If this is the end of the world as we know it, is that such a bad thing?
I was talking to someone about how long she thought it would be until things return to normal. I said I didn’t believe they would return to normal. I’m not sure I would want to if we could. Was the world so great before this strand of the Corona virus entered our lives? Were we too dependent on others?
While so much of the world is in isolation, it is actually uniting us. Finally, (nearly) all of us have one focus. It is the Corona virus. Those being responsible are diligent about telling others where we have been and if we were really 6 feet from others. We are honest about underlying health issues and not wanting to be in contact with good friends or family. We are finding new ways to socialize – remote happy hours, watching the same movie at the same time to hear each other’s laughter. People are helping others personally and professionally however they can. I know new businesses will be created as a result of this. The Great Recession saw my massage business dry up, and my freelance work disappear. I launched an online news site in 2009 in the throes of the economic downturn. It might not have been a smart decision, but after year one it was a profit-making one. I have confidence there will be other entrepreneurs who will see this upheaval as a time for renewal. Already businesses are repurposing their plants to create things we need now like perfume manufactures making hand sanitizer.
Not to trivialize matters, but what if we considered all of this a reboot like you would with your computer or phone? Every now and then they need to be turned off, caches cleared, files purged and then restarted to be operating faster, cleaner and more efficiently. To take it to more of an extreme, consider this a hard drive crash. Can you repair the damaged drive or is it better to start with a brand new one? It’s a personal decision, but something we all should be thinking about. What do we want life to be like post-COVID-19? We have the power and obligation to be thinking about this. We need to take control and not let others keep controlling us.
But also consider this down time as an opportunity to personally recharge. In the era of being connected to work and others 24/7 through our electronic devices, getting news around the clock, it can’t be good for us. This should be a time for introspection so then you are in a better place to help your community.
Now we are feeling the effects of China being the supplier of so many products, even if it’s parts for an item. This is not to condemn China, but to call out the U.S. (and other) countries for going after cheaper labor instead of paying their own citizens a living wage to make the same product. Corporations for too long have been favored over people. The U.S. Supreme Court made that all too clear in 2010 with Citizens United. Shareholders (of which I am one of many individual stocks) have been the priority, not the general public. Remember, greed is one of the seven deadly sins, if you believe in that sort of thing. It’s the bottom line, not people at the bottom of the line that we care about. That mentality is changing for the good, and ideally permanently. Grocery store workers and gas station attendants are now deemed essential workers. Would you have ever thought they would be more important than you and your job title?
Perhaps this is also a good opportunity to rethink education. I don’t know what the outcome should be, but how about rethinking what is being taught and how it is taught? A friend posted how she allowed her kids to come up with questions and then they researched the answers. Children are naturally curious. Let’s encourage that creativity. Let’s not keep boring them in the classroom by preparing them to take another standardized test. I’m not criticizing teachers; I’m critical of the system. I hope through all of this teachers might be more respected as parents are dealing with their kids all day, every day.
It’s also time to rethink health care. Prior to the novel Corona virus most people had a strong opinion about socialized medicine. Now many of the naysayers believe tests for the virus should be free, the treatment should be free, and they should be compensated for missed work or losing their job. Why is it that we have to have things affect us directly, so personally, before we are willing to see the light and help others? I hope this pandemic helps us have greater compassion and understanding for those who are more vulnerable – be it people who are older, have underlying health conditions, are living paycheck-to-paycheck, those who want to work but can’t for whatever reason, who were already caring for a child or parent and still trying to make ends meet, and all the others. Health care should be a right, especially in the United States where the wealth is so great.
We also need to be providing health care workers with the tools to do their jobs. It is mindboggling there is a shortage of essentials like masks. Everyone on the front lines – which includes people in the food supply network and so many others – needs the tools for their jobs, deserve our gratitude, and should be applauded for not quitting. Remember, they have a choice to work. They are showing up every day. That says something wonderful about them.
I hope we are stronger when we come out on the other side of this. I hope we re-evaluate our priorities as we are in the thick of it. I hope we figure out we have more in common than we previously were willing to admit. I hope we see this mass disruption in our lives as an opportunity for good. We’ve had other disruptions, but apparently not significant enough for us to change our trajectory. Sept. 11 and the Great Recession are two that happened this century. But they didn’t rattle everyone enough to make the change needed for a better world. I hope this crisis affects everyone. By no means do I want everyone to get the virus, or anyone else for that matter. What I hope for is that you take the time to see how the world as we knew it wasn’t so great. It was time for change.
