Que Pasa In Baja?

How long will the new state government last? Boy, has this been a toughie for our state. The standard governor term for each of the states in Mexico is 6 years and has not been changed for many years. This year, though, it was decided (before the elections), that the new government would only last 2 years in order to merge our next governor’s election with the federal midterms. The reason behind this change was supposed to be an economic one, as our state would be able to have fewer elections. This was seen as a good move, since our state had a whopping 5 different elections in the last 6 years, costing us millions of pesos.

The move was approved by Congress a couple years ago, but just a week ago (and after Jaime Bonilla from Morena was elected governor), the congress reversed that change and said that the government was going to last 5 years instead of 2, merging it with another election.

This was seen as preposterous by the federal congress, which said that the people had voted for a 2-year governor, which was now being converted into a 5-year term, and they deemed it anti-democratic. Local congress representatives were accused of receiving a million dollars each from Bonilla’s team in exchange for their vote in favor of extending his term, which is an entirely plausible assumption, considering representatives from all different political parties voted in favor of the move.

After much fighting between the state and federal congress, the actual governor has stepped in and said he won’t support the change, making it difficult but not impossible for the 5-year term to kick in.

Federal congress has gone so far as to saying that our state congress should be eliminated because of their anti-democratic spirit. All of the congress representatives that voted in favor are being threatened to be fired from their political parties.

We have yet to see how this turns out, as the state congressional term ends this month and a new one comes in, which could reverse the measure.

I’m doing my part, what about you? Hans Backoff, head of Monte Xanic winery and the current chief of the local wineries’ association Provino, stated that wine consumption in Baja has increased to 9 liters per capita, per year, although our national average is just 1 liter.

For comparison, the United States drinks 9 liters, Chile and Argentina drink 15 and 20 liters respectively.

Tijuana taxi companies pissed off. Taxis from Tijuana have threatened the city of Rosarito saying that they will stop taking tourists there, in retaliation of $400 USD fines imposed about 3 months ago for working there without the proper permits.

The fines are a result of Rosarito taxi companies pressuring the city to crack down on foreign transportation services, claiming that it’s unfair competition for them. For their part, Tijuana taxi companies say that they are not breaking any laws, because they don’t pick up tourists in Rosarito, they just take them there; also, other cities like Ensenada and Mexicali do not have any problems with this, because they deliver the tourists who will spend their valuable money in the destination they’re taken to.

Governor-elect promises cleaner beaches. Jaime Bonilla, our newly elected governor, has just signed an agreement with San Diego County that will allow them to work together in projects to clean local beaches.

San Diego’s port commissioner said that they can support the future government with 15 million dollars in 15 programs developed by them that will help put an end to beach contamination that originates in Mexico but affects San Diego county directly.

Beaches in Ensenada ready for tourism. The clean beaches committee in Ensenada stated that all the beaches in the city are suitable for swimming this year.

Officials from the local environmental agency said that contamination in local beaches are well below the norm, saying that samples were taken from La Mision, Playa Hermosa, Pacifica, Monalisa and La Joya, and all passed the test without any issues.

The city is encouraging the general public to avoid smoking on the beach, as in the 2018 international beach cleaning effort, the most common trash found in the sand was cigarette butts.

No more “chocolate cars.” Yeah, I’ll believe it when I see it, but as of press time, the governor-elect Jaime Bonilla has stated several times now that he will fix the problem with illegal cars circulating here in Baja.

Nowadays is hard to see a legal car at any stop sign, especially in Ensenada, where some officials are saying that up to 90% of vehicles in the city are illegal (meaning they haven’t been imported or have current plates).

The problem has been left to grow worse for many years, as it will be a political blow to whoever decides to crack down on these cars. The only solution, which has been tried once before, seems to be making a special program to regularize illegal cars cheaply and after that start cracking down on the newly illegal vehicles. ,

Blues Against Hunger Super Jam

Unless you’ve been absent, or hiding under a rock, you all know about the weekly Sunday blues jams at Bobby’s By The Sea. Prepare for a huge blowout all day on August 3, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm. At least eight groups will be joining Sweet Sixx and the Wild Pack for a day of blues music, all dedicated to fighting hunger in the Rosarito area by supporting Hearts of Baja children’s orphanages and people in the hills.

This talent comes from all over Baja as well as Alta California and Mexico  City. Martin Tramil, who participates in Tuesday blues jams in SoCal and the Tsunami Band of Punta Banda, will join composer/musician Miguel Korsa of México City, the principle guitarist of blues band Real de Catorce.

Ensenada’s Deja Blues Band plays in the style of Eric Clapton, B B King and Muddy Waters. San Felipe’s own “Rock Soul Band” of rock, blues and Latin music, is one of the most popular bands on the east side of the peninsula.

