Monday, September 30, 2013

Watermark reunites Manufactured Landscapes team

How does water shape us, and how do we shape water? It's a question that inspired the award-winning team behind Manufactured Landscapes -- filmmakerJennifer Baichwal and photographer Edward Burtynsky -- to visit ten countries and weave together 20 stories. 

Watermark is an exploration of water as an essential but compromised natural resource. The documentary, which screened at the recent Toronto International Film Festival, has been described as being "a film of astonishing beauty and perspective" that is both poetic and thought-provoking.

From human-engineered dams and canals to mass bathing and pollution, Baichwal and Burtynsky explore the beauty and brutality of our interactions with water. 

Baichwal noted that the pair sought to address the issues of our time without hitting people over the head with an argument. 

"The idea was to try to create a situation in which, after you see the film, you might not turn on the tap with the same nonchalance that you did before." 

The pair also touched on themes like humanity's apparent longing to be around water, the fact that there are "winners and losers" whenever water is moved, and how they cope with the scale of destruction they see. 

"It's hard not to feel grief," said Burtynsky, "We need to start playing attention to this place called nature ... we are part of it I believe, and we're not understanding the effect we're having on it." 

If you're not familiar with Burtynsky's work, you can see his stunning water photography at the Nicholas Metivier Gallery website.

Festival Tijuana Interzona highlights vitality

Festival Tijuana Interzona highlights vitality
By Sandra Dibble Sept. 24, 2013

Tijuana's Pasaje Rodriguez, shown here in a 2012 photo, is one of 30 venues for the Festival Tijuana Interzona that starts Thursday and ends Oct. 11th. - David Maung

A celebration of Tijuana's cultural variety and vitality begins Thursday with the opening of the 16-day Festival Tijuana Interzona 2013. Now in its seventh year, the festival includes concerts, art exhibits, dance performances and other activities staged at 30 venues across the city.

Festival Interzona highlights the strength of the city's independent arts movement, said festival director Leobardo Sarabia, formerly the director of Tijuana's Municipal Institute of Art and Culture.

In that sense "Tijuana is different from the rest of Mexico," Sarabia said, as many other areas of the country to depend heavily on the public sector to spearhead cultural events.

Most of Festival Interzona's events are free.
Among the activities planned through Sunday:

Thursday through Saturday: Artist Hector Ruíz of Mexicali offers instruction in the drawing with India ink. At Espacio Freelance in Pasaje Rodríguez off of Avenida Revolución between Third and Fourth Streets.

Friday: Reggae/Ska encounter near the U.S. border from 3 p.m. to midnight at Avenida Revolución and First Street. Includes performances by the South Central Skankers (Los Angeles) and Cañamo (Tijuana).

Saturday: Pianist Roberto Salomón accompanies eight singers in a performance that pays homage to the 1980s. The concert is scheduled at 6:30 p.m. at the Antigua Bodega de Papel on Calle 11.

Sunday: Edward Coward, a prize-winning Tijuana playwright, presents "History of the Telephone," a four-act play aimed at children that includes improvisations. At the Tijuana Cultural Center (Cecut) in Tijuana's Río Zone.

Sunday: Screening of "Ahí va el diablo," (There goes the Devil) a 97-minute thiller by Adrián García Bogliano set in Tijuana. At Cineteca Carlos Monsiváis at Tijuana's Cultural Center.

For the full schedule, go to

Flying down Mexico's highways in a first-class bus

Flying down Mexico's highways in a first-class bus
Posted by Brian J. Cantwell

Modern Volvo buses are used by ADO, a prominent Mexican intercity bus line. This is the GL-class bus, akin to Business Class. "Platino" is the top-of-the-line service. (photos by Brian J. Cantwell / The Seattle Times)

OAXACA, Mexico - You can still find the fabled "chicken bus" in Mexico, but if you're traveling between sizable cities, that's a long-outdated stereotype. Mexico's modern intercity bus lines are among the best in the world - and also quite affordable.

Traveling overnight back and forth between Oaxaca and San Cristobal de las Casas, in Chiapas, I compared the two premium services offered by ADO (say "Ah-Day-Oh"), one of Mexico's largest bus operators. The top-of-the-line "Platino" service, modeled after first-class airline comforts, has just about everything but a flight attendant plumping your pillow.

The first-class bus terminal in Oaxaca is new and shiny, not unlike a modern air terminal in the United States.

At the modern and shiny first-class bus terminal on the northern edge of downtown Oaxaca, I discovered the first difference when I made the mistake of trying to check my luggage at the "ordinary" bag-check counter. I was pointed around the corner to the private, guarded Platino waiting room with its own bag counter, private restrooms, big-screen TVs, water cooler and free coffee. As I boarded, I was offered a free soft drink or chilled water.

The bus itself had only three seats across the width of the vehicle, in a two-and-one configuration. Traveling alone, I had booked one of the single seats, with the best of both worlds: both a window and an aisle. The down side, I discovered, was that the single row had significantly less leg room between seats than on the side with two seats abreast. It was an unhappy situation as soon as the big man in front of me reclined all the way back and the top of his head was under my nose.

Aboard the ADO "Platino"-class bus, there are only three seats across the width of the bus. The interior resembles a first-class airline compartment.

