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News: Yucatan Underworld


News Starting January 17, 2011

Counting Cruise Ship Money
New numbers are coming from the State Tourism Department and they show that tourism is still improving in Yucatan, especially in the cruise ship sector. In 2011, 120 cruise ships are expected to land in Progreso. What that means to Yucatan is relatively easy to calculate from last year’s numbers. In 2010, 102,642 crew members and 280,277 tourists, on 116 cruise ships, landed in Progreso. Each crew member spent between $25 and $30, which amounts to approximately $2,822,655 USD. Passengers spent between $50 and $60, which amounts to approximately $15,415,235. This means that each cruise brings in approximately $157,223. In 2011, with 120 total cruises, Yucatan can expect 10 cruises per month to bring approximately $1,572,230 USD per month directly into the economy of Yucatan. We have had huge gains in tourism before, but they were temporary. Yucatan Lots - beach lots at reasonable prices in the Yucatan MexicoThis slow but steady growth, year after year, is the best way to grow a healthy economy and we are very proud of Yucatan’s ability to continue growing at a successful rate.

The Price At the Pumps
Last year, the price of fuel was raised on the second Saturday of every month. The increase wasn’t much, but it was steady. News now is that this pattern will continue throughout 2011. This month, Magna went from 8.76 to 8.84 pesos per liter, Premium from 10.10 to 10.14 pesos per liter, and diesel from 9.12 to 9.16 pesos per liter. As shown, each increase is small, but they do add up when they take place every month. For comparison, consider that the average price of gasoline in the U.S., in 2008, was $1.65 per gallon and, in 2010, that average had risen to $3.22 per gallon. We must remember that fuel for vehicles is still subsidized in Mexico and we are getting a great deal.

Indigenous Schools and Hostels
Everyone’s country has them… little towns, far from well traveled roads, poor schools, no jobs, people who barely make it not from paycheck to paycheck, but from generation to generation. Roy Sorrels Life Story Writing Workshop in MeridaEach generation seems to fall farther and farther behind, with little hope of ever changing the situation. Yucatan has several areas like this, mostly inhabited by indigenous Maya. This semester, the Indigenous School Hostels, fully funded by the government, have reopened with 2,000 resident students. The shelters have proven themselves to be amazingly successful, with 94.5% of students completing their studies, along with a 25% weight and height gain. These hostels are located in Catmis, Corral, Sisbichén, Chikindzonot, Citincabchen and Nohalal. These children are the future of the Maya in Yucatan and that future now looks brighter than ever.

Pedestrian Safety Coming Soon to Merida
The Second Bureau of Trade Analysis included such participants as the Merida Chamber of Commerce, the Services and Tourism CANACO-Servytur, and the Council for Planning and Development of the Municipality of Merida. One of the hot topics this year was the safety of pedestrians in Centro, with public transportation and street vendors both viewed as a hazard. The sheer numbers of street vendors impairs the ability of vehicles to see pedestrians, as well as the other way around. Reducing the numbers of street vendors seems to be already underway. The most interesting thing we learned from this meeting was about the drivers of public transportation. Evidently, they have no personal liability for their actions. If there is an accident, it is deemed to be totally the responsibility of the public transportation company. The Second Bureau of Trade Analysis suggested that the drivers also be held liable. We totally support the Bureau’s findings and suggestions, especially the building of more formal terminals, complete with new signage that indicates when and where it is allowed to load and unload passengers.

Happy Birthday Doña Nicolasa
One of the oldest women in Mexico was born in Merida in 1905. Escolastica Canche Uc has now celebrated her 106th birthday and is still in good health, so we can all wish her many more happy birthdays. Although she has outlived four of her five children, she still has a large and loving family that includes 14 great grandchildren and 23 great great grandchildren. We can only imagine the history making events she has witnessed. 

Old Bones and Underwater ArchaeologistsCenotes in Yucatan
The bear bones, found in a cenote in the middle of Merida in November, have been dated to 11,300 years ago. This was during what is called the Pleistocene area. Scientists say that the bones will help them understand the climate during that era, as well as how the caves and cenotes actually formed. What we find equally interesting is that UADY has an underwater archaeology team and they are getting ready to go back into the 45 meter deep Merida cenote to look for more bones. The presence of an underwater archaeology team at UADY should not surprise anyone. UADY is a fine research university that accomplishes much in all of its departments. We think we don’t hear nearly enough about UADY and the expertise of its faculty and students, so look for Yucatan Living to see what else we can find at UADY that is just as interesting.

