Sunday, January 25, 2015

New Businesses in Agua Viva enhance Loreto Bay!

There have been several recent additions to the amenities and services available within Loreto Bay this Season, all of them located in Agua Viva, the second phase of the Development which is on the north side of the Founder’s Neighborhood.  These businesses are a welcome addition to the lifestyle we enjoy here and I, like most Homeowners, want to encourage and support them as their success will bring others to our community as we continue to grow.

Although many people are attracted to Loreto Bay for the healthy lifestyle; planned as a walking community, with an open Beach running the length of the Development, surrounded by a reasonably priced Golf Course, and connected with miles of landscaped flagstone pathways ideal for leisurely walks or cycling.  But for some Residents and Visitors something has been missing – an indoor cardio and fitness center.

Introducing The Roadrunner Gym a new private Fitness Center that has just opened in the Agua Viva Neighborhood of Loreto Bay.  Operated by Erick and Alfredo, who also operate other businesses from their location in AV68, the bright attractive space is equipped with several pieces of Life Fitness exercise machines including a couple of treadmills, a recumbent cycle, an elliptical trainer, a Nordic Track and free weights.

This provides a new fitness alternative for those of us who may prefer to get our workout indoors, with programmable equipment in controlled conditions, when it may be too hot, humid or windy for outdoor exercise.  They are also offering a variety of payment options for daily, weekly or monthly use of the facility as well as a discounted monthly rate for couples and a long term three month rate (with additional months available) for single members and couples.













Those of you who know Loreto (and long term regular readers of this Blog) may be familiar with Dali Delicatessen a gourmet food specialty shop that operated in town for a number of years.  I wrote about it in these pages less than two years ago (http://livingloreto.blogspot.mx/2013/05/a-farewell-to-dali.html) when the couple who were the original proprietors decided to move their business to La Paz. 

By the following Fall a similar store was re-opened in the same location by another local entrepreneur, Pedro, who has operated a store and restaurants in and around Loreto for many years, including the main restaurant at the Airport.  Late last year Pedro rented a small storefront in Agua Viva and opened a satellite store to his larger one in town, which he has now packed with an amazing selection (considering the limited space available) of delicious foods and ingredients, many of which are imported and can’t be found in even the largest stores in Loreto.

 With a couple of freezers stocking perishables, like individually frozen portions of prime meats, as well as refrigerated dairy products and drinks, a good selection of wines and liquors, as well as dry and packaged goods, and even a sampling of fresh produce, Pedro with his assistant Pamela have managed to bring most of the best-selling items from his store in town so here in Loreto Bay we have a convenient source of entrees to build a fine meal around, and the special ingredients that make it memorable!

It seems that almost anywhere one travels in the developed world now there is a local version of
Pizza available, making this one of the most popular dishes everywhere.  That is true here in Loreto as well, with a number of Pizza restaurants in town competing for both the local Mexican clientele as well as the ex-pats and visitors who are looking for a familiar and favorite “comfort food”.  One of the most successful of these Loreto Pizzerias is Pepeginas, with a couple of locations in town, and, as of this Fall, a new branch here in Loreto Bay, opening in a location where another restaurant had operated last year. 

In the interest of full disclosure, I fancy myself as somewhat of a Pizza Connoisseur, having worked in a Pizza joint in Calgary as a part-time job in High School, and so I was anxious to try our local version when  it opened after I returned to Loreto Bay this Fall – and the verdict, two sticky thumbs UP!  This is a seriously good pie, nice thin crust, good cheese and ingredients – and best of all, IT’S HERE!  Although I had “hankered” for pizza often in past years, the logistics of driving 30 km round trip into town to pick one up never made much sense in the past.  But now I am able to order by phone and wander over to pick it up fresh and hot from the oven – yumm!  And if that’s not easy enough – they deliver, better yet, by bicycle (what else would you expect in a “sustainable” community!

When I dropped in to take some pictures for this post I met Sebastien and Cesar, who introduced themselves as the new management of the restaurant.  Sebastien, who will be taking over as the new Chef, said there would be some changes made to the Menu, offering a wider selection of options for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner, while continuing to specialize in Pizzas.  They also pointed out that work was beginning to develop the vacant lot next door for a new extension to the limited space they currently have.