But the good news came in two doses: 1. Because the Platino bus costs about one-third more than the next cheapest service (ADO GL), it may not run as full. So I was able to move across to an open pair of seats across the aisle. 2. Because the Platino bus makes fewer (or no) stops between major cities, I could switch seats without worry about someone getting on an hour later to claim their reserved seat that I had purloined.

Other first-class amenities on the Platino: The big wide seats not only reclined to almost horizontal, they came with a pull-down cushioned support for your legs. All windows were tightly curtained, with a curtained and closed door separating us from the driver, so it was quite the dark womb at night. Tiny airline-sized pillows and thin blankets were provided. Men's and women's lavatories were in the back, with lighted icons at the front of the bus to tell if they were busy. Between the restrooms was a serve-yourself coffee bar with hot water and instant-coffee packets. Video screens were in the seat backs, with ear buds provided and a selection of music and movies (no English-language movies, sorry). They even provided a black-out mask for light sleepers.

One thing the fancy buses couldn't do: Provide a smooth and quiet ride over some stretches of rough and winding Mexican roadway. Bring earplugs; there's clattering. In addition, you'll hear beeping from other riders' cell phones getting text messages all night long. Nonetheless, I arrived feeling relatively rested and needed only a two-hour nap during the day to feel revived.

Platino service wasn't offered the date I returned to Oaxaca, so I sampled the next step down, the "Ejecutivo" (sort of like Business Class) bus, the ADO GL (570 pesos, compared to the Platino's 762 pesos - about $44 vs. $59 U.S.).

This less expensive bus was packed full. The seats were four across, in a two-and-two configuration - about 2/3 the width of the Platino seats. I had a window seat, which meant "holding it" in the middle of the night because I didn't have the heart to wake my seatmate so I could get to the restroom.

Seats still reclined quite a ways, and we still got a free soft drink, his-and-hers lavatories and the coffee bar. But no pillows or blankets on the GL (bring a sweater), and movies were shown on drop-down video screens (with earbuds provided), meaning you watched whatever they were showing. Sleep was more elusive on this leg of my journey.

In both cases, the quoted travel time was about 11 hours. Both journeys actually took 12 hours.

All in all, it's not a bad way to get around Mexico, especially to some places without big airports. You might not get to make friends with a chicken along the way. But knowing a few Mexican towns as I do, you'll find chickens easily enough once you're there.

A few logistical tips:

A website,, is useful for checking schedules and prices. It gives users a choice of Spanish or English. But when I went through all the laborious steps to reserve a ticket, the website responded with an "error" message. I heard from another traveler of a similar experience. So you might do best to use the website for schedule info (and seating charts, even) but actually purchase your ticket at the bus station. If you're concerned about getting a seat, purchase a day or two in advance at your departure station.

These deluxe buses don't necessarily stop for food, nor do they always have vendors come aboard as you might have experienced on other Latin American bus trips. Bring snacks.

All seats are reserved on these buses. When you reserve, choose a seat far enough away from the restrooms that you don't get the odor from them if they get overused on the trip.

NOTE: We have personally traveled by bus from Acapulco and Taxco - it was a comfortable and interesting trip. I highly recommend bus travel when available... Anne & Patrick Mullen

Fiscal reform draws protest in Baja California Proposed tax increase would end differential for border region

Fiscal reform draws protest in Baja California
Proposed tax increase would end differential for border region
By Sandra Dibble Sept. 23, 2013

Sales at this clothing store at Plaza Rio Tijuana would be taxed higher under a proposed federal measure. - David Maung/Bloomberg

TIJUANA - A federal fiscal reform package that would raise the sales tax by five percentage points in Mexico's border regions, putting them on par with the rest of Mexico, has been stirring furor across Baja California.

The state's business leaders have sprung into action since President Enrique Peña Nieto submitted the proposed changes to Congress this month. They are calling meetings, staging news conferences, issuing protest statements, forging alliances with opponents in other parts of the border and flying to Mexico City to meet with legislators and members of the president's administration.

Critics said the envisioned tax hike is the latest evidence that Mexico's federal government doesn't understand the distinctive dynamics of the country's northern border. The measure is fueling worries that prices will rise in Baja California, which would likely prompt more people to shop in California and impose a greater financial burden on those without crossing documents who can least afford to pay more.

If the tax overhaul goes into effect, "it will be fatal," said Ernesto Ruffo, a senator from Baja California who led a formal protest in the senate. "It will do away with our way of life."

The proposal is part of a sweeping tax-reform package that Peña Nieto hopes will boost government revenues and fund efforts to reduce economic inequality by establishing "universal social security" and investing in strategic sectors such as education and infrastructure.

His administration argues that residents in border regions, where the average income is 27 percent higher than the national average, shouldn't be granted special privileges. The plan, submitted to to Mexico's Chamber of Deputies on Sept. 8, would set a uniform sales tax of 16 percent nationwide and end the 11 percent rate currently in place in Baja California and other border areas.

"Our country is the only one with a tax differential in its border communities," reads a statement from the president's office. The lower tax rate not only leads to lower revenues, but also causes administrative problems, "opening opportunities for tax evasion and elusion," it said.

