Eyes in the Sky Assist First Responders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Gerardo says, “There is no competition.”

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

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

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

Ecological Patrol Attacked By Fishermen

The crew of one of 12 vessels operated by Sea Shepherd fell under attack by poachers inside the Vaquita Refuge in the northern part of the Sea of Cortez. Sea Shephard is an international conservation society dedicated to saving marine wildlife. Their mission is to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world’s oceans.

Dozens of angry fishermen in pangas raced alongside the Sea Shepherd ship Farley Mowat, hurling objects and attempting to foul the ship’s propellers with their illegal nets.

Sea Shepherd for months has been patrolling, removing the gillnets set by fishermen catching totoaba. Totoaba bladders are sold on the black market in China for up to $10,000 per bladder.

Nets used to catch totoaba are a threat to critically endangered vaquita porpoises, and Mexico has banned gillnet fishing but allows Sea Shepherd to patrol the refuge as part of an effort to save the vaquita from becoming extinct. (The vaquita population is estimated at fewer than 30.) Totoaba are also threatened with extinction, mostly because of the damming of the Colorado river where they spawn. And the crazy Chinese believe they are a treatment for fertility, as well as circulatory and skin problems. The Mexican government pays the fishermen to not fish, but they can’t pay as much as the profit from selling the fish.

Sea Shepherd said in a news release that the tense incident involved 35 pangas swarming around the monitoring vessel until the Mexican Navy  zoomed in to help.

 Part of the news release reads:

 

The Sea Shepherd ship approached the pangas where obvious illegal poaching was taking place, as totoaba fishing gear was detected being loaded into a boat. The poachers attacked by hurling lead weights, anchors, trash, dead fish and even Tabasco sauce at the vessel and its wheelhouse windows in addition to Molotov cocktails they hastily prepared. They also sprayed gasoline at the ship and poured gas in the sea around the vessel.

Poachers then dropped one of their illegal gillnets in front of the bow of the moving Sea Shepherd vessel in an attempt to foul the ship’s propellers. Five angry poachers boarded the Farley Mowat and looted multiple objects from the vessel’s deck while it was temporarily immobilized.”

Sea Shepherd crew used fire hoses to keep poachers from entering the ship, while calls for assistance were made. Navy sailors stationed on the ship were under orders not to fire on the fishermen.

The fishermen began to disperse as a Navy helicopter arrived overhead. As the Farley Mowat got under way after its propellers were cleared of netting, the vessel was met by a Navy ship and the situation was brought under control. It was not clear if any arrests were made, or if anyone was injured.

Stated Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson: “Sea Shepherd will not be deterred by violence. Our mission is to prevent the extinction of the vaquita porpoise and we will continue to seize the nets of poachers in the Vaquita Refuge. Sea Shepherd salutes the quick responsiveness of the Mexican Navy in defusing a dangerous situation”.

Rosarito Calendar of Events

Every Monday through Thursday, 9am – 12pm; Pickleball at Punta Azul Tennis Center. Cos: $1 court fee per person per day. Organized by Robert Canaan. BYO paddle and ball. Information: Facebook.com/ Rosarito Pickleball

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 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 Sunday 4 pm. Cultural Sundays in the park. Local Mexican and American dancers and musicians.  At the IMAC in Abelardo L. Rodriguez park, west of Banamex. Facebook IMAC Rosarito. Free.

Every Sunday 2 – 4 pm at the IMAC Central Park (behind the Banamex on Juarez) Dancing for seniors. Salsa and merengue (among others) tunes designed to not throw out a hip. www.facebook.com/IMAC Rosarito

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

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

Every Tuesday 10am to 11am.  Chair Yoga – Rosarito Wellness, Healing, Living at IMAC Park, room 1 in Rosarito (behind Banamex). Improve Balance & Coordination.  Receive all the benefits of yoga in a gentle, Healing, Meditative yoga class where a chair is used for support and balance. Bring water, small towel and comfortable clothing. Instructor: Erendira Abel, Certified Holistic Health Specialist. $5 per class, paid at beginning of month. For registration and location:  (661) 614-6036 Mexico or (619) 632-2965 US. Email: wellnesshealingliving@gmail.com

Every Tuesday. 9:00 am. Board Meeting for Yo Amo Rosarito at Ortega’s Buffet. See what events are under consideration or volunteer to help plan and run upcoming events.

