Category Archives: Musings

Pets at the border: A Tijuana dog’s cross-border tail, er tale

Tijuana dog

This is my Tijuana dog Lucky. She has a home in Tijuana, and I see her frequently when I spend time south of the border, but recently we decided to take her across the border to visit the promised land of San Diego where pets like her, who are typically kept for practical purposes like guarding a home, are pampered with pedicures and trips to the beach.

I haven’t done this sooner because I was a little nervous about what  might happen to Lucky at the border. The information I had found on the Internet seemed to be more tailored towards U.S. dogs being allowed to cross back into the U.S.  with proper veterinarian documentation, and Lucky is from Mexico.

I found this line, from one U.S. government publication, somewhat alarming: “Pets excluded from entry into the United States must either be exported or destroyed.” I was a little worried that her nationality and lack of U.S. veterinarian papers might land her in quarantine for 30 days. The thought of Lucky locked up like that was enough to keep me from daring to cross with her for quite a while.

Lucky is a Rottweiler mix of some sort, and she is aptly-named. She was rescued several years ago as a puppy in Tecate, Mexico by some onlookers after her owner was seen kicking and dragging her through a muddy road. Turned out she had dysentery, which could have killed her. We got her on some medications and she survived, learning to get along nicely with a poodle (who called the shots) and to put up with a Chihuahua (who yapped, and yapped and yapped). Later, when we had her sterilized at the Tijuana “Perroton” – a weekend mass sterilization of Tijuana dogs – Lucky’s heart stopped midway through her procedure and the volunteer surgeons said they almost lost her.

For Lucky’s first trip into the United States I got her paperwork in order –  the Tijuana veterinarian records in Spanish that show all her vaccinations are current – and hoped for the best. Turns out that all the worry was for naught. When we pulled up to the Tijuana border, the Customs guy asked us what was in the crate.

When I told him it was a dog, he turned to Lucky, barked “Arf, Arf!”  – – – and waved us through.

From my one experience, it seems as if common sense seems to be prevailing at the border in regards to pets:  But, in case you want to know, here is an excerpt from a U.S. Customs and Border Protection publication of what the U.S. government says you should do if you want to bring your pet across the border from areas “not free of rabies” (apparently, that includes Mexico). The 20-page document talk about “importing” a pet though I’m not sure if that also means “taking your pet for a visit.”

  • “A valid rabies vaccination certificate should accompany the animal. This certificate should be in English or be accompanied by a translation. It should identify the animal, the dates of vaccination and expiration, and be signed by a licensed veterinarian. If no expiration date is specified, the certificate is acceptable if the date of vaccination is no more than 12 months before the date of arrival. NOTE: Some certificates say the vaccine is good for three years. Dogs should not get re-vaccinated if they are within the dates of the certificate.”
  • “Dogs not accompanied by proof of rabies vaccination, including those that are too young to be vaccinated (less than 3 months of age), may be admitted if the importer completes a confinement agreement and confines the animal until it is considered adequately vaccinated against rabies (the vaccine is not considered effective until 30 days after the date of vaccination). The confinement agreement (form CDC 75.37) can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dq/animal.htm.”
  • “If the vaccination was performed less than 30 days before arrival, the animal may be admitted but must be confined at a place of the owner’s choosing until at least 30 days have passed since the vaccination.”
  • “Young puppies must be confined at a place of the owner’s choosing until they are three months old, then they must be vaccinated. They must remain in confinement for 30 days after the vaccination.”

Do you have a pet-at-the-border story? What’s your experience been like?

Anyone have a good recipe for Caldo Tlalpeno?

A reader recently posted a question underneath a blog item I wrote last year about Mexican soups. I had proclaimed myself a fan of Caldo Tlalpeno, and he wants to know if anyone has any good recipes. All I know is that the Caldo Tlalpeno includes chicken or turkey, chick peas, avocado, rice, one or two chiles – and other good stuff, but I don’t have any personal recipes since I typically buy the soup already-made in Tijuana restaurants.

If anyone has a favorite recipe can you share it with us? C’mon Food Bloggers – I bet you have some ideas. I will prominently feature your link if you share…

Here are a few I pulled from the Internet:

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Caldo-Tlalpeno-13156

http://mexicofoodandmore.com/soups/tlalpeno-soup-recipe-caldo-tlalpeno.html

http://find.myrecipes.com/recipes/recipefinder.dyn?action=displayRecipe&recipe_id=550045

Sonora/Baja Road Trip. Day Three: Hermosillo to Guaymas

This is part of a series of blog posts about a ten-day trip I recently took south of the border through the Mexican state of Sonora and then back up north (after a ferry trip across the Gulf of California) through the Baja Peninsula.

