San Felipe Writers

San Felipe Writers

SECOND CHANCE could be your best chance!

CENTAVO’S TWO CENTS

It is a sad day. My favorite pair of jeans has refused to fit me. No matter how hard I try to pry myself into them. We have been together for a long time. Now it seems “fitting” to sadly deliver them to a place where they can be worn and loved by someone…ok…I will say it….”skinnier”.

Many women here have had the luxury of very nice clothing, brand labels. It takes a long time to part with items that look good on us. We have to talk ourselves out of things. Especially clothing that is hanging in our bulging closets, waiting for the moment to be worn again. Clothing and shoes don’t talk. But all those years ago they distinctly said, “You look hot darling!” when you gazed into your full-length mirror. Right? The word “hot” faded into some other word as time meandered viciously around your aging body. The word “seriously?…” comes to mind. Yeah? Right.

Fortunately for me and all those other women (and men!), about three years ago a group of women living here had an idea. Every once in a while the female gender needs what has been called “retail therapy”…yes even in our little village. Women just have to go look at clothes, shoes, linens, often. Even if they don’t buy anything, it just makes them feel good. The group’s idea was to open a really nice resale store, so they drew up a plan, recruited five daytime managers, found a suitable location, donated their own time, labor, and money for start-up costs, and opened Second Chance, a 100% volunteer- and donation-based resale store. All items in the store are donated and all proceeds after meeting expenses are “paid forward” to the community.

At first, Second Chance donated all of its proceeds to VIVA [Volunteers for Indigent and Vulnerable Animals], to help with its spay and neuter and education programs. At the end of its first year, Second Chance realized it was far more successful than it had ever imagined, and the decision was made to share its good fortune not only with VIVA but with other local causes and organizations. Some of those include the Cancer Society, Cruz Roja, Volunteers Without Limits, C.A.M., K.O.Hambre, San Felipe United, both orphanages, and the San Felipe Rowing Team. It can be said that Second Chance is really making a difference!

One of Second Chance’s managers speaks to me in a back room where every item is meticulously checked, hung up, and made ready for sale. Donations of items come in regularly and they must be dealt with. Volunteers take button replacement and simple sewing needs home. Efficiency is paramount and from my view things get done fast. Some clothing and household items not appropriate for Second Chance will be sent to other organizations such as Volunteers Without Limits or to other local segundas. It is unusual to have to throw things away. People who are donating understand that everything should be clean and gently used.

It is volunteers that keep the shop new and lively. It is volunteers that keep the clothes, shoes, and small household items neatly stacked and displayed. Racks, shelves, and tables have been either donated or built. Most maintenance and repairs are done by the enthusiastic husband of one of the managers. The volunteers here seem to be having all the fun. Really. I am told that and I imagine it is true.

Second Chance has morphed into a place where everything that was once old is new again to someone else. It has become a very social place. The community walks in and out with lovely things.

Prices are pleasingly low. This was done deliberately to encourage a quick turnover of items and to entice everyone in this village to consider shopping here. It is catching on. Local shoppers tell their friends the drive out from town is worth it. It is tempting for them to keep the place secret.

Very reasonable price lists hang on the walls. You need not ask for more discounts because you can’t do any better without feeling guilty.

Let me give you examples: Dresses, jackets, and swimwear list at $6.00 per item. Sweaters and tops, a mere $5.00…shorts $4.00.

The managers of Second Chance know the value of good marketing and display. Right now it’s Christmas in the store…and yes, there are Christmas items to buy.

A local artist who used one of the manager’s clever designs painted the outside of the building. This has made finding the store easy… and has brought in many more customers. In fact, it has motivated other shop owners to “dress up” the outside of their buildings as well. All the colors of the buildings are delightful as you drive into our wonderful town.

There is nothing like going to a place of comfort. It is a wonderful store to try things on in private. Delectable fragrance fills the air, jewelry sparkles and shoes beg you to try them Go ahead…you deserve it.

There are many stories to be told here. I will keep you posted on those later. Just know that your money will go far here and a lovely present of love will cost little.

I could be sad about my jeans. But they will belong to someone else… all good.

