Sunday, April 19, 2015

Last Open Mic of the Season in Loreto Bay


We are currently in the “exodus” phase of the Season for Residents of Loreto Bay, as those who have been here for most of the Season start to return to their northern Homes for the Summer.  However, this year I am noticing a larger number of Visitors continuing to arrive here to rent Loreto Bay Homes for a spring vacation, due in part to the continuing flights by Westjet from western Canada.  Which is fortunate for them, as I have long felt that this time of year is one of the nicest – with temperatures of 30 Celsius/85 Fahrenheit, light breezes and relatively low humidity.

But before many of the Seasonal Residents had left for the summer there was a final Open Mic Night for the Season at the Wine Cellar about a week ago.  I have written about these musical evenings several times before, and over the couple of years they have been held they have grown significantly in popularity and participation.  Due to the popularity of previous evenings like this, I arrived early for the 7:00 pm start time, to stake out my preferred location at the corner of the Bar at the Wine Cellar where I can shoot pictures of the performers without interfering too much with others watching the show, and I’m close to the source for sustaining food and beverages!

Even so, when I arrived it was already almost a full house with an expanded number of tables and chairs occupied for the evening’s entertainment.  As is so often the case when there is an occasion for people to congregate here, I was pleasantly surprised to see so many people who were still here, although many of them were talking about their immanent departures.  Before long the music began, with a “pick-up” group of five musicians who played an opening set.  They were followed by a duo who played some original compositions.

Later in the evening Steve, a popular Loreto Bay musician who was a founding member of Los Beach Dogs, joined the party and played his tasty lead guitar as back-up for a few songs, before launching into a solo set.  Because Steve has not been able to spend as much time in Loreto Bay this Season as he has in past years, he got a very warm response from this crowd, many of whom were friends and neighbors, as well as music fans.

That mood extended throughout the evening, as for many of those in attendance this was going to be one of their last chances to see and visit with Loreto Bay friends until after the summer, when the snowbirds will return to the Baja.  The unusually large crowd kept Wine Cellar Owners Will and Cynthia and their staff busy all evening with a steady stream of beverages from the bar and tasty tapas from their kitchen.  That crowd, and the music they were here to listen to, spread from the interior to the small patio area and beyond, where moderate level conversations were possible.

Along with the familiar faces of Homeowners who have been here most of the past winter, I also noticed a large number of “new” faces in the crowd as well - Visitors who were renting Loreto Bay Homes and had either dropped in for a drink and a snack and unexpectedly found themselves in an informal concert, or else they were drawn to the bar by the sounds of the music drifting over the otherwise quiet community. 

Regardless, I am sure the evening’s festivities came as somewhat of a surprise to these newcomers, particularly, as I have said before, if they had assumed that they were living in an apparently semi-deserted community, based on the relative handful of people one tends to encounter on a typical day’s activities here.

What must be clear to these newcomers, temporarily becoming part of a thriving ex-pat community in the southern Baja, is that they have stumbled upon a unique enclave that has created our own Village like atmosphere on the shores of the Sea of Cortez.  By day these Visitors can admire the acres of meticulous landscaping that makes up the extensive common areas of our condominium development, and enjoy our pristine community pools or the well maintained Golf Course that wraps around our Homes.

But after experiencing the daytime tranquility of Loreto Bay, they have now found themselves in a “standing room only” bar, with about a hundred of their newest best friends, listening to talented amateurs entertaining their friends and acquaintances alike with classic popular music, in a relaxed informal atmosphere.  But then again, I guess it comes as no surprise, when I meet some of those same Visitors who are drawn to my Office looking for information about this unique community, and then when some of those same people eventually become Homeowners here, and join the “party” on a long term basis.    


And so, as we draw nearer to the end of another winter Season here, with the celebration of another “last of the Season” event, we continue to welcome a growing number of people who are just beginning their Loreto affair.  Showing them a side of our community that can only be appreciated when one shares the day to day lifestyle we have created here.  Because, in addition to the beauty that we are surrounded with, and the almost ideal climate we enjoy most of the year, the “best” part of this place is the people who have come here and have helped to make it the very special place it is – and that’s another thing I like about “Living Loreto”!   

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Beach Blog - Redux!

For those of you who are regular readers of these postings, you will be familiar with my occasional “Beach Blogs” in the past, and you may perhaps have noticed that there has not been one so far this Season – until now.

