Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Tijuana Zonkey’s bring smiles and an uncertain future

It's a Tijuana tradition. You're grandparents probably have a Zonkey photo.

Written by Lencho
Paint a donkey to look like a Zebra and you will undoubtedly draw attention.  Slightly confused, curious and definitely intrigued, whether you are six years old or fifty years old, that is the feeling most will have when they walk past the Zonkeys of Tijuana.  These Zonkeys have been an icon on the busiest corners of Mexico’s most bustling border town for ninety-nine years.

The first photo of a tourist with a donkey in Tijuana is said to have happened nearly a century ago in 1914.  At that time a photo of a tourist on a light skinned donkey was a technological and magical accomplishment.  Donkey’s have light colored hides, from gray to white and often the photos that were produced from the crude black and white camera was of a person sitting on what looked to be a ghost of a donkey.  So somewhere in the 1940’s the Donkey’s earned their stripes.  Unlike their Zebra cousins in Africa the Mexican “Burrocebra’s” stripes were there not to create confusion for lions, leopards and other predators but to help the animal stand out in the photo.

1944 tourist photo
courtesy of Jackson Library,
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Since the 1940’s Zonkeys have been a mainstay on the streets of Avenida Revolucion.  For over half a century if you were a kid and visited Tijuana and didn’t have a photo of you on the back of one of these evolutionary marvels, you could spend years in therapy trying to understand the laws of denial and absence.  These animals have become such an important part of Tijuana culture and history that the city’s professional basketball team is named in their honor, the Tijuana Zonkey’s.

Pick a sombrero!

Tijuana Zonkeys spend their days standing, eating corn and bringing smiles to the faces of young and old passer bys.  At night they walk back with their brightly painted carts, hats and blankets to quiet subterranean stables off Calle Sexta. 

Hello Donkey
Information on the side of the cart

It is uncertain how much longer the Zonkey’s of Tijuana will be around, after all the reason to paint the stripes in the first place was to ensure the animals could be seen in the poor quality of black and white photographs of the times.  But now with 14 megapixel photos coming out of every tourists phone and camera the Zonkistas are struggling.  A picture taken for you on a Zonkey will cost you $10.00 and to take a photo with your own camera it is customary to give at least $5.00 to the Zonkista that cares for the animal, remember both the Zonkistas and the Zonkeys need to eat. 

Zonkeys are an important part of Tijuana and as connected to the city as Shamu is to San Diego, in fact maybe more so, as you will not find another animal of its kind anywhere else in the world.  So what’s next for Tijuana’s longest running tourist attraction?  Only Industrial Evolution can tell.  Perhaps the best thing to do is to go back to the old days of black and white, rudimentary cameras and show the new hybrid, hi-tech children just how magical an image on a piece of paper can be.

The author busy at work

Editor's Note: We are putting together the world’s largest archive of Zonkey photos.  Do you have an old photo of you or someone you know on a Zonkey?  Please email me a copy of your photo.  Spread the word.

About the writer: Lencho is a freelance travel adventure writer with a genuine love and curiosity of the world with a particular affinity for Latin American cultures, people, food, wild spaces, urban places and a seeker of human smiles and laughter.  Lencho.MexicoVisitor@gmail.com

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

An Interview with Blanca & Les of La Bocana Hotel

Baja Visitor: Please introduce yourself and let our readers know how you ended up in this area of Baja California.  
Blanca & Les: Our names are Blanca and Les Heil. Before we even met, Les hunted all over Baja searching for the perfect fishing spot.  When he brought me down here, I knew this was the perfect place for us to live.  We decided to try our hand at running a hotel and found out that we love it.  http://www.labocanahotel.com
View from front of the hotel

BV: Where is La Bocana? Tell us about this special place. Why would someone visit this remote area?
B & L: La Bocana is in Baja California Sur. It is 1.5 hours from highway 1. To get here, you take the exit to Punta Abreojos, once in Punta Abreojos, take the salt flats north for 12 miles.
La Bocana is unusual in that every resident is gainfully employed at the local fishing cooperative, which makes for a very safe village populated by happy citizens.  The fishing is outstanding, the folk are friendly, the ocean breeze constant and the views are simply fantastic.