Centavo’s Wise Words: If the shoe fits… try another pair on!

 

SECOND CHANCE could be your best chance!

IS THE SAUCE THE SECRET?

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Joe Alexander and Jody Michele. Photo by Centavo

Centavo’s Two Cents.

Rumors in San Felipe are always very interesting. Did you ever play that telephone game where the last person reveals what has been said around the circle? Yeah…I know …good luck with that. It is never remotely what was said in the beginning of the game.

I thought about the telephone game when I had heard a rumor that a new barbecue restaurant was coming to our seaside village… not just any barbeque joint but an “award winning one”. In fact, the proprietor Joe Alexander had won numerous awards for his finger lickin’ entries.

This is not the South… award winning barbeque? I think not. Someone pointed to the location where it would be…right on our Malecon!

Still I was not convinced.

True, it looked like the building was going through some renovation. I decided I should watch their progress.

Sure enough a Red SMOKIN JO’S AWARD WINNING BBQ sign appeared after several days of stalking the area.

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Photo by Centavo

Somehow I missed what is called a “soft opening’’ of the restaurant. If you are not familiar with that term it means come and get free samples. I never miss an opportunity like this. I was told later that the opening was a success… lots of napkins needed…delicious.

A few days later my partner said… “I’m going into town. Shall I stop at that new barbeque place you have been obsessing about?”

I stayed by the window till she came home.

When she arrived she had a large brown paper bag emblazoned with the Smokin’ Jo moniker. That’s classy I thought.

She knew to bring me samples of everything. We sat and devoured the bags contents… except she forgot to add barbeque sauce of choice to the pulled pork sandwiches. “ Don’t eat those”, I said in a panic.” We’ll go tomorrow and get the sauce.”
And so we did.

Joe Alexander has lived in San Felipe for twelve years. He remembers the trips his father took here when he was a boy. He liked San Felipe so much he retired here.

Jody Michele is his business partner. She oversaw the renovations. She knew exactly what the interior needed. Jody is a tiny thing in stature but she was from New York, the city in fact. She had gone to culinary school and considers herself an able interior decorator. If I were still teaching she would have gotten an A Plus for both.

I am from New York and I was reduced with joy to mimic her accent.
You get the idea that Jody is no nonsense… but the twinkle in her eyes reveal she is kind.

I think it is wrong in someway to be cooking barbeque outside of your restaurant. People must pass its tempting fragrance daily. You find you can be in a trance about the smell and find yourself at their door before the place opens…a barbeque addiction…truly.

The restaurant business is a tough nut to crack. 90 % of these endeavors fail within a short amount of time…so this is risky.

Joe and Jody are convinced that they have a good product, location and service. I must agree.

Originally they had thought they would just serve take- out. But the ocean view called for people to sit and linger and ask for more napkins.

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Photo by Centavo

Yes, Joe took first place in the challenging Best In The West Rib Fest in Sparks, Nevada. He has numerous awards for his barbeque. This festival has been going on for 28 years and is the largest Barbeque contest in America… so the judges have already applauded what you will be eating when you arrive. Just eat it and be grateful.

Joe tells me a quick story about his father emotionally adopting a young boy and raising him here in this town. Years passed and Joe was eager to find this person… a grown man. He found him and now he and his relatives run the restaurant in tandem with Joe and Jody. No one is beyond the hard work it takes to run a successful business. They are family.

I was thinking about future summers and stopping in for pulled pork sandwiches. But Joe and his barbeque family travel around the country during that time to the barbeque fairs that will bring more awards. I look sadly at their outdoor barbeque smoker.

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Photo by Centavo

I asked Joe what it feels like to run a restaurant where you look straight at the ocean all day long. He replied,” It doesn’t get any better than this.”

Neither does his barbeque.

Stop by…Wednesday through Sunday 11 am to 7pm… Can’t miss the red sign on the east end of the Malecon! Bring friends!

You can probably talk them into catering your next celebration.

His award winning barbeque sauces are on sale too.

Centavo’s Wise Words: Food is love…but don’t talk with your mouth full.

 

IS THE SAUCE THE SECRET?

