Compañeros, Rising!

Back in the 1980s, a group in Ensenada came together to try and form something few had seen at the time—a Mexican charitable organization (Asociacion Civil) with both Mexicans and Gringos participating that could really make a significant difference in people’s lives. What is now known as the Compañeros de Baja Norte, A.C. was formally organized 28 years ago on October 7th, 1992, and they have helped scores of local charities and hundreds of students for almost 30 years. But today, faced with the deadly twin headwinds of the worst Mexican recession since the great depression and the impacts of lockdowns from COVID-19, the organization is struggling to survive, and indeed was inactive for most of 2020. 

 

“I told the membership last summer that the Club itself was at risk,” said Compañeros VP Katrina Tinnaco . “It was vital that we start talking about the future and how we could get there. Our membership was fearful. We were at real risk of shutting down the Club.”

 

But to get to that future, the organization needed to consider it’s past—a long and proud tradition that started in the 1980’s, when members of the Dixon & Salisbury families, among others, formed this Club—a place where expats and locals could get together, socialize, and use the proceeds from these events to support local orphanages and old folks homes, many other charities, and give scholarships to 30 students twice a year. They began to construct a clubhouse building (complete with a hall seating 100+, and full kitchen/bar), and after a legal dispute was settled, the group formerly known as the Amigos de Ensenada became the Compañeros. Soon after that, they bought the empty lot next door to use for parking. By the early 1990s, the Club was in full swing, with monthly events, rummage sales, raffles, music, dances, a bridge club, and more, and an expanding list of grateful recipients.

Companeros Clubhouse distanced setup

 

“The Compañeros has always been a welcoming place for new Ensenada residents and longtime locals,” noted Jim O’Brien, a Club member every step of the way, since settling in Ensenada 34 years ago in 1986. “We have a great mix of members, have always been open to the LGBTQ community, and especially welcoming new area residents. We’ve had presidents that have been both Mexican and Gringos, women and men. But over the years, it’s been harder to get younger people involved.” With multiple employees, and their clubhouse building lying empty while still incurring all of the fixed costs associated with them, the Compañeros cash began to dwindle to record lows.

 

Fortunately, some younger members stepped up to help. Treasurer Meghan Magrann in 2019 had gone through the involved process of converting the group’s books to Quickbooks, allowing for better accounting, analysis, and support. “Addressing the basics of internal controls helped us get a better idea of where the club was at and revealed other opportunities as well,” noted Magrann. “But that analysis only took us so far—we needed a clear vision for the future and the will to pursue it.”

 

Enter new leadership. Members of the existing leadership council approached Mark Tuniewicz, a member who had led the turnaround of the Ensenada Expats facebook group and doubled its size, created the popular Ensenada Karaoke Club, volunteered for the U.S. Consulate in Tijuana, is an active member of Ensenada’s Spanish language Calafia Gardening Club, and was a former Lion’s Club member, among other charitable endeavors. Tuniewicz got right to work last fall organizing and was named president in 2021.

Mark Tuniewicz and wife Kate Mensch at a Companeros event in 2019


This year, the Club began to create and publicize new events, including a rebranded series of monthly “First Friday” happy hours, which have taken place both in-person and virtually, depending on the COVID traffic light. They have also created the new Ensenada Succulent Society, a “club within the Club,” which meets the first Saturday of each month in Ensenada. Other “sub-clubs” are expected.

 

The organization began working last fall to do a deep clean/sanitization of its facility, followed by a change in layout from banquet-style tables to smaller, distanced tables for 2-4 people each and implemented a mask mandate to enter the building. In October, they performed a “soft opening” of a happy hour event with just 15 people and changed the way people pay for food and drink to eliminate the long entrance lines sometimes found at their events. The combination of cleaning and process changes was intended to reassure the membership that the Club was taking action to protect their health. 

 

While other, similar groups have either suspended all activities due to the pandemic (including large social groups like the Punta Banda Yacht Club, with 200 members, or the Sociedad de Amigos, with 100+), or significantly scaled back their activities (like Rosarito’s United Society of Baja California, with 156 members), the Compañeros have innovated by moving to a program of “To-Go” meals for special occasions, selling out 50 dinners for Thanksgiving 2020, and anticipate a similar reaction for their 2021 Valentine’s Day dinner to-go as well. “Our events have always been known for great food, and these To-Go” events present a real value, people really love them, and you get high-quality food, professionally prepared,” said Club Secretary Mary Jane Boone, who has often led efforts in the kitchen.

Meghan Magrann fills in as bartender at Companeros

The Compañeros is preparing to develop additional new activities driven by investments in outdoor seating (there’s none today), indoor televisions (also none today), and other needed capital improvements. To support this vision, club leadership recently approved the “Compañeros 2021 Capital Campaign,” seeking to raise a modest USD 5,000 to cover these needs. 

