The project to operate a ferry, a large vessel that can transport vehicles and people, that makes regular trips between San Diego and Ensenada, is very advanced and could be consolidated in the upcoming summer season. Kurt Honold Morales, Secretary of Economy and Innovation in Baja California, reported that the federal authorities of Mexico and the United States have approved the project, and discussions are underway with various agencies to address the details. He highlighted the interest in this proposal of Governor Marina del Pilar Ávila Olmeda and the Secretary of the Mexican Navy, Rafael Ojeda Durán.
They have already acquired the vessel. Honold Morales added that the representatives of the company Azteca Ferrys, which will be responsible for providing the service, have already purchased the vessel, which complies with all safety standards and environmental regulations. Additionally, the state official said that they are in dialogue with the port authorities of San Diego, as well as the Administration of the National Port System (Asipona) Ensenada. He emphasized that, tentatively for this year’s summer, regular maritime tours connecting both countries could begin.
Another project that is well advanced, he stressed, is the so-called “trolley” San Diego-Tijuana, which is being carried out by the same company that planned and operates the border crossing at the Tijuana airport and has been very successful.
With the intention of generating healthy and educational events, as well as promoting the unity of the community and women who practice the sport of surfing, women from Ensenada will hold the “Sirenas al Agua Surf Festival”. This is the first female surfing tournament, which will take place on April 15th and 16th at Playa San Miguel, with a prize pool of 30,000 pesos and a registration fee of 500 pesos. Yolanda Sierra, a member of the group “Nosotras y el Mar”, indicated that the female event will begin with an icebreaker on the evening of April 14th at the craft beer establishment called “Magnánima”. “As Ensenada surfers, we believe it is necessary to hold healthy and educational events to promote the unity and community of women in surfing,” she said.
She pointed out that in addition to promoting healthy competition, the basic rules of the sport will be disseminated, among other factors, so that it can be practiced safely. They also seek to encourage healthy competition in the younger generations and promote surfing as a professional sport, creating healthy habits through responsible and friendly events between humans and the environment. Additionally, this tournament seeks to generate an economic benefit for the community due to the people who could come from other cities or the neighboring state of California.
Finally, it was reported that on April 14th, during the icebreaker, registration will take place, and a competition kit will be provided to the competitors. Informative talks will also be offered, and films related to this exciting activity will be screened. The tournament will take place on April 15th and 16th, and at the same time, there will be yoga, skateboarding, music, a bazaar, and a camping area.
David “El Chiquis” Quintero, a young influencer, is inviting the community to participate in the cleaning of Playa Pacífica, which will take place on Saturday, March 25th. The activity is coordinated by AO Latinoamerica and CUT Universidad Campus Ensenada and aims to maintain the place in optimal conditions for the community and the species that inhabit it, such as the birds that nest there.
The activity will begin at 9:00 am and will last until noon. Citizen participation, especially from local residents, is essential to achieve greater waste collection.
“These actions are part of an annual cleaning program that seeks to generate awareness and promote marine education, the reduction of plastic waste, responsible consumption, and the formation of sustainable communities,” said Norma López Saucedo, director of CUT Universidad, Campus Ensenada. There will be cleanings throughout the year.
This year, five cleanings will be carried out on beaches and streams in the city, thanks to the support of the Mares Foundation, which promotes ocean literacy through an education program on caring for the seas. Last year, thanks to the cleanings carried out, more than 1,475 kilograms of waste were prevented from reaching the sea, and close to 9% of the collected waste was recycled. The goal is to exceed the number of 445 people who participated in the cleanings last year and achieve greater environmental awareness in the community.
The Chapultepec-Maneadero stretch of the Transpeninsular road, which normally take around 10 minutes to cross, took motorists over two hours to cross yesterday due to the highway conditions of the alternate road, as well as temporary road repair work that was carried out on the highway.
Through various social media groups, road users expressed their dissatisfaction with the traffic congestion registered from morning until evening, which caused delays in their arrival at their destinations, such as work and school.
The personnel of the Secretariat of Infrastructure, Communications and Transportation (SICT) in Baja California informed that, after the recent rains in the area, a layer of stone coating has been placed where it was most needed, in order to expedite the flow of mobile units. The rains on Wednesday caused damage to the road surface.
A mudslide was reported on the alternate road. Road users mentioned that there were sections with large puddles, where only sedan-type vehicles could barely pass. However, they warned others not to use the access road comprised by Francisco de Anza Avenue, a dirt road that runs parallel to the highway in front of the Immaculate Conception of Mary parish, where there was a mudslide and various vehicles were stuck since Wednesday afternoon.
