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Yucatan News: Live and Learn

News starting August 31, 2009

School Days Are Back!


Did you think you would never hear quiet again? Yucatan’s children are nothing if not exuberant. But now we enter the long days of Fall, where it will actually be possible to sit outside early in the morning, and sometimes late at night, in relative peace and quiet. We hope all of the children have a successful school year and that the adults throughout our state can now get some much-needed rest.

Sales Down as School Begins
Merchants are reporting that sales are already off by 40% as parents began to buy school supplies and clothes for their children. Since secondary and college students won’t know what some of their expenses will be until after the semester begins, many of those parents are expected to stop spending completely during the next week or two. Although this is making things tight for merchants, it is also part of the natural ebb and flow of the annual economy in Yucatan, so there does not seem to be any hint of economic hysteria over it. We hope that everyone is able to begin the new school year with as little stress as possible, including both merchants and the parents of our Yucateco students. School Days are Back in Merida

Are You Ready for Summer’s End in Yucatan?
The relatively dead weeks of Summer are behind us and Fall is beginning with a bang. September is called Mes Patrio (Native Month). Workers are already busy hanging red, white and green lights. Soon the red, white and green bunting will go up and we will be on our way. No, it’s not about Christmas… those are the colors of Mexico, and in a few days, we’ll be celebrating Mexico’s Independence from Spain. After that, there will be the Fall Festival – with over 1,000 events in the month of October, ending with the Day of the Dead festivities… and then the State Fair in November, with even more events than the Fall Festival. Christmas festivities begin in early December and, quite frankly, we don’t know how people survive it all. After only 2 weeks off for Christmas and New Years, its back to non-stop events. January is the month-long celebration of the founding of Merida. Then comes Carnival and the race to Easter. Somewhere in all of that, there is a Jazz Festival. And there you have it. The first of September to about the first of April (or shortly thereafter). Literally non-stop festivities in Yucatan, laced with music by the symphony, song by some of the best choirs in the world, trova by “the” best in the world – and most of it free.  

Oh, and as if all that isn’t enough, next year, 2010, is the 200th Anniversary of Mexico’s Independence and the 100th Anniversary of the Mexican Revolution, with more festivities, parades, pageantry and fun than you can imagine. If there is one thing Mexico does at the drop of a hat given the smallest excuse, it’s put on a fiesta. And this is not a small excuse! You can read more about the Mexican anniversary celebrations here on Wikipedia and we’ll bring you more news as we hear about it. Merida has it’s own countdown clock, which has been installed in the middle of what is affectionately known as the Burger King Circle, at the intersection of Prolongación de Paseo Montejo and Circuito Colonias.

News from Life Long LearningLife Long Learning Program in Yucatan
The new Life Long Learning newsletter is out and much will be going on throughout the Snowbird season. There will be bus excursions to Veracruz and possibly Puebla, as well as a photography tour to Chiapas and a bus excursion to Tabasco, Chiapas and Campeche. Classes will also resume soon at Life Long Learning as well. These include workshops in personal growth, memoir and life writing, digital photography, drawing and sketching, beading, and Mexican cooking. For more information, visit Life Long Learning on the web at www.lifelonglearningyucatan.com  or call them at (999) 928-3515.

Foreign & Mexican Students at UADY
One hundred fifty-nine new students, 96 Mexicans and 63 foreigners began studies at UADY this past week. The foreign students come from the U.S., Canada, Spain, France, England and Germany. Many will be here for just one semester, but some will remain for an entire year. Although there is at least one foreign student in each of the 41 colleges at the university, it is interesting to note that most of the French students are studying law and architecture, the German students are studying accounting and business administration, and the Americans focus on anthropology and archaeology. UADY is also developing joint post-graduate programs with France and Spain, as well as expanding its English Department and its Spanish for Foreigners Program; and the activities of the Instituto Confucio are also ongoing. The value of these programs lies not only in academic and scientific enrichment, but in the opportunity they give students from around the world to learn about other cultures and to begin professional relationships and personal friendships, on a global scale, that will last a lifetime.

10 Mayan Foods That Changed The World’s Eating HabitsCacao from Yucatan
You really must read this entire article.  It was written by Christine Delsol, a former travel editor and author of “Pauline Frommer’s Cancun & the Yucatan.” In the article, she gives us the lowdown on chocolate, vanilla, corn, chiles, tomatoes, black beans, avocado, sweet potatoes, squash, and papaya – all foods that originated right here in Yucatan. What would this world be without any of those foods? …and just look at the antioxidants in that list! No wonder Yucatecos live so long! …and they have a little sweet tooth too. Combine black beans, sweet potatoes and caramelized onions as a burrito filling and you can only barely call it a main dish, instead of a dessert. Overall, we think the great food in Yucatan is well worth braving a little bit of hot weather on occasion (this week could definitely be that occasion…).

