Monthly Archives: June 2009

Mexican political campaigns full of fuzzy mascots and dancing



As Mexicans prepare for elections next weekend, it’s not unusual for campaign teams to crank out the circus-like entertainment to get people to rally behind their candidates. I’m not sure if the green creature is supposed to be a dinosaur, a lizard or an alligator. I think the point is that he is green and that’s one of the main colors of the Institutional Revolutionary Party. He was campaigning for candidate Liliana Sevilla, who is apparently running for a seat in  the national chamber of deputies. As the fuzzy mascot handed out flyers, a couple members of the campaign team danced on top of a car to the beat of salsa music and Rock-en-Espanol.

Tijuana’s Avenida Revolucion rocks this Saturday (June 27)

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If you happen to be in Tijuana this weekend and find yourself caught in a crowd of young people converging towards the sound of very loud guitars then you probably have stumbled upon RevNMov, a production of Revolucion en Movimiento, which takes place on Tijuana’s tourist strip of Avenida Revolucion June 27 with groups from Mexicali, Tijuana and Ensenada. The border region’s alternative music scene puts another face to the complex tapestry of Tijuana. It gets going at 2 p.m. with Indie, Rock and Electronic music –  and it’s free.

Get a taste for some of the groups here:

Astro de Rumba on YouTube:

Antemortem on YouTube:

Mexican Immigration opens branch in Rosarito for U.S., other expats

North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Lo...
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Rosarito Beach has become a popular hub for U.S. expats, many who rent or buy places along the coast. An estimated 14,000 of them live in this coastal city, about 15 minutes south of central Tijuana. Just like Mexican immigrants north of the border, not all of them have got their residency papers in order. About 8,000 expats are registered legal residents of Rosarito Beach. Rather than round up the rest of them for deportation, Mexican authorities have opened an immigration branch office to make it easier for everyone to be in compliance.

Here is the press release from Rosarito Beach’s communications office:

A branch office of Mexico ’s department of immigration has opened at Rosarito’s City Hall to better serve the area’s large and growing expatriate population. Previously, the nearest office was in Tijuana . The Rosarito office will be open Monday through Friday from 8 to 1. Phone numbers are 661-612-7262or 661-612-7263.

Through the office people can receive advice and assistance with FM3s, FM2s and other immigration matters. Appointments are available by calling the above numbers or people can simply go to the office. Immigration officials also welcome presidents of the city’s several expatriate groups to contact them for information they can share with their members.

About 8,000 expatriates in Rosarito, primarily from the United States , are registered with immigration. Rosarito Beach Mayor Hugo Torres estimates that about 6,000 are not registered.

“This office is a welcome addition to the city and will make it easier for our residents to receive needed services,” Torres said. “Already, about 10 percent of our population are expatriates and we expect that number to grow significantly in the future as more Baby Boomers retire here.”

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Answer to question about passport requirements at the U.S. border

A reader posted a question recently about that new passport requirement  for U.S. (and Canadian) citizens crossing the border from Mexico: What happens if you show up without your passport?  I thought it was a good a question because it got me wondering about possible repercussions. …Is it like when you get a speeding ticket? Are we talking jail time? Handcuffs?

I passed on the message to Vince Bond, a spokesman over at U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and he provided this helpful response, which he allowed me to re-publish here: 

Federal officers will not deny entry to any valid US citizen. Travelers may experience delays while CBP officers possibly refer them to secondary inspection so that their identity and admissibility can be positively determined.

Our officers have enforcement discretion to make the determination whether to allow a non-compliant traveler to proceed into the United States , with a written warning to obtain the proper travel documents, or to refer them to the secondary inspection area. The warning document explains that the traveler is not compliant with the requirements of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) and explains what documents are acceptable and how to obtain them. Lots of information about this process is on .

 We continue to encourage US citizens who cross the Canadian or Mexican land border to apply for and obtain a passport book, passport card, Sentri/Nexus trusted traveler card, or Enhanced Drivers License from participating states to facilitate their travel. I want to add that the overwhelming majority of traveling US citizens crossing the border already are WHTI compliant. Mexican travelers are unaffected by WHTI.”

Thanks to Vince for setting us straight.  Here is a screen shot from a file he sent me about the notice you might get if you show up at the border without your passport:

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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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Tijuana gets a new basketball team: The Cosmos

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For some of you, it may come as a surprise that Tijuana had a basketball team for four years called Los Galgos. I finally got around to attending a Galgos game earlier this year, and had a great time learning more about the team, which like others in the Mexican basketball league has players from both sides of the border.

But it appears that the Galgos (a type of Greyhound) are no more. They are being replaced with a new team, called Los Cosmos, and new owners. I spotted this story in Tijuana’s Frontera newspaper recently about the new team’s logo, which  will include an image of the round-shaped CECUT cultural center in Tijuana near a basketball with the stars glittering above. The team will apparently get new colors, too: blue, orange and grey. (By the way, Mexicali also has a basketball team, the Soles or the Suns).

La Cronica newspaper in Mexicali reports that Los Cosmos will represent Tijuana in the country’s National Professional Basketball League starting this 2009-2010 season and their first game will be Sept. 10 against the Jaibos de Tampico. I’m hoping to hear back from Galgos fans to learn more about whether we will be seeing the same players suited up in different colors or if this will be a completely different crew.

Screenshot of logo from Frontera article.

Los Angeles event June 3: Blogging the drug wars in Mexico

Being a former border reporter, I have a lot of respect for those who continue to cover the impacts of the drug trade on Mexico. I am posting here a press release for a Wednesday forum about “blogging the narco wars” that is  sponsored by the Greater Los Angeles chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. I know reporters Amy Isackson and Vicente Calderon  from my time in Tijuana –  and I am personally grateful for Tijuana based human-rights activist  Victor Clark, one of the few people in that city who reporters can go to for a “tell it as it is” quote about drugs and corruption.

Join the Greater Los Angeles chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and the Los Angeles Public Library for an in-depth talk with journalists from San Diegoand Tijuana, as well as a long-time watchdog of border violence, to discuss how reporters are covering outbreaks of violence in connection to drug-smuggling in Tijuana.

The panelists will be:


  • Victor Clark Alfaro, Founder, Binational Human Rights Center in Tijuana
  • Vicente Calderon, Tijuana television reporter
  • Amy Isackson, reporter, KPBS San Diego

The event will be moderated by SPJ/LA board member Adolfo Guzman-Lopez, a reporter with KPCC 89.3 FM. 

WHAT: Blogging the Narco-Wars

WHO: Victor Clark Alfaro, Founder, Binational Human Rights Center in Tijuana; Vicente Calderon, Tijuana TV reporter; Amy Isackson, border reporter, KPBS San Diego. Moderated by Adolfo Guzman-Lopez, reporter, KPCC 89.3FM, SPJ/LA board member.

WHEN: 7 p.m. on Wednesday, June 3, 2009

WHERE: The Los Angeles Central Library’s Mark Taper Auditorium630 W 5th St., Los Angeles, CA 90071

COST: Free, but reservations are highly recommended through the L.A. Public Library’s ALOUD Lecture Series.

For more information, check out the SPJ/LA Web site at or log onto the library’s site at


The Society of Professional Journalists is the nation’s largest and most broad-based journalism organization, dedicated to promoting high standards of ethical behavior and encouraging the free practice of journalism. Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press.