Cooking Like A Mexican

Beef tortillas?

The richness of Mexican food comes from the country’s many states that, but especially the little towns and settlements that make up each state. In Mexico, food is different from one state to the next, and even when a dish shares many ingredients with another, the way of preparing it makes it a completely different dish. Mexican food also owes its variety to the utensils used, and since Mexico is one of the oldest civilizations, most of the utensils are still made from stones, sticks, shells, bones, etc.

Metates are the great-grandparents of blenders and food processors. Much like the Molcajete, which is more widely known, metates are made from volcanic stone, called basalto. Before metates, pre-Hispanic Mexicans would grind ingredients directly on a huge slab of stone, eroding little dimples in the slab as time went by.

Each metate gives a different flavor to what is ground on it. The metlapilli is the part that is held by hand to grind on the metate. Molcajetes are typically used for salsas, metates for mole and tortilla masa; but anything can be ground on them, from seeds, vegetables and fruits to meats, clay, spices and natural pigments. Everything made in a metate is said to have the wisdom from the stone and the person who made it. The metate is a very special artifact to master, and not everyone who knows how to cook knows how to use one, but almost always someone who can work a metate is a wonderful cook.

Pacholas are one of the most ancient dishes in the state of Jalisco first appearing in a seventeenth-century cookbook, and even though Pacholas share all the ingredients with hamburger patties, meatloaf and meatballs, they are a whole ‘nother thing once you taste them. It is one of the dishes that has been left to die with time, because metates were abandoned for blenders and food processors, which were cheaper and easier to use. This dish was made from previously ground meat, grinding it finer in the metate and leaving it to dry before frying.

Jalisco is better known for its wet food: tortas ahogadas, sopes ahogados, and pretty much everything soaked in a bland salsa. Pacholas, however, are such a delicate but delicious dish, one would think of it as dry, but the double process that the meat goes through has a special effect on the proteins, making them one of the most valuable dishes of the region of Jalisco.

We’ll also make a salsa this time; the typical salsa made in Jalisco for all dishes  usually makes food wet, but in this case,  adds flavor and a nice presentation.

 

For the salsa:

 

1 pound of broiled tomatoes, pureed.

2 spoonful of white vinegar.

½ spoonful of oregano.

1 medium onion, finely chopped.

Salt and pepper to taste.

½ cup of water, as needed for a thin consistency. This will depend on the water from the tomatoes.

A pinch of sugar.

For the pacholas:

 

10 pepper corns.

2 cloves of garlic.

2 spoonful of cooked, refried beans.

½ spoonful of dried oregano.

½ pound of ground meat (a mixture of beef and pork is best but can be modified as preferred).

½ cucharadita de orégano seco.

Salt to taste.

1 cup of vegetable oil.

 

To make the salsa:

 

In a blender, place all the salsa ingredients and puree into a smooth, thin salsa.

Place in a dish to serve along the pacholas.

To make the Pacholas:

Grind pepper, garlic, beans and oregano into a paste.

In a large bowl, combine with the ground meat.

Add salt and mix again.

If you can find a molcajete, you can look up how to use it, but I’ll break it down for you below; if not, grind in the food processor until very fine, then make small balls and flatten between two parchment papers with a rolling pin.

Make round or oval thin patties, as thin as you can, about 5 millimeters.

Leave to air dry, covered with a paper towel, until not sticky to the touch anymore.

Fry in a pan with enough oil to cover.

Serve with the salsa, some guacamole and warm tortillas.

Tips and tricks:

To use the metate:

Cure. First, place a handful of uncooked rice and grind until powdered. This will fill whatever pores are left, and smooth out any unwanted bumps. Brush rice powder off and discard. There might be some stone powder in there, that will make your teeth screech unpleasantly.

Grind a tomato until all the skin is broken. This will help disinfect the metate, because of the tomato’s acid.

Rinse. DO NOT ADD SOAP.

Place the metate on the floor, and kneel in front of it. The higher part of the metate should be against your knees and the lower part should be farthest from you.

Place the ground meat on the higher side, not all of it has to be there at once, if its easier it can be little by little.

Place the grinding stone (metlapilli) in the middle of the metate, and start rocking it back and forth about one inch on each side.

If done correctly, the double ground meat should start collecting on the lower side of the metate; if not, it’s just a matter of practice.

Keep grinding until the edge of the Pachola starts sliding off the edge of the metate, that will be enough meat.

Slide the pachola off and place on a cooking sheet to dry.

Follow the rest of the steps to cook.

What’s Going On In This Country?

Biggest Train Heist Ever. Teachers in the state of Michoacán have been camping out on the train tracks, so far shutting down 250 trains. They’re demanding money for when they were striking against taking a competency exam. Now they’re threatening to escalate their protest by barricading banks, shopping centers and highway toll booths.