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 main library of IMAC building next to Abelardo Rodríguez Park. Promotes reading and literacy in Rosarito. www.friendsofthelibrary.com.mx. 661-612-3659.

Second and FourthWednesday, 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 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, 10 am, Meeting of Rosarito Sister Cities at City Hall, Fojadores Room, 2nd floor. Information and RSVP: FRAO@Rosarito.gob.mx.

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.

Every Last Wednesday, 11:30 am, Wellness Wednesday Workshop “Intentionally Aging Gracefully” with Erendira Abel at IMAC a Abelard Rodriguez Park (behind Banamex). $6, and pre-registration is required. Info: wellnesshealingliving@gmail.com; (US) 1-619-737-2453, (MX) 661-614-6036.

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 Thursday, 10:30 am, Learn Spanish “Naturally” with Erendira Abel at Rosarito Beach Christian Church. $5, and pre-registration is required. Info: wellnesshealingliving@gmail.com; (US) 1-619-737-2453, (MX) 661-614-6036.

Every Second Thursday. 10 am. Cruz Roja Volunteers, Rosarito Chapter General Meeting at Popotla Restaurant. 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 Fourth Thursday of the month, 12 pm, Baja Babes, the Rosarito Chapter of the Red Hat Society for ladies over 50 monthly luncheon. Each month a different restaurant. margit@prodigy.net.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 Casa Blanca Restaurant, Rosarito Beach Hotel. Good info for the English speaking community of charitable, community service and social organizations. www.unitedsocietyofbaja.org. 661-614-1113.

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.

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.

January 30, Wednesday, 1 pm: Cruz Roja Primo Tapia Bingo at El Pescador Restaurant. Multiple games/cards/ prizes. www.cruzrojaprimotapia.com.

February 1, Friday, 1 pm; Susanna’s Wine Pairing Auction to benefit the Baja Scholarship Foundation. $45 (pre-paid only) includes wine pairing, tax, tip, and raffle ticket. Also 50/50. Donate at PayPal at: www.bajascholarshipfoundation.org.

February 3, Sunday, 2 – 9 pm; Super Bowl Fiesta Party at Ortega’s Buffet. $15. Reservations suggested. $.79 domestic beer special. Facebook.com/ Ortega’s Buffet

February 6, Wednesday, 1 pm; Flying Samaritans Chocolate Fondue Fest at Las Rocas Hotel. $20 Reservations required! All proceeds benefit Flying Sam’s Rosarito. SusanSmithz@hotmail.com; 1-858-240-2360 (US); 661-100-6066 (MX). www.flyingsamaritansrosarito.org

February 8, Friday, 10 am; Cruz Roja Primo Tapia monthly meeting at El Pescador Restaurant. Public invited. www.cruzrojaprimotapia.com.

February 9, Saturday, 10 am – 4 pm; Second Saturday at Puerta al Valle in La Mision. Local artists, entertainment, and food. Free entrance. Facebook.com/Second Saturday La Mision.

February 9, Saturday 3 pm; Culinary Cinema series presented by Black Cross Wines at Moncy & Wally’s Place. Reservations required. $35 general seating or $40 reserved two front row seats. Includes “Mex/Med lunch and cocktail. Facebook.com/ Black Cross Wines.

Que Pasa In Baja?

More taxis for Ensenada. A total of 224 permits for new taxis were given out by Mayor Novelo to work the city. The mayor congratulated the new taxi drivers who acquired cars to use as taxis, which he said will “benefit taxi users and the families of the drivers, who will now have their own patrimony.” Really? With new and efficient technologies like Uber emerging and growing every day, do we really need more plain old taxis? We all know all those permits get sold in a week and end up in the hands of a couple of monopolies around town; unfortunately, it’s the same thing all over Mexico.

