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The Official Magazine of the International Spa Industry

22nd ANNIVERSARY VOL. 22 NO.5 MAY 2012


COVER STORY SEEKING NEW CHALLENGES AT 90, RANCHO LA PUERTA CO-FOUNDER AND GOLDEN DOOR FOUNDER DEBORAH SZEKELY LAUNCHES WELLNESSSPRING.ORG Bernard Burt learns what’s next for the “Godmother of American spas,” and how the new management team at Rancho La Puerta will build wellness programs for the entire family. From modest beginnings in Baja California, Mexico 72 years ago, Deborah Szekely (pronounced say-KAY) has been acclaimed for her philanthropy and life-enhancing resorts. Turning 90 on May 3rd, her life and philosophy reveal what keeps her young. With her daughter fully taking over the reins as President at Rancho La Puerta, Deborah Szekely is devoting her energy to a new project – Wellness Spring – with the goal of enlisting a million members to lobby for common-sense aspects of wellness and against illness in America...and against, as she puts it,“all those who are trying to poison our people and our planet!” Preparing to challenge members of Congress on June 19th at the Washington Spa Alliance Symposium, this legendary figure in the 20th and 21st century spa age says it is time for action.

DEPARTMENTS From the Publisher People & Places ANNE BOLDUC Group Publisher & President FOUNDER & EDITOR IN CHIEF Guy J. Jonkman


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The Worldwide Guide to Spa on the Internet Spa Management is published monthly by Publicom Inc. P.O. Box 2699, Champlain NY 12919 (514) 274-0004. Postage paid in Montreal, QC and Champlain, NY. POSTMASTER: PLEASE SEND ADDRESS CHANGES TO SPA MANAGEMENT, P.O. BOX 2699, CHAMPLAIN NY 12919. Nothing contained in this publication shall con-

SENIOR EDITOR Bernard Burt EDITORIAL Monica T. Brown Hannelore R. Leavy Bernard Burt Jonathan Paul de Vierville Shirley Meerson Jon Canas Dr. Ronald Klatz Douglas Preston Dr. Robert Goldman Raoul Andrews Janet McCormick Melinda Minton DESTINATION EDITOR ASIA Jean-Pierre Képinski MEDICAL TOURISM EDITOR Michael McCaffrey DESTINATION EDITOR EUROPE James Knight SEND EDITORIAL INFORMATION or P.O. Box 2699 Champlain NY 12919-2699 Fax (450) 833-2444 Please forward all advertising material, insertion orders to: IMS / SPA MANAGEMENT 100 Walnut Street, #1, Champlain, NY 12919 (450) 833-2400 • Fax: (450) 833-2444

SUBSCRIPTIONS Yearly subscriptions prices in the United States are US $47 for 1 year, US $77 for 2 years, US $107 for 3 years. Canada are cdn $68 for 1 year, cdn $108 for 2 years, cdn $148 for 3 years. International US $99 for 1 year US $149 for 2 years, US $199 for 3 years. Send payment to: P.O. Box 2699, Champlain NY 12919 6-12 WEEKS FOR FIRST ISSUE SPA MANAGEMENT Chief Operating Officer, ANNE BOLDUC Systems Manager, DANIEL DOREY Director Human Resources, ESTHER AMAR Treasurer, STARR WYLKIE Group Publisher, ANNE BOLDUC Chief Editor, GUY J. JONKMAN MEMBER International Spa Association Club Spa USA - The Day Spa Association American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine Copyrights © 2012 by SPA MANAGEMENT All Rights Reserved