 

Tuniewicz noted: “We’ve got seating plans used by the U.S. Parks Service—they build their rustic wood seating to last decades, and so will we. T.V.’s and a sound system will give us a lot more flexibility in terms of the types of events we can hold post-pandemic, be it a sports event, happy hour, or Karaoke. We’ll make these forward-looking investments this year and be ready to go when it’s time again for in-person events.”   

 

“For us to continue our work for the next three decades, we need your help now!” noted 89-year old member Tillie Foster. And if you’ve met Tillie, previously profiled on these pages as the “Baja Queen”, you know she can be very persuasive. 

 

While there’s lots of optimism, the reality is your donations are needed *now* to help the Club survive and thrive. You can contribute to the 2021 Compañeros Capital Campaign via Paypal, using the email address [email protected]. And thanks for helping us start the next 30 years of the Compañeros Rising!

Beyond Humanity

Some people believe that God created the world in 6 days, and on the 7th day He rested.  Resolving their beliefs (that the world is only 5,000 years old) with the reality that skeletal remains of creatures from millions of years ago continue to be excavated by geologists and other scientists is an ongoing struggle: Science vs. Faith.

Others believe that humanity has evolved slowly over centuries, hence, “evolutionists.”

People’s beliefs give them the strength to continue in their struggle to survive, to improve, to make the world a better place for all. Faith, after all, is an important factor of daily life for billions of people in every country on the planet. It provides hope where there may otherwise be despair.

There has always been the notion that human beings could live in a utopian society, where everyone is highly developed intellectually, physically strong and healthy, and spiritually centered.

The Greek philosopher Plato, 2,400 years ago, envisioned a government of philosophical wise men; unfortunately, his vision would only work if the population ruled by his “wise” men were transformed into equally intellectually superior beings.

Since then, numerous attempts to establish a “New World Order” have been made by individuals as well as coalitions of national governments.

One of the most recent and blatantly sinister attempts at making the world perfect for the “beautiful people” (i.e., privileged billionaires and their families) was an act by Betsy DeVos, appointed by Donald Trump to be his education secretary.

On her first day in office, she shut down the White House website for handicapped children. She later attempted to defund the Special Olympics, but Trump’s advisors nixed that idea as too controversial.

Former President Barack Obama, following the completion of his two terms in office, gave a speech in Berlin in which he reminded everyone that globalization is a fact of life in this century. The city of Berlin was a perfect backdrop to his message, because it was a city once divided by a wall separating blood relatives from each other because of two opposing ideologies.

He said that nuclear proliferation must cease, and in fact that nuclear weapons worldwide be abolished; that development of environmentally renewable and sustainable technologies must be encouraged; that all humanity is one family sharing a common home, regardless of race, color or creed. His message resonated with the hope that citizens of all nations work together as a family, and that only by doing so can the human race survive; the challenges facing humanity at this point in its evolution are too great for one nation, or even one coalition of nations, to resolve.

Tragically, Obama’s successor, one Donald J Trump, entered the White House following Obama’s two terms. “America first” was one of his many chants. He was racist, xenophobic, and cruel; everything he did encouraged racism and violence. Rather than uniting the USA, he caused division among the people to such a degree that friendships and marriages were adversely affected. He insulted the intelligence network of the US on the world stage. He fell in lockstep with Vladimir Putin of Russia, former KGB agent, whose predecessor had claimed, “We cannot defeat you militarily, so we will destroy you from within.”

He alienated every free country with whom the US had previously enjoyed close alliances.

Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, members of all religious faiths must recognize that with the exception of extremists and radical fundamentalists, all religions basically teach compassion, generosity, forgiveness, universal love, and respect for others.

How many times before Trump and his white supremacists had others attempted to establish a “New World Order”?

Adolph Hitler wanted to rule the world, and no one but blond-haired, blue-eyed Arayans would be allowed to survive.

Under the leadership of Josef Stalin, Winston Churchill, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, twenty-six nations agreed in January 1942 to the initiative of establishing a United Nations Organization, which came into existence on October 24, 1945. Since its inception, the United Nations and its branches, such as the World Bank Group and the World Health Organization, have prepared the countries of the world to comply with the goals that were announced at its foundation.

Claiming that its purposes were to establish international peace and security, to develop friendly relations among nations, and to work for social progress, better living standards, and human rights for all conceals its agenda of establishing a world government with executive powers having the authority to control human development through population control.

The establishment of UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) in 1942 made that clear.

This branch of the UN has encouraged the use of eugenics to rid the population of the world of mentally weak, physically unfit, and morally deficient people.

