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Tourists are flooding Mexico's wine country. They're also destroying it

Cindy Carcamo, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

VALLE DE GUADALUPE, Mexico — Sunset closed in on the 70-year-old vines at Vinicola Mogor Badan on a spring afternoon. The sky transitioned to an icy hue. Natalia Badan, matriarch and owner of the winery, walked her family’s land and surveyed the vineyard and organic farm her Swiss-French parents built with rocks and mud in the 1950s here in Baja California.

Moments later, the chirping birds went silent. The bass started up.

A loud thumping emanated from her new neighbor — a chic, open-air dining establishment — abutting her grapevines. For years, the neighboring land was a carob tree ranch. Now, it’s a restaurant and bar, part of a proliferation of businesses meant to serve and draw in tourists to Baja’s trendy wine country.

It’s the kind of place made for Instagram, where out-of-towners snap photos of themselves next to resident zebras or waiters dressed in safari-inspired outfits serving decadent cocktails.

Badan shook her head.

“And, there is the music,” she said in exasperation. “ Boom. Ba. Boom. Ba. Boom. Ba. It’s out of place.”

 

The new restaurant was just the latest iteration of the uncontrolled development that has encroached on this rural hamlet, which now has 10 times the number of restaurants it did in 2001. Badan said she still doesn’t understand how a restaurant could be built on land zoned for agricultural use.

“We are a farming community. Nature has its own rhythm,” she said. “This urban nightlife is not compatible with agriculture. It’s disconnected from its environment. It breaks something.”

It wasn’t just the loud music that irked Badan, a 70-year-old no-nonsense woman with regal, salt-and-pepper hair.

Valle de Guadalupe is a semi-arid wine-making subregion in Baja California, which is a desert where the land is freckled with agave, cactus and chaparral alongside grapevines and olive trees. It lies a two-hour drive south of San Diego.

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