As my “work” preoccupation has grown, with the steady increase in business, there has been a tendency to get into different routines and get away from some of the quieter pastimes that occupied me in past years when life here was simpler and with fewer distractions.  But a combination of circumstances, not least of which is the fact that this past weekend Baja Sur finally “sprang forward” into Daylight Saving Time, over a month later than the rest of North America, meaning that the sun is now rising an hour later than last week, caused me to decide one morning this week that it was time again to hit the Beach.

As I left my Home about 6:45 the eastern sky was beginning to brighten and I could see that it was going to be a partly cloudy morning, not perhaps as conducive to classic sunrise images as a clear morning, but, then again, one of the benefits of living here most of the year is that an “ordinary” day is OK too – not every moment has to be a classic event, there can be another one any time I choose.  And so I made my way the short walk down to the Beach.

As is often the case early in the morning, the water was almost perfectly calm, reflecting the clouds as they became tinged with sunlight and the horizon over Isla Carmen in the distance gradually brightened with the approaching sunrise.  As I slowly walked along the Beach, heading south towards the Hotel, I met my first companions of the morning, a man walking two dogs off leash and we exchanged a greeting as we passed.  However much we humans enjoy a walk on the Beach, I am sure this is the highlight of the day for the thriving dog population of Loreto Bay - a chance for them to be free and explore the sights and smells and run at the water’s edge.

Before long three people arrived on the Beach carrying paddle 
boards and soon they were launched into the calm water lapping the shore, one of them complete with a passenger, their small dog perched trustingly on the wide stable board.  As the numbers of Residents has grown over recent years, so has the number and variety of water toys they have brought with them.  Kayaks continue to be the most common conveyance, but paddle boards have become increasingly popular and there are several Hobie style hybrids that are larger kayak style hulls with a sail, outriggers for stability, and pedal drives.

After watching the paddle boarders make their way offshore I was struck by how incongruous they appeared in the growing distance – apparently standing upright on top of the water, making their graceful way across the calm surface, while the boards that support them become harder to see as they move further away.  As I continued further along, ahead of me I saw another couple launching their kayaks and paddling out into the brightening water, as the morning solitude was gradually replaced as I was joined by other early risers who were enjoying more active pleasures this morning.

By now the sun was breaking above the craggy peaks of Carmen in the distance, but this day’s version of sunrise was accented by the clouds hanging over the horizon, filtering the strengthening sunlight.  As I contemplated this peaceful scene I realized how quiet it was, with just the steady lapping rhythm of the water and hardly a breath of breeze to ripple the water’s surface.  Without wanting to sound too spiritual about it, but the feeling on the Beach this morning was similar to how I have felt walking into some churches in the past – a calm stillness that creates a hushed atmosphere where one’s senses are heightened.

I noticed these feelings as I met more fellow travelers further down the Beach, as a mother, daughter and dog and we exchanged a quietly relaxed greeting, not wanting to disturb each other’s peaceful moment, while still acknowledging a friendly presence.  Further along, now in front of the Hotel Beach, a security person was checking the Beach Palapas and their lounge chairs, a few with remnants of the activities of the day, or night, before – a couple of beach towels on the chairs, with the odd drink can nestled in the sand nearby.

An early morning delegation of nearly identical seagulls moved rather aimlessly along the beach edge, trying their best to ignore my approach, while keeping a safe distance until they either take to the water or the air, either option more graceful than their flat-webbed shuffle on the sand.  There were a few pelicans cruising motionlessly a couple of hundred feet above, apparently waiting for the breakfast bell to sound when schools of small fish would arrive in the shallow water and the daily feeding ritual would begin again.

As I reached the end of the Beach at Punta Nopolo, the rocky outcrop that marks the end of Loreto Bay, I could see the silvery spray of the irrigation sweeping over the emerald green of the golf course with the now strengthening sun climbing higher above the clouds on the horizon.  Turning, I slowly made my way back along the Beach towards my home again, taking in the curving shoreline now trimmed with the multi-colored Villas, bright again in the morning sun, with the majestic Sierra de la Giganta Mountains in the background, seeming closer than usual in the clear morning air.          

As I retraced my steps, I was lapped by a solitary jogger pacing
himself along the water’s edge and then met a blissfully happy, if somewhat bedraggled, dog who invited me to play a potentially unending game of fetch with him, until his person joined us, and then, after a few friendly words of greeting, she expertly tossed the ball further down the Beach, continuing the ever-new game that was their morning ritual. 