Since its inception, such people as the writers H.G. Wells and G.B. Shaw, US president Theodore Roosevelt, and British prime minister Winston Churchill as well as the economist Irving Fisher and the family-planning pioneers Margaret Sanger and Bill Gates Sr., the father of Bill Gates, Microsoft cofounder and head of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, have supported the need to vastly reduce the quantity of human beings, and improve the quality of the race through scientific methods managed by benevolent governmental dictatorships.

In 1968, pollution, global warming, water shortages, and famines were listed as the most opportune items to be blamed on humanity with the implication that human population must be reduced in order for the human race to survive.

An initiative called the 2030 Agenda was adopted by all United Nations member states (including Mexico, which was one of the 51 founding members in 1945) in 2015. It launched its blueprint for global change, the key concept of which is “sustainable development” that includes population control as a crucial instrument.

With a worldwide pandemic raging, the stage is set for advancement of the concept popularly known as “The New World Order.” A universal vaccine, manufactured by Big Pharma and distributed by the WHO (World Health Organization), may not be as successful as vaccines usually are.

Why? Because by definition, vaccines introduce into one’s body the actual virus or disease that is being treated. The viral germs introduced are greatly weakened, and the body’s immune system immediately begins to develop antibodies to kill the virus. Then, if the individual is exposed to the virus at a later date, the immune system will already have a defense mechanism by which to kill the virus.

But Covid-19 is a rapidly mutating virus.

And much like the common flu virus, which famously mutates many times over a season, it may react to a vaccine by making the patient sick (although doctors are quick to point out that without the virus, the sickness would probably have been much worse).

Too many people are becoming lax in their observance of the most effective, safest and surest means of preventing infection by the disease in the first place: Avoiding crowds, practicing social distancing, wearing a mask, wearing gloves in public places, and washing hands frequently.

It’s getting scary out there. Please be kind and respectful of each other.

Women Campaign to Improve the Community

Fundacion de Amazonas was founded about 6 years ago, and its original goal was to provide shelter and employment opportunities for battered women.

The project was established by Nataly Valdos, who named the organization “Amazonas” as recognition for the fact that historically, women have shown strength, resolve, and capability in situations where such characteristics were beneficial.

Working with women in the community to acquire the resources necessary to initiate and expand the program from a concept to a reality, Nataly found several people eager to assist her in achieving her goal.

What better time than October to recognize the altruistic efforts of Nataly and women like her, because this month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. BCAM is an annual global campaign by major breast cancer charities, all of which seek to increase awareness of the disease and to raise funds for research into its cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure.

It also stresses the importance of annual screening to detect the presence of the disease early, thus allowing treatment to occur before the situation becomes a major crisis.

Nataly is a cancer survivor herself; she’s 58 years old, and has been undergoing cancer treatment for the last 4 years.

In keeping with the moniker “Amazonas,” Nataly has shown her strength and resolve in maintaining the program to provide opportunities for women to find work that gives them a sense of accomplishment and simultaneously satisfies a need in the community of which they are a part. She refuses to let her own difficulties deter her from providing the essential service that is so meaningful to her, and so helpful to others.

Nataly met a friend through the Ensenada chapter of Companeros Asociacion Civil, a local partnership of people who meet to focus on, and attempt to resolve, issues within the community.

Together, they envisioned an opportunity for women to work by learning to use sewing machines to manufacture clothing and accessories which they could then sell as a means of supporting themselves.

Nataly and her friend, along with other women who joined their cause, solicited funds from the community to purchase the machines, along with the materials and accessories necessary to begin their projects and to embark upon a newly found sense of worthiness and independence.

These women, who had suffered physical and sexual abuse, neglect, domestic violence, and financial insecurity were now able to support themselves in a manner which gave them a sense of pride and accomplishment, while at the same time teaching them a new skill and fulfilling a need within their community.

Initially, the idea was to simply make clothes and sell them.

Eventually, the ladies realized that besides engaging in a sort of “retail” activity, they could assist other members of the community by providing clothing to children in orphanages and schools.

In that way, they themselves became benefactors, graduating from people in need to people now in a position to help others in need.

Their work has been gratefully received by the children, who look sharp and feel proud in wearing garments that are clean, new and stylish, clothing which was made specifically for them.

As with any charity during the Covid-19 crisis, Nataly and her organization needs donations and volunteers to continue the community service which she and her friends so unselfishly provide.

Please search for her timeline on Facebook under “Fundacion Amazonas de Ensenada” and offer whatever help you can to make life a little better for these women, who in turn make life better for struggling children and others in need.

Thank you for your support!

