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earthquakes, boating and harbor fees, summer electricity costs, flu prevention....

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hurricanes, earthquakes, customs duty, border changes, railway line...

November-December 2009
Founder of The Net announces retirement, death of Tony Reyes, closing of stores due to the depression, the space station sighting, winter electricity rates, ATM fraud, Puerto Penasco's new airport, tourist spending..







Kat's Korner

San Felipe Time

Thursday 27 January

I had some additional correspondence on the South Campo situation that the author has given me permission to share:

Subject: South Campos
Date: Mon, 18 Jan 2010 16:11:03 -0800

I don't know if you're still printing comments on lease problems in the South Campos, and I will try to keep this short, but I'd like to add my two cents for what it's worth.

We live in the So. Campos. We have a decent owner, who has always been fair. We are probably paying the lowest rental fees at this time -- we started at $350 a lot, 22 yrs. ago. We are now paying $800. We've had no problems with contracts, big increases, etc. We have treated our owner reasonable and with respect and he has treated us accordingly.

We are well aware of most of the problems referred to in prior writings. Some of it is very true, and much of it is by word of mouth and grossly exaggerated. We are disappointed by anyone's Mexico retirement dreams being altered in any way, similar to those who no longer have the retirement dream in the U.S. due to the economy, loss of jobs, etc., that all of us here have been able to enjoy for so long.

There are places where rents have been doubled. In the two campos I'm aware of, the original owners passed away and the children of those owners are fighting among themselves and with the renters. I do believe, coming from a Probate legal background, that is not uncommon, anywhere in the world. How it turns out in the end, no one knows at this point. I'm not saying it's right, it isn't, but it happens in the U.S. as well.

Some of those moved out of their houses without payment, were moved out by Court Order. None of us know the whole story there -- that too happens in the U.S. With regard to the person who commented on no one leases land and builds buildings on someone else's property in the U.S. -- check out shopping centers, although that's commercial and expected, but most of all, check out the Coachella Valley, which is half owned by at least 4 different tribes --

The City Fathers were ordered by the Feds, way back when to return some of the land back to the Native Americans, as happened across the U.S. The Coachella Valley City Fathers, in their great wisdom, decided to dole out the land in checkerboard fashion. 1 section (360 acres) private, 1 section Native American -- thinking it would keep them from ever having a majority ownership of a large section of land anywhere in the Valley. Well, one-half of all those million dollar homes throughout Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage, Indian Wells, etc. are built on "fee" land, which means they leased their property from the Native Americans and have been paying their leases forever and will do so forever. I don't know how their contracts read, and certainly, it has been a much more positive experience in the U.S. than Mexico, but it does exist in the U.S. in other areas as well.

The economy is so very bad in the U.S. and it's twice as bad in Mexico -- many people here are desperate and others are just greedy. For those foreigners who are so very unhappy here, they need to look elsewhere, where things may be better. I know that may not be financially feasible for all, but anger, nastiness, rumors are turning into hatred and none of us moved down here to have that kind of relationship, with neighbors, owners or anyone anywhere. "Getting even" isn't an option here that does anyone any good.

In closing, for those still considering retirement in Mexico, there are good places, even in the So. Campos, good owners, and pleasant times to be had. For those who are so unhappy here, I'm afraid it will get worse before it gets better, whether or not one has earned the treatment being doled out in some of the Campos. Maybe this isn't the place to be. (signed) A contented leaseholder!

I believe that all of our residents here would agree that San Felipe is a wonderful place to live and, in particular, is a very good place to be as a retired person living on a modest income. We also recognize that the problems we have are not going to be easy to fix. Probably our biggest impediment to solving problems is that San Felipe is not a separate municipality that can stand on an equal footing with the other cities of Baja California (Tijuana, Rosarito, Ensenada, Tecate and Mexicali). I hope to write an expanded article on this governance problem soon. (TC)

Monday 25 January

Well, finally the storms have gone. It was a period from last Tuesday through Friday that we experienced the brunt of the Pacific weather that the jet stream brought us. Very strong winds and low pressure on Thursday brought the bulk of our rainfall and caused chaos on the roads of Northern Baja and Southern California. All roads are now open but there is still a lot of mud in areas where construction was underway. The graphs below, from my weather station, show how the winds picked up during the week as the atmospheric pressure dropped when the low pressure cell passed over the Sea of Cortez. The bottom graph shows the rainfall we experienced, though in other areas of San Felipe there was much more - our climate here is very local!