Finally, fittingly, I met another couple of friends whose first return visit to the Home they had
purchased a year ago was about to come to an end – they were leaving the next day to begin the journey half way around the world to their other home in Germany.  Their three week visit had flown by, between getting settled into their new Home and a full schedule of activities, and they were already excitedly talking of their plans for a year-end return visit.  And so, after sharing their enthusiasm over their first experiences as Homeowners here, and bidding them farewell and a safe return, I made my way back to my Home to begin my day, appreciating once again the simple pleasures of “Living Loreto.” 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The impact of Westjet on Loreto - so far!

It has now been a month and a half since Westjet began once a week direct flights from Calgary in western Canada to Loreto and I want to share some impressions of the impact that this new service has had so far.  First of all, by all reports from the numerous passengers I have spoken with, the southbound flights have been essentially booked to capacity, with few, if any, vacant seats, and from what else I have heard, the situation is similar for the northbound trips.

That means that each weekly flight of the Westjet 737-700 plane brings about 120 passengers to Loreto, mainly from western Canada, as compared to the approximate maximum of 500 passengers a week that the current daily flights Alaska/Horizon is making to Loreto from LAX in the smaller capacity Bombardier Q400 turboprop they use on this flight.  Or in other words, the new Westjet service has increased air access to Loreto by about 25% in the last month and a half.

It is also worth noting that looking at the average ticket prices, the Westjet flight in Canadian Dollars is about the same cost from western Canada as the much shorter Alaska/Horizon trip from Los Angeles, which is of course calculated in US Dollars, which actually makes this Canadian flight about 20% cheaper, considering the current exchange rate which has the Canadian Dollar around 80 cents US.  This price difference has made travelling to Loreto a more attractive option for Canadians, even if they have to connect through Calgary from elsewhere in the country.  Let alone the fact that, as a direct flight, it avoids the hassle and expense of travelling from Canada through LAX to get here and return north again.

While it would be a mistake to assume that all of that increased number of passengers wind up here in Loreto Bay, I think it is probably fair to think that a large percentage of them do.  Particularly given the fact that Calgary was one of the best markets for the original Developer during the marketing phase that started over 10 years ago.  And so, between Homeowners, their friends and families, and a presumably large number of others in the Calgary market who are familiar with Loreto because of this development, I would not be surprised if many of these new passengers are coming to Loreto to stay in Loreto Bay.

Which brings me back to the subject for this week’s posting.  Working from my Real Estate Office, which is centrally located in the larger Founders Neighborhood of Loreto Bay, I am in a good place to observe the day to day “street life” of our Community as people pass by.  And, during the past month and a half since the Westjet flights began, I have seen a definite increase in the numbers of apparent Visitors.  While that may not seem like too significant a statement to make, it does indicate a trend that I have not seen to the same extent before, in the almost 7 years I have been working in this business here.

During that period time there has been a growing number of Visitors and Renters coming to Loreto Bay and they have been a welcome, if comparatively small, addition to the Resident population.  In the past it was relatively easy to pick out these “new faces” among the many familiar acquaintances, friends and neighbors that I have come to know over the years, who live here and return to stay for varying lengths of time.  However, recently I have begun to realize that there appears to be more of these new arrivals than ever, and so now walking down the Paseo sometimes it seems there are more new faces than familiar ones.

This trend is further accented by the fact that in the past several weeks the annual exodus of winter Residents has also begun, as people who live here for months during the Season start to return to their northern homes for the summer.  So, as the numbers of Residents starts to decline and our winter Season winds down, the presence of the Visitors becomes more and more noticeable as they become a larger percentage of the population of Loreto Bay.

While in my opinion this is a very positive trend and I am excited by the prospect of a growing
number of Visitors and Renters choosing to come here for a vacation, and the potential this has for the future of Loreto Bay and the town of Loreto.  What has struck me is, that for the first time, I can begin to see how that future may look, as we hopefully welcome Westjet back again this Fall with a new schedule of Loreto flights that would extend throughout the winter Season.  And then, if I look even further into my personal “crystal ball”, to the next Airline that may be influenced by Westjet’s success here and the eventual launch of another Loreto bound flight, possibly from some other US city.

The change, that I am now seeing at this early stage, could in time cause Loreto Bay to transition from a Community with Visitors to a Resort Destination with Residents.  Now, before I am accused of predicting an immanent influx of Vacationers descending on Loreto Bay and turning it into some kinder, gentler version of Cabo (perish the thought!) let me be clear – I believe that our Community, and the many hundreds of Homeowners who live here for part of the year, will not only survive, but thrive in a future that includes a growing number of Tourists that will choose to share this special place that we have helped to create here.