Bomberos Need Your Help

Baja is deep into its annual fire season, and as in every year in recent history, brave firefighters are in need of help from the public. The first major fundraising event of the year, Valle en la Playa, was held in the gardens of Castillos del Mar Hotel and Resort in September, with all funds going to help Rosarito’s firefighters through the Pro Firefighters Board. This was a “must-attend” meeting, even with respect to Covid-19 social distancing. Thanks to event organizer Martha Dominguez for granting me last-minute press coverage as a representative of this periodical.

Valle en la Playa 2020 was held with COVID safety elements firmly in place: tables, widely spaced, had seating reduced from 10 or 12 guests per table in past events to six; servers and guests were temperature-tested and hand-sanitized prior to entry, and masks were worn by all when not seated at tables.

Valle de Guadalupe wineries in attendance were La Cetto, Al Ximia, Corona del Valle, Santo Tomas, and Vinos de Casa Emiliana, aka “VE.” The Rosarito Tourism Board was also set up to announce that Rosarito is still open for visitors from the North as well as other Mexican cities. “We want to create a different impression of Rosarito,” declared Paul Corona, Emcee of the event. “We are more than Papas and Beer.”

Small monthly events, to be held at different venues, are planned to continue to raise money for the Rosarito Fire Department. Three-course meals, following pandemic safety protocols, will be held at various Rosarito establishments, with proceeds going to local firefighters.

Proceeds from the evening’s tickets were donated to the Pro Fire Fighters Board towards the purchase of a special drone with a thermal camera to allow firefighters to view and better plan their firefighting efforts before entering dangerous areas.

Rosarito proper is not the only area needing to help their Bomberos. La Mision firefighters, who serve areas such as Santa Anita and Alisito, are community volunteers that spend much of their own money on uniforms, firefighting equipment and gasoline. Fire boots have been set up as collection jars at Del Valle Café, Shorty’s vet shop (across from Magana’s), Splash, and Kraken, to gather funds to go toward gasoline and other necessities. Please throw a handful of pesos in them when you visit. The firefighters will be there for you when the need arises.

Currently the firefighters of La Mision are renting space in a nearby building, but a new fire station is being designed by students at the University of Ensenada as a permanent installation. Future plans include training by certified trainers in Baja. These newly trained firefighters will return and train others.

The La Mision Rotary is very active in helping out the firefighters in the extreme southern area of Rosarito, and the “doorway” to the Valle de Guadalupe. Of number one importance is money for gasoline for the fire engines, trucks and support vehicles. Also needed are four Scott air tanks with straps, Indian (or like-brand) collapsible backpack sprayers, as much of the firefighting is “gorilla” style. Also needed are firefighter gloves, suspenders, and boots of varying sizes.

Several Rotarians have contacts that can help with the purchases, so cash donations are of utmost importance. If you have contacts that could help firefighters, please contact Sunny Crowley at [email protected] The official Bomberos Facebook page is www.facebook.com/groups/507783403257151.

We can all help our local firefighters when called upon through social media to purchase cases of water, or help make sandwiches to be delivered to firefighters on the line.

Jorge Salgado Ponce, "Gratitud" short film director.

Mexican Short Film Nominated for Iranian Film Festival’s Prize

Every year the organization committee of the Resistance International Film Festival (RIFF) questions and explores different aspects of social responsibility and adds new categories to the competition program. This year its definition is expanded to include dealing with the invisible threats such as viruses. A new section called  “Health Defenders” is added to the festival’s program to document and show health workers fighting the COVID-19 and thus sacrificing their lives on the path of protecting society’s health.

This festival for now is the only cinema event dedicating the biggest part of its program to this pandemic, and the organizers hope that it would help to gather different experiences in one place, and also to promote a further documentation of the recent events as it would become crucial evidence for the future generations.

Jorge Salgado Ponce, "Gratitud" short film director.
Jorge Salgado Ponce, “Gratitud” short film director.

Organizers of the festival announced that filmmakers from the United States, Brazil, Spain, Italy, Britain, France, India, Turkey, Iraq, Germany, Pakistan, Portugal, Russia, Malaysia, Mexico have already submitted more than 300 films to compete in this section of the festival and thus to express their gratitude to the health defenders from all around the world.

Mexican short film “Gratitude” directed by Jorge Salgado Ponce submitted for this section has been nominated for the festival’s prize and received favorable reviews from the festival’s jury.

The 3 minute film, that is based on real events, movingly portrays the dedication and passion that health workers in Mexico put into their work, but also the ignorance that they sometimes have to fight against in the streets.