Tougher Than We Think

If you care you can leave a comment at the end of this article. I do read every one and answer as many as possible.

 

A few years ago while driving into town I noticed a big green plant that seemed to be growing, no not growing, thriving between the north and southbound lanes of the highway. Nothing else for several yards in front of or behind this beautiful green plant it stood in the stark dry, sandy area only inches from cars, pickups and trucks as they raced by. I never took the time to stop and really look at this seemingly out of place plant as I would drive by on my way to a fro. Then one day as it matured and took on the look of a more mature plant I realized why it looked so familiar. I made a promise to myself that on the way home I would stop and take a closer look. I pulled into the Llantera (tire shop) across the road and taking my life into my own hands I dashed across the highway to inspect this out of place familiar plant. The closer I got to it the more I was sure that my suspicions were correct. A cotton plant had somehow managed to survive in the most unfriendly of places. But a cotton plant? Here?

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Photo by Dario de Baja

I stood there in skeptical disbelief that this cotton plant, the same type cotton plant I had raised as a farmer could possibly be, well, here! It must have come from a wayward lost seed perhaps carried by a bird and dropped here in this highly unlikely spot. In my past life as a farmer my main crop for years and years was cotton. I would fertilize at just the right time, irrigate with just enough water to satisfy its needs but not saturate the ground causing the soil to become over saturated which can cause all sorts of other problems and issues. I would spray with just the right amount and correct herbicides and apply just the right amount of insecticide to keep pests at bay. Nights of good rest were lost wondering how high winds, hail, too much rain, etc. might affect my oh so fragile cotton crop.

Finally freeing myself of that life of non stop crop babysitting, I am here in this non too friendly plant life environment only to find a healthy, vibrant, thriving cotton plant thumbing its nose at all that nature and non stop traffic can dish out. Nary a drop of irrigation water, certainly no fertilizer applications, and as far pests who knows what was attacking it. Car exhaust and being run over a few times seemed to only strengthen this stubborn plant’s resolve to survive. Shaking my head again in disbelief I carefully made my way back to my car to undoubtedly think about this single plant for a long while.

Every time I would drive by my cotton plant I would say hello, tip my hat and wish it well for I did feel that at some level we had much in common. Then one day while driving by saying a quick hello I find a few cotton blooms that are the precursor to soon to come cotton bowls. Stopping to inspect my friendly green giant I felt a certain kinship with it.

Several weeks passed, when one day there they were. Beautiful cotton bowls full of the fluffy white fruit that would soon open completely just waiting for someone to pluck them from its strong limbs. I began wondering what was going to happen to this plant if no one came along to harvest its bounty. Of course optimum harvest day came and went and the still full bowls waited. Eventually, the over mature bowls dried up as nature intended and dropped to the ground looking almost like a small snow storm had occurred. So, I thought to myself this is what happens when nature is left to her own resources and full maturity is allowed to occur without human intervention. This is nature as it was intended to be I suppose.

Then one day I saw a group of workers diligently working to clean up the median between the north and south bound lanes. They were busy picking up debris and some trash that had accumulated over a period of time. I stopped where they were working and asked if they could spare my cotton plant from the sickle. A little surprised by my request they assured me they would work around my green buddy that had worked so hard to survive for so long. Going by a couple of days later I was almost afraid to look to see if they had kept their promise. Sure enough there was an area of perhaps four feet around that was completely undisturbed. This old farmer in me felt so excited that I was successful in saving a life even though it was one that could not speak; and yet we seemed to be communicating on some level.

I decided that I should stop and pickup some of the cotton, the gift this out of the way plant had offered me. Not sure why I felt I needed to accept these bowls, this fruit from my buddy except that in accepting them I would make its life, its difficulties and suffering to survive worth the pain it took to bring these bowls to maturity for me. If I could not appreciate its efforts then who would?