After all, originally we were all Visitors here, and those of us who were willing and able to invest in a dream, either as it was offered to us by the original Developer during the initial 5 year marketing phase, or more recently to those who have chosen to join our community over the years since, we all recognized the special qualities that make this place unique.  And now, as I watch the growing numbers of these newcomers passing by the doors of my Office on a daily basis, I realize that we may now be seeing the beginning of yet another Chapter of “Living Loreto”!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Town Hall Meeting in Loreto Bay

As you may already know, Loreto Bay is a Condominium Community and Homeowners manage the Development through a structure of 12 Sub Regimes within a Master Regime to establish policy and make planning and budget decisions that shapes our community now and into the future.  We employ a Condominium Management company to handle the day to day administration and supervise the staff and contractors we employ to provide the services and maintenance that are required to operate our community of over 600 homes.

While this is a simplification of a fairly complicated management structure that we inherited in part from the way the original Developer set up the Condominium in the first place, and in part as is required by Mexican law, it should be understood that, between the volunteers involved in the neighborhood Sub Regimes and the community wide Master Regime, there are close to 100 Homeowners contributing time and effort in helping to make Loreto Bay the beautiful and well run Community it has become.

While much of this considerable time and effort by these Homeowners goes largely unnoticed by the majority of Residents here, this past week there was a very public example of the sort of work that goes on behind the scenes to manage and plan for a Community this size, when the Master Regime Planning Committee held its first Town Hall Meeting this week in the Community Center here in Loreto Bay.  Although it was going to require my closing the Real Estate Office for a couple of hours, I was looking forward to attending the meeting as an opportunity to understand what was being considered for the future of Loreto Bay.

Not knowing what to expect in the way of turnout, by the time that I arrived at the Community Center about 15 minutes before the scheduled start time, I found that most of the available seats were already taken and by the time the Meeting began the number of Homeowners in attendance had more than doubled to over 120.  While this was an impressive turnout it probably was no more than half the current number of Owners that are here, as many couples were represented by only one person.  But it still surprises me how many people are living here at any given time during the Season, when there are usually only a small percentage of them evident coming and going on the sidewalks and pathways on a day to day basis!  

This 9 member Committee was just formed in January this year to review our facilities and issues and make recommendations for how the Community will continue to evolve and develop.  To prepare for this task, earlier in the year a survey was sent out to all of the Homeowners asking for feedback and to establish what they thought the priorities were for the future of Loreto Bay.  So to begin with, the Committee reported that there had been an over 50% response to this survey – high by standards for this sort of research.



It came as no surprise to me that the number one priority, according to these results, was the issue of vehicle parking within Loreto Bay.  One of the characteristics of this Development that appealed to many of the original Buyers was the “sustainability” of the project.  This was an important part of the “vision” the Developers had at the outset, and it became one of the selling points that appealed to the future Owners of Loreto Bay.  One consequence of this was designing Loreto Bay as a “walking community” where all gas engine vehicles are restricted to parking on the divided main road, or “Paseo Mision de Loreto” (we call it the Paseo for short) that runs mainly north/south through the Community.   Then you walk to your home on the network of many landscaped pathways that feed off the Paseo and connect the many Community Courtyards that the Homes are clustered around.

As the occupancy levels have risen over the years, and the numbers of Homeowners with cars has increased the parking density has continued to grow, particularly in the central part of the larger Founders Neighborhood where over 2/3 of the 600+ homes are located.  While there is always somewhere to park, this congestion can sometimes result in people having to park further from their homes than they would like, causing some inconvenience when you are carrying luggage or a week’s worth of groceries.      

The Planning Committee reported that last month in February, with a community occupancy level of about 43% (which will probably be close to our highest level this Season), there were in fact a small surplus of parking spaces at the peak daytime traffic levels.  However, there were also some recommendations for short term ways to increase the available spaces, including allowing parking on both sides of the south entrance road and permitting parking on left side of the Paseo, where it is wide enough that two vehicles can park without obstructing the road, along with other longer term options.

The second priority from those who had responded to the survey had to do with the Beach that is on the east side of Loreto Bay, where it meets the Sea of Cortez.  To begin with it should be understood that all Beaches in Mexico are public and so we do not “own” the Beach.  However, our proximity to the Beach and the Ocean remains one of the most important features of Loreto Bay and the Planning Committee had established some priorities to improve the access and appearance.

