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May 24th and 25th 5th annual Rosarito Art Fest

What is on your list of things that makes Rosarito a magical place to live and to visit? High on most people`s list are the local artists and the annual event which showcases their talents, the Rosarito Art Fest.

This year, the 5th 2 day cultural festival will be the 24th - 25th of May on Blvd. Benito Juárez Sur, (in front of the Festival Plaza Hotel), from 11 am to 10 pm. (Admission is free. The experience is priceless.)

There will be more than 80 artists participating in this amazing exposition. Many of them, such as Robert Kidd, David Silvah, Scott Kennedy, Maria Evangelina, Becris, Claudia Cogo, and Francisco Cabello are well-known talents who have extensive careers and are considered among the great Masters of northern Mexico. There will also be work by emerging artists. Even in this group are many, such as Alonso Delgadillo, known in the art world as “El Norteño” whose work has already become highly collectible and who currently has an exhibition at Tijuana Cultural Center.

There will be a cornicopia of paintings, sculptures and photographs to choose from, as well as an excellent array of handmade crafts, all exhibited under more than 110 tents. Each artist will be present to meet with the public and to talk about their work. Some of them have very unique stories as to how they found their way into the arts and some of them represent many generations of craft smiths. All work will be available for purchase.

This year, the festival will again include a live music stage. Performances of folk dance, jazz, tango, contemporary dance, classical music are scheduled. Featured performers include Afrotruko, a band of Latin Jazz, and Mariachi Aguila.

There will be sections with organic products, great masters of Mexican folk art, like the famous Mata Ortiz Ceramics from Chihuahua Mexico, Oaxacan terracotta ceramics by Angelica Vasquez, winner of the National Award of Science and Art in the folk art category, among others. Also, local crafts and jewelry will be present. Of course, there will be food, as well as booths guiding you toward tourism activities and local attractions.

Rosarito Art Fest 2014 promises to reflect the energy, culture, talent, knowledge, and excitement of the wealth of artistic talent of Northern Baja.

Come and spend an hour, an afternoon, or a day. If you can, come for the entire two days. The local hotels have special rates for those attending the event. There`s a lot to see and do!

If you`ve seen photos from previous years, you know that your presence will definitely add color to this event and, at the same time, help us spread the word, beyond this event, about the best of Baja - the arts, the delicious foods, the fantastic music, and the friendliness of our town.

Happy New Year from Baja123.com


Happy New Year from Baja123.com

Image Credit: ©Samuel Caplan 

We wish you a wonderful new year filled with abundance, joy, and treasured moments. May 2014 be your best year yet! 


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The Baja123.com Team 
(888) 483-5873 | US 
(661) 100-2232 | MX 
Baja123 Mexico Real Estate

Baja Artist Nuria Benitez, Debuts as a Phoenix Rising

In 2005, Baja artist Nuria Benitez was diagnosed with cancer. Making it to her 40th birthday seemed very far-fetched. It took 7 years, 25 chemos, 25 radiation rounds and 13 surgeries to fight and win the battle for her life. She is now well and happy and grateful. Most importantly, she is back at her art studio feeling stronger and better than ever.

Last spring, Dr. Gregory Payne, a member of the Rediscover Rosarito team invited Nuria, and her fellow local artists David Silvah and Antonio Proa to exhibit their artwork in Spain. As plans for their travel came together, it seemed poetic that on October 2nd, her 40th birthday. she would be in the air on her way to exhibit her work at the Blanquerna Communication University in Barcelona, followed by ACVIC Centre D`Arts Contemporanies in Vic, and Café Museum in Valencia. Talk about making a comeback! 

Nuria says that ever since she could walk and talk, her life has been all about color. She says it is almost like another language that she speaks, “it’s the way that I think and view the world…. In full color.”