Border zones have had a lower sales tax - technically known as a value-added tax - for more than three decades. The affected areas include a 12.5-mile zone that run along Mexico's entire U.S. border, a section of Sonora outside of the strip, the state of Baja California, Baja California Sur and parts of the states of Chiapas and Quintana Roo on the southern border.

The lower tax rate was once justified by the "isolation of border populations from the rest of the country," according to the president's proposal. Now, Peña Nieto said, the exemption should no longer apply because of improvements in communications and infrastructure.

That reasoning is generating little sympathy in Baja California, where residents have vigorously protested earlier federal mandates. In 2010, for example, members of the state's business community protested new federal rules limiting U.S. dollar deposits in Mexican banks. They said the restrictions ignore the realities of border transactions, where many bills are paid in dollars.

As for the newly proposed tax hike, Baja California Gov. José Guadalupe Osuna Millán said in Tijuana last week: "What we need to explain to our friends from the center of the country is that this difference in the value-added tax is no privilege. It's because we are competing with the (U.S.) market."

He and other critics said the president's tax-reform push is a double-whammy for Baja California: Besides raising the sales tax, Peña Nieto wants to eliminate a tax waiver granted for imports temporarily brought into Mexico for assembly in the export-oriented maquiladora manufacturing facilities.

The second measure would affect maquiladoras across Mexico, an industry that employs close to 2.3 million people, said Federico Serrano Bañuelos, president of Tijuana's maquiladora association. The sector directly employs more than 248,000 people in Baja California.

The idea behind canceling the maquiladora waiver is to crack down on tax evasion, not to collect more revenue. Legitimate maquiladora owners would be able to seek reimbursement once their finished goods leave Mexico.

But critics including Serrano said the rule would hurt the sector's cash flow, lead to new administrative expenses and discourage foreign investment that has been so critical to maquiladoras.

"They're going to lose competitiveness," said Ruffo, the senator from Baja California. And if that happens, "businesses overall are going to lose customers."

Opponents of the border sales-tax hike have been citing a study released in February by Colegio de la Frontera Norte, a border-wide think tank based in Tijuana. The study found increasing the sales tax would have an inflationary effect on prices and prompt consumer flight to the United States. People without the option of crossing the border would bear the brunt of the higher prices, said Noé Arón Fuentes, an economist and the study's author.

Though the border has escaped previous efforts to raise its sales tax to the national level, "for the first time, we're at great risk that the reforms will pass," Fuentes said. "We have to offer alternatives."

Among those knocking on doors in Mexico City last week was Karim Chalita, president of the Tijuana Chamber of Commerce. In an interview from the capital, he said he hoped to meet with legislators from other parts of the country "so that those who are taking decisions can know the realities of the border."

Chalita said a wide range of businesses - from restaurants to doctor's offices to tourist operators - could be harmed if the tax package passes.

Foes of the sales-tax hike have won support from the central leadership of Mexico's National Action Party, better known as the PAN, and powerful national business groups such as COPARMEX. But leaders of the president's Institutional Revolutionary Party - also called the PRI - and its chief ally, the Green Ecologist Party of Mexico, remain staunchly behind the proposal.

"The first people who have to be persuaded are authorities in the Treasury Secretariat," said David Pérez Tejada, a freshman legislator from Baja California and a member of the treasury committee in the Chamber of Deputies. Though he is a member of the Green Ecologist Party, he openly opposes the border tax-increase proposal, as have some PRI lawmakers from border areas.

Starting this week, opponents of the two border-related tax measures - and those with other criticisms of the tax-reform package - will have a chance to speak out in Mexico City during hearings before the treasury committee.

Among those prepared to testify is Juan Manuel Hernández, president of the Tijuana's Business Coordinating Council, an umbrella organization.

"They say that all of Mexico has to be equal and there is no difference between regions," Hernández said. "We're saying just the opposite. What's good for Oaxaca is not good for Baja California."

La Paz offers a whale of a time

Autumn signals the start of the annual migration south of the California gray whales from the Bering Sea to the lagoons of Baja California for the winter.

The 12,000-mile roundtrip journey is estimated to be the longest migration of any mammal on earth.

La Paz, at the southern tip of Baja California, offers a variety of trip operators and options for whale-watching tours.

Up to as many as 300 whales can be sighted on any day during the mating and calving season, providing a close-up view of one of the best natural shows on the planet.
La Paz’s annual Grey Whale Festival from Feb. 1 to 15 celebrates the migrations taking place on the water as well as a number of activities on shore.

A listing of operators offering excursions from half-day tours to two-day and longer trips can be found at

Charlie Sheen to Attend Baja Film Fest

SAN SEBASTIAN – Charlie Sheen will attend the second edition of the Baja Intl. Film Festival in Los Cabos as a special guest, the fest announced Monday.