Trash problem growing. Ensenada alderman Jorge Camargo is pushing the local government, for the second time in five months, to hire private trucks to help the city with the problem.

Camargo is saying that the city deficit in trash collection is around 150 tons daily. Yes, you read that correctly, that’s 150 tons that don’t get picked up every day.

The trash problem is so big in Ensenada that it has forced people to recycle, in an effort to not fill up their trash cans with plastic and cardboard. Many millions have been spent in educational programs to get people to recycle, but it never worked. Who would have known that leaving people with their trash for over a month would work even better!

Toll road corruption. The federal government has opened a formal investigation against CAPUFE Baja California, the office in charge of the toll roads here in Baja. The feds are saying that our state office has been looking the other way when contractors hired to work on the road overcharge millions.

To add insult to injury, some of these contracts have not been finished more than a year after their due date, and some of the ones that were finished were not done to the original specs.

The feds say the contractors, along with corrupt officials, stole about $11 million USD from the government on these projects, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg! And just because this is Mexico, the guy in charge of all these contracts is still heading his office, although authorities say “he is being thoroughly investigated.”

Local movie in theaters now. The new horror movie “Belzebuth” just got to theaters last week. The movie was completely filmed here in Baja (Mexicali to be exact), and was co-produced by our very own University of Baja California, or UABC. The movie starts Tobin Bell, better known for the “Saw” movies, and Julian Cosio, a Mexican actor widely known here. The movie is in English, so you shouldn’t have a problem understanding it. Hopefully, it will still be here when this paper hits the racks.

TJ Migrant caravan down to 700. The head count last week in the Tijuana shelter that was set up for Central American migrants that came here was down to 700 people from 6,000 that had arrived in Tijuana back in November.

The Mexican government gave humanitarian work visas to 2,900, and those are thought to be already working here in Baja, while another 2,600 are said to have been arrested by the border patrol in San Diego. Others have decided to go back to their home countries.

More caravan havoc. Just when we thought that was over, another caravan of 2,500+ central American immigrants has just crossed over to Mexico in Chiapas. From those, just under 1,000 crossed the border legally, and the other ones just barged right in when no one was looking; it was said on the news that the border was open; no federal police were there to guard it, as was previously claimed.

Members of this new caravan have already stated that they are on their way to Tijuana, so expect more problems in the near future, and probably border shutdowns from Trump when they get here.

Don’t worry, it’s just another drug-related murder. Our state governor, Kiko Vega, stated that up to 85% of Baja’s 2,570 murder count during 2018 was drug related. Baja ended the year with the record for biggest increase in murders from 2017, with an increase of about 500 murders from last year.

Vega said that Baja has seen bigger quantities of drugs arriving to our state in the last year, which has caused an increase in violence from that illegal activity.

“We need to reform the Federal Penal Code so that people that carry firearms without permit go to jail”, he said.

Meanwhile tourism is growing. During 2018 we received more than 26 million tourists in our state, which brought about $1.6 billion USD to our state. 58% of our tourists were from other countries, most of them from the US, and the other 42% were Mexican nationals.

Tourism has been recovering its importance in Baja, and it now represents 8% of our GDP.

Zona Libre reminder. I have received a couple of complaints  from people who are thinking that they’re being robbed because they are gringos when they see their sales receipt showing they are being charged 16% sales tax (or IVA). People, go back and read my article from last edition; not all businesses qualify for the Free Zone tax break, thus making them ineligible to charge 8% tax.  The Gringo Gazette North (that’s us!) is one of those companies that doesn’t qualify, meaning that we still have to charge 16% IVA tax. A lot of small companies are in the same situation; please keep that in mind when you receive your ticket.

On the other hand, most of the big stores like Costco, Walmart, Calimax, Soriana and Florido all qualify for the tax break and are already charging 8% instead of 16%. Enjoy the discount!

Popotla Is Not Just Another Trailer Park

Most Rosaritenses know of Popotla Restaurant and the surrounding campo, but what makes this campo stand out is their Homeowners Association, which raises money throughout the year not merely to use on their property, but to benefit charitable organizations in Rosarito.

