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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dude ... great path you are on