The Last Fishermen of Isla Espiritu Santo

The Last Fishermen of Isla Espiritu Santo

by Bryan Jauregui, Todos Santos Eco Adventures. This article was originally published in Janice Kinne’s Journal del Pacifico.

This is not a fish tale. It’s an immigrant story any American could tell. “In 1860 my great grandfather Esteban Puppo arrived in Cabo San Lucas from Genoa, Italy. He brought money and a son with him and purchased a hacienda in Caduaño, near Miraflores. He raised cattle and built a good life. His son Santiago grew up, married a beautiful woman from the coast and had my father, Pedro Puppo, in 1889. But it was a troubled time in Mexico and the government took away the hacienda, so Pedro went to La Ribera where he opened a general store. There he met and married a young shop attendant, Seferina Marrón. They moved to La Paz in 1910 where my brother Santiago was born in 1929 and I was born in 1939. My father became a fisherman, as did my brother and I. Santiago has been fishing the waters of Isla Espiritu Santo and La Paz for 80 years.  My father would be sad to know that we are the last independent fishermen of Isla Espiritu Santo.”

Mario Puppo Marrón, the younger of the two famed Puppo brothers, tells his family story with humor, passion and a keen understanding that his family history is the history of Isla Espiritu Santo and the fishing industry in La Paz. When his father Pedro became a fisherman in 1910, he and his colleagues would row or sail their boats – crafts that were more like canoes than pangas – to Espiritu Santo, often taking two days or more to reach their destination. That trip now takes less than an hour by motorboat. They would stay on the island for months, camping wherever they liked, salting the fish they caught to keep it from rotting. They could sell the salted fish for 1.5 pesos per kilo (4 pesos per kilo for shark) and in two months they could make 1,000 pesos. In those days the pesos were silver and living was cheap, so 1,000 pesos was a lot of money. It had to be to motivate the fishermen to endure months on the island. 

Recalls Mario. “I was 10 years old when I started working with my father on Isla Espiritu Santo. There is very little fresh water on the island and the water from home was sent in cans so it rusted quickly. Therefore almost every day we would eat tortillas, fish machaca, and turtle. We would have vegetables for the first few days after arriving on the island, then nothing for the remaining weeks or months. We couldn’t make beans because there was no water to cook them. Our only “spices” were onions and chiles. It was exciting when we were able to catch one of the wild goats on the island for the pot.” 

When Mario’s father Pedro started fishing in 1910, an entrepreneur and local politician named Gaston Vives had a concession in San Gabriel Bay on Espiritu Santo for cultivating pearls. It was a substantial operation that included homes, offices and a 500-meter-long dike which turned the bay into a lagoon. There he created a massive system of 36 roofed canals through which he steered the waters of the Sea of Cortez to supply the necessary nutrients and oxygen to his oyster beds. He was wildly successful, selling his cultivated pearls throughout the US and Europe. Mario’s father, who sometimes dove for pearls, saw a different side of the operation. “The workers recruited for the pearl operation at San Gabriel Bay were all people from the bottom of society with no families, no one asking after them. They were forced to work naked so they couldn’t steal the pearls. But as they were only paid 20 pesos a month, the temptation was too great and many of them would swallow the pearls in an attempt to smuggle them out of the bay. These workers suffered a great deal and many of them died and were buried on the island. Until the 1960s and 1970s when Americans arrived and started taking away the bones, there were lots of crosses in the dunes of the island. Many of the beaches still have the shells from this operation, which was destroyed in 1914 by an enemy of Gaston Vives.” Today Isla Espiritu Santo is a national park with no permanent structures, and only the ruins of the dike remain of the Vives empire.

The Puppo brothers’ father fished with spears and handlines using hooks made by blacksmiths, as did Mario and Santiago when they were old enough to join him in the sea. The 1920s, 30s, 40s and 50s were bounteous years for fishermen in the Sea of Cortez. Recalls Mario. “There was so much great fishing. We would often spear 100-kilo groupers and of course they were too big to take into the boat so we would just keep them alive in the water next to the boat and take them straight to the Hotel Perla on the Malecon in La Paz where they always bought all we could catch. The owners there really valued the fishermen and not only would they pay us, but they always fed us well too. Of course, it’s been well over 20 years since I’ve seen a fish that big around Espiritu Santo.” 

Fishing techniques changed through the decades. “From 1945 to 1970 the fishermen of La Paz began using dynamite to fish, and of course that was extremely dangerous” says Mario. “The dynamite was unstable and many fishermen ended up blowing themselves up along with the fish.” That was not the only threat for the fishermen. In the old days the fishermen didn’t have a way to track the weather and many died in hurricanes. In 1976 Mario rode out Hurricane Lisa, the worst recorded storm in the history of Baja California Sur, in a cave on Isla Espiritu Santo with his wife, 3-year old daughter, and dozens of snakes who were also seeking refuge. While Mario laments many of the changes that have affected fishermen at Isla Espiritu Santo, accurate weather prediction technology is not one of them. 