stitute an endorsement by Spa Management of any information contained in this publication. The publication and/or owner-shareholders directors, disclaim any liability with respect to the use of reliance of any such information. The information contained in this publication is in no way to be construed as a recommendation or approval by Spa Management of any industry standard, or as a recommendation of any kind to be adopted by or binding upon any spa owner. Reproduction of any portion of this issue by any means (facsimile or electronically, for example) is strictly forbidden. Editorial supplied must be accompanied by return postage. The publisher assumes no responsibility for return of unsolicited photographs or manuscripts. Subscriber: Send subscription inquiries and address changes to: Circulation Department, Spa Management, P.O. Box 2699, Champlain NY 12919. Give old and new address, including postal code and the address label from most recent issue. Allow six weeks for change. Printed in Canada. Legal deposit number 500073-D. US POSTAGE PERIODICALS PAID AT CHAMPLAIN NY 12919. ISSN #1199-0600. SPA MANAGEMENT reserves the right to accept or reject advertisers and/or advertising material. Spa Management Journal is not responsible for the advertising contents in this magazine.

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Dear Subscriber, With this new issue of SPA MANAGEMENT Journal, we throw our 22nd anniversary celebrations into high gear. While we take this opportunity to reflect on Spa Management’s success, it’s not so much about where we came from as where we’re going.ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo That’s why you’re receiving this magazine! SPA MANAGEMENT Journal is the WORLD”S LONGEST-ESTABLISHED Spa magazine for Spa Leaders and has been specifically designed to meet the needs of Spa Executive decision-makers. The Journal keeps readers well-informed on all spa and wellness business issues of the day. While technology has brought changes that make even 22-year old editions seem outdated, there are many enduring issues and even a few spa entrepreneurs who find their way into successive decades – a sure sign of a “great” company by the standards of Spa Management as part of our 22nd, we’ve put together some incredible opportunities for our readers. Because you deserve it. We’ve come a long way in 22 years and we coudn’t have done it without you. Good Luck, Spa & Wellness readers, And cheers to the next 22 years!





Biggest Losers Win at New Resorts The Biggest Loser resorts are expanding to the East Coast.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Bernard Burt is senior editor and columnist for Spa Management Journal. He authored “100 Best Spas of the World” and “Fodor's Healthy Escapes.” Updates and industry news are on his website As founding director of the International Spa Association (ISPA), Burt tracked international trends and brought together European, American, and Asian health resorts. In 2011 he became co-chair of the Washington Spa Alliance, creating a forum for health tourism and the spa community of the national capital region.




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“When do people stop and think? Kids don’t think much anymore; it’s Twitter and Facebook full-time.” “I love my mind. I’m speaking of it as if it was a good friend. It’s entertaining and challenging, and it seems to be as hungry for knowledge and innovation today as it was when I was a child.” “I have always maintained that the word ‘spa’ is an acronym for Self-Preservation Association.”

Seeking New Challenges at 90, Rancho La Puerta co-founder and Golden Door founder Deborah Szekely Launches Bernard Burt learns what’s next for the “Godmother of American spas,” and how the new management team at Rancho La Puerta will build wellness programs for the entire family.

With her daughter fully taking over the reins as President at Rancho La Puerta, Deborah Szekely is devoting her energy to a new project – – with the goal of enlisting a million members to lobby for common-sense aspects of wellness and against illness in America...and against, as she puts it, “all those who are trying to poison our people and our planet!” Preparing to challenge members of Congress on June 19th at the Washington Spa Alliance Symposium, this legendary figure in the 20th and 21st centuries spa age says it is time for action. From modest beginnings in Baja California, Mexico 72 years ago, Deborah Szekely (pronounced say-KAY) has been acclaimed for her philanthropy and life-enhancing resorts. Turning 90 this month, her life and philosophy reveal what keeps her young.

Opening two world-renowned health resorts – Rancho La Puerta and Golden Door – brought together Deborah’s interests in healing mind, body, and spirit. Springing from the founding ideals of her husband, Edmond Szekely, a fitness and natural living pioneer who gained international acclaim with the publication of his book “Cosmos, Man and Society” in 1933, early retreats at Rancho La Puerta attracted other leading philosophers and visionaries (including Aldous Huxley) in the 1960s and 1970s. On a parallel course in California, the week-long Golden Door experience attracted Hollywood stars, corporate CEOs, and Middle Eastern royalty. Deborah’s popular evening talks there have continued since Golden Door became part of the LXR Luxury Resorts & Hotels Collection.