Other guests will include British helmer Peter Greenaway, who will talk about his craft to young filmmakers, and give further details about an upcoming Mexico-set project.
The fest, which runs Nov. 13-16, will focus on films from Mexico, the U.S. and Canada this year.
It will include a works-in-progress section, showcasing six Mexican projects. The jury will comprise Nadia Dresti from the Locarno Film Fest, Genna Terranova of TriBeCa and Universal Mexico topper Mauricio Duran. Two prizes worth $10,000 and
$30,000 will be awarded.
There will also be a sales company workshop, with presentations from top sellers such as The Match Factory, Memento Films Intl. and Les Films Du Losange. Twenty Mexican producers will attend this session.
Another initiative is a video library, in partnership with the Cannes Market’s Cinando.
Panel discussions on Canada-Mexico and U.S.-Mexico co-productions will also be held.
On opening night the winners of the Gabriel Figueroa Film Fund, worth a total $138,240, will be announced.

Del Mar Escapes Introduce the Latest Cabo San Lucas Villas

Choosing a vacation destination can be challenging, but vacation-goers need look no further than Del Mar Escapes for rest and relaxation under the sun. Del Mar Escapes is a gorgeous resort in Cabo San Lucas, located on the Pacific Coast of the Baja Peninsula in Mexico. It provides travelers with a convenient yet exotic location, spectacular scenery and ample recreational and cultural activities. While choosing a great destination to visit is challenging, it is imperative to select the right resort for a vacation. Del Mar Escapes is the premier choice amongst travelers to Cabo San Lucas resorts, and there are several good reasons for this. The newly updated villas available through Del Mar Escapes will impress even the most discerning travelers.
Cabo San Lucas is a unique destination because it features both beach and mountain views. Del Mar Escapes is situated right on the Pacific coast just steps from a pristine beach, and the mountains provide a serene backdrop to the east. The new villas at Del Mar Escapes take full advantage of the spectacular natural beauty of the area by providing vacation-goers with amazing views from many rooms. Through Del Mar Escapes, travelers can request a new beachfront villa or a villa with views of the mountains or ocean. The overall experience that travelers will enjoy when staying at Del Mar Escapes features the best combination of serenity and privacy. Because of this, this resort is often selected as a vacation destination of choice by celebrities who crave anonymity and privacy in a gorgeous location.
Del Mar Escapes offers its valued guests more than just a beautiful, serene setting. This resort also boasts newly enhanced world-class accommodations. Each of the spacious villas has been newly decorated in various and beautiful styles. The décor of the villas is enhanced by the addition of thoughtful amenities that will enhance the experience of any traveler. Each villa has an open floor plan with a private gourmet kitchen. There are several villa sizes to choose from, and some have multiple bedrooms for added space. Each features flat screen TVs, a private outdoor terrace, a private pool and spa and other features. With how comfortably appointed these luxurious villas are, travelers can spend their entire day relaxing and taking in views without even leaving their home away from home. When they are ready to venture out, however, ample opportunities await.
While Cabo San Lucas offers travelers much to see and do, travelers will not have to step foot off the resort to enjoy a fabulous vacation. Everything about Del Mar Escapes has been designed to delight travelers. Amenities featured on-site include several delicious restaurants, beach activities and water recreation equipment rental, children’s activities, sailing charters, a beach club, a private beach, a fitness club with a pilates and spinning studio and more. Whether travelers dream of relaxing poolside in their own villa or stepping out and enjoying various resort activities, they will have a great time at Del Mar Escapes.
Del Mar Escapes is the picture-perfect resort in Cabo San Lucas, and travelers can easily enjoy the relaxing vacation in a paradise setting they have been dreaming about when they book a villa at this resort. Those who are interested in planning an amazing vacation on the Baja peninsula should take time to learn more about these villas today.

Mexico’s Calderón Leads Study On Economic Benefits Of Climate Change

A new global initiative wants to present a more persuasive argument for action on climate change by focusing on the economic benefits of doing so.

The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, chaired by former Mexican President Felipe Calderon, is launching a year-long study to analyze the economic costs and benefits of acting against climate change. 
The results of the study, which will be undertaken by research institutes on five continents, will be released in September 2014.
"The world faces two great challenges: to fight poverty and to fight global warming," Norway's Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said at the launch of the initiative on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly. "We cannot choose between them."
Calderon said a strong argument that fighting climate change will lead to economic growth could persuade more governments and companies to take part. "All this time, we have talked about emissions," Calderon said. "But this time, we will try to talk about profits. That could change the equation."
The seven countries that commissioned the $9 million study are Colombia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, South Korea, Norway, Sweden and the UK.
Sweden's minister for the environment, Lena Ek, noted that her country has been able to address both issues.
"Since 1990, we have cut carbon emissions by 20 percent, while our GDP grew by 60 percent," Ek said.Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

Mexico,United States : MOTOROLA introduces Moto X smartphone in Mexico

Motorola announced the availability of its Moto X smartphone in Mexico.

Already, the device is available in the Telcel and Nextel networks, and will be soon added to other Mexican operators handset portfolios.

With a 4.7-inch AMOLED HD display, Motorola s Moto X LTE device operates on Android 4.2. It has 1.7GHz dual-core processor, a 10-megapixel rear-facing camera with LED flash, 4X digital zoom and video capture, a 2-megapixel front-facing camera with video capture, a 3.5mm stereo headset jack, Bluetooth 4.0 and a 2,200mAh battery with up to thirteen hours of continuous talk time.

Besides these, the device also features touchless control, active display, quick capture, Motorola Connect for in-browser notifications and Motorola Migrate.

