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Border To Be Opened For Non-Essential Travel

Finally! After 19 months of border closure for non-essential travel, the border will be open again for anyone wanting to visit the USA. Authorities from the US have already stated that proof of vaccination will be required to cross the border, and that only vaccines authorized by the FDA or the World Health Organization will be accepted as valid.

This is generating a new problem since over 90,000 persons in Baja California were vaccinated with the CanSino shot which is not currently FDA or WHO approved. Mexican authorities are urging the WHO to approve the vaccine in order to avoid these huge group of the population to get a second shot of another valid vaccine.

Beginning January, all foreigners crossing the border, by land or air, will be required to have a vaccination proof with them, even if they are travelling for “essential” reasons, said Paola Avila, Chief of Staff of San Diego’s Mayor Todd Gloria

Santini Gallery Presents the Most Recent Work of Juan Angel Castillo

Giorgio Santini Gallery presents the most recent work of Master Juan Angel Castillo in an exposition titled “Quijote’s Panoply” which will take place on October, Friday 22 and Saturday 23 from 6:00pm to 9:00pm. In this exposition a series of 21 works recently created by the artist.

Juan Angel Castillo is one of the most important and influential painters from Baja California, unique in his genre, that has won national and international recognition. His works can be found within important public and private collections.

Owner of a masterful technique acquired along more than 50 years of tireless and perseverant creativity, Castillo portrays 21 Quijotes that will be presented in the “Quijote’s Panoply” exhibit, which will be an impressive sample of his talent.

This free admission event, will be a unique opportunity to socialize with the artist and his work in the premises of the Giorgio Santini Gallery where the work of the best artists in Baja California is presented in a dignified and careful way.

The Giorgio Santini Gallery is located on Km 40 of the Rosarito – Ensenada free road, in the Santini Plaza. Call or WhatsApp (661) 126 5988 or email [email protected] for more information.

Tijuana Has a New Amazon Warehouse

So, as you may have heard, Amazon has built a 344,000 square foot warehouse distribution center in the heart of Tijuana, in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods, even by Tijuana standards. The shiny white $21 million (US) structure overlooks Colonia Nueva Esperanza’s shacks of discarded wooden pallets, cardboard, tarps, and any material that can be used for escaping the elements. Needless to say there is neither running water nor electricity available to this neighborhood.

Tijuana’s Department of Economic Development intimated that living conditions could improve with the Center’s opening. This begs the question, would Bezos even consider parting with .000001% of his cash hoard to reconstruct these people’s homes, or relocate the affected patrons to a better area? Many officials don’t seem to care as this area is deemed an “illegal neighborhood.” One reporter told me it is because “they don’t pay property taxes.” I couldn’t tell if he was pulling my leg, or not. At this time there is no official plan to relocate those in this north east neighborhood, although they may be offered “more dignified living options” in the future, says Tijuana’s Mayor Karla Ruiz.

Mayor Ruiz believes that the installation of such a major corporation will improve the lives of the locals. “If you change an environment, it transforms the surrounding area.” Really? Or does this just mean that Amazon will “donate” a pallet of cardboard box material and packing tape to “improve” these Tijuana homes.

The eleventh in Amazon’s fleet of warehouse distribution centers, which was set to open in late September, will purportedly employ 250, but no word was mentioned of where these employees are being hired. Probably not to those staring at the gleaming structure in their front yard. This center will only serve customers of Mexico, so it was not a cheap land grab for SoCal Amazonians. Amazon promises same-day delivery to Tijuana and next-day delivery to the cities of Tecate, Rosarito, Mexicali, and Ensenada.

San Diego’s CBS channel 8 reports that a statement from Amazon informs that the company has created more than 15,000 jobs in Mexico, and with the 250 in Tijuana will provide an “industry-competitive salary and benefits for all our employees, such as health insurance, life insurance, saving fund, and food vouchers.” Where do I sign up?