These three new businesses, all started in the past few months, are each offering products and services that are contribute to enhancing our lifestyle here in Loreto Bay; a fitness center with state of the art equipment that will help its members to keep in shape while providing a new social center, a food store that brings a sampling of gourmet foods and ingredients to our community along with convenience and another step towards independence, and another restaurant providing more variety and service to our growing population so we can dine and socialize here without having to always make the drive into town for a night out.


In conclusion, I can’t help thinking that it was only a few years ago that the idea of having these sort of businesses here in our community would have seemed highly unlikely, when access to a private fitness center, a gourmet food store and a delicious Pizza place was beyond the expectations of the small numbers of people starting a new life here in a new development.  Now, we welcome three new businesses, joining the growing commercial sector, and adding to the independence and options we enjoy as we are “Living Loreto”. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Loreto Bay Volunteers – making a difference in many ways!

Amidst the day to day routine of “Living Loreto” that for most of the ex-pat population here includes socializing, golfing, kayaking, cycling, beachcombing – and just enjoying the pleasures of spending time enjoying a beautiful place and a (usually) ideal climate, a growing number of people are looking for something more.  They are looking for a way to give back, or pay forward - to do things that make a difference and make a contribution that will help to make this an even better place, and benefit some of the people who live here under difficult circumstances.

This desire to help found a way to be expressed with the formation of Loreto Bay Volunteers about four years ago.  This umbrella organization brought together those in our community that were looking for a way to get involved and contribute to making a difference, and worthy recipients throughout the surrounding area so that the efforts were focused where they would do the most good where the need was greatest.

While the Volunteer group has a regular schedule of meetings throughout the season, this week there was an “Open House” event held at the Golf Course Clubhouse to introduce the community at large to the numerous agencies that receive assistance in one form or another, and continue to expand their activities and the benefits that result. 

When I arrived, the courtyard of the Clubhouse was busy with over a hundred mainly Loreto Bay residents, along with others who had come from town to get involved, while around the perimeter there were table top displays by a number of the agencies that receive support from the organization. In addition to beverages and snacks provided by the Hoyo 19, the Clubhouse restaurant, Rich (the “lone dog” musician of the local Beach Dogs currently in Loreto Bay) was doing a solo performance entertaining the assembled crowd.

The energies of the Volunteers are focused into four general areas: Community, Environment, Children and Animals and most of these involve the following agencies with different specific areas of interest and activity:

Caritas - A charity organization that works to feed, clothe & give basic care to the needy of Loreto and its surrounding communities.

Ramon’s Families – Named after a popular Property Manager in Loreto Bay who is the organizer, this is a group of destitute/in-need families that have “fallen through the cracks” and are now receiving donations of food, clothing and housewares collected in Loreto Bay.

Internado - The Internado is a government-sponsored hostel for 62 children from kindergarten thru high school. It provides children who live in the rancheros & fish camps from outlying areas a place to live in town so they can attend the local public schools.

Earthcomp - Earthcomp’s goal is to reduce waste and the resulting contamination of air, soil, & water thru public education and immediate action that restores and preserves natural balance by recycling plastics and composting organic waste.

Amigos de Loreto - ADL is the civil association/Mexican nonprofit “umbrella” organization that LBV works with to comply with Mexican law with a primary focus on supporting the medical needs of the larger Community and children’s groups.

Ilsa Verde Garden – This program aims to develop an educational gardening area for kids in Loreto, the full program is based on the Lifelab curriculum (www.Lifelab.org) that runs from kindergarten to high school in its educational range.

Living Roots - Living Roots has been promoting vibrant Baja Ranchero lifestyle for future 
generations. The focus is on Community empowerment, Economic development, Youth engagement, and expanding the marketplace through developing a Cultural Center in nearby San Javier.

Eco Alianza de Loreto – With the mission to protect & conserve our natural & cultural environment by empowering civil society and Government to jointly create healthy & prosperous communities, the goals for Eco Alianza include improving the enforcement of Loreto National Park rules & regulations and increase the awareness and protection of the municipal watershed of Loreto.

Patronada of Casa Hogar - Casa Hogar translates as House Home, meaning a house that is a home-cozy, snug, and safe. It is a temporary home for children who have no family to live with. Casa Hogar Loreto is sponsored in part by the Mexican government and further support is provided by the Volunteers to provide additional living necessities.