The urban area of Ensenada will suffer serious water supply problems during the summer season, which requires immediate action to expand sources of supply, but also for the population to make more efficient use of the water resource. Wenceslao Martínez Santos, coordinator of the Water Interdisciplinary Group (GIA), indicated that while in other cities of the state the so-called “Green Bonus” was announced, in Ensenada no specific program with that resource is known. “In the last meeting we had with officials from the Secretariat for Water Management, Sanitation and Protection (Seproa), there was no specific data on any program already authorized to apply the Green Bonus in this municipality,” he said.
Martínez Santos indicated that the supply sources are insufficient to cover the demand of the Ensenada population, and with a distribution system that has constant leaks, between 30 to 40 percent of the distributed water is lost. He added that, so far, there is no knowledge of a substantial increase in supply sources, and regarding what is announced as the solution, which is the expansion of the water desalination plant, the works would take a year and a half to two years.
It is essential, emphasized Martínez Santos, that the amplification of that plant begins as soon as possible because as the supply sources decrease, the number of inhabitants increases, and consequently, the demand for water also increases.
There is a quiet war being waged in the Valle de Guadalupe. It has been going on for years and now can easily be seen in the rapid development scraping the land clean making way for new projects. At first it appeared to be a positive thing for the people in the small pueblos and the expansion of new wineries was exciting. Most casual visitors would not have taken notice of the more serious concerns taking place in this lush valley in Baja California. Fernando Pérez Castro, owner of Lomita winery agreed to speak for the community activist group called, Por Un Valle de Verdada, “The Fight for a Real Valley.” The people who call the Valle de Guadalupe home as well as the business men and women and the wine makers want the growth to happen in a sustainable way. This is not the case as development surges to new heights. The Valle de Guadalupe is at a cross roads and the decisions made now are the most critical for its future.
Fernando’s father brought his family to the valley sixteen years ago. Fernando joined the ongoing concerns of the other activists eight years ago. He is passionate about sustainably and the future directions of the wine culture. There are two choices to make and it will take a powerful group effort to make the correct choice between a world class wine region and tourism. The trend that is now obvious is the new investments have no respect for the three most important ingredients for a Wine producing region: Agriculture, water and landscape. He stressed, “It is import to recognize Valle de Guadalupe as a sanctuary because the weather conditions we have here and the environment we have here makes a very unique wine. We are not martyrs or tree huggers. We need to fight, because we know the direction development is taking”
Fernando states, “There are a lot of things at risk, if we don’t take care of how things are developed. For the last 25 years, the people of this region have been telling the government they have not been implementing the laws that would protect the land. There has been a level of corruption taking place…that have permitted 2500 acres of land to be sold in irregular ways.” He suggested the newest of investors are buying land without formal papers, exploiting the land not for wine production. He is clear that greed and not implementing the law are destroying the possibility of a true wine culture. “We do not need discos, Mixology, or massive events which strain the resources. It is clearly a lack of vision. If people want those things they can go to Ensenada, Rosarito, or TJ where they are already established. When people want world class wine, hotels and restaurants they will come here.”
He continues, “We have seen this story before, and we are witnessing the Valle de Guadalupe turning into something that will not sustain growth. The laws are not being implemented to protect this from happening. When you let investors exploit the tourism, not respecting the wine culture, it is enviable things will begin to happen. Agriculture, water, community and landscape have to be protected and when you don’t a different kind of business will take advantage of the tourism that the wine country already has. They will offer different experiences. So then the true nature of the wine region starts to downgrade. And when you downgrade a destination, you attract a certain type of people. Many people are looking for different experiences and looking for entertainment. Drugs are a natural progression of this downturn. What I am trying to say is that the Guadalupe wine country has all the opportunities to be upgraded in different ways.” An important note is that 75% of all Mexican wine is produced in the Valle de Guadalupe and careful growth and quality tourism is essential for future production.
Fernando continues, “There are not enough infrastructures to maintain the summer visitors and massive event. The people who live in the 3 small Pueblos suffer the most. These people and their communities have no sewage system and frequently do not have water.” He further explained, that it is obvious when thousands of people come for a weekend visit, they do not understand the impact they are making. One down turn which Fernando attributes to this issue are the deplorable road conditions with axel breaking potholes. He admitted that the roads were never meant to endure thousands of cars during hot summer days. Even the simple act of flushing a toilet becomes a monumental problem as 90% of the hotels are without sewage systems. It takes water to flush and shower; water which the grapes need. Fernando stressed, “It is becoming a social problem, a problem of sustainability, and also becoming a security problem. In the past we never heard of these kinds of problems.”