In dispute is about US $263 million, and it’s hard to see how the government is going to avoid paying this without incurring bloodshed, as these people are parking their pillows on the tracks.

The government is admitting the teachers are racking up a loss to the economy of $52 million a day because the blockade is causing a shortage of supplies such as steel and automotive parts, which is beginning to impact a variety of people. Mexican companies that export products are also racking up losses because they can’t get their goods to the ports.

The president of the Business Coordinating Council said its time for the federal government to clear the tracks, stating, “We cannot allow railway tracks to be subject to political extortion by minority groups.”

The president of the Mexican Employers Federation urged the government to end the blockades, although he emphasized that teachers’ human rights must be respected.

Yeah, as in don’t squish them on the tracks, but do get them to move along. This is a toughie.

Who’s the biggest thief of all? Real estate developers spend between 5% and 10% more on a project, just for the bribes they give to whoever regulates them, the NGO Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity (MCCI) reported Tuesday.

The most corrupt or with the highest perception of corruption are the mayors, then other authorities related to bribes would be Urban Development and Housing, and then the Water Authority.

According to the document, the “most common” forms of corruption are the fees of about $1,000, the request for an apartment from the work, the obligation to hire a specific contractor, or even to carry out works in public buildings.

Bribes also include personal gifts such as tickets for the Formula 1 race for officials, demolishing homes affected by the 2017 earthquake, or fixing parks.

Of the respondents to the poll, 94% said they had been victims of extortion or corruption, but only 36% reported it, in part because 42% do not trust the authorities. Gosh, why not?

Dog attack! Dogs attacked a woman as she walked to work over on the mainland.

Surveillance video showed a 34-year-old woman was killed by a pack of 11 dogs. The video indicates the attack lasted 11 minutes. Her body was discovered the following day. The Mayor ordered animal control agents to round up the dogs, but area residents attempted to prevent them from doing so by hiding them. However, the mayor said several had been captured.

Governor bails. After 5 years, a former governor of Sonora was let out of jail on $2 million bail on charges that his administration swiped $1.6 billion while he was governor. Poof! Gone. Well, maybe under his mattress? Has anybody looked?

Goodbye Plastics. This coming August may be the soonest the new law against plastic bags and plastic straws will go into effect. The law was approved last July, but these things, (as all things in Mexico), take time.

We recently used a paper straw and that fell apart after sucking up most of one drink. The straw felt weird, too. But maybe we’re just a strong sucker with sensitive lips

The biggest change will be not having to deal with those cheesy Wal-Mart bags that are so small and so skinny they can only take a few items. As you’re pushing your cart out the store, you look down and see a sea of thin opaque plastic waving and clattering in the breeze.

BYOB, (bring your own bag), has been the deal in some US states for a little while now, and it’s doable with surprisingly little effort. Just always carry a cloth bag in the trunk of your car. Even this dull bulb got used to it in about a month.

And if you forget to BYOB? Hopefully they will sell you their cheesy ones. But you will look pretty irresponsible pushing out of the store with that sea of plastic bobbing around in your cart.

Striking works. Spurred on by workers’ victories in Tamaulipas, employees of three more companies also started job action recently.

Now, 150 employees at a dairy bottling plant walked off the job as did 170 workers at a water purification company.

The non-unionized employees of the bottler said their salaries only increased by 1% at the start of this year when the minimum wage was doubled in the northern border region. They too want a 20% increase and a $1600 US bonus.

Some striking workers, who are calling for the same raise and bonus, denounced what they called exploitation by their employer and condemned the indifference of the union to their cause.

They said they expected to receive an annual bonus of US $525 last year but got just $65.

The strike action by employees of those two companies followed a work stoppage Thursday by workers at Arca Continental, the second largest Coca-Cola bottler in Latin America. The workers are also demanding a 20% pay raise and $1600 bonus.

“The plant and the distribution of products stopped,” said of the Mexican Employers Federation,

The president of the National Council of the Maquiladora Industry (Index Nacional), said earlier this week that strike action in Matamoros will result in 15 manufacturers leaving the city.

Que Pasa In Baja?

Baja, open for spring breakers. Our state tourism honcho, Oscar Escobedo, is promoting Baja as a destination for spring breakers this coming season. Escobedo has already appeared in the Good Morning San Diego TV show and on KGTV news promoting us.

Baja has been slowly recovering as a spring break destination in the last couple of years, after the security crisis about 11 years ago, completely wiped us off the destinations list.

“Security is a priority subject for us, that’s why, while working with authorities on both sides of the border, we can assure our visitors that trust and tranquility have prospered in our territory that, although divided by a border, operates as a sole region”, stated Escobedo.

The state official went on to comment that 84% of the foreign visitors in our state come from California, generating an increase of tourism during 2018 without any precedent, stating that over 27.5 million tourists visited us during last year, leaving an economic benefit for the region of more than 6 billion USD.