Segunda Chansa – Supporting Loreto’s private animal shelter with supplies and equipment and organizing Volunteers to help feed and socialize rescued animals and transport some of them to shelters in the US for adoption.

Animalandia – Provides clinic care for stray and abandoned animals and sponsors periodic free spay and neuter clinics and vouchers for these procedures that are distributed to low income pet owners in Loreto.

CAM - Special Education School – Providing financial support and other contributions for the education of local children with learning disabilities.

Community Medical Support - Focusing on Loreto Hospital, Red Cross, the Bomberos, and the Rehab Unit, this LBV subgroup collects funds and other donations for quarterly acquisition of supplies for the Loreto Hospital.

As you can see, beneath the surface of the tranquil setting that we all enjoy here, the needs and opportunities for volunteer assistance and charity are many and diverse, and Loreto Bay Volunteers are making important contributions that are making big differences in so many areas!  At the same time, these activities provide purpose and satisfaction for the growing numbers of residents who are spending increasing amounts of time here and are looking for meaningful ways to make a contribution.

Underlying all of this positive effort and energy is the simple fact that I have been aware of since I started living here almost 10 years ago – a little goes a very long way!  While many of the “poor” in North America may own cars and TV sets, here in the Baja poverty is much more basic and the needs are far greater.  But with that, the opportunities to make a real difference are also greater, and that is a benefit for all of us who are able to be “Living Loreto”.


P.S. If you are looking for more information on any of these activities or Agencies or want to get involved and help (from near or far) please visit www.loretobayvolunteers.org or Loreto Bay Volunteers on Facebook.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

As Winter as it gets!

As we begin a New Year here in Loreto Bay I am pausing to reflect on my life here, and some of the differences from my former life.  One of the obvious differences is the weather, but perhaps you might be surprised that in fact, relatively speaking, the differences are not as big as you might think. 
Before you assume that I have been sampling the Tequila (more than usual) let me explain.

While my former home in western Canada is currently locked in a deep freeze – along with large parts of North America – we here in Loreto are experiencing OUR version of mid-winter weather too.  Albeit a much kinder gentler winter weather than up north, but for us it’s winter just the same. 

So, what is winter in the Baja like?  Well, historically, from about mid-December through to mid-February is our “winter”, although in recent years it seems it can start later and end sooner than that (remember now they call it “Climate Change” – not “Global Warming”) and while the daytime highs are currently a comfortable mid 20 degrees Celsius or mid 70 Fahrenheit, it does cool down at night to sometimes as low as single digits C or 50 F.

This cooler weather can also come with overcast skies (although not usually all day) and sometimes strong winds from the NE (as I've written here before, bad weather in Loreto is called a windy day) which can blow cooler weather from up north, down the Sea of Cortez and bring us a taste of what passes for winter in the southwest US.

One sign of the season for me is when I switch to my winter wardrobe - long pants from my otherwise standard dress of shorts - and I even have several lightweight sweaters I occasionally wear at this time of year, sometimes with a light windbreaker for the odd windy morning commute to my Office (by Golf Cart).  This change garb from shorts and polo shirts to trousers and long sleeves makes me realize that perhaps I am gradually becoming acclimatized to the Baja, after spending more time here than away for the past seven years. Particularly when I see recent arrivals from “The Great White North” striding around determinedly in their summer shorts and T-shirts, while I am relatively bundled up by comparison.

Briefly put, I am beginning to look more like the local Mexicans on some of these cooler mornings – although some of them are wearing light parkas and scarves, and so while there are similarities, I will never be truly “local”!  But it does go to show that when it comes to weather, everything is relative, for the mid-westerner just off the plane in January this feels like a beautiful day in early spring or late fall, but for some of us who are here 8 or 9 months a year this is as cold as it is going to get, so this is OUR winter.

But before you get the wrong picture about winter in Loreto, it’s all a matter of degree and what one is used to.  When I started writing this post a couple early in the week we had been having a couple of cooler cloudy days which inspired this topic, then I had a couple of busy days at work and when I got back to writing again we were back to calm, sunny days again.  Which speaks to how quickly things can change here, and more importantly, how nice “normal” is! 

