Tag Archives: border

ICF Survey finds that many U.S. retirees in Mexico live comfortably for less than $1,000 a month

This month, the National City-based International Community Foundation released findings of a survey they conducted of more than 840 senior retirees in coastal areas of Mexico who are over the age of 50. I’m republishing here portions of the Foundation press release that was posted on their web site: 

  • U.S. retirees in Mexico are relatively young and well-educated. Nearly 53% are under 65 years of age (and, in fact, 80% are 69 years or younger), perhaps indicating that Mexico may not be as attractive for older Americans that require additional medical care. In addition, almost two-thirds have at least a college degree, and another 28% had attended at least one-year of college.
  • The respondents chose Mexico for retirement due to its proximity to the United States and its affordability relative to other U.S. retirement destinations.
  • U.S. retirees residing in Mexico continue to maintain strong ties to the U.S.: 50% consider the U.S. their primary country of residency, and almost 22% return to the U.S. on a monthly basis. 85% remain in contact with friends and family in the U.S. through the internet, 64% used the telephone, and 33% used Skype.
  • Retirees living in Mexico are worldly and world-wise. Of those that had considered retirement locations other than Mexico, 41% considered retiring in Central America or the Caribbean; 19% considered other non-U.S. destinations as possible retirement locations. Should quality of life decline in Mexico, those that are financially able could begin to look elsewhere.
  • Mexico may become an alternative for those U.S. retirees facing economic challenges in the future. While survey results and focus group participants clearly express that economic reasons were a major factor in leading them south of the U.S.-Mexico border, the potential is likely greater than is being realized. In 2007, the California Elder Economic Security Standard Index (a financial measure that indicates basic financial needs for seniors in California) ranged from $21,000-$27,500 as the minimum needed for major California cities. The survey results show that nearly 44% of U.S. coastal retirees in Mexico live comfortably on less than $1,000 per month – an amount which underscores the potential demand for retirement options for low and middle income retirees in Mexico.

For more on the survey, go to the ICF website or read this story by San Diego Union-Tribune reporter Sandra Dibble. 

To get an insight into the life of senior citizens retired in Mexicali, go to MexicaliMaryAnn’s blog:  http://www.mexicalimaryann.com/

About the ICF (from their web site):  International Community Foundation is a public charity working to foster lasting philanthropy to benefit under-served communities throughout the Americas and Asia. With over 70% of International Community Foundation’s recent grantmaking benefiting charitable causes along the Baja California peninsula, International Community Foundation is committed to assisting US donors with charitable giving needs from Tijuana to Los Cabos.

Smuggled Christmas Puppies Rescued at Tecate Border

Puppy Christmas 6
Image by Grammatic Error via Flickr

There’s been lots of attention lately on the smuggled stash of puppies rescued at the Tecate border this week. The fifteen sickly puppies were being smuggled into the United States through Mexico, apparently for sale as Christmas gifts. The miniature poodle mixes were promptly dubbed the “Christmas puppies.”

But it’s not just a Christmas thing. Customs and Border Protection officials have estimated that as many as 10,000 puppies are smuggled across the border in any given year, according to this Customs and Border Protection article from 2006. The problem apparently merited its own task force: A Border Puppy Task Force was created in 2004 as a result of complaints from owners who had bought sick dogs that ended up being traced to Mexico. The task force is comprised of 14 California animal welfare and law enforcement agencies.

As with drugs, the business is inspired by profit. The puppies (typically smaller breeds such as poodles and           Chihuahuas) may be purchased for between $50 and $150 in Mexico and sold for between $300 and $1,000 in the United States, according to this Associated Press report in 2006.

Sometimes dogs are smuggled across with even more ulterior motives. Learn about some puppies that were being used as drug mules. In other cases, dogs are the unsung heroes in the ongoing war against drugs. Here’s a story about a drug-sniffing dog that sniffed out 68 pounds of cocaine hidden in a car.

Photo NOT of sumuggled puppies. Photo used through Creative Commons License. Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/9523689@N08/3176162046

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Tijuana’s Tepoznieves a tasty ice-cream spot


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.


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.

State to get $7 million for border violence

This is a story in The San Diego Union-Tribune about California being in line for federal funds to prevent border violence from spilling into the United States. All border states are apparently getting the funds, and it will be interesting to see how the money is used. Spill-over violence is something that has existed in a sporadic sense along the San Diego border but it seems to be getting extra attention these days, probably because of the drug violence that has been going on in Mexico.