More known to Rosarito residents is Palaco Blues and the Trevolts, who recently played at Sunday blues events at Bobby’s by the Sea.  Palaco Blues,  with their “fusion of blues, funk and rock, reinforced with a harmonic sound” was a big hit in northern Baja. The Trevolts are a rock/blues band originating in Tijuana with a diverse repertoire. They were headliners of the FestiArte in Tijuana last month, and have played in San Diego and Los Angeles.

Pachuco Blues, featuring lead singer and guitarist Ismael Vidal, is always a Rosarito favorite, playing venues from Rosarito’s own restaurants and bars, such as Splash and The Shack, to the Tijuana Jazz and Blues Fest.

But headlining as they do tirelessly every week is Sweet Sixx and the Wild Pack; “two guitars having fun” featuring “blues, swing, and whatever else tickles their strings” playing old school classics, jazz and even some rockabilly. Weekly they invite musicians and locals to share the stage with them and jam. The August 3rd show will be a little more structured, and who knows what Sunday will bring? It’s always a whole lot of fun! In 2015 Sweet Sixx and the Wild Pack traveled with the Blues Against Hunger Society, and added a “Brewers and Blues Tour” in the western  United States and Baja.

Tickets are: $10 with the donation of one or more non-perishable food or toiletry items, and $15 without donation. But hey, make a donation! Bags of rice or beans, cans of food, feminine articles, soap, shampoo, everything is needed. They are aiming for 1000 pounds of donations that day. Join the Blues Against Hunger Society and get $5 off your ticket price AND a free T-shirt. Tickets are available through the Blues Against Hunger website. Online sales end on July 31st, so get a move on people!

And special VIP seating is available for those of you out there with heavy wallets — come on, you know who you are! A VIP table for eight is available for $300, which includes an eight-bottle bucket of beer or one bottle of wine or one bottle of champagne. This also includes table service for food and drink. VIP singles are available for $40, which includes all services and a bottle of beer.

Everybody else is self-serve for the day.

If you want to learn more about any of these groups they all have their own Facebook and “www” pages. The important sites to know however are www.bluesagainsthunger.org and www.heartsofbaja.com. Or contact Blues Against Hunger to become a volunteer for the day. It’s not too late. People are always signing up and dropping out for good reasons up until the day of the event. And your presence, whether it be in the audience or a volunteer is truly needed AND appreciated.

Punta Banda: From Scandal To A Diverse Paradise

BY LEE ROY AMATE

In 1995, as an immigrant to Ensenada from Oakland, California, I was invited to be a partner in a leading Ensenada law firm. The firm had power of attorney for three of Mexico’s most powerful banks.  Including Bancomer, whose investment strategy was aggressively seeking foreign investment; this policy was exemplified by their marketing to international real estate buyers in the form of “bank trusts,” the only guarantee for ownership rights available to foreign property owners.

Bancomer contracted our law firm to conduct a title search to insure a trust contract. The developer, Carlos Teran, had signed a joint venture agreement with the “ejido” (a farming cooperative), which had illegally taken possession of the land to be developed.  Ejido lands are regulated by the government agency RAN, which determines the legitimacy of lands being classified as ejido land (as opposed to private or government properties).

Someone at RAN adjusted the map at a time Teran started his development to include the Punta Banda peninsula.  A false report of title was issued, with the intent to defraud the foreign buyer into believing the ejido had the legal right to transfer title.

At the same time, local county and state government officials turned a blind eye to the development of Teran, thereby avoiding the bureaucracy and the costs of completing environmental impact requirements, land use, and building permits.

After 20 years, the title demand came before the Mexican Supreme Court. The ejido, Carlos Teran and 200 foreign investors lost the case to the legal property owners – Jorge Cortina’s father and his associates. As a result, 90 million dollars of foreign investment was lost. Many buyers sacrificed most of their retirement savings for a dream house on the beach they could afford.

The biggest loser was Baja California real estate investment and the environment. Construction was done with no review of environmental damage. While the fear of Punta Banda lives on in the minds of foreign investors– it was an international scandal.

Cortina has survived all of this and has created what I call a cultural center for the southern bay of Ensenada. His father built the “Baja Beach Hotel” there, referred by many Ensenada residents as the “Cantinflas project”. The actor appeared at the groundbreaking ceremony but was never a partner in the project. Jorge, unlike his siblings and his father’s former partners, decided he would spend the rest of his life dedicated to making the peninsula a successful property.

A musician himself, Jorge’s business plan is deeply rooted in promoting music by local artists, who combine their talents with retired “world-class” U.S.A. immigrant musicians. Jorge does this to enrich the music scene and provide employment for restaurant, bar, home maintenance and security employees.

