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San Felipe Time

 

Tuesday 30 December 2008

Jim and Holly Adams are on the way to San Felipe to spend the holidays and celebrate Holly's birthday.

As you can tell, things are slow in San Felipe. We did hear that a house recently sold for under $10K. Many businesses in town cannot make payroll with the peso at around 13 to the dollar and are having to go back to using a lower rate. Besides, it is simpler for everyone to figure what things are really worth if you use 10 to the dollar.

It is easy now to look back and see the sudden decline in consumer confidence that has hit us so badly over the past few months. Even in mid-2007, the sales of real estate in San Felipe had slowed substantially as a result of the housing crisis in the United States. Back then, the decline in housing prices around the USA meant that homeowners could no longer tap their equity and spend one to two hundred thousand dollars on a vacation home in Mexico or Panama. However, people with savings or good profits in the stock market were still in a position to take a chunk of money and purchase an investment property in San Felipe. Our region of Baja had the distinct advantage that it was still much cheaper than places like Puerto Penasco or Los Cabos.

It still made sense to be able to have a beachfront house or golf-course condominium for occasional family holidays, with the good probability of renting it out at other times to week-enders from Southern California, Las Vegas and Phoenix. You could make enough rental income to more than cover the costs. Even at 30% occupancy, many such investors were making $30K a year tax free, and high class properties in desirable locations had significant annual appreciation potential.

All of this "investment-model real estate" began to change at the beginning of 2008. The stock market started its drop and by the middle of the year many people had lost a major percentage of their holdings. The Dow index has dropped by 36% in the past year - the greatest loss since the days of the great depression. This really shook the confidence of the US speculator, though the Canadian and European investor stayed with us for a longer time.

Seemingly unrelated events combined to provide a perfect storm as 2008 progressed.

The price of gasoline started to rise and when it got to the magical figure of $4/gallon, the weekend driver with the Suburban and a trailer of ATCs threw in the towel. (This demographic was a little recognized mainstay of the San Felipe economy since they did not typically book hotels and be counted in official occupancy statistics. They rented a condo or house and partied till dawn; they bought fireworks and kept the liquor stores in business; they danced all night at the Beachcomber and kept the llanteras busy with tire repairs.) At 3 miles to the dollar, a group from the Los Angeles area now had to fork out $320 for gas and insurance for a weekend in addition to food, drink and a condo. Spending upwards of $1000 for 3 days at a time when economic gloom and doom was on every news channel was a non-starter. Even though gas prices have now fallen dramatically, the lesson has been learned and the mindset established that "carbon-footprint" and "efficiency" are the watchwords for 2009.

The US government has long tried to stem the flow of undocumented aliens entering the USA to work. In 2008 the proof of citizenship to enter the States was significantly tightened and the result has been much longer lines to cross the border. A year ago you could expect a typical wait time of 5-10 minutes during the week and 30-45 minutes on a weekend. Today, waits can be up to three hours, and that is with no tourists coming here! This has been another severe blow to encouraging visitors for tourism and investment and there seems no possibility that we will ever return to the good old days of rapid border crossings. (Three hours in line - when a $500 weekend trip to Puerto Vallarta takes the same time.)

The Mexican government chose 2008 to make a stand against the various drug smuggling cartels. In the past we have become used to (and we welcomed) the military checkpoints on the highways. All of us believe that this military presence is a force for good. Now, however, open warfare has erupted along the border, most notably in Tijuana and Juarez. Newspapers and TV stations around the world (but most importantly for us, in Southern California) carry daily stories about the massacres that are occurring. More people are dying in Tijuana than in the war in Iraq. While we emphasize to every potential tourist that travel to San Felipe is safe and that Mexicali is not like Tijuana, there is a good deal of concern on the part of the general public that Mexico is turning into a lawless country. Many potential visitors are put off because they cannot bring a gun to protect themselves. In fact, San Felipe is a very safe place to live and to visit and a comparison of the crime statistics with any big American city would show that violent crime is far lower in San Felipe.

The predictions for the US economic situation for 2009 are not bright. We could be in for a year very much like an extension of the past few months. Housing prices around the world are falling, consumers are not spending money, businesses are laying off employees and governments are being forced to look for ways to stimulate their economies. Unlike the United States, here in Mexico, we have a very prudent and cost-conscious government. They have managed the economy well and kept inflation under control. However, over 80% of Mexico's exports go to the USA and the demand for big-screen TVs, car parts and costly winter vegetables is way down. Tourism is the second largest provider of money and jobs in Mexico and it is also way down. Unemployment is the highest it has been in 8 years and Bancomer is saying that the economy could contract as much as 1.7% in 2009.