Puling off the road I filled a couple shopping bags with the soft white bowls, all while cars were whizzing by with people in them I am sure wondering what that obviously crazy Gringo was doing. Do not ask me why doing this seemed so important but it did. Less than a week later I received my answer as another group of workers came by and cut my plant to the ground not leaving even a hint that a brave, vibrant life had ever existed on that spot. To say I was sad would be an understatement. I am sure a little moisture fell on this old farmer’s cheeks as I slowly drove by looking at the now clean and seemingly sanitized spot where I felt a kinship few would understand. But gone it was. Driving home slowly I suddenly realized that I had the answer to why I had collected those cotton bowls and protected them from all harm. The answer was in my rear view mirror. Looking back I could still see that barren area but now knowing that I had the bowls, and so, an undetermined amount of seeds from my plant. Yes, my tough old, and apparently wise green buddy had gifted me with seeds to carry on his legacy if he would cease to exist.

Getting home I set out trying to find where I stored those cotton bowls. I remember thinking they would have to be stored in a cool dry place. But where? Looking and looking I only found my exasperation when the bowls were no place to be found. Okay I told myself, they will show up sooner or later. I cannot plant them until March or April anyway so there is no real hurry.

About a month later as I was looking for a pair of pliers there those white bowls were right where I had left them. The reason for needing pliers was lost in my excitement of having located my long lost treasures.

As I was picking through the cotton to remove the seeds I kept thinking about where these life giving seeds came from. I felt honored to be a part of what might be a way to complete the circle of life. My idea of course was to plant some of the seeds to see if I could be a conduit in trying to close the loop on the circle.

The day came and my wife and I planted just a few of those special seeds. Some were planted in a flower garden type area where the new plantings would enjoy the morning sun but would be shaded from the hot summer blaze that August and September might bring. We planted them approximately one foot apart, and then three in three separate fairly large flower pots.

The seeds that I planted at our ranch in the Fresno area were acid delinted, which means that all the lint was removed from the seeds using a special process and then of course treated with other products to make certain they would nearly all germinate or sprout and then hopefully mature into healthy full size cotton plants. These seeds of mine had none of the tender loving care usually bestowed on the seeds of which I was familiar.

But I thought, I have little to loose by dropping them in the ground at the right time and then keeping them damp. I really had very little expectation that they would grow. And if they did grow beyond a seedling just how hardy could they possibly be?

Well, my answer came soon enough as tiny plants almost simultaneously poked their tender heads out of the dirt in the flower garden at first, but then the flower pot plants showed signs of life too! I could see the growth almost daily as they seemed try to reach the warmth of the springtime sun. Their hardiness was never in question. As it turned out all of the seeds planted germinated and became full size adult plants.

Then one evening as I pulled into the driveway my headlights revealed a beautiful flower on one of the plants. This is a sure sign that cotton will be coming soon. At this time, I am still waiting not so patiently for the first bowl to be formed. I feel almost like a father expecting a newborn, but not knowing when it will happen.

I began thinking about that hardy cotton plant standing tall and proud fighting against all odds that it could, it would, survive no matter what obstacle it might encounter. The more obstacles it faced the tougher it became until that once little seedling grew tall and mighty finally doing what it was meant to do. Create seeds to carry on the legacy of that one lost cotton seed that became a mighty plant that would not be destroyed.

Maybe the story of that one wayward and lost cotton seed that fulfilled its mission creating more seeds to carry on is similar to our own lives. We have all overcome some situations that at the time may have seemed so dire, so impossible that we wanted to just give up, shrivel up and die. But something inside of us would not commit to being defeated. Somehow we carried on in our natural attempt to close that circle of life we have been given. I for one believe that circle is worth fighting for never quitting until the two lines meet. For just like the cotton plant we are all much tougher, more driven, more able to overcome than anyone including ourselves would have ever believed.

Now for the rest of the story! Just a few days ago while driving into town I happened to take special notice of the ground where my plant once lived. And there, just barely coming out of the ground were three little leaves solidly attached to a large root still stuck deep in the soil the workers had left behind.

So I suppose the circle of that plants life is not only complete, but now it has a whole new life of its own and will grow meeting new challenges and obstacles but now armed with the knowledge that it will and can overcome whatever may come its way.

What a life lesson this has been for me! Such a positive message from a seed that was never meant to be there much less grow into a plant that would spawn the lives of so many others to come.

