What’s Going On In This Country?

Pacifying unions at what cost? Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, (AMLO) has said he was ordering the education, interior and finance ministries to suspend laws passed by the government of his predecessor, President Enrique Pena Nieto

AMLO says those laws belong to the “neo-liberal” era, his name for the three and a half decades that preceded his election. He has repeatedly blamed that period for aggravating poverty, corruption and violence in Mexico.

The repeal of this law is aimed at buying off the CNTE teachers union – a dissident breakaway group from the biggest union, the SNTE. These young people who call themselves student teachers, although they don’t go to school, have staged months of protests and blockades to pressure Lopez Obrador to dump the 2013 reform that requires new teachers to take a competency exam and forbids the buying and selling of teaching jobs. AMLO  also let the head of the teachers union out of jail, who was found to have $200 million USD in properties, as well as a private jet. AMLO just this week gave her back all of her ill-gotten-booty and she is running for president of the union again! If she wins, she will once again be able to sway elections by delivering 26,000 votes from her teachers.

Central Americans Getting Pushy. Trump is cranking up pressure on Mexico to stop the flow of migrants through that country and it seems to be working. A little bit. Detentions of undocumented migrants waiting for registration in Mexico increased to 12,746 last month, an increase of almost one-third compared to February, and two-thirds compared to January.

The INM says that migrants staying at its facilities are not detained but rather are being held for processing, but rights groups and the migrants themselves say they are not free to leave.

Thousands of migrants have been stranded in Chiapas as they wait to see if they will be granted humanitarian visas, or at least 20-day transit visas that allow them to legally travel through Mexico.

Some of the migrants have been staying inside a makeshift shelter set up inside a sports stadium for almost three weeks, while others have camped in a field. “It’s madness that they’re making us wait so long. For what? For nothing!” said Daisy Maldonado, a 26-year-old from Honduras who traveled to Mexico with her five-year-old daughter.

Immigration Commissioner Tonatiuh Guillén said in a recent interview that a stricter immigration approach was being adopted in the south of Mexico due to a large number of arrivals, but he denied that it was a result of pressure from the United States, although two large groups of migrants – 204 from Honduras and 148 from Cuba – were deported from Mexico in recent days after they were found traveling through the country without having first regularized their immigration status.

“Migration officials are grabbing us like pigs,” said Erick Morazan, a 28-year-old Honduran migrant who traveled at night in a “caravan of zombies” to avoid detection by immigration officials and the possibility of deportation.

In related news. As the number of Central American immigrants has increased, the welcome mat in southern Mexico is being withdrawn. One Mapastepec resident who said she helped provide food for migrant caravans last year told Reuters that migrants “are pouring onto our land” and regularly ask residents for money, rejecting offers of food. A recent poll of close to 500 adults by the Center of Public Opinion at the University of the Valley of Mexico (UVM) found that 83% believed that migrants could cause problems for Mexico, and 62% said they believed Mexico should be tougher on them.

A heads-up vendor. El Chuy is a street vendor with a cart in downtown Oaxaca city. He is done selling his elotes (corn on the cob) and esquites (corn kernels cooked in butter and topped with mayonnaise, chile and lime juice) in the zócalo, or central square, of the southern state’s capital, using Styrofoam cups. He now wraps his goodies in corn husks.

He started using corn husks, explaining he had heard a lot about the damage that Styrofoam causes “to the seas, marine animals and ecosystems.”

Alvarado said his environmentally-conscious decision made more work for himself because he has to get up early in the morning to cut and clean the corn husks, but it’s been worth it: in addition to helping the environment, the Styrofoam substitute has proven popular among El Chuy’s customers. “People say the [the esquites] taste better than with Styrofoam. Corn husks are very clean and they release a very sweet flavor,” Alvarado said.

His sales have also improved, and despite the extra work he puts in, El Chuy continues to sell a serving of esquites at the same old price of 20 pesos (US $1).