In 1977 Isla Espiritu Santo and 897 other islands of the Sea of Cortez were designated a Flora and Fauna Protection Area (Zona de Reserva Natural y Refugio de Aves Migratorias y de la Fauna Silvestre) and in 2005 a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Conservation became the driving force and where once Mario and Santiago had camped wherever they liked on the island, in 2007 they were restricted to one piece of land on the back side of Gallo Bay where they keep their fishing shack and, at 81 and 91 years of age, continue to fish the waters of Isla Espiritu Santo. While nylon fishing nets have been in use around the island since the 1970s, Mario and Santiago command a premium for fish caught with hand lines so that is generally how they ply their trade. But they are the end of the line.

“Fishing at the island as we know it is over. Once Santiago and I are gone, there will be no more permits for fishermen like us. Now only cooperatives are able to get fishing permits. And that would be OK if the system was effective, but fishermen from outside of La Paz come in the night to fish our waters and nothing is done to stop it. We are sad to see this happen.”

Mario has been married to Rosa Maria Murillo Martinez for 56 years. Together they have 5 children, 9 grandchildren and 6 great grandchildren. One of their daughters married an Italian immigrant, and Mario loves that the family story has come full circle. While it is the end of the story for the independent fishermen of Isla Espiritu Santo, the American story of immigration, integration and intrepid determination continues to thrive in Baja California Sur. It’s a tale for the ages.  

© Copyright Sergio and Bryan Jauregui, Casa Payaso S de RL de CV, 2020

 

 

Say No Popote Por Favor!

Say No Popote Por Favor!

by Bryan Jáuregui for the Journal del Pacifico

There’s a sucker born every minute. That’s right. There’s a high possibility that you are personally a sucker, an even greater probability that most of your extended family members are suckers, and it is almost certain that your circle of friends and acquaintances suck too. How could we know such a thing? Simple mathematics. The United States is home to roughly 325 million people, yet the country uses 500 million plastic straws per day. That is to say, each person is using an average of 1.5 plastic straws per day. And that’s just one country. As a species, we suck on a global scale.

Of course, the thing that really sucks is that a huge percentage of these plastic straws are ending up in our oceans. The Earth Institute of Columbia University estimates that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is twice the size of the continental United States. Of all that garbage, an Ocean Conservancy study concludes that fully 60% of it consists of items that society terms “disposable”, plastic bags, food containers, plastic bottles and plastic straws. The Ocean Conservancy estimates that a plastic straw, used for 15 to 30 minutes to consume one drink, can take up to 100 years to decompose. A plastic bag that you use for 15 minutes to transport your purchase from store to home can take 150 years to decompose. Plastic bottles can take up to 450 years.

So, that sucks, but why should us suckers care? Turns out plastic, it’s what’s for dinner. A recent study by the Ryan Institute concludes that 70% of fish in the North Atlantic have ingested plastic. Another study by Ghent University in Belgium estimates that shellfish lovers are eating upwards of 11,000 plastic fragments in their seafood each year. That plastic straw that seemed so harmless in your drink at lunch could actually come back to haunt you in your seafood dinner. And that’s the thing: plastic is personal. Which is why towns across Baja California Sur, including Todos Santos, Pescadero, La Paz, Cabo Pulmo and Los Barriles are taking a stand against plastic straws and other single-use plastics. Baja is a strip of land bounded by two oceans, so what we do in our towns has an immediate impact on our oceans.

Baja is the place where 5 of the world’s 7 turtle species come to nest (sea turtles mistake plastic bags for their favorite food, jelly fish, and die from ingesting the plastic; plastic straws also get stuck in their nostrils and air passageways), it is home to 39% of the world’s total number of marine mammal species (sea lions and others are getting entangled in plastic bags and packing bands, and dying from infection or strangulation), it is where one third of the world’s whale and dolphin species spend their time (a dead sperm whale was recently found with 29 kilos of plastic in its stomach), it is a critical part of the Pacific flyway and home to over 430 bird species (National Geographic states that 90% of sea birds are ingesting tiny bits of plastic that they lethally mistake for food), and the Sea of Cortez alone is the home of 891 fish species that supply over half of Mexico’s fisheries, from whence we get our seafood dinners. So ridding the area of single-use plastics is a deeply personal matter for residents of Baja. Says Mayra Victoria Gutierrez Sandoval, leader of the Déplastificate movement in Baja Sur, “Every time you personally consume a piece of plastic, you have to be personally responsible for what happens to it. That is the only way to eradicate the problem.”