I thank people for electing the current president of the United States. With the other option, we would have had the status quo – but still have been a country (and even world) that needed fixing. Donald Trump is the ultimate disrupter. He says things no other leader has said, does things no other leader has done – all bad, crappy, offensive, raw, in your face, inflammatory things. He has no grasp of science and refuses to surround himself with officials who are experts. A good leader surrounds herself with people who are smarter than her and lets them do their jobs. She is the conductor, so to speak, and the ultimate decision-maker and the one who has to take responsibility when things don’t work and gives credit to others when things do work. This president believes the opposite. I hope this virus allows others to see how the actions of this president are detrimental to all of us – not just people in the United States. I hope the chaos that he has brought to the office of the presidency, to the United States, and to the world is happening for a reason that will make us all stronger, smarter and living without blinders as we go forward.
If a better world order doesn’t come from all of this frenzy, we will have wasted a rare opportunity for significant change. Things aren’t going to be the same, so start reimagining how you want your world to be – as an individual, a family, a community, a state, a country and the world. As Mohandas Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
Life can be full of stressors. There are times when only the negative prevails. It doesn’t matter where one is in life, there is always stress. Sometimes it seems out of our control and then inevitably casts a pall on the rest of the day, maybe causing a restless sleep, only to awake with the same anxiety.
This all happens without a pandemic.
Sometime in 2019 a friend posted a challenge of sorts on Facebook to write something you are grateful for, tuck it away, read it later. The point being that no matter the crap going on some good could be found in every day.
I randomly started writing “grateful notes” and put them in a container. I found myself doing so on days that were a challenge. Where I had to really look to be grateful. The simple act of writing the phrases helped get me out of my funk, or at least lessened it. It made me aware that plenty of good exists in my life.
I stopped writing them when I went back to the United States last year and have not resumed doing so since returning to Baja. Each day sitting at my desk I would see the container not getting any fuller. It was time to read what I had written.
This is what I wrote; the order is how I pulled them out of the container:
- I am grateful for people helping me with book projects.
- I am grateful for the people who believe in me.
- I am grateful for the love AJ gives me.
- I am grateful for friends near and far.
- I am grateful for people who push me to write.
- I am grateful for honest friends.
- I am grateful AJ and I were not hurt worse.
- I am grateful for my sister, Jann, giving me this opportunity.
- I am grateful for the richness books bring to my life.
- I am grateful for new friends in Todos Santos.
- I am grateful for the unconditional love AJ gives me.
- I am grateful for everyone who helped get my book published.
- I am grateful I get to travel.
- I am grateful for caring neighbors.
- I am grateful my mom signed me up for tennis when I was a kid.
- I am grateful for friends who look out for me.
- I am grateful for the comfort AJ brings me.
- I am grateful for nice Airbnb guests.
- I am grateful for AJ.
- I am grateful for my time in Baja.
- I am grateful for neighbors who look out for me.
- I am grateful for everyone who helped me after the dog attack.
- I am grateful for authors who write interesting books.
- I am grateful for friends who tell me what I don’t want to hear.
- I am grateful for my health.
- I am grateful for an abundance of fresh produce.
- I am grateful for people in Baja welcoming me.
- I am grateful to spend time with my mom.
This does not exhaust the list of things I am grateful for. I am certainly grateful for the friend who put the challenge out there to everyone to try this. I’m not sure if I will resume writing what I am grateful for, though it makes it more real. What I hope to do is pause long enough each day to consciously acknowledge what I am grateful for. I also need to start sharing with people how I am grateful for them being in my life. Let this writing be the beginning.
Women in Mexico not only marched, they boycotted work to make International Women’s Day (March 8) a two-day event. In Todos Santos on March 9, they marched and essentially went on a one-day strike.
While it’s not known how many local women didn’t go to work, about 60 people marched Monday morning from the town square to the park. A couple men joined in as did gringas, but mostly it was Mexican women showing solidarity. A few carried signs about the power of women. Purple was the dominant color of choice; as it represents the color for women seeking gender equality.
