Yucca flower, overlooking La Bufadora
  • Yucca flower, overlooking La Bufadora
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Punta Banda is a narrow, mostly barren finger of land that pokes out into the Pacific Ocean at the southern end of Bahía Todos Santos near Ensenada.

Near the very tip, busloads of bug-eyed tourists regularly stare out at the myriad of sharp, guano-covered outcroppings as they munch on crispy churros, waiting for the next influx of water to surge through the mammoth boulders at the base of the world’s second-largest blowhole, then spurt high up in the air to ultimately dissolve into a fine, cool mist that offers momentary relief under the blazing Baja sun.

Surrounded by rocky, cactus-strewn chaparral, a long row of shack-like concession stands and shops line the end of the road leading to La Bufadora. Eager vendors offer the passersby everything from the usual array of curios, plaster deities and metal sculptures to humble preparations of shellfish, candied nuts or fried seafood.

Some of the other local residents are commercial fishermen or charter skiff operators who make a good portion of their income catering to American anglers and scuba divers, who come to this special hideaway to take advantage of abundant marine life that still exists in the waters surrounding the rugged peninsula and its many hidden coves.

Standing on a hill above this modest village today, it’s apparent that the well-traveled, twisting line of somewhat-neglected asphalt that feeds La Bufadora’s tourist industry has done little to affect the stunning primitive beauty of the surrounding volcanic landscape.

Over the past few decades a surprisingly large number of ex-pats have also found a home here, many of which are fiercely independent nonconformists – refugees from the eternal battle between those who like to be told what to do, and those who don't. Nonetheless, most people who visit this region, even on a day trip, will acknowledge its special, elemental magnetism.

For those coming to Ensenada by land, La Bufadora is only about a 45-minute drive south of town on the well-marked highway. Cruise ship passengers will find a variety of transportation options to visit the blowhole as soon as they step off the gangway and onto the malecón.

It’s hard to believe that Southern California’s stressful urban overcrowding and the seemingly endless gridlock on San Diego freeways lies barely over a hundred miles north of this magical hideaway. But that is, indeed, an eternity away from here.

Up on the hill above La Bufadora, the breeze blows freely through your hair. This is a place where pelicans and seagulls dive into the ocean for their breakfast, and all the creatures of the sea and land are filled with a wild lusting for life. And while it is a life that is often stark and cruel, it is one devoid of the typical entanglements related to the societies of mankind.

It remains a more primitive but, somehow, more credible world.

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Javajoe25 Feb. 7, 2012 @ 7:16 p.m.

Devoid of typical entanglements? You can say that again. A more credible world? I don't think so, Tom. There is nothing typical about what you may find yourself in the middle of there, and "credible" loses something in translation at times. Just ask the dozens of ex-pat Americans who bought homes in Punta Banda and spent 20 years or more and thousands of dollars fixing them up, thinking they would spend their retirement days enjoying all that is Mexico. They ended up getting booted out after the local "Ejido" informed them, in spite of their Mexican attorneys words, and in spite of the mortgages signed and issued by the Mexican banks, the land belonged to the community. The Mexican Supreme Court upheld the decision and the Federales arrived to make sure the gringos were out by the specified date.

Don't get me wrong; you can't beat the natural beauty of the place and the shops and restaurants add color and spice to the scene. But you do have to be careful in terms of doing any kind of business there because you will find yourself in someplace akin to never-never land, should a dispute arise.

For those who remember what happened in Punta Banda, La Bufadora is not the only blow hole in the area.


Tom Gatch March 23, 2012 @ 12:46 p.m.

Hola Joe,

Please remember that my piece was focused on the wild land near the end of the peninsula, adjacent to La Bufadora and its famed blowhole. That area is still blissfully separated from the nearby populations in the poblados of Punta Banda, Esteban Cantu and the outskirts of the Ensenada further east.

I am, however, sadly familiar with the debacle that occurred out on the Punta Banda Estero spit over a decade ago when dozens of American and Canadian residents were rousted from their homes by unscrupulous individuals, whose names I know but will not share here, who deliberately misled the victims of the scam into thinking that they had some sort of legal title to the properties where they resided. The then used their legitimate title and the existing Mexican legal system to unfairly evict the poor folks irrespective of how much they had invested.