Beginning on July 25th and proceeding through the 29th, Jorge has agreed to sponsor a 5-day spectacle to help several local non-profit groups: Los Abuelos, an assisted living center for older Mexicans whose retirement income is not sufficient for a dignified life; Los Adoptables, a rescue center for stray dogs and cats; an orphanage; a fishing club and an amateur baseball team that is a pride of Punta Banda.

This 5-day fiesta-celebration will bring Rock and Roll, Latin Rhythms and Blues to celebrate the wealth of talent we enjoy in the Southern Bay. That should be enough for the price of a ticket, but there is more! A world-renowned magician from San Francisco, plus our local illusionist Magic Mike, will also perform. Tickets are reasonably priced at $10 USD. Food and drinks are discounted by 20%. Profits will be donated by Jorge Cortina to participating donor groups.

I am pleased to see this community come together! It is the largest enclave of foreigners living in Ensenada. They are a much appreciated “new demographic” by this old immigrant resident.

Because of the internet, they are younger professionals who can work from home on the internet, a demographic that is assimilating with school-age children into the fabric of Ensenada.

Ensenada has always has been a welcome home to immigrants, even to Chilangos like Jorge Cortina! Thanks my friend, your dedication is much appreciated.

 

Photo by: Statelife.com

Helping Kids With the Blues Once Again

The Baja Blues Fest returns to Rosarito Beach this August 9th-11th at Rosarito Beach Hotel to benefit these charities: BECA, Los Angelitos Orphanage, Friends of the Library, and La Mision’s Children’s Fund.

BECA, Benefitting Education and Community Advancement, supports students in the La Mision area, raising funds with the La Mision Children’s fund, providing scholarships to the children there.

Friends of the Library promotes reading in schools and in the home, and supports all five Rosarito area libraries with books, craft supplies, a bookmobile, computers and technology.

Los Angelitos Orphanage is a children’s home that provides a secure home and family-style living conditions to 35 children, ages 1 -18.

La Mision Children’s Fund offers food, shelter, clothing, education, and medical care  to those in extreme poverty.

The Blues Fest starts on Friday night with a meet-and-greet.

Gates open Saturday, August 10th, at 10:30 am. The first band, Tijuana’s JL Blues Project, starts at 11:15. Started in 2015, the JL Blues Project provides younger musicians a chance to play blues in front of a crowd. Founding performers have been playing for about 40 years.

At 12:15 pm, Stephanie Brown and the Surrealistics hit the stage.

The radiant Mercedes Moore and her band pair up with the spontaneous piano-playing of the smooth and sultry Taryn Donath at 1:30. The Mercedes Moore band has been described as “a dancer’s dream,” and who doesn’t love to dance?

After a short raffle giveaway, the Anthony Collins Band, aka the Fallbrook Kid, will hit the stage at 2:45 pm. Anthony, a young musical protégé,  plays in the styles of Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix.

At 4:00 pm The Backwater Blues Band and Mike Schermer take the stage. They’ve been the Host Band of the Baja Blues Fest since 2012. Joining them is Deanna Bogart, who thrills the crowd with her “blusion” style of boogie woogie, blues, country, and jazz.

After another brief raffle session, Gino Matteo and the Jade Bennett Band offer a mixture of musical styles. Southern California’s Jade Bennet brings her own sound of dark, sultry, and smoky soul.

The final raffle offers the special strung junk guitar, created especially for the Baja Blues Fest by Steve Kinney.

The evening will culminate with a super performance by Tommy Castro and the Painkillers. This high-energy group from San Jose belts out soul, blues and rock, mixing Mexican and American styles from their hometown.

Sunday’s show features a more relaxing musical experience out in the garden, with the Sunday Jam. Musicians from all the groups and musical folk from around Rosarito all meet to jam on the Rosarito Beach Hotel’s back lawn.

A big “Thank You” goes out to this year’s volunteers. All essential positions are covered, but there is room for a few more vendors and sponsors.

Information may be found at www.BajaBluesFest.org. The Gringo Gazette is a proud sponsor of this event, and hopes that other local businesses will follow their example.

Different ticket options are available this year. A new VIP section guarantees under-the-canopy seating for Saturday, a T-shirt, concert poster, three waters and $5 in drink tickets, entrance to both the Friday night meet-and-greet, and the Sunday jam, all for $110. These tickets must be purchased in advance! Three-day General Admission is $75 per person, and the Friday meet-and-greet is $25. These, too, must be purchased in advance. There will be a finite number of people allowed into Friday night’s event due to seating safety restrictions. For the Saturday concert event, tickets are $35 in advance and $40 at the gate. Sunday’s jam session is $15 whether purchased in advance or on-site, so bring your instrument/s of choice and join the musicians for a fun afternoon.