I hope this Christmas season brings you happiness and joy. I also hope that the blessings you receive might be passed on to others needing a little help. Maybe, just maybe, we can help someone fill in a few lines or connect some dots in their efforts to fulfill their goal of completing their circle of life.
Greetings and Merry Christmas to everyone from a place I always love to be.

This is my special place.

My Little Village by the Sea

Dario de Baja

Christmas In A Small Pueblo

Have spent Christmas in many places in this world; Germany, Korea, Vietnam, many locations in the US.

Mexico is different; it is still a very religious season here. Not quite the dizzying commercial whirlwind as in the US. There is gift giving and parties; some decorations usually of the Holy Family and now the people living close to the US or who have been to the US are adopting US style decorations for their houses including Christmas trees. Still the season is mostly a religious one.

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The usual first celebration is on December 12th, the day of the Virgin of Guadalupe is honored. The Virgin is a symbol that all of Mexico seems to accept as their own, her image is on everything; bags, buses, cars, houses and in shrines, in homes, businesses it seems her likeness is everywhere.

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Originally the Virgin of Guadalupe appeared before Juan Diego, a Mexican indigenous and honorable man. She is the most prominent and respected religious symbol in Mexico.

On or near the date of 12 December there will be found pilgrims making a pilgrimage to a church or shrine and these groups of pilgrims can get very large. Some walk, some run, some bicycle for miles forming a long line to the chosen destination.

Some people carry homemade banners and others carry elaborate ones while some others will carry her image to be blessed by the priest. Some pilgrims sing or pray as they move along others are in respectful silence.

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Virgin of Guadalupe Pilgrimage

When they arrive at their destination, a church or shrine, there is a mass and a blessing of the people. The site is bright with lights and candles and some people get very emotional.

This small town has its own event at the local church which isn’t old, as far as churches go in Mexico, which have churches going back to the  Conquistadors. We do have a shrine near the lighthouse on its own hill, people use to venerate the Virgin.

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Traditional Christmas Posadas

One other custom of the season is the Posadas. While in the Yucatan I saw first hand a local Posada. It was several local children going together from house to house singing Christmas songs and carrying palm leaves. One child carried a small container and people would come out of their houses and drop a few coins in their little box or can after they had sung a few songs.

I scurried about finding coins and made sure they were Mexican Pesos and when they came to my house they looked a little puzzled as whether I knew what they were doing. When I came out with my sweater and scarf on and greeted them in Spanish they began to sing and smile.

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Traditional Christmas Posadas

When I dropped the coins in their little box they all looked in it and were smiling so I guess I did it right. In other parts of Mexico the Posada is more traditional and quite elaborate. A boy and a girl are selected to play Mary and Joseph and they dress in costumes and Mary rides a donkey led by Joseph from house to house looking for a place to stay for the night like in the bible, only they are followed by children and adults. Some singing goes on and eventually they reach the last house and are allowed in and there is a party with music and food that goes on for hours.

This little pueblo sometimes does this or a limited version of it but it is in the Barrios of the town. I sometimes wish they would come out to the Gringo homes but most are far out of town and that would be a problem for them to get to.

Soon in the stores and pastry shops, large rings made of bread like cake and dried fruits will be for sale. They are called Rosca de Reyes. I always buy one or two to share with friends and neighbors.

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Rosca de Reyes

Tradition, I’m told, is that if you find a little plastic figure in your portion you are the lucky one that throws a party next year. I wonder if this is true or not? I don’t care, having a party is a good thing and finding a little plastic baby in your cake is a nice surprise.

The longer I live in Mexico the more I learn about the culture, traditions, history and language(s). I am endlessly fascinated with Mexico. The many Fiestas, national holidays and accompanying customs provide a living classroom to learn about Mexico and her people. Their patience and openness with me has provided a wonderful adventure and keeps me stimulated to learn more.

I hope your Christmas season is as charming as mine in this little pueblo on the coast of the Sea of Cortez, adios.

You can read more stories by Julia Arnold in her blog HERE >>

Not Better Not Worse…Just Different

If you care you can leave a comment at the end of this article. I do read every one and answer as many as possible.