Windspeed during the week, with gusts shown as dotted lines.

The drop in atmospheric pressure on Thursday as the front moved over San Felipe.

Our rainfall (inches/day) during the week.
























In other news of the town, the military received an anonymous tip last week and searched a house at Playa de Oro, north of town. Two California vehicles in the garage were found to contain almost half a ton of marijuana, possibly being prepared to make the trip to the USA. The renters of the property are being sought as it is believed that they may be able to assist the police in their inquiries.

Another truck with a similar amount of marijuana concealed under a load of white sea bass was detained at the San Diego crossing.


Friday 22 January

Well, we finally got a definitive identification on the strange fish that Karen Cove came across at Santa Maria. Two correspondents, Roy Houston and Mike Curtiss, wrote in to tell us that they are Cutlassfish! I looked at the picture on Gene Kira's Mexfish website and it appears to be a perfect match. Check this out:

Look at those fangs! For additional information, see Mexfish..>>. Incidentally, Roy Houston, of the Biology Dept. of Loyola Marymount University recently published a book entitled " Natural History Guide to the Northwestern Gulf of California and Adjacent Desert". It is published by Xlibris and is currently on sale at the SF Title Co. in San Felipe, or you can find it on Amazon here..>>

The rains of the past couple of days have not done significant damage in San Felipe but rainfall north of town has been much heavier than south of town. The Ensenada road has been closed at San Mattias and there has been flooding on the Mexicali road near El Mayor. The Tecate-Tijuana highway was closed by a rockslide but single-line traffic is now getting through. Word has just come through (1:30 p.m.) that the road up La Rumorosa has been closed and heavy snow has fallen on the highway in the mountains. The transpeninsular highway was flooded in several areas between Ensenada and Colonet. Schools throughout the state have been closed but are expected to reopen on Monday.

Everyone is urged to be prepared in this extreme weather situation. Do NOT cross flooded areas on the roads, particularly out-of-town where immediate help is not available. In an emergency call 066 on your cellphone and ask for assistance.

Thursday 21 January

Visitors to San Felipe will remember the wonderful statue of the Fisherman on the Malecon plaza across from the Beachcomber. The same plaza has the sculpture of the Vaquita that is part of the dedication of the campaign to save that endangered porpoise. The fisherman's statue was erected in the mid-90's under the auspices of Gustavo Alcudia, who was the port captain at that time.

About a year ago, the foundations of the pedestal were undermined by the high tides. Many temporary measures were undertaken to try to stabilize the erection but the pedestal continued to lean dangerously. This week, the Delegation decided that it was a hazard and could fall and injure someone, so it has been removed from the Malecon and will be stored in the yard behind the Delegacion Municipal until a suitable new resting place can be found. We shall miss our leaning fisherman, and so will the seagulls.

One correspondent already suggested that we replace the fisherman's statue with an imposing sculpture of the new icon of the town - a real estate developer. Likely that pedestal would also fall to the rising tides.

A reminder to local residents who must pay the real-estate tax (impuesto predial) on their property; you can get a discount of 15% if you pay the bill before the end of January at the Delegacion Municipal cashier's desk. Take last year's bill with you to ensure thatthe correct account is credited. If you also have city water, you can get a 10% discount by paying the year's estimated bill in advance (usually in the range of 300 pesos) at the CESPM office. In these very difficult times, every little bit helps!!(TC)


Tuesday 19 January

Several people wrote in about the strange fish pictures. Robin Holmes was the first to suggest "lizardfish" as the likely candidate while Jerry Zimmerman, thinks it could be a ribbon fish. Here is some additional information from Mexfish..>>

The rainstorm this evening (around 7 p.m. along the bay) was a relatively modest tenth of an inch. I will be interested to see what Shirley has at Campo Ocotillo. It looked as though a big storm cell passed over the north side of San Felipe just after sunset. It will be interesting to see if there are any reports of mudbaths along the Mexicali road where the new construction is taking place.

There was heavy rain in both Tijuana and San Diego on Monday and Tuesday, with around 3 inches of total precipitation for the storm so far. In Ensenada, schools and the university were closed on Tuesday in anticipation of flooding. Some eight inches of rain has fallen in the mountains between Ensenada and San Felipe and many country roads are impassible.