Ensenada Carnival in trouble. Last week, the Ensenada chamber of commerce gave a press conference, in which they stated that they were starting a formal legal and lobbying battle against the carnival, unless  they change the location from the boulevard.

Business owners have long complained when the carnival is on the boulevard, because they lose almost all their business during the carnival days, as streets are closed for circulation. Also, traffic gets crazy since the boulevard is one of the main streets to get in and out of Ensenada.

Jorge Menchaca, head of the local chamber of commerce, and Jorge Cortes, president of the business council, assured that the carnival affects about 200 local businesses greatly when it’s done on the boulevard.

They are proposing to change the location to Playa Hermosa, where it has been done a couple times before and affects a lot less businesses, although it has gotten a lot less people when it is done in this location.

The city of Ensenada is between a rock and a hard place regarding this, as they have already received the 1 million pesos payment from the event organizers, who have already promoted the carnival heavily in most of the media in this location. If the city decides to change the location at this point, it will surely piss off organizers, who in turn could sue the city for breach of contract.

Two new hotels open in Ensenada. City Express announced that it has started operating its two, brand new  hotels in Ensenada, adding 261 rooms to the local room inventory.

“With the opening of these two properties, we will contribute to the development of the tourism industry in Ensenada, with hotel infrastructure. At the same time, we are offering travelers another lodging option, backed up by a recognized national hotel chain,” said Monica Narro, head of public relations for the hotel chain.

The company will offer two different types of hotels: City Express Plus, located in the Viento property in El Sauzal, with 134 higher-end, ocean view rooms, and their City Express property on Boulevard Costero, offering more affordable hotel rooms.

City Express offers a total of 1,342 hotel rooms in Baja in it’s 11 locations, distributed in Mexicali, Tijuana, Rosarito and now Ensenada.

Snow birds flock to Algodones. Tourism officials from Mexicali said that more than 281 thousand snow birds visited the city of Algodones in Mexicali, nicknamed “molar city” because it has more dental offices per capita than any other city in the world, during 2018 generating an economic benefit for the area of 40 million dollars.

Snowbirds are people from Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana in the US, and British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan in Canada, that fly over to warmer climates.

In this case most of these are warming up in the sea of Cortez, and they take advantage of the lower dental service prices in Algodones, which are normally 50% to 70% less than in their home countries.

No desalination plant for Rosarito. It looks like the new desalination plant that was going to be created in Rosarito by Consolidated Water is not going to be built after all.

Luis Moreno, state congressman from the “Transformemos” party, said that the cancellation of the plant is imminent since the state government was not able to give the assurances needed for the company.

The time limit for the state government to offer these assurances, which were an increased water price from the water agency, along with some tax breaks and funds to pay for the water, was December 31st last year.

State congress did not approve the changes needed, although the state government was supporting the controversial project that was also opposed by local environmental groups and many citizens.

Consolidated Water is still hoping that the state government rescues the project, which seems far-fetched, considering the majority of the state congress is now held by parties opposing the plant.

What’s Going On In This Country?

Shooting. Despite campaigns and laws against shooting up, New Year’s revelers continue the tradition of firing guns at the stroke of midnight. And if you don’t have a gun, police in Sinaloa will lend you one, which proved fatal for a seven-year-old girl in Oaxaca after she was struck by a stray New Year’s bullet. The little girl and her family were seated outdoors and preparing to enjoy a New Year’s Eve dinner when she appeared to faint.

At about the same time that Vivian was hit, two local police officers loaned an automatic rifle to a New Year’s reveler, so he could join the fun and fire shots into the air. The two are under investigation after a video of the incident surfaced. After the video appeared, they were relieved of their weapons and put under investigation. Don’t expect more than a slap on the wrist.

General Motors has retaken the title of No. 1 automaker in Mexico after an eight-year hiatus inflicted by Nissan.

The United States manufacturer made more than 801,000 light vehicles in Mexico by the end of November last year, a 9% increase over the previous year. It was also the top auto exporter from Mexico, with over 775,000 of its new vehicles shipped out of the country. Japanese automaker Nissan, which was Mexico’s largest between 2011 and 2017, made 717,100 vehicles in the first 11 months of 2018, a 9% decline from the previous year.

GM on a roll. The numbers are a reflection of GM’s renewed manufacturing focus in Mexico and the difficulties faced by Nissan due to a contraction of the Mexican auto market. By increasing its production capacity in Mexico in the past two years, GM thumbed its nose at President Donald Trump. To add to Trump’s consternation, GM announced it plans to manufacture new models in Mexico, including the Chevrolet Equinox SUV, the GMC Terrain and the Chevrolet Blazer.

The new trade agreement late last year between Mexico, the United States and Canada will bring changes to the North American auto sector and push up manufacturing costs in Mexico, but GM and other U.S. manufacturers are well prepared. Among the changes agreed to in the new pact, known as USMCA, are an increase to regional content levels to 75% from 62.5% in order for a car to be given tariff-free status, and a requirement for 40% of content to come from high-wage areas where workers earn at least US $16 per hour.