State to get $7 million for border violence

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Clunkers and cash along the U.S.-Mexico border

carstjI have always been fascinated with how the car industry operates along the border. You have maquiladora factories set up in Mexico that piece together cars for export to the U.S. Meanwhile, cars that are stolen in the United States – particularly in U.S. border cities – often end up in Mexico. And, get this: Cars from the U.S. are sold legitimately in Mexico, but end up being stolen from their Mexican owners, crossed into the United States and re-sold in the U.S. market. 

So, with the U.S. car industry making a lot of news lately, I started wondering about what might be going on in Mexico in light of the slowdown in demand for new cars in the United States.

In the Mexican border city of Reynosa, where about 50 of 170 factories cater to the auto industry,  the slowdown has apparently forced some car factories to halt production about 40 percent, according to this article in the South Padre Island Breeze. Meanwhile, Mexico’s El Universal, reported last month that  president Felipe Calderon announced Mexico’s own  “cash for clunkers” program to promote that country’s internal car manufacturing market. People who turn in cars that are at least 10 years old will receive roughly $1,150 towards a new car that is not worth more than about $12,300. The country is setting aside about $40 million for the program, according to the article.

And this Los Angeles Times story about the “cash for clunker” program in the United States benefitting dismantler and scrap recyclers is bound to resonate with the dozens of junkyards located in the Otay Mesa area of San Diego, which have a brisk cross-border clientele.

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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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 90071http://www.lfla.org/aloud/visit.php

COST: Free, but reservations are highly recommended through the L.A. Public Library’s ALOUD Lecture Series.http://www.lfla.org/aloud/registration/

For more information, check out the SPJ/LA Web site athttp://spjla.wordpress.com/ or log onto the library’s site athttp://www.lfla.org/aloud/calendar/?month=06&year=2009&day=03.


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.

Cell phones across borders



    Screen shot from YouTube site that has video of Los Pikadientes de Caborca

I’ve been doing a masters program at USC that specializes in online social networks, so I’m always thrilled when that topic merges with my long-standing interest in border subjects.

Vozmob, or Mobile Voices, is a project that provides a platform for low-wage immigrants in Los Angeles to publish stories and photos about their lives and communities through cell phones. The idea is that “marginalized populations lack access to digital technology yet aspire to participate meaningfully in the digital public sphere,” according to a project summary.

Here is an interview with USC professor Francois Bar, who explains the project in more depth.

Meanwhile USC professor Josh Kun recently wrote in The New York Times about how cell phones are creating new conduits for Mexican regional bands. The songs are uploaded to the phones or are used as ring tones. Then they spread virally through communities, underscoring how the regional Mexican industry is utilizing the cell phone as a “one-stop music source and symbol of working-class immigrant identity,” according to Kun’s story.

Kun, an expert in border culture topics, profiles the success of one of these bands, Los Pikadientes de Caborca, one of whose members readily admits that “we wouldn’t exist without cell phones and ring tones.”


* I work for USC’s media relations department but haven’t worked directly with these two professors * 

Jesus Malverde vs. Santa Muerte











For many years, the mustachioed Jesus Malverde was the “saint” that drug traffickers went to when seeking spiritual support. But lately Jesus Malverde seems to be getting some competition from a skeletal figure called Santa Muerte or the Saint of Death.

When Mexican authorities detained suspected trafficker Angel Jacome Gamboa, aka “El Kaibil,” at a Tijuana banquet hall in March, they found him carrying a gun that had been emblazoned with an image – not of Jesus Malverde – but of the Santa Muerte.

In recent weeks, I’ve run across a few U.S.-based reporters seeking experts to speak on the Santa Muerte’s growing popularity north of the border (according to this 2007 Time article, they are a little late). South of the border, I’ve also noticed several stories in the media about Mexican authorities knocking down the Santa Muerte’s shrines. Followers in Mexico City recently marched in protest of the actions, according to this Reuters article.

To be sure, the two unofficial “saints” aren’t exclusively worshipped by drug traffickers.  The Santa Muerte had been used to pray for life-saving miracles as well as death to enemies, according to the Time article. Malverde may have been based on the story of a bandit killed by Mexican authorities in 1909. Their presence possibly represents the erratic results that came from imposing the Catholic religion on a country  with its own indigenous faith traditions.

Meanwhile, I’m wondering if all the attention on the trendy Santa Muerte might lead to a nostalgic resurgence of interest in Jesus Malverde.

Photos approved for public use. Click photo for credit.