News starting May 25, 2009
Music in the Midst of Poverty
There is a young boy who lives in a cardboard laminate house in Dzununcan San Luis, where there is no potable water, electricity, or public transportation. His father does plumbing and electrical work when he can. The family is from Tabasco, but has fallen on hard times in Yucatan, where they have gradually moved down the economic ladder until they reached their present condition. Yet, the father has always strived to give his three children a worthy life and has instilled in them a love of music. It is this father, Pedro Jimenez Chale, and his eight year old son, Aaron Jimenez Rosas, you will often see in the mercados of Merida. The father plays the guitar and the son the violin. Both are talented singers. This is the way they earn enough for the family to survive day-by-day. Aaron Jimenez Rosas is a very special little boy who, at the age of 8, should not be living in a cardboard laminate house with no lights or water. He has been visited by the President of the Municipal DIF and other civil servants, but more needs to be done. All 3 of the Jimenez Rosas children play the violin and sing. Aaron goes to violin classes at Bellas Artes once a week and even sometimes plays in a mariachi band. These children, this child, these parents, this family – needs help to get back on their feet. If you can help, they can be reached by phone at (999) 190-3896.
200 Birds of the Yucatan Peninsula
There is a new CD for sale that is a project initiated by Barbara Mackinnon de Monte. The CD is a digital record of the 200 species of birds that are found here on the Yucatan Peninsula. In addition to photographs, there are videos as well, and you will hear the songs of 59 of the 75 different families of birds.The names of the birds are given in English, Spanish and in Mayan, if the bird has a Mayan name. There are 37 aquatic birds and 113 land birds on the CD and we understand that it is a thing of beauty that you will not want to miss. Proceeds from the sale of the CD will go to Niños & Crías. The cost of the CDs is $250 pesos and they can be purchased at the offices of Niños & Crías, Calle 33-D # 503 x 6 y 72, Colonia Reparto Dolores Patron. For more information, you may also call 925-3947.
Regularly Scheduled Shrimping Ban
This year, the regularly scheduled shrimping ban will take place in stages from Tamaulipas to the border with Belize. The times that affect our state are May 20 through October 31. Expect higher prices this year because of increased costs of fuel and catches that were far below normal. The National Aquaculture and Fishing Commission will be meeting next month in Campeche to bring news of programs designed to save Campeche’s shrimping industry and to improve shrimping throughout all of Mexico’s Gulf and Caribbean waters. This is a difficult time for our shrimpers. We wish them well and hope that solutions to the problems, especially to their high fuel costs, will soon be available.
Tourism Workers Learning to Speak French in Progreso
The French Alliance of Merida is working with the Secretary of Tourism Office of Yucatan to bring the French language, taught by teachers from France, to the tourism workers in Progreso. Classes have already begun. This is in preparation for the huge wave of French tourists who will be here for the International Regata La Ruta Solidaria Chocolate in November. Progreso is the final destination for the regata and approximately 600 French tourists will be in town for the event. We are so pleased to see these classes going on. For years now, we have watched as other states require Spanish, English, and one of the European languages in order for someone to get a job in tourism. Now, at least 98 people from Progreso will have the skills necessary to get a job in the tourist industry anywhere they want, and we already know that they will make certain that our French visitors have fond memories of Yucatan forever.
The New Chelem-Progreso Bridge
The bridge over Yucalpeten, known as the Chelem-Progreso bridge, has been open long enough for reviews to begin coming in. So far, the bridge is a raving success with every group that uses it, including students, expats, the local citizens, and the combi drivers. After all, there is something to be said for cutting down what used to be nearly an hour’s drive to a mere 10 to 13 minutes! By the way, if anyone is in Progreso and looking for a combi to Chelem, they are now parking in the parking lot of San Francisco de Assis. It seems they lost their old parking place due to difficulties caused by the recent "pandemic" that never materialized. If you are new to the area, there is a picture of San Francisco de Assis on this marvelous tour of Downtown Progreso provided by the good folks at Yucatan Rebirth.
Amazingly Few Wild Fires in Municipality of Progreso
Last year, 843 hectares burned in wildfires in the Municipality of Progreso, compared to only 5 hectares this year. Even so, emergency personnel were grateful to receive 2 additional units of the Green Angels this week. They will not only be of great assistance with meeting the needs of the tourists who visit Yucatan through the Port of Progreso, but will also be on hand to provide additional assistance during the upcoming hurricane season. Hurricane committees are already meeting throughout the state and, in the municipality of Progreso alone, there are 8 shelters that will be available to those who need them during weather events such as hurricanes. It is seldom that the shelters are actually needed, but ‘better safe than sorry’ is the watchword of the day, especially in the event of a hurricane.