Down, boy! Two women were attacked and mauled this week by their own family’s eight dogs — six pit bulls and two dalmatians. Police reported the dogs attacked a 46-year-old woman and her 26-year-old daughter at home. Authorities identified another daughter and her boyfriend, who live in the same house, as the dogs’ owners. The couple voluntarily gave permission for an animal control team to capture the animals.

One year ago two pit bulls killed a seven-year-old child in México state. He and his mother had left the house to go shopping but when they returned they discovered they had left the keys inside. The young boy volunteered to scale the entrance wall but when he descended on the other side the dogs attacked. Neighbors rushed to help but by the time they entered the home the child was dead.

Also on the mainland, a woman was mauled and partially eaten on her way to work by a pack of 11 dogs. Some of the dog’s owners refused to surrender them to authorities.

It gets closer to home: A boy dog riding along the Malecon in La Paz, in the back of a pickup truck, saw a pretty girl dog walking on a leash along the Malecon, just minding her own business. The boy dog leapt out of the truck and attacked. The boy dog’s owner leapt out too and tried to stop the fight the girl dog put up for her honor and the horny out of control dog turned around and bit his own owner in the face, enough that he had to have stitches!

The city of La Paz is trying to ban all dogs from the Malecon because even leashed dogs are biting, but they’re getting so much push back from dog owners, the law probably won’t work.

This isn’t working. Illegal taps on petroleum pipelines increased in both January and February compared to the same months last year despite the federal government’s crackdown on fuel theft.

The state oil company reported that 1,342 new pipeline taps were detected in February, an increase of 9.6% over the same month in 2018.

In January, a month when the federal government was implementing an anti-fuel theft strategy that caused widespread gasoline shortages, there were 1,519 new pipeline taps detected, a 45% increase compared to a year earlier. In Hidalgo, where more than 100 people were killed in January by an explosion at a tapped pipeline, the number of illegal taps still didn’t go down.

Three weeks after he took office on December 1, President López Obrador began implementing a strategy aimed at combating high levels of fuel theft, a crime that costs Pemex billions of pesos a year. The strategy included the closure of several major pipelines and the deployment of the military and Federal Police to protect fuel infrastructure. With pipelines closed, Pemex was forced to make greater use of tanker trucks to transport fuel, a situation that was blamed for causing prolonged gasoline shortages that affected more than 10 states.

The government’s claims that fuel theft has been significantly reduced appear to be not true.

Over $2 million in cash stolen. It took a group of armed men 3 minutes to steal $2.4 million worth of United States and Canadian dollars at Guanajuato International Airport in Central Mexico last Wednesday night, more than double the amount initially reported.

Between six and eight masked men in a truck disguised with a fake Aeroméxico logo breached security to enter the runway area, where they intercepted an airport service vehicle that was in the process of delivering the cash to a waiting aircraft.

The money had arrived at the airport in a PanAmericano armored truck at around 8 p.m. in order to be flown to Mexico City. The armed men stole 14 of 18 bags of cash from a sole unarmed PanAmericano guard and two airport employees traveling across the tarmac in a luggage transport vehicle. The thieves then loaded the money into their truck, drove to the perimeter of the airport property and knocked over a fence to escape.

Shortly after the robbery, police found the truck that was used in the robbery and recovered two of the stolen bags of cash. They later found two more bags of cash in another abandoned vehicle.

Federal and state police, as well as the army, conducted a joint search operation but there have been no arrests. Later, Federal Police set up checkpoints to inspect vehicles entering and leaving the Guanajuato airport as part of wider measures to bolster security at the facility.

The Outside Edge

The “outside edge” samples some of the outside activities available in northern Baja.  Each month a different activity will be reviewed with a focus on the ocean and mountains.  Reach me at davek@plasticclothing.com happy trails!

To travel or not to travel, that is the question.  Travel brings a sense of renewal, of energy, of change.  A good trip made of meeting new people, seeing new things, doing new activities- it all adds up to coming home with a charged up battery and a slightly changed perception of yourself and the world.  No one will argue these points, so why aren’t you coming to Mexico more often?