In a recent interview with columnist Tom Blair for the San Diego Union-Tribune, her hometown newspaper, Deborah looked to the future. Here’s an excerpt, with permission from the U-T. Q: Congratulations. You have a special birthday coming up. A: May 3. I’ll be 90 — in years, but not actions. Q: Do you feel different now than you did 10 or 20 years ago?

Extending her energies to government and diplomatic service, Deborah Szekely held numerous appointments in California and Washington, D.C., culminating in her six-year stewardship of a federal agency, the Inter-American Foundation.

Edmond Szekely History-Mud Bath

History-Indra Devi History-Indra Devi and Gabor

A: I feel smarter. I use my time better, because I feel I’ve got to get to it in the next 10 years. On Friday, I had lunch with the new president of San Diego State and then went to the opera. The day before, I drove to the Grand Del Mar for dinner. And I didn’t get lost. (If you’ve ever been there, you know what I mean.) I had a lunch appointment every day last week. And I took my grandson to the Aztecs basketball game Saturday night for his birthday.

Q: Phew. In 2007, at 85, you said you were looking forward to the decade of change. What change have you experienced so far?

Q: That was part of your 10-year plan?

A: I worked to create something that didn’t work out, but it’s in file boxes in the garage, and it’s still going to happen. I was working with USD on something called “Living Skills: 5th Grade Curriculum.” I wanted them to do a pilot in one city in each of four different states, during which the fifth-grade kids would drop off the grid for a year to learn living skills. Had the Democrats held control [of the House], I would have had an earmark and been able to do it. Q: No ABCs?

A: It’s on hold because of the economy. It’ll be back. But I’ve got a new one. I have an idea that will be launched on my 90th birthday. Starting last year, I incorporated the National Wellness Registry, which now has the more accessible and memorable name “Wellness Spring.” I just signed contracts with EchoDitto to create magic websites. I want to use the social network to incite a Wellness Spring. The goal is a million members paying $10 a year to lobby for the common-sense aspects of wellness. One thing we’ll do is a bumper sticker campaign.

Eggs from ranch

A: No. They’d be learning accounting, by keeping a budget, and comparison shopping.

“What Are You Doing Today For Wellness?” “Take a Neighbor for a Walk.” “Split an Apple With a Kid.”

They’d have $50 in a bank account, and no check could be over $5, so they would have to budget. They would learn living skills; gardening, cooking, cleaning.

Q: You’re confident you can get a million people to donate? Aqua fresca

There would be field trips to factories, and farms. USD would have got $1 million to oversee it. It would include nutrition, how the body functions and how the world works.

Sarah [Livia]

A: I have no idea. But you can’t win if you don’t try. This is what I’m doing for my decade. My time is now my philanthropy.


Q: Meanwhile, there’s Rancho La Puerta, launched in 1940, when you were just 18. So your health spa will be 72 this year. A: My daughter, Sarah [Livia], has taken over Rancho La Puerta. It will always be a piece of me, but my mind is into the next thing. Still, I visit the ranch once a week when I’m in town. My daughter has been in training for this all her life, and she is brilliant. It’s a challenge, because we have 400 staff and a lot of programs. Q: You’ve had concerns about the business during the recession and the violence in Mexico. A: We had a little dip. But this year looks much, much better than last, which was better than the year before. The regulars have never stopped returning. Eggroll

Orange vanilla flan


Sauces Ranch cookies

Q: And the drug violence? A: I carry a card in my purse wherever I go. And when people talk to me about Mexico violence, I show them how much less there is in Mexico than half a dozen countries in Latin America and some of our own cities, including New Orleans and Gary, Indiana. Q: You spent 17 years in Washington. You ran for Congress and lost. Would you want to serve in Congress today? A: Well, I like challenges. I might go back there and stir it up. I might go back there and keep my hand in. I still have my Congressional Management Foundation, so I’m very connected. I created and funded the first version, and we’re now working on our 13th edition of “Setting Course,” a how-to manual written for the congressional staff. When I ran for Congress, I found the staffers didn’t talk to one another. And there was no manual to help freshmen members of Congress set up their offices. So we wrote the book 28 years ago.

