WHAT IS BAJA? DISCOVERING ATTRACTIONS SOUTH OF THE BORDER
By Dennis Moore
April 19, 2012 (Baja)--Baja, or Baja California, is the northernmost part of Mexico--just across the border from San Diego. Like a hidden jewel waiting to be discovered, the region has many tantalizing facets. Baja includes the cities and towns of Tecate, Ensenada, Tijuana, Rosarito Beach and Puerto Nuevo, which is world renowned for its lobster fest.
Baja California has been a misunderstood neighbor of San Diego, a perception many Baja residents want to change—including Americans living here. A “Baja Image Committee,” made up of an estimated 25,000 full and part-time residents, has joined state tourism authorities in seeking out support of the expatriate community in promoting a positive image. Hugo Torres, the former mayor of Rosarito Beach and the owner of the Rosarito Beach Hotel, is the president of the Baja Image Committee.
Just recently, the first Baja community mega mixer was held at the historic Hotel Rivera del Pacifico in downtown Ensenada, where a gathering drew an estimated 300 expatriates from Baja California, many of them eager to share their viewpoint about life south of the border.
“It’s more relaxed. We’re done with snow, we’re done with cold,” said Gary Pliley, a 64-year-old retiree from Utah.
You make friends here that you could call at two in the morning if you needed help,” said Carol Main, 69, who moved to Baja California from San Diego.
Their endorsements “are one more way of projecting an image that things are right, conditions are right for people to come down,” said Juan Tintos, Baja California’s Tourism Secretary. Last year Tinto’s office commissioned a 10-minute promotional video “What is Baja?” The video draws heavily on interviews with U.S. Visitors, residents and promoters such as Gary Foster, who runs the twice-yearly Rosarito-to-Ensenada bike ride. In a recent meeting with Daniel Torres at the Rosarito Beach Hotel, Daniel indicated to me that he helped develop the video.
Baja is home to Fox Baja Studios in Rosarito Beach, Mexico, where director James Cameron and his crew re-created the massive ship Titanic, along with actors Kate Winslet and Leonardo Dicaprio staying at the Grand Baja Resort nearby during the filming of the movie. Of course, it is the people of this area that personify Baja.
Baja is also the Mar Vista Apartments in Tijuana in the Tomas Aquino area, where I can look out my bedroom window in this tranquil and family-oriented neighborhood towards a cruise ship on the Pacific Ocean, under an eclipse of the moon. These apartments are owned by American Michael Carlson, whom I truly believe is a saint, as he has helped me and so many other Americans over the years find affordable comfort and sanctuary within this oasis of beauty and tranquility called Baja.
When I first moved to Tijuana, Michael actually drove across the border to San Diego and brought me and my possessions to this place that I now call home, as he also did with other Americans who chose to live in this peaceful and tranquil environment. Michael, our landlord, would even host a Thanksgiving celebration for his tenants, which would include the Mexicans living nearby, even though it is an American holiday.
My 13-year-old daughter, Brandy, was my impetus for moving to Baja, as I needed a larger space to accommodate her coming from Chicago to live with me, and the rent was much more affordable for me than when I lived in San Diego.
I arise early in the morning to catch a Mexican bus to the border with my daughter daily, so she can attend Roosevelt Junior High in San Diego, where warm memories for me should be a testament to my viewpoint of Baja. I felt that safe and secure for her and myself. I am sure that Baja has left an indelible imprint in the psyche of my impressionable daughter, as it probably has with other visitors to this beautiful locale.
Baja is Erika Avelar’s neighborhood store, just down the street from the housing complex and other Americans reside, overlooking the Tijuana airport. Erika greets everyone with a warm smile and greeting as they enter her establishment.
Baja is Ortega’s Buffet in Rosarito Beach, where annually for the last 11 years a group of 200 – 300 visitors from San Diego, the Royal Princesses and Knights, have included this establishments among their stops during their partying and fund-raising efforts. Evidently, Baja California has been very good to them. Their next visit there will be May 12, 2012. I will actually be staying at a friend’s home just down the street from Ortega’s for several days starting May 25, to watch and attend to my friend Eduardo’s house and dogs, while he and my landlord, Michael, attend a wedding in northern California.
While staying there, I may just go by Ortega’s for a meal, or walk a few blocks over to the ocean to watch the local fishermen fish for clams, as I have done in the past. Either way, it should be a relaxing time for me in beautiful and tranquil Baja California.
Baja is Tom Gatch and his book, Hooked on Baja. I had the pleasure to meet this talented author at the first annual Baja Book Festival in Cantamar, Mexico. At this event, attended by approximately 300 authors, writers and artists, Tom gave me his book, which I would later write a review of in the East County Magazine. This book is full of pictures, maps and stories about ideal deep sea fishing spots off the coast of Mexico.
Sam Warren, the founder of SDWriteway, an online news magazine in San Diego which has recently partnered with East County Magazine, leads a delegation of Americans across the border from San Diego monthly to Tijuana, to meet up with their Mexican counterparts, savoring dinner and taking excursions to nearby sites such as Plaza Santa Cecelia, Avenida Revolucion tourist area and Cathedral of Guadalupe.
As Juan Tintos has stated, “Conditions are right for people to come down.”
Dennis Moore has been a member of the San Diego Writers/Editors Guild. He is also a writer and book reviewer for the East County Magazine and the book review editor for SDWriteway. He is the author of a book about Chicago politics; “The City That Works: Power, Politics and Corruption in Chicago.” Mr. Moore can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follow him on Twitter at @DennisMoore8.