Users with the use of Moto Maker, can customize their Moto X by selecting color options for the front and back, accent colors for the power key, volume key and camera ring, adding their name or short message on the back of the phone, wallpapers, and a custom power-on message.

Mexico offers online courses to local residents

Catholic Charities, Washington Middle School to provide support for students
Albuquerque resident Yadira Sanchez, a native of Sinaola, Mexico, has been a busy stay-at-home mom, raising her four children who range in age from 2 to 22.
For various reasons, she never completed her middle school education in Mexico, she said, and the opportunity to jump back in had not presented itself – until now.
On Tuesday, Sanchez, 42, went to the office of the Consulate of Mexico in Albuquerque to register for Plaza Comunitaria, a program of the government of Mexico that provides a structured online curriculum for adults,
“I want to advance myself and finish school and be able to help my children with their homework,” she said, speaking through an interpreter.
Locally, the program will operate out of Washington Middle School and at Catholic Charities of Albuquerque, said Mauricio Ibarra Ponce de León, the consul of Mexico in Albuquerque, where the program was announced at the consulate office during a morning press conference.
Adults in the program, including youths at least 16 years old, can “rejoin the formal educational system,” taking courses that include “both e-learning and on-site sessions with trained volunteers,” he said.
The program is offered at no cost to the student. Partnering local institutions provide the facilities and computer access, while the government of Mexico delivers the online course materials. Those who complete the program get a Certificate of Conclusion from the Federal Ministry of Education.
“With a certificate, I will be able to keep studying and maybe some day go to a university,” Sanchez said.
Although the Plaza Comunitaria program is new to New Mexico, it has been offered in Mexico for about 20 years and in some communities and prisons in the United States since 2001.
Ponce de León says all 50 Mexican consulate offices throughout the United States now have access to it, and he expects they will each find local partners to help make it available to ever more Spanish-speaking people living in the United States, regardless of their nationalities.
Jim Ganon, executive director of Catholic Charities of Albuquerque, said “we are already one of the major providers of adult education here in Albuquerque, and the largest provider of Spanish adult education, so the Plaza Comunitaria program complements the families we serve.”
Blanca Lopez, principal of Washington Middle School, said about 95 percent of her school’s student body is Hispanic, and while the program will be open to the entire community, many of her students’ parents have pre-enrolled.
A Plaza Comunitaria program recently begun in Clovis has already graduated students, said Eva Garcia, director of federal and bilingual programs for the Clovis Municipal Schools. “The best teaching practices are those in which we teach our students in a primary language at the same time we teach them English.” Students who become bilingual “outperform students who are monolingual,” she said.

Mexico: Cancun underwater museum adds visitor center

The Cancun Underwater Museum, which gives divers and snorkelers to the Mexican resort area a chance to see artworks below sea level, has added a visitor center that showcases replicas of the museum’s most popular underwater sculptures.

The underwater museum, founded in 2009, is one of the largest in the world. Divers and snorkelers can see 500 artworks, including 11 new sculptures that were added earlier this month by Jason deCaires Taylor.
The visitor center will showcase replicas of the facility’s most popular underwater sculptures.
The museum was created to help preserve the region’s natural coral reefs; artworks double as a home for fish and other underwater organisms and also draw visitors away from Cancun’s delicate natural reefs.
Among the submerged works are many life-size human sculptures cast from Cancun locals. There is also a VW Beetle that was especially designed so lobsters could make their home inside the vehicle.
Each statue is made with materials that are safe for marine life and encourage the formation of a coral reef, according to artist deCaires Taylor.  He says his newest pieces “use a form of stainless steel framework and rely on live planted corals to form the narrative and structure of the works.”
Marine life is slowly moving into the museum, bringing life to “The Silent Evolution,” his original underwater gallery, he says.
Tourism officials say the museum is one of Cancun’s most popular attractions, drawing an average of 87,000 guests annually, according to Jesus Almaguer, chief executive of the Cancun Convention and Visitors Bureau. “The addition of the visitors center will provide tourists a way to enhance their diving experience and to truly appreciate the artistic and ecological impact the museum has,” Almaguer said. 
Cancun, in southeastern Mexico on the Caribbean side, is the nation's No. 1 tourist destination and is known for its beaches and turquoise waters.

From Pemex To Retail, Mexico Looking Better

Despite its lackluster performer this year, Mexico is still a favorite investment for Latin America-bound emerging market fund managers. And on Monday, investors were given another reason to like this country.

