Ensenada has demonstrated a different style of cultural blending than we have seen in other Mexican cities we are familiar with. Living in Bahia de Kino and spending time in nearby Hermosillo showed us that the Americans lived in different neighborhoods, shopped at different stores and did their best to develop parts of the town to meet their American traditions.- keeping separate from the local Mexicans. In those towns there was a dividing line that was as clear as the difference between “Old Kino” and “New Kino” ( a clear delineation to those who have been to Kino) But in Ensenada we found examples of a different kind of blending. There are many stores that are very “American” in style, such as Costco, Walmart, Starbucks and Applebees. But there are also Ley, Coppel, Soriana and taco stands. This city has a population of Americans- both expats and part-timers which do not separate themselves. They both shop at whatever store they need products from. They rent homes in parts of town where they are clearly a minority and they participate in social clubs that do not discriminate regarding membership. These widely sweeping observations are made after 5 days of various events in and around Ensenada. There may be something quite different under the surface, but our initial observations were pleasantly surprising to us!
One of our days involved a trip to CEART. This art gallery offers free wifi (which attracts young adults with i-phones and e-tablets in hand) and a rotating collection of art which ranges from the upside-down school bus out front (notice it is labeled SCHOOL BOSS in reference to the need for education reform in Mexico) to a traditional portrait of a bonita chica in a flowered head wrap and many unique forms of mixed media, plastic arts and painting. We also visited the old city jail, which has been converted to an anthropology museum about the history of Baja indigenious tribes.
We also walked the busy streets near the pier where the cruise ships land daily. They dump hundreds of tourists who are anxious for their first glimpse of Mexico. For them, the Ensenada experience is tequila, serapes, cheep beer and street stands filled with Mexican blankets. They experience Mexico through “Papa’s & Beer” or “Hussong’s Cantina” or “Mango Mango”. Then they jump back on the ship to sleep it off until the next port. The city provides them the thrill they are seeking, and we enjoyed seeing this side of Ensenada. We were schooled by a street vendor on the skill of crossing the street in Mexico. As we stood on the curb, waiting for a break in the heavy traffic he said- “ The way to get across the street in Mexico is to make eye contact with the next driver and then step out into the street. Maintain eye contact as you are crossing, and hope for the best.” I loved the advice, especially the last part- “hope for the best”.
We also spent a couple of days relaxing at the La Joya RV Park. This is located in a suburb of Ensenada called Punta Banda. We were fortunate enough to have the place to ourselves until the last day. This gave us a chance to have an airing out of the van. We snapped this photo that shows much of what is normally inside- on the outside of the van. This was also laundry day, and we had a laundry service that was just a short bike ride away. A bag of laundry is washed, dried and folded for $65pesos. Aaaaaaahhhh, the smell of Mexican laundry soap is magical. We strolled the beach and found the location that our hot springs book mentioned. This is a fault line that has geothermally heated water rising up through the sand during low tide. In the photo you can see the steam curling up from the cool sand. The dogs would not stand still for this photo, as the water is quite hot in that area once the tide recedes with the cooling ocean water. If you were speedy with a shovel, you could dig a private hot tub right there in the sand and soak until the tide comes back in. We had beautiful views towards La Bufadora and out across the Bahia de la Todos Santos. We watched the ships tending to their tuna rings and the panga’s zipping in and out of the estero nearby.
We spent one afternoon at a local fundraising event. This was the annual turkey dinner, sponsored by a Deportivo Companearo (Club of friends). This particular club has about 250 members; a blend of Mexicans and Americans. They hold monthly meetings, social events and fundraisers to support local charities. The food was delicious, we met some interesting people and we did not win any raffle prizes.
We spent our final evening at Costco and a concert. Costco was exactly as in the USA. Food samples, long lines, holiday specials, mega-sized multi-packs of items and impulse buys galore. The shoppers were a blend of Mexicans and Americans- and we found ourselves sucked in to the need to buy 12 croissants that we did not have room to store! But the concert was unique. It was Todd Clouser and his band. They have been working with some of the University music classes over the past two weeks. So the show opened with college students playing a jazz-fusion set. The Todd Clouser played a set with his own trio. Then they all took the stage together and blended their musical styles for a few pieces. It was another example of the blending that Ensenada has presented to us.
On our final day there, neighbors arrived! An interesting rig called a Hymer pulled in carrying a couple from the Netherlands. They spoke enough English that we were able to have nice conversations with them. They told us that they had found the camping in the USA to be very isolating- as everyone parks in long, straight rows and then sits inside their RV’s watching television with the air conditioning blasting. No one talked to them, visited them or made them feel a part of a social group. By contrast, they said, in Europe the camping areas are the shape of a large circle and everyone parks their RV’s around the edge. Then the campers come together in the middle for a fire, cooking, conversation and socialization. Through that, even strangers feel welcomed to the campground. It was an interesting viewpoint, and we hoped that they would find more friendly, welcoming friends as they continue down Baja.
Five days was long enough, and we noticed the Thanksgiving holiday travelers begin to return to their permanent units in the RV park. So we packed up and hit the road again on Monday November 24.