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A Community Essay on Baja

It's safe, so come on down

Community essay Baja California

By Anne Hines

January 4, 2009

            I am a Canadian expatriate and have lived in Baja California for the past 10 years. My husband, Patrick, and I bought a home on the ocean halfway between Tijuana and Rosarito – now situated in the middle of the Drug Corridor.

            Our gated community of approximately 800 homes, composed of Americans and Mexican nationals, endures the usual crimes such as theft – no more or no less than one would expect in any community north of the border. After the 2007 elections in Mexico , newly elected Rosarito Mayor Hugo Torres, together with other municipal, state and federal officials, cracked down hard on the drug trade, resulting in the arrest of high-ranking drug lords operating out of the Tijuana area. These arrests left the Arellano Félix cartel without leaders and a violent power struggle took place. Coupled with the ongoing fight between the Arellano Félix and Sinaloa cartels, the death tolls rose and sensational headlines resulted.

            Mayor Torres has been straightforward and diligent in keeping the expatriates and nationals informed. Security has been raised in Rosarito with 50 state police officers arriving to assist the 150-officer Police Department, and the army elements are highly visible in their continued patrolling of the streets and outlying areas of Rosarito.

            All of this drama, however, has had very little effect on our daily lives in Baja. The community in general, including expatriates and visitors, has not been targeted.

            We travel back and forth across the border as always, we shop in Rosarito and Tijuana without incident, and drive down the coast to Ensenada on a regular basis.

            Because of the media coverage, defending Baja against unfavorable and unfair press has become routine. Our biggest challenge living south of the border is to persuade our family and friends that it is safe to visit. We ask that they not allow the sensational headlines and biased reporting to frighten them, thus preventing them from enjoying this wonderful and affordable tourist locale.

            Rosarito has about 140,000 residents, 14,000 of which are foreigners. With its many new reasonably priced condos and homes for sale along the coast, it is an ideal location for retirees. Although the expats live miles apart, from Playas de Tijuana down the coast to Ensenada , there is a real sense of community in the area. The groups and activities to join are many, such as a large expatriate group called the United Society of Baja California, the Baja Bridge Club and the Rosarito Theatre Guild, to name a few.

            There are luxurious spas to pamper your every need. Two wonderful golf courses are within easy traveling distance. Shopping is plentiful with high-quality furniture, wrought iron pieces, blown glass, wood carvings and fine art from all corners of Mexico . Rosarito also boasts some very fine gourmet restaurants for those with discriminating tastes, and taco stands abound along Benito Juarez Boulevard .

            We also have numerous charitable nonprofit groups to join including Cruz Roja (Red Cross); the Flying Samaritans, which operates medical clinics for the needy; Friends of the Library; and Baja Animal Sanctuary. There are several English-language churches of the Protestant denomination in the area and weekly English-language Roman Catholic services are held in downtown Rosarito.

            Perhaps we, who make Mexico our home, are a unique breed? It certainly is not a life everyone would choose but for those of us who do, there are no regrets.

            There have been no visible signs of expatriate residents leaving Rosarito because of the increased violence between the drug cartels. We get used to seeing the army driving around in their Hummers, masked and armed with machine guns; somehow it makes us feel safe. We willingly stop at the various checkpoints and are usually sent on our way without delay.

            Someday Mexico will win the battle with the drug cartels but in the meantime, Patrick and I, together with our friends, will continue to enjoy our life here in Baja California .


Anne Hines is president of the United Society of Baja California, an expatriate group that conducts social events and supports various local charities.

Posted: Monday, January 5, 2009 11:30 AM by Herb Kinsey


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