Don Bauder 6:07 a.m., May 21
We are living during very trying times. Stateside gasoline prices are headed through the roof while, with the correlated rise in the cost of goods and services, Americans with a desire to take a vacation are finding that they are increasingly difficult to afford.
In past decades, many southern Californians might have chosen to enjoy a getaway closer to home in Baja, where blue waters, uncrowded beaches, great seafood and fine wines are highly accessible and reasonably priced. Unfortunately, the recent wave of alarmist publicity generated by the U.S. State Department and certain media interests north of the border has focused upon a few relatively isolated acts of drug cartel related violence in Mexico, which has correspondingly caused tourism in Baja California to plummet.
Sadly, the most often maligned are Mexican law enforcement officers, who are generally characterized as being corrupt, or even cooperative with criminal elements. I am happy to report however, that recent personal experience has proven to me that this unfair portrayal is quite often far from the truth. Although the following event took place a couple of years back, the recollection of this incident and all of the attendant implications still remain graphically etched in my memory.
We had headed south from San Diego to spend a few days at our casita in Punta Banda, but first made a stop at The El Milagro real estate development just south of Puerto Nuevo where I planned to do a little surf fishing. The weather turned out to be rather stormy that day, so we had to forget about the angling portion of our visit and instead dropped by their office to chat for a few minutes.
Sometimes, timing is EVERYTHING!
After leaving El Milagro, it was about 11:30am or so when we were passing through El Sauzal. I had just looked over to my left to drool as we drove by El Trailero and I began to dream about their carne asada tacos and toasty, grilled jalapeños, when I turned my head back to the right and saw a dark blue Izuzu Trooper with a halibut sticker on the bumper drive by us in the right lane. It was our trooper that had been stolen just a few weeks over a year ago from the Pyramid Resort while we were attending a book signing. As you can probably imagine, we totally freaked out! Lynn quickly dug around in her purse for her cell phone, while I tried to remember the Baja emergency number (Let's see, 911, no that's in the U.S. Uh, 666? Nope, that's the sign of the devil. Ah, got it! ‘066’ ...THAT'S IT!)
The operator quickly passed me on to an English speaking officer who took down all the information and pulled up the previously filed theft report on his computer. The guy in our car had absolutely NO idea what was going on as I followed him while talking to the police. After he passed Punta Morro and we were able to determine that he was headed through the port instead of the road that takes you through the center of Ensenada, the officer assured me that they would have a 'greeting party' ready for him by the time he made it up to the Pemex station ...and that they did! As soon as he made that turn, police cars came flying out of practically every direction.
The driver of our Trooper was pulled wide-eyed from the vehicle with an automatic weapon in his face. Unlike similar situations in the U.S., the suspect was not forced face down on the pavement, nor kicked, nor abused in ANY way. He was simply frisked, cuffed and escorted into the back of one of the patrol cars. Their precision in execution and calm, professional demeanor was amazingly smooth. The 'take down' looked like something that had been planned for weeks, not the 4 or 5 minutes that it actually took to coordinate their efforts.
One of the English speaking officers told us that they would expedite our drive to the police station with a special escort. They were extremely helpful and courteous as we waited for them to process all of the theft and arrest reports; they told us that the guy in our car said that he had purchased it from someone, and they promised to follow up on his source for acquiring the vehicle. In the meantime, they placed our Trooper in their impound unit cost free until we could get back to the U.S. and bring down our title (which we had stopped carrying around a LONG time ago, thinking that it was a 'lost cause') so that they could release it back to us. On a trip to Ensenada the following weekend we were finally able to reclaim our stolen vehicle.
Of course, there will always be people who, immediately upon hearing a story of this nature, will become cynically doubtful claiming that my happy tale was simply an isolated incident, and that Mexican police are more likely to be bad than good. There are several one word responses that I could come up with to counter such a claim, but the most printable one I can offer is ‘nonsense’!
To us, there is one undeniable fact that remains prominent in regard to this amazing incident. Thanks to the quick, incredibly efficient actions of the Ensenada Police Department along with the assistance of the Department Commandante and the Juzgado de Primero Penal in Ensenada, we finally got our long lost Isuzu Trooper back.