This newspaper targets northern Baja tourists and gringo locals.  Most of the locals agree with what I am going to say, so I’ll aim these points to the tourists and hope the locals can use it to send to their friends and family that have chosen not to visit Mexico in the last few years.  There is some bad news for sure out there- and the headlines sometimes sound even worse.  I have friends in San Diego actually think the Hondurans are attacking the border!

The issue is that these things happen in parts of Mexico, or parts in Tijuana.  Bad things happen all over the world, some of the worst in U.S cities; they just don’t make the news.  Everyone has heard a story about getting pulled over or even put in jail in Mexico.  If you dig deeper, those people were inevitably carrying small amounts of drugs, driving drunk, and/or drawing undue attention to themselves.  Don’t take my word for it, ask those questions next time you hear a story.  The last time I heard a bad story from a guy, it turned out he was looking for drugs in Cabo and had red mohawk at the time.  Go figure.

The border has improved and the line isn’t as long as it used to be.  The restaurants have the same great food and atmosphere as always, at half the price of San Diego.  There are a lot of checkpoints and security around, and most people speak English.  Start with lots of great mountain biking and surfing, throw in some of the best motocross and fishing in the world, mix in some great inexpensive and amazing wine tasting and affordable resorts and hotels… you get the picture.  Want to get more ‘out there’?  My article usually deals with day trips that are all about ‘out there’, start coming more often and pick up some good trip advice in future articles.  Baja is not even close to the population density as north of the border- ‘out there’ is as close as your hotel door!

Hope to see you on the trail!

Que Pasa In Baja?

Elections are here. Campaigns for governor, mayor, and state congressional seats have just started; that’s why you are seeing an excess of friendly looking faces on billboards and posters around town.

Elections are being held on Sunday, June 2nd, so on that day, you might see some lines of people where you usually don’t.

The elected governor for Baja will only last two years on his term; this is four fewer years than the usual 6-year term because we are trying to match the federal mid-term elections for the upcoming years.

This is causing a lot of unrest between supporters of Jaime Bonilla, the runner-up for governor from the Morena party (same party as our president, AMLO), who claims that his rights are being undermined with a shorter term in office. Bonilla is practically our next governor, with more than 60% of the preference in polls, while none of the others even get to 20%.

The PAN party has ruled Baja for more than 30 years, but people are not very happy with it, especially with the current governor Kiko Vega, who has been accused of corruption and plain old incompetence.

All 5 municipalities in Northern Baja will choose a new mayor, and although last year’s changes in the constitution allowed for city officials to be reelected, only Tijuana’s mayor, Juan Manuel Gastelum decided to compete for a second term in office.

Another whale dies. This past week the corpse of a grey whale appeared in Playa Hermosa, Ensenada. Since it was a Sunday and the weather was warm, lots of people who were there to enjoy the beach where amazed by the colossal animal lying on the beach. Some even decided it was a good idea to ride the dead animal for pictures, which pissed off some of the other beachgoers.

The federal zone authority (ZOFEMAT) was quick to bury the corpse; they said that they had to dig a hole 30 feet long and 12 feet deep so the animal could fit. Hopefully, no one had the great idea to dynamite it!

Wine pouring money. Officials from the state agriculture department stated that grape and wine production in Baja created about $18 million USD of revenue in our state.

Wine production was estimated in 8.1 million liters during 2018, and the most popular varietals being used were Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Tempranillo, and Merlot. The main buyers of our wine are Mexico City, Monterrey, Guadalajara, and the state of California in the US.

Although these are good numbers, there is still a long way to go: in comparison, last year California produced more than 64 million liters of wine. That’s almost 8 times our production!

Fake news scheme. A group of extortionists based in Tijuana was captured recently and then set free, after extorting money from several people with the threat of publishing fake news about them or their companies in several news websites that they managed.

A judge set them free, saying that extortion was not a serious crime and did not require preventive prison, thus allowing them to continue their process out of jail. The  day after they were set free, the leader of the group skipped bail and is now a fugitive.