The Mexican petroleum company Pemex has bet that options on the future cost of oil at $70/barrel will pay off and could generate up to 10 billion dollars for the government if prices stay low. Certainly, this is the time for the government here to invest such money in infrastructure to create jobs and educate the population.

In San Felipe we desperately need a sewage system that runs along the entire bay and prevents any future contamination of the sea. We also need this sewage collector because we must demonstrate to the world that, as an isolated community, we can recycle our precious water and put it to the best use for landscaping our developments, watering our golf courses and providing for our businesses.

We need high speed internet to be cheaply available to every house and business in the region. This is the future job creation tool for the children of Mexico. The pitiful connection speeds now available (a realistic 300 kb/s down and 64kb/s up for $50/month) are pathetic - yet we have 15 Gb/s fiber optics under the desert to Mexicali. Telmex thinks that what is good for Mexico is email and web pages. That is so 10 years ago. A student collaborating with a group of peers, a family wanting to rent a movie, a visitor in a hotel room... they need 10 Mb/s connections. A small business meeting coming to a workshop in San Felipe needs 100 Mb/s connection. A software startup developing gaming software, a small hospital connected to experts at a distance, a customer service facility ... they need gigabit connections. San Felipe would be an ideal place to demonstrate long-range, high bandwidth, wireless internet.

We need access to cheaper electric power. One of the most scary costs to look at is the monthly electric bill. The government provides a substantial subsidy but the real cost of electricity is close to 3.5 pesos/kilowatthour (say 35 cents US). The consumer only pays around 20 cents/kwh but this is still close to double what you might pay in the USA. Because of our climate here, we absolutely cannot survive without summer air conditioning and a small restaurant or similar business will have to pay up to $4,000 dollars a month to keep the place tolerably cool. Only the most profligate domestic users would set their house thermostat below 82 degrees in August. San Felipe and its region is blessed for its winds. We need to harness these winds in the mountains west of town with a wind farm. We also have abundant sunshine both summer and winter - 350 days/year. If every house roof in San Felipe had solar panels, we could generate enough electricity during the day to be self sufficient. A pumped storage energy system between the Sea of Cortez and the Laguna Amarga on the Ensenada Road would enable large quantities of energy to be stored on a regional basis and would also create a huge lake for recreational and olympic activities.

Upgrading the highway to Mexicali to 4 lanes is, of course, a definite benefit. Yet it seems unjustifiable on the basis of current traffic flow of under 100 vehicles/hour. Areas of improvement are needed with much better shoulders and lay-bys for pulling off to use the phone. However, in these times of unrest along the border and long crossing times, a potential vacationer, businessman or investor wants to see a daily air shuttle service to San Diego, and to Mexicali/Las Vegas.

Many projects of this type are needed for our future. We all see the garbage problem that San Felipe is mired in. Again, recycling of the plastic, metals and glass is needed and a solution found for the many old car batteries and caustic chemicals that just get discarded.

San Felipe is a wonderful place to live and now is the time that we need to seize the opportunity to upgrade our infrastructure and prepare for the return of the tourist and the investor in 2010. (ej).

 

 

Friday 12 December

On December 12 less than 2 days after the first meeting, another Top Level Security meeting was held at the Pavilion in El Dorado Ranch.

This time the main guest was Ulises Mendez, Director of Public Safety for Mexicali, with him also came Salvador Landaverde and Sergio Pineda from the same institution. They explained in brief that there is a mechanism which has proven it's effectiveness on every community where it has been applied. The Police-Society Committee. Ulises Mendez encouraged the local commerce representatives and investors to create a "Police-Society Commitee" as soon as possible to enable direct communication and to allow the follow-up on all possible cases where society detects irregularities from the Police Department. Salvador Landaverde explained he has talked with each and every one of the 50 police officers at the local head quarters to request they have a different attitude towards the visitors, commerce and tourists in general. They will be more sensitive about taking care of people; be respectful and polite and above all to enforce the law taking human rights and an aperture criteria in consideration before turning some one in to the Judge.