At the south end of the Development, just north of where the INN is located, there is a 275 foot stretch of Beach that had been cleared prior to Loreto Bay being developed and originally it had about 8 shade palapas (umbrella shaped, thatched roofed structures) that have deteriorated over the years and the several tropical storms we have weathered.  Rebuilding these palapas and re-anchoring them into the Beach was seen as the first priority in improving the appearance and utility of the Beach. 

Secondly, increasing the amount of Kayak and various “Board” storage near the Beach was considered to be the next most important facility, as the numbers of Homeowners wanting to enjoy these watersports grows.  It was also recommended that more “wash stations” be added so that saltwater and sand can be hosed off people, pets, and things, as they leave the Beach and move onto the pathways into the Community.  It was also identified that expanding our already extensive landscape maintenance within the Development to include “grooming” the sand and collecting any trash that is left on the Beach by the tide is also going to be recommended going forward.

The third area of interest according to the Survey response was Community Facilities including options for expanding the current Community Center where the meeting was being held.  This is an approximately 1,500 sq. ft. space which we rent from the Investment Group that manages the commercial property within Loreto Bay.  In addition to a significant lending library of books and DVDs donated by Homeowners, and some comfortable seating and wi-fi access, this space is regularly used by a variety of interest groups including Bridge and Mah Jong players as well as Yoga and other fitness activities.  Several interesting options were discussed, starting with some renovations that would improve the existing facilities and make it possible for more than one activity to be underway at a time, to possibly acquiring more rental space and even consideration of earmarking funds for purchasing land and developing a multi-use facility in the future.    

Further down the list of priorities were a Fitness Center – there is one small “for profit” gym I described in a recent posting http://livingloreto.blogspot.mx/2015/01/new-businesses-in-agua-viva-enhance.html and a similar fitness room in the Hotel that we may have improved access to in the future, but the consensus was against expanding these facilities as part of our Condominium amenities, leaving it to the marketplace to decide what they want to support.  Likewise, it was decided that there was not sufficient interest in adding more Community swimming pools to the three we currently operate, nor did the idea of developing a Children’s Playground within Loreto Bay receive much support – the feedback being that there were lots of other unique activities for the relatively small (but growing) number of young Visitors that are coming to Loreto Bay.


When the meeting concluded, after a lively Q & A period, I headed back to my Office for the rest of the afternoon and considered the many ideas and suggestions that had been discussed, arising out of the Homeowners Survey.  While I was pleased with most of the information I had gathered at the meeting, what struck me as most important was this planning process that had begun a few short months ago, and how it would begin to shape how the future of how Loreto Bay would look, starting in the near future - and extending well beyond.  And I realized how, from these modest beginnings, our Community would continue to mature and progress into an even more responsive and beautiful place for those of us who are lucky enough to be “Living Loreto”! 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Faith and Begorrah - St. Patrick's in Loreto!

I’m not sure what it is about St. Patrick’s Day that has the almost universal appeal to bring out the “Irish” in almost any Nationality on March 17th each year – but the power of the “green” seems to affect people here as much, or perhaps even more, than anywhere I have lived before.  Perhaps the answer is that people here are generally up for a good time, with most of the growing ex-pat population here either retired, or visiting on holiday.  Regardless, this year there was the best St. Patrick’s Day celebration I have been to, certainly since I have lived here in Loreto, perhaps ever! 

I have written before about previous parties on the 17th, most recently two years ago when there was a Street Party in Loreto Bay organized by El Cardon Cantina, one of the restaurants here (http://livingloreto.blogspot.mx/2013/03/st-patricks-in-loreto-bay.html ) which is owned by Kieran and Norma, a couple I have also profiled in an earlier posting, shortly after they opened their Loreto Bay location two and a half years ago (http://livingloreto.blogspot.mx/2012/12/el-cardon-mexican-cantina-in-loreto-bay.html).

Prior to opening El Cardon in Loreto Bay, they were operating their main restaurant in town called “1697” in reference to the arrival date here of the Jesuit Missionaries and the founding of the original Catholic Mission which is located nearby where their restaurant is located in the Town Square.  Which is a lengthy introduction to the fact that due to Kieran’s Irish heritage, I believe that there is a degree of authenticity, or at least legitimacy, to their festivities honoring the Irish Patron Saint.

But this year there was an additional attraction to the celebration.  Earlier this Season Kieran and Norma launched their own local microbrewery, El Zopilote Brewing Company, featuring three house brews: Tombstone Pale Ale, Rattlesnake IPA and El Bandito Stout and so my choice was clear as to where I would celebrate the “Glorious 17th”.  Since I had neglected to buy an advance ticket to the event I decided that I had better arrive early if I wanted to get into the party, so I headed into town just after 5:00 and found parking nearby the restaurant.