The trade agreement, which may or may not pass Congress, will replace the 25-year-old NAFTA at the start of 2020. Or not. That $16 wage is about as likely to happen as Mexico paying for the wall, but by that time, if Trump is still president, he won’t be paying attention to the art in this deal.

Gas grief. The same night President López Obrador reported the pipeline that runs from Tuxpan to Azcapotzalco was fixed, it was breached again. “It was working and at 11 o’clock at night it was broken again, and it is being repaired again; I am informed that in an hour the supply will be re-established. As I have said, let’s see who gets tired of this bullshit first.” OK, so he didn’t say bullshit. If you want a word-for-word quote, you can learn Spanish and listen to him yourself. He gives press conference every morning at 7 am, which is carried live on Youtube.

This week, another pipeline was vandalized for three consecutive days. Security will be reinforced along the main pipelines of Pemex, and President AMLO announced new special bases chock full of soldiers ready to charge out and arrest the fuel thieves. Ja! Even a cat knows better than to expect to see that. There will also be aerial surveillance, he said. “Since yesterday and today begins surveillance in air force helicopters in all pipelines and special bases are being created every certain distance.” Forever? 9,000 extra soldiers and guarding the pipelines. For how long? The thieves will just lay low until AMLO gives up on this silly game.

More gas grief. The federal government’s fuel theft strategy has not only stranded motorists unable to get gasoline, but ships are stuck as well: at least 60 oil tankers are stranded in Mexico’s principal ports, unable to unload their fuel because Mexico is afraid to send the fuel they already have through the pipes. There are not enough tanker trucks to distribute it.

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!

Cooking Like a Mexican

BY ALEJANDRA BORBOLLA

Buñuelos

December in Mexico is about eating, sharing and caring. One of the most important things about Mexican food is dessert, and even though I don’t write much about it, I think it’s a good opportunity now, calorie counting being tossed to the winds and all.

Buñuelos is a recipe as old as colonized Mexico. One of the oldest known recipe books belongs to Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, a poet, dramatist, scholar and nun who was born around 1651. Her mother was a creole, and her father Spanish, but they did not have a large income. From when she was a little girl, she was hungry for knowledge, mostly self-taught from burying her nose in whatever book she could find. She also taught herself to read when she was three years old, or so the story goes. This was a time when girls were not allowed to go to school. Her mother knew she was bright, so she sent Inés to Mexico City to live with relatives. She was called to be a lady-in-waiting in the court of the viceroy’s wife.

A few years later, she was at the point where she either married or became a nun. So, she became the latter. We don’t know what was going on on the boyfriend front, but apparently not much. She joined the barefoot carmelitas but only stayed there four months, because she became sick. After recovering, her stark room at her new convent became the meeting point for intellectuals and poets, and Luisa Manrique, another viceroy’s wife (who, rumor has it, had a huge girl crush on María Inés). In her room, she also performed scientific experiments and had an amazing collection of books.

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, woman with too many names was a poet, a dramatist, a scholar and a nun who invented  buñuelos, which got her on the 200 peso note. But didn’t get her a husband, which oversight got her into a convent.
Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, woman with too many names was a poet, a dramatist, a scholar and a nun who invented buñuelos, which got her on the 200 peso note. But didn’t get her a husband, which oversight got her into a convent.

Sor Juana was well known for many things, most of those controversial. Most men who were in the same niche as her would publish “pseudonymous” letters trying to convince her to stick to her religious duty rather than using her brain. She wrote mostly poetry, about love, erotism, (She’s a nun, what does she know? Possibly her reason for going into the convent should be looked into.) She also wrote about morals and psychology. (One of her most important poems is written in tiny mice type on the 200 peso note, along with her portrait, which we’re hoping was taken on an unusually bad day).

But today we’re talking about this iconic woman because along with her other talents, she was a great cook. Her recipes were perfectly aligned with poetry, and delicious. Her culinary expertise, however, started at her family’s home back when she was a little girl, before all the nunsense. (haha, see what I did here? Nun-nonsense? I’m hilarious!)

The cooks at the hacienda kitchen were indigenous women from Oaxaca, so she grew up with both Spanish and indigenous cuisine.

Buñuelos de rodilla are a special buñuelo, which grandmothers used to shape with their bare knees, literally. In the olden days, buñuelos were actually called “puñuelos” because they were kneaded with the fists, called puños. The heritage form this dish comes from Iberian Christians, aka Spaniards, who had several recipes, including cheese, rice, pulque and milk.

Buñuelos were invented by the working class of the southern Spanish peninsula looking for a cheap, sweet, warm treat they could have in the winter when the economy wasn’t exactly thriving.

