Tag Archives: Baja California

Traveling in Mexico: Passports and travel advisories, oh my!

Several travel-related issues along the U.S.-Mexico border are sure to raise some questions on this blog (and they already have started doing so), so I’m going to see if I can address them in this post:

Is is safe to go to Tijuana? Tijuana’s name showed up again in a list of cities linked to drug trafficking violence by the U.S. Department of State under their periodically-updated  travel alerts. This time, the alert seemed to focus more on the Mexican border towns south of Texas, but Tijuana continues to smart from being on this “black list.” Tijuana’s mayor Jorge Ramos has criticized the advisories for being too inflamatory (he would like the wording to change).

A story by ABC News points out that overall violence appears to be in decline in Mexico when compared to a decade ago, and in explaining that much of the impact of violence is influenced by perceptions rather than reality. Tracking and defining border violence is a complicated thing, especially since it tends to surge up and down and shift back and forth between regions. I have found the alerts to have no impact on my own travel decisions, but that’s just me.

Is Mexico requiring that I have a passport to go to Tijuana/Mexical/other border cities? The Mexican government created some confusion over this when they said that visitors to Mexico who travel through the land ports of entry would need to bring their passports starting in March. It became clear that having passports checked at these busy border entry points would be a logistical nightmare. Since then, the Mexican government has clarified that people who travel as far south as Ensenada in Baja California won’t have to worry about bringing their passports after all. Read more in this KPBS report. and The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Of course, the issue of whether or not people need to bring their passports to get back into the United States through the land ports of entry  - despite a U.S. government passport “requirement” announced last year – continues to be hotly debated. For more on that, go to this blog post or start a new conversation thread below.

On Vacation


Just a quick note to wish visitors and readers of this blog a wonderful holiday season and a happy New Year!

I am leaving Christmas Day on a nine-day road trip south of the border to to explore some new places and revisit a few favorites (picture above is from previous trip along the Baja peninsula). The plan is to drive south along the Sonora coast, take the ferry across the Gulf of California to the Baja peninsula – and make our way back north to Tijuana. I will be traveling with my partner in crime, two kids – and quite possibly a sock puppet.

It should be fun, and I plan on documenting it with my video camera and come back with some travel entries for this blog, which will resume publishing in January. Until then…cheers!

p.s. If you are feeling inspired to hit the road in Baja, you can check out the travelogue I put together from my 2006-2007 Baja trip.

Taking a short break…

Guadelupe Valley, Baja California

I wish it were this kind of a break (photo from from a summer outing in Baja California’s Guadalupe Valley). But no – I need to finish up my final project for my final master’s class at USC and that looming deadline has kept me from updating this blog lately. I will, however, be responding to messages left on this blog, and I will return to blogging in about a week…Thanks for your patience!

Tijuana’s Tepoznieves a tasty ice-cream spot

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Have you ever craved some prune ice cream?

What about a dollop of coconut with gin, celery – or pineapple with chile pepper?

These are the kinds of funky flavors you can find at a Tepoznieves ice cream store. It’s a Mexican “gourmet ice cream” chain with two branches just across the U.S. border in Tijuana. The ice cream originated from a Mexican village called Tepoztlan where it was dedicated to the son of the God of Wind sometime before the Spanish conquest of Mexico, according to the Tepoznieves website.

When it gets hot like it has been in Los Angeles lately, I find myself thinking about Tepoznieves ice cream. The stores boast more than 100 ice cream and sorbet flavors. Sure, you can get your traditional ones like chocolate, vanilla and bubble gum. But why not try something more adventurous, like fig, cheese, rice – or tequila!

 The stores are cheerily decorated in a way that emphasizes the confetti-like colors of the ice cream itself. I spent a good hour tasting eight different flavors during a recent visit. The offerings include ice creams that are outlandish mixes of various flavors. “Xilone’s ice cream,” for example, includes the following flavors: corn cake, mango, peach, cherry, pine nuts and chocolate. And for those who find ice cream a little – bland – there are several specials that use chile pepper flavor to add a kick to the flavor.

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If you go: There are two Tepozneives in Tijuana. One is at the MacroPlaza anchored by the WalMart at Plaza los Antojos, near the Morelos Park. The one closest to the border is in the Zona Rio along Blvd. Sanchez Taboada. It’s near a Sam’s Club. You can find them on this Google map: http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&tab=wl&q=tepoznieves%20tijuana

 

 

ancient times.

Korean food in Tijuana

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I finally made it out to this Korean restaurant in Tijuana after hearing good things about the food from two people I know. For my first meal here, I ordered a tasty “hemul enchilado,” a spicy seafood and rice dish (see below) accompanied with a bowl of soup.