You can view the movie online, right here:

RIFF’s carefully curated program as well has earned this festival recognition from viewers and industry professionals alike. American filmmakers such as Michael Moore, Oliver Stone as well as many other artists from more than 100 different countries have participated with their documentaries and films in this festival. Also, many renowned international guests and exceptional filmmakers have come directly to present their films and interact with viewers, including, David Barsamian, Scott Frank, Rafael Lara, Darnell Stephen Summers, Yvonne Anne Ridley, Jasmin Durakovic, Robert Hofferer, Diana Kamal-al Din, Rashed Radwan, Yousef Wehbi, Ahmed Boulane, Basil al-Khatib, Saddam Wahidi Melika, Zairi Alper Akdeniz, Thomas Hayes, Daz Chandler and many others.

Resistance International Film Festival is divided in two parts that will be held on separate dates. The first part that includes “Health Defenders” section and is currently underway in Tehran has started on September 21st and the second part dedicated for the “Main Competition” is scheduled for November 21st-27th.

This year the event will go online due to a spike in the coronavirus cases in the country.

California Wealth Tax, a Dangerous Initiative

As the Pandemic dried state treasuries, they desperately seek new ways to get more revenue.  Like addicts without a fix, some have resorted to extreme measures. I watch these with trepidation because the emergency makes them justifiable to legislatures. But once adopted, they tend to grow roots and become permanent, making them doubly dangerous. New York just enacted its own way of getting the “stuff”. Others will likely follow.

California’s Wealth Tax initiative -AB2088- is textbook “California”: innovative, greedy and innocuous looking from popular perspective. After all, it only applies if your net worth is over 30 million (15 if married filing separately). Read even if it still does not yet apply.

This is a “net worth” tax. Unlike an income tax, this requires you to compute your worldwide net worth to figure if the tax applies. A long list of assets are included in the mix, even if they are difficult to value family businesses, startups, farms, or others. Since cash counts, you would have to disclose its existence to California, no matter where located, even if it’s under your mattress.

If you barely met the threshold, $120,000 would be added to your annual tax bill.

In a pernicious twist, if you decide to become a nonresident, leaving that nonsense behind, you would remain subject during the next ten years, albeit at “generous” declining tax rates. Worse, it invents a new “temporary resident” category, aimed at those spending over 60 days in the state over the year. Those would prorate the tax based on time spent in California. Aimed at snowbirds, those should be very leery of these provisions. They could find themselves stuck with a California reporting obligation and tax even if they have no corresponding federal one. No tax treaty would be of help against California.

Dangerous? Well, it’s populist. It sounds good to tax the wealthy. I would generally agree, except there’s no guarantee that once enacted, that $30M “floor” won’t somehow move down to include more and more taxpayers. The compliance costs, even figuring out if you are subject, can be staggering and can exceed the tax itself. You have foreign businesses or investments or retirement funds anywhere? They go in. It can quickly get quite complex.

In my almost 25 years as a licensed attorney, I have never seen such a worrying proposal from California, the state that even figured how to tax satellites that fly far above the state.

Orlando Gotay is a California licensed tax attorney (Master of Laws in Taxation) admitted to practice before the IRS, the U.S. Tax Court and other taxing agencies.  His love of things Mexican has led him to devote part of his practice to federal and state tax matters of U.S. expats in Mexico.  He can be reached at [email protected] Facebook: GotayTaxLawyer or WhatsApp at +17604491668. This is just a most general outline. It is informational only and not meant as legal advice.

Baja Community Benefits Farmworkers

Debra Blake and Carol Woodruff are among the many expats working with the local community to improve the living standards for everyone.

Their group, “Feeding Farmworkers’ Families,” focuses on those  whose arduous labor provides sustenance not only for their neighbors, but also for communities outside the local area.

It all began about 41/2 – 5 years ago. Debra Blake joined a small group of volunteers, spearheaded by Barbara Bridge and Patty Rodriguez to offer an opportunity to provide some basic education, with an emphasis on English-language instruction, to the children of the farmworkers.

The volunteers hoped that once the kids were comfortable speaking some English, they could overcome their shyness regarding Gringos, and be more confident in seeking to communicate and collaborate with them; in this way, both the people from El Norte and the natives of Baja would benefit by employment options and through sharing the history and the traditions of both cultures.

The current school is very spartan, consisting of only a concrete foundation and a roof, a simple structure with no walls, having evolved to that point from teaching the kids who sat on blankets in the open air.

The boys and girls were naturally eager to have an opportunity to improve their opportunities through education, and of course their parents welcomed the chance to see their children broaden their horizons.

The school, “Escuela en Las Lomas,” quickly grew from a few families to 40 to 90 students, primarily the children of 30 Oaxacan farm worker families with whom the founding group of volunteers developed strong relationships of trust, great expectations, and hope for a brighter future. Unfortunately, the pandemic has forced the closure of this project.