Every state has its own buñuelo recipe, ranging from bright orange colors, sugar coated or syrup, fried in lard or oil, served in corn husks or in paper. (Remember what I keep telling you: Mexican cooking is very regional.) Buñuelos are a sweet treat that is usually found around the church square of cities and towns, sold by street vendors at special times like Christmas, revolution day, independence day, day of the dead, etc.

In Oaxaca, buñuelos are eaten on a plate that will be thrown and shattered on the floor later, once it breaks in a million pieces, a wish will be granted for the next year. It’s not every state that observes that tradition.

Big batches are the usual when making buñuelos, because even though they are very cheap, it is very much worthier to make a lot of them at one time, because it’s not like people are going to eat just one, trust me.

To compliment this recipe, I’ll give you a short, sweet drink too, which is atole de masa, a thick hot drink that is not too sweet to balance out the flavors. Atole and buñuelos go together like mash and gravy. This is a completely Mexican drink, which was made ceremoniously by the Aztecs, and some rural communities still drink it in their every day lives. Sometimes, a cup of atole is all they have throughout the day, until they come home to have a hearty meal. The main ingredient is masa, the dough that is the base for tortillas.

For the Buñuelos:

2 cups of all-purpose flour

2 cups of sunflower oil

4 oz of water

½ stick of butter

½ teaspoon of star anise

3 tablespoons of sugar

1 pinch of salt

1 pinch of cinnamon

How to:

Shift flour and sugar together, along with the salt and cinnamon.

Heat up some water in a pot, and add the star asnise. This liquid will be what gives buñuelos their signature taste and fragrance.

Add the butter to the dry ingredients, preferably at room temperature and start mixing. Using your hands will be faster and easier. Wash them first.

Once the butter and flour are mixed together, start adding tablespoons of the anise water, slowly, until a firm and homogeneous dough is achieved. The perfect consistency is when the dough is not sticky anymore, and is stretchy.

Leave the dough to rest for ten minutes, sprinkle with a lot of flour to prevent a crust from forming.

Once the ten minutes have passed, form little balls about the size of a lime, to make the buñuelos. (I’d recommend to slather some oil on your hands)

With the help of a rolling pin, form the buñuelos (You can try and shape them with your knees, but I don’t think you’ll make it.

Once you have formed the buñuelos, and are about as thin as a folded paper, you can start frying them.

Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.

Atole de masa

Ingredients:

½ cup of masa, can be store bought or made from maseca.

4 ½ of warm water or milk

1 stick of cinnamon

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

2 small cones of piloncillo or 1 cup of sugar (it’s not meant to be sweet, but you can add more to your taste)

How to:

Dissolve the masa in a cup of milk or water, depends on what you’re using.

Simmer the rest of the water or milk in a deep pot, and slowly add the dissolved masa.

Add the cinnamon, vanilla, sugar or piloncillo and bring to a gentle boil.

What’s Going On In This World?

Uncle Sam to the rescue. The U.S. government is pledging $10.6 billion in public and private funds toward economic development in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, in an attempt to address the causes of migration from the region, the U.S. State Department has announced.

The investment will include partnerships with the private sector;  $4.8 billion will be spent in Mexico and $5.8 billion in northern Central America through 2024, according to a joint statement from the State Department and Mexico’s Foreign Relations Ministry. Mexico is pledging $25 billion in the region over the same period, the statement said.

Much of the U.S. funds had been set aside since 2017, but the Trump administration will request approval from Congress for an additional $180 million for assistance to Mexico.

“Overall, this is very good news for Mexico,” said Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard in a joint statement. Well, no kidding!

Mexico to the rescue. Over the next five years, the Mexican government plans to pitch in $30 billion to Central American development. Their goal is to keep illegal aliens from heading north towards the United States border, and trampling through Mexico to get it done.

BTW, close observers (like us), noted that Mexico tried very hard to stop the migrant caravan from swarming into Mexico. Their forces were simply overwhelmed by young men leading the charge with Molotov cocktails, sticks, and stones. Is it any wonder that these migrants, who can barely read even Spanish, and don’t know what’s going on in the States, thought they could storm through the U.S. border, also? They were misled by their so called “leaders,” who call themselves human rights workers.

Wall grief. The White House border wall is more expensive because of our slapping tariffs on steel imports. That allowed domestic steel plants to raise their domestic prices by the same 25%.

Tecate’s cash in jeopardy.  Mexico’s 121 so called “magical towns” might not receive any federal money in 2019 because the program that funds them has been cancelled. Our own Tecate is one of those magic towns. The average magic town gets about $240,000 U.S. per year, depending on how good a deal they swung when they first were dusted with the magic pixie dust.

Tourism Secretary Miguel Torruco confirmed the end to funding for the program, along with chopping the entire federal tourism budget down to nada. Our new President wants to spend the entire bag of money on his 1000 mile tourist train through the jungles of the Yucatan.