The commerce representatives made clear their main concern has to do with weekend activities and the interactions in which some Police officers have been incurring lately. A police officer can tell the subtle differences between a common felon and a tourist. The invitation to the local police department is to stop haunting tourist and visitors outside night clubs and social areas on weekends. The commerce representatives want to make sure police officers understand they are the image of San Felipe and as citizens of the Port they are the first ones in need to apply a freindly and polite service and to promote legality.


A well known local journalist pointed out the fact that the drop in visitors to San Felipe is due in part to the attitude the local police have been exercising in recent years. The compromise from Ulises Mendez, Director of Public Safety, is to strongly follow up all duties of the law enforcement in San Felipe. He invites every one interested in this matter to join the Police Society Committee and to stand strong, working hand in hand with them on a monthly basis. For all those interested in becoming part of the Police-Society Commitee, be sure to attend the meeting at 10:00 a.m. Tuesday, December 16 at the Canaco office on Chetumal street. (Keep in mind that your representative needs to be able to speak English and Spanish in order to communicate without the need of a translator).


Remember: this is the tool required to follow up and make sure changes happen in terms of security and in terms of the image the town is projecting to the exterior world.

Top Security and Municipal Officials visit San Felipe to Establish Direct Communication with the Community.

On December 10, 2008, Angel Andres Vera Aguilar, Director of Rural Development and Head Chief of all county governments under the Mexicali municipality, visited San Felipe to ensure the communication between the two entities is working and to supervise the advances on security issues in San Felipe. Accompanying him were Octavio Torres Matias, Chief of the Judges Department for the City of Mexicali and Carlos Guluarte Mendivil, Sub-Commander of the Valley Zone Police Department. There are three main components in the works to improve the interaction between authorities, the City of San Felipe and the visitors and foreign local citizens.

1. The Tourist Police will restart duties in January 2009 covering two shifts, working with six officers (two women and four men) equipped with 2 four track vehicles and distinctive uniforms. This officers will have the basic English skills but they will be open to interact with the local community if there is some organization or group of retired people that would like to teach them advanced english or have language practices.

2. The judges will promote dialog between conflicting parties only when the conflict does not imply a felony charge. The judges' system in San Felipe is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Mexicali municipality will intercede before the state government to increase the quality and the availability of Ministerio Publico services locally where many discrepancies and abnormalities have been detected. They acknowledge these problems and they will be working on a way to get the State Government to achieve dignified and improved services from the Ministerio Publico's system locally.

3. The Mexicali Government would like the local service providers, restaurants, bars and hotel owners to be pro active regarding the rules of law. They should inform the visitors about the possible problems they might face if they break the rules. The tourist must know what happens if they they drink and drive (it's illegal in Mexico too); if they drink alcohol or consume drugs on the streets; if they buy illegal services of any kind or stolen property, and so on.


The compromise the Mexicali Police made was to assure they would talk with each one of the elements assigned to San Felipe zone to invite them to be polite and apply their criteria before sending someone to jail. In this regard, the authorities were very interested to inform every one that they are currently under a program which is requiring them to upgrade all their procedures. Among other things they are now required to have are clean jail facilities with clean water and bathrooms. They are required to respect and be aware of the human rights of any detainee and ensure a fair trial. The new changes will start taking place next January when the budgets are available and proper resources are at hand.


The meeting was also attended by the head of the local government Hazael Sierra, the local Chief of Police Oscar Martinez and Salvador Landaverde.

These articles written by: Luis Almodovar. Citizen. (Edited By K. Hammontré)
All rights reserved by IISFAC 2008.

Friday 28 November

Thanksgiving is over and many American residents who returned to their casas for the holiday were extremely upset to find notices such as the following posted on their property:

Many of the affected properties were in the El Dorado Ranch area but we are hearing that other houses built in other camps are now being served. It seems that the record-keeping on payment of social security fees for workers involved in the construction of the house has been lost or misplaced. Even owners who have, in the past, submitted valid "letters of liberation" are being asked to provide the documentation again to the authorities - by 4 p.m. Friday 28 November. If you are in a development or campo other than El Dorado and have received one of these notices, we would like to hear from you as to what your situation is. Use our "contact us" link.

