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About Jack E. George

Jack E. George is a Baja writer as well as the author of A Broken Charity and The Autism Handbook (published in English, Spanish, and Chinese).

Mexico’s New Immigration Laws Became Effective November 12, 2012

Mexico’s New Immigration Laws Impact Baja Visitors and Expat Residents

by Jack E. George

If you currently have a valid FM-2 or FM-3, you should understand that this will be the last time you will have one of these. This is because the new immigration laws in Mexico have replaced those documents with other visas. Now the three basic visas are the Visitante (valid for visitors to Mexico for 180 days; previously known as the FMM); the Residente Temporal (replaces the FM-2 and FM-3), and the Residente Permanente (which replaces the Immigrado). The visas are further broken down, depending on various situations, such as if you intend to work while in Mexico.

El Chaparral, Baja's New Port of Entry

If you are a visitor to Mexico, who will be staying more than 72  hours of it the visit is outside the limits of the border zone or tourist corridors established by the Mexican government (see chart at end of article), you must enter the country and report to an immigration office.  For example, if you cross the El Chaparral entry, you need to go to the secondary inspection area. After parking your car you will go to the immigration office. You must fill out a brief form, present your visa, and pay a fee (between U.S. $22 and $30). Although the Visitor visa is valid for 180 days, if you wish to extend your visit this is possible; you simply leave Mexico and return to the country and follow the same procedures in order to obtain a new Visitor visa.

If you presently have an FM-2 or an FM-3 you can no longer process all of your paperwork in Mexico. You must first visit a Mexico Consulate in the United States. You will be required to complete a questionnaire, present your passport, and proof of income.

When visiting Mexico, you will be required to complete a questionnaire, present a passport and proof of income.

It is important for anyone, possessing these  travel visas, to visit the US Consulate 30 days exactly, prior to the expiration date. Your case worker will review your documents, particularly your income, and determine if you qualify for the Temporal or Permanente. S/he will issue to you the necessary document to take to the Mexican immigration office. In Mexico you will be issued an FMM specifying the visa for which you are applying. You have 30 days to complete your paperwork and submit it to the Mexican governmental office. If you do not comply with this 30-day rule you will receive a fine. You will also need to begin the process from the beginning.

The income requirements have been significantly increased as have the fees for the Residente Temporal. The cost for one year is $254 U.S.; two years, $380 U.S.; three years, $481. U.S.; and four years is $571 U.S.  Depending on the exchange rate, this visa requires a monthly income of $2,835 for a single person. The new law also offers a “Point System.” If you do not meet the income requirements, then your case worker might use points so you financially qualify. You can receive points if you have attained a certain level of education; if you are fluent in Spanish, if you have investments in Mexico, or a variety of other criteria.
If your case worker determines you qualify for the Residente Permanente, you can also use points if you do not meet the income requirement. This requirement is $2,365 U.S., per month, for a single person (depending on the exchange rate). The cost of the visa is $299.57 U.S. (depending on the exchange rate).

There are many variations in the new immigration laws. This can be expected when considering the document is more than 400 pages without considering changes and updates. Some of the professional document processors believe the new requirements must almost be individualized in order to meet each person’s circumstances. Although the laws have been in effect since November 12, 2012 it should be noted that the Mexican government is still in a period of ‘transition.’ Since the inception of the law further clarity is still being considered in regards to interpretation as well as implementation.

If you are about to begin the process of obtaining a visa it is strongly recommended that you visit one of the numerous websites for answers to any questions you might have. One such site is:

Established border zone/tourist corridors:

The border zone varies slightly from one Mexican border state to another, but is an area south of the U.S. border down approximately 20 to 30 kilometers (12.4 to 18.6 miles) into Mexico.

The tourist corridors are as follows:

  • Tijuana – Ensenada
  • Sonoyta – Puerto Penasco
  • Cuidad Juarez – Paquime
  • Piedras Negras – Santarosa
  • Reynosa – China – Presa el Cuchillo

Bureaucracy can be daunting, but the rewards of visiting Mexico and Baja outweigh the challenges!  Find out what to do when you are in Mexico! is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurants, hotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at

Crossing the Border: Be Aware of What You’re Bringing into Mexico

Crossing the Border:  Be Aware of What You’re Bringing into Mexico

by Jack George (reprinted with permission from the Baja Times) editor’s note:  This article offers some rudimentary tips for items you can/cannot bring when crossing the border.  It is contingent on travelers to do due diligence in finding out more about guidelines.  There are a number of resources available to help you, including Baja Bound Insurance company.

