Posts Tagged ‘Rancho La Puerta’

Revisiting Rancho La Puerta by Jennifer Quinonez for Califonia Life!

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

“Living the longer, healthier life… realizing full human potential and a greater sense of being… helping the planet survive and thrive for our great-grandchildren…and creative philanthropy and social action to realize creative growth.”
- Rancho La Puerta’s Mission

In honor of Rancho La Puerta’s 70th birthday celebration in San Diego this Saturday we’re revisiting one of our favorite interviews with the inspirational Deborah Szekely, who founded Rancho La Puerta in 1940 with the goal of “Prevention of Obesity Through Education.

Aired On: 

Episode 50


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We can Always be Better thanks to Rancho La Puerta! By: Heather Dawson

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

When I was invited by Julie Gallaher of to spend a week at Rancho La Puerta, my initial reply was “I don’t have time for a luxurious spa week in Mexico, I barely make time to eat!”  Then our education reporter Jennifer quinonez told me to take a second look at the amazing amenities on their website and felt it would be an important segment to feature on our show, California life.

Even my husband who was surprisingly diagnosed with colon cancer at 38, urged me to take a break from our regular routine and focus on slowing down.  It’s not easy leaving 3 kids, a full-time job producing 2 newsmagazine shows, a production company, classroom volunteering, chaffier duties to the girls’ activities and a husband undergoing chemotherapy.  So, naturally the guilt set in quickly as I made my way to San Diego to catch a bus to Tecate.  Too much caffeine, no time for breakfast, a lingering sinus infection I never made time to get antibiotics to cure and a frantic last minute search for my passport, left me feeling queasy and I started off my trip as “the guest who got sick on the way”.

It was all worth it when I finally descended on the beautiful resort of Rancho La Puerta, a tranquil setting, comfortable casitas, endless hiking trails, and delicious meals made from the organic gardens nearby.  There was an activity for everyone; whether it’s yoga, Pilates, relaxing mediation, vintage jewelry designs, lectures on dreams and a full service spa.  I was more relaxed than usual but the moment I checked my iphone, the stress would come back instantly.   Then a wonderful thing happened, I forgot to bring my iphone charger and was forced to spend the week without technology  (cell phones and computers are restricted to your rooms and the internet cafe). I was forced to hike without my ipod and listen to the birds and nature. Noise alone is a huge stress on the body.   In fact, when I got home I researched the impact technology has on our family unit and few articles have hit home more poignantly than the genius “Report: 90% Of Waking Hours Spent Staring At Glowing Rectangles”. Kids and teens 8 to 18 years spend nearly 4 hours a day in front of a TV screen and almost 2 additional hours on the computer and playing video games. In today’s technology culture, a computer can be “watched” like a TV – as can iPods, cell phones, and many other gadgets.

I also realized how unhealthy my diet was (living on coffee and skipping meals is never a good combo).  We ate 3 meals a day without processed foods, sugar and red meat. My roommate lost 6 pounds and I had more energy than my triple espresso diet.  We spent one evening picking our food from an organic garden then cooking alongside a handsome, Belgium chef straight out of central casting from the Food Network in a gorgeous Tuscany style kitchen.  

The food was amazing and we all swore we would go home and start our own organic garden.  I did come home and make delicious recipes from the Rancho La Puerta cookbook and although the garden is on hold, I did start a routine to buy organic!  My daughters can’t wait to grow yummy vegetables in a family garden after watching the Rancho La Puerta story on our show, California life.  I am sending my husband next month to experience Rancho La Puerta when he finishes chemotherapy.  I can’t imagine a better way to kick-start his new health regime.  More importantly, I want him to take a break from technology so he can truly relax and soak up the motto “Siempre Mejor” which means “Always Better” ~ because regardless of how busy we are, we can always be better.   Thank you Julie Gallaher for the invitation, Roma Maxwell for the opportunity and co-founder Deborah Szekely for creating this wonderful escape 70 years ago!

The Rancho La Puerta/Deborah Szekely Effect ~ By Jennifer Quinonez

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Many of us have heard about the Oprah Effect or the Obama Effect – but I have just encountered first hand what I’m calling the “Rancho La Puerta/Deborah Effect.” The “Effect” being that people like Oprah or Obama have transformed lives and I believe I’ve been changed for the better or “woken up” in the last week thanks to time spent at the ranch and meeting Mrs. Szekely.
Rancho La Puerta is a health and wellness fitness resort and spa just 45 miles south of San Diego. Deborah Szekely, the co-founder, in my opinion, is one of the most influential, determined and important women of our time. She has lived her life as a conservationist, philanthropist, activist, educator and tenacious entrepreneur. Although she stands only five feet tall, her confidence and unwavering repertoire revel a much taller and younger woman despite the fact that she’s now 88-years-old. The path from her childhood to her elder years is one of extraordinary measure, hard work and strong will. It’s a lesson in taking care of your mind, body and soul and if you do, the long lasting rewards will come.