At the park were various booths. At one, the questions (all written in Spanish) asked women: Have you judged or spoken ill of other women because of how they dressed? Have you ever been bullied?
Another station allowed women to write something personal, to share a story – one that related to anything they wanted, but tended to have the #MeToo movement in mind.
One table was set up as a place to receive a safe hug.
The point of March 9 being a day to boycott work and for others – especially women – not to be consumers was to show what it would be like if women were not here. Who would be there to do so many jobs? Who would be there to buy the goods? After all, there are 21 million registered female workers in Mexico.
The Washington Post reported, “After several recent grisly killings, feminists proposed the action to draw attention to Mexico’s stunning levels of attacks on women, and the idea quickly went viral. Federal and local government offices and dozens of universities are granting leave to female employees and students, and some of Mexico’s biggest companies are also backing the action. Walmart has said its 108,000 female employees in Mexico are free to join the one-day strike. Other corporate supporters include Ford, the Grupo Salinas banking and media conglomerate, and Bimbo, the baked-goods giant.”
While plenty of businesses in Todos Santos were open on March 9, the popular restaurant La Esquina chose to be closed. On its Instragram page the notice said they were doing so “in support of ‘a day without us,’ the national movement to stand up against violence toward women in Mexico.” Landis Restaurant on Instagram posted, “Today we don’t want to be brave, we demand to be free. We stand for those who are not today. We demand a change for all! We demand to remove prejudices and stereotypes. We want freedom! We want respect!”
Mexico can be a dangerous place for women. The government reports more than 3,800 women were killed in 2019, which means more than 10 women were killed every day last year. Reports are that one-quarter of the female homicide victims in Mexico died in their home. Violence is becoming the norm, with nearly two-thirds of women 15 and older having been a victim.
Turtles caught in fishing nets are tossed aside to become food for creatures in the sea. They are byproducts of an industry that can be cruel.
Stephanie Rousso, who is a wildlife biologist, marine scientist and spatial ecologist, is one of many who are working to make life better for sea turtles by partnering with fisheries and educating the general public. On Feb. 14, she gave a talk at Paleta’s restaurant in Todos Santos.
She praised the chef for knowing where the seafood came from, and acknowledged their practices are sustainable. That is one of the things Rousso likes to promote – sustainable actions, which includes consumers being aware of the food they consume. She is an advocate for California’s Monterey Bay Aquarium’s ratings for sustainable seafood consumption.
By eating food from sustainable fisheries people could be helping to save turtles. These fishermen are employing practices that don’t arbitrarily kill turtles. They are also tagging turtles for researchers.
Rousso is working with Upwell Sea Turtles and the Rufford Foundation in her research. She also relies on area fishermen and citizen scientists to provide data. When people report a sea turtle sighting with exact coordinates of its location that information is recorded. From there scientists can delve into the habitat and migration corridors.
“We want dead and live sightings,” Rousso said. Nesting information is gathered by other organizations.
“Where” is her big question. Where are they living? Where are the juveniles? Where are they nesting? Where are they mating? Where are they migrating? Part of her doctorate will be to find those answers.
These air breathing reptiles don’t breathe underwater, but they eat underwater. Seven species of sea turtles live throughout the world. Five call the waters of Mexico home. The olive ridley is the most common in the Todos Santos area. Leatherback and green are also in Todos Santos. Others in Mexico are hawksbill and loggerhead.
“(Olive ridley) are the most reproductive. They mate every year,” Rousso said.
While their numbers indicate they could be taken off the endangered species list, according to Rousso, that isn’t going to happen because in Mexico that would mean they could be fished again.
Leatherbacks, though, are not doing as well. Their softshell makes them unique.
“They could go extinct in our lifetime here,” Rousso said. “They are getting caught in nets and dying.” In Costa Rica in the last year only three nests were documented.
I know that every day AJ is with me is a gift. Today she turns 17.
She’s a different dog than she was even a year ago. Slower, sleeps more often, but is more affectionate. She uses stairs most of the time to get onto the bed. She usually needs a helping hand to get in and out of the Jeep. Mostly she walks behind me off or on leash, instead of running ahead out of sight.