 

Sunday 23 November

The Baja 1000 has come and gone. There was a lot of activity on Friday night as the majority of competitors passed through the San Felipe region and sped on to the finish line in Ensenada. The economic boom that we had hoped for barely materialized. Although a lot of race personnel came down to our town, they were very economical this year. Many spectators and crews parked their RV's on vacant lots or camped out in the desert near the course. We understand that there were an estimated 200 thousand people spread out around the course. Some did come in to San Felipe for gasoline and water, and small groups crowded the malecon on Saturday afternoon to enjoy a good stiff Margarita and a well-deserved meal but our hotels were far below capacity. It is another sign of the economic malaise that is hitting the United States. People are cutting down on their discretionary spending and on unnecessary travel as the waning days of the Bush presidency play out and the true cost of the past financial mis-management is revealed.

Heightened security at the US border is also taking its toll. Even though the number of people coming south to Baja has declined significantly in the last few months, the inspection times for those crossing back to California have become much longer. Wait times in the Tijuana area are frequently 2-3 hours and even at Calexico we see waits of 1-2 hours as being normal. Even the SENTRI lanes, where we used to get 1-5 minute inspection delays, have now stretched to 30-45 minutes at many times of the day.

The road works in Mexicali are a welcome sign of renewed emphasis on improving infrastructure but why, oh why, can the authorities not post large, clear, signs in both Spanish and English to guide the tourist through the maze between the border and the San Felipe road. This is one of the most frequent complaints that we have to deal with. It seems nobody is in charge; nobody is responsible for seeing that the tourist is taken care of and guided through safe neighborhoods with large, well-placed signs that tell you where to turn. (UPDATE 26 Nov. - Mexicali city officials have added a new slew of signs showing the diversion route to San Felipe. Let us hope they will now add signs for the route to the two border crossings when coming from San Felipe.)

Fortunately, we are seeing a steady flow of people coming into town and heading south to their houses in the south camps for the Thanksgiving holiday. Some of the campos are already full and it promises to be a good time for renewal of relationships with old friends and neighbors at this special time of year for the American family.

Thursday 20 November

The peso is trading at 12.5 to the US dollar in San Felipe (13.9 to the dollar at the banks) and gasoline here is now more expensive than in San Diego. Yesterday I paid $2.19/gallon for Shell regular unleaded in San Diego and today I filled up in San Felipe for the equivalent of $2.20/gallon. I was unfortunate enough to have to drive down via Mexicali yesterday evening. The smoke and dust were pretty bad. It is now the season where the farmers in the Mexicali Valley are burning the fields and a low "fog" of particulate matter is hanging everywhere. If you have any respiratory problems be sure to keep your windows closed and the air conditioning on recirculate.

Work continues on the overpass construction south of Costco and you must take the San Luis road to get around the diversion. Paving of a new road through an industrial park is now complete and if you turn right at the traffic light located 2.3 miles south of the Glorietta where the diversion from Route 5 starts, you will easily get back on the San Felipe road. (check here)

Plenty of traffic was on the road south yesterday - around 100 vehicles/hour headed south - very unusual for a Wednesday but you have to bear in mind that the Baja 1000 participants and followers are swarming for the event tomorrow. I expected to find San Felipe full of racers but it seems almost all the traffic headed south of town and camps are being set up there to be close to the action.

Today in San Felipe we went to the Lighthouse for lunch and from that altitude you could see the dust cloud hanging over the town and the deserts to our west as practice runs are made. You don't notice it down at street level but it is really all around and you may notice a gritty feeling in the eyes and nose. I find that lots of saline spray for the nostrils helps.

Wednesday 19 November

Laura Bly from USA Today wrote this on her November article: "Forget shaken martinis and smoldering sidekicks. If you really want to make like James Bond, you'll need a passport and an appetite for high-octane locales. The new movie Quantum of Solace was shot in more overseas backdrops than any other film in the franchise's 46-year history".
San Felipe, Baja California was one of the selected few and this came as a great way to help promoting this destination world wide.
Sanfelipe.com.mx proved once more to be the best source of information and the point of reference for the world to get in touch with the region, its local service providers and developers. That is what makes us The Official Website since 1997. Thank you !