Amazon’s warehouse distribution center may only be just the beginning. There are five other industrial buildings in the area, and Pedro Montejo Peterson, President of the Index Zona Costa hopes that more developers return to the area to build additional industrial buildings which would “invite” other companies to Tijuana.  There is a buzz that other companies are thinking about branching into Tijuana, for its close proximity to the United States. Enough positive change could really help the poorer residents, provided there is an active “trickle down” of advantages. The sad news is that even if the companies move to northern Baja, will they draw from the local workforce, or import workers from the southern United States. Sending the money north over the border will not help these areas at all.

This could mean that our roads will soon be jammed with large Amazon trucks going to and fro. Not a pleasant thought. Now it is no secret that I am an avid Amazon shopper. If I still lived in California I would probably have three or four shipments a week on my doorstep. However, living where I do, in a gated community, sometimes with no one at the gate to let delivery drivers (or anybody else) in, I would probably never use Amazon Mexico for purchases, even with next-day delivery. I performed a legitimate scientific poll of other Amazon users (everyone dining in a local restaurant patio) and all of the stated that they would continue to order their Amazon purchases shipped to their American postal or home addresses, and bring them over the border as they have always done.

Okay, so I sound like a bit of a downer, but I really want to see my local economy thrive. And we can start with those that have the least.

Que Pasa in Baja

Minors to get COVID vaccine in Baja. This past October 1st, Alonso Perez Rico, head of the state health office stated that they had already started registering kids from 12 to 17 years old with comorbidities that make them more susceptible to serious infections.

The acceptable diseases that would allow minors to get a vaccine are chronic cardiac disease, pulmonary disease, kidney disease, teen pregnancy, spleen disfunction and others.

Perez Rico didn’t say when they were going to start with the vaccination, and he also did not provide with a timeframe on when healthy kids would be vaccinated.

Ensenada Mayor Under Hot Water. Armando Ayala, Ensenada Mayor, has landed himself in hot water because of his forced advances to the municipalization of the water company.

When the subject was debated in the local council, the municipalization was rejected with 8 votes against and 7 in favor; but just a few minutes after the vote, the mayor called for a new meeting, but he “forgot” to inform his opponents about the meeting. In this completely illegal new meeting, the municipalization of the water company was approved.

Now seven of those eight affected councilmen and women are demanding a trial against mayor Ayala which has already passed its first step which was the approval in the local council.

The Water Company Gets Their Electricity Cut Off. Tijuana’s water company was left without electricity for a week, after the federal electricity commission (CFE) decided to cut their power because they said they were owed over 8 million USD in past due bills.

The head of the water company, Eli Topete, confirmed that their power was cut off but said that they had reserves for 40 days to supply water to the population.

Topete said that their reason for not paying the bill was because they were being charged a “potency” surcharge in excess of the electricity they used and were trying to sort it out.

Fortunately, the state and the CFE were able to strike a deal 7 days later and they were able to turn the lights back on.

About 5,000 tires found at sea. A collaborative effort has taken place in Campo Kennedy, in the Punta Banda area of Ensenada where about 5,000 tires were found in the bottom of the sea.

With the help of 100 divers, 200 of these tires were taken out of the sea, with a couple thousand more still laying there.

Jorge Arturo Cruz Gayoso, coordinator of the environmental group “The sea is for everyone” stated that they have no idea who is responsible for all the tires there but that there is a space of about 500 square meters, with anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 tires.

Cruises are back! After 19 months of absence, cruise ships are finally back in Ensenada. This past September 29, the Miracle cruise ship from the Carnival cruise line, docked in Ensenada inaugurating this new season of cruise ship arrivals.

The miracle came from Long Beach, California, with a total of 1,265 passengers and 934 crew members, about 67% of its capacity.

Cruises were an integral part of the Ensenada economy, and many businesses that catered to this sector only had to close their doors during the pandemic.

Baja relapses with COVID-19. Even though Baja California is the State with the highest vaccination rate in all of Mexico, it is also the only one that went back to orange from yellow in the epidemiological stoplight this week.