Crossing the Border: It's a bit different now than it was at the San Ysidro border crossing in 1922!


The newly opened El Chaparral border crossing has brought a number of changes for people driving into Mexico. One thing that has not changed is the dreaded ‘red light.’ This is because you must then pass to the inspection station. The new inspectors no longer simply check what is in your trunk. (You do not automatically receive the ‘red light’…but it is good to be prepared in case you do get stopped for inspection. Editor,

They tell you to unlock your car doors, open the hood of your car, and open your trunk. If they find anything that looks like it is newly purchased, the inspector will ask you for the cost along with other questions. If you are crossing with a new television, for example, chances are you will go to the next inspection station where you will complete a declaration of the item, cost, and so forth. And, most likely, you will pay an import fee.

El Chaparral Border Crossing

However, you also have the chance of having items removed from your possession if you do not abide by the rules of what items can be brought into Mexico. For example, if the inspector looks through your car and finds your favorite cockatiel, hamster, rabbit, or any other animal aside from a dog or a cat, you might need to forever say “Good-bye” to your friend. This will depend, however, on if you did your homework, prior to arriving at the border, and if you followed the instructions for importing a pet. You will not be allowed to travel another mile if you have earth, straw, or hay-filled containers or any type of ornament made from straw or palm. You cannot have any homemade food preparations containing meat or ground products of ruminant origin. Processed meat products from countries Mexico considers risky will not be allowed to cross with you.

You may not cross the border with any food or pet treats containing ruminant origin (basically this is various hoofed, even-toed, often horned mammals; those mammals having a stomach divided into four, sometimes three, compartments). You may not cross with certain vaccines. You may not bring raw or dry shellfish, in any presentation. Seaweed, of any type intended for animal consumption, is prohibited.

Items on the restricted list should be discussed with a United States representative to determine if you can cross the border into Mexico. These include terrestrial and aquatic animals, specific types of animals (such as birds and small pets); bees and bee products; hunting trophies; drugs for veterinary use; objects showing traces of organic products such as boots; plants and plant products such as cut flowers, fresh fruits, seeds, cuttings, and so forth.

Ex-pats living in the border zone of Mexico can import goods for personal use, as long as the value does not exceed $75.

These items include alcoholic beverages, beer, and snuff carved cigars. Various items may be subject to various taxes, so, before returning across the border, you should know what you may face when reaching the inspection station.

Although the list of acceptable articles that are okay to import is extensive, there can sometimes be surprises when you reach the border. Some people are not certain about specific food products; however, products and animal by-products, such as dairy products and so forth are acceptable, as long as they are packaged and labeled in Spanish or English and sealed by the health authority.

You may also cross with most meat products, if they come from plants approved by SAGARPA (in English this is The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food. Its objective is to foster the pursuit of a policy of support that permits producing, improving, and making the best use of the Agricultural, Livestock, Fisheries, and the Food Supply sector).

You can transport smoked poultry, dried beef, and prepared foods, if they are labeled in Spanish or English and stamped by the health authority.The same approval is needed for prepared foods and fruits and vegetables canned or cooked such as prunes, spices, and medicinal dried herbs. You may also bring in fish, canned or jarred, (such as pate), products of fish ready for human consumption, and most sea products, as long as they are properly stored in a cooler with ice and packaged for personal consumption.

Some people are concerned about pet food as far as what can or cannot be brought across the border. You can safely cross with dry or wet pet food. The law seems very vague, “…a full package of food or treats without content of ruminant origin, labeled in Spanish or English and stamped by the health authority.” (After speaking with three different inspectors, I received three different answers as to the question regarding quantities, varieties, and so forth.) It is suggested that you do your research before buying a large quantity of pet food.