However, for this special night’s festivities, their regular restaurant facility would have been far too small and so they had opened up the large graveled area behind the building to accommodate the expected crowd of temporary Irish for the evening.  When I arrived there were already more than a few tables claimed, but I was able to join a number of Loreto Bay friends sitting to one side of the temporary stage set up at the far end of the property. 

And on the stage, warming up, were the first entertainers for the evening, also becoming a Loreto tradition, Los Beach Dogs, featuring original members Rich (guitar, keyboard and vocals) and Tony (drums) along with Adolfo (bass guitar), and his brother Ruben (lead guitar, who drove half a day from the town where he works as a teacher to make this gig) they were joined by Chucho (alternating on Bass for a few numbers) as well as Tim (another Loreto Bay Homeowner playing a mean “Harp” on several numbers) to round out this special St. Patrick’s line up.       

Due to changing personnel and schedules, this Season the ‘Dogs have had several incarnations, but this night’s line up was great, with Rich handling all the vocals while switching between his acoustic rhythm guitar and a recently added keyboard, including numbers from the familiar repertoire, as well as some new numbers I hadn’t heard from them before.  As they began their first set there was a steady stream of ticket holders arriving for the party as Norma greeted them and Kieran managed the kitchen producing a tasty sampler of “sliders” with fries, the special dish included in the ticket price.  Meanwhile other staff handled the flow of libations, including (of course) the trio of house-brewed beers along with other choices for those with “less authentic” beverage preferences.

As I sat enjoying the concert, the beverages and the company, I realized that it had been a while since I had spent an evening in town, due to a combination of factors including my work schedule, the increased dining options now in Loreto Bay, plus the reluctance to drive back home from town at night after enjoying several libations.  I was also struck with how Loreto has been changing from the somewhat sleepy town I had discovered over 10 years ago, to what has become a thriving ex-pat community which is impacting the culture and the day to day and the nightlife, in many, mostly positive ways – like the sounds of tonight’s concert echoing around the historic Town Square.


While the sold-out crowd included local Loretanos and lots of ex-pat “Townies”, it was my impression that the largest group in attendance had come in from Loreto Bay for the evening and that too made me realize again the impact that our Community is having on Loreto and influencing on how the town is changing.  And so, as I drove back to Loreto Bay, a little before “Baja Midnight”, I thought about how some traditions bridge Nationalities, and how for some of us celebrating an ancient Irish Priest is reason enough to have a party – especially if you’re Irish for the day - and are lucky enough to be “Living Loreto”!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

"Oscar" welcomes CINEXICO to Loreto

There is a new cultural event on the horizon here in Loreto, Cinexico is a Film Festival celebrating Mexican cinema and documentaries, an event that has been over a year in the planning and happens this weekend March 13 – 15th (www.cinexico.com).  To kick off this exciting festival there was an opening party organized by Loreto Bay Volunteers, under the auspices of Amigos de Loreto – an “Oscar Party” a fund-raiser to benefit the Internado School here in Loreto Bay.

Among the many worthy charities benefitting Loreto and the surrounding area, the Internado is the focus of many in the ex-pat community who see an opportunity to make a big difference for children. Currently there are 62 students between 5 years and 20, who travel from the surrounding remote rancheros to stay in a Government run dormitory and attend public schools in Loreto Monday to Friday each week, returning to their families on weekends.

While the Government provides the facility (there are a total of 33 Internados throughout the Baja) and some very basic support and staffing, practically speaking these dormitories depend on community support and donations to provide anything more than the most basic subsistence for the young people who call this home while they attend school.  In the past that local support for the Loreto facility has included food, blankets, sheets, shoes, and backpacks for the kids and ceiling fans, air conditioners, washing machines, refrigerators and even a School Bus for the facility.


To continue to support these worthwhile activities the Loreto Bay Volunteers have organized other fund-raising events in the past, including a dance recital put on by the kids two years ago called “Pueblo Magico” that I wrote about here:  http://livingloreto.blogspot.mx/2013/04/loreto-pueblo-magico-for-children.html , but this Oscar party took these efforts to a whole new level!  
Oscar Night was held at the “Okiee Dokiee Saloon” in Loreto, a large bar/nightclub that the Volunteers had transformed into a facsimile of a Hollywood After Party site with custom made table centers, a sponsor logo board, even an inflatable replica (sort of) of the famous trophy.  On the outdoor patio area at the back of the venue there was a stage set-up with a rear projection screen and more tables.  From the front door a red carpet stretched the length of the building to the back Patio, adding to the “Hollywood” feel of the evening.

