San Francisco, Uchben Kah & Fireworks
Yucateco Restaurants in San Francisco
We recently reported on the growing community of Yucatecos in the San Francisco area, and their expanding influence in the restaurant industry there. From the San Francisco Chronicle we learn that:
Roger Magaña has sold his Yucatecan restaurant, Popol Vuh (2886 16th St.), to his head chef and headed over to another location with an existing bar. Popol Vuh's name has been changed to Chichen Itza. Cook Delmy Chable and her husband, Carlos Ruiz , continue to serve their popular dishes, and are still waiting on that liquor license. Last week, Magaña opened Cava22 (3239 22nd St.). Roman Beltran, former kitchen manager of Coco500, heads up the kitchen. Beltran's menu features tapas as well as entrees such as carne asada, seafood stew and duck breast. Tequila-based cocktails are the signature drinks. Congratulations to Roger Magaña, Roman Beltran, Delmy Chable, and Carlos Ruiz. We hope everyone in the San Francisco area will spend at least one evening at each of Yucatan's homes away from home, Cava22 and Chichen Itza .
The Dangers of Fireworks
It's a perennial problem in Mexico, and even more so during the holidays: children, matches, and fireworks of questionable origin. The police and firemen are already begging parents to watch their children, and they really do try, but that isn't always possible. Just last year, police caught one group of little boys who were sneaking out of their houses late at night and running around on the outskirts of their small town throwing lit fireworks at each other! Already, this year, one little boy has dropped a lit “bombita” down the shirt of another little boy “just playing" and, of course, it exploded and the little boy was hurt. Yucatan is trying to control the sale of fireworks, but one has to wonder if limiting the size of a sale to any one individual to 1 kilogram ( 2.2 pounds!) of fireworks is really going to result in a significant decrease in the number of injuries. Given Mexico's love affair with fireworks, quien sabe (who knows?) what the answer to this dilemma might be. Want your own fireworks? Of course you do! It's a tradition to set off fireworks, especially at midnight on New Years Eve. A day or two before, you'll be able to buy a wide selection of Chinese-made fireworks at most stoplights in town.
Homebuilding Industry News
For some time now, the number of home loans in Mexico has been skyrocketing, right along with the increase in numbers of what is defined as the “new middle class” in the nation. However, for 2008, it is expected that sales growth in the mortgage market will slow to between 12% and 16%. That still sounds pretty good to us. What sounds especially good is that the quality of homes in Mexico is improving, as evidenced by the fact that the mortgage amount for new homes is expected to go up by 33%, and will now average $319,000 pesos ($29,214 USD). We wanted to report this for two reasons. First, to congratulate all of the new Mexican and Yucateco homeowners; and second, so that folks who are considering a move here can see that there is a home bracket to fit everyone's budget in Mexico and in Yucatan. True, the inexpensive new homes are usually the standard 2 or 3 bedroom, 1 or 2 bath, patio home in a subdivision (fraccionamiento). They often have a small walled yard, sometimes offstreet parking, and are suitable for the American retiree who isn't interested in the rigors and expense of remodeling. These are exciting times in the home building and remodeling industries in Yucatan, and there's a place here for everyone's budget and lifestyle!
Drink Mexican Coffee!
We were stunned to read, this week, that the per capita consumption of coffee in Mexico is only about 1 kilogram ( 2.2 pounds ) per person per year! How can that be? Even a paper cut is sufficient to prove that Working Gringos bleed probably at least 50% pure coffee! (Remember that Starbucks mention?) Due to a volatile international coffee market, all coffee-producing nations are now promoting their own coffee to their own people, and Mexico is no exception. There will have a reduction in exports this year, but Mexico is getting ready to introduce the Mexican people to Mexican coffee. Turns out this much-maligned product is really a health food!
Get the latest scoop on the health benefits of coffee from WebMD.
Shoes for School Children
As those of us who live here are aware, there is a significant difference between the economic situations of residents in different municipalities (counties) in Yucatan. Some municipalities are doing quite well, while others have a significant population of families who struggle just to survive. In these less fortunate municipalities, shoes for school children are simply beyond the reach of many parents. To meet this need, the State of Yucatan provides the children with free school shoes as part of a program called Pasos Que Dejan Huella (Steps That Leave Tracks). These shoes mean the world to children who are so determined to get an education. It is to the credit of the State that this need is recognized and met with such kindness.
