Sisal, Progreso and Tixkokob
Sisal and It's Cannons
As the pirates of long ago discovered, Sisal is not a town to be toyed with – and if a cannon ever falls into the hands of the citizens of Sisal, it stays in Sisal. There's one on display in the park as proof! Recently, a very large antique cannon was partially unearthed on the property of a local restaurant. Someone called the Navy and they dutifully showed up to take it to Progreso, only to discover that Sisal cannons actually do stay in Sisal – no discussion – not even with the Navy. The proprietor of the restaurant made it clear that the cannon was not leaving, and so did the citizens. Let that be a lesson to you – whoever is in possession of the biggest cannon in Sisal wins! Sisal was a very important port a hundred years ago, and we've heard that interesting things, including skeletons, are sometimes uncovered there.
Floods in Tabasco
While the recent flooding in Tabasco is an inconvenience for us, it is devastating for our neighbors in Tabasco, and also in Quintana Roo and Belize. Flooded roads in Tabasco cut off truck routes that supply fruit and vegetables to the markets in those areas. The fruit and vegetables that do get through are now double the price from just a few days ago, and are expected to go higher daily, a tragedy for those with limited funds. No one can remember flooding ever having been this bad in Tabasco. 100% of their crops have been lost. The trucking companies, who employ thousands upon thousands of people, are among hundreds of businesses that run the risk of losing everything during this disaster. If you are planning on driving down to Yucatan, please consider waiting a while. Villahermosa is chest-deep in water and we have heard that the carretera through Tabasco is impassable. If you must come to the Yucatan, you must go through Chiapas, and we've read that there are bridges out and other problems in Chiapas too. If any of our readers have recently made the trip successfully, please leave a comment with any information you might have.
Tabasco Thanks Yucatan
The State of Yucatan has sent support and equipment to aid the population of Villahermosa. This flood began on Thursday. By Friday, representatives of the State of Yucatan, including the Governor, arrived in Tabasco. They brought equipment and men, along with food pantries and 20,000 liters of water, fire trucks, boats with divers, and busses. By Saturday, 71 different groups of firemen, paramedics, and members of our exceptionally competent Civil Defense Department had arrived. Sunday, we sent a helicopter and an airplane that seats 32, so that refugees can come back with them if they so wish. We are opening shelters for up to 5,000 people. This flood is one of the worst tragedies in the history of Tabasco because it took only 48 hours for 80% of the territory of the state to flood. The Governor of the State of Tabasco has put a notice on their state website, thanking the people of Yucatan for their immediate response to Tabasco's desperate need and for their generosity during this disaster.
The Fruit, Cattle, & Maize Industries in Yucatan
Commercially grown fruit, in Yucatan, is sold in the market in Oxkutzcab mostly on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, even though the market is open 7 days a week. In all, some 320 tons of fruit are sold weekly to 150 commercial buyers. This last week was slow because of Day of the Dead celebrations, but it is believed that sales will return to their usual levels in the coming week. The effect of the Tabasco floods, resulting in the failure of all of Tabasco's crops, as well as the roads cut off to trucking, has yet to be calculated. Overall, this has been a year of ups and downs in the food markets of Yucatan. With luck, and good weather, our farmers still have a chance to have a successful year. However, the cattle industry in Yucatan is in serious trouble. High water has covered the pastures for too long and grass is simply not going to survive. This will have a huge impact on how many cattle are sent to slaughter, and when. In many cases, the ranchers can't even get to their cattle at all. Illness and starvation will surely follow if this water does not go down soon. In a sad twist of fate, the same floods that are killing the grass in pastures are causing grass to grow in maize fields, making it impossible for machinery to get in to harvest this vital crop. They are going to use herbicides on the grass and hope they can get the maize out within 15 days after that. If they can't, then as much as 8 tons of maize could be lost. Please keep all of our farmers and ranchers in your thoughts and look for ways you might be able to help, either during or after this crisis.
The Mangroves in Progreso
For years, the mangroves in Progreso have served as little more than a dumping ground for everything from old bed springs to bags of regular garbage. But no more! Several weeks ago, a group of students from the Instituto Tecnológico Superior de Progreso, accompanied by members of the IX Naval Zone, visited the mangroves in search of black mangrove seeds. Those are the ones that grow up to have those exotic looking air roots that are so great for holding down erosion. The collecting of these seeds is part of our new reforestation program, in which mangroves figure prominently. However, upon arriving in the mangroves at Progreso, the students and naval personnel were shocked at the amount of trash found there – enough to seriously damage the entire ecosystem of the area. So they set about to clean it up as part of the Navy's Ecological Saturdays project in Progreso. Fifteen students from the Instituto Tecnológico Superior de Progreso and 30 members of the Navy spent an entire day cleaning in the mangroves and removed hundreds of kilos of trash. As the trash went away, it was not lost on anyone that this area is quite capable of becoming a tourist attraction. Mangroves provide habitat for such a diverse population of animal and plant life that is would be the height of foolishness to ignore this very special treasure that has been right here in Progreso all along.
