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Published: January 19th 2017
A day in the life
This colour of bougainvillea is becoming a favourite in the Mexican landscape.
So here I am back in my happy place for a little R&R before the New Year.
Oh and believe me, I needed it. After spending my summer locked up amongst the criminally insane who like to eat their prescription glasses and smother themselves in feces, I am done.
As you might know, I love Cabo (hence my handle).
My family have been coming to San Jose del Cabo for over 50 years. Back when I was a kid, we would spend our winters here camping on the endless beaches only to slip into the sleepy fishing pueblos for occasional provisions. It was paradise. I remember how gigantic conch shells littered the shores, stingrays cartwheeled in the surf at sundown, burros were an acceptable mode of transport, and you could walk for miles along the sandy shores, never seeing another soul.
Well things have drastically changed since then, let me tell you.
Los Cabos is a huge tourist Mecca now...and along with that comes the Bueno, the Malo, and the Feo
But I'm okay with that. I liken it to your teenager getting a purple Mohawk and neck tattoos - at first you are horrified
Did you see my Ass
Art display at SJD
- but you still love the stupid kid, so eventually you learn to live with it.
As I disembark onto the sweltering tarmac of San Jose del Cabo, I'm instantly hit by a sweet heaviness of lush tropical air. This makes me exhale gleefully. Not much rain fell over the summer so the desert isn't as green as it should be for November. Also missing are the millions of butterflies that swirl around your car and decorate your windshield.
I'm really looking forward to someday retiring here but for now these visits will have to do. My Mum greets me enthusiastically, she is all sunkissed and flowy. I express my need for margaritas & fish tacos, stat
. First though, we must find the absentee parking lot attendant so he can manually let our car out, the new automated parking system for the airport is expectantly broken.
It is hot for November. Even the locals are saying that, and they never say that. Apparently 'the switch' is about two weeks late - a phenomenon here in Los Cabos that sees the evening temperatures suddenly plummet from 30c to 12c. The locals mark this occasion by donning their winter
Federalies in camo
My very own security detail
jackets, scarfs and toques - confusing the tourists from the far North who are all still wearing their tank tops, shorts, and flip flops.
After the sun sets, most locals take to the streets for eating and socializing. We too stop at one of our favourite haunts for a quick bite. Each taco stand has it's own style and ambiance, ours loosely translates to Little Red Riding Cock
. This taqueria is usually jam packed with families but tonight it is alarmingly quiet. When I enquire, I am told that a shooting happened here yesterday, one hombre dead. Here?
You know I've always boasted that San Jose del Cabo is one of the safest barrios here in Mexico. This is unfortunate news.
How SJD has stayed violence free isn't really a secret. The Mexican government has been paying off the cartels for years to ensure nothing goes down around here. A mutual understanding you see
. And it's worked well for over 20 years. But ever since El Chapo was successfully detained, the Sinaloa cartel has been losing its grip on Los Cabos. Now all bets are off. There is a vacuum of smaller gangs and corrupt
Another Tequila Sunset
Life carries on, no matter how ugly it gets
officials all waiting in the wings to disintegrate this arrangement. Fast forward a few weeks and a total of 30 people were murdered in San Jose del Cabo while I was there. Some were shockingly execution-style, and most happening within a few square blocks of my casa.
Meanwhile, the Mexican government is in Def Com 3 trying to keep a lid on it. Their tourist season starts in a few weeks and they cannot afford to lose the billions of dollars of the generated revenue, hence why no English news reports have surfaced yet...they do not want to panic the Gringos planning their upcoming holidays.
As for the gringo expats that are already here, the government has sent out heavily armed federalies in camo humvees to set up neighborhood watches. I've got one parked at the end of my street as I write this. What the officials don't seem to realize is that back home in Canada if we see police taking up guard outside our houses, we get nervous. Here, worse. I wander out into the blistering heat of midday to offer the young guards bottles of cold water, with the intent of gleaning some information. Soy
Nothing to see here lady.
policia en Canada I tell them and suddenly we are all best friends. I compliment their new desert motif, and they all straighten proudly. All matchy matchy. Those black uniforms of yesteryear must have been insanely hot. The boys tell me about an incident that happened this week where a decoy dummy was lit on fire in a pickup truck near the airport and they all rushed out to that scene only to have the cartel slaughter two whole families here in town. Sneaky. I guess with an increased police presence, the criminals are getting more strategic.
To distract myself from all this violence I jump right into my volunteering gig. I work with a community center in San Jose del Cabo that provides help for local families in crisis. I enjoy interacting in Spanglish, distributing essentials and raising money for school fees and medical treatments. As I drive out into the barrios I feel a little more on edge than usual. I watch for suspicious activities and keep an eye on my rear view mirror. I am lucky to have a local car, so I don't draw much attention. The guys I know at the tortilla factory wave
Mexican Ingenuity at its best
Heaven help those who need it
me down and we have a little chat, apparently some of the ex-municipal police that were fired for looting stores during the 2014 hurricane are now retaliating by joining forces with these gangs.
The government recently announced 250 million pesos to try to fight this outbreak of violence on the Baja but they also secretly deployed a group of militia with carte blanche to get things under control. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes. A military looking dude jumped out of a truck and shot a guy in his car while I waited for a stoplight to turn green. Suddenly my retirement plans aren't feeling so concrete.
I started to question everything. Should I be moving to the Baja permanently from a place like Canada? Could my desire to wake up to sunshine and blue ocean everyday be in jeopardy?
Ah what can I say, it isn't the first time I've struggled with my love-hate relationship with Mexico.
At some point, I take a drive out to Zacatitos so I can hike along the beach. For miles and miles, my thoughts are drowned out by the sound of
waves crashing to the shore. I can't start to list all the reasons I love the Baja. It isn't just the azul blue ocean and the sandy shores. It's the charm, it's the golden pink of the desert hues, it's how the desert comes alive when it rains. Someone somewhere is frying fresh tortillas and the wild burros try to bully me for the handfuls of sugar they know I bring. Panga fishermen motor out into the rough surf in their little floaty-boats, and I can see grey whales breach the far horizon. Oh right. This place is awesome!
Somehow, someway, I will live here until I die. I will need to learn how to cope with the corruption, the crime, and the outright craziness of Mexico. Heavens knows I can.
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