I closed my Office a bit early that day to go home and press a shirt for the evening, as the dress code had been advertised as “Baja Glam” (whatever that means!) and I got into town a little before the 5:30 start time.  By the time I arrived there was already a lineup of several dozen people waiting for the doors to open, but since I had been asked to be the photographer for the evening I was able to get in early and take some pictures of the preparations inside.


When the doors opened there was a steady stream of ticket holders
entering through the balloon arch and onto the red carpet.  I was impressed with the fact that practically everyone had responded to the Baja Glam code, with some very fancy outfits on the women (including more high heels than one usually sees here) and many of the men were wearing “Tuxedo T-Shirts”, while what most of the others were wearing was definitely dressier than a normal night out in Loreto!

After arriving, many people purchased bottles of wine on one side of the entrance, while others lined up at the bar on the other side for cocktails and beer.  Then they made their way to their assigned tables and the large room quickly filled.  Greeting people from the stage as they arrived was Dave, a Loreto Bay Homeowner who had been recruited as MC for the evening, and with his background as a former radio host in Canada, he quickly set an upbeat mood for the evening to come.

Soon after most people had settled at their tables and had a drink in hand Dave introduced Barb, a Loreto Bay Volunteer who had worked on the Internado project for some time, who gave a frank and informative presentation on the situation for the resident kids here in Loreto and then reviewed the 20 year history of assistance the ex-pat community has provided.  She went on to explain the priorities they had for their support going forward which focused on three main things: storage lockers for each kid so they had somewhere private to keep their things, funding for a special outing to take all 62 of them out to an adjacent Island for the day including a special tour on the Glass Bottom Boat, and finally investment in the Scholarship Fund that has been operating for several years to and so far has made it possible for the students to continue their education beyond the Grade 6 minimum level funded by the Government. 

An example of the success of this program is the fact that there are currently 23 students receiving this assistance, with one student currently training to become a Dentist!  To conclude her comments Barb made an emotional acknowledgement of Linda, one of the early ex-pat residents in Loreto who has worked for the betterment of the Internado kids for over 20 years and has been an example to the many relative newcomers to this community.


Next it was Dave’s turn to whip up the crowd’s enthusiasm, which he proceeded to do with spectacular success!  He first explained that it was going to cost at least $200 pesos for each locker and he challenged those present to hold up a $200 peso bill and Volunteers would circulate and collect the contributions – the response was amazing!  At practically every one of the dozens of tables for 10 several people had their hands up waving their bills, and not all of them were just $200’s there were $500’s and more being offered.  By the time all were collected it was announced later that over $20,000 pesos had been raised in less than 15 minutes!  The kids were going to be getting more than just some new lockers after this evening!

But that was not the end of the generosity.  Later in the evening Dave assumed the role of Auctioneer, and with the assistance of his wife Lynda, he coaxed top dollars from the crowd for an attractive group of rewards that included: a getaway to the Silverado Resort in Napa Valley CA, a fishing charter with renown local Captain Pancho, 2 return tickets on the Westjet Calgary/Loreto flight, a stay at the Black Rock Resort in Ucluelet Vancouver Island, CFL tickets for 4 Calgary vs Ottawa and 2 cases of La Cetto wine.  As one after another of these desirable items were auctioned off it became clear that many of them were selling for considerably more than their “face value” from the donors, a further demonstration that this crowd had their heart in the right place and they were happy to pay more as a contribution to a good cause.

Meanwhile, during the evening there was a Silent Auction going on in an adjacent room off the stage area with artwork and jewelry offered to the high bidders as well as raffle tickets being sold for more great items including a beautiful handmade quilt by a popular local artist.  But it wasn't fund raising – it was fun as well – with a very professional jazz dance performance by Cathy, a Loreto Bay Homeowner and a salsa presentation by another couple. Along with dancing and listening music performed by a three piece group called Algarabia there was an introduction to the Cinexico Festival and how it came about by Pamela and Mike, Loreto Bay Homeowners who are successful in the film business in the US and they showed some highlights and trailers from the films being shown in the festival.