I worry every time I have to leave her overnight. Before I do, I promise her that I will always come back. When I returned earlier this month from a few days in the United States, my pet sitter Pickle (that’s her surfer name) left me this note: “I have to tell you that this was a very special pet sit with AJ. From the minute I came in the gate, she was just so happy to see me. For the last 6 days, she stuck by my side … and kisses and putting her head into my chest when I was petting her. She broke my heart!!”
She seems to keep breaking my heart as well. Lately AJ has been climbing onto the bed where I’m reading or doing something on the computer. I put whatever it is aside after she places her paws or head on me. I pet her, talk to her, tell her how much I love her, what I’m thinking about our future, how I’ll always be there for her. We stay like that until she doesn’t want to be petted anymore. I won’t be able to get those moments back. Reading, writing, working, watching whatever – those things can wait.
I’ve never had a bond like this with a dog. I used to think Bailey, my black Lab who lived to 14, was the best dog. And she was awesome. But AJ has something I can’t quite describe. I’m sure it’s wrapped up in how I got her – which was when my friend Joy passed away in August 2012. AJ has also been with me through significant transitions in my life. It’s the first time a dog has been a friend, not just a pet or companion.
She is so much more mellow now that twice in the last two months we’ve stayed with friends who have cats. We both behaved. There was a time when I would say, “Get the kitty.” This would be on our walks. Off she would run, never successful in her pursuits, though. Now she can co-exist with felines indoors.
My heart aches when I think about the attack she survived last May and how much worse it could have been. We were both changed by it and not in good ways.
I’m not taking her on hikes in Baja anymore. Mostly because I don’t know how long any of them will be until they are over. We don’t walk in the neighborhood because of my lingering fear. Instead, we go to the beach. When it’s just us, we venture to the fresh water lagoon and back – about 1.5 miles round trip. She loves to drink and linger in the cool water. Other days we walk with Jill and her two pups. These are about 2 mile treks, with beach time always a component. The dogs are all friends, but not playmates. AJ is beyond that for the most part. On occasion she will playfully interact with another dog, but for that to happen I need to be secure and she needs to be in the mood.
While her vision is going, she stopped in her tracks the other day when a whale close to shore came out of the water. She didn’t bark like she used to at a bear; she just stared at the water. If only she could tell me what she was thinking.
I know she loves the climate of Baja so much better than the chill of Tahoe. She spends so much more time outside. She has the run of the yard, even when Airbnbers are staying below us. Often I find her on the front step; which necessitates guests walking around her. She can see what is going on on the street from there. The guests just mean more hands to pet her. Some even let her inside downstairs and give her human food. No wonder she stays downstairs.
Even though I bought birthday treats for her when I was in the U.S., today we’ll go get papas fritas – our favorite junk food. We’ll walk, we’ll talk and it will be all about her – just like what all birthdays should be.
Not even the gang of law enforcement officers could answer whether it’s legal for non-Mexican residents to own a gun. And this was at a presentation in Todos Santos about safety and security.
A permit is required. Beyond that, no definitive answer. However, Mexican citizens can only own .25 caliber handguns or lower, and 12-gauge shotguns for hunting.
ACTS (Asociación de Colonos de Todos Santos or Todos Santos Community Association) at its annual meeting in January gathered the mayor, Roberto Tito Palacios; the Mexican army commander; Mexican army lieutenant; major commander from the newly formed national guard; a representative from the police ministry, which is similar to a district attorney’s office; and a local cop. Even though the marines have a base in Todos Santos, they were not represented at the meeting.
As with law enforcement throughout the world, each agency has a specialty, though they work in tandem when needed. The national guard is the newest organization. It was started by the president less than a year ago.
The biggest issues going on locally are domestic violence, traffic accidents and thefts. A dog is the biggest deterrent to crime, according to officers. Security cameras can be used as evidence in court. Alarms might scare the bad guys away.
Empty homes, especially in August, September and October, are targeted by criminals – often from La Paz and Los Cabos.
A neighborhood watch program is one of ACTS big projects. Information about it and other programs are online. According to ACTS website the purpose of the nonprofit is: “To take a pro-active role in supporting and representing our area’s interests as a recognized voting body to municipal, state, and federal government agencies, as well as community organizations, and the media. To be a valuable resource of information on matters relevant to community. To support initiatives that protect and enhance property values. To encourage responsible stewardship of the land for generations to come.”