BV: Let us know two or three culture shock moments of moving to such a small town in the middle of the Baja peninsula. 

B & L: That is an easy one:  one of my biggest shocks was seeing ladies raking the sand.  And to boot, they do it in their pajamas.   Another culture shock was the promise to come over and then simply not call or show up. But one of the worst culture shocks is the way animals are treated, for example some tie their dogs up and leave them in the sun all day.

BV: You run a small hotel. Can you tell us more about it? 

B & L: Our hotel is Baja Bocana B&B. Les is the master chef for breakfasts and his specialties include Polish scrambled eggs (he was born in Poland) and banana pancakes.  There are 7 rooms, including one luxury suite which has a 180* view of the ocean and lagoon.  Since we do not live at the B&B, guests have full use of fully equipped kitchen as well as a huge palapa area for eating in the backyard.  The front porch has ospreys in front, with binoculars, they are up close and personal.  My favorite part is that guests come as strangers and end up being very close friends.


BV: How do the locals view foreigners in this community? Do you feel like a local now? 

B & L: I don’t feel like a local but I do feel as if I am an integral part of the community.  We have a saying here: every expat is adopted by one or more Mexicans who look after your house, your belongings and make sure no one takes advantage of you!

BV: I understand you area helping the local kids with quite a few projects. Can you explain?

B & L: And this will be my favorite question for sure…..We feel blessed to be here and we are really involved.  Five years ago, I started a clean-up campaign and got our whole community involved in the project, either by helping or looking on at the crazy gringa. Our village changed, for the better, and I am happy to have made a  positive impact. Here are some pics: http://sites.google.com/site/cleaningupbaja



One day some youngsters approached me asking if I could help sponsor a surf contest.  That was one heck of a ride (pun intended). It went off very well, the first surf contest ever in our little village!  Here is some info about that wonderful event:(http://sites.google.com/site/bocanabeachsurfers/).  

The year after the surf project was the bicycle project. We spent a year getting hundreds of bikes donated. We traveled to different villages so the La Bocana kids could race against other kids.  To this day, some kids are still taking part in competitions and have gone on to represent Mexico statewide.  I am very proud of all the expats who generously helped make this project happen:  Shari, a Canadian expat in Bahia Asuncion, let us all stay in one of her rentals, Jane from Casa Leree in Bahia Asuncion let us stay in her guesthouse, people from all over sent bike seats, air pumps, bike parts….it was beautiful.  Parents here got involved and we had a race here in town that exceeded all my expectations in terms of local involvement. The police cordoned off the streets, the ambulance was on hand in case of an accident, the parents handed out water and everyone made the visitors welcome. Here are some pics: http://sites.google.com/site/labocanabikers/).

I am a teacher by profession and for years I  have given English classes at the local middle school, some at the local high school as well as to local fishermen and others who are involved in tourism.  No charge, everyone is asked to clean up La Bocana in exchange for classes.

But of all the projects, I have to say that my favorite project is the latest one:  I spent 2012-13 working with 5 local low-income high school seniors. I mentored them in choosing a major, choosing a university, preparing for the entrance exam and of course, we had English class 3 times a week during recess.  Their goal was to get straight A’s in all subjects. The met their objective and I have been able to secure a full scholarship for all 5!  Their college fees, rent, food, books will all be covered.  They start college this Fall.

BV: How can the readers help?  

B & L: Mostly you can help by example:  carry a cloth bag to the grocery store instead of using plastic bags. Use refillable water bottles instead of bringing individual bottles that can’t be recycled here. Bring down pencils, erasers, notebooks, used magazines with lots of pics and donate them to any school wherever you visit.

BV: Anything you would like to add to this interview? 