This year, two personal scooters donated to the HOA from Cruzzin’ Mobility Scooters of Palm Desert, California were auctioned off at the Popotla HOA’s Fourth of July and Labor Day party events.

In addition, cash donations were made by HOA Board members, including President Michael Holliday and Secretary Chris McGuinness, a little before Christmas to the Rosarito Club de Ninos y Ninas (Boys and Girls Club), and the Cruz Roja Voluntarios Americanos of Rosarito and Primo Tapia.

The Homeowners Association raises funds throughout the year in a multitude of ways, including the annual Super Bowl pool and park parties on Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day, chili cook-offs, auctions, etcetera. Businesses in Rosarito and San Diego are solicited during the year for goods and services, or event tickets. 50/50 raffle tickets are sold at every HOA event, which adds to the coffers. The Board then meets quarterly, assesses the results,  and decides how the funds will be distributed.

You may be asking yourself where the idea for this philanthropy came from. When the Popotla HOA was formally established in 1983, “charity work” was actually written into their Charter. Chartered as a Cultural Deportiva in Mexico, the Popotla HOA focuses on improving community relations through the support of local charities. Since the Club de Ninos y Ninas and Cruz Roja organizations were given preferential status this past year, the Board may authorize donations to any worthy Rosarito charitable organization for their end-of-the-year donations. Past donations have also been awarded to the Rosarito Bomberos, as well as annual holiday bonuses to the park’s employees.

We all have organizations near and dear to our hearts, especially at this time of year. Many of us belong to HOA’s, so let’s take a page from the Popotla HOA handbook and think about giving back to the community, by organizing charity fundraisers within your HOA or neighborhood group.

Pictured in the photo are Board Members Penny Hill, Jewel Donathan, Rosy Torres (Club de Ninos y Ninas President), Jim Zigler, Michael Holliday (PHOA President), Chris McGuinness, and David Atkinson.

Cruz Roja Primo Tapia Hosts General Membership Meeting

The Board of the Primo Tapia branch of the Cruz Roja Voluntarios Americans invites the public to join them for their 2019 General Membership Meeting Saturday, January 12, 11 am at El Pescador Restaurant (just north of Puerto Nuevo). Coffee, tea, and sweet pastries will be offered during the meeting and El Pescador Restaurant will be open for lunch after the meeting.  There will be several mini-raffles sprinkled throughout the meeting, between the reports including financial, ambulance, and Thrift Store totals. You won’t believe how much money this little store donates to the Rosarito Cruz Roja Hospital an ambulance service each month.

The Cruz Roja Primo Tapia Board is seeking new members and persons interested in joining the Board in a variety of positions, including Membership, Technology, and Fundraising.  Some of next year’s fundraising events include a Paella Fest sometime in the spring and the popular Oktoberfest event in October. They wish to thank this year’s sponsors: Judith Douglas Spa, La Mision Fitness, Blue Gallery, del Valle Café, The Shack, Ollie’s Pizza, Happy Hour, Encanto, Splash, Mision Viejo, and Sprouts Chula Vista.

Even though the official title of the organization includes the word ‘’Americanos,’’ the Board and membership is open to all, including Mexican nationals. And the Cruz Roja Primo Tapia is actively seeking Mexican residents  as well as foreign residents to join the Board of Directors. Technically, we are all “Americans,” right?

One big change for 2019 is that all monthly meetings  at El Pescador (held the second Friday of the month at 10 am) will be open to the public.

Whereas, membership dues will remain at $20 per person annually, there will be several membership options available starting January 1.

You say you aren’t Board Member material? he Cruz Roja Primo Tapia Thrift Store is in need of volunteers to keep this venture able to support the hospital and ambulance service; even a couple hours a month would help tremendously. If a monthly commitment doesn’t work into your busy schedule, please consider volunteering for one of this year’s special fundraising events.