He will probably be back in jail soon, since the FBI is now involved in the investigation because the group also extorted a couple of businesspeople from San Diego.

Bike Race Almost Here. It’s that time of the year again! The Rosarito-Ensenada bike race is being held on Saturday, May 4th. Mark it on your calendar, and remember not to take the roads that the riders will use during the event, since you could be stuck there for a long time.

The event is expected to bring about 7,000 competitors this year and 20,000 visitors, with a projected economic benefit for our area of $4 million USD.

Interesting proposal. One of the candidates for governor, Ignacio Anaya from the Party for Baja California (or PBC), has stated that if he is elected governor, he will start by pardoning 20 women that are in jail because they had an abortion in the past.

In Mexico and specifically in Baja, having an abortion is still a crime, although several activist groups have been fighting the matter. It is thought that it will be decriminalized soon, since the ruling party (Morena) is pro-abortion.

What’s Going On In This Country?

Teachers’ union goes nuts again.  The latest target of the teacher’s union members’ unhappiness with allowing their skills to be evaluated is the lower house of Congress, which they shut down. Camping out on the railroad tracks cost so many people so much money, that the tactic proved pretty unpopular. Nobody cares about Congress, so now they’re targeting them.

Stolen border fence. Some new barbed wire placed atop the border wall in Tijuana didn’t stay there long: it is now serving to improve security at several area homes on the southern side of the border. The wire was installed to reinforce the Mexico-U.S. border recently in response to the arrival of thousands of migrants in caravans from Central America. But the barbed wire is there no more, leading to the belief that thieves on the Mexico side removed it and sold it in nearby neighborhoods, giving residents protection from the border jumpers.

“We know about the theft of barbed wire because United States authorities have requested our help,” said Tijuana police chief Marco Antonio Sotomayor Amezcua. Houses near the border are now clearly protected with barbed wire of a similar size and what’s more, a type that is not sold in Mexican stores.

So. It’s necessary to protect one’s home, but not one’s country. Got it now. Not saying we understand it, just saying we got it now.

Shot over the bow. Canadian mining companies operating in Mexico should be on notice that the sector is going to face increased scrutiny on its environmental practices and treatment of Indigenous people, according to Mexico’s new ambassador to Canada.

“President Lopez Obrador has been very public about this, that we really want a strong, profitable mining sector – and Canadian mining companies are large investors in Mexico – but we expect them to operate in this country with exactly the same standards as they do in Canada,” Juan Jose Gomez said enforcement of Mexico’s existing laws will be increased under the government of new president Lopez Obrador.

The most pressing task when he gets to Ottawa will be the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade, the text of which was completed nearly six months ago but has yet to be ratified by the partners.

No More Tourist Promotion. The private sector will assume responsibility for marketing Mexico as a tourism destination in light of the federal government’s decision to disband the Tourism Promotion Council (CPTM).

“It’s an effort that must be done together to promote Mexico as a country,” said José Manuel Campos. However, Campos didn’t reveal the size of the budget the new organization will have.

The government’s decision to disband the CPTM shortly after President AMLO took office last December has been widely criticized by members of the tourism and business sectors, including union boss Gustavo de Hoyos, who said it “makes you think that tourism has stopped being a priority.”

Well, yeah. AMLO would rather have his bullet train than tourists speeding into Mexico.

Dead turtles! More than 110 sea turtles have been found dead on beaches in Guerrero so far this month, causing widespread alarm. But a marine biologist says it’s a natural phenomenon that salpa, a zooplankton, sometimes carry high levels of toxins which, when they come in contact with the turtles, paralyzes and kills them.

In 2009 between 500 and 600 dead turtles were found and a similar number perished in the same way in 2016.

The biologist added that illegal fishing techniques, especially using nets in which turtles get trapped, have also been responsible for many deaths.

So far, dead sea turtles have been found in Coyuca de Benítez, San Jerónimo, Tecpan de Galeana, Acapulco and the Costa Chica region in Guerrero, all on the mainland.