Teresa Egea, Gardens, Sustainability & Spa Director at the hotel Rancho Pescadero and its Garden Restaurant, firmly believes in taking personal responsibility for reducing the use of plastics. “My philosophy is to practice the R’s, which are not only reduce, reuse, and recycle, but also reinvent and redistribute. I came to Rancho Pescadero 6 months ago and wanted to reinvent the use of the popote. Our mixologist is from Oaxaca, where he developed a project of plant-based straws created by local communities with local plants, specifically Arundo donax, a type of cane. These straws are very beautiful, washable and reusable and our guests love them, not only because they are enjoyable to use, but because they represent a sustainable alternative to plastic, and redistribute income away from plastic producers to local communities. Moreover, since we switched from plastic straws to the cane straws, our straw costs have declined by 2.5 times – it is a very profitable option and therefore a sustainable option for the business as well.”

Marimar Higgins, owner of La Esquina restaurant in Todos Santos, has long been a proponent of no popotes and eliminating single-use plastics. “We are serving straws less and less, and the ones we do serve are made out of paper. Almost all of our to-go containers are biodegradable, and we charge 5 pesos for all to-go items to make people think twice before taking away.” Michael and Pat Cope of Michael’s at the Gallery gave up popotes and plastic water bottles long ago as well. Reflecting on such trends, Jürg Wiesendanger, owner of Hotel Posada La Poza says of the Déplastificate movement in Baja, “It is like banging on an open door.” And that is the exciting thing. While the movement to rid Baja of single-use plastics is gaining new momentum, restaurants like Posada La Poza’s El Gusto! gave up plastic straws a while ago, and are currently evaluating how best to continue their forward momentum. Plenty of local companies are charging ahead. Alma and Manny’s, a much-loved local restaurant, stopped giving patrons plastic straws a year ago. New fish taco restaurant Santo Chilote not only doesn’t offer popotes to its patrons, it offers a discount to diners who bring their own takeaway containers. Landi Ortega eliminated popotes at her restaurant, Landi’s, over a year ago, Chef Sergio Rivera eliminated them from his restaurant La Casita a month ago, the Hotel Guaycura and its restaurants are celebrating their first popote-free season, and El Refugio owner Rachel Glueck has never had a popote on her premises. Feliz Ramon Vazquez Guluarte recently implemented a new program at his coffee shop, Cafélix, and now uses only compostable straws and glasses and environmentally-friendly take-out containers. Joella Parsons, owner of Pura Vida, is doing the same. Other businesses like La Morena, Fonda El Zaguán, La Santeña, Que Rico, Gallo Azul, Caffe Todos Santos, Café Santa Fe, Los Adobes and Cerritos Surf Town are actively working on their strategies for eliminating single-use plastics.

The Todos Santos Restaurant Association is totally committed to the movement. “To protect our oceans, sea turtles and other marine life, each restaurant that belongs to our association is committed to eliminating the use of plastic straws as a first step to becoming “green” restaurants. Our goal is to replace all single-use plastics with products made of compostable materials. The restaurant industry is united with the other sectors to make Todos Santos a town without single use plastics.”

That, most emphatically, does not suck! So next time you’re in a restaurant in Baja California Sur, don’t be a sucker. Ask for your drink “Sin popote por favor”. The turtles thank you!

RESOURCES FOR LOCAL BUSINESSES AND COMMUNITY MEMBERS:
• For more information on the Déplastificaté movement in BCS please visit their Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/DesplastificateMX/
• If you’re a local business looking for suppliers of non-plastic solutions to your business needs, and/or artwork and other informational tools for your employees and clients, please email Mayra Gutierrez at or Bryan Jáuregui at
• For recycling solutions in Todos Santos and Pescadero, please contact Alex Miró at: https://www.ecorrrevolucion.org

 

 

Mangroves: The Trees of Life

Mangroves: The Trees of Life

by Bryan Jauregui, Todos Santos Eco Adventures

This article first appeared in Janice Kinne’s Journal del Pacifico

Extinction. It happens. In fact, scientists estimate that 99% of all species that have ever strutted, slithered, swum, fruited, flitted or flowered on earth no longer exist.  Cataclysmic events like asteroid hits, smashing continents and massive volcanic eruptions have already caused 5 mass extinction events over the last 4.5 billion years, each wiping out 50% to 90% of extant species. So why do some people currently get so het up about the extinction of a pretty bird species here or a weird-looking fish species there?  Because it’s personal this time. After only 200,000 years on the planet our poor homo sapien habits have disrupted 65 million years of peaceful evolution to trigger the 6th mass extinction. That is, this time humans are not only the major cause, we’re also a likely casualty. Let’s face it, being at the top of the food chain matters not if there’s nothing underneath.

Mangrove Circle of Life. Collage by Tori Sepulveda and her students Monica Devine, Carol Bailey, Susan Willison, Joanna Spinoza, Christina Douglas and William Dubroraw.