The farmworkers who are the focus of the group’s efforts are very poor. Some of them live in homes provided by various church groups, but many others live with extended families in plywood and black plastic shacks with dirt floors. About half of the 30 families have no electricity, and none have running water.

Their homes, marginal as they are, can only be reached by a dirt road that is impassable during wet weather.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the families were already very poor, working hard in austere conditions to earn a meager $8 – $10 per day per person.

The pandemic very quickly resulted in the closing of schools, restaurants and other institutions dependent upon the produce that the farmworkers provided, thus reducing demand for their output by more than half.

This caused layoffs, which made an already needy community even more insecure; some families could not even afford to provide themselves with basic necessities, including food.

The food delivery program began in mid-April of this year; Carol and Debra expected (“hoped” is a better word) that the situation would be short-lived. Of course, that has not been the case.

The need for assistance to these struggling families continues to this  day.

Carol and Debra obtained the despensa (“pantry”) guidelines from DIF (Desarrollo Integral de la Familia) in April and began to procure and distribute full allotments of rice, beans, lentils, sugar, eggs, milk, oil, oatmeal, canned vegetables, tomato sauce, pasta, tuna, and other basic nutritional needs every two weeks to the families in their care.

Eva’s Garden (a local organic grower/distributor) contributes an assortment of fresh, organic veggies.

In addition to food supplies, they are able to provide sanitary products from a regular donor who purchases them from Costco and donates them to the families through this team.

Carol says, “Our donors are families and friends. The Punta Banda community has been very generous.”

As schools remained closed due to the Covid crisis, Debra and Carol became aware that the children were in need of structured activities and materials that stimulated them to become more involved in learning.

To that end, Barbara Bridge provided the students with homework, which they actually loved; it gave them an opportunity to reinforce what they had learned in a classroom setting, such as writing and math skills.

The older students are given supplemental worksheets from LaRousse Publishing, the results of which are collected by Debra and Carol, who provide feedback and award stickers to reward the kids’ efforts.

Each child learns at his or her own pace, depending on individual capability and eagerness about a given subject. Age/grade levels are not relevant in such an environment; each child’s willingness to learn dictates how fast he or she will progress.

More recently, FFF provided a mobile library, which now has 75 books in Spanish, with more on the way. The kids are so grateful for this additional opportunity to grow and learn that they have proven themselves responsible by returning the books so that they may check out others.

Some of them are already on their 3rd book in as many weeks.

Beba ‘Cosmo,’ who teaches Early Childhood Education at Alocalo University, selected and provided the books. Beba is the owner of the popular Punto en el Cosmos Restaurant in Maneadero.

Other notables who have generously given their support to FFF prep and delivery operations are Hideyo Hirada, Chris Blake, Gary Woodruff, and Kathleen Estay.

Pris Austin of Los Adoptables in Maneadero adopts and treats the sick animals that the group sometimes encounters on their travels in the hills.

As Carol says, “It takes a village, and so many people have contributed in different ways.”

The next project underway is a collaboration with Baja Networks (Carlos Munguia) to install solar panels and a microwave receiver in an empty casita in the area without electric service; this will provide internet access to families and allow kids to attend classes via tv.

If you would like to make a donation to help our community to thrive, the FFF PayPal pool is https://paypal.me/pools/c/8oDfwG0bVK. Clothing and shoe donations suitable for hill terrain, non-perishable food, and school supplies are needed and would be greatly appreciated. Contact Debra Blake or Carol Woodruff via Facebook.

Hidden Gem Found In La Bufadora

Whenever I think of food sold in the Bufadora area, fish tacos, seafood cocktails and churros come to my mind. BajaMed cuisine is something that never crosses my mind.

That all changed last week when my wife and I visited La Bufadora Tequila Grill, which, judging solely by its name,  seemed to have even more of the same; the name somehow evoques fish tacos and margaritas in my experience, but oh my god was I wrong!

When we arrived at the restaurant, we were met by the owner, Alex Malpica, popular in the area as a resident of the Rosa Negra Ranch, one of the most popular properties in the area, having already been featured in 4 movies. In contrast to the fabulous property he calls home, I was not impressed with the restaurant, which seems to have a funky ambiance; I asked Alex about it and he said that he just wants to maintain a relaxed, easygoing atmosphere to his restaurant.

Alex told us that he came here from the US several years ago, retiring from the restaurant industry over there, and decided to acquire this restaurant. For many years it did very well, selling the usual combination of affordable Mexican dishes that are a staple for Bufadora tourists, but about a year ago Alex had an idea: What if he could bring food similar to the meals served in the wine valley to his Bufadora restaurant.