2,000 Tons of Vacation Garbage
Progreso has, somehow, managed to keep up with disposing of the 2,000 tons of garbage generated by 2 months of vacationers and cruise passengers. That is a monumental amount of garbage, when you stop and think about how relatively small Progreso actually is. However, they are on track for having the entire municipality totally clean and free of trash by the first of this week. Our hats are off to all of the workers who made this possible. We can only imagine what a monumental job it has been.

Here Come the BrigadistasBrigadistas in Yucatan
The Brigadistas are the all volunteer arm of the Civil Defense Agency. They help during all natural disasters, such as hurricanes. You can recognize them by their distinctive green uniforms and caps. This Fall, between August 27 and November 15, 389 Brigadistas have been called upon to do away with the mosquito population in 14 at-risk for dengue fever municipalities and the City of Merida. They will be assisted by 14 fogger trucks and 30 smaller spraying machines. In all, they will make certain that almost 110,000 homes, and the families who live in them, are safe from dengue fever this year.  

Checks Arrive for Fishermen
Twenty-three fishermen in Hunucma and Sisal each received a check for approximately $18,404 pesos to make up for some of their losses during the recent economic difficulties. These checks could not have come at a better time, since many of them have children who are in need of school supplies. $18,404 pesos may not sound like much for a whole season of lost work, but it is a welcome sight to those who are in need.  

Brazos Abiertos: 3rd Annual Fall Event
Because we think the work of Brazos Abiertos is so important, we are including their entire press release here in the News. We will also list this event on our regular Events page.

Who: Brazos Abiertos Inc (501-c3 US not profit) (Funcation BAI)
What: 3rd annual Fall Event, Silent Auction & Fashion Show, Featuring the Spring Summer 2010 Collection by Alexei
When: October 30, 2009 7:00 PM -10:00 PM
Where: The Rojano Family Home, Avenida Colón, #505C x 8, Garcia Gineres
Cost: $300 pesos

Underwriters: 
The Rojano Family, Merida fashion Designer Alexi Quintal, Ellyne & Chucho Basto owners of Cascadas de Merida B & B and Paul Lindemuth, Personal Chef & Owner of The Art of Food, Chicago and Yucatan Today.

Last year BAI hosted a “Silent Auction and Wine Tasting Event.” Through the generous support of individuals Brazos was able to raise $130,000 pesos. This year our goal is $150,000 pesos.

Alex Quintal will be sharing his talents with a presentation of his Spring Summer 2010 Collection

Paul Lindemuth will be adding his talents by providing delectable hors d’oeuvres. His staff from “The Art of Food”, will also be in Merida assisting Mr. Lindemuth in making the 3rd Annual Fall Event a great success.

Brazos Abiertos, Inc.’s Ongoing Projects

  • Peer on Peer education program in the Mayan Villages.
  • Offer Post and Pre HIV counseling.
  • Offer free anonymous HIV testing for all persons.
  • Educate local population about safe sex and HIV
  • Provide free anonymous condom distribution
  • Supply medical treatment and medications for persons with HIV

Event Chairs:  Ellyne Basto, Dr. Carlos Cabrera, Richard and Leslie Bennink , George Fisher, Suzanne Larimer, , John Truax, Sam Woodruff and Lisa Willemsen

If you are interested in donating to the silent auction or attending the event please email Suzanne Larimer at casalarimer [at] ymail [dot] com or John Truax at john [at] hivyucatan [dot] org.  You may also call Suzanne Larimer 924-5187 or John Truax 924-7068.

Triplets in Yucatan!Triplets in Yucatan
Its two girls and a boy for Daniela del Socorro Domínguez Domínguez (age 37) and Ofelio Farfán Balam (age 41), of Muna. This happy event comes after 5 years of marriage with no children until now. This is also evidence of the success of new health care programs. When Daniela went in for a regular checkup, it was discovered that she had developed preeclampsia, which is common with multiple births. Treated properly, everyone arrived at this happy day in excellent health.

Valladolid to Be Seen in French Music Video
You just never know who the next anonymous tourist might be. In this case, last year, the French singer Florent Pagny brought his Argentine wife and daughter on vacation to Playa del Carmen. As part of their trip, they came inland to visit Valladolid and fell in love with it. This year, they came back to film scenes for an upcoming album. This music video will include scenes from all over Valladolid, but will focus on the former convent San Bernardino de Siena and on the main market of Valladolid. Pagny commented on the differences between the climates of France and Yucatan, but then expressed his admiration for the Mayan people. The name of the song and video he made of their city is Amar y Amar (To Love and To Love). The album will be released in Mexico at the end of September.