We all know that the inspectors have the final say on what can or cannot be brought across the border. If there is a disagreement, it is up to each individual to decide how he or she wishes to continue. It is strongly recommended that anyone crossing the border, on a regular basis, print a copy of the rules and regulations for what may, or may not, be imported into Mexico  (one site to visit is: 

This article was reprinted with permission from the Baja Times,

Want to know where to stay in Baja? is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurants, hotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at


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New Year’s Eve and The 12 Grapes: A Spanish Tradition Brought to Mexico

 How to get lucky on New Year’s Eve?  It all starts with the grapes.

by Jack E. George

The tradition originated in Spain and has now been adopted by Mexico and many Latin American countries for their New Year’s Eve celebrations. It sounds simple: Eat 12 grapes in 12 seconds. The timing is crucial and needs to coincide with the final 12 seconds of the year — in Madrid, Spain, it occurs in conjunction with the ‘blong’ of the clock on the city’s Puerta del Sol as it strikes the final notes of the year. It is important to be near a clock tower or some other chiming device that will offer you the precise time you need in order to ‘count down’, and properly follow the requirements of this particular tradition.


The Luck of the 12 Grapes on New Year's Eve


The Twelve Grapes of Luck, also known as ‘las doce uvas de la suerte’, dates back to the late 1800’s. However, it became more prevalent in 1895 when the grape growers had a huge crop of grapes harvested in the Alicante area of Spain. The growers in the area proposed the promotion of “The 12 Grapes” in order to help sell the large quantity of grapes. They promoted the New Year’s idea and the tradition has been carried on through the years.  In Baja California‘s wine country in the Valle de Guadalupe, grapes are abundant and this tradition is flourishing.

In some parts of the world,  you can actually purchase a tin containing the needed 12 grapes.  But, as is more typical in Mexico, you can also purchase regular grapes in advance, remove the seeds, peel them, or do whatever you choose in order to prepare them — and you — for what needs to happen next:  the quick chewing and downing of the ‘luck grapes’ before the chimes stop chiming and the New Year begins.

The New Year's Eve tradition of eating 12 grapes in 12 second is not as easy as it sounds!

What is the significance of following this tradition? Well, it is said that if you eat the 12 grapes within the 12 seconds before the New Year, each one on the strike of the clock, that this will bring you good luck throughout the New Year. Other people make wishes and believe that following the tradition will grant them their wishes. Some people actually believe that the successful eating of the grapes will ward off witchcraft.  However, it is likely that the 12 grapes simply signify the 12 months of the year, and the desire for luck in each and every one of them.

You might be puzzled when you visit the produce section in your super market as to the volumes of grapes, typically sitting in large containers, at this time of year. You might be more puzzled when you see the people grabbing the grapes and loading them into bags, faster than you have ever seen them grabbed before. But, now you know it is not due to the buyer’s love of grapes; it is due to a tradition.

Instructions: On New Years’ Eve, prepare your grapes and be near the sound of a clock.   As the bells chime, 12 beats to midnight, you begin.   If your first grape is a sweet one, it is believed it means that month will be a good one; a sour grape indicates it will be a bad month. Some people believe that eating the grapes will bring them happiness, peace, or good health throughout the year. Others, choosing to make wishes, ask for love, good health, peace, a new red Corvette, and other wishes that will make the New Year special.  DO NOT jam the grapes in your mouth all at once…very unlucky!

Warning: This tradition might cause difficulties for people who suffer from anxiety or worry about being successful with eating the grapes. This adds a great deal of pressure: eating one grape per second, swallowing, putting another grape in the mouth, while also asking a wish to be granted. After all, what can happen to the anxious person, in the New Year, if all 12 grapes have not been consumed within the allotted 12 seconds? And, what happens if each of the 12 grapes is sour?

One suggestion, in order to be successful with this tradition: choose small seedless grapes. They are not only easier to chew but you can also swallow them more quickly. Good luck!

There are many restaurants (such as La Taberna Espanola in Tijuana) that celebrate New Year’s Eve in Baja.  Visit to find out more! is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurants, hotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at

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Three Baja Bakeries: How Sweet it is!

This is the story of three Baja Bakeries (Tijuana, Tecate and Ensenada)…and oh, how sweet it is!

By Jack E. George


Three Baja Bakeries with very deliciously different styles!