Two Mexican biologists – Gerardo Ceballos and Andres Garcia of the National Autonomous University of Mexico – workingwith colleagues from Stanford, Princeton, Berkeley and the University of Florida, recently published an article in Science Advances showing that if the loss of species in the world continues at its current rate, then the current extinction could be on par with the 5 previous ones in 240 to 540 years – three to seven human life spans.  A mass extinction happening fast enough to be perceived within a human lifetime – it’s completely unprecedented. The study states that the triggers for these deaths – pollution, predation and habit change – are all manmade.  But Dr. Ceballos, the lead author on the study, offers some hope, “I’m optimistic in the sense that humans react – in the past we have made quantum leaps when we worked together to solve our problems.”

In other words, we need to get our collective act together.  The study concludes, “Avoiding a true sixth mass extinction will require rapid, greatly intensified efforts to conserve already threatened species and to alleviate pressures on their populations – notably habitat loss, overexploitation for economic gain, and climate change.” It’s perhaps not surprising that two of the study authors are Mexican, as Mexico is one of the most biodiverse countries on the planet, and actually is considered mega-diverse  – one of only 17 countries in the world with 70% species diversity. And here in Baja California Sur, mangroves are one of the most biologically important ecosystems in the state. In fact, mangroves are one of the most productive and biologically complex systems on the planet.

Magnificent Frigatebird Rookery at Isla Espiritu Santo by Ettore Botta

Mangroves are arboreal amphibians – salt tolerant trees that have evolved to bridge land and sea in tough coastal environments. They cover over 700,000 hectares (over 1.7 million acres) of the Mexican coastline, which is 5% of the world total – only the huge coastal countries of Brazil, Australia and Indonesia have more mangroves than Mexico. And they don’t just look cool, they are a full service life support system, providing food, refuge and breeding grounds for numerous crustacean, fish and bird species, waste processing and pollutant filtering for good ocean and wildlife health, and hurricane and storm surge protection for coastlines and coastal communities; with roots deeply embedded in mud, mangroves can absorb up to 90% of a wave’s energy. On top of all that, they’re a heckuva lot of fun to explore recreationally. Dr. Octavio Aburto of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography has calculated that these services can reach an annual value of US$100,000 per hectare, which means that every year, Mexico’s mangroves contribute up to 70 billion dollars to the national economy.*  Even Donald Trump would call that a lot of money.

Yet every year humans clear thousands of hectares of mangroves in Mexico to make way for tourism developments, shrimp farms and other agro-industrial developments, giving Mexico the dubious distinction of having one of the highest mangrove deforestation rates in the world. Dr. Exequiel Ezcurra, Director of the Institute for Mexico and the United States at the University of California laments, “This short-term vision ignores the losses for society that are generated by degrading such a valuable ecosystem.”* Dr. Aburto and Dr. Ezcurra predict that, at current deforestation rates, in 25 years close to 50% of Mexico’s mangroves will have been lost, and countless more species will succumb to habitat loss. To put this into perspective, the World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF) estimates that the planet lost 50% of its wildlife in the past 40 years, and that habitat loss is the greatest threat to all remaining species.

Yellow-crowned Night Herons in Mangroves by Kaia Thomson

Dr. Patricia Gonzalez Zamorano, a landscape ecologist at CIBNOR (Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas del Noroeste) in La Paz who has been studying the mangroves of the Baja peninsula since 1997, cites a book on mangroves recently-published by her institution and others when discussing the importance of mangroves to biodiversity in Baja California. “The mangroves of Baja California are the northernmost in the Eastern Pacific, and they support a tremendous number of species. Research over the years has confirmed that our mangroves support 159 fish species, 152 bird species – 43% resident, 57% migratory, 214 seaweed species,  and 213 species of marine macroinvertebrates, including 72 species of crustaceans such as crab, shrimp, and krill, and 62 species of bivalves including oysters, clams, and mussels. While the rate of mangrove loss in Baja California is comparatively low at “only” 2% per year, between 1973 and 1981 we lost 23% of the mangrove forests surrounding La Paz alone due to development.” It can cost several thousand dollars and up to 100 years to restore a single hectare of mangrove to its full environmental services capacity.

Fish in Mangroves by Octavio Aburto

Dr. Aburto and Dr. Excurra worry that mangrove loss could cause irreparable damage to fisheries. Mangrove-related fish and crab species account for 32% of the small-scale fisheries landings in Baja California Sur, and mangrove loss, coupled with overfishing, have already had a severe impact on the state’s fishing industry. While the evidence is only anecdotal at this time, it is clear that many families who have been fishing in the state for generations are already looking to other sources of income as rapidly declining fish stocks are challenging their traditional livelihoods.