Deborah Szekely at home in San Diego Q: Philanthropy has been a part of your life for decades, starting in Mexico 60 years ago with school programs for deaf and mute children. You’ve said, “Volunteerism was my alma mater.” What does that mean? A: I didn’t go to college. I was at the ranch. My parents were in San Diego. And I would come to San Diego on the weekends to do the shopping. I read in the paper that the Old Globe Theatre, used by the Navy during World War II, was being returned to the community. I volunteered there, and they were just grateful for another pair of hands. It gave me something I could go out to do and just be helpful. There, I was accepted for myself. To the people at the ranch, I was the scullery maid, milking the goats, getting the breakfast, and cooking. Q: And the Globe was your introduction to local philanthropy? A: I began as a volunteer, but I took on more responsibility. Craig Noel [founding director] and one other person were paid. It was a true community theater. From the Globe it branched out into so many other activities. COMBO, the Combined Arts and Education Council, came out of the Globe. Phil Klauber and I started COMBO, with most of the money raised the first year going to the Globe. We built a support building with that money. I still have the ceremonial shovel from groundbreaking. We raised a lot of money over 25 years. And then I set up versions of COMBO in Phoenix, Tulsa and Dallas. Q: Is there anything you still wish you could do that you haven’t? A: There was a wonderful program I thought could go national called Family Fitness & Fun. I wanted San Diego to become America’s Healthiest City. Mayor Pete Wilson supported it. We had a fitness program in 16 park and recreation gyms in the city. We had 4,000 people exercising in those gyms — mothers, fathers and children — three times a week. It lasted three years, and then came talk of Proposition 13. Everything in the city budget that wasn’t essential was cut. Q: But you still have your personal exercise regimen? A: I walk. And I do Pilates four times a week. I’d do it five times, but my trainer takes Tuesdays off. (He’s a former Navy SEAL.)

Keeping it in the family Sarah Brightwood Szekely returned from a career in England as botanist and garden designer to become President of Rancho La Puerta in 2011. Sharing her vision with Spa Management Journal, Sarah explains how the Ranch shaped her life and values. Q. What did you learn at the Ranch? A. I have been deeply in love with the natural world all of my life and spent much of my childhood in the garden, catching frogs, petting bees, smelling everything, getting my nose dusted with pollen and dirt under my fingernails, and finding treasures everywhere. I became a gardener and garden designer. Although I studied landscape architecture in college, it was my lessons in the dirt that taught me the most, and I have had the privilege of knowing my bit of earth intimately, growing up and shaping the garden that is Rancho La Puerta for over a half a century. This has taught me patience--the long view--faith, tenacity and an understanding of cycles and rhythms. The other great determining influence in my life is that I was raised by a village. Rancho La Puerta was like a kibbutz when I was little. I had a lot of freedom, but also many surrogate parents. Everyone on the Ranch kept an eye on me and my brother. I experienced the gifts and complexities of community in a way that few children can.