You can read Laura's Article here

Saturday 15 November

The big event coming up in San Felipe's fall roundup is the Baja 1000 off-road race that will be coming through town next weekend. The highlight of this year's race will be the new VW purpose-built Touareg TDI Trophy Truck which is powered by the same 5.5-liter V12 in the Audi R10 Le Mans racer. It produces 550 horsepower and an incredible 625 lb.-ft. of torque. The Touareg TDI uses double A-arms with 25 inches of travel up front and the four-link rear suspension has a stunning 30 inches of travel. Fox Racing shocks and Eibach springs absorb the abuse, and the 5,650-pound truck rolls on 37-inch BFGoodrich tires. The truck is 213 inches long with a wheelbase of 92 inches.

While the Touareg is unlikely to win this years race, it is an indication that VW intends to compete aggressively in events like this which provide a spectacular showcase for this new breed of diesel-powered vehicles. For more background see this Wired article.

 

Thursday 13 November

[Original post for this note: La Voz de la Frontera by Jose Luis Rojo, Nov 12]

Personnel from the Marine Secretariat - SEMAR and the Federal Environment Protection Agency - PROFEPA are deploying a special task force to protect the "Vaquita Marina" our local endangered dolphin species in the San Felipe Region. Probably less than 150 vaquitas still exist. This was announced by Juan Alcala Pinol, Counter admiral and Commander for the San Felipe Navy sector.
Recently, the Commander announced details regarding their strategies to avoid fishing activities within the fishing exclusion area in San Felipe bay and he stated that no arrests have been made due to the great cooperation being received by the local fisherman.
Commander Alcala invites all fisherman to avoid using the fishing exclusion zone.
On a daily basis between 40 to 50 on duty personnel from both the Mexican Navy and Profepa are in charge to avoid "Vaquita Marina" from becoming extinct.
On the other hand Commander Alcala referred to the Cucapa Indigenous problematic situation as solved.
The Cucapa community have understood and acknowledged the fishing prohibition period.
The Commander congratulated and thanked the Cucapa Indigenous community for their willingness and cooperation to protect the Vaquita Marina. Find more about la Vaquita here.


Monday 10 November

Repairs to the road to Ensenada from San Felipe have been under way since the beginning of this year. The section of the road between San Felipe and the Trinidad Valley is in fairly good condition. You will find workers making major repairs along the section between the Trinidad Valley and Heroes de Independencia. The maintenance to this 2 lane highway will be finished by the end of the year, according to state authorities. After you pass Heroes de la Independencia it is recommended you use moderate speeds since the road can present unexpected pot holes and slow traffic vehicles. The last few kilometers before getting to Ensenada are comprised with hazardous curves, and heavy traffic of cargo vehicles can be found. So all precautions are worth taking, especially on weekends or during racing competitions.
Pay special attention on the day you are planning to drive through this road, as this highway during races season can be especially hazardous due to race vehicles invading the main highway and lots of people driving under the influence of alcohol.
After crossing the peninsula you will be rewarded by arriving to beautiful Ensenada where you will find a miriad of touristic choices being offered to visitors from around the world.
Best hours to cross this road: during daylight.
Best days: Monday - Friday.
Green Angels [government highway rescuers] are constantly patroling the highway to assist tourists and visitors. If you find yourself in trouble dial 078 to get efficient bilingual and free help.

So plan ahead your trip and enjoy the wonders of Baja California.


Wednesday 5 November

One of the most spectacular scenes that you can see in our region of Baja California is the sunrise. A few minutes before sunrise is a good time to go out along the beach and look to the brilliant reds that start to fill the southwest sky. Virtually every morning you will be treated to a spectacle such as the one above that Phil Marusec sent us last week from the km 45 dunes south of San Felipe. Click on the picture for a larger version that you may be able to use as a desktop picture. Another spectacular phenomenon is the rise of the full moon which is best seen the day after the actual maximum. This month, look to the eastern horizon at sunset on the 13-14 November.

Tuesday 4 November

The Third Baja California Rowing Championship will take place in San Felipe next Saturday November 8 at 7:30 am on the malecon Beach. There are activities programed for the whole day in which several competition stages will be completed by the athletes.
The closing ceremony will be held at 10pm on the malecon with the winners receiving their medals by distinguished authorities. This local sports event is being held prior to the national olympics competitions that will have San Felipe as one of its locations next year.

