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Casa en Baja
updated: Jan 04, 2014, 3:00 PM

By Marie Harden Mancilla, a Santa Barbaran living in Baja

I do love to write about my little place in Baja. So many think Rosarito is the "real Mexico" and it is more like Las Vegas now, but close to the border. Many Americans and ex-pats live there and have their own society.

I live in Villa de San Miguel, Kilometer 99, a small village comprised of 84 casas. Our village overlooks the campgrounds and surfing beach. The island, Todos Los Santos is directly in front of our village. We have two restaurants, a bar, and office and a patio garden outdoor dining area on the bluff. For weddings and parties and festivals.

I first bought a beach house here in 1984 for my surfing boys to have a safe place to come to as they sought the surf.

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We are two miles from el Sauzal, and six miles from Ensenada, which is a huge commercial port and a bustling busy city. Tourism is the largest industry locally, and fishing and exports are major businesses. Dental and Medical services are also gaining prominence. Our many Universities attract students from all over the world.

The Baja tourist industry suffered in the economic crisis and the often bad media about crime in Mexico. But Baja, though , yes, in Mexico, is not a hot spot in crime. But, like anyplace else, there are the breakins and robberies, but not as many as I read of in Santa Barbara.

The culture revolves around family and the churches and music here. (There are many types of music in Mexico) There are many different churches, not all Catholic. There are many festivals, and a large segment of indigenous Indians still passing on their talents and techniques. There are many cultural events at the Centro Civico- the Mexican Riviera, which provides a taste of Mexican cultural flavor. This is a one-time hotel built during the prohibition in the USA, which was financed by Al Capone and managed by Jack Dempsey. Closed as a hotel in 1964, it was reopened as a cultural and civic center. Many international events are held there, as well as local art and music events. A must see by the tourists who come by cruise ships or by land.

The Bufadora, the famous blowhole, is another must see spot for visitors. It has grown to quite a commercial spot, with all the vendors plying their wares, jewelry, blankets, sarapes, laces, knick-knack souvenirs, And foods, and always, my favorite, the chorizos in a bag. The Bufadora is on the other side of the peninsula that I see from my casa. I can see it, like a stone's throw, but it is far by car.

The Ruta de Vino, a valley now getting famous for its wineries, is now part of the tourist destination. Many nice tasting rooms and restaurants. Similar to our Santa Ynez Valley wineries.

The costs are actually comparable to those in the US for many things. Our groceries sometimes cost more, as so much is from the US now. Gas is cheaper. For heating and cooking, we use Butane cylinders which cost about $44. We buy bottled water for drinking, which is 25 pesos delivered or 9 pesos if we go to get it. Pet care is simialr to US.

The hotel costs are pricey, in my opinion, but there are are a few, but not so nice, under $50. There are many restaurants and outside taco stands with delicious tacos, tamales, and burritos. The fast food chains, like MacDonalds are pricey, also. There are also some wonderful Chinese restaurants.

Rents vary, but most rents for houses are similar to what a room rents for in Santa Barbara. I am currently renting out my guest house, two bedoom, one bath with large livingroom kitchen area divided by the bar like counter for weekends or vacation weeks. Rent varies to how many persons and days. About fifty dollars per person, sometimes less. My land leases are around $200 plus the CEF (Electricity) about $50 a month, plus the butane. Cleaning gals charge about 200 to 250 pesos. Lease rent covers water, street maintenance and trash pickup.

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Villa de San Miguel started out as a trailer park, but has now changed as the trailers are pulled out and homes built on the sites. There is still some funk but each month one sees new improvements. My two current homes were funk, which we tore down and rebuilt, about ten years ago, to SB standards, except for the block construction.

Language-- not normally a problem as most Mexicans have a little, if not a lot, of English. And education of the youth is a high priority for families now. My own Spanish improves daily in conversation. My Mexican friends are very helpful in teaching me how to say things.

Weather--we are on a south coast, just like Santa Barbara, so the weather is much the same on the coast, and the inland is, of course, warmer, hot in fact. Some of us have fireplaces (but I seldom use mine.), Occasionally I might use a small heater, But I have five small to medium sized pups to keep me warm--and happy.

Some may have read about a collapse of a portion of our main highway last week.. It was at Kilometer 93, just kilometers from my home. So the toll road at San Miguel has been closed, and traffic diverted for twenty miles onto the free road. It is a nice ride through the back hills and quite a pleasant diversion.


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