B & L: Should you ever come and visit us, please write first and I will tell you what the latest project is and what I might most need.  Right now I am asking folks to bring the everyday items that my college teens will need: toilet paper, shampoo, laundry soap, bath soap – anything non-perishable that they will need in order to keep their costs down down down (((:  

Editor's Note: If you are heading towards central Baja and want to visit a wonderful place off most of the tourist brochures, stop by and visit Blanca & Les. Blanca is a weatlh of information and runs a great hotel.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

How to Buy Property in Cabo San Lucas & Baja

As an investor in Mexico, it is good to know that procedures are constantly changing for the better. As the two countries become more similar in their real estate practices and procedures, buying real estate in Mexico will become even easier.
By Evelyn Pepper

For the rest of the article, please go to the Mexico Real Estate Blog.....

Friday, February 22, 2013

Buying Auto Insurance for Baja & Mexico

Below, please find a brief description on Mexican auto insurance for those planning on driving into Baja California or mainland Mexico.

Why Buy Mexican Auto Insurance?
  • Insurance from a Mexican company is required by Mexican law in the event of an accident, even if you are not at fault.
  • A Mexican Insurance policy greatly reduces the chances that you will face jail time, and limits the financial burden you might come by after an accident.
  • A Mexican Insurance policy provides coverage for damage to your vehicle or its total loss.

Baja Car InsuranceUnder Mexican law, motorists are required to have insurance, or "proof of financial responsibility", in the event of an accident, even if you did not cause it. As a foreigner traveling in Mexico, the only way of demonstrating this financial responsibility is to have sufficient real currency to cover damages, or an insurance policy from a Mexican company. U.S. or any other non-Mexican insurance does not cover your liability for potential accidents, nor does it fulfill the basic requirement for insurance according to Mexican law.

Mexican Insurance FAQ's

1. What does Mexican auto insurance cover?
Once you cross the border into Mexico, your U.S. or Canadian insurance cannot legally help you prove your financial responsibility in Mexico. While a few major U.S. insurance companies cover damages to your own vehicle in Mexico up to a small distance south of the border (usually no more than 25 miles), they do not cover damages to other parties. In the event of an accident where you are at fault, Mexican insurance will instantly show authorities that you are able to pay damages third parties. Policies may also include coverage for physical damage to your vehicle, total theft of your vehicle, medical payments for the driver and passengers, legal aid, bail bond and roadside assistance. Partial theft (of vehicle parts) and vandalism are also available with some policies.

2. What is a liability-only policy?
A liability-only policy will cover damages you cause to third parties. Unlike a full coverage policy, liability-only does not cover physical damage or total theft of your vehicle. Our liability-only policies also include medical payments for occupants of your vehicle (except for motorcycles), legal aid and bail bond, and roadside assistance (for most vehicles). Keep in mind the majority of drivers in Mexico do not have insurance. If you purchase a liability-only policy and are hit by an uninsured driver, the policy will not cover damages to your vehicle.

Mexican Car Insurance - Bahia Concepcion, Baja

3. What is a full coverage policy?
A full coverage Mexico insurance policy covers physical damage and total theft (deductibles apply) of your vehicle. If you purchase a full coverage A full coverage policy also includes a liability limit to cover damages you may cause to third parties, medical payments for occupants of your vehicle (except for motorcycles), legal aid and bail bond, and roadside assistance (for most vehicles). Other benefits offered by the policies may include medical assistance, medical references, land medical transportation, air medical transportation, trip continuation assistance, and tourist information.

4. Does Mexican car insurance cover personal items inside my vehicle?
No. Personal items may be covered by your homeowner's or renter's insurance policy. Generally these types of policies offer worldwide coverage. Contact your carrier for details.

5. What information is needed to complete a policy?
To buy a Mexican insurance policy, you will need your driver's license, vehicle registration, U.S. or Canadian insurance information, and lien holder information (if applicable).

Thank you to Geoff Hill, Vice President, Business Development for Baja Bound Insurance Services, Inc. Mexican insurance information provided by Baja Bound Insurance Services.