A New Facelift for Oxkutzcab
As Yucatan Living has already been reporting, its time for all of Mexico to clean-up, fix-up, paint-up… and the City Council of Oxkutzcab is already out of the gate and halfway home! Since the Orange Festival is held in their city (in December), Oxkutzcab wants to put its best face forward, so all of the municipal buildings are getting a fresh coat of paint. But they aren't stopping there. Private homes are being painted as well. First, they ask the permission of the owner and get an agreement on paint color. Then the city workers do the work! We can't wait to see what all of Yucatan is going to look like in two years time!
Disposing of Old Medicine Properly
The pharmacy students of UADY have a volunteer program that is traveling throughout the state to educate Yucatecos about the dangers of both keeping old medicine and of disposing of it improperly. Antibiotics have entered the environment on a world wide scale and have the potential to be a danger to human and animal health. The UADY pharmacy students are collecting old medicine and disposing of it properly. If you have old medication in your home, consult your pharmacist about the proper methods of disposal. This also applies to personal products, such as soaps and perfumes. Since 80% of the lakes and rivers in the U.S. show evidence of having been contaminated by medicine and personal products, we appreciate the efforts of the pharmacy students of UADY to protect our environment in Yucatan.
Progreso and Conkal Have Weekend Clinics
We are pleased to see that Progreso and Conkal are part of a national pilot program that provides weekend health clinic services to working people who might not have a chance to see a physician on workdays. The opportunity to catch a problem early has the potential to save time, money, and needless suffering; rather than waiting until the individual is very ill and unable to work at all. It is believed that this program will continue to be funded into the new year.
Intercultural Reproductive Medicine Conference in Peto
My goodness, an “intercultural reproductive medicine conference in Peto” certainly sounds important, doesn't it? And it was! Medical doctors and researchers met with traditional Mayan health care providers in an attempt to not only better understand the view of Mayans toward reproductive health and wellness, but also to learn traditional methods that could be of value in their own practices. Attendees came from as far away as Italy for this conference. This is a concept that only took 200 years to be discussed in the U.S., which is yet to get around to actually trying it. Congratulations to the medical community in Yucatan, as well as to the traditional Mayan health care providers – and even to the patients who will benefit from this collaboration.
Wouldn't it be ironic if all of the creatures we want to protect are ultimately saved because they are valuable tourist attractions? Does it really matter, at this point in time, if butterflies are saved because they are one of our planetary “canaries in a cage” or because they bring in tourist dollars? The concept of don't pollute because it will kill all of the people didn't seem to do the trick… but don't pollute because it will kill the butterflies and cost us tourist dollars seems to be working just fine. To attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and wild birds to your garden, click here.
Will wonders never cease?! A new species of fish has been discovered just off the coast of Yucatan, and its DNA is now properly barcoded and entered into the database of over 30,000 species of fish that have been identified by their mitochondrial DNA. The Coryphopterus kuna had been overlooked before because, evidently, the goby fish family is one of the largest families of fish and “all goby fish look alike.” Congratulations (and a few quizzical looks...) to the researcher who stayed on the trail of the Coryphopterus kuna for over 20 years!
Be Careful of Christmas Toys
It is interesting to note that Mattel is destroying toys that were made in Mexico and that are tainted with lead paint. A similar thing happened in the U.S. where toys, made in China, were also found to be tainted with lead paint. While it is admirable that these companies will destroy these toys when such a situation is pointed out to them, we cannot help but wonder what was in the minds of toy manufacturers when they plunked down their money for lead-tainted paint in the first place? There is something decidedly unsettling about that concept. Do they paint with lead-tainted paint “until they get caught”? Please be careful as you purchase Christmas toys. If ever there was an advertisement for buying locally crafted products, this certainly is one of the best.
Minimum Wage in Mexico
Its that time of year again and we will soon see the publication of Mexico's minimum wage for 2008. For those who don't know, Mexico currently has three different minimum wage schedules, based on geographic location in the country. For 2008, there is a good probability that there will be only one minimum wage schedule and that it will be increased by 3.9% over last year. Reports are not saying which of the three schedules is being considered as the new national scale (or if it will go through this year), but we will find out when it is published on Dec. 20. We are also going to get a revamping of Mexican labor laws in 2008, so that our manufacturing environment will be more in line with international business opportunities. This can only serve to strengthen the economic environment in Yucatan and improve the standard of living for all Yucatecos.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Mexico
The World Heritage Alliance for Sustainable Tourism, an organization associated with Expedia, Inc. and the United Nations Foundation, has announced that, after only 2 years of its existence, its membership has tripled. Throughout the world, there are a total of 851 UNESCO World Heritage sites, with Mexico having more than any other nation! It is the purpose of the World Heritage Alliance for Sustainable Tourism to foster sustainable tourism around each of the UNESCO World Heritage sites. This year, they are expanding into Central America, the Caribbean, and the Middle East.