No More Chewing Gum On the Streets in Merida
No More Chewing Gum on the Streets in MeridaWe have written on the topic of how much it costs taxpayers to remove chewing gum from the streets in other large cities around the world. Most of those cities have outlawed chewing gum on the streets and consumers are moving to purchase biodegradable, chicle-based chewing gum, which is a product that begins right here in Yucatan. Right now, the City Council of Merida is beginning with a 2 week program to raise the awareness of citizens on this issue by placing repositories for their gum on street corners throughout Centro. In the meantime, the streets will be cleaned and sanitized with a new steam machine. Ultimately, however, we can look for the same “no gum chewing on the streets” laws that are present in most other areas of the world today. (By the way, that sign says Put Your Gum in its place!)

Big Bazaar II: Annual Perros & Gatos Fundraiser
Its time for the Second Annual Big Bazaar II in Chelem. This event is for the benefit of the local humane society, Protección de Perros y Gatos, A. C.  It will take place at the Bull Pen Restaurant, just west of the NW corner of the zocalo in Chelem on the weekend of October 17 & 18, from 10:00 AM until 4:00 PM. This is going to be a wonderful bazaar that will include everything from baby items to small electric appliances and much much more! For more information or to make a donation, call Julie Hart (999 263-4546) or Nancy Draper (999 180-7073).

Please Help the Horses of Cuzama
On a recent trip to see the cenotes and aguava plantations of Horses of Cuzama, YucatanCuzama, one of our readers was horrified to find that the horses used to pull the antique “trains” (wagons on rails) are being beaten with whips and driven with harnesses made of rope. She found raw, open wounds where these ropes go across the noses of the horses. This is the result of most of the pressure from pulling the wagons being concentrated on the nose of the horses (OK, not in this picture. We’re sparing you the ugly and disgusting pictures she sent us…). Needless to say, our reader gave the wagon master a piece of her mind and immediately wrote to ask for our help with this matter.

What she would like to see is the formation of a civic organization that will work for the protection and benefit of the horses, including stopping the beatings and purchasing proper harnesses. She is also asking that visitors refrain from going to Cuzama until the plight of the horses is addressed and rectified. If you do choose to go, please rent a bicycle and tell the wagon masters why you chose the bikes over riding in their wagons. After receiving her e-mail, we immediately e-mailed a friend who owns a horse ranch and she answered that the beating of the horses with whips is totally unacceptable and that the damage caused by the rope harnesses could be minimized by the use of padding or blankets until suitable harnesses can be purchased. If anyone is interested in starting a civic organization for the benefit of the horses of Cuzama, please get in touch with us and we will be happy to do what we can to help your project along. In the meantime, if you visit Cuzama, please register your concern for the horses with the drivers (in a nice way!) so that they understand that treating the horses well will bring in MORE business.


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11 Responses to “Yucatan News: Live and Learn”

  1. I was surprised and sad to hear of the mistreatment of horses in Cuzama. In more than a half a dozen trips there, I have never done anything but marvel at the treatment of the wagon-pulling horses, and have been really impressed with the bonds many of the horses seem to have with their drivers, even responding to casual verbal commands given in hushed tones. I have never seen a horse whipped, either. I guess things have changed, and I hope conditions at Cuzama improve.

  2. Tell us more – how, when and where can we buy the French music video!?!??!

  3. The link to 10 Mayan foods is not working. Here is what I get when I try to access the (full) article:

    Not Found

    The requested URL /travel/10-maya-foods-that-changed-the-worlds-eating-habits/ was not found on this server.

    Additionally, a 404 Not Found error was encountered while trying to use an ErrorDocument to handle the request.

  4. It could simply be a lack of money or sources to purchase the appropriate bridles for the horses. People who live farther out from Merida often live on shockingly little money.

    Could someone figure out who “runs” Cuzama and contact them about donations of appropriate bit and bridles? Could someone gather up money for that reason.

    I wish I knew more about this so I could help. I’m an old farm boy at heart.

    On a similar note, are the tracks now in good repair? Some Yucatecan friends of mine had quite a spill there once when their cart overturned due to a lack of ground under the rails – the railbed was washed out in a spot. They were injured and one needed stitches in his leg.

    If the rails are not properly supported, any resulting derailment would be very hard on the horses as well, possibly injuring them severely.