You do not have to be a current member to attend the general meeting. Membership forms will be available, and processed on site. And if you aren’t a member yet, why not? If the 50% discount on ambulance service to the US border (valued at $100 or more) isn’t inducement enough, remember that all visits to Rosarito’s Cruz Roja Hospital are discounted 10%. In November I walked into the Hospital without an appointment, was seen by a doctor who diagnosed an ear infection, wrote a medical scrip, gave me an injection to prevent an allergic reaction to mosquitos that I needed for an upcoming trip…all for about $5 US.  What a deal!

For more information, please see the Cruz Roja Primo Tapia website: www.CruzRojaPrimoTapia.com, and check out some of the Thrift Store’s best deals on Facebook at Cruz Roja – Primo Tapia Thrift Store.”

Que Pasa In Baja?

Ensenada city workers going back to work. After a couple weeks of being on a sit-down strike, Mayor Novelo was finally able to convince them to go back to work by promising to pay the remainder of their Christmas bonuses before January 21st.

City workers are pretty pissed off, since the city has had problems paying their salaries, and now their Christmas bonuses, which for them amounts to an extra 2 months’ salary. By law, the Christmas bonus has to be equal to at least 15 days.

When he took control of the city, Mayor Novelo announced that the city was broke; since then, we have seen the effects of it. There are almost no streets in the city without potholes, and trash pickup services have been reduced to almost once a month now.

City workers don’t believe it, though; they say it’s not so much the lack of funds, but rather the inability to properly manage the situations that are affecting the city.

It has been a tough term for Mayor Novelo. He hasn’t been able to catch a break, and most people are pretty unhappy with the crises that the city is experiencing. This is probably the reason  he announced last year that he would not be running for another term.

The amount the city owes its workforce in Christmas bonuses alone is about $3.8 million USD, and this administration alone has already asked for about $11.3 million USD in loans to cover other expenses. This give you an idea how seriously the fiscal situation is for Ensenada.

AMLO comes to Baja. Our brand-new president visited Tijuana this past Sunday in order to announce the newly created free zone for the northern border along with our state governor Kiko Vega.

The president is scheduling visits to different parts of the country on weekends in order to have time during the week to attend to his presidential duties in his office in Mexico City.

He is famous now for travelling on commercial planes and even choosing the cheapest flights for his travel.

Migrants safe from police. Alma Migrante, a local non-profit group that helps immigrants know their rights, has won a trial making it illegal for local police to send immigrants guilty of committing administrative infractions to be sent to the National Migration Institute (or INM in Spanish) in order to be deported.

Representatives from Alma Migrante are stating that immigrants can only be sent for deportation if they commit a crime more serious than a minor infraction.

Although the line could be a little blurry sometimes between the two, an easy way to understand it is that an infraction would require you to pay a fine, but a crime would require jail time.

Snow is here! The civil protection office in the city of Ensenada has announced that both of our local sierras, Juarez and San Pedro Martir, have snow and are open for visits.

As always, they are recommended to drive there in a car in good condition, preferably 4×4, and bring warm clothes and supplies, especially gas and high calorie food, in case you get stranded up there.

San Pedro Martir, which always has more snow than Juarez but is also a farther away, is only open from 7:00 am to 4:00 pm every day, and is not available for overnight stays.

Jaime Nieto, head of the office, stated that the roads are not in the best shape right now, and emphasized the need for a car in good condition if you want to visit.

We’re getting more cruise ships. During 2018 a total of 270 cruise ships docked in Ensenada, carrying more than 650,000 tourists. About 70% of those tourists descended from the ship to visit the city, and they spent an average $54 dollars per person.

Tourism officials are stating that its very likely that we will get even more cruise ships this year, since some cruise liners have already booked more dates for this year. January alone has 26 arrivals in total.

Bring your own bags. Rosarito and Ensenada decided last year to eliminate plastic bags in retail shops and the new measure has been in effect since the first of the year. Steep fines were announced for offending businesses, but at least Rosarito has said that they will not issue fines until April of this year.