Alonso Perez Rico, head of the state health office, stated that the higher rate of COVID-19 disease came because of the lower temperatures that came on recent days.

Perez explained that the state is getting ready for the cold season, which is expected to bring lots of COVID-19 patients with severe cases.

Plate in CEART honors Jorge Luna. In order to remember and honor the work in favor of the childhood and youth of Rosarito that late Jorge Luna did, a plate was installed in the Graphic room in the CEART museum in Rosarito naming the room after him.

The room was the one that master Luna used for his classes, and an exposition of his work is being organized before the end of the current administration.

Costco buys an ambulance for the Cruz Roja. A brand-new ambulance, totally equipped with all the bells and whistles was bought by Costco Mexico and donated to the Cruz Roja in Ensenada.

Costco informed that this donation is part of their commitment with the communities where it does business and that since 2007, they have donated a total of 16 ambulances to different delegations of the Cruz Roja Mexicana.

Costco started operating in Mexico 29 years ago and has a membership base of 5.7 million in 39 stores in Mexico.

Wine Valley gets protection from state judge. The different wine valley winemaker associations received great news this week when a state judge approved their demand to force the city of Ensenada to apply the Zoning Regulation for the valley, which has been a little less than a recommendation for the current government.

The zoning regulation prohibits the development of housing projects, event regulations and the sale of small lots, all of which have been on the rise on the past few years, making the winemakers protest because of the water crisis that the valley is already suffering.

Giorgio Santini Art Gallery Brings Diversity to Rosarito

Art is a complicated endeavor, especially in Mexico where it’s not always easy for artists and collectors to find themselves, so it’s always a breath of fresh air to find out that someone is willing to risk his capital and reputation to represent renowned and new talents that come from our region, that is exactly what Aldo Santini is offering our community.

The Giorgio Santini Gallery of Fine Art was widely recognized in its previous stage, which lasted from 1999 to 2014, due to the high quality of its offer in works of art. Today in 2021 a new phase begins, preserving an elegant, neat, and professional proposal.

Aldo Santini, owner of the gallery, stated to this newspaper that his art gallery main goal is having a space in our area that supports artist by being able to showcase their art in a setting made specifically for contemplating it.

Since May 13, the Giorgio Santini Gallery of Fine Art reopened, now located in Santini Plaza, it returns and continues to offer art lovers and collectors the work of nationally and internationally renowned artists, including: Francisco Zúñiga , Juan Ángel Castillo, Enrique Avilez, Danielle Gallois, Hugo Crosthwaite, Jaime Carbó, Ernesto Azcarate.

Santini explained that the art his gallery sells is not only a great decoration for a house or business, but it could also be a great investment if you know what to buy: “Art has to be in the hands of collectors and museums in order to be valuable. That is what we are offering here, quality art that will increase its value over time if you ever want to sell it”, he stated.

Cristina Rendon, manager of the gallery, told us that while they do sell art in the gallery, that is not the only goal for them: “Promoting art has several benefits, and they are not always economical, society as a whole improves when they are exposed to art and this gallery helps with that, anyone can come in and appreciate the art even if they are not buying, we even offer workshops with master artists every once in a while.”

Among bronze and adobe sculptures by Azcárate and Avilez, between marinas and Quijotes by Juan Ángel Castillo, acrylic paintings by Danielle Gallois and Jaime Carbó, drawings by Francisco Zúñiga and Hugo Crosthwaite, Aldo Santini told us that his gallery is also an effort to show the world that Rosarito is a lot more than loud crowds on weekends and spring break.

If you want to know the Giorgio Santini Gallery of Fine Art and enjoy a close experience with the art that it promotes, you can visit its facilities located at km 40 of the Rosarito-Ensenada free highway, at 11 a.m. at 7 p.m., from Tuesday to Sunday, or by appointment at tel. (661) 126 59 88.