Thursday 30 October

Yesterday the Governor of the State, José Guadalupe Osuna Millán, addressed a joint meeting of political and scientific representatives of Mexico, The USA and Canada on the plans for preservation of the Vaquita Marina, a small porpoise found only in the waters of the northern Gulf of California. The number of vaquitas is dwindling rapidly. The upper limit of the count three years ago was around 300 and many are believed to have perished in fishing nets since that time. The government federation has pledged 160 million pesos to try to stabilize the population before the vaquita becomes extinct. Aid and education to the fishermen to enable them to use different types of nets and to police the fishing in the known breeding grounds is to be undertaken. One of the prime breeding areas has been directly east of the town of San Felipe although sitings here are now extremely rare. For more on the vaquita, see this document

Coming up on 1st and 2nd of November we have the celebration of "Dia de los Muertos" - the Day of the Dead in Mexico. Families will visit the graves of their family and many will set up small shrines with food and drink for the spirits of the deceased.

If you are coming through Mexicali you can expect long lines of cars that are making their way to the cemetries. Flower sellers will be everywhere.

This is a very happy occasion and many people will dress up for the occasion - much as we have Halloween parties in the USA. Special bread, pan de muerto, is baked for this occasion and you might try to get a loaf or two at one of our local bakeries in San Felipe.

For background reading see here.

Anyone who wants to get any official business transacted should be aware that we are entering the Christmas season very soon and most government and legal business effectively comes to a stop. The deadline for getting anything done is Friday 12 December (Virgen de Guadalupe). Business resumes in January after Epiphany.

Wednesday 22 October

New population figures were released yesterday that show that the State of Baja California (Norte) now has almost 3.1 million inhabitants. Mexicali has 909 thousand and Tijuana 1.5 million inhabitants. Some 52% of this population is male and this seems to be in line with the situation that so many men have migrated from southern Mexico to find work in the US and the border region. Many workers that were in the US and were sending money back to their families in Mexico are now returning to Mexico because of the dire economic situation that is gripping the USA. We can expect this repatriation to continue as the economic recession in the US worsens.

The peso continues to struggle in the current crisis and in Mexicali today the exchange houses are giving 12.5 to the dollar. Many businesses in San Felipe give only 11 pesos/dollar. We urge our returning snowbirds and other visitors to bring childrens toys and useful small household items for the Christmas shoebox program.

On Monday, the presidente of the Cámara Mexicana de la Industria de la Construcción (CMIC), announced that the federal Secretaría de Comunicaciones y Transportes (SCT) has released more money for the widening and improvement of the highway between Mexicali and San Felipe. The next 10 kilometers north from Cerro el Moreno at the San Felipe end will start in January and will be 4 lanes with a 3 meter wide central barrier with bridges over the arroyos where washouts occur. Unfortunately, the plans now call for the mid section of the road, the 120 km out in the deserts and across the Laguna Salada, will only be 2 lanes wide. We will continue to watch these plans and will be soliciting your opinions on the state of the highway and your perception of the safety of travelling on this road in the near future. (more)

Monday 20 October

One of the most frequent questions that we get is about the safety of coming to Mexico for a vacation. Many prospective visitors read about the wave of violence that is hitting the border region between the USA and Mexico and are in search of advice on whether it is safe to travel in Baja California. Unfortunately the State Department of Tourism (www.discoverbajacalifornia.com) gives no guidance in this matter. Every day, we read of more murders in the war between the authorities and the drug cartels (see here). The US Department of State has issued warnings for travellers to the worst-affected areas (read here). The very disturbing sign is that the violence in Tijuana is spreading south to Rosarito and Ensenada.

Fortunately, San Felipe is an oasis of quiet. We are 200 km south of the border and our single highway, patrolled and equipped with military checkpoints, makes this area of Baja a "gated community". Our advice to visitors is that you should travel here only during daylight hours. Being on the road after dark is always something that should be avoided in Mexico, but in these times it is doubly important to be able to assess the type of traffic ahead and behind you. Even on quite days, for example on a Wednesday afternoon, there are sufficient vehicles on the road between Mexicali and San Felipe to give a feeling that you are not alone in the desert. Typically you will see one or two cars go by every minute. During this part of the trip you will have intermittent cellphone coverage to the outside world and we strongly urge everyone making the trip to get their mobile authorised both for receiving calls in Mexico and for dialing out of Mexico. These are two separate actions you should take with your US carrier. You should always be able to reach an English-speaking emergency operator by dialing 078, for tourist assistance and directions (8 a.m. to 8 p.m), or dial 066 for police and ambulance services 24 hours/day. These calls are toll-free and we urge you to call if you have any questions. If you see distressed motorists by the side of the road, call the numbers above and tell the operator what kilometer post the incident is at.