Myths of the Mexican Personality Debunked
When does propaganda become self-fulfilling prophesy? And how can that be stopped? During the Cultural Week of the School of Psychology at UADY, faculty members debunked 80% of the myths attributed to the stereotypical personality of Mexicans, including passivity, a tendency to depression, and domestic abuse. Mexicans, and Yucatecos in particular, are certainly not passive! We know of few populations that are any more turned on and tuned in than the Yucateco community of the 21st century. Mexicans have no more of a tendency toward developing depression than does any other population in the world; and the resolution to the problem of domestic violence is coming quickly with the development of negotiating skills, as it is in other populations throughout the world. Thanks to UADY's School of Psychology for their efforts to bring reality to the definition of what it means to be a Mexican and a Yucateco.
$52 Million Pesos for Chichen Itza
Now that the new Ruta Mundo Maya is going to be a reality, it is necessary not only to improve roads and other conditions in the area of Chichen Itza, but also to take steps to protect the environment there from the damage that heavy levels of tourism can do. Toward resolving those problems, the Mexican Ministry of Tourism has pledged $52 million pesos. The potential for damage to the area around Chichen Itza has long been a concern and we are happy to see steps being taken to protect this wonder of our world in Yucatan.
XXVIII Semana de Química (18 th Annual Week of Chemistry)
In generations past, girls (even in the U.S.) were taught to type “in case they ever had to make a living.” Discerning fathers (mine included) put their daughters in Latin, Math, Chemistry, and Physics and told them “Never mind why.” And then the entire world changed, almost overnight. Today, Mexican children who first participated in the Mathematics Olympics hold PhDs and are on the faculty at UADY; and the Chemistry Department is having a Cultural Week all its own, including Chemical Marathons. UADY has produced some of the finest mathematicians, engineers, and chemists in all of Mexico and, indeed, in all the world. Our congratulations on a job well done and best wishes for XXVIII Semana de Química.
EcoTourism Project near Mahajual
We sometimes forget that some of our boost in tourism here in Yucatan State is the result of Hurricane Dean hitting the dock at Mahajual so hard. A friend recently brought our attention to an ecotourism project in the Mahajual area that was almost destroyed by that event and is now attempting a comeback.
The ruins of the original town of Uchben Kah can still be seen on the north shore of Lake Bacalar. The descendants of the people of Uchben Kah live nearby in a little town called Pedro Santos. Their economy had been based on logging mahogany, but that era has ended. To fill the economic gap, they built a recreation of Uchben Kah just 3 km from the original ruins, moved their entire population there and turned their focus to ecotourism. They outfitted all of the bathrooms in the new tourist complex with papyrus biofilters and most of the electricity was planned to be solar. The location is entirely free of cars, which keeps it both clean and more authentic. A contract was signed with a tourism operator to bring cruzeros (cruisers) from the Mahahual cruise dock to their eco-historic tourist complex and their future was bright. Then, the Mahahual cruise dock was destroyed by Hurricane Dean, as well as much of their town and most of their plans.
Today, the people of Pedro Santos are promising to rebuild, in spite of struggling with the debt of the original project. The ruins of the historic town of Uchben Kah are still visible and provide tourists with a fascinating glimpse into the historic past of the Yucatan Peninsula, when her mahogany, other tropical hardwoods and chicle (gum) were harvested for the benefit of the Western world. This site also happens to be a much better access point to swimming and boating on Lake Bacalar than the more commercialized sites closer to Chetumal.
If you are in the Lake Bacalar area and looking for something different to do, why not visit the eco-town of Pedro Santos? You might even consider giving the town a donation to help with their rebuilding efforts. For more information (in Spanish) and photos, you can go to this website. Check out the video of the tucanes (toucans) while you’re there!
Here's something fun to do that's both educational and makes the world a better place: www.freerice.org