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Wildcoast Speaks: Baja’s a Mess

baja californiaThe fact that Tijuana, as well as a large part of northern Baja California, continues to remain an unstable and unsafe place for wave-chasers to venture isn’t much of a secret. The Narco war has sparked levels of violence, crime, and corruption in Baja and the risks one takes when heading south of the border far outweigh the rewards.

Our friend Serge Dedina of WiLDCOAST, a bi-national nonprofit conservation group, just returned from taking a quick tour through Baja with New York Times journalist Joe Sharkey. Joe was doing a story on how it is that WiLDCOAST remains safe through all of this turmoil, and Serge’s wealth of knowledge was key for the story. Both released articles following their journey south, each of which are necessary reads for anyone contemplating a trip to Baja.

Serge Dedina(WiLDCOAST)- “Does the media exaggerate the issue of the narco war and security in Baja the problem? Absolutely not. Anyone who travels south of the border should be careful and concerned about security…As for tourists, the mainstay of Baja’s economy, they have already voted with their feet. We counted a total of six tourists on our tour through Tijuana, Rosarito Beach, and Ensenada and in the long line walking back across the border in Tijuana. We didn’t see a single surfer on the entire coast despite the glassy conditions and small clean surf.”

Joe Sharkey(N.Y. Times)- “The headlines from Baja are stunning. Earlier this month, hours after 2,000 people marched through Tijuana to protest violence, drug gangs shot 11 people dead, including a 14-year-old girl. More than 600 people, some innocent bystanders like the girl, are believed to have been murdered this year in drug-related shootouts in Baja California.”

I’ve never been much of a fan of the media’s knack for hyping the violence and crime taking place in certain areas around the world. I recently returned from Nicaragua, and for all of the doom and gloom I heard about how unsafe it is down there, I was very surprised to find a very warm and receptive people in a very magical country. Never once did I feel like my safety was in jeopardy. Baja right now is different. The violence and danger is very real. For now, you may want to think twice about making a trip down there. No matter how good the waves might be.


Posted by Shaun on Friday, November 28th, 2008 in Surfing.

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8 Responses to “Wildcoast Speaks: Baja’s a Mess”

  • Gernot Trolf Says:

    Funny I just came back celebrating Thanksgiving in Rosarito where we have a beach house with my wife and I had no problems whatsoever. I saw some military vehicles with soldiers patrolling down town Rosarito and it was quite.
    There were tourist, not as many as in past years thanks to the U.S. media over reporting of drub gabgs killing each other.
    Did you happen to read about the State of the City address by mayor Hugo Torres that was attended by the governor in which he stated that violence subsided and steps are being taken to increase security even more.
    Why don’t you report his instead of being so negative.

  • Maggie Drake Says:

    Unbelievable. Only four short years ago, Serge Dedina was using a musical group which promoted narcocorridos to promote his enterprise. I remember asking him, why are you using this group, they glorify drugs. And his answer was, because they are popular with the kids.

    As a resident of Baja for the past 15 years, I can tell you that at that time, parents were trying to keep their kids AWAY from narcocorridos. Yet, now suddenly, Serge has a change of heart, and we are to assume he is deeply “concerned” over the drug war in Baja.

    Bi-national? I don’t think so, ever since his stance against Bajagua, which most environmentalists will tell you that we needed, and repeated false and exaggerated reports of pollution here, he is a persona non-gratia. For your information, the most relevant and constructive ecological developments have taken place here within the past six months, and Serge Dedina was not welcome to participate, or was involved in any way, shape or form. He has absolutely no legal powers or influence here at all,contrary to what he would like you to believe.

    Here’s a sampling of events which he was not involved in:

    The construction of a wind-powered generating plant, Rumoroso.

    The reclaimed water project now servicing all of Playas de Tijuana.

    The brand new recycling plant program, for Tijuana, developed by a Mexican student.

    The new billion dollar sewage treatment plant, Rosarito Beach – and BTW, the Marino develoment’s discharge is being treated – but Serge doesn’t want you know this – and is being connected to the the plant in Rosarito.

    The Monte de Los Olivos and La Morita sewage treament plants in Tijuana, which by next year will be providing reclaimed water to Tijuana.

