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6 a.m., Feb. 22
Ken Bell sees the impact that the decline in tourism to Mexico has had on the economy. As media reports of drug cartel violence increase, Bell has seen more businesses close near his home in Rosarito Beach, and he has seen more homes go on the market.
He is not the only expat from the U.S. to have noticed the change. The thousands of foreign residents living in Baja are just as aware.
In response, U.S. expatriates are working together to improve the image of Baja and change the dialogue from drug cartels back to lobster dinners, and uncrowded beaches.
On June 8 and 9, more than 70 U.S. expatriates met at the Rosarito Beach Hotel to discuss ways to promote Baja by providing accurate portrayals of everyday-life.
"The local residents suffer the economic repercussions of media representations, but our lifestyle is negatively affected as well," says Bell, one of three moderators at the first meeting of the Baja Image Committee.
Bell and the Baja Image Committee are not looking to "change the truth" but instead want to change the dialogue.
"All we advocate is more fairness and less sensationalism. The truth is that virtually all foreign residents live here comfortably."
"Does crime exist? Of course. Are we part of the drug cartel epic? Not directly. It is like a freeway that cuts through town. If an accident happens there, it doesn’t necessarily impact the residential neighborhood adjacent."
The committee plans to spread their message by posting activities on Facebook and other social media sites.
"We can’t speak for all of Mexico, although we believe the violence in Mexico takes place in only 5 percent of the country, certainly not Baja."