Day Three of the trip: December 27, 2009. Starting point is Hermosillo, the capitol of Sonora.

I had been to Hermosillo before, so I was looking forward to spending some time in this pretty, desert capital. With an estimated population of  over half a million, Hermosillo nonetheless maintains a certain patina of order and tranquility that stands in contrast to the chaotic energy of other urban centers. 

As I waited for my travel companions to wake up, I browsed through some pamphlets from the hotel lobby about the newly-opened Sonoran Art Museum . There was an exhibit of Oaxacan painter Rufino Tamayo that would have to wait for a future visit.

Instead, we went to the Sonora Museum which is a former state penitentiary that operated from 1907 to 1979. It was located near our hotel – the Hotel Colonial – on the other side of the Cerro de la Campana (Hill of the Bell). As we took in the bird’s eye view, a nearby church bell started to ring. It momentarily sent me back in time and place.

The museum is free on Sundays, and we spent about 40 minutes wandering through the old cell spaces that had been converted into educational exhibits on the region’s history, including one with a photo of Benjamin Hill. The rabbit and pig sock puppets engaged in ongoing silly commentary. We also took some pictures of ourselves behind prison bars.


Then we headed back to the downtown area for breakfast. Our destination: the local market where people come to buy their pig’s feet, vegetables and cheeses. After walking around the entire market, we sat down at a corner stall and I ate several spicy shredded beef tacos.

Even though Hermosillo’s weather was pleasant, the dominant collective opinion of my travel companions settled on  finding a warm beach. So we  decided to continue our trek to the beach communities of Guaymas (where we would take the ferry to Baja California) and San Carlos. Both were only about one hour way.

After a quick detour through San Carlos, we headed to Guaymas where we discovered the harbor area. This oceanfront section of town seemed to serve as the city’s central plaza where local folks strolled and merrily scooted around  on their skateboards, bikes and in-line skates.

We picked the Armida Hotel at random, unloaded the car, and then I started flipping through the Yellow Pages Book. A section on Guaymas provided me with some informational grounding: The city was founded in 1769 and has one of the largest fleets in the Mexican Pacific. The write-up mentioned that the nearby Miramar Beach is a good place for sunsets. I looked at the clock: 4:30. We got to the beach in about ten minutes and searched for shells along the shore as the sun sank low and pelicans dive-bombed for fish. 


For dinner, perhaps inspired by the pelicans, we went to a Sushi place near the hotel. The rolls were average, but the ambience was energetic with three television screens beaming sports and music videos. The next day was Monday and we would need to make reservations and confirm the Tuesday departure time for the ferry that would take us across the Gulf of California to the Baja peninsula. 

TRAVEL FACTOIDS:

The road leading to the Sonora museum has lots of tricky one-way streets

The more upper scale Hotel  Colonial in Hermosillo had a “special” rate of $80

Hotel Armida in Guaymas cost us about $55


Sonora/Baja Road Trip. Day Two: Puerto Penasco to Hermosillo


This is part of a series of blog posts about a ten-day trip I recently took south of the border through the Mexican state of Sonora and then back up north (after a ferry trip across the Gulf of California) through the Baja Peninsula.

Day Two of the trip: December 26, 2009. Starting point is Puerto Penasco, a few hours south of Arizona. 

Always an early riser, I left our hotel at 8:30 a.m. to walk around the Puerto Penasco oceanfront. We had picked a hotel in the downtown area, but on the other side of the bay I could see the high-rise condos that have become second homes for some Arizona residents.

 I wanted to find out what to do in Puerto Penasco this time of year. One merchant, just opening his storefront, sighed and said: “It’s too cold to go to the beach.” Back at the hotel, the staff scrunched their foreheads and came up with a few ideas: A small aquarium (read some TripAdvisor reviews here) and a regional museum. But no one seemed to have  a recent or decent map to show me where they were. 

Meanwhile, the car’s alarm was going off for no reason and we couldn’t start the engine because of some electrical glitch inspired by the alarm. We got a hold of a mechanic who showed up in a car with a fake license plate. At the top of the plate (in small letters) were the words FORGET 911 (and in larger letters) IDIAL .357. An insignia of a gun made the point even clearer.

Despite the less-than-assuring credentials, the mechanic did his job just fine.