Not Better Not Worse…Just Different

I do understand how people unfamiliar with how things are done in Baja may have some instances of near insanity trying to figure it all out. Or at least trying to understand the why’s the why not’s and the where for’s. I’ve learned to stop the insanity and for the most part just go with the flow!

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Photo by Dario de Baja

For example, several years ago I was in need of a set of tires for one of our vehicles. This is not a unit that is driven with much frequency or many miles, so I opted for a set of good used tires. I found exactly what I wanted, a price was agreed upon and so the tires were mounted on my rims. I noticed that they had not balanced the tires. I was told that they didn’t do that at most “tire shops”.

Okay, so where do I go get them balanced? The owner told me to go to the local alignment and balance shop which is about a half mile down the road. I half jokingly said “so you sell me the tires, you mount the tires, you put the tires on my vehicle and now I have to go to another shop to have them removed and balanced?”

“Yes!” he said as if that is the only way he’s ever considered doing it. It didn’t really upset me too much because, well, face it what else do I really have to do. So I think to myself, let’s see how this odyssey plays out. Shaking my head and laughing in disbelief I pay the man and head on down the road in pursuit of that elusive tire balancing machine.

Pulling into the shop I explained my needs and he said he could do it right away. He drove my car up on the lift and they begin removing the rims that were just installed at the nearby tire shop. The right rear however was installed so tightly, their air tools could not remove the nuts from the wheel. Okay, I can take it back over there to have them loosen up the nuts with their obviously steroid laced impact wrench. I excused myself for a bit to use the restroom. When I returned all four wheels are now back on the car. I asked them if they’d balanced the other three already and they said that no, they would balance them all at once. Again my head is shaking and my lips are smiling, albeit a little less than last time.

Arriving at the tire shop the owner comes over, I explain the situation and he says that yes, sometimes his guys go overboard on tightening the nuts. I asked him what I would have done if I would have had a flat and needed to change the tire. He again with a straight face just handed me a business card and said “you can always call us. We make house and roadside repairs.” Wow! What a deal. Tighten up the nuts so tight you can’t remove them without help from a professional with an impact wrench having drug issues. Suddenly all stops! What the he**? Oh a Taco truck has just pulled up outside. Not wanting to take a chance on getting trampled I step aside and let the herd pass. By the way…excellent tacos!

Back at the alignment and balance shop they successfully remove all four tires in attempt to balance them. All goes fine except for one that they can’t seem to balance. They work on it for a long while and finally explain that the tire is faulty. Okay, this time not smiling I tell them to put the tire back on and I make the now very familiar trek back to the tire shop. Explaining the situation the owner finally relents, finding another tire and does what I ask him to do with nary a smile on my face. I tried but it just would not come!

While putting the replacement tire on my car I remind them not to over tighten the lug nuts. This was not received with the greatest of appreciation. But to be honest with you I had pretty much lost the ability to smile and be nice.

Back to the alignment shop I go, knowing that the State Police or some other law enforcement agency was probably watching this obviously drug dealing American go back and forth all morning long between auto shops in an effort to thwart and confuse their keen sense of money and drug laundering going on between two rivals. Ah yes, finally a smile appears!

The alignment shop now has a stall with my name on it. I pull onto the rack and four workers jump on the task at hand. But not before that damned taco truck shows up. Is he following me? After a short break and a few tacos they get the job done in no time.

He even threw in a front end alignment for all my trouble. Perhaps the quivering lips and bloody red eyes had a role in his decision. Anyway, when they were finished he took it out for a test run. Upon returning he says that he thinks I have another bad tire that needs to be replaced. His timing was that of a talented comedian as a smile came across his lips when he said “just joking compadre! All is good!”

Four tires balanced and a front end alignment for $200.00 pesos. That’s about $14.00 US at the time. And yes, my smile returned!

Just remember, these things while perhaps not being correct or lacking common sense in our past lives are just how things are done here in our little village. The fact that we have to come to terms with is that we are probably not going to change a culture overnight; maybe we’ll never succeed in that effort. But we should be cautious in our attempts to change too much of what we might find silly or downright stupid lest we find we have replaced their culture and their values with what we all came here to try to escape. You know the old saying “we have found the enemy and it is us!”

