext. 1080, or email: frao@rosarito.gob.mx.

Every Saturday, 10:00 am at IMAC Central park. Chess for all ages. www.facebook.com/IMAC Rosarito.

 Every First Saturday. 10 am. United Society of Baja California (USBC) general meeting at the Titanic Room of the Calafia Hotel. Good info for the English speaking community of charitable, community service and social organizations. www.unitedsocietyofbaja.org. 664-748-3949.

Every First Saturday. Noon-sundown. Open Studio Art Walk, a free tour of galleries in Rosarito Beach Hotel commercial center. Meet artists at work in their studios. pacothepainter@hotmail.com

Every Third Saturday. 1pm. USBC, United Society of Baja California, monthly potluck dinner, at La Maroma sports bar, across from Burger King. Different theme every month. Usually live entertainment. Free. Membership $20 per year.

Second Sunday of every month, Pet sterilization by the Baja Spay and Neuter Foundation at the Centro de Diagnostico Clinico Vetrinario, ave. Queretaro #2331-3, Col Cacho, Tijuana. 200 pesos, 661-124-3619, or Robin at www.BajaSpayNeuter.org.

Last Sunday of every month, Jewish Chavurah. Gordon Kane – gordonmkane@gmail.com.

Every day but one day at a time AA Grupo Gringo meets daily #16 Mar Meditteraneo (two blocks behind Del Mar Beach Club). Saturday, 3:00; Sunday, Monday, Thursday: 10:00 am; Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday: 6:00 pm.  Additional meetings in Cantamar (just south of the footbridge) Tuesday and Friday, 10:00 am.  661-614-1678.

August 22, Thursday, 4 pm; Wine and Design at DeColores Studio (k 40 in Santini mall). Essential Oils & Glass painting. Learn how these oils enhance your life by creating two of your own facial scrubs, serums, or creams, and paint a jar to hold them. $5 deposit online secures your spot. $15 due in class. Facebook.com/ DeColores Mexico

August 24, Saturday, 7 – 11 pm; Noche Gitana 2019 at Hotel Festival Plaza. Horses and Dancing. Facebook.com/ Noche Gitana 2019; www.hotelfestivalplaza.com.

August 25, Sunday, 2 pm – closing; Jaime Verdugo’s Birthday celebration at Charly’s Place (k 37), Free buffet and live music. Facebook.com/ Charly’s Place.

August 25, Sunday, 12 – 7 pm; 30th Anniversary of the Fish and Seafood Festival at the Rosarito Beach Hotel. Representatives of Rosarito fish and seafood restaurants represesnt4ed. Free entrance. Live music, folklorico, and raffles. 661-612-0700.

August 28, Wednesday, 6 pm; 7th Annual Sabor de Baja End of Summer and White Attire 2019 at the Rosarito Beach Hotel gardens. Pairs 25 of Baja’s best chefs with local wineries and craft beer producers. Tickets: Gold- $90 with 5:30 entrance; Silver: $70 with 6 pm entrance.  Live entertainment. Tickets available at PayPal with email sabordebaja@gmail.com, or at the Rosarito Beach Hotel. US: 1-866-ROSARITO; MX: 01-800-265-2322.

August 31 – September 1, Saturday & Sunday; 10th Anniversary of Rosarito Art Fest, at Puerto Nuevo Baja Hotel and Villas (k 45). Local artists, jewelers, craftspeople on display. Facebook.com/ Rosarito Art Fest 2019; RosaritoArtFest.expositores@gmail.com for information. Facebook/ RosaritoArtFest.

September 1, Sunday, 4 – 9 pm; Fandango! At the Jardin Crosthwaite in Santa Anita. Tickets $45 available at https://lamisionchildrensfund.org. All proceeds to purchase scholarships for BECA in La Mision. Raffles, auctions, food and more. Facebook.com/ Fandango 2019.

September 1, Sunday, 12 – 6 pm; Yo Amo Rosarito Kermes (Fair) at Parque Conchita Cantu in Col. Reforma. Dancing, Mariachi, food and more! Emcee: Tony Boy. Facebook.com/Yo Amo Rosarito.

Que Pasa In Baja?

New cultural Plaza in Ensenada. Grupo Pando, the parent company of Santo Tomas winery, just got the approval from the city to close Miramar street to vehicular access, between 6th and 7th streets, in order to develop a plaza that will house an open-air forum, areas for art exhibits, gardens, and seating spaces.

The city agreed to let them use the street because the city lacks cultural spaces and also lacks money to develop them. This fixes both problems, since the city is not paying anything to establish this new plaza.

Grupo Pando already owns the lots and buildings on both sides of the street, and they were just waiting for approval from the city to use the street, as well as to develop the uninterrupted 27,000 sq/ft space.

Toll booths back to normal. You may think it is bad news that you have to pay the toll to use the scenic road again, but it’s actually excellent news. About two weeks ago, the federal police finally decided it was time to put their feet down and stop the illegal “toma casetas” (the people that were taking over the toll booths), and bring the law back into our state.

