de Baja Norte: Dedicated to Friendship
by connie ellig; photos by connie ellig & stew pinkston
published in baja times newspaper
A large number of Americans have chosen Ensenada as their permanent or
retirement home because of its various enticements: beaches and ocean views,
a mild climate, relaxed lifestyle, lower cost of living and proximity to
southern California. But the most widespread reason that Americans choose
Ensenada is the warmth and friendliness of its people.
Evolving from bonds of respect and friendship between resident Americans
and Mexicans, Compañeros de Baja Norte,
A.C. was established in 1992 as a legal, charitable, non-profit
association in Mexico. Its purpose is to promote good fellowship throughout
the community and to support local charities.
Compañeros de Baja Norte traces its roots back to Amigos de Ensenada,
a non-profit service and social club of Americans and Mexicans that was
founded in 1984 to assist charities and to share insights and appreciation
of the Mexican culture. Club Amigos participated in charitable activities
like the DIF Matrimonios Colectivos, the Thousand Smiles Clinics and providing
Christmas baskets for the needy. In 1991 Club Amigos disbanded, but a group
of its members reorganized to form Compañeros de Baja Norte (Friends
of Northern Baja).
comprised of more than 240 members originating from the United States,
Mexico, Canada, England and Scotland, Club Compañeros de Baja Norte
is extremely active in the local community. Last year on Christmas Eve,
a convoy of Compañeros distributed fifty food baskets and an abundance
of children’s gifts to mainly single-parent families in a working class
neighborhood. Last May and November, the Compañeros cooked and served
more than 200 lunches for doctors and staff at the annual Thousand Smiles
Clinics. The Thousand Smiles Foundation
is a group of American and Mexican dentists and oral surgeons who regularly
volunteer their services to the needy and specialize in the repair of cleft
Throughout the year, Compañeros de Baja Norte hosts a variety
of entertaining fund-raising activities including theme dinner dances,
fashion shows, casino trips, Sunday brunches, dinner plays, crafts fairs,
rummage sales, and food and raffle booths at events like the “Ensenada
de Todos” Cultural Festival and the J.D. Hussong Baja International Chili
Cookoff. During 2004, the club provided full and partial scholarships for
several high school students, supplied paint and school uniforms for an
elementary school, assisted the Association for the Blind with seeing eye
dogs, and helped to fund a kidney transplant and a prosthetic eye.
In February 2005, the Compañeros provided cake and wine for a
record 280 couples ranging from age 16 to age 68 who were married in unison
at the Matrimonios
Colectivos on the morning of Valentine’s Day. The impressive civil
ceremony was conducted in front of a standing-room-only crowd in the spacious
Salón Catedral of the Riviera Cultural Center. The Matrimonios Colectivos
occur twice a year in Ensenada and are organized by the municipal chapter
of DIF, which is headed by Beatriz de Mancillas, the mayor’s wife. DIF
(Sistema para el Desarrollo Integral de la Familia) is the national program
of social assistance that focuses on strengthening and developing the family
core in the local community.
the Matrimonios Colectivos, Mayor César Mancillas (center) greeted
members of Club Compañeros de Baja Norte.
addition to fund-raising events, Compañeros de Baja Norte organizes
an assortment of social activities like weekly card games at the clubhouse
and monthly lunches at local restaurants. All activities, including meetings,
are open to the public. General meetings are held at 10:30am on the first
and third Wednesday of each month at the clubhouse on Calle Mazatlán
#256 in Fracc. Acapulco, one mile south of Ensenada. Membership ($15dlls.
annually) is open to all persons interested in meeting new friends and
helping the local community. For more information about Compañeros
de Baja Norte, contact President Ralph Andrade at (646)173-5122; e-mail
A monthly e-mail calendar of Compañeros activities is available
Members of Compañeros de Baja Norte are to be commended for their
impressive record of community service and remarkable dedication to fostering
and strengthening the bonds of international friendship.