Nuria’s art work falls between fauvism and expressionism with a Latin flare. It’s not about the lines; it’s not about shapes or figures; it is all about the color; the passion and what could be called, for lack of a better phrase, the violence of color.
Along with her fellow artists, David Silvah and Antonio Proa, Nuria arrived in Barcelona, Spain on her 40th birthday, October 2nd,. The gentlemen took Nuria out for a picturesque birthday dinner in Las Ramblas. They were each excited to be there. Art and inspiration seem to follow them everywhere. A different kind of beauty from the beauty of the Baja was around them. The foliage in the trees, the urban art on the metro station, the sound of live music; it was all inspiring and good preparation for their visits to the museums that house many of the most amazing masterpieces of all times.

All three of the artists agree that one of their top moments was meeting contemporary master Carles Verges, in the ancient Catalonia, town of Vic. Mr. Verges gracefully opened his studio for an intimate dinner in their honor. 
For them, Vic was a window to the past. Like they were stepping back into history, their arrival had been timed perfectly to enjoy the Sardana, a typical dance held in the middle of the plaza. The old roman buildings and the town architecture surrounding the ACVIC Centre D`Arts Contemporanies, was for them a beautiful juxtaposition of historic and modern inspiration. For artists who notice everything, it was all almost too much, but back in the Baja, they are now letting it sink in and hoping they can call up the same exact feelings as they get back to sitting in front of a blank canvas.

Nuria, David, and Antonio, agree that they gained so much from this experience. From the people they met, including art dealers, gallery owners, fine art painters, and new friends, to the museums they were able to visit, and the opportunities they had to be face to face with the genius of Dali`s creations, Picasso’s masterpieces, and Gaudi’s inspirational shapes, they come home to us somewhat overwhelmed and most definitely inspired.

The three artists left Europe mulling ideas for their work in Tijuana and Rosarito, which we should start seeing soon. They know that they left behind with those who saw their exhibits, a delicious taste of the art produced in Baja. They have proudly shown their colors and their Mexican/Latin passion. They know Europe wants to see more. They affirm that they are proudly up for the challenge.
What is next for Nuria herself? “Just give me a couple of weeks in my studio, and I will show you. I’ll show you all that I saw in Spain and France and how it has moved me and changed me. For an artist nothing goes unnoticed. Every detail, every experience is expressed. Every line, every contrast or shade, contains an impression, a memory…. whether it is from a trip, from a person, from love or from nature, from success or from an illness, you can be sure it will be captured and transformed into something beautiful.”

When I further asked Nuria how she would characterize all the effort and the ups and downs of her first 40 years she said, “ To have been through a lot and to survive, to be able to continue to create and produce art….I say yes. Yes to all!” 

After 15 years as a professional artist and the uncertainty and emotional roller coaster inherent in overcoming a serious cancer diagnosis, this year has held deep meaning in Nuria’s life. 2013 has been all about making a comeback. Come see Nuria, the embodiment of a risen phoenix at either her Tijuana studio at calle Mina 164 col. Hipodromo, or visit her at the Baja Gallery in front of the Rosarito Beach Hotel. Nuria can also be reached at her page www.nuriabac.com


Rosarito’s Friends of the Library Teach English

The Friends of the Library have begun a program of teaching local kids to speak English. Even though English is the most widely spoken language in the world, the language of international business, and especially important in border areas like Rosarito to ensure employment opportunities, many school-age children in Rosarito have little or no opportunity to learn English.

The inaugural program places six English-speaking volunteers in classrooms at the Ciudad del Nino Club de Leones school in La Gloria. Each volunteer will work with one grade level or one grouping of two grade levels, one day per week, to help the students learn to speak, read and write English.

Students in the primary grades 1-6 and the secondary grades 7-9 will be the beneficiaries of the volunteer English education. While the volunteers will emphasize speaking and understanding English, they will use learning games, written exercises and language drills to help the kids to develop comfort and ease with English. The volunteers – Danny Benitez, Gloria Casillas, Ron de Jong, Jill Phelps, Chip Pierpoint and Susan Shea – are collaborating to find effective methods and learning materials to help the students learn to speak this important second language.