I assure you, when you visit any of these three Baja bakeries, you will find creations you have never seen or tasted before. L’Abricot, located at Antonio Caso 1910, in Zona Rio, in Tijuana is the starting point. Following this visit, once inside your car, loosen your belt a little and prepare for your next stop in Tecate. Once you are close to El Mejor Pan de Tecate, Avenue Juarez 331, the overwhelming, delicious smells will draw you to the bakery. You might want to walk around the beautiful town square, get a little exercise, before you head over to Ensenada. You will want to go to Avenue Diamante No 2104 where you will find Hogaza Hogaza, which means ‘big loaves, big loaves.’ This European-style bakery offers 30 premium gourmet types of bread all made from fresh ingredients with no preservatives. 

When I walked inside L’Abricot the first thing I noticed was that it was spotlessly clean and offered an air of elegance. The tables were each covered with a white-linen tablecloth, with a blue cloth on top which added a nice touch to the French style restaurant-bakery. Owner Maribel Villarreal, a pleasant young woman, said this is the first eatery she has owned and operated. It was established in 2000 following her training in Paris at the Hotel Ritz. The huge assortment of pastries offers everything from the Opera Cake to Almond bread. L’ Abricot serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The meals are mostly French style while breakfasts offer “A touch of Mexican, French Mexican,” according to Villarreal.



The next stop in the Baja Bakeries tour is El Mejor Pan de Tecate, which also offers a great variety of pastries. The first thing you notice about El Mejor is the traditional Mexican style of the exterior. The umbrellas, sitting atop several tables, make it a special place to join friends while having some delicious pastries. Choosing one pastry is difficult as one looks more delicious than the other. After your eyes have checked each one, relax, and enjoy a few pastries. This will assure you that you make all of the right choices. Then you can select a few more to take home to ‘share’ with the family. Aside from the chefs, another reason these pastries are so delicious is that most of the items are baked in a wood fired oven.


Three Baja bakeries, each with a different style! Tecate’s El Mejor Pan is famous for its fanciful postres.

One of the outstanding treats is the Rosca de Queso. It is a big square with a Danish flavor. The cream cheese adds a very special taste. Alonso Mungarro opened the bakery in 1969. Those people visiting, or living in Rosarito, can find a branch of El Mejor at the north end of town. Located on Benito Juarez Boulevard, it is in a small strip mall where the large Roma Pharmacy is located. Gloria, the owner, said that their pastries are all baked in house. When asked if they also use a wood burning oven, she enthusiastically replied, “Yes!”

Baja Bakeries aren’t all known for their lavender truffles…but Hogaza Hogaza is!

Hopefully you have saved some stomach space for the trip to Ensenada. If you have difficulty locating Hogaza Hogaza Pan de Autor you can ask any local resident who will joyfully point you in the right direction as well as offer words of praise for choosing this shop where you can find an array of breads. The owner and chef, Teresa Santiago Corona prides her shop on the fact they offer the freshest of ingredients ranging from rosemary to fine herbs. Aside from their well-known Mediterranean loafs you can also choose from brioche of fruits, focaccia, ciabatta, and many others. Pan de Autor has an interesting translation, ‘designer bread.’ Teresa explained that each piece of bread is special whereby it offers its own complete work. The owner started her career as finance major at the Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara. However, her family had a strong tradition of bread-making. This attracted her to the process where she taught herself how to bake. This led her to earning a degree from the Culinary Institute in San Diego. Her first shop was opened in an abandoned family market. She transformed this into her first bakery. Now, although you have already been to two other pastry shops, you must try Teresa’s lavender truffles, her fruit pie, as well as her red berry mousse.

After your day of delights, you might have one more stop to make – yes, your local gym. Just for fun you might try to calculate the number of calories you consumed today. On the other hand, this was such a pleasant treat, you might decide to go home, turn on your TV, and watch your favorite gourmet show.

Nothing is better than baked goods in the morning…so why not spend the night in these towns in anticipation of that coffee-cream and pastry delight? is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurants, hotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year. For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us

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Tijuana Innovadora 2012: A Celebration of Cross-Border Initiatives, Oct. 11-21

by Jack E. George

Factoids and innovations highlighted at Tijuana Innovadora 2012: A Celebration of Cross-Border Initiatives:

Did you know that Tijuana and other Baja municipalities have launched initiatives to plant a total of two million trees per year to address a severe shortage of green spaces?