We had originally planned on staying in Puerto Penasco for a day, but decided to continue south in search of warmer climes. On our way out of town we passed a giant statue of what I think was a shrimp, representing the town’s fishing roots.

We ended up driving about five hours to Hermosillo, the capital of Sonora.  At first the landscape was flat and somewhat stark, masking the rich potential underneath the soil. Clouds of smoke emerged from the earth in four points – looking like distant tornadoes  –  where farmers were burning land for agricultural purposes.

From the small city of Caborca (an hour and a half from Puerto Penasco) the land starts to ease into the mountains and hills of the higher desert. It becomes increasingly jagged as you get closer to Hermosillo and the tips of mountains look as as if they have been nibbled on by dinosaurs.

Along the way, we got gasoline at a town called Benjamin Hill. I asked the gas  attendant: “Who is Benjamin Hill?”  I pronounced it in English, since it looked like an English word, but the attendant didn’t seem to understand what I was saying until I used a Spanish accent (Ben-ha-meen Heeeel). Then he told me Benjamin Hill was a general during “the war” (He is mentioned in this Sonora tourism site in as being involved in the Mexican Revolution).

At Hermosillo, we checked into the Hotel Colonial near the Cerro de la Cementera (photo above)  where we paid about $80 for a nice but small room. Sonora is known for its beef, and we missed an opportunity to eat a traditional steak dinner here. We also missed out on trying the famous Sonoran hot dogs (hot dog stands are lined up en masse in front of the local university). Instead,  we ended up eating some beef tacos after seeing a movie in town.

TRAVEL FACTOIDS:

Total road trip travel time from Puerto Penasco to Hermosillo: About 5 hours

Total amount of money spent on two toll booths: $11

Cost to get car alarm fixed in Puerto Penasco: $65

Beef tacos in Hermosillo for four people: $15


Sonora/Baja Road Trip. Day One: Tijuana to Puerto Penasco

This is part of a series of blog posts about a ten-day trip I recently took south of the border through the Mexican state of Sonora and then back up north (after a ferry trip across the Gulf of California) through the Baja Peninsula.

Day One of the trip: December 25, 2009

The nice thing about traveling on Christmas Day is that most people are at home and not on the road. Me and my travel companions (another adult, two kids and two sock puppets)  left Tijuana at 4 p.m. after I picked up a tourist card . This was necessary since I was traveling beyond the border area’s tourist zone. It cost about $20 and I got it at the same Mexicans Customs office where we had to  register our car (A Mexican car restricted to circulating in the border zone).

Heading east towards Mexicali takes you through a rock-studded chain of mountains called La Rumorosa that inspires frequent stops for photo shoots. By the time we hit the Mexicali desert, it was nightfall. Crossing into Sonora at San Luis Colorado, we picked up some sandwiches for dinner at an Oxxo (sort of like a 7-11) where the cashier told us there was a new, faster toll road that would take us just two hours to get to our destination, Puerto Penasco. 

The new toll road costs about $8.00. Since we were traveling at night, there wasn’t much to see – except for the stars above us and a large number of roadside signs that we seemed to pass every 30 seconds:  FOGGY ZONE, WATCH OUT FOR FAUNA, DON’T PASS CARS, KEEP THE ROAD CLEAN, RESPECT NATURE, DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE, NO HUNTING.

My favorite of the bunch…DON’T DESTROY THE SIGNS.

We arrived in Puerto Penasco at 8:45 p.m (Sonora is one hour ahead of California) and as we headed to the downtown area we passed this city traffic sign (above) that made me laugh. The sign includes a banner that basically says “here we take care of tourists.” Yet the multiple arrows heading every which way prompted me to feel tourist trauma: Which road to take?

We managed to find our way to the Hotel Vina del Mar, where our $63 got us a room with an angular view of the ocean. 

TRAVEL FACTOIDS:

Total road travel time from Tijuana to Puerto Penasco: 4-5  hours.

Total amount of money spent on five toll roads between Tijuana and Puerto Penasco: $19.20

Christmas in Mexico

Mexicans aren’t color shy. Driving around a city like Tijuana is a lot like taking a detour onto a Candyland board game where yellow doors, mint-topped roofs, and violet walls are all the norm. Watch any Mexican soap opera to get a sense of how color infuses clothes and the interior of homes  from the very rich to the very poor. Spend enough time in Mexico and you will return home, look around, and realize everything is just so…beige. Not even the Christmas tree appears to be exempt from the inclination to dress up and color up most anything in sight, as can be seen in these photos I took last weekend at a Tijuana tree lot.

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!