And speaking about “normal”, by my own admittedly unscientific observations, it seems to me that so far Climate Change has been working rather decidedly to the advantage of this area around Loreto, and probably a good part of the southern Baja.  Given the fact that we have had several times the average annual rainfall in each of the past three years, after an extended drought for the several years prior to that, and the brush and vegetation that covers the foothills and mountains to the west of us are now green year-round and growing noticeably bigger from the increased rainfall.

At the same time, my perception is that there have been fewer cloudy or windy days at this time of year than was the case even a few years ago and as far as the increased amount of rainfall is concerned, my “theory” is that the planet is a closed system and globally the same amount of rain has to fall, but due to changes in other factors affecting the weather patterns we are experiencing changes in WHERE the rain is, and is not, falling.  Considering that large parts of the US southwest has been experiencing record drought conditions, perhaps it should not be surprising that here in the southern Baja we have been receiving record rainfall over much the same period of time.

I should also mention that not all the weather in this part of the world has been good news.  Last fall Hurricane Odile was a record breaking storm that hit the Los Cabos area at the southern tip of the peninsula causing tens of millions of dollars of damage.  This follows a pattern of more frequent significant storms in the past several years affecting the eastern Pacific.  The good news so far is that the area around Loreto has been spared the brunt of most of these recent storms and due in part to our more protected location on the Sea of Cortez and in the lee of the Sierra de la Giganta mountains.


And so a New Year begins, and for we who are fortunate enough to call Loreto home, our winter is just a gentle reminder that seasons change, with the effect that perhaps we appreciate how close to perfect a climate enjoy here – which is certainly an important part of “Living Loreto”! 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

New Year's Greetings!

Happy New Year and Feliz Ano Nuevo!

I trust this posting finds you and all the readers of this Blog well, and my best wishes for the New Year!

Along with my Best Wishes I also must make an apology.  Due to some badly timed computer issues (although, there never is a GOOD time for such issues) and a busy time of year in the Office, I will not be posting a regular installment of Living Loreto this week.  But check back in a week or so and I plan to resume my publishing schedule - or some variation on it.


For those of you far from the Baja as you read this, perhaps this will be the year you visit and experience for yourself "Living Loreto"


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Sunday, December 28, 2014

Big Boxes arrive in Loreto

The week before last there was another significant milestone (kilometer marker?) in the current history of Loreto - the opening of the latest addition to our retail options: Bodega Aurrera, a mini Walmart clone.  This comes just over a year after Lay opened the first chain Supermarket in Loreto, which I have referred to before here in passing. 

One of the challenges I have found with shopping at the Lays is that the parking lot on two sides of the newly built building is too small for the size of the store and the number of customers who want to shop  here.  So much so, that shortly after the store opened they purchased a lot across the street to provide somewhat inconvenient overflow parking, but regardless, every time I have gone to the store I have had a problem with parking.

Of course, one could look at this parking congestion as a sign of a successful business, which I assume it is, but again my impression is that the parking lot seems busier than the store does inside, which I take to be the fault of poor design or planning.  In any event, inside the store it is like a smaller version of a typical North American supermarket with a small pharmacy and a bakery, butcher and deli counters with a good fresh fruit and vegetable department.  However, this selection and variety comes at a cost, the aisles in the store are too narrow and so shopping is slow due to traffic jams both inside and out of the store.

For this reason, and the complete absence of some "staple" items like butter (they do have a big selection of margarine) I prefer to do most of my shopping at what had previously been the largest market here, the independent and locally owned Pescador, which significantly "upped their game" prior to the opening of Lays.  While the parking lot is about half the size, it is possible for me to get in and out with the same load of groceries in about half the time, due in part, I admit, to being familiar with the store.

However, now we have a new "biggest" in town.  The Bodega Aurrera is about a block and a half down the same street as Lays and what strikes one first is the huge parking lot that opens off the rather narrow street entrance.  This far from the center of town the street grid is pretty informal, but the land appears to be a "frypan" lot with a narrow entrance opening up to a larger inner area, which is fairly common here in Loreto.  But it also suggests that whoever planned this development has learned something from their predecessor.

My first visit to the new store was the weekend after it had opened and the parking lot was about half full when I arrived, but this was probably more cars than could park in one place anywhere else in town.  As I approached the store entrance there was a colorful inflated temporary kiosk with enthusiastic young people all in matching logoed golf shirts handing out free balloons on sticks to the kids coming and going from the store.  But I also noticed that the unloading docks were along the one open side of the building and there were currently two trucks busy doing just that in one corner of the parking lot, which I could see may cause different parking issues in the future.