Fake news in Baja. A criminal gang is targeting business owners in Baja with an extortion that threatens to spread fake news about them if they refuse to pony up. More than 100 business owners as well as professionals such as doctors and lawyers have been targeted.

The demands come with the threat that if they don’t pay, false information will be spread about them online. Stuff like they have criminal records for drug trafficking, weapons offenses, robbery or other crimes.

Last week the suspected leader was arrested. He had allegedly posted phony information about business owners and politicians on a website masquerading as an online newspaper called Noticias de México. It is thought that the criminals were obtaining information about their targets from social media.

Preliminary investigations into the modus operandi of the extortion racket indicate that its members initially contact their targets through email, offering to sell them online advertising. The targets are left with a telephone number to call. The telephone numbers of those who call are recorded and passed on to the extortionists who then begin their scam. Their fatal stupidity was that they spread the scam into San Diego. This brought the FBI down on them like a ton of bricks. They were then quickly busted.

Many years ago the Gringo Gazette South was extorted in a similar scam. 24 Horas, a TV program very similar to 60 Minutes, was in Cabo to film a story on the town. Yes, in those days it was actual film, not video. They were filming. The crew approached the publisher and demanded $50,000 USD or they would say “bad things” about the paper. The “bad things” turned out to be a reporter holding up the paper and saying we said negative things about Mexicans. Because most Mexicans can’t read the paper, they believed it. This was about 20 years ago and we still get Mexicans who refer to that. Also, the story went around town so much and got distorted and enlarged to the extent that many don’t remember where they heard it, they just believe that the paper says negative things about them. This latest extortion scam is very serious, and fake news of this kind can have lasting effects.

President attends Mayan ceremony. President AMLO is asking for Earth’s permission to build his tourist train through the jungles of the Mayan peninsula. This is in lieu of the customary conservation permits. The ceremony was for limpia, to rid them of “bad vibes.” Hey, we don’t make this stuff up, it just seems like it!

The ceremony also included the placing of offerings in a hole in the ground. Among these were a chicken, a bottle ofpozol (a fermented corn dough and cacao drink) and 12 bottles of a local aguardiente, a distilled alcoholic beverage. The ceremony was intended to ensure the president’s first big infrastructure project is finished without incident.

“We have to ask for permission from the Earth, because we eat from her and we walk on her,” said the state Secretary for the Sustainable Development of Indigenous Peoples, with a straight face. In a speech after the ceremony, President López Obrador recalled that former president Porfirio Díaz had been able to lay 12,000 miles of track during his decades-long dictatorship, suggesting he ought to be able to lay the 1000 miles of track required for his Maya Train. With a straight face.

More energy, please. Mexico’s oil and gas collapse is an immense problem, because Mexico is the fastest growing OECD energy user. Expected economic growth is a solid 3-5% per year, and oil and gas supply is only 85% of the country’s needs.

Oil revenues have dwindled down 40% from a decade ago.

For natural gas, Mexico’s most vital source of energy, falling production has meant soaring reliance on. U.S. shale gas. Over the past 10 years, the strategy has been to displace fuel oil with natural gas. Today, gas accounts for over 60% of the country’s electricity, and Mexico gets nearly 65% of its natural gas from the U.S.

This increasing reliance on the U.S. has Mexican leadership concerned because the U.S. has plans to export huge amounts of liquefied natural gas to all corners of the globe. China and India and others want U.S. gas, and we hate standing in line.

Pemex woes. Mexico’s military has taken control over key fuel installations. 57 facilities will be protected by the Army and Navy: six refineries, 39 storage terminals, and 12 pumping stations. New President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has vowed to fight corruption and fuel theft within and outside government-run energy company, Pemex.

According to Pemex’s own estimates, the losses from fuel theft over the past three years have reached US $7.5 billion.

“This is the theft of national assets, of public funds, of money that belongs to all Mexicans,” Lopez Obrador said. On Friday, the Mexican army swooped in, but unionized workers were blocking access to some of the sites.

Three Pemex officials, suspected of having facilitated fuel theft, had already been arrested for the alleged crimes. The three Pemex officials have been sacked and will be facing criminal charges, Mexico’s Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero said at Lopez Obrador’s news conference on Thursday. Ha ha. These accusations will be swept under the rug at the end of this news cycle when no one is looking.

Illegal, amateur taps on Mexican pipelines jumped by 45 percent annually between January and October 2018.

Apart from rampant fuel theft, Pemex also has to cope with declining domestic oil production, which in October is one of the lowest monthly production rates since 1990 when records began.

   In related news. Also in the works will be construction of the Bocas refinery in Tabasco state and the cross-country railroad which will connect the Pacific Coast with the Gulf of Mexico and give the shippers an alternative to the Panama Canal, the president said. All they have to do is unload it from the ships, load up trains, choo choo across the country, then load the stuff on a different ship. Bam! They’re there!