Our guests teach me about the importance of community every day as I observe them and listen to their stories. I have come to understand that Rancho La Puerta is their sanctuary. They come to us to restore their vitality and recharge, but more than ever, they come to us for something more fundamental: to reconnect with their inner voice, to weather a health crisis, or grieve a loss. They come for friendship, support, and community, for learning and new perspectives, for inspiration and transformation. I believe that the lack of time to connect with ourselves, our families, the natural world, and our friends is taking a huge toll in our lives. I lived in England for nine years and discovered that even the Federal Express delivery man would sit down for a cup of tea if it was that time of the afternoon. Towns that are easier to navigate on foot than in the car constantly reweave the fabric of community. Learning how to relax on a one-lane road when farmers are moving their sheep to fresh pasture, rather than stressing about being late, is a fine survival skill. I loved the years when all the shops were closed on Sundays. I became one of those neighbors that would bring your washing in off the line when rain threatened. Relationship, connection, support, and going out of your way to be helpful ‌ these are all values and habits that are expressed, recognized, and practiced every day by our staff at Rancho La Puerta. Q. How are you extending the feeling of community amongst guests at the Ranch by creating an ongoing conversation about wellness? A. Last March we introduced The Ranch Circle to answer our guests' interest in improving their lives through better health and wellness. The Ranch Circle is designed to help us be our guests' partner in wellness and, at the same time, develop our relationships with these guests. At the core of the program is an ongoing wellness assessment program, in which guests are able to take an online wellness questionnaire that not only gives them personalized recommendations and guidance about their health needs and interests, but also makes personalized recommendations for their stay at the Ranch. After their stays, guests will be encouraged to continue to update their assessment and, of course, to continue to use the Ranch Circle as a partner to help them improve their wellness. Additionally, Ranch Circle members will earn special opportunities from the Ranch, including proprietary access to personalized promotional offers based on a guest's interests, and special rewards for referring friends to Rancho La Puerta.

Q. How do you motivate the Ranch’s employees? A. Our commitment to the wellness of our employees and their families provides them with regular health assessments and health coaching. We have refurbished the staff gym with new exercise equipment, and are offering vigorous and joyful Zumba classes just as the workday ends. As longtime members of the Tecate community, Rancho La Puerta supports environmental, social, educational, and human development programs that benefit the Baja California region, with special focus on the Tecate River Valley. Funded by the Fundacion La Puerta, heritage projects in Tecate include parks, sports stadium, and a unique environmental education center. Q. How will family weeks integrate wellness? A. This summer, for the weeks of August 4 and August 11, the Ranch will open its doors to families. We have created a diverse children’s program that will allow parents time to enjoy our regular Ranch classes but also encourages family time. The weeks will be especially tailored for ages 7-14 with games and activities ranging from water polo and hula hooping to nutrition and cooking classes for parents and their children. Together, we will harvest every color under the sun at the organic farm and learn how to make world-class healthy snacks and entrees. Older teens will, as always, be welcomed into our regular classes and will have additional opportunities for social time and to be mentored by our wellness and art staff.

Being in Mexico, we feel that cross-cultural experiences are essential between neighbors. In the morning the children will collaborate in building projects with local school children. In the afternoons alongside the physical activities there will be story telling, drawing and animation, and of course a wide variety of wellness education offered in creative and irresistible ways. Under my leadership, the Ranch will continue to explore new ways to honor and nurture our relationships with our guests, our staff, the town of Tecate and the wild and generous natural community that surrounds us.

Learning Siempre Mejor As the gates swing open for a bus bringing guests to the Ranch from the San Diego airport, a mood shift is tangible. Everyone smiles, regulars and newcomers sharing the welcome. Above the gate is the founders’ motto: Siempre Mejor – Always Better – the key to the enduring success of Rancho La Puerta. Spread over about 50 acres of lush gardens, the Ranch has evolved into a self-sustaining village. In total, their property encompasses 3,000 acres, almost all of it dedicated wildlands, ideal for hiking and meadow strolling. Clusters of villas and casita resort residences (83 in all) decorated by Deborah with Mexican crafts and furniture, accommodate 150 guests. Plus multiple gyms, a fitness center, library, Pilates studio, two spas (one for men only), a social center and a salon. At its heart is the dining hall, a grand, two-story building that reflects Mexican traditions of hospitality.