The Friends of the Library are also working to develop and offer English programs in the most underserved public libraries, so that area kids have an opportunity to access English education. Specifically, the schools in Primo Tapia have no English education currently – but the Friends of the Library plan to offer after school instruction in English at the local Primo Tapia library, and at other similarly underserved library areas. Those programs will be in operation later this year.

The Friends of the Library are dedicated to promoting reading and literacy in Rosarito and helping Rosarito’s young people prepare for productive and fulfilling lives. These programs of English education will join current FOL reading programs and contests as important opportunities for local kids.

The upcoming community-wide reading program Rosarito Lee (Rosarito Reads) will be, not only for the children, but for the whole community to join together in a city-wide initiative to promote reading and literacy. Similar to “One Book, One San Diego” and city-wide reading initiatives in many U.S. cities, it will be the first such city-wide program in Baja California, and, as far as we know, in all of Mexico.

All of these programs are made possible by the members of Friends of the Library and those who support the fundraising activities of the group. Memberships, which start at $10 per year, are available online at www.friendsofthelibrary.com.mx. There, you can also find more information about the reading programs, the upcoming Rosarito Lee initiative and the various fun fundraising events which support FOL.


Baja Rally Massively Successful in Inaugural 2013 Event

The Baja Rally for motorcycles attracted big name racers Larry Roeseler, Quinn Cody & Andy Grider to Mexico to test their skill at the first ever navigation based adventure race in picturesque Baja CA. Unlike traditional off road racing, rally riders use no maps, GPS or course markings and because the course is secret, the playing field is more level and adds to the excitement of the outcome. 

Ensenada, Baja Ca, Mexico (PRWEB) October 31, 2013
The Inaugural Baja Rally motorcycle ended in Baja CA’s seaside town of San Quintin on the sand dunes of the Santa Maria Hotel and has been deemed a full success with all riders accounted for and safe. Baja racing champion and 5-time Dakar Rally entrant Andy Grider (#36) won the title for the first ever navigation-based rally-raid staged in Baja CA with Cameron Steele and Chilly White rounding out the podium. Dakar vet and off road champion Quinn Cody (#39) enjoyed a comfortable lead from the first mile of the rally until his engine blew up only 10 miles from the finish line.
The Baja Rally is the first navigation-based rally raid held in Baja CA and is being warmly welcomed by Mexican authorities and hosts looking for new and interesting events in Baja where newly introduced visitors can take time to learn the varying cultures of Baja’s diverse landscapes. Baja Rally creator Scotty Breauxman deemed the event at smashing success and credited local hosts, sponsors and his team with pulling off what may mark a turning point for off road racing in Baja.
"The Baja Rally is a traveling, cultural event that transcends traditional off road racing and the true spirit of the outdoor sporting adventure", describes Breauxman, "The nature of our rally is more cerebral and less chaotic than what we are used to in Baja. This elevates the level of safety we can provide in delivering this cultural experience for everyone."
Baja Rally 2.0 in May 2014 hopes to parlay the successes of the inaugural Baja Rally to deliver the most adventurous and scenic rider experience possible while utilizing unique safety systems to protect participants, officials, support teams, hosts and spectators. The Baja Rally is designed entirely around the rider experience so there is an opportunity to create a course that paints a visual picture and tells a story through the changing altitudes, weather and dynamic terrain.


Celebrity Wedding Anniversary: Elizabeth Berkley & Greg Lauren – 1/11/2003

The couple were married on 1st November 2003 at the Esperanza Hotel in Cabo San Lucas.
Greg’s uncle Ralph Lauren designed Elizabeth’s wedding dress, which was silk sheath with pearled spaghetti straps while Grey wore a white tuxedo jacket and black bow tie.
She legally changed her name to Elizabeth Berkley Lauran, however still opts to use her maiden name in a professional context.
The couple announced that they were expecting their first born on 5th March 2012 and Sky Cole was born on 20th July 2012, which was only 8 days before her 40th Birthday! 