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.

What’s Going On In This Country?

More hotels. Wyndham is expanding in Mexico because the country is a rising power in tourism, and the sector is expected to continue to grow in the coming years, declared their spokes dude. With eight new properties announced, the number of Wyndham hotels in Mexico will increase from 52 to 60.

Taxista run amuck. Taxi drivers are scary people for a lot of reasons. They have been known to change the price on you mid ride, then call in their buddies as enforcers if you don’t pay. They will take you around the long way if they think you don’t know the territory, and they initially quote you whatever price that will get them through that day. You will notice that most of them don’t even have a meter in their cabs. But this taxista went a little too far.

Bad habits such as texting and speaking on cell phones while driving us, we can maybe live with. Even watching them watch videos on dash-mounted screens is a bit unsettling.

But a couple of passengers in Puerto Escondido discovered last week it’s not such a good idea to complain. When they asked the driver to stop using his phone and focus on driving, he physically assaulted them. The passengers got out of the vehicle with the aid of passersby and their attacker fled the scene. The unidentified driver and his cab — number 02-968 — are being sought by state traffic police after a formal complaint was filed, but it’s doubtful anything will come of it. Unless he wants his car back, but it’s probably not his anyway, as most taxi drivers here in Mexico don’t own the taxi, they just rent it. The same goes for Uber, but in a smaller percentage.

For the record, traffic regulations forbid the use of mobile phones while driving, except when the driver is using hands-free devices or a speakerphone.

Got Netflix? Telcel, the largest cellphone operator in Mexico, is now offering household internet via its 4G mobile network. Spain-based Movistar was the first company to offer the service early this year, followed by the United States-based AT&T and finally bringing up the end of the innovation and service trend is our own domestic firm, Televisa under the name Blue Telecomm.

For about US $10 per month, we get speeds of up to 5 mbps but once you run through 100GB, they put the speed brakes on, and download speed is reduced to 1 lousy mbp.

The second tier offers up to 10 mbps with a data cap of 150 GB for about $17.50. The price of the modem is about $40. The moral to the story is, don’t get into a long series on Netflix, just view it in little chunks of little mbps’s

Banks’ bad day. Last month saw a day they’re calling Black Thursday on the Mexican stock market; bank stocks plummeted after senators from president-elect López Obrador’s Morena party unexpectedly proposed to rein in those little and not so little bank charges we all suffer with. The bill referenced a study by financial consumer protection agency Condusef that said that, on average, 30% of Mexican banks’ revenues come from commissions. That percentage, Morena argued in its proposal, is more than banks in other countries earn from those charges. If approved, the legislation would prohibit banks from charging customers for checking their account balances, withdrawing cash, requesting past statements and issuing replacement cards, among other services. They’re comparing Mexico to other countries as a benchmark on behavior? That practice, in this cat’s opinion, is ill advised.

The Mexican Stock Exchange index fell 5.81% due to the banks’ losses, its biggest single-day decline since August 2011. Proponents of this legislation claim bank charges generated income of more than US $5.3 billion for Mexican banks last year alone, 8% more than in 2016.

Shares in Banorte suffered the biggest drop, down 11.9% at the close of trading, while Gentera and Inbursa saw 10.23% and 10.08% wiped off their market value. The Mexico subsidiary of Spanish bank Santander slumped 8%. According to Bloomberg, the combined losses that day of Banorte, Inbursa, Santander, BanBajío, Gentera and Regional totaled more than US $4.2 billion.

The move served to further stir fears in the financial sector about López Obrador’s economic plans. But bank stocks recovered the next day after the new president walked that legislation proposal back. Guessing he won’t try that again.

Pemex. The decision to delay oil and gas lease auctions until the new administration officially takes office December 1st has alarmed investors, who fear that incoming president AMLO’s planned $10.5 billion rescue plan for the oil industry will increase Pemex’s debt burden. The Mexican state oil company is already the world’s most indebted national oil company, according to ratings agency Moody’s, with more than $100 billion in debt and about the same amount in pension liabilities. On October 19, Fitch, another ratings agency, revised down Pemex’s outlook rating to negative from stable, causing the peso to fall to its lowest level in over a month.

Pemex’s disarray is evidenced by Mexico’s gargantuan oil production decline over the past two decades. Oil production fell from 3.9 million bpd in 2004 to 2.5 million bpd in 2016, and slipped even further in 2017, dropping as low as 1.9 million bpd. Oil output has fallen during most months in the first half of 2018, standing at just under 2.1 million bpd in June.

The company is in dire need of partnerships with international energy companies that know what the hell they’re doing.  Such joint ventures would allow it to extract more oil from its existing fields, and to discover new fields. But two years ago, there was a new strategy put in place that has proven its worth, as Pemex recently gained $1.43 billion pesos of net profit for the third quarter of 2018, compared with a 101.8 billion pesos loss in the same period last year. Don’t get excited though, as AMLO has vowed to change things again, diverting oil investment funds to his many social programs.