Did you know that Tijuana has more than 30,000 workers making medical devices — a medical device workforce larger than any other in North America?

Did you know that Tijuana is becoming a force in fashion, with new designers and producers being welcomed into the global marketplace?

Did you know that Tijuana is one of the hottest topics in the world of wine and gastronomy?

Tijuana Innovadora 2012:  A Celebration of Cross-Border Initiatives

Tijuana Innovadora 2012 is rapidly approaching. The event runs October 11-21 at the Cultural Center of Tijuana (CECUT). This will be the third year that the U.S.-Mexican cross-border initiatives are celebrated. The first year hosted a number of personalities including Al Gore, Larry King, and Twitter co-founder, Biz Stone. The major goal of the event is to highlight to local and international audiences the innovative ideas in the areas of science, art, culture, and education that have been, and are presently available in Tijuana.

The 2012 conference will be divided into three major themes: Creativity, Industrial, and Humanities. Each day there will be a number of activities which will include keynote speakers, such as Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS Shoes. There will also be panel discussions, workshops, dinners, and special events. The speakers will be leaders and innovators in their chosen fields, from the United States as well as from Latin America. Each presentation will be available in English and Spanish through innovative simultaneous translations.

There is no doubt, once the event concludes, that the many guests will fully understand what makes Tijuana a vital, unique, and innovative city.

The organizers of the event are trying to keep the entry fees as low as possible. These fees will be for the keynote speakers, panel discussions, and special events, as well as other activities such as theater productions, art exhibits, and film screenings. A variety of activities will be offered including a bicycle tour, an international fashion show, and an “Iron Chef” style battle for the top culinary chef.

Sam ‘The Cooking Guy’ Zien and Marcella Valladolid, host of the Food Network’s “Mexican Made Easy” program will host the Iron Chef-style competition at Tijuana Innovadora 2012: A Celebration of Cross-Border Initiatves

This segment of the conference, the “Iron Chef,” is giving huge attention to the event this year, in part because Tijuana and San Diego are becoming recognized as world leaders in the field of gastronomy.  Hosting the competition with be Sam ‘The Cooking Guy’ Zien and Marcela Valladolid, a Tijuana native and host of the food Network’s cooking show “Mexican Made Easy.”  Some of the regions top international chefs will make appearances.

Since there will be 65 keynote addresses along with 41 panel discussions, there will undoubtedly be several events of interest for everyone. The prices for those events, with fees, will range from $15 to $35.

The Expo Pavilion will feature 42 colorful exhibits. These will be presented by the high-tech firms located in Tijuana. These exhibits promise to be an extraordinary extravaganza. The keynote speakers will be offered from a variety of areas including business development, fashion design, education, movie special effects, wine tasting, and many others. The 71 workshops promise to be some of the best ever offered in the city. Both the workshops and the exhibits will be free to the public.

The guest list includes such dignitaries as President Felipe Calderon Hinojosa, Jose Guadalupe Osuna Millan, Carlos Bustmante, Jose Galicot and Jack Winer who will speak at the opening ceremonies. The vision will focus on Creativity the following four days. During this time education, cinematography, medicine, citizen engagement, mass media, strategic design and culinary arts will be featured.

October 15-17, the theme will be ‘industrial.’ Keynotes and discussions will be offered on electronics, automotive industry, energy, business excellence, the medical industry, aerospace, science and technology.The third theme will offer a variety of flavors to meet everyone’s tastes – including leadership and entrepreneurs, humanism, economy, digital city, philanthropy, and Novel Laureates and Innovators.. This will be followed by the Metropolitan Development Plan and the closing ceremony on October 21.

If you have any questions, please contact Media Relations liaison, Aida Garcia at (619) 850-1384. You can also email her at or, you can call the general number at (664) 231-5200 or email

Attending Tijuana Innovadora 2012:  A Celebration of Cross-Border Initiatives, Oct. 11-21?  Find out about Tijuana Hotels, Tijuana Restaurants, and more! is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about localrestaurants,hotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at

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