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Compañeros de Baja Norte: Dedicated to Friendship
text by connie ellig; photos by connie ellig & stew pinkston
first 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).

companeros membersNow 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 palates.

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.
 

After the Matrimonios Colectivos, Mayor César Mancillas (center) greeted members of Club Compañeros de Baja Norte.
mayor with companeros

baja companeros clubhouseIn 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 by request.

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.
 

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