Yucatan News: Dance and Tomatoes
News Starting February 28, 2011
This thank you note was passed along to us by Kitty Morgan. She and her sister were on a little road trip in Campeche State in January and just happened to stumble upon a hotel (actually, lovely cabañas) called Rio Bec Dreams near the ruins at Calakmul. The proprietor, Rick, was the man who came to Star Medica in Merida last fall for medical treatment and desperately in need of his rare blood type. He very much wanted to thank all those who came to his aid but didn't know how to reach them so I offered to forward his letter to you. It is an open letter of thanks from Rick to the many nameless yet selfless people who donated the blood which saved his life. He's recovering slowly, but very surely, and has a wonderfully positive attitude about both his illness and the generosity of the people in Yucatan. Yucatan Living is only too happy to post the following from Rick to all who came to his aid.
For the Donors
Because of you, I can write this today. To all of you who responded when called or emailed by Yucatan Today, the English Library, Monique, International Women's Club, and more groups that I am not aware of, thank you so much for coming out to donate your gift of life to me. You have also rebuilt the supply of A Negative blood at Star Medica so if you need it, it is there for you. The Blood Bank tells us that there is a limited shelf life on blood so they will always need donors, especially A Negative as that is not a type found in Mexico, just North America and Europe.
We have lived in southern Campeche, near Calakmul for 11 years now and have always felt quite alone down there. We are the only foreigners. Coming up to Merida for treatment was a cultural shock and then to have such unselfish donations of life had us both crying. Our life in the jungle very often has us forgetting how kind people can be. We see it sometimes in the guests who come to visit us but just the day to day friendliness is often forgotten. You have re-taught me never to take kindness for granted and I too will try to give it any time I can.
If any of you wish to come south for a trip to Calakmul or the ancient cities nearby, please contact us. We would love to show you our world too.
Again thank you so much for giving me back my life, I don't move as fast as I used to, but I'm getting there.
Rio Bec Dreams
Wal-Mart de Mexico Expanding
Currently, Wal-Mart de Mexico operates approximately 2,000 stores in Mexico. Now, Wal-Mart de Mexico will be opening 365 new businesses in Mexico and 80 in Central American nations. This news came on the heels of Wal-Mart admitting that it has relied on international growth and cost cutting to make up for its losses in the sluggish U.S. economy. Whatever the reason, this means that there will soon be another 20,000 jobs for Mexicans and those paychecks will be flowing back into local economies across the nation.
This dance competition will be an event on July 24, 2011, but is newsworthy now as a means of showing the quality of cultural event that Merida consistently attracts. This is not just an ordinary dance competition. The forms of dance will include classic jazz, lyrical jazz, contemporary jazz and musical theater jazz. There will be an additional contest for urban dance. The competition will come at the end of a week-long workshop and will include a musical theater gala production. We get to enjoy these contests and performances because Merida has the facilities to host large groups of artists, their workshops, and their performances. Yucatan also has a citizenry that loves and supports the arts. This guarantees that Merida will continue to be a cultural center for generations to come.
Archaeologist Wins Two Grants to Conduct Maya Cultural Research
Scott R. Hutson, a UK Anthropology professor, has won two grants that will allow him to not only continue his own research in Yucatan, but also to provide research opportunities to graduate and post-graduate anthropology students as well. We found one of his threads of investigation quite interesting. Suppose there are two towns that are developing 10 miles apart, and there is no road between them. What will happen to each of their cultures if someone builds a road between the two towns? We actually have those sorts of settings in the State of Yucatan and, along with other cultural impact locations, they are providing Scott Hutson with enough material to work with the Mayan community to ensure that there is an ethical connection between the people and their history. We hope that Scott Hutson publishes soon because we are waiting to hear the rest of this story.
Tomato farmers have both good and bad news to report. The bad news is that, because of a whitefly infestation, Yucatan's 2010 crop was not able to meet local demand. The good news is that low temperatures over the winter have helped to retard reproduction in whiteflies. This means that the most recently planted crop of tomatoes is doing exceptionally well. While we are still in a position of having to import tomatoes from other parts of Mexico, the difference between our tomatoes and theirs is quite obvious. Yucatan's tomatoes are 12 pesos per kilo and of excellent quality. The imported tomatoes are 14 pesos per kilo and show obvious burn from freezing temperatures in the states where they were grown. Yucatan's horticultural producers are well known for having a decidedly organic bent to their farming practices but, in this case, have had to resort to spraying for whiteflies to ensure the future of tomatoes in our state. We sincerely sympathize with the produce farmers and hope that the double threat of cold weather and whiteflies will soon be a thing of the past.
