La Bufadora Pulled In Four Directions

That’s how many factions are trying to get it. Here’s your tip sheet so you can place your bets on who wins
BY: BRYAN ROCK

Since 2013, there has been a conflict over the land at La Bufadora and five eviction attempts later, there is still no solution. The bad publicity is threatening to drive tourism away.

La Bufadora is a sea based geyser (or “blowhole”), with spectacular displays of ocean water forced into a narrow rock formation that, due to wave action, forces the water way up in the air. Nearly 400,000 people flock to this display of nature’s power each year, spending about $5 million in the town of Ensenada, and on the Punta Banda Peninsula just south of Ensenada.

The location is also blessed by a beautiful view of the ocean from the 80 foot high cliffs.  It is a spectacular site, not only because of the seawater shooting upwards to more than 100 feet, but also because that unique phenomenon creates an overpowering and thunderous rumble as well. Due to its status as one of the largest blow holes in North America, as well as to its location in a uniquely gorgeous geographical location, it ranks as a major tourist attraction for northern Baja, even attracting bus loads of tourists off the cruise ships.

This attraction has been luring tourists for decades, but its luster has been tarnished since 2013 because of intense fighting over who owns the land fronting this miracle of nature. And who will cash in on that 5 million.

There have been grim protests, blockades and demonstrations. There have been chains stretched across the access road, old tires stacked up, and lines of police hiding behind shields for protection. The police, the Army and the Navy have been asked to get the vendors out, but with no success.

There used to be nobody on the land in front of the blow hole. Back in the early 70’s, you could camp right out on the dirt where the 156 vendors now man their trinket booths. There was nobody there. Then a peddler of souvenirs showed up to cash in on the occasional tourist who wandered by. His success encouraged more peddlers with more trinkets who also squatted on the land. And then this wondrous feature was included in cruise ship day trips and it was suddenly Katie bar the door, because the hordes were over running the Boof.

In 2010, the Ejido called Esteban Cantu claimed ownership of the property as being theirs since 1971. An ejido is land owned in common by several or many families, similar to Indian reservation in the U.S. A court ruled in the ejido’s favor and ordered that an eviction could be legally executed. Some of the 156 merchants have subsequently been evicted successfully, but others, mostly from the souvenir shops and food vending kiosks, have resisted eviction attempts five times already, as of this writing. (The stacks of old tires and chains, remember?) These squatters are also fond of displaying banners accusing the ejido of corruption. They have been known to confront authorities with machetes, knives and baseball bats. They are good at getting public sympathy with their banners and poor little me story that they are just trying to earn a living, making the ejido the obvious bogeyman.

Now enter the Baja California government into the spat. The state has grandiose plans to push the squatters out and build a “world-class” resort on the ejido land. The state government pushed the ejido to proceed with evictions. The state would like to see La Bufadora compete with major tourist attractions around the world and this requires the gentrification of the entire 490 acres the ejido sits on, although only about four acres are prime ocean front.

And now here comes Fonatur galloping in to muddy the waters even further. Fonatur is the federal agency created some 40 years ago to take land through eminent domain, install infrastructure like sewer, electricity, and roads, and then sell off chunks of it to resort developers. Fonatur is responsible for jump starting development in such areas as Cabo San Lucas, Cancun, and Loreto. Fonatur is one of the most corrupt agencies in Mexico, and land deals always provide plenty of room for that kind of maneuvering. Fonatur is not enhancing the already suspect transparency of this deal, they are actually stinking it up further.

Fonatur doesn’t do anything on a small scale, there are already blue prints for a casino, a high rise hotel, high end retail shops, a nearby golf course, and even a helipad. And they have tossed in space for the current squatters to rent space for their trinkets. Of course this is not going to placate them, because they don’t want to pay any rent, even if it’s nicer digs than their make shift ramshackle lean toos.

So who is going to end up with this land? The courts have already ruled that the ejido folks own it, but they still don’t control it. The squatters are still there, and the ejido people are not. Nor does the state have control over it. And Fonatur, the dark horse in this race, is coming up the back stretch, gaining on everyone else in the field.. Lay your bets down on your favorite in this race, but remember, this is Mexico and justice seldom makes it to the finish line first. ,