Retail sales rose 1.3% year over year in July. The headline retail sales index posted a stronger expansion than consensus, which was 0.5%. In seasonally adjusted terms, Mexican retail sales rose 0.6% month over month, also above than consensus.
The surprise of Mexico’s retail performance is due to general goods same-store sales (SSS) declined 4.7% in m/m sa in July, while consumption imports also contracted 1.7% m/m sa in that month.
Five out of eight sectors posted monthly gains within retail and within that universe, automotive did best.  Car sales were up 2.7% on the month. Healthcare, supermarket and department store sales increases made up for declines in food and clothing drops.
Besides today’s retail sales data, investors are getting more upbeat about Mexico’s leader, Enrique Peña Nieto.
Mexico is introducing some new reforms to increase competitiveness. One the market is most excited about is in the the energy sector.  Right now, government oil giant Pemex rules the land and sea when it comes to oil and gas. Nieto wants to invite others to give Pemex a hand. So far, he has had a couple of successes in the government, which suggest entrenched interests inside Pemex may be coming around, albeit slowly, to his line of thinking.
Key figures are taking his side. Pemex CEO Emilio Lozoya Austin said in August that if the government fails to reform its energy policy, Mexico could become an oil importer as soon as 2015.
For now, the Constitution of Mexico reserves the natural resources for the people of Mexico, so it prevents foreigners from coming in and developing oil reserves.  That work all falls on Pemex.  The investment in oil and gas equipment and exploration all end up being a big burden on Mexico’s fiscal accounts.  Plus most of the profits of Pemex go to the government and that leaves them less money to re-invest in oil production.
Peña Nieto would like to take more of a Brazil approach to its oil reserves than a Venezuelan one. Even though Petrobras is the kingpin of Brazilian oil, multinationals are allowed bigger stakes in Brazil’s oil wealth.
“Mexico needs to broaden out their tax base,” said Marc Tommasi, managing director and head of international investment strategy at Manning & Napier in Rochester, NY. “Mexico is still a big oil derivative play. And that story has been tougher to sell in recent years because the production profile has been deteriorating so rapidly. It’s getting critical and they need to do something soon,” he said.
Higher car sales means more demand for fuel in Mexico.
Mexico is looking better. Peña Nieto is one reason. A stable U.S. is another. Any upside to the U.S. economy is an added bonus for Mexico investors, Tommasi said.
But investors are still taking a wait-and-see approach to confirm whether Mexican consumers can keep the economy growing. Retail sales have been generally stagnant throughout the year.
August is looking up, said Marco Oviedo, a Mexico analyst at Barclays Capital in Mexico City.
The resumption of government expenditures along with a better manufacturing performance should support employment growth too, helping to keep Mexico in the investor spotlight for the rest of 2013.
The attention hasn’t helped Mexican equities. From a top down perspective, Mexico’s been an underperformer this year.
The iShares MSCI Mexico (EWW) exchange traded fund is down 5.03% while the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index (EEM) ETF is down 4.74%.   Mexico looks better in the rear view mirror. Over the last 12 months, EWW is up over 3%, while EEM is up 1.16%. And over the last five years, EWW has outright clobbered the benchmark MSCI EM, up 37.39% to the benchmark’s gain of 9.83%.

Toro’s Tacos comes to the Corner

Restaurants on The Corner come and go like dust in the wind. The Backyard, Rita’s Ice Cream, Big Dawgz and, most recently, Baja Bean have fallen to the wayside just in the past several years. If you want to open a restaurant on the Corner, you better be ready to bring the heat.
Into this competitive atmosphere steps Toro’s Tacos, which has replaced Baja Bean and boasts house-made margaritas, tacos, quesadillas and a host of appetizers. Though some dishes leave more to be desired, others — such as the braised brisket taco — truly shine.
At first glance, Baja Bean’s dated interior has met a much-needed update. The bar has been decorated with a massive Texas longhorn on the mantle, neon green lighting and a new countertop. The stairs rock an effortlessly cool Spanish-style tiling that adds a lot to the Texas-dive-bar-meets-Mexican-taqueria vibe.
Dinner started with salsa, chips and queso. The salsa was a fresh pico de gallo with chopped tomato, white onion, chilies, lime and cilantro. Every bite was chunky and refreshing, making the $1.50 price tag easily justifiable. The queso was a bit underwhelming, as it was heavy, warm rather than hot, and lacked an overall depth of flavor outside of the Monterey Jack.
Entrees included the pork quesadilla and the braised brisket tacos. The pork quesadilla came in at a whopping $14. Though expensive for a quesadilla, the combination of Monterey Jack, Cheddar, Queso Fresco and pork was enough to entice me to take the leap. Also, the quesadilla came with a side of rice, black beans and grilled street corn that did not come with the tacos.
The quesadilla was loaded with juicy pork and had great southwestern flavor. The street corn, a grilled corn on the cob with Mexican seasonings, was grilled well with a nice level of sweetness. Unfortunately, the black beans left something to be desired, and the rice lacked seasoning. A little lime, salt and fresh cilantro would have gone a long way.
The braised brisket tacos were the highlight of the evening. Coming in orders of two and three, for $9 and $13 respectively, the braised brisket was absolutely succulent. Topped on a fresh corn tortilla with candied bacon and a chipotle slaw, the brisket melted in your mouth, with the chipotle slaw adding a nice level of heat.
A largely disappointing aspect of the Toro’s Tacos, however, was the structure of the taco menu. You cannot order just one of their eight specialty tacos. Orders come in sets of two or three, and tacos cannot be mixed and matched. If you want a chicken taco and a brisket taco, you are out of luck unless you have a dining companion willing to share. Tacos priced individually would make the whole experience significantly nicer.
Though Toro’s Tacos has some work to do, it has the potential to establish itself as the Corner destination for Mexican-inspired cuisine. The food is of higher quality than Two Guys Tacos and El Jaripeo. Additionally, Toro’s has the best margarita in walking distance of the University, as well as the best atmosphere of all local Mexican restaurants.
With a few tweaks Toro’s could become a great Corner taqueria. But even as a shadow of what it could be, Toro’s proves in its infancy to be a great improvement from Baja Bean.