Guests come from a wide spectrum of lifestyles and ages. Everyone seems to have a personal story about their Ranch experiences. Mine involves the memory of Alex Szekely, Deborah’s only son, who died of melanoma at age 45 and is buried on a hillside where hikers head up Mt. Kuchumaa, a source of spiritual energy. Alex taught me patience in growing the ISPA membership when we served on the board. Both he and Deborah provided leadership for the fledgling association at a time when some leaders of the industry voiced doubts that it could succeed. Relaxing on the terrace of my hillside villa, I watch the sun rise on Mt. Kuchumaa while breakfasting courtesy of room service. Then it’s a short walk to the spa building for a moisturizing facial with Primavera Life, a skincare line based on nature’s healing potential. Founded by Ute Leube, the company’s passionate mission complements the Ranch’s respect for the earth. Her Amala luxury brand is also offered in some treatments.

Fitness Dance week was being celebrated by the Ranch fitness staff, led by the indefatigable Phyllis Pilgrim. Scheduled sessions of NIA, Hip-Hop, African, Funky Jazz, Salsa Aerobics, and Broadway and ballet beat were interspersed with classes and activities from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Carving out time for an al fresco soak in the men’s spa whirlpool balanced my day. Communal dining is an important part of each day. The daily buffet at breakfast and lunch is far from classic Mexican fare. Instead, it fairly bursts with organic freshness, Mediterranean-cuisine-style inventiveness, and vivid colors. A wait staff serves at the more formal dinners, and entrees include sophisticated variations on not only all-vegetarian dishes but fresh-caught ocean fish and shrimp as well. Among food writers, the current phrase du jour is “farm-to-table,” meaning a menu that features produce from nearby sources. However, that was a fundamental premise when Rancho La Puerta opened in 1940 and has been ever since. Only back in 1949 they were called a health “cult” in the same San Diego newspaper that recently lauded Deborah Szekely as great community activist and philanthropist.

Spring roll

Seabass barley

Mushroom beggar purse

To supply the kitchen, Deborah planted organic gardens. Eventually, nearby farms were annexed, and a grove of olive trees added to a grape arbor much-prized by Deborah’s husband and Ranch co-founder Edmond Bordeaux Szekely, who for awhile promoted a “grape cure” involving a grape juice cleansing diet. He was a 34-year-old Hungarian scholar-philosopher, nature-loving experimenter; she was his 18-year-old bride from Brooklyn when they welcomed guests to their first season of “The Essene School of Life.” The professor’s library is still there, as is the tiny adobe hut he and Deborah lived in for 10 years in the 1940s. Meat has never been on the menu, says Chief Executive and General Manager Roberto Arjona. Choices of vegetables, fruits, eggs, dairy products (cheese and yogurt), wild-caught ocean fish, and some ocean shellfish change daily; vegan and gluten-free meal plans are available on request, plus several varieties of coffee and tea, and wine for the Friday dinner dance. Exceptional even in the 1940s, Rancho La Puerta continues the tradition of serving as much fresh, local food as possible at its culinary center and cooking school, La Cocina Que Canta/ The Kitchen That Sings. Challenging cooks to rethink meals, classes range from Mediterranean-Mexican to fresh oriental accents, plus fish. Yellow tail tuna fresh from the nearby Pacific, as well as wild salmon appears with avocado-tarragon aioli, jicama slaw, garnished by pink grapefruit. This is exciting hands-on cooking, and you get to eat the results.

Set amid the 6-acre organic farm that supplies kitchens at both Rancho La Puerta and the cooking school, the handsomely crafted culinary complex literally draws inspiration from the land. Gardeners proudly pulled up carrots, broccoli, and lettuce for our inspection. Then you don an apron and work as a team on the meal. Resident chefs and an occasional celebrity cook improvise the day’s menu from whatever is ready to pick that same day. Prepping ingredients, we work around a big central table and professional stove. Our hosts patiently show how to cut and chop, sauté and grill, setting nervous novices at ease.