Eight police officers work each of the three shifts in Todos Santos. Pescadero has three officers per shift and a separate commander.
Palacios blamed the higher ups in La Paz for the lack of local personnel. He would like more independence from the state capital as well as for state officials to understand the growth that is taking place in the Todos Santos area. Palacios said the local cops are struggling with eight people at any given time to handle a population of 10,000. However, in a city like South Lake Tahoe, California, that would be considered a luxury. That town has four officers per shift, plus a sergeant on the streets, (sometimes it’s a total of four) for a population of 25,000.
Todos Santos recently received two new police vehicles, with Pescadero getting one. Four officers ride around in one vehicle in Todos Santos. Perhaps if they each had a vehicle, like they do in Tahoe and so many other places, there would be less crime and/or more crimes would be solved.
Some of the nearly 100 people in attendance at the meeting wondered about the funding for the police department, especially considering officers come around “begging” for money in December. That is supposed to be the only time they ask for a handout, which supposedly goes toward their Christmas party. They have money for gas and uniforms. It was suggested donations be made for their food. It would seem like all workers in all professions would love that sort of hand out.
It was confirmed it is legal to videotape officers when being questioned or if they are asking for cash. If anyone suspects police corruption, they can go to the delegado, aka mayor.
- More information about ACTS is available online. Membership is 500 pesos a year.
- In an emergency, call 911.
- Local police may be reached at 612.145.1052.
Government officials and agricultural representatives in Baja California Sur are worried about fruit flies that have been found in Todos Santos.
They are calling it an emergency. This Mexican state can send produce to the United States and elsewhere because dangerous fruit flies have not been an issue here. While the area has fruit flies, the one causing the emergency declaration is new.
At the Jan. 25 meeting for ACTS (Asociación de Colonos de Todos Santos), multiple people from the agency responsible for the fly’s eradication spoke. They have been in Todos Santos for seven months spraying trees and setting traps. Now they are running into issues with the ability to access private property.
They will be going door-to-door asking for permission to treat trees. ACTS will be sending an email to its members and putting a notice in the Baja Western Onion. It is possible to let the delegado’s office know spraying is allowed if you are not home. Officials urge people to not leave fallen fruit on the ground.
Every parcel with a fruit tree (citrus, mango, plums, pomegranates) needs to be sprayed with what is essentially a non-toxic sugar compound. The best time to spray is when there is no fruit. For those not wanting the spray, traps can be set up.
Of the 100 traps in the Todos Santos municipality, four flies were found when they checked before the meeting. Traps are examined every three days. Larvae has been found in fruit as well.
The emergency will be deemed over once no flies are located for three consecutive months.
Not everything is meant to be free. Many people have a hard time grasping that reality.
People have been looking for a deal since time began. The internet has taken the free concept even further. People want their news, music, books, movies and most everything for free that can be delivered digitally. Why don’t people respect what it took to create those things? They seem to begrudge artists and those associated with the production from making a living. They are stealing, though, that isn’t likely what they’d call it.
I hate to admit I am guilty of watching a pirated version of Academy Award-nominated “1917.” A restaurant in Todos Santos shows first run movies every week. On Jan. 21 this World War I film was shown after having been released in Mexico four days earlier. This wasn’t a copy; the quality was too good. Someone at the restaurant must have connections to someone in the film industry to continually do this.
According to TorrentFreak, “1917” was the second most downloaded movie for the week of Jan. 20, with “Terminator: Dark Fate” being No. 1.
The Todos Santos restaurant doesn’t release that week’s title until a couple days before. Presumably because it doesn’t know what will be bootlegged.
Admission is free. The restaurant is hoping to increase food and beverage sales. The public, mostly gringos, benefits by seeing a first run movie in English. (Cabo San Lucas, an hour away, has movie theaters so it’s possible to see movies the legitimate way.)
I knew I shouldn’t have been there. I told myself I wanted to see the “crime scene” in person. I don’t have an excuse for not walking out. I know I won’t be going back.
Pay for what you read, watch and hear; and don’t go to establishments that help cheat the system.
Music has the power to be a unifying force. It can bring people together around a common cause with lyrics that can be persuasive and provocative. Emotions can run the gamut no matter the genre.