A decade ago the history of the valley claimed that only one violent death had ever happened, and the community was proud to say so. Today’s statistics are dreadful as Fernando reports, “Last year the monthly rate of violent death was one per month; now it is six per month. We need guards on our wineries because if we don’t, it threatens both the wineries and the visitors with theft and vandalism. We want sustainable tourism, and we know how to build this in a thoughtful way through appropriate landscaping with the native plants and water conservation.” Fernando sites that it is important for people to know if they are buying land in the conservation area it is illegal. These sales have been overlooked by the Ensenada Municipal for many years allowing for the current downturn in quality projects. Any investment now in the valley is at risk. Fernando worries, “I’m not sure I will have a winery to pass on to my children. It is very very uncertain that we can continue to make wine.” He further stresses, “We are not against tourism, development, nor do we hate real estate. The problem is that people don’t realize how fragile this region is. We have to protect the balance because our area is incredibly suitable for making high quality wines.”
Water is the most important factor for the future of The Guadalupe Valley region. A huge project that would be both time consuming and costly has been consider for years. This would be piping Tijuana recycled water to the valley. As one can imagine, there are many issue involved and one being the quality of the water that would be received. However, recently a delegation from Baja met with Napa Valley winemakers and business people to learn that they water exclusively now with recycled water. Any solution about the water necessary to sustain the production of wine will take time and money, Fernando knows “there is no short term solution.” He sites that in 2018 a government group studied the impact of tourism on the aquifers of the region. This diagnostic survey came back with an alarming finding. If growth continues drawing water only form the aquifers, they will be dry by 2030. That is only 8 years away and the decisions now are critical for any further developments. The “Hope” for rain has past its usefulness. It will take a clear vision to create and maintain a sustainable balance between wine production and tourism.
In Part 2 there is positive action on the horizon with a new governor taking office in two months who understands the importance of the Guadalupe Valley as a world class wine producing region. The question is will it be swift enough to avoid the inevitable outcome?
More than 400 police officers from Ensenada got a chance to get their COVID-19 vaccine, after they were called in urgently because there were several defrosted Pfizer vaccines from the 50-59 years old group that just did not go to get their shot.
A video circulated on social networks were Oscar Perez Rico, head of the state health office, was having a heated argument with federal government employees that were refusing to give the shot to police officers because they said it was not intended for them, while Perez Rico responded by saying that the vaccine was almost going to expire, and it would have to be thrown away.
They were able to resolve the argument and the police officers got their shot, but Perez Rico stated his preoccupation with the 50-59 group, which consisted of 40,000 persons, and only 29,741 came to receive their shot.
10,000 years ago, the first people walked along this coastal area, now known as Baja California. Before it was named La Misión, the Kumiai Indians lived here. Today it is known as part of the old mission trail and the old road runs between two mountains with a lush estuary at its center. This area remains delightfully underdeveloped, allowing the historic essence to be felt. With the increased popularity of Baja California cities, often La Misión is passed by as a weekend retreat. However, it is because of its very nature that La Misión makes for a quiet and relaxing weekend retreat with many more points of interest than one might have as a first impression.
There were no boundaries or borders, only vast untouched land. Here the Kumeyaay (Kumiai) lived for thousands of years. Nature provided everything they needed and the people honored all that was given. They were hunter gatherers and learned fishing later. They sang their stories which were passed down for thousands of years. These first people left a very small footprint upon the land, a few arrow heads and pottery shards, but one recent find near Playa La Misión unearth a wealth of information about a people who lived 800 years ago at the edge of the sparkling sea. The archeological dig in 2010 unearthed a young woman. They said that she was a holy woman and carried a sacred pipe. Those who unearthed her called her Mujer de Humo or the Woman of Smoke. Still today, there are annual ceremonies where the Kumiai sing their sacred songs and all people are welcomed to visit.