It was about time: We were hearing a lot of comments from tourists that were actually afraid of what was going on in the toll booths. We heard comments along the lines of “it looks like there is no law here,” or “people just don’t respect the police, they are 10 feet from them and they won’t do anything.”

Most locals were not unhappy with the situation, as they were saving money when using the road, but in the long run, it was affecting every one of us who lives here.

Jaime Bonilla, governor-elect, has already stated that he won’t allow for this kind of unlawful acts, and that our state will not be held hostage by groups that have ulterior motives.

It wasn’t me. That’s what our current governor is saying regarding the current financial situation that the state is in. Governor Kiko Vega recently stated that the federation owes our state about $500 million USD; this is money that used to come in from the federal government every month, but hasn’t been received here for the last 6 months.

The lack of funds has caused the state to get behind on payments for education, which amounts to 57% of the total budget for our state. Teachers are already on strike waiting for their payments.

State finances are managed differently in Mexico, as most of the revenue from taxes goes directly to the federal government and then the federation sends back what they see fit. This system has caused a lot of problems, since it undermines the autonomy of the state, especially when the government of a state is from a different party as the one from the federal government.

Cruises on the rise. And that’s not only for Baja, but country-wide there has been an increase of cruise visits in all of Mexico’s ports. An estimated 8 million people are expected to visit this country through a cruise ship, and while the Mexican Caribbean has seen an 8 percent increase, it has been our Pacific that has had the most significant rise in cruise visits with a whopping 15%.

Arturo Musi, president of the Mexican association of businesses, focused on cruise ship tourism (yes, that is a real thing), said that the Pacific will be able to receive the scheduled cruises until 2020. However, he also said that investments in infrastructure will be needed in order to catch up with the demand for 2021.

Cruise ship passengers leave about 50 million dollars every year in our country, from goods or services that they buy while they visit our country. It may not seem like much, but considering that all cruises include food and beverages, and that not even half of the passengers get off the ship, it’s not really that bad.

Ensenada gets blacklisted. The center for the study of public finances, based in the federal congress, issued a report that qualified a total of 655 municipalities in the country based on their debt and payment capacity. Of those, 64 were blacklisted as having high deficits and a low payment capacity compared to their debt. Ensenada headed the list, meaning it’s the municipality from the list that is in the worst shape financially.

Of course, there are worst municipalities in Mexico, but a lot were not even analyzed because the researchers couldn’t even gather data on those places.

Baja still popular for tourism. Our state head of tourism, Oscar Escobedo, has stated that last year we received 27 million tourists, and that Baja has been one of the states that has seen the most growth in the tourism sector, thanks to a policy of “selling experiences” and not places.

He said that the new trend is not to promote visits for a specific place, but promoting how being in that place would make you feel or what you can do while there; this has brought great results for Baja.

The tourism growth has been seen in the hotel industry as well, as there have been 38 new hotels developed in Baja during the last 6 years.

The Cross Border Express bridge has also boosted arrivals in the Tijuana airport, going from 3.9 million entries per year before the CBX to over 8 million after it.

Another crucial area that keeps growing is medical tourism, which, Escobedo stated, is generating over $500 million USD annually.

And not only in tourism. The state office for economic development stated recently that our state was first in economic growth in the last quarter from the states in the northern border, and the third place in all of Mexico.

Baja’s growth in the last quarter was 2.1% and the national average was just 0.2%, so we were significantly higher than other states. We have been steadily growing for 36 of the last 37 quarters, with an average growth of 3.7% annually. That’s not bad at
all!

Ode to The Baja Queen

By Mark Tuniewicz

If you’ve lived in Baja California for a while, chances are you’ve met her, heard her name, or participated in one of her many activities:  Tillie.  Matilda “Tillie” Foster, who arrived in Ensenada in 1978, has a long and fascinating relationship with Baja California.  After building a home in the expat enclave of Punta Banda (45 minutes South of the city), she served in leadership roles with La Sociedad de Vecinos de Punta Banda, which included helping to raise funds for the local volunteer fire department.

Tillie is a gracious hostess, having worked with the Hotel San Nicholas & Casino for 25 years, retiring from there in 2014.  She has worked with diverse professional groups over the decades, including the Chefs de Cuisine of San Diego, the Cancer Association of BC and the Paella Mas Grande & Paella Competition in Ensenada.  In the early 1990’s, she organized the 1st International Baja Roundup for Alcoholics Anonymous, and volunteered to serve as a PR ambassador for the city at various travel shows in CA, NV, and AZ.

In March of 2019, my wife and I had a chance to experience Tillie’s work first hand when, at the age of 86, year, she again led a group on a guided tour to Guerrero Negro, where we stayed with the group for two days, during which we all enjoyed a life-changing whale-encounter experience!  Having a 50-foot whale and her calf approach your small panga and allowing you to pet them is a  life-changing experience!  This was Tillie’s 25th year leading “Tillie’s Whale of a Time,” and her relationships built over those decades permitted us access to all the best service providers and optimum dates.