Experiencing the ranch and all it has to offer for a week sounded at first too good to be true. I hesitated spending an entire week away from home because as a working mother my first thought was “I can’t get away, I have too much to do.” Thankfully my husband and family jumped in to help and encouraged me to go discover what it means to visit a “wellness and fitness” resort. I’m so glad I did because we’ve all heard the saying “when opportunity knocks, open the door.” Well fortunately for me, the “door” led me to the ranch, which is fitting since “Rancho La Puerta” translates to “Ranch of the Door.”
Wellness, physical fitness, embracing nature and an overall immersion in smart eating practices is what I obtained in just a week. In this short time, I feel lighter, stronger and more prepared to live a healthier life just by spending seven days on 3,000 acres of beautiful land. I did this by eating fruits and vegetables from their organic 25 acre farm, going on their nature led hikes and taking a multitude of fitness classes like yoga, hydro-water works cardio in the pool and a “aerobics for the soul” dance class.
This kind of experience is very much like what guests were exposed to 70 years ago when the ranch opened; although back then it was only $17.50 a week and you were required to bring your own tent. My how times have changed! The leadership and visionary of Deborah Szekely helped turn the simple fitness camp into the world-class resort it is today.
It seems that Deborah was destined for a life of good eating practices because her connection to organic food began as a child. This is a lesson I believe we should all teach our children. Her mother, a trained nurse, was Vice President of the New York Vegetarian Society and due to the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables during the depression; she moved the family from Brooklyn, NY to Tahiti. That’s how important healthy eating was to the family as early as 1930! In Tahiti, destiny brought together Deborah with her future husband Edmond. Edmond Szekely, an author, philosopher and Renaissance man (known to his followers as the Professor) read in eight languages and conducted health camps around the world. A man ahead of his time, Edmond was against all pesticides and opposed processed foods.

This kind of healthy living touched many people around the world, including Deborah’s family. At the age of 17, Deborah worked as a secretary at Edmond’s camp in Urupan, Mexico. Before the teenager was set to leave for college, Edmond realized that Deborah was an invaluable asset both professionally and personally and asked the young woman to marry him. The newlyweds had planned to move to England where he was to begin a new position as the Director of the British International Health and Education Center, but the outbreak of WWII changed everything. Edmond’s passport was cancelled, and as a reserve in the Romanian army, he couldn’t go home because he wasn’t going to fight in Hitler’s Army. The last straw came when the United States notified the couple that if Edmond was found in America after June 1, 1940, he would be considered a deserter and arrested immediately. That’s when they decided to cross the border to the town of Tectate, Mexico and set up camp on the grounds known as Rancho La Puerta.

The early years of their fitness camps had hardworking conditions and little luxury. Although there was no running water or electricity, it didn’t stop guests from coming to the ranch knowing that they were going to learn from the Professor, eat fresh food from Deborah’s organic farm, hike Mt. Kuchumaa and exercise in the river.

Deborah says she “learned how to run the ranch from the bottom up, the hard way, but the most effective way.” She was a pioneer then, and still is today. 70 years later, Deborah is still the driving force behind one of the most successful fitness resorts in the world and her credits don’t end there. Never satisfied with resting on her laurels, she worked as a public servant in Washington, D.C. for 17 years and was the President of the Inter-American Foundation. She continues to work as a an activist on immigration issues and combating childhood obesity, as well as a philanthropist on countless educational causes that serve both the United States and the people of Tecate, Mexico. In fact, the Szekely foundation, Fundacion La Puerta is working to promote social awareness and conserve the natural land in Tecate by conducting many educational activities, such as providing training for teachers to help the children of the region learn about the

The motto of Rancho La Puerta is “Siempre Mejor” which translates to “Always Better.” Deborah is the true spirit of that saying and continues to help people understand just a little bit more about how their actions affect not only their lives, but the lives of countless others. Rancho La Puerta is an oasis that encourages natural living and holistic health practices that lets people find a way to renew and refresh their purpose in life.

The “effect” that the ranch and Deborah has had on the thousands and thousands of lives is helping people like me realize it’s time to pay attention to what I’m really eating, the long term importance of fitness, and how my conservation habits really do play a role in saving our planet. What I’m taking from this trip is exactly what Deborah pointed out in her lecture “this is stuff you already know, I’m just putting it all together for you.” Thank you Deborah, I’m finally listening.

Peace, beauty and an amazing history awaits us!

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

Peace, beauty and an amazing history awaits us… by: Jennifer Quinonez Jennifer@californialifehd.comGrounds-d-3mb

Heather Dawson and I have been invited to participate in a media panel for social media bloggers at the historic Rancho La Puerta resort in Baja Mexico. It’s now a modern day health and fitness spa but when it began in 1940, founders Edmond and Deborah Szekely had only the very few tools that fit into their car to build their vision of a life filled with clean living.  Soon people all over the world traveled to this destination spa that gave visitors an experience of healthy living for their mind, body and soul.History_Early_Ranch-1mb

The facility is on a 3,000 acres and today, includes high end spa services and fitness activies such as yoga, hiking, and pilates.  Plus, the resort also has an organic farm, and an internationally known cooking school.Flores Spa

Szekely_Deborah_2007a-1mbNow in her late 80′s, Mrs. Szekely is still very much involved in the resort and fortunately we’re going to get the chance to meet her on our trip.   When I read about the many challenges she faced in the early days of the ranch 70 years ago as a young wife, living off the land with no running water and starting from scratch, it’s incredible to see how it looks today.   To me, she sounds like the ultimate pioneer woman and I’m impressed with the many achievements she’s made in health, fitness and education.

I look forward to turning off my cell phone, taking in the peaceful surroundings, eating healthy food from the organic garden and getting in as many nature hikes as possible. The resort says they aim to help people develop a lifetime of healthy habits and I can’t wait to get started! This is the perfect kick off to my New Years resolution of living healthier for my lifetime!  Look for my future blogs from Rancho La Puerta right here on


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