What’s Going On In This Country?

Dear Santiago,

Great stuff in your column on scandals like the teachers union corruption. These are outrages on a par with our invasions and ruinations of the Middle East. Well, almost. At least it proves that Mexico plays like the fat cats. No longer a piddly third world country. Go Mexico!taco_cat_0_0.jpg

Sincerely, sorta,
Albert Simonson

via email


Dear Al,

We always like getting feedback on the news we bring you, but in the future do you think you could leave off with the racist slurs against cats? Sorry if I sound a little defensive, I’m just tired of being the under dog. So to speak.

Thanking you in advance,

Santiago Verdugo


Dear Santiago

We enjoyed seeing the picture of you with your girlfriend in the Gringo Gazette last issue.  She is quite a beauty and you make a handsome couple.

CT and Felina insisted that I send this picture to you because they believe this cat looks a lot like you, possibly one of your progeny?

Keep up the great work with your wonderful column. We hope your well-deserved rewards have been extravagant.

Bonnie, CT, Felina and Dewey Gendron


Dear CT, Felina, Dewey, and mom Bonnie Gendron,

Thank you for the picture. Sure, that could be one of mine, I’ve had a few lost nights in the alleys of Tijuana in my day. Of course that was before I met Fluffy. This handsome young fellow does look like he could be a chip off the old block, that’s for sure.

Santiago Verdugo

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Ensenada restaurant. Located in Valle de Guadalupe, the wine producing area north of Ensenada, the Doña Esthela restaurant was named Best Breakfast in the World by international culinary website and mobile app FoodieHub. The award was presented at the organization’s third annual awards ceremony held in London.

FoodieHub is the largest global network of local food experts, representing over 150 cities around the world. Collectively, these self appointed experts have eaten, photographed, documented and catalogued over 4,000 individual dishes and destination dining recommendations, which are found on the FoodieHub website and app.

FoodieHub CEO Jeffrey Merrihue said, “I had the honor of nominating La Cocina de Doña Esthela for this year’s award. I visited the restaurant a few months prior to the nomination and enjoyed Doña Esthela’s famous machaca con huevos (dried beef with eggs), pan de elote (corn bread) and a sampling of my friend’s chorizo con huevos (spiced sausage with eggs). Well, nothing special there, you can find those dishes in any Mexican diner.

According to FoodieHub honcho Merrihue, “La Cocina de Doña Esthela’s has a solid make it work attitude and ethic - she built her rustic restaurant onto her home as business grew. It’s a beautifully planted and decorated ramshackle - as are all the best spots in Baja California - that provides a glimpse into what her family’s life is like out in the middle of wine country.”

The restaurant is at Rancho San Marcos el Porvenir. From Highway 1 heading north, turn right on the dirt road where signs point to Hacienda la Lomita. Phone 646 156 8453, Facebook: La Cocina de Doña Esthela

Sure is thirsty around here. For the past five years Ensenada’s Guadalupe Valley has become hot – one of the hottest – wine regions in the world, with food and travel writers fueling an explosive growth in upscale wineries, trendy restaurants, and boutique hotels.

But the water table is diminishing, having fallen well below the already paltry 8 to 10 inches annual average rainfall since 2010. Last year saw less than three inches of rain; even the desert that is Las Vegas gets more than inches a year.

The drought has moved the Valle de Guadalupe’s wine industry into survival mode, with owners and growers trying everything they can — from old-fashioned farming techniques to innovative technology to buying up land outside the Valley — to keep the grapes growing and the wine flowing. Like its neighbor California, the Valley is at a crossroads, with the choices made now sure to determine the region’s economic vitality and cultural identity in the coming decades.

“Vines are not endemic to this area and they ask for more water than the Valle de Guadalupe can give,” said Fernando Pérez, owner of two wineries, Hacienda La Lomita and Finca La Carrodilla. “It is our reality and our biggest challenge and the knowledge of that makes us more resilient. But it’s up to us to be creative, to be proactive, to take a sustainable approach to using water.”

With about 80 wineries and more opening every year, the Valley doesn’t seem to be closing the doors on wine making anytime soon. And after years of developing a reputation for risk-taking viniculture, by growing some 50 different grape varietals and by successfully blending mismatched grapes in ways that would make a French vigneron sniff with disdain — will wineries have to start following new rules?

Phil Gregory, a British expat and owner of La Villa del Valle hotel, Corazón de Tierra restaurant, and Vena Cava winery, said, “We have to start choosing what plants to grow, grenache, cinsault, mourvedre,” naming the grapes of France’s southern Rhône. “It’s hot as hell there, you know, in that region. And cabernet is likely to be the first to go. That one, it needs rain,” Gregory said. Stay tuned.

Farm workers win one. The agricultural workers of San Quintin, on strike since April, have finally reached an agreement with their employers and Mexico’s labor ministry.

Depending on the size of their employer’s business, they will now be paid $10, $11 or $12 a day, for a full eight hour shift and the increase is retroactive to May 24. In addition, they will receive a bonus consisting of two weeks of their salary. That’s called aguinaldo, or Christmas bonus, and applies to every employee in Mexico. They will also get their health care benefits and housing benefits that every tax paying Mexican is entitled to and which they have been denied.

Fermín Salazar, spokesman for the workers, said they faced three powerful adversaries who all worked against them: the government itself, through the labor ministry which sided with the farm owners, the owners of the farms, and the CTM and CROC unions, both of whom have been selling out the workers for many years. The final agreement is historical as the unions will no longer be the negotiators but will only work as mediators. And even that was just throwing them a bone so they can still get some dinero and so the deal would get done.

Following the meeting, governor Kiko Vega attempted to address the crowd but was booed down, and asked to leave amid bronx cheers and insults. The workers believe the governor was paid off by the farm owners, using his state labor ministry to obstruct the negotiations.

But the plucky pickers hung in there, buoyed up by help from the experienced protestors from the United States who contacted retailers who sell the produce picked in Baja, trying to get a boycott off the ground. That spooked the owners into coming to the table.

More Pemex stations coming. The ubiquitous green Pemex stations will be joined by Car-Go and Oxxo Gas when the market fully opens up to the coming competition.

As many as 1,000 new gas stations could open every year in Mexico over the next five years, and the name Car-Go will be among them. That is the name of the new brand, which will go up against Pemex and Oxxo Gas once the market is fully open in 2018. Even more players could pop up to take advantage of energy reforms which have eliminated the monopoly of the state oil company.

So will the new competition bring down gas prices? That’s the million peso question whose answer won’t be known for another couple of years, but the president of Car-Go cautiously answers with a wishy washy “possibly” when asked if the price per liter could drop below 14 pesos.

He says it will depend on supply and demand. Ja ja ja. That’s ha ha ha in Spanish. In the land of price fixing, that might be only a faint hope.

The President blinks. In an effort to quiet protests before the June 7 elections,  Mexico’s education ministry suspended the proposed teachers’ evaluations. But the protests have continued, with teachers trying to keep people from voting in three Southern states – Michoacan, Guerrero and Oaxaca. Polls were shut down and ballots were set on fire. At least one county in the state of Guerrero declared elections cancelled due to violence. ,