As homo sapiens we often make the short-sighted decision to allow a habitat to die, because we feel the resources required to sustain it are needed to allow mankind to live. It can take great creativity and commitment to find solutions to immediate human problems that will provide the biodiversity mankind needs to flourish past more than just the next three generations. The stakes are about as high as they come: Dr. Ceballos and his colleagues state that if the loss of species continues on the current projection, then “On human time scales, this loss would be effectively permanent because in the aftermath of past mass extinctions, the living world took hundreds of thousands to millions of years to rediversify.” In other words, save that pretty bird, that weird-looking fish, that mangrove today, and they just might return the favor tomorrow. Extinction. It happens. But it sure feels different when it’s coming for you.

*National Geographic Voices, the International League of Conservation Photographers, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Mangroves in the Gulf of California increase fishery yields

Los Manglares de la Península de Baja California, Centro Interdisciplinario de Ciencias Marinas, Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas del Noroeste, Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur

Get Involved!

Rescatando Nuestros Arrecifes Y Manglares (Rescuing Our Reefs and Mangroves) is a brand new project taking place in BCS. It’s the brainchild of four marine biologists who, while sitting around the pool enjoying a cold beer, got into their favorite topic: how dirty the ocean is becoming and how plastic seems to be everywhere. Usually that would have been the end of it. But not this time.

Rescatando Nuestros Arrecifes Y Manglares

A date was set, a plan was made, and on July 22, 2015 more than 50 divers cleaned four reefs. Then less than a month later, on August 16, more than 100 kayakers and SUPers cleaned all the mangroves in La Paz Bay. Just a few weeks later, on September 6, the divers cleaned Pargo Villa, a rocky reef in 60 feet of water south of Cerralvo Island. While the divers were out a classroom of 5th graders cleaned the beach at La Ventana. Afterward the two groups got together to share what they had found, talk about how it got there, and how to prevent it from returning.

The organizers of Rescatando Nuestros Arrecifes Y Manglares – Mariana Padilla, Pepe Torres, Ronaldo Vilchis and Pablo Ahuja – have pledged to do a cleanup of a reef or mangrove every month, and so far have completed 3 cleanups in less than 3 months.

The organizers are seeking donations to purchase a laptop and computer projector so that they can begin environmental education in the schools of La Paz.  To learn more about how you can get involved and be a part of the project, please visit them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Rescatando-Nuestros-Arrecifes-y-Manglares or contact organizer Pablo Ahuja at .

ROCKIN’ THE MANGROVES. The rock band Linkin Park is taking center stage in conserving mangroves in Baja California. Through their philanthropic arm Music for Relief, Linkin Park has partnered with the environmental group WildCoast to conserve 61 miles of mangroves in Baja California’s Magdalena Bay. Through WildCoast’s #MangleEsVida campaign, the program is raising funds to help protect mangroves so that they in turn can help mitigate coastal flooding to protect wildlife and coastal communities. For more information on Linkin Park, WildCoast and saving mangroves in Baja California, check out #MangleEsVida and/or contact WildCoast’s Monica Franco Ortiz at .

Also check out our article, Mangroves: Coastal Problem Solvers

© Copyright Sergio and Bryan Jauregui, Casa Payaso S de RL de CV, 2015

The Festivals of Todos Santos: 2016

The Festivals of Todos Santos: 2016

By Todos Santos Eco Adventures

2016 is shaping up to be one of the best years yet for festivals in Todos Santos! There will be festivals celebrating music, film, food, wine, nature, and art filling the entire calendar year.  Event organizers will be refining their plans throughout the year, so please check back often for updates. Janice Kinne’s magazine, Journal del Pacifico, will be carrying in-depth coverage of most of the events. Please confirm festival dates with organizers before you book your tickets as organizers sometimes must change dates. ___________________________________________________________________ Todos Santos Music Festival 

  • Date: January 14-16; January 21-23, 2016
  • Organizer:  Hotel California and friends
  • Details: It’s yet another fabulous lineup this year and we’ll see the return of the Old 97’s, grammy award-winners La Santa Cecilia, Mexico City’s alternative Rock band Torreblanca, The Autumn Defense (comprised of Wilco members Pat Sansone and John Stirratt), The Jayhawks, Drive-By Truckers, and the incredible core of every festival so far: Joseph Arthur, Kev’n Kinney, Chuck Prophet, and Steven Wynn. This will be the TSMF debut for Death Cab for Cutie, Tigria, Jeff Tweedy (lead singer and guitarist of Wilco), Mark Eitzel (founding member of the American Music Club) and FRANKIE, an all-female indie rock band from Vancouver. All shows will be in the Hotel California with the exception of the show on the 23rd, which will be in the town plaza.
  • Why It’s Fun: Peter Buck of REM conceived of and curates this event. Not only does he play, he invites his musician buddies from the US and Mexico to come play to raise money for the Palapa Society and other Todos Santos charities. And it turns out that Peter Buck’s friends are all these incredibly nice people who are insanely great musicians. It’s nothing but fantastic music and great fun pulsing through the streets of town for nights on end – you don’t want to miss it!
  • Inception: 2012