Denise Roa Guacamole Bread

How did Deborah plan to celebrate her 90th birthday? By climbing Mt. Kuchumma, a 3,885-foot trek to the summit, symbolizing the enduring Szekely legacy of Rancho La Puerta.

Siempre Mejor, meaning “Always Better,” or as Deborah believes, “Always Changing.” Reflecting on her journey, Deborah Szekely’s keynote speech at the founding conference of the International Spa Association (ISPA) September 1990, inspired new generations of spa industry leaders.

Rancho La Puerta opened in 1940 as a direct result of a series of health camps held by “the Professor,” as Edmond Szekely was known, beginning in 1935. Held on the banks of a river or lake, they were his replication of the camp of the Essenes (early Christian healers about whom little is known but much conjectured). Our guests would climb mountains, meditate, eat raw foods, exercise in water and on land, read esoteric books, and listen to the Professor's daily lectures, departing a week later with the conviction that good health of mind and body was their reward. I attended several of these camps with my mother, a registered nurse and vegan who, as she was wont to say, 'saw the light." Long before this, in 1926, she had become the dedicated vice president of the New York Vegetarian Society alongside Bemarr MacFadden. By 1930 she had decided that Brooklyn in the midst of the Depression was not what she had come to America for, and so she talked my dad into moving us to Tahiti, where we were to remain for almost five years.

My life thereafter seems to have followed a preordained path. At first Rancho La Puerta was still one more health camp, but this time I, a recent bride, was chief cook and bottle-washer. I milked the goats, cared for the vegetable gardens, taught calisthenics, and at night by the light of a kerosene lamp wrote letters to everyone I had ever met extolling the virtues of the Essene School of Life, our name during the first dozen years of our existence, while my husband wrote his books and lectured to the guests. With the war on in Europe and cut off from my husband's publishers, we had to survive on an outside income of $30 a month. We charged $17.50 for the full week, bring your own tent. Ten years later our rates were at the munificent sum of $25 per week! It was during these years that the spa “health-day concept” of today was developed. With only the countryside and a river as fitness venues, I had to invent other ways to fill the guests' days. We alternately exercised and danced to music from a hand-cranked Victrola, did yoga breathing, invented (or rather adapted) Father Kneipp's herbal wraps to relax overstressed muscles, and, as we found out later, to accelerate the dispersal of lactic acid that built up from unaccustomed exercise.


We experimented. We tried every form of therapy. Each morning we hauled sea water and kelp from the ocean 20 miles away for the Sumerian baths. We imported algae and mud from Central America, gave colonics and acidophilus implantations. We grew our own herbs for aromatherapy, herbal inhalations and infusions. We scoured the health literature of Europe and tried every form of homeopathy, as well as megadoses of vitamins. Ultimately we settled on what brought the most true and lasting results: A full week in a glorious garden environment, fresh air, happiness and laughter all balanced with healthy movement, relaxation therapies, plus organically grown foods from our own farm.

all History-Volleyb

An unforgettable event occurred in 1949 when our retreat was nine years old and we first appeared in the press. My excitement turned to tears when I read the three-part story in the San Diego Union, which labeled us a cult. The reporter, with heavy sarcasm, wrote, “The Professor insists that human health begins with healthy soil which means good food. ‘Health also depends to a great extent,' he emphasizes, ‘on good climate and right thinking.”

A great example is the happy choice of Tecate as our site. Yes, Edmond picked it for the climate - the best in North America a prerequisite for a year-around resort, while not a must for a summer health camp. What he did not know was that the peak looming to our north—Mt. Kuchumaa—was and still is known as a spirit mountain beloved by the first Americans, who believed that energy flows from within its core


I have always felt somewhat superstitious about our mountain, and give much credit for our success to its magic.