Over the years, the Baja Blues Fest has raised and donated over $91,000 – that’ US dollars folks – for charities that benefit the children of Rosarito. As a US 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable organization, all donations made to this group are US tax-deductible. The complete break-down for distributions and yearly IRS forms are available at the Baja Blues Fest website. Talk about transparent!

Baja Blues Fest is a proud member of The Blues Foundation, whose mission it is to preserve the blues heritage, celebrate blues performers, and expand people’s awareness of the blues as a unique American art form.

There are still RBH room/blues fest ticket packages available by contacting the Rosarito Beach Hotel directly, A lot of those rooms look directly onto the stage area, so if you get a bit too much sun, you can take a short break and not miss a tune.  This year Baja Talk Time, with Diego Knight and myself, will circulate throughout the crowd, speaking with performers and spectators, taping a podcast or two. I look forward to seeing you all there.

Local Shelter Needs Your Support

The plight of asylum-seeking migrants has been dominating the news lately, with a focus on the conditions from which these people are fleeing to the conditions they face upon reaching the border between Mexico and the US.

Here in Ensenada, there is a shelter that has long been an oasis not only for migrants in transit, but also for any indigent members of society who may find their way to its doors.

Located in Colonia Bustamante on Calle Novena 691 (691 9th Street), between Revolucion & Benito Juarez (near the Los Globos shopping area), the shelter provides meals, hot baths and temporary shelter for these people.

The shelter is equipped with laundry service, as well as recreational area behind its two-story structure. Every resident is expected to maintain good hygiene, and is responsible not only for keeping his/her area clean, but also in helping in the daily chores of cleaning the kitchen and common areas.

Applicants are not accepted if under the influence of alcohol or drugs.  However, addiction therapy is one of the many services that the shelter provides.

Ana Maria Acosta Iglesias has been the administrator and caretaker of the shelter since its inception in 1996. In the subsequent 23 years of service, she estimates that it has served well in excess of 50,000 people.

In addition to religious services, San Vicente offers medical and dental care, development of social skills, discounts on city and state government services, such as bus tickets, insurance and immigration services.

In 2016, El Vigia reported that San Vicente ended the year with a deficit of $68,000 pesos.

Acosta has repeatedly requested that the Ministry of Social Development (a State Government agency), increase its donation of $20,000 pesos monthly (slightly more than $1,000 USD), but her requests have not been answered. She says that the amount has been the same since  the shelter opened 23 years ago.

The deficit situation has not improved in the subsequent years.

Currently, Albergue San Vicente has a program called “Empty Bowls,” which obviously refers to the challenges facing the institution in regards to providing enough food for its residents and applicants.

You can help Acosta’s humanitarian efforts by donating food, clothing, blankets and cleaning and maintenance supplies; money is also greatly needed to pay for building maintenance, services and administrative expenses. Or you can volunteer your time and help in the kitchen by preparing food, or by offering any service that may be your specialty.

Clothing donations are welcome on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, any time of day.

All other donations are welcome any day, any time.

Please drop by the shelter at the address above, or call for an appointment: (646) 192.1216.

Office hours are 10 am – 12 noon, and 4 pm – 8 pm.

Interviews for new arrivals wishing to avail themselves of the Shelter’s many services are conducted from 4:30 pm – 8 pm.

Please be a part of the solution for this humanitarian crisis. The need is great, but if everyone gives just a little, many will receive the benefits.

 

Photo from El Vigia

Rosarito Offers Help to Expats with Disabilities

Mr. Manuel Salazar Martinez, authorized by the 8th Regiduria (Council) of the 7th Ayuntamiento (Town Hall) of Rosarito Beach, invites all expats with disabilities to be included with the City’s program, “Together for Inclusion without Distinction” and to become part of the 2019 Census for People with Disabilities in Rosarito. This includes all types of disabilities, whether or not they be visible, physical or psychological. This program includes any ambulatory debility, deafness, heart ailment, blindness, need for portable oxygen, and more. You will need to have a letter from a medical professional detailing your disability and be able to answer some basic questions about your health history. They will provide information about the cards issued by the DIF department. This card IS different from the Senior Citizens card (TARJETA INAPAM) issued by INAPAM.

A representative will even go to your home to help you with the registration process, so you don’t even have to drive all over City Hall trying to find a parking place.

To register, or for more information, contact Mr. Salazar via email at ahidalgo@rosarito.gob.mx, or phone him at 661-101-9065, or through Facebook at Manuel Salazar Regidor Inependiente. I suggest a phone call, as my emails went unanswered, perhaps because they were in English.

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