It seemed like an impossible idea. How would he even begin to succeed in such a daunting task, but in the process of searching for a solution, he met local Chef Temo Cortez. Temo brought to the table exactly what Alex was looking for, being an experienced chef who could create fine BajaMed cuisine at his restaurant.

Alex is not an easy man to impress, in my opinion; it’s even harder to impress him in the restaurant industry, as he has more than 40 years of experience in that area; so naturally I was very curious about Chef Temo that he talked so highly of.

Since I’m more easily impressed by actions than by words, I listened to what the pair had to say but decided to reserve my opinion until I tasted the food there.

We asked for a menu and got a letter sized sheet with about 14 different dishes, we decided on the shrimp, aguachile style, and a Tomahawk steak.

While we waited, Alex explained that one of his passions was Tequila, and that he makes his own Extra Añejo tequila, for which he has recently started distribution in the States. While we waited for our food we tasted two of his tequilas, Xedda and Escortauro, which were very good.

Chef Temo surprised us with an octopus tentacle appetizer, served sizzling in a mini iron pan. As soon as the plates arrived, I was impressed with the presentation; here I am thinking that I’m once again going to be let down with the food at one more restaurant, and this beautifully constructed plate comes to our table, and when I tasted it, oh my god, the savory, meaty, octopus just instantly takes me to the Valley; this is actually wine valley food, I say to myself.

A couple minutes later the shrimp aguachile comes, nope, it was definitely not your typical Mexican seafood restaurant aguachile, this one had a very subtle flavor, acidic but very well balanced. Later I learned that this was achieved by chef Temo by adding white wine and olive oil to the green chili and lemon juice. The presentation was immaculate, adorned with Salicornia and beet sprouts, which also helped bring the flavors of the plate together.

A few minutes after we finished with the shrimp, the Tomahawk was brought to the table. Another one of Temo’s gems, beautifully presented, cut into pieces, with the bone still left on the plate. By that time, after the first two dishes, I was already expecting greatness and I was not disappointed; in fact, I was once again impressed. The steak was beautifully accompanied by a dab of Oaxacan mole with balsamic, and roasted vegetables

When we finally finished the steak, we were already stuffed, but we opted for the  crème brûlée anyway, it was a great finish to our meal.

The Bufadora Tequila Grill is located on KM 22.5, on the road to La Bufadora, just a few meters before getting to the arches that mark the start of La Bufadora. They open Tuesdays from 12:00pm to 8:00pm and Wednesday to Sunday, from 8:30am to 8:00pm. BajaMed style cuisine is only available from 2pm to 8pm, and Sundays all day. ,

Time to Vote, Expats

Voting materials from the United States have already started appearing in your mailboxes. If you have not already done so, request your mail-in ballot NOW. Perform your due diligence and research on candidates and propositions quickly, then promptly return your ballots via US Mail. There are instructions online for those of you who would like to personally drop your ballot in an official ballot box, should you decide not to trust the US mail service to deliver it on time. This applies mostly to those registered in California and Arizona, unless you really feel like taking a bit of a road trip. And you may always return to your state of residency to vote in person at the polling address listed on your ballot, even if it is a “mail in” ballot. Most states just have a special form or book to sign that you elected to personally drop off your ballot instead of returning it by mail. Although the border is closed to unnecessary travel, voting is your constitutional right. For our local residents who are registered to vote in the state of South Dakota, please allow for ample driving time.

Some readers were confused by all of the websites I listed in my first article. The best link to use for all voter information is www.FVAP.gov. I hope this helps!.

Bringing Children and Horses Together In Our Community

In the course of one’s lifetime, the people who have the most significant and lasting impact on us (besides the parents) may be a nurse, a first responder, or even a teacher or professor.

The reason that’s true is because people who enter into such enterprises do so not out of a desire to become wealthy in a material way, but rather to enrich the lives of those with whom they interact, thereby making their own lives more meaningful and rewarding.

Case in point is Dawn Stephens, who grew up in a family that valued horses as companions. Her family lived in Burbank and had a ranch outside of Bakersfield, where horses roamed freely. In that environment, she learned to ride them and care for them, doing the hard work necessary to ensure that their health and sense of physical well-being were consistently and adequately attended to.

Her interaction with these magnificent creatures was temporarily interrupted when she decided to pursue a higher education.

She attended UC Davis, later studying Sport & Exercise Psychology at the University of New Mexico, finally earning her Doctorate in the same subject from UC Berkeley.

From there, she became a Professor at the University of Iowa.

When the time came for Dawn to give back to the parents who had so lovingly cared for her as a child, she suggested that the family move to Mexico. Where they could retire and reap the benefits of the casual lifestyle and Mediterranean weather that makes Mexico such a desirable destination for so many Americans when life tells them it’s time for a change.