Then came the Dominican missionaries and they began to name things. Misión San Miguel was established in March of 1787 in the valley near the San Juan Bautista stream, also known as the Guadalupe River. Their reports told of the lush grazing land, fresh water, an abundance of wild life and migrating birds. Nature provided abundantly for the first settlers to this valley. Today, there are only 3 adobe sections remaining of the old mission and they are protected with coats of adobe wash. While there is little to see, one can imagine how beautiful it must have been when the stream ran filled with fresh water and food was plentiful. Today, there is an agribusiness with fields of organic vegetables grow seasoning. The fortunate community is furnished with fresh produce right from the farm.
Development has been limited by nature herself. What was once a flowing river has become an estuary which feeds into the Pacific and can be seen from the toll road and is visited by migrating birds. In fact, it is a very important migratory channel along the coast and “250 species of birds utilize the estuary and adjacent uplands,” reports Richard Erickson, biologist and ornithology specialist. The best months to visit for optimum photo opportunities are September and November, but birds are always a special attraction year-round. La Misión residents are bird enthusiasts have their camera’s ready. Some very important photos have come out of this love for the flying ones: Great Blue Heron, Osprey fishing hawk, white egrets, Red Tail hawks, white pelicans and all manner of ducks and shore birds, and on occasion a very rare sighting has occurred. The local community has a watchful eye and is asking the Mexican government to consider it as a protected area. Near the edge of the estuary is Las Palmas campground with dense palm trees and a swimming pool. It is quiet off season; however, it is impossible to get a site during the summer months.
OK, pull on your boots, put on your Stetson and get ready for a unique horse lover experience. For those travelers that really want to have an experience of early Baja, the best way is by horseback and there are several wonderful opportunities. Visitors have a choice of riding on the beach or across the valley and into the hills. Marty Harriman has developed a very special ride into the back country where people can spend the night off the grid in comfy tents and enjoy a night fire, looking up into a night sky, seldom seen in the cities.
La Misión had a scare when the Walking Dead took over the town. Fear the Walking Dead, a popular TV series was filmed here, utilizing the small pueblo of Alisitos and the restaurant, Magañas. The dusty pueblo made for perfect settings of a post-apocalypse town ravaged by ghouls. Magañas is a local hang out with lively bar, good drinks and the biggest burritos stuffed full to overflowing. It is the real deal and still welcomes horseback riders to stop by and tie up at the old hitching post. It was unnerving for some local residents to see the decaying dead dragging one foot behind them, heading in for a beer. Puerta del Valle is a small complex with a delightful coffee shop for your favorite espresso. Acher’s Pizza features authentic thin crust pizza and Chef Uriel studied in Italy to perfect his craft. Dmytri’s Original La Fonda is over 80 years old now and is just down the road for its famous patio dining. Only a short drive north, there is the iconic Splash for delicious Mexican seafood with an astounding array of seating choices.
The ever-popular Airbnb is well represented in La Misión. Many of the places are nested on the bluff overlooking the estuary. With a cup of steaming coffee, the quiet morning greets you. The sparkling Pacific meets the estuary and lazy vultures catch a morning thermal, while long-legged white egrets stealthily sneaks up on a fish. Other options for lodging line the beach at Playa La Misión and a step out the door starts you on a morning walk on the beach. A few of these locations offer morning yoga on the patio and tours into the wine country which is only 20 minutes away. In fact, La Misión is the gateway to the Guadalupe Valley by way of the old highway 1, which is a lovely scenic drive. You can plan a day trip for wine tasting and return for a quiet evening on the coast in a snug Airbnb.
After an invigorating day of adventurous horseback riding or touring, you can indulge in a massage or pedicure at Spacifico Spa, where master esthetician massage therapist, Antonio Salceda knows how to put you right again.
I’ll bet that the quiet wonder of nature will have you on the patio watching a flaming sunset that happens during the fall and winter months. La Misión is a destination for all seasons, but the best months are off season, September through April, for the skies are clear of coastal fog, inland temperatures are cooler and the beaches belong to you.
Mexico’s ARM Cuauhtemoc training vessel will be visiting Ensenada from April 21-24 and again from August 6-9, as part of its “195 days around Mexico” tour with 250 training sailors and officers aboard.
Guided visits will be offered free of charge by Navy personnel. If you are interested in participating call 646-297-9148 on April 16-18 (from 9am to 5pm) to reserve your place. Children 12 or older are welcome aboard.
The ship was built in Spain and delivered to the Mexican Navy in July of 1982. It has sailed over 400,000 nautical miles in her 38 years of service. It will be a beautiful sight in our bay, don’t miss it!
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.
“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.
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.
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 CompanerosAC@gmail.com. And thanks for helping us start the next 30 years of the Compañeros Rising!