Peter Buck, former R.E.M. guitarist, in 2012 launched the inaugural Todos Santos Music Festival. (Buck had bought a house in Todos Santos in 2008.) The goal was to bring his music industry friends as well as Mexican bands here for a few days, entertain thousands, and make a few dollars for nonprofits in town, most notably for the Palapa Society, an education organization. After Hurricane Odile swept through the area in 2014 concert proceeds that year helped residents rebuild.
All seemed to be going well until 2016. The last day of the festival coincided with people marching in the street to protest the Tres Santos project and rally for the fishermen.
Buck got on stage in the public square during the free concert and said, “What’s gone on in this town for the past two years is a fucking crime. This town is not owned by crooked politicians, sleazy developers or Cabo silver merchants. This is your town. Every one of you people has a say in this town. So everybody wake up! This is your town, take it over!” For some who were there, Buck’s tirade was personal, mean and uncalled for. It went beyond the politics of the day.
In Mexico it is illegal for foreigners to be involved in local politics; Buck was persona non grata.
With Buck essentially being run out of the country, there was no music festival in 2017. In 2018 it was revived with the name Tropic of Cancer. Even though Buck and Joseph Arthur performed in 2019 just before the actual festival started, he is not affiliated with the current festival.
On Reddit on June 12, 2019, Buck wrote, “I’d like to state for the record that I don’t know Joe Firstman well, and that his Tropic of Cancer festival has nothing to do with me. The Todos Santos Music Festival was run and owned by myself and Chloe Buck. All money earned from ticket sales, t-shirts, auctions, etc, was given to the Palapa Society, a wonderful school educating local children. I did not turn the festival over to Joe Firstman and the implication that this festival has anything to do with me or our festival is incorrect. I hope people are not confused, which is why I am making this statement.”
No longer is there a big, free concert in the town’s plaza. Estimates are more than 4,000 people would attend it. Most concerts are at Hotel California in the middle of Todos Santos, with smaller venues hosting lesser known acts. Hotel California revamped its courtyard for the 2015 event, doubling that area. Lighting and sound equipment were upgraded as well.
This year’s Tropic of Cancer Concert Series is Jan. 15-19. The headliner for 2020 is Holy Spirits. More information is online.
What could be worse than confronting the drug cartel, paying to be their mule and knowing that could get you killed, walking across the desert without enough water, and entering a country illegally? Going home. That could be worse than everything else.
People are fleeing Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, making their way to Mexico and hoping to end their journey in the United States. Life is so bad in their home country, death seems inevitable. Cartels make it impossible to live, extorting money to the point there is little left to pay for even the basics. To survive they leave.
Only death will end the migrants’ dreams. Since the 1990s, it is estimated that at least 9,000 people have died crossing the Sonoran Desert between Mexico and the United States. The desolate landscape likely has cut short many more lives; whose bones are now part of the desert and likely never to be recovered.
“Committed to reaching the U.S. at any cost – and fearful of the increasingly hostile U.S. authorities at the border – migrants who have given up on the asylum process are detouring into this remote, scarcely policed stretch of desert gambling their lives on a journey through hellfire,” writes Jason Motlagh in the October 2019 issue of Rolling Stone magazine.
Motlagh on Dec. 27 launched the fifth season of the Todos Santos speaker series. He shared the hourlong documentary “Deserted: Death and Dreams in the U.S. Borderlands” that he narrated and produced.
“It’s a very dark time for not only migrants, but Good Samaritans,” Motlagh told the crowd gathered at Teatro Marquez de Leon in Todos Santos.
The film and magazine article point out the risks the migrants take, as well as those trying to help them. People leave water in the desert. Others search for remains in hopes of bringing closure to families.
Immigration should not be that complex of an issue. People want a better life. As it was pointed out at the presentation, the United States’ intervention in Central American governments helped create the immigration crisis of today.
Motlagh, a journalist who has lived in Todos Santos for two years, is using his skills to shine a light on immigration issues. In December 2018, he spoke in Todos Santos about his experience in the Darién Gap and struggles of emigrants there.
Other events in the speaker series will be Jan. 10, Jan. 24, Feb. 14 and Feb. 21. El Tecolote Bookstore has details and sells tickets. Most cost 200 pesos.