In Mexicali, the meteorologists predict that there will be significant rain between Wednesday night into Thursday morning. Already there have been reports of school buildings with leaky roofs. This is a common problem that we have with buildings that have flat roofs after a summer of baking by the sun. Roofing felt dries out, cracks, blisters and then leaks if standing water sits on it for any length of time. If you have a flat roof, it pays to sweep rainwater off it as soon as possible after a storm to minimize the discoloration to the ceilings.

In other news, the federal police reported that yesterday they caught a car loaded with 300 kilos of marijuana headed for San Felipe. The checkpoint was set up just south of Mexicali, near the Libramiento.(TC)


Monday 18 January

Karen Cove, at Santa Maria, sent the following letter and some photos of very strange fish that swam into the estuary during the December high tides:

On the highest tide in December, thousands of strange fish swam into the Sta Maria Estuary on the rising tide. Unfortunately they failed to leave on the ebb, and many hundreds were stranded on the flats behind our Casas. On the lower road, and all over the estuary near our Casa we found many carcasses of these strange creatures. Extremely slender with a ferocious looking mouth. From 12" to 36" in length, but only 1" to 2" in depth. Let me know if you have any idea as to their identity. They all appear to have some sort of cyst or tumor that is visible in their dessicated bodies, but they do not appear that they had much meat, even when they were alive.


I am no fisherman so I want to ask our readers what these strange creatures are and whether they make good eating. (TC)

Wednesday 13 January

There has been a lot of interest and correspondence about the item of 11 January on leases in the South Campos of San Felipe.

Here are extracts of some of the letters:

"I saw in the "news" section the letter someone had written regarding the south campos. It's true. I have a home in Campo XXXXX and we are currently facing a 100% increase in our lease. I know that in other campos there have been situations where the land owners have literally kicked out tenants and will not allow the tenant to sell their own homes. I have no idea why this is happening but it's frightening. Some say it's the new road south causing the owners to think their property value will increase due to more traffic. In my opinion, the only thing that will come from the road is more vehicular traffic and more crime. Other say that the land owners have got together and have collectively agreed to increase the leases to force out the current owners to make room for new owners that are willing to pay the increased fees.

I must also say that it is not happening in all of the campos. I do know of a few that are status quo and no changes are forthcoming. However, I do not know when their lease agreements mature and/or if they will be increased when they do.

Whatever the reason, it's happening. We're ALL fearful for the future. The discontent the land owners have brought to this once quiet and happy place is very disappointing. It's important to let as many people know what is happening down here. If not for us who currently have homes down here, but for the potential Americans, Canadians or anyone else who may contemplate investing in the south campos in the future."

another opinion of the situation:

While I feel sorry for the person that wrote this letter to The Net, I feel they are mad at the wrong people.

Americans come here, a foreign country, lease land from a total stranger, build a house and get mad when they find they control nothing. They did not do their homework and learn that a contract, here, is not valid if not in Spanish. Leasehold improvements stay with the property and the landlord ,which owns the property, has total control of his own property. Now there are dishonest people everywhere but you set yourself up by coming to a foreign country and not doing your home work!!!!!

This person should be angry with themselves not the people that do not write the story.

Any one that leases land in a foreign country and builds on it have made a very bad decision, in my opinion. You may as well have handed that stranger $50,000.00 and gone home.

Would you rent a piece of land, in the states, and build a house on it?? I bet not so why do it here.

I know I will get flames here, but I just do not see the wisdom of building on leased property.


another south beach resident writes:

I just read the letter about the South Campos problems and wanted to add comments and concerns that are ongoing and getting worse in the area. ...... Homes have been broken into, major theft of property and the landlords will not allow the Americans to have security guards to protect our possessions! Strange how these landlords were not very concerned about the break-ins, and for some unexplained reason the thief’s knew exactly when Americans would not be in camp and which homes had what valuables! Coincidence or not!

..... landlords have collected tax dollars from homeowners for the Zona Federal then failed to pay those taxes and now with large tax liens against their property they expect ... the Americans pay their tax burdens! .....


another set of comments:

I read the letter today about the issues some people are having with the south camps. I would like to echo this sentiment, we bought our house several years ago and now the landlord is out of control. .......Now we’ve been threatened that we cannot use certain businesses nor can we speak to people who are looking at property in the camp. ...... When I purchased this house it was to enjoy the years ahead enjoying the beach and helping to support the Mexican country. Now I wish I had never purchased this house initially as the frustration continues to mount.