So perhaps let my story be a backdrop next time you find yourself in what you might consider a catch 22 situation or something so plainly stupid or so idiotic you feel the need to lash out. Bite your tongue if you have to; not someone else’s. Smile if you can knowing that the sun will come up over our beautiful Sea of Cortez tomorrow morning and the waves will still be lapping at your toes as you plop your ass down in the sand of our special place.

Do yourself and everyone here a favor. Leave your emotional baggage at the border along with your predetermined ideas about how, based upon your previous life we should live out our lives here in our little piece of paradise. These people, the Mexican people, have been muddling through their lives long before we ever arrived and will probably continue after we are less than footnote in history.
For the most part the people that call this place home even for a short while love it for what it is. Is it perfect? No probably not. Part of our blessing is that this place is not for everyone, which is precisely why there is a north and south bound lane coming and going from our damn near perfect place.
Our Little Village by the Sea!

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Photo by Dario de Baja

Dario de Baja

Does This Shrimp Make Me Look Fat?

CENTAVO’S TWO CENTS

Our celebrated 2016 Shrimp Festival has gone in a flash. Early in November, and every year, our seaside village dresses up our Malecon for the expected shrimp crowd. People will descend upon our quaint little fishing town to sample the finest shrimp cooked in a myriad of ways.

The Festival usually runs all day for three days. People come to this event from everywhere. We are famous for this. After all, the fish taco was invented here.

One has to wonder when it was discovered that you could actually eat these bizarre crustaceans? Someone must have pulled one out of the ocean and bravely took a bite. Right? This was long before Sport Fishing and electricity came here…and before you or I were born. It is this action that is revisited with great enthusiasm.

During some point during the festival notorious food judges roam the Malecon sampling concoctions made with shrimp. The best recipes receive trophies of a larger than life size shrimp. They are carved in ironwood and coveted by all who deal in shrimp food. First place is revered in a way that only locals can understand.

I would love to be a shrimp food judge here but I don’t know what criterion gets you there. They have my respect though for this is a tough gig.

When the Shrimp Festival time frame arrived I was in Phoenix and cut my visit short so that I could attend at least one day of the festivities.

On the road to San Felipe people from California, Phoenix, Mexicali, El Centro, Yuma and parts unknown joined me in the trek home. They must have been newbies for they drove with outrageous speed. Ha! I knew there was plenty of shrimp…. but I felt my foot press on the gas pedal…just a little… just in case. A car passed me. He must have been doing 80 miles per hour… and another.

I would like to tell you that I unpacked my car when I arrived home, but I did not.
You could say that my body literally zoomed to the Malecon, which it did.

First stop…colossal blue shrimp stuffed with cream cheese with bacon wrapped around it. Somewhere in the cooking process it is battered…then fried. This is a food miracle I will never understand. I would like to say that I just had one…but that would not be the truth.

Then I see a woman with fried butterfly coconut shrimp on a paper plate. She is walking very fast and eating at the same time. There are plenty of tables to sit but when you are on the move with food…sitting is not an option. I grab her shoulder. I do not know this woman but when she looks into my eyes she knows that she must give me the location of where one can obtain such delicacies. She must act fast. The Malecon is long and there is only so much time to eat shrimp.

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At times people don’t have to use words. Gestures are easier…a shift of their neck pointing to the direction of where one can find the shrimp they are eating is enough. We are veterans of where the best shrimp is waiting for us. We know the unspoken signals.

I become a shrimp detective. I locate all kinds of shrimp like a hound dog. The smells of delicious peppers, onions, chili, cheese, rice and hot sauce permeate the sea air. In my hunting process I have made new friends…I think.

You can be told there are different sizes of shrimp. The brown ones are mediums.  The blue shrimp are colossal. Amazing things can be stuffed into these beauties.  The medium brown ones have the best flavor to me. They are the staple ingredients to most shrimp dinner dishes around here. I am thinking size doesn’t matter….then I become worried that I may not fit into these jeans tomorrow.