2013 Baja 500 - Smooth Transition

Roger Norman as SCORE CEO, Sal Fish as Grand Marshal

The Baja 500 has run every year since 1969 and has changed and evolved as new technology and new ideas filtered into the sport. Though SCORE was started by the late Mickey Thompson, the lion's share of the Baja 500 has run under the watchful eye of Sal Fish. This year was different. Twenty-thirteen marked the first year that the SCORE Baja 500 happened under the leadership of new CEO Roger Norman.
We had the chance to sit down with Norman a few months ago and talk to him about his new ideas for off-road racing. Norman spoke about expanded entertainment during tech and contingency, new safety measures, and off-road racing's popularity potential with worldwide television coverage. Days later, Norman was on the road heading south to lay out the Baja 500 course and coordinate the logistics.
Even with new ideas in mind, Norman hasn't forgotten SCORE's heritage or the hard work of his predecessor. To honor former SCORE president Sal Fish, Norman offered Fish the grand marshal's chair for this year's 500.
So how did it go? Tech and contingency were a big street party, as always. Added elements, such as a freestyle motocross demonstration, gave attendees that much more reason to be there. Safety measures included qualifying for the Trophy Truck and Class One divisions, ensuring that the fastest teams would be out in front instead of trying to thread their way around slower competitors. Another significant safety measure was to have the Sportsman motorcycle and ATV classes run an abbreviated course, a move that put even the slower bike and ATV racers well ahead of the trucks and buggies.
Is off-road racing a mainstream American sport? Not yet, but there's no doubt of its rising prominence. We were surprised the other day in the supermarket, as a visit to the newsstand found Trophy Truck racer "Ballistic" B.J. Baldwin on the cover of DUB magazine. Strange, but true! It's doubtful that off-road racing will replace traditional American stick-and-ball games, but we think the day will come when the average citizen will understand the difference between a Trophy Truck and a Monster Truck. Just wait.
We'd be remiss not to mention the overall results. Robby Gordon put his Speed Energy Trophy Truck at the top of the four-wheeled field. The mid-engine, V-drive truck debuted in 2003, and its competitiveness today shows just how good it was from the beginning. Gordon's effort was hard-fought, topping Second Place was Baldwin, and Third Place Bryce Menzies by just a few minutes.
Each year, a different theme arises following the race. For 2013, it was the year of the smooth transition.


ENSENADA, Mexico, Sept. 12, 2013 – Baja California Tourism welcomes visitors to the sixth annual Baja Seafood Expo, held in Ensenada Sept. 18-22, 2013 in conjunction with the 35th Fish and Seafood Festival on Sept. 22. The five-day expo is a joint effort between the state’s government, seafood producers and suppliers, environmental authorities and restaurants throughout Baja California to highlight the city’s largest industry. Offering attendees educational and business development opportunities, this event unites the leaders of Baja California’s seafood industry and international buyers, while also celebrating Ensenada’s local culinary scene and popular pastime, sportfishing, with competitive events.

As the premier forum for fishing and aquaculture in northwest Mexico, the Baja Seafood Expo is the largest trade event of its kind on the Pacific Coast, immersing local producers in the international seafood business while showcasing the vast variety of seafood harvested in Ensenada. Among the dozens of abundant species that are commercially fished in Ensenada, abalone, sea cucumbers, yellowtail and geoduck clams are also some of the most demanded seafood in the world. In 2012, the event featured more than 50 different species of fish, and approximately 230 meetings were arranged between 43 producers and 24 buyers, half of which traveled from Beijing, Shanghai, Taiwan, Canada and several major U.S. cities. 

Hosted at Playa Hermosa in Ensenada, a city well known for an extensive coastline, the Baja Seafood Expo begins on Sept. 18 with the fifth annual International Symposium of Aquaculture Health and Safety. The two-day educational event featuring experts from Europe and the United States sharing insights and tips for competing in the international seafood market while maintaining the safety and health of Mexico’s marine environments. Throughout the entire event, hundreds of buyers and industry insiders from around the world, including Thailand, Japan and China, will participate in workshops, seminars and roundtable discussions on topics such as health, safety, sustainability and financial aspects of the seafood industry. 
The event opens to the public on Sept. 20, kicking off with a lecture and ribbon-cutting ceremony with Nuria Urquía Fernández, Mexico’s representative for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and concludes with the Fish and Seafood Festival, on Sunday, Sept. 22. Consumers can sample fresh seafood from more than 40 local restaurants, and cheer on the region’s most prominent chefs when they are recognized in the awards ceremony at the conclusion of a two-day Gastronomic Competition, an Iron Chef-inspired contest featuring mystery seafood items as key ingredients. 