Baja California Culinary Fest Chef's Dinner | Eight Courses at La Caza Club in Tijuana

The Baja California Culinary Fest is a celebration of the upscale gastronomical explosion in Baja Mexico, marked by the featured Friday night Chef's Dinners, hosted by more than thirty chefs at seven different restaurants across Tijuana, making for a once in a lifetime dining experience.  We had the honor and pleasure of enjoying our Chef's Dinner at one of TJ's newest hotspots -  La Caza Club, a warm and beautiful space, accented with library-like features, from oversized leather booths, to bookshelves, to antlered busts donning the dark wood walls. We cozied into our seats, ready to embark on an eight course eating adventure prepared by our esteemed host chefs - La Caza Club's chef Humberto Aviles, San Diego's own - Jason Knibb of NINE-TEN, Ensenada's Chef Juantxo Sanchez, and Chef Jose Miguel Garcia of La Barraca Valenciana.  This magnificent meal was accompanied by wine and beer pairings chosen by the talented Juan Pablo Vazquez of La Guia del Vino.


Hundreds Sail Through San Diego Bay for 20th annual Baja Ha-Ha

A parade of sailboats en route to Mexico delighted onlookers on Monday, October 28, 2013, in San Diego Bay.

The 20th Baja Ha-Ha sailing rally began with the colorful maritime parade of 200 vessels. The annual event is the largest off-shore cruisers rally on the West Coast. The two-week sailing cruise begins in San Diego and ends in Cabo 

The kickoff took place off the shores of Shelter Island. From the shore and aboard nearby boats, thousands of spectators waved, a friendly send-off as the cruisers began their journey south. The 750-mile course includes stops in Turtle Bay and Bahia Santa Maria before concluding in Cabo San Lucas. To support the popular event, the Port of San Diego set aside a free anchorage for registered participants.

The event, organized by Latitude 38 magazine, takes place every fall. This year's event will conclude on November 9.

About the Port:

The Port of San Diego is the fourth largest of the 11 ports in California. It was created by the state legislature in 1962. Since then, it has invested millions of dollars in public improvements in its five member cities – Chula Vista, Coronado, Imperial Beach, National City and San Diego.

The port oversees two maritime cargo terminals, two cruise ship terminals, 20 public parks, the Harbor Police Department and the leases of more than 600 tenant and sub tenant businesses around San Diego Bay.

The Port of San Diego is an economic engine, an environmental steward of San Diego Bay and the surrounding tidelands, and a provider of community services and public safety.

Mexico's sweet tradition

Today: Sugar skulls.

Latinos and others enchanted by Dia de los Muertos, the Mexican Day of the Dead, celebrate by, among other things, decorating skulls made of sugar.

They make little skulls for Nov. 1, Dia de los Angelitos, or Little Angels Day, to remember deceased infants and children. And bigger skulls for Nov. 2, Dia de los Muertos. 

Often they write the dearly departed's name on the head, and place it on an ofrenda, a home-made altar.

An ofrenda has three tiers. One for each of the ancient Aztecs' three deaths: physical, burial and being forgotten, said Angelique Grijalva, an artist.
"With the ofrendas you're ensuring they'll never be forgotten," Grijalva said.

Grijalva first saw sugar skulls as a girl. Her grandmother took her to the Catholic cemetery to celebrate Dia de los Muertos - "celebrate" perhaps sounding strange to the uninitiated.

"It was very beautiful," Grijalva recalled. "There were people singing and playing guitars and picnics. It seemed so happy."

All over the cemetery, people doted on graves, cleaning headstones, placing flowers, candles and sugar skulls, and socializing while honoring ancestors and beloveds.

In so doing, they carry on a tradition tracing back centuries to central Mexico.
The Aztecs believed that the mythological goddess Mictecacihuatl, Queen of Mictlan, the underworld, watched over the bones of the dead.

Spanish conquistadors tried to stamp out this heathen observance. They succeeded only in shortening it and centering it around the Christian All Saints' and All Souls' Day. So the holiday is culturally synthetic.

And seductive. Many people outside the Latino culture adopt at least part of Dia de los Muertos tradition, in part because the skeleton imagery is colorful and humorous, an affirmation of life, as well as death.