In 1977 - I can always remember the year for it was the time of my 55th birthday - President Ford chose me from the members of his Council for Physical Fitness and Sports to be the principal delegate to an international conference on health. I completed my 20th year of service to four presidents as advisor to President Reagan. At the Ranch. we talk about self-responsibility for health. Fitness spas will never run out of clients: You have only to watch commercials on TV and observe the rise of the fast food industry. At age 60, I turned my business over to my children and took on new challenges of working with the poor of Latin America and the Caribbean. It re-energized me!

From personal experience, I can state that aging is when there is less to do tomorrow than yesterday, and the secret of the fountain of youth is to know that being is doing.

This, of course, was 1949, and I should not have been upset, for the reporter expressed the official dogma of the times. Fortunately, our guests did not agree; they retuned year after year with their children, and today their children's children continue to come. Gradually, the world began to accept the simple logic of right eating, right thinking, right living. History-People Porch

The Ranch (we had to drop the name "Essene School of Life" because the government of Mexico insisted if it was to be called a school it would have to have an official curriculum) operated along the theory of serendipity, which the dictionary describes as an "apparent aptitude for making fortunate discoveries accidentally.'"

Deborah Szekely, 17-year-old History-Pool Group Shot

History-Sunbathing Guests

History-Health Gym

History-Early Ranch


Butternut Flan

Chocolate flan

John Donne, the poet, said no man is an island. Never has this been more true. I have always maintained that the word "spa" is an acronym for “Self Preservation Association.” Be assured that if the Professor and I had not invented the modem fitness spa, one of you here would have done so, for the spa fills a real need, and it will be you working together who will make the difference for the people and our world.

Rancho La Puerta—a vital part of the Tecate community Baja California’s mountain town of Tecate, located on the border between California and Mexico, has been home to Rancho La Puerta since the Szekelys arrived in 1940. Today the Ranch has become the second largest employer in Tecate, surpassing even the famed Tecate Brewery. (The largest employer in town is a factory for the lock/hardware company Schlage.) “Economically speaking alone,” says Rancho La Puerta CEO and General Manager Roberto Arjona,“ we contribute $9 million a year to Tecate via payroll and purchasing power, both ours and our employees’. Our 400 employees all live in Tecate, and our vendors are mostly local.” Many of the resort’s workers are third-generation. One family has three sisters and four brothers on staff. Their father worked at the Ranch, as did their grandfather.

“Like any big family,” continues Arjona, “we have a social responsibility to be a good member of the community. We contribute in two ways: “First, we polled all of our employees some time ago to tell us how they were involved in the community—youth programs, church, civic organizations, the environment—and how we could help. We reached out and now support the causes they are most passionate about: recycling fundraising drives, youth sports teams, an orphanage, homes for the elderly, career programs through the university…the list is long. “Second, our Fundación La Puerta, which is a non-profit foundation started by the Ranch owners 25 years ago, has long identified environmental and cultural needs in the region, and made significant contributions via local parks, environmental education and communication, volunteer work, land and watershed restoration, native cultures, and more. To learn about our work there, the website is a great overview.”

Hot chocolate

Arjona is also proud of Ranch programs that bring the community into the resort—literally—to experience and learn more about how to embrace a wellness lifestyle. Partnerships with three schools help schoolchildren experience the extensive Ranch gardens and healthy eating choices. Community organizations can use the Ranch as a meeting place. International delegations meet there, including a recent trade group from China. “Last but not least,” he says, as the clock nears 5:00 p.m. in his office, “we have our own employee wellness programs. Corn soup

In 15 minutes their Zumba class starts, and so do tennis lessons. Want to watch?”

Rancho La Puerta Tecate, Baja California, Mexico 877-440-7778 • 800-443-7565 • Fax: 858-764-5580 • • Post Office Box 69, Tecate, CA 91980 © SPA MANAGEMENT JOURNAL • MAY 2012 •



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