We recently heard Oxkutzcab mentioned as the economic engine of Yucatan. Now, we are hearing about a third stevia project in Tekax. This project is owned by Kaa Hee Mexico. It covers 700 hectares (over 1,700 acres) and will employ 600 people. Planting begins this month and the company will invest $74 million pesos over a five year period in the overall development of the project. This project, along with the success of Yucatan's citrus industry and new archaeological tourism opportunities, may actually mean that, in the 21st century, the economic engine of the state will be located in the southern cone. Whatever the outcome, it is certainly a metamorphosis worth watching.
Hunucma School Fighting Obesity
The health risks associated with increasing numbers of middle class Yucateco children, who now live their lives in front of televisions and computers, are being fought on the front lines in schools across the state, but now we have a school, in Hunucma, that is letting us see just how frustrating this problem can be. Last year, when childhood obesity could no longer be ignored, a plan of action was formulated by a local elementary school. First, the children were weighed and measured. Findings showed that 10% are obese. Next, there was a survey of parents to determine the children's quality of nutrition, snacking habits, and whether they eat three meals a day. Individual results are being sent to parents. After that, a twice a week exercise program was put in place at school, and all children in the school are being required to participate in sports. Finally, in October, the school menu was completely changed. Soft drinks were replaced with fruit flavored water, and fried foods were replaced with fruit salads and vegetables. Frustration has now set in because the children are purchasing junk food on the way to and from school. Everyone has now realized that it is going to take community education and a total resolve, on the part of schools and parents, to turn back the tide of obesity in Yucatan's children as they face a future full of cable television, the internet, and mountains of junk food on every corner. This is a worldwide problem and our hearts go out to the schools, parents and teachers of Hunucma as they fight this battle.
The Miracle of Rancho El Ramonal Maya
We heard about the ramón tree somewhere along the way, and then it slipped through the cracks in our memory – along with many of the other strange and wonderful plants that are found on the Yucatan Peninsula. Then, this week, there was a progress report on Rancho El Ramonal Maya and our interest was renewed for several reasons. First, Rancho El Ramonal Maya is a 150 hectare ranch, 24 hectares of which are now planted with 30,000 ramón trees. The owner of the ranch is already two years into this project and all at his own expense. The little forest is being watered with soaker hoses and the owner intends to plant even more. He has 30,000 ramón trees growing out there now, all watered with soaker hoses, and intends to plant more ramón trees. We went looking for the scoop on ramón trees when we heard that Rancho El Ramonal Maya is going to use the fruit to produce livestock feed, as well as flours that taste like chocolate and coffee! What we found was a wonderful page, from UCLA, that begins with "If you can only help save one tree this year… If you can only plant one plant this year… If you really want to help protect the rainforest… Then its time you learn about Ramón." We invite our readers to read that entire page and then keep an eye on the growing miracle of Rancho El Ramonal Maya. We are thrilled to know that these trees are being brought back to Yucatan and we will be on the lookout for their entrance into the commercial market.
Unemployed Family in Ucu
Sadly, there is a family in Ucu that has turned to the local landfill to earn enough money to keep body and soul together. They know that the health risks are huge, but they feel they have no other choice. They are working at the landfill 7 days a week – father, mother, and two children –Jesús Leo, who is only 4 years old, and Belén (Bethlehem) Lilia. They work from 8 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon collecting plastic and cardboard. They sell the plastic for 2 pesos per kilo and the cardboard for .50 cvs. If you live in the Ucu area or know someone who does, and if you have a job to give, won't you please consider this family? They are not strangers to hard work and everyone is worried about these small children in such an unhealthy environment.
Is Yucatan Safe for a Woman Traveling Alone?
Oh Dear! This week, on one of the travel boards, we saw the most amazing questions from potential travelers to our state, and some of the worst answers ever (from people who have obviously never been to the State of Yucatan in their lives)! One young lady will be staying with a friend in the friend's family home. The young traveler wanted to know if she should stay inside the house while her friend's family members are all at work. Answers tended to advise her to be "street smart" if she decided to go out. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, let us repeat… Merida is not on another planet… nor is it in the middle of a jungle. The crime rate in Merida is probably lower than the crime rate where the young lady grew up. The correct answer to the question "Is Yucatan Safe for a Woman Traveling Alone?" is simply YES. We were also sorry to see that one UK student is worried that his school might cancel his summer study abroad courses in Merida because of his country's travel advisories concerning Mexico. That is very sad. One would hope that at least universities would know better and make policy based on reality, rather than on generalizations.