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MEXICO: Baja California

The history of Mexico is in some measure the loss of land to the US. The Louisiana Purchase area once belonged to Spain. Then came the loss of Texas and the American West, followed by the Gadsden Purchase. Mexicans are very sensitive on this subject, and they reacted angrily when, some years ago, a group of US Congressmen proposed that the US should buy Baja California. Now the New York Times (10/26/03) tells us what is happening. Here is an excerpt:

"Slowly but surely, acre by acre, Mexico's Baja Peninsula is becoming an American colony. "For Sale" signs are sprouting all over the 800-mile-long peninsula, offering thousands of beachfront properties. Americans are snapping them up. They have already created communities where the dollar is the local currency, English the main language, and Americans the new immigrants transforming an old culture. "Everything's for sale, every lot you can imagine," said Alfonso Gavito, director of a cultural institute in La Paz, the capital of Baja California Sur, a state with 400,000 citizens and some of the last undeveloped beaches in North America.

"It's like 20 years of changes have happened in three months." This new land rush, involving billions of dollars, tens of thousands of Americans, and hundreds of miles of coastline, is gaining speed despite the fact that Mexico's Constitution bars foreigners from directly owning land by the sea. Mexico's government wants foreign capital as much as Americans want a house on the beach - maybe more. So it worked around the Constitution. In 1997, it changed the law to allow foreign ownership through locally administered land trusts. A Mexican bank acts as trustee, the foreigner its beneficiary. It took about four years before that new system worked smoothly. But now, most often, it does. One result has been a boom in migration, speculation and permanent vacation. "It's human greed - it's human nature," said David Halliburton, who owns a hotel outside Cabo San Lucas, on Baja's southern tip, where uncontrolled growth already strains the social fabric. "The amount of money coming in here through overzealous developers and buyers is staggering."

Ronald Hilton - 11.07.03