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Rosarito Beach, despite drug war, said to retain its small-town charm

March 17, 2009 |  9:11 am

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Once upon a time, tourist destinations throughout Mexico, including beleaguered Rosarito Beach, were cherished for their small-town charm and friendliness.

Nowadays, as the narco war rages on, all you hear about is danger, violence, murder and corruption.

But there are some who maintain that Mexico has not lost its endearing qualities, despite a steady flow of media reports about the violence among cartel thugs and police.

Laura Wong, editor of the Baja Times and lifelong resident of Rosarito Beach, implied in an editorial that her town remains somewhat like the fictitious town of Mayberry.

"Life is simple, inexpensive and relaxed," Wong wrote, explaining that this quality is what led hundreds of U.S. residents to relocate, and that these ex-pats now "live in a matter of course with the local population."

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Doctors know you by name and will make house calls. Neighbors smile and wave and invite each other to their homes. "And if you are sick, your neighbor takes you to the doctor," Wong wrote. "In the U.S. it can take years to know who lives around you."

Wong clearly was trying to inspire renewed interest among U.S. residents who, before the spike in drug-related violence in Mexico's border areas, were considering investing in or around Rosarito Beach. She cited the low cost of beachfront housing, inexpensive healthcare, U.S. mail service availability and the recent devaluation of the peso, giving the dollar more power.

But the small-town charm, prevalent throughout much of Mexico's landscape, was perhaps her best selling point.

She closed with an allusion to the perceived danger: "What about the soldiers and Federales? Although they patrol the streets, they have little or no relation to civilians. We have to be protected from drug dealers. The expatriate community continues to live normal lives like we Bajacalifornianos do. Both communities have learned to view each other as brothers and sisters.

"To conclude, life is beautiful in Baja California."

-- Pete Thomas

Photos: A city festival and a family shopping spree during better times in Rosarito Beach. Credit: Rosarito Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau

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