For attendees seeking a competition they can be a part of, the expo will also host the inauguration and award ceremonies for the International Circuit Sportfishing Tournament. The tournament begins on Sept. 20 and is open to the public. Those interested in participating can register at 2 p.m. on Sept. 20 at Ventana al Mar Esplanade in Ensenada. Participants compete in various categories of fishing for a grand prize of $300,000 pesos (approximately $25,000 USD).

“Each year, the Baja Seafood Expo continues to attract more international attendees and introduce new buyers and industry experts to the broad range of exceptional seafood available in our region,” said Baja California State Tourism Secretary Juan Tintos Funcke. “Attendees not only learn about the latest industry trends, but they can also taste our region’s freshest high-quality seafood, masterfully prepared by Baja’s top chefs, and experience the excitement of one of our biggest annual sportfishing tournaments.” 
More information about the Baja Seafood Expo, including event pricing and a full schedule, please visit For more information about Baja California, visit 

About Baja California 

Located just south of San Diego, Baja California, Mexico offers stunning Pacific Ocean beaches, warm waters of the Sea of Cortez, forests, mountains, deserts and bays. The state’s five municipalities, Ensenada, Mexicali, Playas de Rosarito, Tecate and Tijuana, have unparalleled landscapes of tremendous beauty. Visitors can enjoy a variety of attractions including sport fishing, bike riding, off road racing as well as explore the missions, cave paintings, wine country, and more. Visit, follow us on Twitter at discoverbaja, and like us on Facebook.

About Ensenada
The third largest city in Baja California and one of Mexico’s key Pacific ports, Ensenada provides the quintessential coastal Mexico experience and the gateway to Mexico’s premier wine country. First discovered in 1542, Ensenada began as a small fishing village and remains a world-class fishing destination today. Excursion tours in Ensenada Bay from January through March offer some of the best views of grey whales passing through from their calving grounds further south, while surfing and scuba diving are also popular aquatic activities. The city’s abundant seafood fills the legendary open air fish market on the boardwalk, as well as several revered fish taco and ceviche stands. Guests can enjoy fine dining and wines in the city, or journey east to Baja’s wine country, which produces 90 percent of Mexico’s wine. Ensenada’s rugged terrain make it an ideal starting and stop point for the famous SCORE Baja 500 and Baja 1000 off-road races. Visit for more information.

Tribute To Peggy Lee Brings Hollywood Glamor To Rosarito Beach

Oct. 26 Tribute To Peggy Lee Brings Hollywood Glamor To Rosarito Beach

ROSARITO BEACH, BAJA CALIFORNIA, MEXICO---An Oct. 26 charity tribute to famed singer/actress Peggy Lee will bring an evening of Hollywood-style glamor to the historic Rosarito Beach Hotel & Resort, a famed playground to the stars.

Award-winning cabaret star Stacy Sullivan will present in "A Tribute To Miss Peggy Lee" starting at 6 pm in the hotel's Salon Mexicano ballroom.

Prior to the concert, an auction will take place featuring original works by some of Baja's best artists. Also being presented at the auction will be unique, rare tequilas from a private special collection, as well as authentic Peggy Lee memorabilia.

Proceeds from the event will be designated to build a new dormitory, classroom and kitchen for the children at Baja's Los Angelitos Orphanage. The event is sponsored by Peggy Lee Associates, LLC, the Rosarito Beach Hotel & Resort and the Baja Blues Fest Organization.

Ticket prices are $25 and $40. Ticket information is available online at Tickets will also be available at Baja Real Estate Mall and Click, located in Puerto Nuevo at KM 44.4, Rosarito Beach.

Seating is limited. Business casual or evening attire is suggested. Other information as well as room reservations are available

Born in 1920, Miss Lee had a career as a singer, songwriter and actress that spanned six decades. Perhaps best known for her rendition of the song "Fever," Miss Lee recorded dozens of albums and singles, as well as co-writing the songs for the movie "Lady and The Tramp" among others.

As well as that Disney movie, her film credits include "Jazz Singer" and "Pete Kelly's Blues. She received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995 and was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1999.
Stacy Sullivan, the tribute's star who is making her first appearance in Mexico, was named 2013 Female Vocalist of the Year from the Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs.

She has appeared in venues around the world, from The Brasserie Zedel in London to The Cafe Carlyle in New York. "A Tribute to Miss Peggy Lee" is an interpretive musical exploration of Miss Lee's extraordinary career as a singer, songwriter and actress.

Clive Davis, of The London Times wrote: "A commanding, willowy presence, Sullivan captures that rare combination of worldliness and vulnerability."

Jamie Alcroft, an American comedian and voice actor will entertain as the master of ceremonies for "A Tribute to Miss Peggy Lee." He was half of the comedy duo Mack & Jamie for over 25 years.

The Rosarito Beach Hotel & Resort, 30 miles south of San Diego, is a Baja landmark that has hosted millions of visitors since opening in 1925, including stars such as Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth, Britney Spears and recently Robert Redford.

With almost 500 rooms and suites, its amenities include restaurants, bars, an elegant spa, plus a wide beach with horseback and ATV riding available. The resort has its own fishing pier, and two children under 12 can always stay free in their parent's room at the family-friendly hotel.

The Rosarito Beach Hotel & Resort is totally self-contained yet only a short stroll from the heart of the city's downtown tourist district. The hotel offers stays to fit a range of budgets.