The Wine Country Under Siege, Part 2

BREAKING NEWS! Just as we were going to press, on September 28th, the wine growers filed a legal appeal before a District judge, to force the Municipal Government of Ensenada to apply the regulations to protect the conservation areas from further illegal land sales. Civil requests of the Municipal have been ignored for over two years. This action is one of two hopeful signs of a healthy direction for the Valle de Guadalupe’s future. That appeal has just been granted by a State judge.

 In part 1 of this story it was clearly stated the rapid growth in just the last five years in overdevelopment and illegal land sales is at critical level. It was shown that the Guadalupe Valley is at a crossroads and decisions need to be made about the course correction. Agriculture, development, community and water are all at risk and need protection. Rapid-growth tourism is a threat to grape production, posing issues for landscape and water usage. 

In the midst of this critical period for the Guadalupe Valley a historic event is taking place. Baja California has elected their very first women governor on June 5, 2021. Marina de Pilar Avila will be sworn in for a six year term November 1st.  She is young, beautiful and very smart as well as politically savvy from her years in Congress and holds a law degree. The first thing she did was call winemakers from the valley to accompany her to Napa, California wine region. The Governor-elect was already clear about one of her priorities to shepherd the wine industry into 2022. She told the press she wanted to be known as the Wine Governor. Being a good politician she knows it is important to align herself with the popular perception of what Baja California has to offer for sustainable tourism. While there are an infinite number of treasures in the unique landscape of the entire peninsula with its tallest mountains, unique desert landscapes and the seas surrounding it, it is the wine country which captures most of the press.

 In Part 1, Fernando Pérez Castro of Lomita Winery revealed many of the issues that threaten wine production. He was one of the vintners asked to travel with Governor-elect Marina to Napa, California in mid September. Fernando said, “Before she even took office, she wanted to see what a well developed wine region looked like. We were able to talk with Napa vintners, with Napa Green and many associated with the development and sustainability. We were surprised to find our own guidelines for self regulations were very aligned with what Napa has put into place.” 

Kicking off her campaign, the Governor-elect intends to keep Ensenada as the Capital of Mexican wine country. In terms of promotion and tourism she knows the importance of this acknowledgement. Fernando points out, “Now what we must do with her is for her to understand what it means in terms of sustainability. It is a tricky thing and an important issue is what is happening, especially considering that the land is not sold in a proper way. If you have the laws to protect the landscape and conservation this will attract a different kind of investor.” The infrastructure is also needed for all the people who call the valley their home. 

Fernando shared his vision, “We want to share with the world that we are the Mexican wine country. We have an opportunity to build a sustainable region, but if we continue to be complicit, looking the other way we will repeat history. The top priority on Marina’s agenda is setting new laws for the conservation areas. In doing this she will solve half the problem of the land sales in those areas in the first 90 days as governor.” Fernando paused and looked into the future, “This gives us a big message of hope.”

Fernando’s hard hitting message may be quite unpopular with some of the newer projects in the valley. “Right now we are making the best Mexican wines. We want the best hotels and Mexican restaurants that are on par with our wine. We don’t want cantinas, bars, Mixology, because it does not add to the value of the wine culture, it downgrades it. If you want those things, there are many places in Rosarito, Ensenada or TJ to find that entertainment. Simply put, if you want wine, you come to the wine region.” He stopped for a moment in his vision of the future and states, “When you mix the lack of vision and corruption of the authorities with the predatory instinct of bad developers it brings a huge mess. If the laws are not observed to create something unsustainable, we will have a lawless environment due to our complicity.” He paused and said, “And you can quote me on that!”

Finally Fernando speaks with the passion of the winemaker, “The Governor-elect has positioned people around her who understand what needs to be done to make the Valle de Guadalupe a globally recognized wine region.” Before they adjourned the conference Fernando told Marina, “The future of the wine region is in your hands. We are even willing to sacrifice our production to make the changes.” His closing statement was a wakeup, “We will know in six years for good or for ill that the destiny of the Valle de Guadalupe will be established.” 