Wednesday 15 October

The year 2008 was designated by the United Nations as the "International Year of Sanitation" and today is Global Handwashing Day. This day is being heavily promoted around the world, though not in the United States, to educate all people to always thoroughly wash their hands with soap and water before eating and after using the bathroom. Washing with water alone is ineffective!! Studies around the world have shown that men are the worst culprits when it comes to attention to sanitary cleanliness; in some areas around 90% of men are found to have fecal contamination on their hands after using the bathroom. Indeed, even civilized places like England and the US find that about 30% of all people on the street who agree to a hand swab will test positive for fecal bacteria.

For us in San Felipe, this is a very serious matter. Our Snowbirds are now returning for the winter and they are a population that is very susceptible to illness from infections that are passed on by touch. We urge everyone to wash their hands with soap and water thoroughly many times a day in an effort to cut down on this winter's maladies. A good rule of thumb (hand?) is to wash your hands with soap and warm water for 15 seconds (mentally hum the tune "Happy Birthday to You" while you are washing). If you go into a local restroom in a bar or restaurant, make sure that there is soap for you to use and that there are paper towels, not cotton ones, to dry your hands on. Use a piece of the paper towel to operate the door handle to return to the restaurant. Visitors might consider picking up some of the many small cakes of soap that motels leave in the rooms for their customers. Carry a few of these little bars around with you and leave one in any restroom that does not provide soap so that the next visitor may also be able to practice good hygiene. For additional resources, see the World Health Organization site here.. and read this pdf file.

If you sneeze, it is far preferable that you sneeze into your sleeve, a tissue or a handkerchief rather than your hands. In any case, wash your hands afterwards.

As another consideration for our winter visitors, get your flu shot before you come to San Felipe. If you are already here, check with Dr. Abasolo to see if he can give you a shot, or possibly even organize a clinic to provide everyone with a low cost immunization. If you are going shopping in Calexico you will find that many supermarket and pharmacy chains will be offering flu shots to their customers during October and November.

In other health-related news, the head of the National Office for the Control of Tobacco and the National Council against Addictions (Conadic) in Mexico City has announced that a recent survey shows that children as young as 10 years of age are now smoking in Mexico and 20% of those in the 13-15 year age group are smoking 20 cigarettes a day - the same as adults. This is going to result in a major increase in lung diseases in Mexico and serious consideration must now be given to raising the tax on tobacco products. (El Universal)

Wednesday 8 October

Continued turmoil in the financial markets is taking its toll in Mexico. The peso has dropped to around 13 to the dollar in the past couple of days; its worst performance since 1993 when the "new peso" was introduced after years of high inflation and steep devaluations.

Worries about the credit crisis and its widening economic fallout have knocked the currency down 17.6 percent from an August peak and stocks are down more than 33 percent from an April high. Today the government is intervening and some strengthening of the financial situation is expected. However, the spot rate for pesos in San Diego at 11 a.m. is 13.1 to the dollar.

The Secretary of Transport and Communications (SCT) has also announced that the bidding on the propsed superport at Punta Colonet south of Ensenada on the Pacific coast of Baja is being delayed till early 2009.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Norbert is developing into a major hurricane that could have a big impact on southern Baja by the end of this week.

Saturday 4 October

The Mexican Peso has taken a sharp tumble in value against the US dollar as a result of the turmoil in the world financial markets. Along the border now the official exchange rate is 11.21 pesos per dollar though you should allow a more conservative 10 pesos/dollar if you are buying goods in San Felipe. Regular gasoline is selling for the equivalent of about $2.56/US gallon in town.

In related financial news, the Bank of Mexico noted that the money sent back to Mexico by citizens working in the USA has dropped 12% in August to US$1.9 billion. That compares to US$2.2 billion in August 2007. Remittances are Mexico's second-largest source of foreign income, next to oil exports. Nearly all of it comes from the United States, home to 98 percent of Mexicans living abroad. At least 11 million Mexicans live in the United States. Migrants living in the U.S. have sent home US$15.5 billion in the first eight months of this year, 4 percent less than the same period the year before. George Grayson, a Mexico expert at the College of William & Mary in Virginia, said there is no way Mexico can escape being hit hard by the U.S. crisis, which comes as the country struggles with rising drug and street violence and falling oil production.

