Tag Archives: mexico

Time out, but have a seat & keep chatting

I haven’t been able to update this blog lately because I’ve been in the middle of getting a new job and home – and moving into a new home and job.

Both major life events are happily bringing me back to San Diego after a two year absence. During that time I was in Los Angeles where I  got a master’s degree at USC, and worked full time at the university. It was a great experience, but I am glad to be returning closer to the border where I am starting a new career as social media director at Tree.com (parent company of LendingTree and a bunch of other loan and home-related sites).

With so much going on, I want to let readers know that I am putting things on hold –  for now. But please continue the interesting conversations that have developed around a number of blog posts, in particular the one about the passports. I will make a point of checking and updating the comments to allow for contined information exchange.

Happy border travels and let me know if you are in the area!

Photo credit: Benches.com

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.

If you happen to be around Hidalgo this weekend…

Ok, this this is a little far from the border. But this poster for “Extreme Adventure Hidalgo 2010”  really makes me want to go to Hidalgo this weekend to check out the sky divers, acrobatic planes – and break dancers. Apparently, Hidalgo (a central Mexican state) has hosted this extreme sports event for the past eight years. The competitive races will include cycling, hiking, kayaking and rope climbing, according to the event’s website. Featured Latin pop artist, Yuri, has been called “The Mexican Madonna.”

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.

Sonora/Baja Road Trip. Day Seven: Coronado Island


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.

Actual travel date: Dec. 31, 2009. Loreto/Coronado Island in Baja Peninsula.

I visited the Isla Coronado several years ago (photo above), and  had a great time so I was hoping to recreate the experience this time around for the additional members in our travel party.  I envisioned us being provided with informative explanations of the sealife and the island eco-system, snorkeling along two different parts of the island  – and being provided with wet suits.

This time, however, we ended up doing some last-minute arrangements, and things didn’t turn out as planned. The eco-tour shop I had gone to before was closed so we instead made arrangements through some other shop. Our  “guide” turned out to be a  taciturn local fisherman. We left the boat dock around 9 a.m. and within 30 minutes we were motoring along the island’s edge.

The Isla Coronado is about three miles from the shore. The fisherman-guide made a complete trip around the island to take us to a small, isolated bay that was devoid of other tourists. This was not necessarily a bad thing. I’m up for getting to know new places, but then things started getting a little weird.

The shoreline appeared to be littered with hundreds of bottle caps, though it was unclear where they were coming from. There were so many of these that I decided to keep my sandals on. As the fisherman-guide wandered off, we discovered a large pile of conch shells. Things got even stranger as I spotted the head of a hammer-head shark. I looked more closely and I realized there were not just one, but two, and three, – no, DOZENS of these dried up heads.

Then I saw the corpse of a manta ray, several other assorted large fish, and what looked like a decent-sized shark.

We had stumbled upon some sort of fish cemetery, and it all seemed vaguely illicit and spooky. As we walked back to the boat we realized those bottle caps were actually spinal cord sections of the decimated sea life. Our fisherman-guide didn’t have much to say about this, but it apparently involved illegal fishing. We asked him to take us to the bay I had been to before, which looks like this (photo below) and where there are no fish corpses:

This was the paradise bay I was familiar with from my previous trip. We laid out our beach gear and started munching on the lunch the fisherman-guide had brought us, which included some tasty chicken empanadas, burritos, fruits and plenty of drinks. The water was clear, but chilly. I had gone in the water the last time I visited the island – in a wet suit. This time, there was no gear on our guide’s boat and I let others report back about the fish they saw.

Over time, about a dozen other tourists joined us along the bay. We stayed here for a few hours until the fisherman-guide warned us that the water was getting rough and that we needed to head back to shore. The water was indeed rough as we bucked our way across the waves. We got drenched, and I was glad I had my raincoat.

Back in Loreto, we explored some options for New Year’s celebrations. Several of the hotels along the coast were hosting dinner parties that looked like fun. They ranged in price from about $30 to $75 per person.

The last time I came here around this time, I went to a town outdoor dance to cheer in the New Year with the locals. Instead, with two kids in tow, we ended up splurging on a tasty New Year’s meal at a restaurant called Mita Gourmet (across from the city hall) with fantastic ambiance that featured live music from the outside patio. To celebrate the New Year, I had fish cooked Veracruz style with some white wine.

TRAVEL FACTOIDS:

Boating excursion to Isla Coronado cost about $47 per person for this time of the year. The boats leave  between 8:30 and 9 a.m. in the morning, and the trip includes a prepared lunch. Try and book through an eco-tour group for the best experience, which includes wetsuits and a chance to go snorkeling on both sides of of the island. Several of these outfits are located on Loreto’s main strip, on Avenida Hidalgo.

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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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.

How social media is helping cross-border investigations

Facebook, Inc.
Image via Wikipedia

Being a former border reporter and an eager student of social media, I am always keeping my eyes open for ways that these two interests of mine intersect. A couple examples from this year demonstrate how social media is playing a role in cross-border investigations.

I previously wrote how a blog called the
The Stalker Chronicles apparently helped Tijuana law enforcement officials find the alleged stalker of actor David Caruso earlier this year. (Read details of the case in this Feb. 20 Associated Press story).

And now a story in The Guardian sums up why it’s a good idea to understand what’s public and what’s not in Facebook – especially if you are a fugitive hiding out in Mexico.

According to the story (which I first read in Mashable), Maxi Sopo fled the United States earlier this year after allegedly getting involved in a fraud scheme and learning that investigators were looking into his possible involvement. Rather than lie low online as well as offline, Sopo started updating his Facebook status with descriptions of the good times he was having in Cancun. One of his Facebook “friends” was a former justice department official who apparently met Sopo at a Cancun nightclub and had no knowledge of Sopo’s fugitive status, according to the story. Read The Guardian for more details, but I would venture to guess that Sopo’s updates from jail probably aren’t so pleasant.

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President Obama shares some dance moves with Mexican singer Thalia

Thalia is a well-known Mexican singer and former TV soap star. I remember watching her in the Maria la del Barrio series that was on Mexican television in the 90s in which  she portrays a trash picker rescued by a wealthy benefactor and  eventually finds true love after tearful betrayals and misunderstandings. In real life, Thalia Sodi Mirana married music executive Tommy Motolla.

In this video, she decorously dances with President Barack Obama for a few moments before concluding her song at the Fiesta Latina concert that was held at the White House on Tuesday.

According to The New York Times, the event will be rebroadcast Thursday on PBS stations as part of the series “In Performance at the White House.” It is also to be shown Sunday on the Telemundo network.

QUESTION: Was the president’s dance out-of-bounds? There seems to be a lot of chatter on the Internet about whether or not Michelle Obama looked annoyed or gave him the cold shoulder afterwards. Thoughts?

YouTube video from The Daily Beast.

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.