___________________________________________________________________

Todos Santos Art Festival /
Festival del Arte de Todos Santos
  • Date: March 5-12, 2016
  • Organizer: Jorge Barajas
  • Why it’s fun: It’s a week-long celebration of Mexican culture that typically features live music, dance and theatre performances, painting and drawing exhibitions, lectures on local environmental and social issues, piano and poetry recitals and lots more. Artisans from different parts of Mexico also set up shop next to the church to sell their crafts. Diverse, fun and engaging.
  • Inception: 1997
  • Special Note: The Todos Santos Open Artist Studio Tour will be February 6 and 7, 2016. Over 40 studios participated in 2015 and mediums included oils, pastels, watercolors, mixed media, encaustic, ceramics, sculpture and photography. Proceeds from the Tour go to the Children’s Art Fund of The Palapa Society Of Todos Santos, A.C. It’s a wonderful event.

___________________________________________________________________ Todos Santos Film Festival / El Festival de Cine de Todos Santos 

  • Dates: March 15-21, 2016
  • Organizer: Sylvia Perel, director of the San Francisco Latino Film Festival and the Latino Festival of Redwood City, California.
  • Benefits: Youth in Video program, teaching the children of the Todos Santos area about film making. They usually present a film they’ve made at the festival each year.
  • Why it’s fun: This fantastic festival brings together a terrific selection of feature films, documentaries and shorts from across Mexico and Latin America that many folks would otherwise never have the opportunity to see. Many well-known film directors attend to present their films and lead audience discussions. It’s a truly great event.
  • Inception: 2004

___________________________________________________________________    

Eco Expo 2016

  • Date: April 22, 2016 (Earth Day!)
  • Organizers: Todos Santos Chapter of WILDCOAST
  • Benefits: Environmental education for the children of Todos Santos
  • Why it’s fun: This is a super fun gathering of environmental and community groups engaged in conserving, preserving and protecting the natural beauty, bounty and health of Baja California Sur. 2016 exhibitors include Whale Shark Mexico, CONANP (National Commission of Natural Protected Areas), CIBNOR (Center of Biological Investigations of the Northwest), Punto Verde (Todos Santos Recycling), SINADES (Sistemas Naturales y Desarrollo), Alianza Keloni AC, ACTS (Todos Santos Community Association), Archipelago Espiritu Santo, ECOVIS, Islas de Golfo, Pueblo Limpio/Pueblo Magico, Todos Santos Builders, Rescatando Nuestros Arrecifes y Manglares (Save Our Reefs and Mangroves), CONAFOR (National Forestry Commission), and the Bird and Turtle Laboratories of the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur.
  • Inception: 2015

___________________________________________________________________ GastroVino Festival de Todos Santos

  • Date: April 22-24, 2016
  • Organizers: Perla Garnica and Mac Sutton of La Bodega de Todos Santos
  • Benefits: Silent auctions of previous years have benefitted the local orphanage and the Todos Santos fire department.
  • Why it’s fun: The main festival is in the town plaza on Sunday, April 24, with wine-pairing dinners on the preceding nights. The GastroVino is a wonderful celebration of the food and wines of Baja California – and you get to indulge in plenty of both! It’s a great opportunity to get to know local chefs from Todos Santos (and their food) and wine makers from Baja’s Valle de Guadalupe wine-growing region (and their wines). Terrific live music performances throughout the day. It’s fabulous!
  • Inception: 2012

__________________________________________________________________ Mango Festival y Fiestas de San Ignacio en Todos Santos  Mango Festival 2015

  • Date: Usually late July and/or early August
  • Organizers: Todos Santos Pueblo Magico
  • Why it’s fun: Ripe, juicy mangoes everywhere! There’s also dancing in the town square, polka bands, a parade of horsemen (cabalgata), folkloric ballet, artisan products, coronation of the Mango Festival Queen and much more. Lots of fun for the family.
  • Inception: 2007

___________________________________________________________________ Festival del Dia de Nuestra Señora del Pilar / Todos Santos Foundation Festival

  • Date: Our saint’s day is October 12, and there are usually 5 days of celebration around then. Details when available.
  • Why It’s Fun: It’s a celebration of the founding of Todos Santos and our patron saint, Pilar. Lots of music, dancing, regional foods, arts and more. There is typically a parade of horsemen and a wonderful horse show October 13 and 14. Great time for the whole family.

___________________________________________________________________ Other Festivals There is also an annual Chili and Strawberry Festival in late March/early April in Pescadero, an annual Baja Reggae Festival at Los Cerritos Beach in April (or so), and there’s even a Shark Festival in November. And that’s just the festivals! Please feel free to contact us to learn more about the many interesting/exciting/engaging events organized in town each year – and to plan your adventures to accompany them. Todos Santos Eco Adventures.