I hope the south camps can unite in some fashion or I’m afraid you’ll see a lot of us up and leave with no trace. I realize we can’t find these kinds of “deals” in the US, however we have laws to protect our investments in the US and that may be where the worth ends up being.

another resident comments:

I read the short letter you posted on your website about the south campos dated January 11th and felt compelled to write you. Actually a friend (who also had leased a lot and built a house in the south campos) contacted us about it after he read it and it made him think of us. It certainly rings true to all of us. Our problems are just beginning with our landlord as the whole campo’s leases are being doubled and possibly tripled and we know of one horror story that has just unfolded at another campo. In that case the camp owners, filled in the water well, forced the elderly and long term tenants into court and then finally evicted them. To add insult to injury, they are not allowing anyone to buy the house from them. They left with nothing. These were people that had been here for decades, always paid their rent and were instrumental in building the community center, the fire department and many other fund raising activities to benefit the local community........ We have spend tens of thousands of dollars in some cases hundreds of thousands building our homes only to find out now that they are able and willing to get rid of us with or without the slightest provocation..... It appears that they can increase the rent until we can no longer pay and then we have no alternative other than to sell but who will buy? It doesn’t take much to find out about greedy landlords to see how much of a gamble it would be to invest. In the past I have always encouraged friends and family to come to San Felipe but no longer – if I could sell our place for anything close to what we have put into it I think we would be gone. If anyone has any advice for us it would indeed be welcome. All of us in the south campos are pretty miserable about this.

Additional comments are being posted on the Baja Nomad web forums and can be found through this link....>>

The most difficult part of this entire business is that the limitations of the Mexican "lease" system for handling land rentals are now finally being realized in the San Felipe region. For many, many, years people have been coming to Baja and enjoying the deserted beaches and the remote lifestyle. The informal system of renting beachfront land from a local landowner evolved into the system of campo settlements with vacation houses. For many Americans and Mexicans, a verbal agreement and a handshake was enough to seal a deal. As time passed, a more formal approach was instituted in which a lease was agreed upon. Even though the maximum legal length for a lease under Mexican law was (is) 10 years, the presumption was that it would always be renewed for additional ten year terms under amicable conditions. The thought that one day the property would be valuable, roads would be built and electricity and services would come to the area did not enter into the thinking.

San Felipe has now entered that era. Even though the economic conditions at the present time are very difficult, it is clear that the area must now develop. The government has committed to building the road south from Puertecitos to connect to the main transpeninsular highway to La Paz and the electricity lines will be brought in to make the entire east coast of the peninsular suitable for year-round living. Landowners all along the coast, from the north beaches to Puertecitos and beyond are realizing that they are holding million dollar properties. Ultimately, we can expect that every campo with tenants who have constructed fixed buildings on leased land will go through some similar type of process to what is now happening in the south campos. It seems to me that the only viable solution is for the tenants of the campos to collectively buy the land from the present owner if they wish to preserve their way of life. If you want to buy land and build a house, be absolutely sure that you can get a Fideicomiso (a bank trust) on the land before proceeding!

For additional information on leased land terms and conditions under Mexican law, see a good, simple, explanation of the situation here...>>

Monday 11 January

I don't check my email much anymore but I found this very disturbing letter in the bin today and am concerned that there is stuff happening in the south campos that we do not know about. I will quote the letter and ask anyone who has additional information to write in to bring us up to speed:

"I just want to know why no one, I mean no one, will write about what is going on with the Americans in the South Campos. We are losing our homes, they are pressuring us to pay back taxes, build unwanted sea walls, doubling our rent, sign contracts that are more comical than anything else. Your web page says NEWS, the best you can do is about women’s underwear????? What the heck, do you write about the news or not! I think it’s important that we get the msg out as to what is really going on, everyone wants Americans to come back to Mexico, why, when we are being thrown out of our homes, with no help from the Mexican Gov. what a joke, the only ones making money is the landlords....... and us Americans once again being screwed. I’m not scared, what do I have to lose, keep an eye on the San Diego Union Tribune, the letter is written, maybe they will print it. This is ridiculous, my landlord has given me the option to pay his 500,000.00 debt back taxes to the Mexican Gov. or he will give me x amount of months to sell my house, or it becomes his, oh did I mention that he has to approve the sales price, what is going on here. I have no way out. This is going to get real ugly real fast, I would appreciate any help or ideas of what to do, if I’m better off walking away say so, I’m tired, and about as sad as I can be. Sorry to be so critical, but the only news we get is from you guys and the Gringo Gazette, neither of you guys are performing."