Voices of Other Visionaries

Natalia Badan of Mogor Winery has lived her entire life in this valley. She has been an activist for conservation for decades.  In a 2017 interview I talked with Natalia about what she has seen since 2007. She smiled knowingly as she spoke, “Boom. Suddenly we are in fashion. This is good as it moves into the local economy. On the other hand we have to stay very conscious in order to keep the landscape pristine and beautiful. We have to watch for too much growth too fast that would contaminate what we really care about. If we grow too fast, we can’t go back.” She pointed to the hills, “Here we want slow growth and to keep this small and beautiful.” She punctuated, “Small IS beautiful. We can then be caregivers and invite harmonious groups to enjoy the whole afternoon. Here we watch the sunrise, the sunset, moon and stars and all of this care is part of producing wine.”

MSc Paula Pijoan, Masters in Science and Native Vegetation Consultant

“My vision is for people to understand that protecting the landscape means protecting ourselves. The common practice when people buy land, or prepare it to be sold, is to fence it and then clear it with heavy machinery (“limpiar” in Spanish, which means to clean).

The problem with the practice is that when the land is bulldozed its native vegetation is lost. This brings enormous problems such as:

The soil loses its ability to absorb and retain water from rains

If rains are strong, erosion and landslides happen

The bare soil creates constant dust in the air 

Plants harbor animals so clearing them leaves native animals without shelter and food, forcing them to migrate to ever smaller natural spaces.

Loss of landscape, beautiful vistas and the sounds of the nature.

What we propose:

Integrate the native vegetation to the project as native gardens, only clearing the areas where constructions will be built (this saves thousands of dollars!!!)

Incorporate patches or corridors of native vegetation on grape plantations: they help reduce erosion and control pests thanks to the beneficial insects present there. 

If native vegetation isn´t present anymore, attempt to restore it

Tom Hack of En’Kanto Winery

As small grape growers dedicated to regenerative farming and minimal intervention winemaking, our hope is that those in a position to set policy and execute enforcement will find both the will and ability to reign in the efforts of individuals who seek to exploit the region for excessive profits that undermine the agricultural base and culture that forms the foundation of Mexican Wine Country. For this agricultural base to survive, from which tourism is a byproduct, the crops, livestock and farming communities must have fair water allocation and priority especially over businesses that demand water consumption only to provide late night entertainment and unrelated activities that tax the fragile ecosystem that we depend on. Wine culture goes hand in hand, and businesses that detract from the agricultural life or the art and passion of winemaking must be strictly limited in wine country as they do not serve to grow the industry or the culture from which they seek to profit without adding value.

Gerard Zanzónico, Vinos Zanzónico  

Vinos Zanzónico was given the coveted Robert Parker 100 point award in 2013. Gerard is now consultant for MD Winery and produces his own label, Vinos Zanzónico . He began his passion for winemaking in the early years of Napa Valley.  “The Baja wine industry has grown into a world-wide destination. The beginning of this journey was founded on vision, deep passion and a desire to produce world class wines. With this foundation the winemakers and growers have attracted people from other wine regions to add a little spice to the wines of this region. Now, with new growth and a changing mix of world class wines and restaurants other destinations have been developed which confuses the theme. The question we should be asking ourselves is, “Who and What are we?”

“The wine industry of 2021 needs vision and a strong voice to clarify the direction that answers the necessary questions which will guide the future. As I see it, the next generation of visionaries will need to be clear of where they are going based on the vision of being a world class destination. The wines of Baja California are on the edge of worldwide recognition as a renowned region for the highest quality of wines. All of us in the Guadalupe Valley need strong leaders to be the future stewards of this land.”

Editor Note: Martina Dobesh is a freelance writer, journalist and author of two books. New on Amazon, Dust in My Sandals, Tales from a Baja Traveler, take a peek inside and look for our ad to find out what people are saying. 

If you missed Part 1, read it here…

The Wine Country Under Siege, Part 1

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?

UPDATE: Part 2 of this article can be found here…

Editor’s note: Martina is a freelance writer, journalist and author of two books. Her newest book, Dust in My Sandals, Tales from a Baja Traveler, is now on Amazon. See our ad for what people are saying.

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