More on airport. Around 5,500 people marched in Mexico City to protest the decision to cancel the new airport under construction there. One third, $5 billion into it, protesters argued the public consultation that led to the cancellation decision was unconstitutional and warned that president-elect López Obrador would hold more illegitimate referendums on other issues if they let him get away with this one.

“What’s going to happen is that he’s going to want to have ‘consultations’, little mini votes, scattered around the country, mostly in areas that voted for him, for everything, and they will be unconstitutional,” said protester Josefina Ruiz. The demonstrators also contended that cancelling the new airport would cost thousands of jobs and halt Mexico City’s economic development.

López Obrador has long criticized the project, charging that it is corrupt, too expensive and not needed. Says the man who is selling the presidential jet and vowing to fly commercial. He is going to regret both of these decisions as he discovers the Mexico City airport is truly a nightmare of last century technology, design, and use of space.

Fish Report

Tijuana Bull Ring

Local action has been slow recently — not many bonito or bass, and just a fair number of little rock fish. Out west in the flats, however, the skipjack fishing has been great.

Coronado Islands

After a month or so of very little action, the 10- to 15-pound yellowtail are back on the bite.

The word we have is that yellowtail were seen on the rockfish area just to the NE of North Island and were taking the 6x jr., 6x and 7x yoyo iron, fished on 40- to 50-pound monofilament. Scrambled egg and blue/white were working well also.

Along with the yellowtail, a bunch of 4- to 6-pound bonito were seen spread out along the weather side of North Island.

Offshore

Captain Louie Prieto shows off one of the better-quality sheepshead caught on a recent outing.
Captain Louie Prieto shows off one of the better-quality sheepshead caught on a recent outing.

Below the 425 / Upper Hidden & Hidden Bank

This zone continues to be the best bet for yellowfin, with the most productive area being below 32.06, down in the Upper Hidden Bank area.

There is a temp break running east/west at that number. Temps are below 68°F, and to the north of it as well as 68°F to 69°F to the south.

The yellowfin, skipjack, yellowtail and dorado have nearly all been kelps now with not a lot of open-water jig stops happening.

The average-size yellowfin has been small, mainly from 6- to 10-pounds, with a few up around 20-pounds. The skippies were in the 5- to 8-pound range. The yellowtail have been little rats, from 1- to 3-pounds and the dorado have been small as well, from 5- to 10-pounds.

Lower 9 / Coronado Canyon / 425 / Upper Hidden / Hidden Bank

A couple of boats went exploring and checked out this area today. They didn’t find a lot of fish — in fact, most of the area was a barren desert, but they did find a couple of kelps which produced good numbers of yellowfin and skipjack along with a sample of rat yellowtail.

295 / 238 / 450 / 1140 Finger / Lower 500

Still the location where the biggest scores of yellowfin were coming from, but with a catch: 95% are on kelp paddies.

Easy limits of 6- to 35-pound yellowfin, along with some skipjack, yellowtail and a lone dorado were caught recently.

Most of the area is a desert now as well, with lots of dead water; but be sure and check out any kelp or any dolphin you run into, because these could be holding yellowfin.

Ensenada

Captain Louie Prieto checked in, reporting that for the last couple of weeks, yellowtail fishing has been spotty, but the big bonito and bottom fish have been biting full speed. Water was 63°F to 66°F inside the bay and has been flat and calm most days.

Several high spots at Bahia Salsipuedes were producing sand bass to 7-pounds, reds and chuckleheads to 5-pounds and one nice 23-pound sheepshead on a large root beer colored scampi tipped with squid. Best action was in 120- to 150-feet of water for all the bottom fish. There were several nice bonito on blue and white salas 6x jr. between Punta Pescadero and the Gas Plant. No birds were working anywhere in the bay, but when bait was found on the meter, the bonito have been found as well. Also, lots of bonito are reported a couple of miles inside of the southern end of Todos Santos Island. None of the deeper “go to” spots seem to be holding any yellowtail yet. Only a matter of time until they show. Live bait is not available until probably April, so bring squid.

San Quintin

Only a few groups recently. Troy Hutton, plus some amigos from Lake Arrowhead, Calif., found excellent action fishing aboard Captain Kelly Catian’s 25-foot Parker Offshore III, scoring a mix of yellowtail, big red rock cod and lingcod.

Bahia de Los Angeles

Currently, in a November tease mode with nice weather and only moderate breezes in the afternoons, most if not all the yellowtail action was dropper loop stuff, fishing at depths of 200-feet or so around the Islands. Cabrilla, grouper and pargo was also in the mix closer to shore. So far, north winds have not cranked up to full winter mode.

Send this to a friend