© Copyright Sergio and Bryan Jauregui, Casa Payaso S de RL de CV, 2015

Greenhouse Greats

Greenhouse Greats

by Bryan Jáuregui, Todos Santos Eco Adventures

When you arrive at Areli Sarah Castillo’s house in Pescadero on a late summer afternoon, the look and feel of the front of her house is very similar to that of her neighbors: there’s a teenage boy working on his truck in beat to the radio’s tunes; two young girls are playing with dolls on the sofa under a well-placed beach umbrella; and several dogs are enjoying afternoon napping bliss in various poses. There’s nothing to suggest that the Castillo family is at the forefront of a movement to change the eating and health patterns of a town – until you go around back. There you find the riot of green and rampant plant life that is the greenhouse built by Areli and her children, and from which they feed the twelve people who now call their house home. Beautiful long vines of tomatoes, steamy-looking chiles, delightfully prickly pineapples, all manner of herbs and spices, all lovingly cared for in a space next to the chicken coop where the happy, well-cared for hens oblige the family with at least 15 eggs a day. All healthy, all organic, all the time. It’s not really what you’d expect from a woman who used to sell hotdogs for a living.

Greenhouse Greats of Pescadero

Areli is one of 18 women in the Sistemas Naturales y Desarrollo AC (SINADES) greenhouse program in Pescadero run by Inés Melchor Pantoja, with assistance from her husband, Julio César Rivas García. Inés and Julio, with a grant from Fondo Acción Solidaria AC, or Fasol* , started a community center about five years ago where their first program was teaching the children of Pescadero in accordance with the SINADES motto, “Educar para conservar” – Educate to preserve. Here kids were able to learn about composting, recycling, healthy eating, and growing things. The kids loved the program so much (seriously, we’re playing in dirt here – what’s not to love?) that they wanted to get their parents involved, so Inés and Julio started a pilot program for women in the community called Conscious Cooking. It has transformed the lives of the women and their families.

Like many Mexican towns across the country, Pescadero is plagued by health problems associated with poor diets. Manuela Tapis, one of the participants in the Conscious Cooking program, has lived in Pescadero for 40 years. She says that many of her neighbors in town suffer from diabetes, severe allergies, gastritis and other chronic health issues. Pescadero is not alone. Mexican government statistics indicate that 71% of the entire Mexican population is either obese (32%) or overweight (39%).  That’s over 48 million Mexicans walking around in plus sizes. According to journalist Olaya Astudillo writing in The Lancet, a leading medical journal, one of the key culprits in this rise in obesity in Mexico is the global trend away from traditional diets towards highly processed foods. More specifically writes Astudillo, “Cost is highly influential for when a family with limited income has to make decisions about the home diet. They will spend their money on the food that contains more calories for lower prices. But the food might not necessarily be more nutritious, of best nutritious quality, nor contribute to a more adequate diet than other products with less calories.”

Clarisa

The Conscious Cooking program aims to change all that by making healthy foods affordable, desirable and an integral part of family life. And it was the desire to procure organic, pesticide-free produce at a reasonable price that drove SINADES and the women of the Conscious Cooking program to start building greenhouses. As Margarita Vasquez, one of the women in the group explains, “The older people in Pescadero used to grow their own food, but we lost all those skills. Now with SINADES and the greenhouse project we’re recovering those values. Through this program we’ve learned how to make our own organic fertilizer by composting, we’ve learned about watering our plants using gray waters from the house for irrigation, we’ve learned great skills like how to make nutritious snacks by drying fruit in the sun and so much more. We have learned such an incredible amount here about how to have healthy food at a low cost, and the impact on our personal health and that of our families has been remarkable.” Janette Albañez, who has lived in Pescadero for 25 years agrees. “Health, health, health is what this program means for me. I used to have chronic asthma and ate very poorly. Now my asthma has cleared up and even my junk-food guzzling husband loves eating raw vegetables.”

Ines Melchor Pantoja

Janette got involved when she saw one of her neighbors building a greenhouse, and this is the type of knock-on effect that the SINADES program is having in Pescadero. As more people see the health benefits that their friends and neighbors are achieving, the more that are interested in learning the skills to achieve similar results for themselves. And even more than for themselves, they are motivated on behalf of their children. Angeles Caballero, mother to two children ages 3 and 7, really speaks for all the women involved when she says “I started this program because of my kids. I’ve only been in Pescadero 10 years and was so surprised to see all the young children here that already have diabetes. I was motivated to save my children from this fate, but now my kids are even more motivated than me. Their friends think it’s weird that they’ll have tomatoes with salt instead of potato chips, but they don’t care. My kids love working in the garden and love this program. It is wonderful for us as a family.”