Never compare a shrimp cocktail from where you live or lived in the states. Four shrimp smothered in ice and hanging around a glass bowl is hilarious here. Think of an old fashioned ice cream three scoop soda glass filled with…yes well I did count them one time…27 shrimp!!! That is the medium shrimp cocktail size. The juice and veggie items added to it can be slurped up after the shrimp are gone. Delicious and healthy!  You can bet that will fill you up. And yet shrimp is a word that defines something small…go figure.

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Time to Tune Up Your Desert Vehicles

Now that the weather is so nice it’s time to tune up your desert vehicles!

Many people from out of town bring their motor toys down to enjoy some rugged riding. We know how much fun these toys are but safety is always an issue. Ride smart and safely and be considerate and careful when riding the beach.

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If you are going for a desert run it is best to go with two vehicles. You never want to be stuck where you can’t be found.

Time to Tune Up Your Desert Vehicles

Time to Tune Up Your Desert Vehicles

Another Slice of Life in Mexico

As I write this it is the Sunday the day before Revolution Day here in Mexico and the little Pueblo I live in on the shore of the Sea of Cortez, better known to Gringos as the Gulf of California, there was a parade.

This is a very small town with a lot of children and parades are a part of life here as they are all over Mexico. As the young as participants lined up for their part in the parade my mind went back to the first parades I saw in Mexico. I was staying in San Miguel Allende Guanajuato, north of Mexico City.

I was taking my first class in Spanish there and living in a small efficiency apartment. On a weekend I decided to walk from my apartment up the hill past the church and what was a cloister to the “Jardin” or Garden in the center of the town.

I was standing on the corner just south of the “Jardin” when I could hear a parade coming from my left. The music and the fireworks were unmistakable. There were men and women dressed as Aztecs and every once in a while some men dashed forward off the parade with this huge tube that must have been three or four feet long and load it with a rocket and shoot it off towards the sky with a whoosh and loud bang as it exploded above us.

The participants weren’t just marching they were doing an elaborate dance moving in circles and shaking rattles and beating drums as the decorations on their bodies made soft metal sound, it was quite impressive; with huge feather moving up and down on their costumes. I was enthralled at the display and energy of the dancers as the route was all up hill.

Then to my astonishment I heard a similar whoosh and bang and here comes another parade up the hill I had climbed from my right. I wondered if they would meet at this corner I was standing on as the two progressed up the hill one to the right and one to the left. Sure enough they both arrived at the corner on which I and now lots of other people were standing on watching this huge display of energy and beautiful costumes.

I noticed one figure close to me and recognized that he worked in the bank and had helped me just the previous day, now he was in full regalia with a black wig and dancing tirelessly. Somehow the leaders of both parades came together and just how they managed to decide who went first I couldn’t figure out; did they toss a coin, use rock,scissors, paper ? Just that the ones on the right moved ahead while the ones on the left continued to dance and shoot rockets until the ones on the right cleared the way then they too moved on to the big church on the “Jardin”. I felt as though I had witnessed a slice of life in San Miguel.

Back to today’s parade in San Felipe there were no Aztecs, no feathers or rockets it was more home grown with little boys wearing fake mustaches, carrying fake rifles and sporting huge sombreros while proud parents took their photos like parents and grandparents do the world over. The little girls in their revolution dresses and bigger kids in their uniforms were more serious as the drums and bugles played while trucks carried children on decorated floats and waved. It was a grand sight to see. Again I felt that I witnessed another slice of life in Mexico.

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Julia.

Centavo’s Two Cents

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I have lived in our little town of San Felipe for 9 years. You will often here me say these words…”We live here!!!!” I say it all the time with a big smile on my face.

Time has flown. The house is built, the quad purchased, and a plethora of shells have invaded my living space. If it were not for this site I would not have had the pioneering vision that it took to find this diminutive piece of heaven.

There are so many adventures here, so much to do.

In writing this column I hope to tell a few stories, make you laugh, and give you some insight on just what it is that brought me here…and why I plan to stay.

So thank you…The Official San Felipe Web Site, for showing me I could live in Mexico. The mountains, the sea and the night sky are always in my vision.

Who could ask for more than that!

This is going to be fun!

Wise Centavo’s words…
“Go ahead… EAT THE TACO”.