Are You Outta Your Mind?? The government of Spain has “vigorously” rejected a request from Mexican President López Obrador that Spain apologizes for its conquest of Mexico that occurred about 500 years ago. López Obrador wants an apology for the indignities suffered by the native peoples during the period of the Spanish conquest.

2021 will be known as the Year of Historical Reconciliation when Mexico celebrates 200 years of independence and 500 years since the taking of the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan. It appears Spain will not be part of the festivities.

Que Pasa In Baja?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s Going On In This Country?

Border emergency. You want to talk about a border emergency? Grab your passport and take a quick trip with me around the world. Look at the tensions between Israel and Syria. India and Pakistan. Iraq and Iran. Colombia and Venezuela. South Korea and North Korea. Now, closer to home, look at this relationship: United States-Mexico.

Thank goodness for good neighbors.

Can we have one of those? Groundbreaking took place Monday near Cancún for a US $312 million mall that will offer major brands. The Grand Outlet Riviera Maya will employ its “malltertainment” concept as nearly half the square footage will be allocated to entertainment attractions. The malltertainment concept consists of offering an all-round experience to the consumer. They even get an ice rink.

Construction started this week and is expected to take 18 months. There will also be a 7,500-seat auditorium, water features, an amusement park, a go-kart track described as the largest in the world and a hot air balloon ride. And three hotels.

Vanishing dolphins. Only 22 vaquita type of porpoises remain in the Gulf of California, a biology professor said yesterday, warning that the species could become extinct within months. The only place they can be found is the upper Sea of Cortez.

How do they know this? It’s a big sea, how can they be sure they’ve counted them all? Because 22 vaquitas were heard over a network of acoustic monitors. Ha! Maybe some vaquita were there and had nothing to say.

Vaquita huggers want more vigilance by the Navy but after angry fishermen who are accidently catching the little dolphins in their nets attacked a ship, Navy vessels have been too scaredy able to stop the illegal fishing.

Who doesn’t like Oxxo? Some residents of Oaxaca claim Oxxo is a threat to Mexico’s heritage. A movement calling itself anti-Oxxo, (less than imaginative but descriptive), erected blockades on several streets to prevent the mega-chain from constructing a new store in front of an elementary school. The group hopes to get all the locations in the city closed down. Members demand that the city government review every location’s construction permits and prohibit the franchise from opening more stores. Whoa, this is serious if they’re demanding permits. No way Oxxo, or any sophisticated chain spreads its tentacles legally.

At least five Oxxos are already located in the city center, which has been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It is a very cute town.

Electricity is terrorism now? For the second time this year the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) cut electricity service to the Acapulco water and sewer system, a move described by the water utility as “terrorism.” 600,000 residents were without water, no word on the sewer system, shudder.

The utility had been making daily payments, trying to catch up on the $3.5 million they owe. The day before the “terrorism” against the water/sewer system, they cut off the lights.

Walmart uprising. More than 8,500 Walmart employees in 10 states are seeking a 20% pay increase and a fat bonus. The mainly female cashiers and other low-ranking employees earn on average between US $7 to $7.50 per day, (minimum wage is about $5 a day). They are not enrolled in medical insurance or retirement, their union claims. This is illegal.

In addition, they charge that Walmart doesn’t respect the right to an eight-hour work day, doesn’t pay overtime in accordance with the law, discriminates against pregnant women, and has dismissed workers unfairly. Workers at 121 Walmart stores as well as 56 Sam’s Club outlets and an unspecified number of Bodega Aurrera stores are prepared to walk off the job and in some states they are supported by governors who have acknowledged the “abuse” to which Walmart employees are subjected. Uh, well, why didn’t they stop it then?

The threatened strike follows widespread job actions in several other states where thousands of factory workers have won 20% pay increases and annual bonuses of as much as US $1,650. And they got this within days. However, those were manufacturers who had big contracts to deliver product and would suffer badly if they didn’t deliver. Maybe Walmart can go a few days or weeks without selling a pair of socks.

Que Pasa In Baja?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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