So they came, but little did they know that retirement was simply not in the cards for Dawn.

She began to notice almost immediately that horses, once a source of inspiration, healthy exercise, and interaction with nature back in Bakersfield, were sometimes neglected or abused in her new environment.

Dawn made up her mind to prepare and maintain a sanctuary for the creatures in need, and, with her partner, Tina Jo, co-founded Tina Jo’s Promise in Punta Banda, a rich agricultural region southwest of Ensenada.

The pair have, over the years, procured 3 1-acre lots in PB, where the horses are cared for. In many cases, the horses are sick, malnourished, and frightened when brought to the sanctuary. The actions of Dawn and Tina Jo ensure that rather than being condemned to death, they are nurtured, loved, and meticulously cared for.

Her work is arduous but rewarding. She attends auctions where horses are being sold and often has to outbid meat buyers, who would use the animals as a source of protein in dog food.

Dawn has names for each of the horses, many of which are taken from the classic novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. One of the beautiful creatures is named “Atticus Finch,” and another is “Harper” (after Harper Lee in the novel). Her very first rescue, however, was named Lover Boy.

Her operation is massive and expensive and is primarily dependent on public donations in order to provide the nutrition, grooming, veterinarian care and all the equipment necessary to maintain such an optimistic enterprise.

Her altruistic nature now goes beyond caring for horses.

She is active in the support of Baja Love Outreach, an enterprise that provides support for 10 orphanages in the region.

One of the many benefits she provides to the community of orphans is bringing the kids to her ranch to ride the horses or simply to pet them and enjoy the wide-open spaces outside the confines of their crowded institutions. These activities help the kids to heal from abuse or physical injuries,

Seeing the positive impact upon the children whose interactions with the animals brought them such joy, Dawn began to envision a dream whereby her efforts to improve the lives of these young orphans would ensure that their lives would be made more valuable once they were no longer wards of the system.

As she so wisely observed, “What happens to these kids when they turn 18? They are sent away from the orphanage with no further assistance. What are their prospects? Sell drugs? Enter into a life of prostitution? Work forever in an unrewarding and low-paying job, if they’re fortunate enough to find one?”

Baja Love Outreach has provided 2 cargo ship containers and had them placed on her property; these units will provide the basic structures to be modified into classrooms where the kids can come to learn skills allowing them to become proficient in a chosen profession to support them long after they leave the orphanages.

She has the wherewithal to send surveys to the kids to ascertain their interests, so that she can provide the training in the fields that interest them most.

Once she knows what the children are drawn to, she will provide training in those areas of expertise.

For example, she will provide vocational-type training for construction skills, mechanical work, computer skills, welding, sewing, etc. Some adults who are already proficient in those areas have already volunteered to provide the training.

She currently has a hydroponic fodder machine on the property.

Future plans include the development of aquaponics units; first, a large one for the ranch, then later smaller ones to be placed at each orphanage.

Aquaponics is a symbiotic system whereby live fish are nourished and the waste they accumulate is turned into bacteria, providing nourishment in the form of fertilizer to sustain a garden, which in the process of photosynthesis returns safe water to the fish.

Dawn’s vision is reflected in this statement on her website: “My religion is kindness.”

The magnitude of her love for children and for animals is awe-inspiring. By bringing them together, she improves the lives and future prospects for both.

She can’t do it alone, however. She is currently engaged in a fund-raiser to make sure that the horses have enough hay for the winter. She says that now is the time when hay is sold at the lowest price, and she would like to purchase enough of it to last one year for the animals in her care.

It costs $650 per month to provide food for the horses. If only 25 people donated $25 each per month, their most basic needs would be covered. A donation of $150 for the year by each of 50 people would help Dawn and Tina Jo provide a quality life for the horses that have thrived under their care. Their goal is to raise a total of $7,500.00 to feed the horses for a year.

Please consider making a donation to help this altruistic enterprise to continue and to grow.

Also, check out Dawn’s personal FB timeline to see the many testimonials to her loving care for both children and animals.

For more videos and photos of the heartwarming efforts on behalf of the young people and the horses, see Tina Jo’s Promise, also on FB.

Most importantly, please donate! Any amount is greatly appreciated, and will go a long way to ensure the longevity, success, and growth of this most energetic and charitable enterprise.

You can make your donation through PayPal at [email protected]; or click on “save a life” or “adopt a horse.” You can make a one-time donation, or a monthly recurring one.

It’s a 501(c)3 organization, so any donation you make is tax-deductible by the IRS.

And remember, their mission is “to end the suffering of abused, unwanted and neglected equines and to improve the quality of their lives.”

Obviously, to help them grow is to improve the quality of life for the community at large, and by making life better for children and for animals, a better society overall is ensured.

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