"It's not a religious holiday, it's a cultural holiday," Grijalva said.
And its theme is universal. "Everybody has that experience in life of losing someone."

The basic recipe for sugar skulls is simple: a cup of granulated sugar, a teaspoon of meringue powder (a stiffener) and a dash of water. That will make several small skulls.

Press the mixture into a skull mold. After hardening for 24 hours, decorate with paints, feathers, glitter or small jewels or whatever strikes your fancy.
"It's a beautiful form of art, the colors and everything," Grijalva said. "It doesn't make it scary."

Dia de los Muertos is not the only commemoration of the dead and their skulls. Stock-tonians drive over another one every day: the Calaveras River.
In 1836 or '37, the pioneer John Marsh (1799-1856), who owned a cattle ranch near Mt. Diablo, was riding with his vaqueros.

Marsh "came upon a place near the Calaveras River where they found a great many skulls and skeletons, and afterward always referred to the place as Calaveras," according to Currey's 1878 "Incidents in California."

The boneyard may have been caused by famine or fight, but most likely was caused by the malarial epidemic introduced in 1832-33 by French Canadian trappers.

The native Americans had no immunity to it.
The river was given a Spanish name because "It was part of Mexico, and Spanish was the official language," said Tod Ruhstaller, the CEO of The Haggin Museum.

Grijalva has set up an ofrenda at The Haggin, by the way.
As further proof of Dia de los Muertos' cross-cultural qualities, sugar skull molds are available at mexicansugarskull.com.

Mexico City’s Day of Dead giant altar honors artist who created ‘Catrina’ skeleton figure

MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s elegant Skeleton Lady is getting a new lease on life about a century after she was created.

Mexico City is marking the 100th anniversary of the death of the artist who first drew her, while U.S. movie and rock stars use her as inspiration for Halloween costumes.
Known as the “Catrina,” the figure of a skeleton wearing an elegant broad-brimmed hat was first done as a satirical engraving by artist Jose Guadalupe Posada somewhere between 1910 and his death on Jan. 20, 1913.
Mexico City is marking the centennial of Posada’s death by dedicating the giant Day of the Dead offering in the capital’s main plaza to the artist.
In Mexico, such offerings traditionally consist of an altar with flowers, food and a photo of a departed loved one.


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Mision Viejo has a plethora of amenities, including a full-time administrator, 24/7 security with English-speaking guards, a club house with pool table and bathrooms, bocce ball, basketball courts, tennis court, shuffleboard, beautifully landscaped garden areas, including north beach access area, a second beach access to the south, a full-time maintenance man and weekly gardeners. It is one of the better run communities in Baja.

Let’s Go Ride Baja

With my travel schedule finished for the year, I now have time to start thinking about wintertime in Baja. It is the best time of year to ride around the northern peninsula. So I have put two dates on the calendar, one for December and one for January.

Each ride is open to five riders. Come experience some of my favorite parts of Baja. I guarantee that you will have a very unique kind of riding experience with a wide variety of terrain. It will be a little bit of everything that Baja has to offer.
You will tackle Baja the way I do – with a backpack. It is simple, pure motorcycling. No fixed schedule, no time table, just go where the road takes us. But don’t worry, we won’t be truly roughing it. Chances are that there will even be a hot meal and bed at the end of the day.
Bike requirements are very basic – standard oversize fuel tank for 90 mile range and lights. I  have two KTM 450′s available for rental also. Each ride will leave on Friday from the Tecate area and return to Tecate on Monday.
Price $750, with bike rental $1350 , price includes all lodging, meals, fuel and general expenses. You are on your own for alcohol and such.

Ride Dates

December 13-16
January 24 – 27

Mexico's Exports: Beer, Tequila And Now Mezcal

A few months ago I traveled up into the rugged hills outside of Oaxaca City, a colonial metropolis in southern Mexico. I met with Karina Abad, the production manager at Danzantes distillery.