The Baja 1000 race will start pre-running on Saturday 1 November for the section east of Ojos Negros (outside Ensenada). There will be many race vehicles coming through San Felipe during the period before the actual race on 21-22 November so please be alert if you are planning any trips into our deserts in November. The relevant section of the course map is shown below. Note that this year, the race in our area is running from South to North. Most of the vehicles will be passing through San Felipe on Saturday 22 November.

Click here for more race details from the Score site.

Wednesday 24 September

New border crossing searches. In an effort to slow the flow of guns, other weapons and drug money into Mexico, the Mexican government has announced plans to search vehicles heading south across the border. Initially, approximately one in every ten cars will be directed into a secondary inspection area for the search. No date has been announced as to when these new inspections will start. More..

Shrimp fishing allowed in Biosphere buffer zone. The fishing commission has announced that 325 pangas and ten seiners will be allowed to operate further north in the waters of the upper gulf. The past three seasons have not been very good for the fishermen and the hope is that more than 500 tonnes will be caught this year. More..

The floating docks at the San Felipe harbor are now in use and they are taking bookings for this winter's arrivals. The overall view of the facility with its fuel supply tank and powder rooms is shown below. There are 15 slips in this first phase and boats up to 80 feet and draft of 9.84 feet can be accommodated. Current weekly rates are $2.67/foot, or for a month $11.43 dollars/foot. Amex cards are accepted.

The layout of the dock can be seen below. The launch ramp is shown as the diagonal to the left of the fuel dock. We understand that there is now a charge of $5 per use for this ramp. Eventually a restaurant/bar will be built and this section of the harbor should become a favorite place for visitors to come and enjoy the views.

If you want to get more information or make a reservation you can reach the harbormaster, Victor Manuel Martínez Parra, by phone at (+52-686) 577-2931 or email vmartinez@singlar.gob.mx

Monday 22 September

UFOs in San Felipe? Well I took this photo around 10 p.m. looking east across the sea and all these lights are out there. Of course, when you hear the roar of the engines it becomes clear that it is the first of the huge shrimp seiners from Penasco that has come to drag the bottom of the bay and take the prized catch. This boat is about a mile off shore, just south of the harbor and it is moving slowly up and down between Punta Estrella and town. I just hope that they are keeping clear of the vaquita breeding grounds which are also in this area.

Maybe it is fitting that the United Nations has announced that next year, on 5th June 2009, Mexico will host the World Environment day. "Mexico is at the crossroads of the green economy politically, physically and practically," said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner at a news conference with Mexican President Felipe Calderon. Steiner underlined the north American country's significant environmental challenges, "from high air pollution in cities and dependence on fossil fuels to land degradation and the need to fight poverty.
"But Mexico is also emerging as one among a group of developing economies who are bringing much needed leadership to the need for a new, comprehensive and decisive climate treaty," he said.
In four years Mexico has become second only to Brazil in terms of wind, solar, and biogas projects in the region, he said, underlining its growing participation in carbon markets.
The UN-sponsored World Environment Day began 36 years ago and takes place annually on June 5.
Next year's event will focus on combating climate change, one of the top priorities of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

We in San Felipe look forward to showing our pristine beaches and wonderful Sea of Cortez to the world when their eyes focus on this remarkable peninsular of Baja California in nine months time.

Thursday 18 September

The Hotel El Cortez has been doing very good business lately with their lunches and dinners on the patio. I went for lunch today and could hardly get a table at around 2 p.m. Everyone is catching on to the special $10 steak dinners that they do on Wednesday evenings. During the summer season it is a real pleasure to be able to eat al fresco and enjoy the breezes and superb views. There is also a special on Fridays. It is essential to call for reservations.

Thursday 11 September (update 30 September)

Traffic through Mexicali to San Felipe is moving very slowly now that major highway improvements are in full swing. A major flyover is being constructed at the intersection of Calzada Hector Teran Teran (the Tijuana road) and Highway 5 - where the red blob is shown in the map below). This is just south of the Costco store. A diversion is in force until early 2008. See our "getting here" section for latest details and maps.

If you are coming from the San Diego region, consider travelling via Tecate and taking the tollway to the junction of Mexico Route 5 (San Felipe highway). You will avoid all of the city construction problems. The same applies to your return journey. See more details here.

 

 

 

 

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