  5. This link works for the 10 Mayan Foods:

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2009/08/26/mexicomix082609.DTL

  6. I’ve been to Cuzuma and I’ve always enjoyed it there. When I was there the horses looked fine and the guides weren’t beating them. First time I was there, the stairs and ladders were dangerous scary. The ladders were made of tracks. Second time I went, I was amazed at the renovation. Both times I went, I was amazed about the cheap tour fare and the beauty of the cenotes.

    But just like CasiYucateco mentioned in regards to the horses, the reason is economic. Do I buy a proper harness for my horse or feed my family? That should a no brainer. If the reader really wanted to help, she should personally buy the proper harness for the horse rather than give the guide an earful.

  7. I’m sorry, but I have to say that, for all the gentility and friendliness of the locals in the Yucatan, I have found the population to be remarkably callous and cruel when it comes to animals. Witness all the lame, half-starved horses pulling carriages around Merida. I have taken to walking rather than using them. I don’t doubt that some of it can be attributed to poverty, but the owners of those carriages must surely pull in enough to properly feed their horses, and you would think that keeping them healthy would be a priority when their livelihood is at stake. It’s a shame, because I love the people of Merida, but it seems to be one more issue, like the handling of garbage, that needs an educational campaign starting in the schools. If only these “life” issues were given the same amount of time and energy as the fiestas.

  8. Maybe to “us” they appear callous and cruel to their animals, but I imagine to “them,” we appear remarkably nonchalant about caring for (or ignoring) “our” children. Drop an average Yucatecan into a restaurant or store in the US where there are parents with children and they’d be appalled at the behavior of both.

    Different cultures simply have different values. I’m not advocating cruelty to horses. But everyone doesn’t think the way “we” do. They have different struggles, different experiences, different thoughts. Yes, I’d be happier if the horses looked less thin and thirsty. Especially those little single ponies totting 6 or 8 fat tourists. I mean, couldn’t they do it with a pair of horses? (double the expense, different carriage parts, double the care, etc).

    The carriage ponies aren’t the worst mistreated. The dirt sellers work those poor animals hard, whip them, and don’t seem to feed them a thing. Yet, they are dirt sellers, not exactly a high income career.

    To me anyway, these aren’t people giving carriage rides as a hobby. They are doing it to eat, to live, to house their children. Sometimes, maybe, expats think there are more resources available to Yucatecos than there really are.

  9. I have been going to Cuzuma for some 20 years. I remember when it was a real, working henequen fiber plant, with a small rope business on the side. We would go up, knock on someone’s door, and ask if he had time to take us to the cenotes. There were no other tourists, no parking lots, no benches or canopies on the “trucs” and no track to the end of the line.

    At this time the men worked, and the women stayed home to take care of their children.

    Then came hurricane Isadora, which blew the roof off the henequen fiber building, destroyed some of the machinery, and left the men without jobs.

    Since then the fields have been neglected, the women have begun coming into Merida to work as service people all week, only returning home for the weekends, and the men have had to stay home to care for the children, and find what work they could close to home.

    I agree…it’s a shame to not have proper equipment for your working animals, BUT…kids have to come first. It’s a real struggle for many of them to get food on the table and to pay bus fare for their kids to get to schools outside the village. Now that the cenote tour has become a business, they have to line up just like the taxi drivers and take their turn, and there are a lot of drivers now!

    What we on the outside see is how much we are paying for one tour, but I imagine that more often than once this is the driver’s entire income for that week.

    I don’t know what the solution is, but I do know that kindness and tact is the way to treat people, especially here in Yucatan, and a gringo with a fat purse is certainly not one to criticize someone’s habits.

    Incidentally, I’ve never seen the animals mistreated, either.

  10. The thead is two years old but I hope there some that are still fired up about the situation to do something about it. Yes the horses need help. I´m in commerce in the centro area and by chance took notice of the neglect of the horse carriages. Then the next day I took my mom to Cuzama and witnessed that. I chatted with the men out there and they informed me that there have been a lot of meetings held and they want a change. Did anyone notice the trail? Its terrible, on the way back I wanted to run the rest of the 2 kilometers but they did not allow it.
    I speak fluent English / Spanish and talked to Pedro who is the president of the association. He gave me his phone number, and after a nice chat indicated that he was really interested in collaborating for the well being of the animals.

  11. Albert, you might also want to read this article about the situation in this area. Thanks for whatever you can do to help improve the health and well-being of both the animals and the humans there.

    http://www.yucatanliving.com/destinations/the-cenotes-of-cuzama-chunkanan.htm

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