    My point is, his so-called wealth of knowledge is limited, and obviously so is his amigos. Nicaragua right now, along with Costa Rica have become the transit routes of choice for the Sinaloa cartel, along with increased events of crime. Because of the last OAS summit, whose main focus was on drug trafficking,these two particular spots will become hotbeds for increased militarization and conflicts – just the same as Baja and Mexico. Infact, these areas could become worse, with their close proximity to Farc and Shining Path troops who are not only selling the dope, but guarding the transit route. Don’t believe me? Ask Stratfor.

    Absolutely, doing Baja now like you might have done it in the past is unwise, but to have two clowns jump on the bandwagon after this has been going on here for at least the past six years, people who do not live here, and taking their “advise” is outrageous.

    The Mexican people were demonstrating against insecurity here five years ago, yet not a peep from Dedina and his buddy, so that tells me they have only just became concerned recently.

    Or, maybe it’s kind of like the “Harry’s” video, Serge jumping around and screaming when this deal went down a year before, a private landowner sold his land to the oil companies, end of story.

    Or, maybe it’s like the fabricated claim Dedina made about raw sewage being dumped at San Antonio Del Mar, which was proven to be totally false.

    Today, Daniel de la Rosa Anaya announced that the high impact crime rate since the deployment of the Federal Police, the State Police and the Army has dropped by 50%. This is in the areas of La Presa, La Mesa and Cerro Colorado of Tijuana, where we witnessing most of the crime. Rosarito is currently being patrolled by Federal Police and Army troops, and there is a current attempt to purge corrupt officials, 200 policemen dismissed alone in Tijuana and Rosarito. I read Dedina’s report, and what he failed to mention was that the municipal cops who were on the Arellano payroll just aren’t around anymore,the roads from Tijuana to Ensenada are controlled by Federal Police and Army Units. Gosh, why wouldn’t he mention that? Because he doesn’t live here and he doesn’t have a clue.

    We are just starting to see a turnaround and the beginning of the end of the inner Arellano cartel war, this isn’t Bombay, these guys are killing each other, not randomly shooting innocent people.

    Meanwhile, the economy has gone belly-up,hundreds of little shops and restaurants have closed their doors, which is a precursor to an even more volatile situation. If you really want some big problemas, just look the other way and stay away. The point is, we need to support legitimate Mexican businesses and also press our legislators for the legalization of drugs, otherwise this violence will never end, and you will never be safe anywhere in Mexico or Latin America, especially freakin Nicaragua.

    I will keep posting the events as they happen, and if you really want the scoop, just read the Mexican News, at least get your information from people who know what’s really going on:


    BTW, bitchen waves this weekend, and noone out.

  • Maggie Drake Says:

    Oh, and P.S., have your representatives tack on with that legalization educational and treatment centers. Afterall, we are in essence the cause and root of this problem here, we supply the market – so we have created a disaster and now Dedina wants you to stay away? Just wash your hands of the whole mess? How unfair to the legitimate business people here.

    Regarding the coastal development, nothing can be done about that, nothing can be done about that anywhere in the world where the population is growing, people have to live somewhere. For those of us who grew up here it is a heartbreak, but realistically, it was an eventuality. Of course there are real estate speculators – cons – and these mostly BTW are Americans, who are unscrupulous and an embarassament. Dedina would have you believe that everything is just polluted beyond belief, I will say this: the Mexicans are working on it. For sure, it is not at our pace, nothing here is.(And really, what right do we have criticising when we allowed Bush to completely trash our own environmental regulations? And, what right do we have when San Diego and parts of Central CA. receive waivers not to comply with Federal Clean Water Standards? and, what right does he have especially after being part and parcel of the group who squashed BAJAGUA?) And before he takes credit again for something he had little to do with, the Trump Towers – which none of us wanted to see fly, was actually stopped because of their inability to comply with Mexican standards for sewage treatment, it was then that the investors started backing out. So, thank the Mexicans for that one, not him.

    On the internets for the past few months there have been people who have created “false alarms” and just scaring the wits out of the Mexican people, terrorizing people. These sorts fall into several groups: They either have had a horrible experience here and want to get even, or they enjoy disaster end of the world scenes – they are sadists, or they are simply Mexican Haters – Minutemen and Vigilantes. Their message is to stay out, stay away, build the fence higher, take us back to isolationism, let Mexico fall into even a blacker economic hole.

    I’m not going to tell you the situation has been ammended, we have been though a war here, and it has been rough, it has been frightening for all of us that live here – too bad Dedina wasn’t in the foxholes like the rest of us. But now it is time to support the Mexican people in a proactive manner, that is, unless you are a Minuteman. And this time around, maybe show a little respect instead of just treating Baja and Mexico like a party place.