Sunday 3 January

From William Booth of the Washington Post:

In Mexico, ladies ring in the New Year in brand-new underwear
By William Booth
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, January 2, 2010

MEXICO CITY -- A visitor here might be confused when suddenly, at the end of December, there appears in street stalls and market bins a mountain of underwear for sale. At subway stops, in grocery aisles, in department stores, it's all about ladies' undergarments, and always in the colors red or yellow. The recently arrived might take a guess. A bitter sporting rivalry? The Red Devils against the Yellow Hornets? Nope. It is a popular New Year's ritual for women in Mexico to don fresh briefs to ring out the old and ring in the new, and apparently nothing says Happy 2010 like a pair of bloomers -- red for love and yellow for wealth (and no fair wearing both).

Because the choice of a color signifies one's aspirations for the coming year, newspapers in Mexico send out reporters to quiz vendors about the national mood, and as 2009 -- a year of soaring drug violence and deep economic tremors -- shuddered to a stop, the vote was clear.

"Yellow. That's all they want. I am selling twice as much yellow as red," said Lucia Mendoza, making some last-minute sales on New Year's Eve on the sidewalk outside the central market in the capital's Coyoacan neighborhood.

Milenio News reported a go-go market for yellow. El Universal found yellow ahead by a mile. Makes sense. Mexico's $1 trillion economy shrank by more than 7 percent in 2009, the hardest-hit in Latin America, a victim of the recession in the United States, Mexico's No. 1 trading partner. Everybody here is ready for a jump-start in 2010.

The donning of red and yellow panties is a relatively new phenomenon in Mexico, which values its old holiday traditions but appears ready to try on another one. New Year's Eve is usually celebrated with a late dinner of turkey or cod at home with family and friends drinking punch and waiting for the fireworks. At the stroke of midnight, Mexicans gobble a dozen grapes, making a wish with each one.

There are plenty of superstitions. Wishing to travel more in 2010? Pack a suitcase and walk around the block. Going through a rough patch? Spill water on the walk in front of your home, and all the past year's tears will be washed away.

"This will be a tough holiday season in Mexico, as we have a crisis that is very rough," said Guadalupe Loaeza, a columnist for Reforma newspaper and author of satirical books about the foibles of the rich and infamous.

Loaeza is a traditionalist. If she wants something in the new year, she eats grapes. The underwear fad is just kitsch. "It's a vulgar custom," she said. "It's not even Mexican, or even American, and it is just an import, probably from somewhere in Latin America. This red underwear thing is the height of bad taste. If someone were to give me a pair, I would say, better to give me the money and let's buy something worthwhile."

María José Díaz, an editor of a magazine devoted to horoscopes, said: "Until recently, you only saw the red panties, but then they started selling the yellow, yellow for gold, for money. It was a commercial decision."

Díaz said that she was not a fan of the phenomenon herself but that she gets the idea. "Half the people wear them and believe that it might bring them love or money, but the other half just wears them for fun, because maybe they just like to show off their red underwear."

Researcher Gabriela Martinez contributed to this report.


Friday 1 January 2010

San Felipe is catching on as a place to come kitesurfing. Our winter winds blow somebody some good. This afternoon we had three in the bay and I hear there were more on the south beaches. If you want to be close to town but right on the beach you can stay at the Sand dollar Hotel (see sandollarcondotel in our business listings for email and phone contacts - their website no longer works). This is where these people were.

Winds this afternoon were around 14 mph from the NE with gusts to 21. You can see our wind graphs on the weather page.

On the New Year's front, town was quiet. We had some people from New Zeeland asking what to do. There is such a difference between what local Americans want to do and what young tourists from distant lands want to do.

previous months news - Founder of The Net announces retirement, death of Tony Reyes, closing of stores due to the depression, the space station sighting, winter electricity rates, ATM fraud, Puerto Penasco's new airport, tourist spending..


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