The facility was temporarily closed for restoration. Standing in front of the heavy four-foot-tall stone wheel that Danzantes workers (and work horses) use to crush the roasted agave hearts used to make mezcal, Abad told me “We bottle and produce mezcal here.”
In an article I wrote for Fox News Latino, I explain“Two employees stood next to the circular palenque where work horses pull the massive grinding stone to mash the roasted agave. Year-round, Danzantes’ employees cut off the tough, thin, purplish green leaves of the harvested agave, which looks like a giant aloe vera plant. With the four-foot-long leaves cast aside, the workers place the plants tough hearts, called piñas, onto a bed of hot rocks and smoldering wood-fire charcoal.”
At Danzantes and thousands of other small family-owned distilleries, workers roast the agave piñas in underground ovens, similar to a New Zealand hangi or a New England clam bake. The plants are placed rocks over a bed of hot coals and then covered with banana leaves and dirt and left to roast slowly. During the process the acerbic white agave plant turns mushy, nectar-covered nuggets of golden, stringy pulp. It tastes sort of like a honey-coated roasted acorn squash or a candied pumpkin.
In my Fox News Latino article I explain, “Mezcal, a traditional Oaxacan spirit long enjoyed by southern Mexico’s ranchers, urbanites, and charro horsemen, is currently experiencing an unprecedented boom in popularity both within Mexico and also north of the border. Mezcal has found favor with young professionals and hipsters both in Mexico City and Manhattan.”
Inside the upscale Mezcaloteca bar in Oaxaca City, David Castillo, the bartender at told me that mezcal is a drink that is meant to be savored slowly.
“With industrial drinks that are sometimes mixed [with cheaper alcohol], if you take a shot you’ll feel like a train wreck. But a good mezcal, if you know how to drink it, won’t get you too drunk,” he said.
He poured a centimeter of shimmering, clear 100-proof mezcal into a tumbler and took a careful sip.
“It’s dry, really dry- but smoky at the end,” he told me. 
Mezcal was once dismissed as a blue-collar spirit, but lately it’s catching on in Mexico City, New York, Madrid, and even further abroad.
In my Fox News Latino article I explain in Mexico’s capital city, “Down the street from two orange sculptures of single-speed bicycles and a 15-foot-tall banner announcing the arrival of a new luxury apartment complex, premium mezcals are being sold along with marinated olives, cocoa-covered almonds, chai tea, and gourmet pastries at the Abarrotes delicatessen and bakery in the Roma neighborhood, Mexico City’s hipster-chic epicenter.”
Micaela Miguel, Abarrotes’ 26-year-old owner surveyed her store’s mezcal collection and pointed to a $61 small-batch bottle.
“It’s de moda. Ten years ago you found it in very few places. It wasn’t viewed very highly. Now it’s cool,”she told me.
For generations Oaxaca’s mezcal producers were isolated from the global economy. But now, Mexico’s Ministry of Economy is working with a new generation of entrepreneurs to promote the spirit both within Mexico and around the globe.
As is the case with tequila and beer, mezcal exports are growing. Total, Mexico exports more than a billion dollars of goods and services to the U.S. every day.
In an article I wrote last year, I explained that in 2011 “Mexico exported more than 163 million liters of the agave-based alcohol, mostly to the United States, according to figures from the Mexican government. That’s almost triple the amount the country exported in 1995.”
Jair Tellez, the chef at Merotoro, a posh Mexican restaurant in Mexico City’s upscale Condesa neighborhood, told me that “the new interest in tequila is seen most clearly in the United States.”
Likewise, Mexico’s beer exports are also on the rise. In an article I wrote earlier this year, I explained that Constellation Brands “now enjoys the exclusive right to market and distribute a Mexican beer portfolio that includes Corona, the top-selling import brand in the U.S., as well as Modelo Especial and Corona Light, the third and eighth top-selling brands. All together, Constellation Brands now controls about half of the U.S. imported beer market.” 
Rob Sands, Constellation Brand’s CEO, recently explained that Modelo Especial might even become “as big or bigger than Corona in the next five years.” Total, Constellation Brands reported revenues of $767 million in the third quarter of 2013 alone.
In my beer article, I explain that, “Constellation’s biggest competitor is now Dos Equis, a Mexican beer owned by Heineken. While Heineken has lost market share to competitors, Dos Equis, boosted by a popular spokesman, ‘The Most Interesting Man in the World,’ has enjoyed brisk sales growth in the U.S.”
John Nicolson, the head of Heineken’s Americas unit, is also eyeing Mexico’s beer exports.  He even called Dos Equis the company’s “shining star.” DosEquis sales helped Heineken earn $25 billion last year.
Grupo Modelo’s parent company, AB Inbev earned $39.8 billion last year. Global (non-U.S.) Corona and Modelo Especial sales are contributing to sales growth in 2013.
Now, in addition to exporting tequila and beer, Mexico is also working to boost foreign mezcal sales.
During a recent conversation, Gerardo Patino, the Director for the U.S. Northeast at ProMexico, Mexico export promotion agency told me “We help the small companies to get the product to buyers who can present the brands to the international market.”
As sales rise, mezcal “will be the next tequila in international markets,” Patino said. Right now mezcal exports add up to only a small fraction of foreign tequila sales, but that could change.
Ignacio Carballido, the owner of Casa Mezcal, a trendy restaurant on New York City’s Lower East Side, said New York’s connoisseurs are taking notice of mezcal.
“People are more aware of it in a good way. Now they know it’s a well-respected and old spirit. Before people thought of it as the crazy drink with a worm inside,” he explained.
Oaxaca remains one of the poorest and most politically complicated states in Mexico. Absent rural economic development, Oaxaca has traditionally served as a major sending state for migrant workers in the U.S. But, if the mezcal boom can lead to rural economic development, mezcal may help change Oaxaca’s trajectory.
Castillo, the bartender at Mezcaloteca in Oaxaca City, is optimistic.
“Life here has been affected a lot by immigration, and now some children of mezcaleros have come back to work for them,” he told me.