Since 2000, Tillie has also served as the coordinator between Ensenada and the Southwestern Yacht Club in San Diego, assisting with their regatta planning, now in its 52nd year.  She also is the Ensenada contact for Sharp Hospital (Chula Vista, CA) Global Patient Services, arranging for helpful medical seminars in our area. Beginning in 2004, she also organized the Ensenada chapter of the International Association of Red Hat Society, which hosted 3 international conventions during her leadership tenure.

Of course, Tillie’s contributions have been repeatedly recognized over the years.  Here are just a few examples:

2001:  Presented with the “Amigo de Baja California” recognition award, signed by then Gov. Alejandro Alcocer.

2003:  Received a Philanthropic award from the International Foundation of Ensenada, the Rotary Club Calafia, and CETYS University, for her contributions to a philanthropic culture in the City.

2011:  Named to the Baja Image Committee as representative of the American community in Ensenada, representing the City through radio interviews with Travel Talk Radio, etc.  In August of 2011, she received a recognition award from the Mayor of Ensenada for her contributions.

2012:   Recognition Award from The US Consulate General in Tijuana for helping the American expat community that resides and travels in Baja, and for serving as a “Warden” for our area.  Also, she received another award, this time from the Governor of BC Jose Guadalupe Osuna, for her role in promoting Baja California.

Tillie gathered with friends at a local restaurant for her birthday last month and enjoyed live music, food, and camaraderie, with each participant sharing their own personal “Tillie tale!”

While she may have slowed down a bit at age 87, Tillie continues to work at home as a representative of the American community.  Tillie says “I love Baja, and have adopted Mexico, her culture and her people as my 2nd country.   Baja is a wonderful place.”

Indeed.  A place made even more wonderful thanks to our own “Baja Queen.”  Happy Birthday, Tillie!

Mark Tuniewicz serves with Tillie Foster as a Citizen Liaison Volunteer, or “warden,” for Baja California in coordination with the US Consulate in Tijuana.  He resides in Ensenada.

As Summer Draws to a Close Think “Sabor!”

As summer starts to wind down – wait – did summer ever really show up this year? Well, August is on its way out and that means Rosarito says an official “good-bye” to summer, as we do every year, with the popular White Attire event, “Sabor de Baja.”

And folks, “white” means white. Eggshell MAY be tolerated, but men, khaki is not white. And ladies, some leeway may be given to straw hats if it means you won’t be passing out in the late afternoon sun and drenching yourself in merlot.

The 7th Annual Sabor de Baja will once again be held in the beautiful gardens of the Rosarito Beach Hotel on Wednesday, August 28th, starting at 6:00 pm. Sabor will feature 25 of Baja California’s preeminent chefs pairing their fares with Baja wineries and a few locally produced artisanal beers. Among featured bistros are Casa Plascencia, Raices, Viaje Oyster Bar, Sokuna, El Meson, and Silvestre. Tickets are still available online through PayPal at SaborDeBaja@gmail.com. All pre-ordered tickets may be picked up at the Will Call desk the night of the event.

Gracious hosts Bo Bendana and Dennis Sein originally created this event to promote Baja California’s budding gastronomy and wine industries and to promote northern Baja tourism. Sure enough, Gastronomes attend Sabor de Baja from all over Baja and several states of the US.

All attendees will receive a commemorative wine glass. Everyone will also receive a ballot for the selection of the evening’s People’s Choice Award. So as you are eating and drinking your way through the evening, make a note of your favorite pairing. It’s easy. All of the choices are written on the ballot and all you have to do is circle your selection and place your card in the ballot box.

There are two tiers of tickets on sale this year. VIP Gold tickets sell for $90 each, and holders of these are treated to early (5:30 pm) entry and reserved seating for the evening. Silver tickets are $70 and you take your chances with seating options. Now I don’t know about you, but I do most of my noshing while walking between food booths. This is NOT a family-friendly event, so all ticket holders must be at least 18 years of age. Live entertainment will be provided, with time for dancing a bit later in the evening.

A professional judging panel selected by chef Bo Bendana and her husband Dennis Sein will meet earlier in the day to evaluate all of the entrant’s food and wine or beer pairings. The Judge’s Panel will award the Best Wine and Best Beer awards, as well as the coveted Best of Sabor being awarded to the finest wine (or beer) and food pairing of the evening.

Remember, white attire is not a suggestion, so prepare your attire while summer fashions are still available. I will be attendance in a new white dress (as I do every year) because I had a run-in with a wicked glass of cabernet last year (as I do every year), and there was no removing those stains. My suggestion to you is to bring along a purse (or pocket) size spray of your favorite “wine erase” product. It’s that or your dress goes into a tie-dye vat for your next Woodstock remembrance party like mine did.

If you missed out and didn’t get your tickets in time, the next Sabor de Baja is already scheduled for Wednesday, August 26, 2020, so mark your calendars now.

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