Cenotes Around the Peninsula
Every once in a while, we happen upon someone’s cenote diving adventure and are astounded at how beautiful the pictures can be. Someday, scientists will tell us all about the mechanics of how cenotes and caves were formed and how they function but even science will never be able to dim the splendor of these amazing worlds. Visit The Yucatan Legacy: A Legendary Underworld to see some of the most beautiful pictures of cenotes to be found on the Mayan Riviera.

Progreso to Host Rowing and Canoeing Olympics in MayCanoeing Tournamnet in Progreso
Most people are unaware that Progreso has an area that is designated as a rowing and canoeing track and that the area often hosts the regional races that lead up to the Mexican National Olympics. This week, however, a group from Mexican Canoeing came to Progreso, evaluated the track, and approved Progreso to host the 2011 National Canoeing Olympics in May. All that is necessary now is to add additional accommodations so that all of the 500 boats can be housed during their visit to Progreso. This will be an exciting time in Yucatan and we will all get to watch as 500 athletes from all over Mexico vie for not only the medals in their own country’s Olympics, but for a chance to compete on an international level as well.

Respiratory Diseases Up 30% in Yucatan
The past five winters have been tough on the population of Yucatan. Cold weather in a tropical country has the potential to turn deadly because homes are not winterized and the people do not have the kind of winter clothing necessary to handle colder temperatures. Each year, the population of Yucatan registers rates of respiratory diseases that are up from the year before. This year, the rate is up 30% over the same time last year. The majority of the reported problems are strep throat, the common cold and ear infections. Flu numbers are actually down because a significant portion of the population has taken the flu vaccine. The health department is insisting that children under the age of 5 and members of other vulnerable groups come to the health centers to get their flu shots because that is still the first line of defense against the worst of the respiratory risks faced by Yucatecos.

Yucatan: An Interesting Cultural Characteristic
This week, the entire world seemed to be at each other’s throats with religious differences used as an excuse for just plain bad behavior. However, in Tizimin, it rained and, in the newspaper account, we saw one of the fundamental cultural characteristics that contributes to the stability and longevity of peace in Yucatan. This is the gist of what was reported in several local papers: Reyes Magos in Tizimin

“For several hours, Chac struck the city and surrounding municipalities with the rebirth of hope among beekeepers, farmers and ranchers. In some areas, the water was up to 80 cm deep. It was a blessing from the Three Kings, said members of the congregation.”

“The religious devotes said that the Three Kings could not pass them by, and that blessings were poured out in abundance with the first recorded rainfall of the new year coming within the framework of the festivities of the Epiphany. They emphasized that their petitions were heard and met again, as they are every year. The god Chac also took pity and he also gave his fresh water, which made the atmosphere of the afternoon and evening quite pleasant.”

We have observed that people often come to Yucatan with the expectation of changing it, only to find that Yucatan chooses the best of whatever comes her way and weaves it into the fabric of the population. Rather than changing Yucatan, they find themselves changed instead. The two paragraphs above provide us with an amazing snapshot of one of the most stable and adaptive cultures anywhere, and the process by which this level of peace has taken place is certainly food for thought.

Lights. Camera. Action.

This week, Monique Duval, Merida’s star Expat breadmaker, wants to tell us about a valuable resource she has found… a resource by the name of Billy:

Cracking sound number one. Merida, Yucatan. Mexico. 7:05 pm.
Right after the retort sounds, a man clutches his right shoulder and topples to the floor. He´s in a fluorescently-lit classroom filled with diminutive tables and chairs. A little wooden table screeches as he falls sideways against it. We watch  in disbelief, our eyes large and stunned. Who could have expected this?

Cracking sound number two. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. USA. 7:05 pm.
The sound — sharp as a bullet– pierces the sky and ricochets off curved cement embankments. A satisfying jolt — bone-deep — reverberates  through the arms of a man. He runs home — the klieg-light in his eyes like a thousand suns of light — his legs carrying him faster than fear. He hears roaring. But that´s what blood sounds like when it rushes through your veins and you know you could not possibly be more alive.

Now back in Merida. 7:08. We hear a small tinny sound drifting out from the shirt pocket of the man who has just careened to the floor in apparent agony. It’s the theme song from the Three Stooges, (the tune of three blind mice.) He springs up from the schoolroom floor — unblemished, no blood, no trace of an injury. Excusing himself, he extracts his cell phone from his pocket. He listens intently, his head is nodding.

I take this opportunity to look around the classroom. My classmates appear relieved at this small break in the tension. One girl sighs. Others adjust themselves in their seats. Another is peering at his fingernails, eyes still wide as saucers. Another is pacing, hands shoved deeply into his pockets. It was a tense moment. Time to regain composure.

I look back at the man on the phone. He looks happy. It´s good news from his son who was watching the ball game from home in Colonia Xcumpich.  Atlanta Braves 0, Phillies 1. Yes, it was a homerun. Yes, the crowds are still roaring.

