Posts Tagged mexico

Culinary Tour of Baja, Mexico

Lured by spicy quail, tuna ceviche, and Mexico’s best fish tacos, T+L lights out for Ensenada—and from there, things just go south.
From May 2010 By Peter Jon Lindberg

Culinary Tour of Baja, Mexico

Culinary Tour of Baja, Mexico

Ensenada and the nearby Valle de Guadalupe, in northern Baja, are known outside Mexico for three things: the burgeoning local wine scene, which has been hyped ad infinitum; the food, which hasn’t been hyped enough; and the spectacularly bad roads, which everyone warns you about, though you never fully believe them. Really, you think, how bad could they be? And then one night in the gathering dark you take an innocent shortcut across the valley and drive your rented Hyundai into a riverbed. A dry riverbed, but a riverbed all the same. You and your equally baffled companion spend 40 minutes spinning the car’s wheels in what might as well be quicksand, then digging frantically, then panicking, then digging and spinning some more, until finally you resolve to abandon the car and hike the two miles back to the highway—suitcases sinking in gravel, sand filling your socks. And as the coyotes wail in the ink-black hills you decide that you probably should have paid more attention to that part about the roads.

“Ah, the Baja shortcut!” said our innkeeper, Phil Gregory, when, at the conclusion of said ordeal, he collected us and our dusty belongings from the side of Highway 3. “Never a good idea!” Severe rains the previous week, our host explained, had caused the river to flood, washing away a whole chunk of the road we were on. Those tire tracks I’d followed across the sandy riverbed—believing we were still on course—had been left by a backhoe, dispatched to repair the road. No one had bothered to post a sign, let alone erect a fence. “Honestly, this happens all the time,” Gregory said as we rattled down the inn’s rutted dirt driveway. He meant this to be reassuring. “But let’s get you settled, pour you some wine, and we’ll retrieve your car in the morning!”

Gregory’s tone was oddly chipper—maybe this did happen all the time? After showering off the dust, we sampled the inn’s own Tempranillo beside a crackling mesquite fire in the lounge. Not the smoothest specimen, but it worked: two glasses later I gave up worrying about the Hyundai. Read the rest of this entry »

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Health-care challenged Californians flocking to Mexico

The pharmacy business in Tijuana is still booming, despite crackdowns by the state to weed out illegitimate operators. - John Gibbins / Union-Tribune

The pharmacy business in Tijuana is still booming, despite crackdowns by the state to weed out illegitimate operators. - John Gibbins / Union-Tribune

By Keith Darcé, Union-Tribune Staff Writer

TIJUANA — About 1 million adult Californians seek health care in Mexico each year – and that figure is likely growing as the recession expands the ranks of the uninsured who are drawn to cheaper care south of the border, said the lead researcher of the first major report on the topic released Tuesday.

These people live from the Bay Area to San Diego County. Most come to Mexico for prescription drugs and dental care, and a smaller number go for surgeries. Beyond finances, other factors prompting individuals to head south include language and cultural barriers.

Living within 15 miles of the border also greatly increases the likelihood of someone obtaining health services in Mexico.

Angela Tapia, 45, of San Ysidro crosses the border several times each year to see her gynecologist. She also had back surgery in Tijuana a decade ago.

“It’s cheaper to go there,” said Tapia, who doesn’t have health insurance. “When you go to those doctors, they give you time, they ask a lot of questions and they care about you.”

Roughly half of the cross-border patients are Mexican immigrants, a statistic that might challenge the popular notion of Mexicans burdening California’s hospitals and clinics by receiving all of their health care on this side of the border, said UCLA public health professor Steven Wallace, lead author of the new report.

“What this helps document is that (some) immigrants are facing barriers to receiving care in the United States, and they are turning to Mexico for that care,” said Wallace, who also serves as associate director of UCLA’s Center for Health Policy Research. “And it’s not just immigrants facing barriers here.”

Approximately half a million U.S. citizens living in California also seek health services in Mexico, Wallace and his UCLA colleagues found.

Altogether, about 4 percent of adult Californians traveled to Mexico for some type of medical care.

Wallace’s study was published Tuesday in Medical Care, a journal for the American Public Health Association.

He and his fellow researchers based their analysis on data from the 2001 California Health Interview Survey, which questioned more than 55,000 random households across the state.

The wide-ranging survey, conducted once every two years, is funded by a coalition of agencies and groups including the state Department of Public Health, the National Cancer Institute and the California Endowment. Those done since 2001 have not asked about accessing health care south of the border.

Wallace’s group was the first to delve deeply into the statistics on medical treatment in Mexico. Previous research relied on anecdotal accounts or small localized populations.

The cross-border trend likely will intensify as the number of Mexican immigrants living in California increases and the recession costs more people their jobs and health insurance coverage, Wallace said.

Between 2001 and 2007, the population of Mexican immigrants in California grew by 756,000 to 4.6 million, according to the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, D.C.

“The numbers that are bad in this study have only gotten worse,” said Margaret Laws, director of the California HealthCare Foundation’s Innovations for the Underserved program. “Under the current climate, they will continue to get worse.”

The UCLA researchers found that more than 13 percent of Mexican immigrants traveled to Mexico for care, with the largest number visiting dentists.

Such patients make up the diverse range of U.S. residents who visit the Bartell Dental Clinic on Avenida Revolucion in the heart of Tijuana’s tourist district, said Dr. William Bartell Jr.

“Probably 95 percent of my clientele are self-employed or their jobs don’t provide any dental insurance,” he said.

The clinic, which has a Web site that targets Americans, sees about 10 patients a day – nearly all from north of the border. That’s enough to keep three full-time and several part-time dentists busy, Bartell said.

Mexican immigrants who lived in California for less than 15 years were less likely to cross the border for care than those who had been in the country longer, the UCLA report said. Many shorter-term immigrants are undocumented, so they face risks every time they leave the United States and try to return.

Among all other Californians, the top health-related reason for going to Mexico was to purchase prescription drugs.

Much attention has been given to doctors performing cosmetic and weight-loss surgeries on Americans in Mexican cities such as Tijuana. But Wallace found that only 7 percent of the 464,000 non-Latino Californians who sought treatment across the border went there for medical procedures, including surgeries and treatments for serious illnesses like cancer.

Health insurers offering relatively low-cost coverage plans that allow Southern Californians to receive care on both sides of the border should be encouraged by the study’s findings, Wallace said.

In fact, several of the largest players in the cross-border insurance market have recorded steady growth in recent years.

Membership in Health Net’s U.S-Mexico plan has reached 40,000, up from 23,700 in late 2007, said Brad Kiefer, a spokesman for the health maintenance organization.

Sistemas Medicos Nacionales S.A., the only Mexican HMO licensed to operate in California, now has about 21,000 members in San Diego and Imperial counties, said Christina Suggett, the company’s chief operating officer.

Staff writer Sandra Dibble contributed to this report.

Keith Darcé: (619) 293-1020;

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