Inside the entrance was a general merchandise section of small appliances and some electronics including several large flat panel TVs and some large appliances like fridges on display, but further back the grocery store took over and what I saw was similar to the Lays store on a slightly bigger scale.  But one thing both stores have in common is the narrow, one way aisles - which were further congested here by stacks of boxes of product waiting to be unpacked along the edges of most of the aisles, making them even narrower.

Now I don't want to come across as an impatient type "A" North American shopper, so I do try to
adapt my shopping to a more laid back "recreational" approach, which seems to be the local style with both these store's clientele.  But when a whole family (Mom, Dad, and at least a couple of kids, maybe a Abuela {Grandmother} or two) are already halfway down the next aisle, I am just as likely to skip that one and head down another one rather than get stuck behind them - only to have to usually double back later to find the olives, or something.  Which is why I think I will continue to do most of my shopping  at Pescador, with occasional visits to the competition if I can't find something there. 

But it occurred to me that for most of the customers in the new store this was a big deal.  I'm sure many of them had visited larger stores before, when visiting neighboring cities.  But having another large store open here in a town the size of Loreto is a significant development and I can understand that for many local Loretanos the first shopping trip could be a noteworthy event for the whole family.  Added to the fact that as I said earlier, this Aurrera is a Walmart clone and, according to a local businessman I had talked to earlier in the Fall while the store was still under construction, they would be selling at lower prices than many of the existing local competition - which has the same appeal to working class Mexican families here as it does everywhere else, which has made Walmart the biggest retailer in the world.

This Blog is not the venue for Big Box Store Bashing - besides, I very much doubt anyone from these stores will ever read these words, but the downside of these new store openings is a plot familiar in many places, big store opens with lower prices, smaller local stores cannot compete, and wind up going out of business.  However, there are also some offsets - some new "corporate" jobs will no doubt help the local economy and replace some of the employment that may be lost, and the lower prices will help many hard pressed families stretch their wages.


But perhaps more importantly, it is another significant sign of progress as Loreto grows and develops, while still holding on to the charm and appeal of its natural beauty and local culture.  It is a familiar concept that progress comes at a price, and is sometimes a mixed blessing, but it is also the sign of a healthy growing community and that too is part of "Living Loreto".           

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Reflections on Christmas - near and far

As the Christmas Holiday Season draws nearer, signs of Christmas are appearing here in Loreto, although, after spending most of my life closer to the North Pole than the Equator, I still find it challenging to get into the Christmas Spirit living on a Beach surrounded by palm trees.  Growing up in Western Canada where there is always snow at this time of year and there are forests of "Christmas Trees", it is not surprising that I have always had quite a traditional view of the Holiday and the iconic images of the season that were in sync with what I saw everywhere around me.  

Needless to say, spending Christmas in the Southern Baja is a very different experience than the traditional northern celebration - but what I have come to realize is that for the local people, whose home this has always been, their traditions and symbols at this time of year are as much a part of their way of observing this Holiday as mine were in a northern winter climate.  However, over the nine years since my first Loreto Christmas, I have noticed gradual changes that go some way towards making the celebration seem a little more familiar to ex-pats a long way from their winter wonderland homes.

Some of these changes may in fact be a result of the larger number of foreigners who now call this place home, as well as growing numbers of visitors choosing Loreto for their Holiday Vacations.  An example of this is the availability of frozen turkey in the local grocery stores.  I think I have told this story before, but on my first Christmas in my new home here in 2005 a neighbor and I drove an hour and a half from Loreto to the next largest town of Constitucion to stock up on groceries for the Holiday Season.  Of course, on my lengthy shopping list was a turkey, along with all the traditional trimmings for Christmas dinner, and although we were shopping in the biggest supermarket within a 4 hour drive of Loreto, I had almost given up hope of finding a bird in the meat department - being used to grocery shopping in North America where big displays of frozen and fresh turkeys are prominent in every store before the Holiday.

But on my final pass through the store I happened to find a smallish frozen bagged turkey in an unlikely corner of the store between the fish department and a sort of delicatessen area, not with the other frozen chickens and similar meats where I had been looking in vain previously.  Just to be sure, I quickly skimmed the all Spanish language printing on the opaque bag looking for confirmation and recognized "Pavo" the word for turkey, which was good enough for me, and, since it was apparently the only one they had in the store, I proudly placed my Mexican turkey in my cart and headed for the cashier.