New Motorcycle Laws in Progreso
While we are on the subject of Progreso, it might be beneficial to note that the world (and Progreso even more than other parts) is changing before our very eyes. How many times have you seen what seems like entire families traveling on one motorcycle? …or children driving motorcycles? …or motorcycles traveling the wrong way down a one-way street? And helmets? In Progreso? Surely you jest! Well – none of those are joking matters anymore. From now on, motorcycle drivers will get one warning stop. After that, the full force of the law will be applied. Many still think of Progreso as a “sleepy little fishing village” of about 30,000. We see it described that way in travel ads all the time. Not so! Progreso is a thriving city of about 75,000 – and its time to admit that it just isn't safe to rip up and down the streets on motorcycles without helmets anymore. If you ride motorcycles, or know someone who does, please let them know that the law is real and is going to be applied.
Free English and Computer Classes in Cacalchén
Cacalchén is a small municipality (county) of about 6,300 people, located just south of Motul and between Bokobá and Tixkokob. Its really quite near the city but, since not a lot goes on there, we don't often hear much about it. About a third of Cacalchén's population is classified as indigenous people whose first language is Mayan or Zapotec. For you country folks, this is the land of wild creatures – such as a variety of wild cats, turkeys, coons, a place where a wonderful drink, called Xtabentún, is madeand where there are a whole lot of ceiba trees. Today, Cacalchén is in the news because they have a free language and computer school, attended by 150 individuals from ages 8 to 30. The school is associated with the 4-H Club of Mexico and the Korean United Methodist Church of Washington, and patterned after a school just like it in Virginia. It is the first of its kind in all of Mexico and has enjoyed great success for an entire year now. How surreal is it to know that, in the land of wild cats and Mayan legends, where Mayans still speak their own languages, the people are attending English and computer classes under the direction of the 4-H Club and the Korean United Methodist Church?
The Talented Children of Uman
We have written before about the Timbiriche Band. This is/was a very famous band that began life with its members as children. Today, they are all grown up and heading off in their own directions, leaving a loyal following behind. Not to worry – there will be a new Timbiriche Band and competition began in Uman. When the call went out for contestants, 600 very talented children showed up – and they were all good! In fact, they were so good that not one of the 22 finalists could be chosen over all of the rest. Instead, all 22 young people will represent Uman in a statewide competition. Not to be left out, the children who were not chosen as finalists are being organized as a choir that will be ready to perform at the anniversary of Uman.
Tixkokob Gets New Roads and School Supplies
Take a look at Tixkokob! They're getting a new highway to connect them to the highway with Cancun, as well as a bit of sprucing up around the Ruins of Aké. Much of the work on the tourist sites will be funded by the BANAMEX Foundation. But that's not all that's happening in Tixkokob! Every school child, regardless of their family's station in life, is being given 3 years of free school supplies. Tixkokob is a very small municipality, and their population is generally older than the populations of many other municipalities, so this doesn't affect a huge number of children – but its a start. Anything that helps the education of the children of Yucatan is a worthy project and deeply appreciated.
Public Hanal Pixán Alters Becoming More Popular
We have just come through the Day of the Dead, All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day. As Yucatan Living has reported, many of these celebrations are private, family oriented events, most often held at home. However, as the years go by, we see more of Halloween and hear less of Hanal Pixán. The people, as well as the government, of Yucatan realize the importance of tradition in the survival of cultures. With that in mind, municipalities across the state are now encouraging public display of Hanal Pixán alters, complete with competitions and some pretty nice cash prizes. While it looks as if Halloween is here to stay, the people of Yucatan have no intention of allowing their own culture to be supplanted by the culture of another nation. Mark your calendars for 2008. The public display of Hanal Pixán 2008 is going to be an event to remember – with more and better altars to see than ever before.
Count Your Blessings
In a large city in Yucatan, an 82 year old Mayan lady sells used clothing near the local health center. She often leaves her post to collect and sell aluminum cans. She is a widow and lives with a son, who is ill. She is their sole wage earner. Her 2 month light and water bills just added up to $180 pesos (a little over $16 USD). She had to sell one of her three turkeys to pay the bills. This lady is on the Opportunities Program, and usually gets a little help with her bimonthly electricity and water bill, but has been informed that checks are being cut because help needs to be sent to hurricane victims. She will have to sell one of her remaining 2 turkeys to pay the bills next time. Sometimes, foreign tourists feel sorry for her and give her $10 pesos, but she tries to save this to go and visit her son and his family so that she can maintain a close relationship with her grandchildren. This story is not unique in Yucatan. It is played out day after day, month after month, all over this state. In the meantime, we expats lose sleep over trying to figure out how to pack even more goodies into our already more than adequate lifestyles. Where will you be when you are 82? What would you do if Social Security cut your check to send money to hurricane victims? This may be a good time to stop – just for a second - and Count Your Blessings. And when an old man or woman comes by to sell you fresh flowers or a wooden toy, buy one! You are probably directly contributing to the survival of someone's family.