Although this horrific event got an inordinate amount of press coverage in southern California that continues to cloud our region to this day and devastated the lives of many foreign residents that were either retired or getting to retire, it did prompt the Mexican government to create a legal vehicle, the Fido Comiso.

This is actually a bank trust, in which a certified Mexican bank acts as trustee and hold the title for the foreign resident in question. Since all Fido Comiso’s require that all of the property’s title and ownership documentation be verified prior to its acceptance, it offers a rock solid vehicle for foreigners living in Mexico to enjoy virtually all of the rights associated with outright ownership. The Fido Comiso can also be inherited by a pre designated heir.

Additionally, foreign corporations can now be legally formed in Mexico without a partner who is a Mexican citizen. This offers a great opportunity to have your company’s name on the actual title, but it is an option that is only available to those who are truly operating a business.

In regard to leasing land, Mexican law now only allows leases to run 10 years in length; not less, not more. Remember, all contracts in Mexico must be written in Spanish to be valid. Using a reputable real estate attorney in Tijuana or Ensenada is also highly advised. Just as it is north of the border, caveat emptor is a phrase that is essential to remember when purchasing anything.

Thanks for your very valid comments, I hope that my response clarifies the range and limitations of the ethereal microscope that I employed when originally writing the piece. ~ Tom


RaulJ May 25, 2012 @ 8:14 a.m.

Hi Guys, I really enjoyed the article and, as always, found it to be well written and most informative.
I wasn't here for the situation that several Americans and Canadians found themselves in but have talked to some of them. I have also talked to the heads of the Ejido and to some of the people that won the legal battle over rights to the land. From what I understand from both is that the Ejido felt that the land belonged to the Ejido and was available for sale. However, since there was a lawsuit going on, they made that clear to the prospective buyers. The buyers were aware that there was a cloud on the title to the land. In this case, a fideicomiso (land trust) would have done nothing to protect the prospective buyers. by the way, fideicomisos were not started because of this situation. They have been around for a very long time and were available then. I also understand that some of the buyers went to the winners of the lawsuit and came to a new agreement in which they leased the land and kept their homes. Others listened to their lawyer who urged them to go as far as taking their lawsuit to the Mexican Supreme Court. There the only winner was that lawyer. It is truly a shame that such a situation arose in this area with stunning beauty. As you know, Tom, I bought a couple of lots from the Ejido. However, under similar circumstances as met the ex-pats so many years ago, I would not have even considered such a purchase had I ascertained there to be a cloud on the two lots. Rather, as a holder of dual citizenship I was and am able to own land in Mexico. However, I still did my due diligence by going to the State's land office to verify that the person I was dealing with was the true owner of the land, by hiring an attorney to handle the wording of the sales contract and by going to a Notario (has nothing in common with a US based notary but acts much like a title company) and made certain that there were no claims against the two lots and that the sale was registered both locally and nationally. I would do this in the US as well by going to a reputable realtor and insisting on a title search and title insurance.
I hate that some people were removed from property they felt was truly and legally theirs, but also feel that they failed in doing their due diligence. PS As you know, my background is in international banking, real estate and mortgage lending. I'll tell you of some of the situations I ran into in the US as well. Land fraud is not just here. It was and, probably is, north of us as well.


Tony Brogdon Feb. 18, 2012 @ 10:57 a.m.

Very Good Article - Many places in Baja are very beautiful.


Tom Gatch March 23, 2012 @ 12:59 p.m.

Thanks Tony, I'm glad you enjoyed reading it. You can read more of my Baja entries by following this link: http://www.sandiegoreader.com/staff/tom-gatch/ Click the BAJA-4-U link near the book photo to access the complete blog. <:)////>< T


Tom Gatch March 23, 2012 @ 1:24 p.m.

LOOKING FOR YET MORE INFORMATION ONLINE? GOOGLE: Tom Gatch Baja http://sandiegoreader.com/users/photo...


debnkona March 23, 2012 @ 2:34 p.m.

Nicely written article & I'm glad you pointed out that what happened over a decade ago has now been remedied by newer legislation by the Mexican government. The Fido Comiso isn't maybe as well known as the prior "bad press" that still lingers from decades ago. That's sad...my friends built a vacation home in La Paz in 2005-6 and have had no problems whatsoever. I loved my last trip to Baja Norte...friendly people and a we found the view from Punta Banda breathtaking & quite serene...lovely place!


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