Kimchi Mix is owned by a Korean family, and they weren’t exactly chatty but they did tell me that there are about “four or five” other Korean restaurants in Tijuana and that half of Kimchi Mix’s clientele is Mexican and half is Korean. I don’t think they get a lot of tourists, in part because of its location in the eastern part of the city.

While trying to learn more about the Korean community and kimchi in Tijuana, I came across a paper by two Mexico researchers about Korean investment in Mexico. Korean companies are among other Asian industries that have opened up manufacturing factories along the Mexican border. But the Korean tie to Mexico goes further back than that, according to a Los Angeles Times article about Korean Mexicans who arrived in the southern part of the country in the early 1900s.

Kimchi Mix has been around for about three years, and I had actually seen the restaurant from afar but wrongly assumed it a Japanese restaurant (quite a few of those here). It wasn’t until a local told me that there was a Korean restaurant near the Carl’s Junior across from the Universidad Autonoma de Baja California, did I realize what  I had been missing. Interestingly, Kimchi Mix’s menus don’t include Korean tacos- at least not yet –  in contrast to what has become quite a Korean taco craze in Los Angeles and beyond. 

If you go: Kimchi Mix is open Monday through Friday, from noon to 9 p.m. and on Saturdays from noon to 5 p.m and meals are roughly $5-$7. It’s located in the Otay Universidad section of Tijuana, at the intersection of Calzado Tecnologico and Las Lomas, across the street from the Universidad Autonoma de Baja California’s most western edge – near the Carl’s Junior restaurant. Go here for a Google map reference.

 

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Rosarito Beach surf contest this weekend (Aug. 22-23)


Picture 3Do you know that Rosarito Beach’s Mayor Hugo Torres (right) surfs? I once saw a picture of the septuagenarian in a local Mexican newspaper, looking fit and ready to hit the waves with his surfboard.

Torres may not be competing in this weekend’s Rosarito Beach Pro-Am surf contest (Aug.22-23), but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him there promoting the sport and the city’s attributes. To learn more about the event, here are excerpts from a Rosarito Beach press release that came to me via e-mail:

 

 

ROSARITO BEACH, BAJA CALIFORNIA , MEXICO—The first Rosarito Beach Pro-Am surf contest will be held this Saturday and Sunday with $10,000 in prizes. The event is organized by the city, FDt Marketing and sponsored by Monster Energy Drink
“We have promotional parties set up for Saturday Aug 22 , and beach activities happening during the event,” said Jeff Stoner, president of FDt Marketing.
The event will be webcast live on surfshot.com.
Registration for the contest is open, and spots remain for those interested in competing. Registration is available on active.com(keyword search: Rosarito Beach ), or by contacting the FDt Marketing offices directly at 858.272.2191.
Registration fees are $100. Hotel accommodations and discounts are provided by the Rosarito Beach Hotel, and can be made by calling (866) ROSARITO.
Shuttle services will be provided to and from the US Border to the Rosarito Beach Hotel. Passports are required. For more information on the Rosarito Beach Pro-AM surf contest, please visit rosarito.org/surf or call FDt Marketing at 858.272.2191.
ROSARITO BEACH, BAJA CALIFORNIA , MEXICO—The first Rosarito Beach Pro-Am surf contest will be held this Saturday and Sunday with $10,000 in prizes. The event is organized by the city, FDt Marketing and sponsored by Monster Energy Drink.

“We have promotional parties set up for Saturday Aug 22 , and beach activities happening during the event,” said Jeff Stoner, president of FDt Marketing.

The event will be webcast live on surfshot.com.

Registration for the contest is open, and spots remain for those interested in competing. Registration is available on active.com(keyword search: Rosarito Beach ), or by contacting the FDt Marketing offices directly at 858.272.2191.

Registration fees are $100. Hotel accommodations and discounts are provided by the Rosarito Beach Hotel, and can be made by calling (866) ROSARITO.

Shuttle services will be provided to and from the US Border to the Rosarito Beach Hotel. Passports are required. For more information on the Rosarito Beach Pro-AM surf contest, please visit rosarito.org/surf or call FDt Marketing at 858.272.2191.

 

Screenshot of Rosarito Beach mayor Hugo Torres from Rosarito Beach city government page.

Tijuana streets getting a concrete makeover

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Tijuana has been the brunt of many a pothole joke. It’s not entirely an exageration. After years of living and working there, I was amazed at how they seemed to appear overnight.  I once did a story on them, and was told as many as xxx existed in the city. Not even a  a mobile pothole patcher designed in xxx seemed to keep them from popping up.

