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 (  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: , 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”!