Charlie Sheen, Peter Greenaway to Attend Baja Fest

The Baja International Film Festival kicks off with Juan Jose Campanella's "Foosball."

MEXICO CITY -- Charlie SheenPeter Greenaway and Oscar winner Juan Jose Campanella will attend the 2nd Baja International Film Festival in November, an emerging industry-focused event held in Los Cabos.
STORY: Baja Film Fest to Open With Argentine 3D Animated 'Foosball'The four-day fest, which runs Nov. 13-16, opens with Campanella's animated featureFoosball (Metegol), a big-budget soccer-themed picture from the director of the Academy Award winner The Secret in Their Eyes.
British director Greenaway will talk about his latest production, the biopic Eisenstein in Guanajuato, which focuses on Russian director SergeiEisenstein's stay in Guanajuato, Mexico, in 1930. An admirer of Eisenstein, Greenaway
says the movie is a certain type of homage to the helmer.
Charlie Sheen, aka Carlos Estevez, will be in Baja for a screening of Robert Rodriguez's Machete Kills, in which he plays Mr. President.
The official competition section consists of eight features and documentaries from Mexico, Canada and the U.S., includingMatt Johnson's Sundance winner The Dirties and Daniel Patrick Carbone's drama Hide Your Smiling Faces, which premiered at Tribeca.
Five films will have world premieres: Bering: Equilibrio y ResistenciaFilosofia Natural del Amo,LutoEl Charro Misterioso and Volando Bajo.
Baja is promoting itself as an industry-friendly event that offers a film fund, Work in Progress prizes and a sales agent workshop, with experts from Memento Films, The Match Factory, Mundial and Rise and Shine. Additionally, representatives of the Participant Media PanAmerican film initiative (a development and co-financing venture with Latin America's top producers) will be on hand to discuss their latest projects.