Jump forward a week or so and as I was un-bagging the now thawed bird to prepare it for the oven I was in for a surprise.  As I mentioned above, it had been packaged in an opaque printed bag and so it was only when I was removing it that I saw that rather than the expected pinkish white skin I was expecting, this bird was a sort of "cafe au lait" color and the texture of the skin was more like leftover turkey than the raw ones I was used to preparing.  After a closer examination of the Spanish printed on the bag and a quick consultation of the Spanish/English Dictionary (that I had forgotten to take with me on my earlier shopping trip) I came to an unexpected conclusion (and added a new word to my then tiny Spanish vocabulary) - "ahumado" means smoked!

Well the grocery shopping options have improved greatly here in Loreto in the years since my first smoked turkey Christmas, and there is now a plentiful supply of frozen turkeys in most of the bigger markets here in the weeks leading up to the Holidays, with some even showing up in time for the American Thanksgiving.  But that is only one sign of the changes I have seen here.  Over the past couple of weeks I have noticed the sudden appearance of Christmas decorations in a number of stores and outdoor kiosks around town, in far greater numbers than was the case only a few years ago.  


While all the twinkling lights, tinsel garlands and candy canes definitely add a festive air to shopping trips to town, I confess part of me still finds them a bit incongruous here in this place.
More recently, extensive displays have also been erected in the town square including a tall symbolic Christmas tree and a "Santa Casita" as well as a stage where a variety of different schools and organizations hold concerts and "posadas" or parties.  At the entrance to town too, there is an impressive light display decorating the many palms and cacti growing in the median of the main road, part of a civic decoration program that has grown year by year from modest beginnings four or five years ago.

However seasonal shopping in Loreto is not limited to decorations.  Here, like everywhere Christmas is celebrated, a lot of the attention is focused on kids, but in a town like Loreto there have not been the department stores and big box toy stores that cater to kid's presents at this time of year.  So several of the grocery stores stock up on toys and other children's Christmas gifts at this time of year.  

In Pescador, the original supermarket here in Loreto, one entire
aisle is now a toy department, but that pales by comparison to the newer Lays market (which opened over a year ago) that has a semi-permanent annex to the store that is now fully stocked with an extensive inventory of seasonal decorations, children's toys and games - Christmas is becoming big business in Loreto!

But there are other signs of the Christmas Spirit coming to Loreto.  A couple of weekends ago an arts and crafts show and sale was held at the Su Casa Hotel on the Malacon in town where a couple of dozen mainly ex-pat artists and craftspeople set up a one day outdoor market.  In addition to several jewelry counters, painters and sculptors there was a Mexican Leatherworker with a hand tooled saddle and other "equine accessories".  A bar was set up with drinks and tasty snacks, and a couple of local mariachies were playing guitars for the mainly Foreign clientele.

Whatever changes there have been in the decorations and ways the Christmas spirit is expressed here in Loreto, one thing has remained constant here for over 300 years and that is the Mission Church and the important place it holds here in this predominantly Catholic country.  Although I am not religious myself, it is clear to me that the church still plays the most important role in the celebration of Christmas for most Loretanos.


And so, as we approach another Christmas here in the Baja, I see the growing influences of the North American commercial Christmas celebration blending with the centuries old Catholic traditions that have been practiced here for generations and I believe Christmas in the Baja may indeed be one of the special parts of "Living Loreto"!  


Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Musically historic week in Loreto Bay

Within the past week there were two music events at the Wine Cellar, our local watering hole, that I thought made an interesting contrast between the traditional indigenous culture of the southern Baja and the evolving culture of the ex-pat community that has developed over the past several years here in Loreto Bay.

The first event was announced on a local email bulletin board last Saturday afternoon by Trudi, a
Loretano who guides trail rides into the nearby Sierra de La Giganta mountains:
"A Last-minute Announcement - Ranchera music in the Wine Cellar @ Nopolo! Come jam with the cowboys, - Chema Arce and Family.  Bring an instrument and make music with them!  All accoustic, Chema on accordion, Guitar and Bass Fiddle.  See you there!   7- p.m to 8:30 or 9 Danceable!" 
Not having anything else planned for the evening I was curious and decided to drop in and see what the evening was going to be like. 