As I drove home to Loreto Bay following the event (well after “Baja Midnight”, for a change) I was thinking how proud I was to be living in a Community that came out in such impressive numbers for an evening to celebrate the beginning of a new artistic festival in our town and get into the spirit of the occasion.  This was expressed both in the way they dressed up, and had fun with the theme of the event, but more importantly they used the occasion of their having a fun night out to make an important difference in the lives and education of over 60 kids, and that is what makes it special to be “Living Loreto”!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Amuse your Muse in Loreto Bay.

This week the Wine Cellar @ Nopolo was the scene of another musical evening, but this time with a different “Headliner”.  James and his wife Jennifer are from Dallas where he works as a hairdresser and is part of Def Leggend, a professional tribute band for the heavy metal group Def Leppard, while she heads up a call center for a major jewelry retailer.

They were first attracted to the Loreto area about 5 years ago after Jennifer saw the New York Times article that included Loreto on a list of “Places to see”.  They had travelled extensively in Mexico for years but the quieter, less developed nature of Loreto appealed to them so they booked the trip – and Loreto did its magic on them.  Skip ahead several years and they have now purchased an uncompleted home just north of Loreto Bay that they are planning to custom finish.

However, since both James and Jennifer are close to 50 and they will continue to be working for the foreseeable future, Loreto will continue to be a vacation destination for them, even after they complete their home here.  But since spending a couple of weeks a year here over the past several years, this week’s performance at the Wine Cellar was not James’ first here in Loreto Bay, in fact he has played the Wine Cellar before, as well as at another restaurant here and a New Year’s gig at the Inn at Loreto Bay one year.

James grew up as the only musician in a non-musical family, starting to play guitar in elementary school.  He started his first band in Grade 5 and music has been an important part of his life ever since.  He started playing professionally almost 30 years ago and became a hairdresser to keep himself busy between gigs.  His professional career now is mainly focused on his work in the Tribute Band, which he describes as a combination of music and a tightly choreographed acting performance.  His band is successful, performing in many Casinos and Festivals and playing before a crowd of 5,000 the night before their departure to Loreto for this trip.  But James also has an acoustic repertoire that he performs solo, which was the music a standing room crowd at the Wine Cellar enjoyed this week. 

I have written here in previous posts how living in Loreto Bay has encouraged a number of Residents to flourish as musicians, and provided a venue for others who have had some prior professional experience to pursue their love of music here.  But whether these musicians had been professional at one time or not, here in Loreto Bay they can all be considered “Amateur” in the BEST sense of the word.  Because they are performing here only for their love of music – since Foreigners cannot be paid to perform in Mexico without the necessary work visa. 

The performances we enjoy here by ex-pats are officially unpaid gigs, so the musicians don’t run afoul of the Immigration Service, and I suggest that “gratis status” adds a special element to the entertainment.  These people are playing for the love of the music and the joy they get from performing it, as well as the pleasure they receive from the appreciation and support they get from the audiences they entertain.  Removing the remuneration from the performance, I suspect has an effect on the motivation of the performer – they are not playing for the money, but for their love of what they do.

While that difference means one thing for a retired person who is making music part of their lifestyle here, I assume it takes on perhaps even greater significance to someone who is still actively involved as a professional musician and performer.  For the “hobby” musician this environment and community is open, accepting and supportive of their passion and through that support it creates a safe space for their skill to develop and their talent to flourish.  For someone to whom music is a business elsewhere, perhaps playing for free in Loreto Bay gives them an opportunity to get back to the roots of what brought them to music in the first place, and as a “busman’s holiday” it allows them to indulge their muse in a way that their commercial career does not.

However, in either case, we – the audience – clearly receives the benefit and enjoyment from these performances in the ways that only live music can provide.  But, in addition to the simple pleasure of listening to music, there is a further value that enhances the experience for us and that is the sense of community and identity that comes from either knowing the performer as a friend and neighbor, or appreciating the fact that a Visitor feels so much at home here that they are motivated to perform to express their enjoyment at being here, and wanting to feel a part of it by playing for us.

In either case, for these people music is both a form of expression and an avocation, as well as providing a connection between the performer and the audience.  However, for other people that expression may take other forms; there is a thriving artistic community here that takes inspiration from the beauty that surrounds us, others find more physical outlets through yoga, exercise, cycling and golf, all of which activities, and more, can be pursued here.  For some the water is their passion; swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, and paddle boarding, not to mention boating and fishing in one of the best protected marine parks in the world.


So what we have developed here is providing an opportunity for self-expression, personal development, or just recreation, and for a growing number of us who call this place home that may be the best part of “Living Loreto”! 
 
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