    BTW, I forgot to mention that 100 Police from Tijuana have been sent to receive special training by the Federal government and are in the process of being scrutinized, if there is one little tiny questions regarding their corruption, they are out.

  • MLK Says:

    Today I just surfed with 5 buddies (they must have been the some of the 6 you saw) on some great clean water right point break waves for hours, without being hassled or shot at.. What a high horse synopsis without taking into account the real situation. I as a clean water seaking surfer would much rather surf in Baja than in San Diego. this piece is a transparent attempt to push people away. I dont use or sell drugs and LOVE BAJA. Why dont you take more than 3 minutes to form your opinion and spend some real time in the Area. My parents came, we had a wonderful thanksgiving with over 20 people from all over that came to visit. you make it out to be something its not. Shame on YOU

  • Serge Dedina Says:

    There are some folks who wrap up their own experiences as the only truly valid. There are others who look around and try to get a complete picture of what is happening. I’ve spent the last 20 years living and working in Baja. So I’ve seen things change.

    First-Ms. Maggie has some strange vendetta against me because we happened to post a video of sewage flowing into San Antonio. Apparently she believes that there is no sewage problem in northern Baja. I’m glad she emerged from her “foxhole” to once again ramble incoherently about the giant conspiracy to destroy Baja and her property value that I am part of.

    Second: I run a binational organization with Mexican staff and board members. So I don’t speak for surfers or just for tourists. The fact is that innocent people who are involved in the drug trade are getting hurt. Both articles make it clear that despite problems we are recommending that people should travel but you should stay safe.

    Third: One only has to take a look at the Mexican media to get a full-view of the violence in Northern Mexico. This is not an American media conspiracy. Mexicans in the border region and throughout Mexico take this security issue very seriously.

    Fourth: American surfers have always been good and downplaying the reality of countries they travel in–deliberately underplaying poverty, injustice and political oppression. In the Baja I work in, people are hurting.

    Fifth: I’m glad that people had a great time in Northern Baja-but the fact is that a large percentage of the good waves have been fenced off and Baja Malibu on a north swell is polluted (from the 30mgd of sewage that pours out of Pta. Banderas each day just to the north).

    Sixth: I will gladly compare our record to anyone’s when it comes to helping proactively protect the coastal and marine environment of Baja California in partnership with local communities.

    Serge Dedina
    Executive Director
    Imperial Beach, Ensenada

  • Serge Dedina Says:

    For those who believe we exaggerate or think that only criminals are being killed…

    More than 30 killed this weekend in Tijuana
    By Sandra Dibble

    9:19 p.m. November 30, 2008

    TIJUANA – The decapitated bodies of three police officers were found alongside six other beheaded corpses Sunday during a weekend of violence in which 34 people were killed in different sections of Tijuana.

    The victims also included a 4-year-old boy and a 13-year-old boy, killed by gunmen Saturday night together with two adults by a grocery store in eastern Tijuana. Several hours later, the 18-year-old nephew of Baja California’s tourism secretary was found shot to death inside a vehicle in an upscale neighborhood a few miles east of downtown.

  • Shaun Says:

    I really dig all of the thoughts, opinions, and feedback on the post. By no means do I claim to be the moral authority on this issue, I simply wrote a piece based on the information I’ve gathered over the past couple of years, information from Mr. Dedina and Mr. Sharkey, as well as based on my personal experience the last time I visited the area. While I personally feel that it’s unsafe to take a trip down there right now, there are clearly others who disagree and I greatly appreciate your thoughts and opinions.
    @ Maggie- I especially want to thank you for taking the time to leave your feedback on the issue. I noticed on your own site you’ve referred to me as Serge Dedina’s “buddy” and stated that 5ones has closed the comment section on this post. You are very wrong on both accounts my friend and I’m not sure as to why it is you have stated as much.

  • Maggie Drake Says:

    Well then let’s try again, yesterday I could not respond, so I blogged my response:


    Also 100 Federal Policia have been deployed to Rosarito Beach. Yesterday, Capella was sacked, but this was not because of the killings over the weekend, this man is integrity beyond belief. He was replaced by Lieutenant Colonel Julian Leyzaola Perez, Military. The reason for this obviously is since the Military is now in Tijuana, they need a Military leader. I think you guys are going to see these bastids cartel punks act out, but they are going to back down, you do not want to mess with the Military.

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