By way of background, the Ranchero culture is an important and fascinating part of the history of the Baja.  In the mountain ranges west of Loreto there is a small but vibrant network of isolated subsistence ranches where people are living in much the same way as the Vaqueros (Cowboys) have lived here for over 200 years.  All of them are "off the grid" many of them can only be reached on horseback or burro and they keep livestock and raise what crops they can, mainly for their own consumption.  As such, a case can be made that their predecessors who were descended from the original Spanish missionary soldiers, through the spread of the Catholic Missions north from here as far as northern California, spread what became the Cowboy culture to the rest of western North America.

Perhaps because I used to live in Calgary, (the "heart of the New West") and I am familiar with the modern urban cowboy culture, I find the "frozen in time" aspect of these authentic Vaqueros to be so interesting, in any event, I arrived at the Wine Cellar where a larger than normal crowd was assembling for the evening's entertainment.  Eventually the three musicians, all members of the Arce family, were introduced; Chema on the accordion, accompanied by relatives on the stand up bass and guitar.  Aside from their handsome acoustic instruments, they had no other equipment and they sang without benefit of a PA system.

I spoke briefly to Trudi during the evening and she told me that she was helping the three musicians to attend the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Nevada at the end of January, to which they had been invited as special guests.  This annual poetry and music festival which celebrates the "Cowboy Culture" would be a showcase for their most traditional form of music, let alone an amazing experience for the three musicians from rancheros in the Baja.  I later learned that one of the three had literally ridden his horse all day from his home in the mountains to get to Loreto and the three of them were due to leave the next day to fly to Tijuana to apply for visas to travel to the US for the festival - which would be the first flight the three of them had ever taken.  Their story and the simple, but authentic, music they played together obviously caught the imagination of the 40 or 50 people at the Wine Cellar that evening, both from their enthusiastic response to the music and the well filled donation bucket that was set out for contributions to help them fund their trip.  You can find more information on this event at: http://www.westernfolklife.org/General-Information-on-the-Gathering/national-cowboy-poetry-gathering-home-page.html

The second musical event of the past week was the first solo performance of one of our most popular local musicians, Rich, who many of you will recall from previous posts, was one of the founding members of Los Beach Dogs, and the several different versions of that group that have evolved over the past few years.  Due to the fact that all of Rich's "playmates" were currently either gone from Loreto, or otherwise unavailable, Rich had decided that he would do a solo gig at the Wine Cellar.  Talking with him earlier in the week, I know that Rich was unsure as to what the turnout would be for his performance, but he need not have been concerned.

Arriving before the scheduled start time of 7:00 pm I saw that almost all of the seats were already
taken and Rich would have a full house for his solo debut.  Soon after I arrived Rich began his first set, accompanying himself on amplified guitar through his new Bose PA system that was well suited to the size and acoustics of the Wine Cellar.  But partway through his first song I realized that he was also using another new gizmo - through a foot switch he could turn off and on a "vocal backup synthesizer" that gave the impression of backup singers harmonizing with his lead vocals.  By switching this effect on and off between verses and chorus' he was able to very effectively create the illusion of accompanying himself both vocally and on the guitar at the same time.   

As neat as this illusion was, I found myself quickly focusing on the music itself and not the technical wizardry that helped to produce it.  With a blend of cover tunes, liberally spiced with Rich's own growing list of compositions, he performed two sets of entertainment to an enthusiastic "home crowd" that had gathered that night to support his first solo venture, while enjoying an evening of good music among good friends.



Reflecting on this musically entertaining week, I had seen our community come out to help support three traditional Cowboy musicians to achieve their dream of travelling to the US and present their authentic version of the musical heritage that they had inherited from generations of ancestors.  And later in the week we came together again to enjoy and support one of the original residents of Loreto Bay who, over the past five years, has flourished as a musician, singer and song writer - no small transformation from the Orthodontist that he had been in his pre-Loreto life!


Respecting and supporting the rich heritage of this place, and later celebrating our own recent history of coming together to create a new and thriving community, through the words and music of one of our own, while appreciating his talents that have flourished in the environment we have created here - I found a new harmony this past week in "Living Loreto"!
 
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