Savior of the Whales

MEXICO CITY — Some 40 years ago a poor fisherman named Francisco Mayoral, who lived on the shores of San Ignacio Lagoon, halfway down the Pacific coast of Baja California Sur, stretched out his hand to touch a gray whale that raised its head out of the water alongside his wooden panga.
Mr. Mayoral, who went by the nickname Pachico, would liken this milestone to the birth of his first child.
“I didn’t seek out the whale, she came to my boat,” he remembered. “I was fishing with my friend and suddenly the whale came out and curiosity got the better of me and I touched her gently and saw that nothing happened. The whale went under and came out on the other side of the boat and I felt more confident and I began to stroke her and rub her head, and nothing happened.”
This transcendental encounter was, sadly, not emblematic of the troubled relationship between humans and whales.
In the 19th century gray whales — which can reach a length of 50 feet and a weight of 35 tons — fought capture so fiercely that whalers dubbed them “devil-fish.” The whales were hunted nearly to extinction until the International Whaling Commission adopted a 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling.
Pachico helped to protect the whales by convincing other fishermen that they had nothing to fear from them. Soon they were ferrying tourists into the lagoon — the last pristine breeding and calving ground for thousands of gray whales that migrate every winter from their feeding grounds in the icy Arctic seas to the warm refuge of the lagoons and bays along the Baja California peninsula.
Pachico lived in a sand-floored hut with no electricity, phone service or mail delivery, but somehow, in 1994, he got information about a plan by Exportadora de Sal, an enterprise co-owned by the Mexican government and Mitsubishi, to build a giant salt-processing plant on the shores of the lagoon.
He passed this information on to an American graduate student studying gray whales, who called me from Baja.
The proposed plant would produce seven million tons of salt annually, flooding 116 square miles of tidal flats and dense mangroves and pumping 6,000 gallons of saltwater per second out of the lagoon.
Each month oceangoing freighters would dock at a mile-long pier jutting into Bahia de Ballenas (Whale Bay) — right in the path of whales heading for the lagoon — to take on salt brought by conveyor belts across the desert from evaporation ponds and a million-ton salt pile.
As head of the Group of 100, an association of artists and writers concerned about the environment, I denounced the project to the press, and then managed to get a copy of the project’s environmental impact assessment.
I was shocked to see that a mere 23 lines out of 465 pages were devoted to the gray whale.
Six days after I published an essay entitled “The Silence of the Whales” in the Mexican newspaper Reforma, the government decided that the saltworks were incompatible with the conservation of the surrounding Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve, which includes the lagoon.
But the company’s owners were not about to give up. They maintained that the project could be altered to accommodate the environmentalists’ concerns, and kept up their fight. Meanwhile, groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council and the International Fund for Animal Welfare joined our cause.
One evening in 1997, during a visit to the lagoon, a young fisherman told me that Pachico wanted to meet me. A grizzled man with leathery skin, he shyly took my hand and related his historic encounter with the whale.
He’d say to me, “Let’s go hunt whales, bring your binoculars, bring your camera, so you can take them away and leave them there.”
Caressing a gray whale is among the most exhilarating experiences of my life.
The Group of 100 was about to make public a petition to the Mexican government — signed by dozens of writers and artists, including numerous Nobel laureates — when, on March 2, 2000, President Ernesto Zedillo suddenly and grudgingly canceled the plan for the salt factory.
The fight to save San Ignacio Lagoon was the greatest environmental battle ever in Mexico, but it was not the last. Although conservationists working with the government have been able to protect 150 miles of shoreline and thousands of acres of federal land around the lagoon, the gray whale is still threatened in its feeding grounds by offshore gas and oil development, and by climate change everywhere it swims.
Grass-roots activism has become more perilous in Mexico, as a result of the breakdown of the rule of law in areas where the drug cartels are influential. Some advocates have defended forests, farmlands and rivers at the cost of their own lives, with the killers never brought to justice.
On Oct. 22, Pachico, the man who used to say he would give his life to save a whale, died of a stroke at the age of 72.
This winter, when the gray whales return, his sons will be taking visitors out into the water to the thrill of watching up close — and, with luck, even touching — this magnificent creature with whom we share the oceans of the earth.

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