 

These days, however, the signs of street progress are clearly underway as huge swaths of pothole-pocked asphalt streets are being entirely replaced with sturdy concrete. You can get a taste of this  when you enter Tijuana from the Otay Mesa port of entry where the new topping makes for a smoother and quieter entry experience.
The administration of Tijuana mayor Jorge Ramos apparently borrowed money to pay for the road work. It may be annoying to many Tijuanans who must navigate around orange construction cones and cement trucks, but I expect that new roads will leave a tangible impression on residents here, and it certainly won’t hurt the political aspirations of Ramos, who may just be interested in running for governor.
Tijuana has been the brunt of many a pothole joke. It’s not entirely an exageration. After living and working there, I was amazed at how they seemed to appear overnight.  I once did a story on them for The San Diego Union-Tribune, and was told that as many as 800,000 existed in the city. Not even a mobile pothole patcher  seemed to keep them from popping up.
These days, however, the signs of street progress are clearly underway as huge swaths of pothole-pocked asphalt streets are being entirely replaced with sturdy concrete. You can get a taste of this  when you enter Tijuana from the Otay Mesa port of entry area where the new topping makes for a smoother and quieter entry experience.
 This article in Tijuana’s Frontera newspaper says that paying the debt will take 20 years and take up 6 percent of the city’s annual budget each year. Tijuana mayor Jorge Ramos countered by saying the new roads won’t be pothole-prone, and it beats wasting lots of money each year to fix the holes.
It may be annoying to many Tijuanans who must navigate around orange construction cones and cement trucks, but I expect that a smoother driving experience here will leave a tangible impression on residents (and visitors). I wouldn’t be surprised if it also helps Ramos when Baja Californians vote for a new governor. 

Get a taste of Baja in Los Angeles this weekend

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I usually get my taste of  Baja California south of the border, but this weekend  - Saturday, June 20 – the border is coming to those of us who live or work in the Los Angeles area.

Baja tourism officials are holding “El Sabor de Baja en LA,” which will feature food, music and artwork from the peninsula cities of Tijuana, Ensenada and Rosarito Beach. The event lasts from noon to 6 p.m. and it will take place at Plaza Mexico at 3100 E. Imperial Hwy, in Lynwood.

And, in case you didn’t know, some really good wine is produced in Baja that would be worth tasting.

Baja tourism officials did something like this in San Diego recently, too. I am all for promoting this event since it’s the yin to the yang of less savory subjects that make Baja such a fascinatingly complicated region. Thanks to Bill Esparza over at his blog, Street Gourmet LA, for the heads-up on this one.

How drug traffickers stay fit in Mexico

Picture 10The fact that another suspected Arellano Felix drug cartel member had been arrested in Tijuana wasn’t as interesting to me as where he was found. Mexican media reported that Filiberto Parra Ramos was detained June 10 either inside or just outside the Total Fitness Gym, in the city’s  Zona Rio business district.

That’s the same gym I used to go to when I lived in Tijuana, and to be honest I’m a little surprised he wasn’t going to the swankier Sports World Tijuana gym (the Arellanos’ recreation budget must have been cut). I remember visiting both gyms and deciding not to got to Sports World because the monthly membership was closer to $300 (someone correct me here, if needed…) and because it seemed to be the kind of place where people looked great but didn’t seem to be capable of sweating.

At Total Fitness the equipment area was a little more cramped but there was a lot of sweating going on. Both places had some similar details, such as rock scaling areas and lap pools. At Total Fitness, I had a membership for about $100 a month and a personal trainer who was preparing for a body building competition. At times he seemed more interested in his own physique, but he dutifully kept me from cutting corners with the weights and sneaking off the bikes too early.

Both mega-gyms opened sometime after the year 2000, providing an alternative for wealthier Tijuanenses whose exercise options had previously involved jogging at public park facilities or crossing the border to work out in Chula Vista. For me, the main impetus to work out was to stay fit in my jeans. The stakes are probably much higher for someone like Parra, who was reportedly part of the Arellanos’ killer squad. 

Screenshot from Total Fitness website. They have some gym promo going for $35.

Tijuana students compete against San Diego pupils in spelling bee

European Honey Bee Touching Down
Image by autan via Flickr

Students from Tijuana elementary schools showed they could spell better than some of their counterparts north of the border in a special Spelling Bee contest done entirely in English.

An article in El Mexicano newspaper reports that ten of the 18 awards – three were doled out for each grade level – went to children from Tijuana. The recent contest pitted Tijuana students from the Instituto Juan Diego, Instituto Defensores de Baja California, Instituto Metropolitano, Colegio Eiffel, and Instituto Miguel de Cervantes de Tijuana against students from San Diego’s Capri Elementary, Del Sur Elementary, and Perkins Elementary of San Diego, according to the article.

Though the San Diego kids may have had the hometown advantage of being from an English-dominant country, The Tijuana students came from private schools where English is typically taught at a young age. I didn’t find a reference to the event in any English-language publications, but El Mexicano reported this was the second annual cross-border English spelling bee that is coordinated through a Sister Schools program.

 

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