Sea Turtles: Requests and Warnings
Sea Turtles begin to lay their eggs along Yucatan and Quintana Roo beaches about the first of May. This activity continues to pick up through the month of June. By late summer, and all the way until the end of November, eggs will be hatching and babies will be heading back out to sea. As is the case every summer, those who use the beaches of Yucatan (along the Gulf Coast) are asked to keep an eye out for turtle nests and to report any that are found so that they can be removed to safety in the sanctuary in Yucalpeten. The babies will be released from there when they hatch. There are stiff fines for taking 4-wheelers and other vehicles on beaches where turtle nests could be damaged, and vehicles are subject to being confiscated, so it might be a good idea to wait to ride the beaches until after turtle nesting season is over. In addition, never ever attempt to capture either an adult turtle or a baby! They are an endangered species and every one of them is needed to ensure that the population survives. The penalty for capturing a sea turtle is in excess of 20 years in prison. Yucatan wants everyone to have a good time, but they also want everyone to remember that we share our beaches with some of the most wonderful creatures in the world and it is our duty to do all we can to protect them.
Mexico’s Economy to Begin 2010 in Clear Recovery
Part of Mexico’s current economic difficulty is that, as a nation, it is an exporting powerhouse. When its consumer nations go into recession, so does Mexico. However, when those consumer nations’ economies begin to rebound, Mexico’s economy rapidly shoots forward. Such is the case at this point in time. Even the H1N1 pandemic attack is predicted to affect Mexico’s GDP by less than half a percentage point. Signals from the global equity markets indicate that investors are betting heavily on Mexico’s recovery. There are still a few difficult months to survive, but Mexico is a strong nation and it has developed the concept of survival to the level of an art.
Alma Mexicana is Moving (Same Address)
Alma Mexicana (Mexican Soul) Folk Art is a center in which you can find Fair Trade Sustainable Art. This means that they purchase their pieces from indigenous cooperatives from all over Mexico and Yucatan. They are doing so well that they are having to expand into the huge salon in the Canton Mansion, which is actually at the same address. They apologize for any inconvenience their renovations might cause and ask that, during this time, you ring the bell at the main door if you don’t see anyone in the shop. They are there and available, but may be out off your line of sight tending to moving chores. They are more than happy to stop and help you find anything you need. They have a great map and parking directions on their website and don’t forget to look through their Gallery. The owners’ B&B, Casa Esperanza is also in the Canton Mansion.
New Study Released on Philanthropy in Mexico
We were so pleased to see the results of a study that was funded by the Mott, Ford, and Inter-American foundations, and the Global Fund for Community Foundations. This new study examined 21 community foundations in Mexico, including an indepth look at where they get their donations and what they do with the money. Findings showed that the money comes from local, private sources. The total that just these 21 community foundations raised was the equivalent of $30.8 million U.S. dollars, which means that Mexico is the leader in Latin America’s grassroots philanthropy. We are not surprised. Kindness and generosity are cornerstones of the Mexican culture and the Mexican people are remarkable in their desire to help others and see their communities grow better with each passing year.
Illegal Wood Harvesting in Guatemala
When people think of the jungles of "the Yucatan," what they are usually thinking of are one of two types of forests. First, there are the mangroves that are so important to the health of our coasts. Second, they are thinking of the hardwood forests in the interior of the peninsula. These forests know no national boundaries and extend from Mexico through both Central and South America. Unfortunately, the milpa is almost a thing of the past in Mexico. The stress of population growth makes it almost impossible to allow land to grow back into forests before planting on it again. Add to that the value of hardwood as a construction material and, with dwindling sources in Mexico, you can look for poachers going across the border. That is exactly what is happening in Guatemala today. The beautiful and irreplaceable Maya Biosphere Reserve in Peten is being systematically whittled away and hauled out on dirt roads that lead directly to our state. There is currently a need for 6 Army and military police checkpoints, but sources say that the checkpoints will not come in time. Those who are on the ground there now speculate that there will be little left of the biosphere to protect within a year. If you are building or remodeling a home, please make certain of the origin of every piece of wood you use. It is one thing to farm wood for profit. It is quite another to destroy the planet just to make a quick buck, and Mexico is clamping down on those who attempt to do so.
New Border Crossing Rules: June 1, 2009
Beginning June 1, 2009, in order to enter or re-enter the United States, American and Canadian citizens will face new rules. Americans will have to have ONE of the following: A U.S. Passport, a U.S. Passport Card, an Enhanced Driver’s License, a NEXUS Card, a Fast Card, a SENTRI Card, a Military ID Card with orders, or a Merchant Mariner’s Card with proof of official maritime business. Canadian and Bermudian visitors must have one of the following: A Passport, a NEXUS Card, a Sentri Card, a Fast Card, or an Enhanced Driver’s License. Unfortunately, most of these forms of identification are not what we have been led to believe they are, so one must read carefully to discover that the real object of this exercise is for you to have to get a passport. Obviously, Mexico will begin to require passports for entrance into the country because it would be foolish to allow foreigners in if they could not go home again.