While he´s on the phone, which in actuality lasted only about 10 seconds, I´m going to take this cinematographic  opportunity to expand time. Let´s cut away from the phone scene and I´ll present him to you. Ok, cameraman, ready? Give me a closeup shot of Billy, side angle.

May I introduce…Billy Arellano! Cinematographer. Big-time baseball fan. Teacher.  Family man.

We´re all sitting here in his digital cinematography class learning new ways to see, to hear, to experience the layers of our lives thru borrowed eyes. We´re in an elementary school classroom and it´s precisely unsophisticated. But it´s appropriate. Just when you think you´ve learned to connect the dots, you are presented with all the layers of dots you never knew existed. So, here we are, re-learning to connect the dots, under the dots and between the dots. Billy insists that movie making begins with a pencil. And, of course, an idea.

Concepts about filmmaking must already be sinking into my head because when Billy answered the phone, I saw a perfectly good cinematographic  moment: The phone — called a prop — has stitched together all that Billy loves: Teaching about filmmaking, his love of baseball, his dedication to family. The phone prop also couples two distinct moments. It is a bridge for his twin nationalities.
God I´m good.

Cameraman, lets do a criss cross now, an over the shoulder shot and then pan into close up shot of me looking brilliant. Oh, wait. This story is not about me. Ok, next story, it will be all about me. No, but really. It´s a testimony to his skill as a teacher that I can see the cinematographic potential of his phone call. You´ll see.

Billy, a graduate from the London International Film School, has just finished describing one of the most significant scenes in film history from Battleship Potyomkin, a classic Eisenstein movie where "parallel editing" was first introduced. 

Billy is zooming around the room with his arms extended, his hands are the square lens. He is top shot, criss cross, he´s the boom, the crane. He´s actor and director. He is sound effects: Retorts, explosions, machinegun fire, the clacking sound a carriage makes as it careens down a staircase. We are constantly shifting in our seat following him as he describes scenes for us. He is trying to inject  us, for crying out loud, with a deeper understanding of picture-making, as he calls it. There is no doubt about his passion for this medium and no doubt that he thinks we will all be good visual narrators if we would only LISTEN.
We may not be the great film makers that he expects us to be. (Yes, he expects that.)But life is too short to pass up this opportunity to learn a new way of seeing. He´s offering classes now.

Billy is conducting his Digital Film Workshop. It consists of learning the basics to be able to produce a quality digital film. Classes include instruction in pre-production, production and post-production. The final goal of the course is for every student to make a 1 minute short film and the whole group to make a longer film together. The cost is 300 pesos to join and 550 pesos per month. There will be an informative meeting Friday January 28th at 7:00 pm in front of the Ex-Hacienda X-cumpich at the Grupo Montessori School. Info at billyarellano [at] hotmail [dot] com or cel 9991483857. Monique thinks you’re going to love it.


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4 Responses to “News: Yucatan Underworld”

  1. Yesterday an article released by Reuters disclosed that both RCCL and NCL Cruise Lines were curtailing Mexican Riviera cruise destinations. Other cruise lines have drastically reduced the cruise ships sailing to the west coast of Mexico because of violence in Mexico.
    Please verify this information before posting, but this is depressing news. The question remains. How can the safe areas (of which there are many) get promoted successfully?

  2. Re: Cruise Ship Revenue in Progreso

    I’m not sure where you are getting your data, but from what I’ve been told by the vendors in Progreso, sales are way down. Tourists on average are spending maybe 50 to 60 pesos per person on trinkets, etc. November and December were very disappointing months for most vendors in Progreso, as well as restaurant owners.

    Increasing the numbers of cruiseships will help, but so will ships that dock for more than one day would also help these vendors.

  3. A few cruise lines have announced they were curtailing visits from California to the west coast of Mexico.

    At least one line is going to be moving ships to Houston/Galveston and cruising the Gulf and Caribbean. That should provide a somewhat steady increase to Progreso for a while, since there are limited numbers of stops in the Gulf.

  4. Corrine, That data actually came from the State Tourism Department.

    Ellyne, CasiYucateco is right. That was for the Mexican Riviera (west coast), not Mayan Riviera. In fact, the article reads “The ship is then to be rebased in Galveston, Texas, offering seven-night trips to the western Caribbean, the company said.” … and that means they’ll probably be stopping here.

    As for promoting the quite safe east coast of Mexico and the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula… there has got to be a way to get it across to people that Mexico is a big country with 31 states + D.F. People NOB tell me they’re “going to Mexico” on vacation and that doesn’t tell me a thing. We are the State of Yucatan – on the Yucatan Peninsula – and nobody is shooting here!

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