It is possible for you to not even notice the change if your favorite store decided to switch to paper or biodegradable plastic bags (which are almost indistinguishable from normal plastic bags). This will still be legal and an option for businesses if they want to keep offering customers this benefit.

Welcome To the Northern Free Zone

One of the campaigns promises that gained more supporters around here for our new president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (or AMLO for short), was the proposal of a new “Free Zone” along the northern border that would reduce taxes, increase the minimum wage 100% and lower fuel prices to try and match those in the USA.

Since the first day of the year, this promise has become a reality, and you are now living in the new free zone for the northern border.

So, what does this mean for you? As a consumer, this means that you will now be paying 8% IVA on most products and services instead of the 16% you usually pay. For those of you unfamiliar with IVA, that’s the Mexican equivalent to the VAT in the US. Note that I said most; I will explain that later.

If you have a business, you will also have another benefit: Instead of paying the usual 30% on the ISR (income tax), you will now be able to receive credit for 10% of that. This means that you will only be paying 20% now.

Regarding gas prices, we have already seen some gas stations lowering their prices, since they have a special benefit in that they won’t be charging any VAT on gasoline and diesel; this reduced gas prices to exactly 16%. This reduction doesn’t actually match it to prices in the US, but it definitely closes the gap a little bit more.

Minimum wage was doubled to $176.72 pesos per day (about $9 USD); the older wage at $4.50 was a joke, and almost nobody was working for that.

Since the newly created Free Zone is defined by a decree and not a law, businesses must register for it and they will have to meet certain requirements; therefore, don’t shout bloody murder if you see 16% IVA in your ticket, since there is a possibility that some businesses don’t meet the requirements or just haven’t applied yet.

In order to be able to obtain the benefits businesses need to prove that at least 90% of their total sales are from the border region. They will also be asked to prove that they have a valid address in the region for at least 18 months. These two requirements are key in discouraging mainland businesses from establishing an address in the border just to obtain said benefits.

Businesses that are already established have until January 30th to file their application, and newly established businesses will have 30 days after registering their businesses with the SAT (which is the Mexican IRS).

The free zone objective is to increase competitiveness with the US, avoid migration and make it more attractive as an investment option.

If you were here back before 2014 you might remember that we already had lower taxes here in the border, but that benefit was removed by president Peña Nieto. At that time VAT in the area was 11%. This means that taxes now will be even lower than at that time.

Several analysts say that Northern Baja will benifit the most  from this new decree, as the biggest percentage of the population in the state lives near the border, and because all its municipalities are considered part of it.

For now, the decree will be valid only for 2019 and 2020. Surely, results will be analyzed after these two years and a decision will be made on whether to extend it or not.

So, What Is the Baja Blues Fest Doing With All That Money?

In November, the Baja Blues Fest President Jackie Alameda presented checks to the children’s organizations benefiting from this year’s annual Blues Fest event at a luncheon hosted by Bobby’s by the Sea.  Checks in the amount of $4,000 (USD) were presented to Rosarito’s Friends of the Library, the Los Angelitos Orphanage, and La Mision Children’s Fund/BECA.

Bev Wilburg, representing La Mision Children’s Fund, a 501(c)(3) organization, stated that the money would be used for the La Mision food bank, which feeds over 1,000 children. Once a month, families pick up a small parcel of beans, rice, pasta, tomato sauce, cooking oil and flour,  the cost of which is about $12. In November and December, families also received a small amount of chicken. On the last Wednesday of the month, Rotary members help to portion and bag these foods for the families. It costs about $1200 (USD) monthly to make up these tiny bundles. Thanks to a sustainable water system that was donated to the group, they are recognized as the only clean, potable water near Ensenada, in case of emergency.

Teresa Savala, representing  the BECA scholarship organization, discussed the schools and their needs in the La Mision area. There is currently a waiting list of students interested in high school. Parents are getting more involved in their children’s education, and more classrooms are being constructed. The money awarded today will be used for tuitions. The fundraising event “Fandango” funds about 90% of BEA’s needs, but BBF’s annual check really helps.  Although BECA is not a 501(c)(3) organization, they are now partners with La Mision Children’s Fund and are under the same “umbrella,” working closely together.