The following, about each acceptable document, is taken directly from the U.S. Department of State’s Customs and Border Protection site except for our comments in parentheses.
U.S. Passport – This is an internationally recognized travel document that verifies a person’s identity and nationality. It is accepted for travel by air, land and sea. (and your having one is the entire object of this exercise)
U.S. Passport Card – This is a new, limited-use travel document that fits in your wallet and costs less than a U.S. Passport. It is only valid for travel by land and sea. (In effect, if you ever have to fly, this would be useless)
Enhanced Driver’s License (EDL) – Several states and Canadian provinces/territories are issuing this driver’s license or identification document that denotes identity and citizenship. It is specifically designed for cross-border travel into the U.S. by land or sea. (but those are only available in 4 states: New York, Washington, Michigan, and Vermont, and in 4 areas of Canada: Quebec, Ontario, British Columbia, and Manatoba; and, again, this cannot be used to fly)
Trusted Traveler Program Cards –
NEXUS: (only good between Canada & U.S., good for land, sea and air IF they have a NEXUS kiosk at the airport)
SENTRI: (only good between Mexico & U.S., good for land or sea only, not for flying)
FAST: (For commercial truck drivers between Mexico, U.S., & Canada)
GLOBAL ENTRY: for International travelers entering the U.S. (so this isn’t even for U.S. citizens)
Great Travel Mexico Deals Abound
As Mexico moves toward reviving her tourist industry, travel deals get sweeter by the day. This week, we have heard of cheaper hotel prices and upgrades that are almost too good to be true. In one case, an entire wedding party received an upgrade! Summer is traditionally the off-season for travel to Mexico. Combined with the slowdown in business caused by H1N1, that makes this the best time ever to visit Mexico. Bargains to be had include air fare, cruise tickets, hotel deals, rental cars, and even spa treatments. These prices won’t last long, so now is the time to hop on a plane and head south of the border!
New: Merida Gallery Tour: A Tour through the Galleries and Museums in Merida
For 467 years, Merida has been developing as the Cultural Capital of the Americas. Now, there is a new tour of the spectacular galleries and museums that have made their homes here. The tour includes Casa de Montejo, the Cathedral, the Governor’s Palace, the MACAY, the beautiful Museum of the City, Galeria SoHo, the Museum of Anthropology and History, and the Galeria at Cafe Chocolate. Visit the website of the Merida Gallery Tour in Spanish and check again soon for the English version.
Location: Tours leave from Cafe Chocolate, Calle 60 x 49
Days and Times: Thursday and Friday: 10:00 AM and 1:00 PM
Admission: $350 pesos or $30 USD
How Do You Know The Crisis is Over?
One can tell that a crisis is over when a website known as The Spoof begins to post tasteless fake stories iabout what was a tragedy just a week or two ago. In their latest "satire" about Mexico – "U.S. Bars Told to Stop Serving Tequila," they have collected almost every stereotype ever created about Mexico and stitched them together with swine flu and tequila. Perhaps The Spoof has been sniffing the cork a bit themselves. Read the Spoof’s story and see what you think. As discussed by Jonathan Rubinger "The crucial element in satire is to put the offending words in the mouth of someone who is clearly of questionable moral fiber – a famous example is Archie Bunker." This Spoof story meets that criteria in the person of Humberto McDakota. However, as Rubinger says about one of his own failed satires, the final product did not clearly convey the message [the author] was trying to send: "that stereotypes are really, really dumb." Perhaps the author of The Spoof’s article might be willing to put the cork back in the bottle and try again when he is feeling better.
Lights – Sound – Uxmal!
Its been 5 long months since the beginning of work on the new light and sound show at Uxmal, but now it is complete. New red, green, yellow, blue, violet and white lights are in place that will not damage the structures. The new lights give a spectacular view of the large masks of Chaac, the Mayan rain god, as well as elements that pay tribute to Kukulcan and Zamna. We would be willing to wager that the Mayans of 600 – 1000 B.C. never imagined that, one day, such a marvelous presentation of their temples would be shown to visitors from around the world. Friends who attended the inaugural event said that it was a good show, and much improved over the former one.
On Again – Cruises Confirmed
It has now been confirmed that the Carnival Cruises Fantasy and Ecstasy, coming from New Orleans and Galveston, will arrive in Progreso on Monday, June 15, 2009. This is expected to reactivate the economy of the ports and the archaeological zones. The losses during this difficult time have been calculated to be approximately $700,000 USD. While we are happy to see the cruises coming back, we hope that this is a lesson learned and that our economy will diversify itself enough so that a loss in one area does not repeat the crisis we have experienced with this event.