Areli couldn’t agree more. “My children are actually even more excited about the greenhouse than I am. They love coming out here and working every day. They love that we no longer buy any canned food, and they love how much better they feel with so much less junk food in their diet. These are benefits that you just can’t put a price on.”

But there is a price of course, and the 4,000 pesos (~US$285) required to build a greenhouse is a fairly high barrier to entry for many of these families, a barrier that they must surmount once again as Hurricane Odile (September 2014) destroyed every one of the greenhouses built by the women and children of SINADES in Pescadero. But they are not discouraged. Says Inés, “We recovered some of the material from the greenhouses and received a small donation to buy more mesh, so we are slowly coming back around. Some of the families are already in production again and everyone is continuing to move forward. It’s a strong community and we will rebound.”

Before the hurricane, there were signs around the Pescadero community center that read “Cue da-temba, nuestra casa”. Cue da-temba means Mother Earth in the language of the Guaycura Indians, the now extinct indigenous people of Baja California Sur.  And of course nuestra casa is Spanish for “our home”.  The goal of Inés, Julio and the women and children of SINADES is to create a sustainable and healthy lifestyle for the families in their community. Helping them to do that is really just enlightened self interest because, after all, “Cue da-temba, nuestra casa” applies to us all. Inés can be reached at and the SINADES Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/SinadesAc.

*Fasol, headed by the dynamic Artemisa Castro and a group of likeminded environmental activists, provides financial support to grassroots groups that are working for social and environmental change in Mexico. SINADES is a great example of the type of success they have achieved in communities across Mexico. For more information please visit their web site at: http://fasol-ac.org/fasol_wp_ing/

This article first appeared in Janice Kinne’s Journal del Pacifico

© Copyright Sergio and Bryan Jauregui, Casa Payaso S de RL de CV, 2015

Pizza and Burgers: An Insider’s Guide to the Restaurants of Todos Santos

Pizza and Burgers: An Insider’s Guide to the Restaurants of Todos Santos

By Todos Santos Eco Adventures

Welcome to the fourth installment of our Insider’s Guide to the Restaurants of Todos Santos! Here we present:

Category Seven: Pizzas and Burgers

For information on more of the fabulous restaurants available to food lovers in Todos Santos, please see our other categories including Great Food, Great Chefs, Great Atmosphere; Wonderful Food in a Beautiful Garden Setting,  Killer Local Joints and Taco Stands and Cafes, Healthy Fare and Live Entertainment. All restaurants are presented in alphabetical order within each category.

© Copyright Sergio and Bryan Jauregui, Casa Payaso S de RL de CV, 2014

Category Seven: Pizza, Burgers and Take Out Chicken

A. Pizza

Gallo Azul Pizza Bar

  • Overview: Local entrepreneur Alan Becerril  created Gallo Azul Pizza Bar in 2013 and it’s a great addition to the Todos Santos restaurant scene. Alan serves up authentic Napolitan pizza made in a blisteringly hot wood-fired oven with a volcano stone floor with natural leavened dough – the results are delicious. There is a full bar, great salads and lots of fun events like Saturday night Latin nights with salsa lessons.
  • Hours: Monday-Saturday, 3:00 PM – 10:00 PM
  • Contact: 612 158 8457

Café Santa Fe

  • Overview: As with everything else on the menu, the thin-crust pizza at the Cafe Santa Fe is fabulous. It ain’t cheap but you get what you pay for!
  • Contact: 145-0340

La Coronela at the Hotel California

  • Overview: The Hotel California restaurant serves up a pear and gorgonzola cheese pizza that is fantastically delicious.
  • Contact: 612-145-2722

Pizzeria Napoli

  • Overview: This is a great little spot in the middle of town that cranks out very tasty, very affordable pizzas from 1:00 PM to 10:00 PM every day but Wednesday. It’s a favorite with locals. You can do take out or take advantage of the simple seating at the restaurant and enjoy cold beer and soft drinks with your meal.
  • Contact: 612-145-1085.

Tres Marias

  • Overview: Coming soon – stand by for details!

B. Burgers

Chill ‘N Grill

  • Overview: Fun tropical bar atmosphere with full bar and good bar fare including burgers, ribs, steaks, wings and hot dogs. (Best vegetarian option is to stick to the booze or get take out from Our Pura Vida next door – the owner of the Chill ‘N Grill and the owner of Our Pura Vida are brother and sister!) Pasta Mondays, Taco Tuesdays and 2-for-1 happy hour 4-6 PM every day. NFL and other sporting events flowing on the bar TV. They often have live music on the weekends.
  • Hours: 4-10 PM daily (unless everyone’s having a great time and you can stay later); Sundays open at 10:00 AM for ball games.
  • Contact:  612 151 1441.

La Cueva Tres Marias

Shut Up Frank’s

Loading...