The Mexican government does not fund either of these programs. Books are considered a luxury and unaffordable for most families in Primo Tapia and the neighborhoods in the hills. Authors Darren and Ruby Perman, along with the Baja Blues Fest, donated 20 copies of their children’s book “Wookivoo” to the LMCF/BECA. The Rotary of La Mision has been an excellent partner, but they can’t do it all. For those wishing to help, donations of clothing, foodstuffs, toiletries and sanitary supplies may be left at the La Salina Bar/Restaurant in La Mision.

Friends of the Library past President Susan Shea informed all of us that a UNESCO study rated Mexico in last place in reading, of the 30+ countries studied. That’s sad, but not unexpected from a country that expects students to graduate from the educational system at grade 7! The Friends of the Library promotes reading, not only in libraries, but in schools and in the home. Book donations service all five Rosarito area libraries, a pop-up mobile library that operated in the Reforma last summer, and a new reading room at CEART. FOL has just raised the funds to purchase a bus to be outfitted as a bookmobile, and the funds from the Blues Fest will be used to outfit this new bookmobile. Other forms of income are the spring Home and Garden Tour and the Holiday Home Tour before Christmas.

Los Angelitos was the singular orphanage to benefit from this year’s BBF. Ed Perry manages this home of 20 wards of the court in the Rosarito-Tijuana area, children with nowhere else to go, assigned by the Department of Social Services. Here they enjoy a non-institutional family-style quality of life. The children spend most of the week in their home in Tijuana in order to be closer to their schools. They spend weekends and vacations in their home in the hills between Rosarito and Tijuana in a much healthier atmosphere. Ed receives no government money but operates with donations from friends, the Rosarito Beach Christian Church, and his own monthly Social Security check. About 90% of the operating costs come from angels in the United States. The orphanage does not host fundraisers throughout the year. Mari Cruz, who grew up at Los Angelitos, is in her third year of university, earning a degree in Business Administration, and was very thankful for the opportunities provided to her.

For those keeping score, there wasn’t quite as much money available for the charities in 2018 as in years past. This year there was a major reorganization of powers at the Rosarito Beach Hotel, host hotel of the Baja Blues Fest, and the Hotel’s Board of Directors is now managed by Hugo Torres’ five children. Apparently they, and the HOA of the Rosarito Beach Hotel Condos, are not as charitable as patriarch Hugo has been. The use of the hotel grounds ran more than $8000 (USD) more than last year, and next year is looking even more dismal. Reportedly, the RBH declined to help defray some of the costs that they had helped to pay for in the past. As many of Rosarito’s community organizations have discovered, the RBH is harder to deal with now, and not quite as charitable as they have been in years past. But life goes on.

Needless to say, the BBF Board of Directors is searching for new venues for the 2019 music fest. The Friday night Meet and Greet Music Jam and Dance may be held at a location different from Saturday’s Blue’s Fest. The new venue does not have to be a hotel, as long as it is in the Rosarito area and has lodging nearby for the musicians and out of town guests. The new site will be a better opportunity for vendors and food purveyors, who were severely limited in their offerings this year, not being allowed to serve anything but desserts and sides. No flames allowed meant no spiral cut potato on a stick for me. I want my skewered fried potato…or six. The Blues Fest Board has decided to suspend the Sunday jam session (at least for 2019). This would save the cost of one day’s lodging, food, and venue rental.

The BBF Board is also seeking local businesses and community members as sponsors for bands (lodging, food, transport, etc.) or other costs related to the Blues Fest. Now is a good time to get involved with the Baja Blues Fest. It’s important to keep this an annual cultural destination. The BBF Mission Statement proclaims “promoting northern Baja as a safe and fun place to visit, bringing the residents from the northern and southern boundaries of…Rosarito together.”  Their purpose is to raise money for qualifying charitable organizations that cater to children in Baja California, “expand the cultural activities of our (Rosarito) area.” BBF’s tagline says it best: “Helping Kids with ‘The Blues’.”

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