News / Yucatan News: Oil, Orchestras, Oysters

Yucatan News: Oil, Orchestras, Oysters

Yucatan News: Oil, Orchestras, Oysters

28 June 2010 News 4

News Starting June 28, 2010


All Eyes on Alex

As tropical storm Alex moves toward a crossing of the neck of the Yucatan Peninsula, it is a wild card that no one wants in their summer deck. Alex was expected to cross the neck of the Yucatan Peninsula and come out into the Gulf of Mexico as somewhere between a tropical storm and a Category 1 hurricane. After that, most scientists thought it would gain momentum, make a westward turn and move inland in the approximate vicinity of Tamaulipas and/or South Texas.

This still could happen, and if this happens, then its counterclockwise winds will push oil to the northeast and onto the coast of the U.S. Gulf states at a faster rate than before. However, Alex also has the potential to strike out across the Gulf of Mexico. The ports of Dos Bocas, in Tabasco, and Cayo Arcas, in Campeche, have both been closed. It is expected that Coatzacoalcos/Pajaritos, in Veracruz, will close as well. As of this writing, the whole system seems to be stalled over the Peninsula, pouring more rain than Merida has seen in awhile, accompanied by thunder and lightning. Our gardens are loving it, but we wonder what havoc it may still wreak here and elsewhere in the world... and what is coming next.

If a Hurricane Crosses the Gulf

Imagine the eye of a hurricane, with winds churning in a never-ending counterclockwise direction. Then, imagine that the longer the hurricane stays over water, the faster the winds will blow. However overly simplistic that description is, it is also pretty much how hurricanes work.

Now, imagine a hurricane leaving the Yucatan Peninsula and heading out across the Gulf of Mexico. If that happens,  work at Deepwater Horizon is supposed to stop 5 days before the hurricane gets to it because it takes that long to get ships and men out of the area. Work will remain stopped for the time the hurricane is in the vicinity of the well and the ports where the ships and men have sought safe harbor, probably at least 5 more days. After the hurricane is over, it will then take 10 days to get the ships and men back to Deepwater Horizon and get them working again. That means 20 days of uncontrolled flow from Deepwater Horizon.

In addition, if the hurricane does go north, it will pass either to the east or to the west of Deepwater Horizon. If it passes to the west, counterclockwise winds will dump tons of oil along the U.S. coast, both on the shore and inland, as far west as Texas and the east coast of Mexico. If the hurricane passes to the east of the well, then counterclockwise winds will not only shove oil more toward Florida, but south toward Yucatan as well.  And remember, all this time, that well will be free-flowing.

The only saving grace for Alex is that it is not a huge storm and it is providing us with much needed data on “how things work” during a hurricane and with oil in the water. This new data is vital because it will also be the first data anyone has ever been able to get as oil in the water increases surface temperatures and contributes to the development of a hurricane.

Oysters and Oil: The Oyster Beds of Tabasco

The second largest oyster beds in Mexico are located in Tabasco and southern Veracruz. The oyster beds in Tabasco alone support 1,500 fishermen and are responsible for the jobs of 2,500 women who process the catch. With only two brief bans on fishing every year, oyster fishing is one of the most important areas of the seafood industry along the East Coast of Mexico.

UNAM has been working on better understanding the forces that result in threats of contamination in these very oyster beds since the Ixtoc spill in 1981. We expect these young scientists to become increasingly important to all of us as the summer wears on and as the story of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy unfolds. Even if not one drop of oil comes to Mexico, this is an opportunity for Mexico to send a new research ship to Yucatan and for the young scientists here to spend the next five years, or more, collecting and analyzing data that is relevant to the people and seafood industries of the area.  

New Natural Gas Plant Near Villahermosa

For the next 20 years, Spain's Abengoa and G.E. Energy Financial Services will work together to build and operate a 300 mega-watt gas-fired power plant for PEMEX. The total cost of the project will be $640 million dollars, which will help Mexico reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 50% below 2002 levels by 2050. This will be the largest plant of its kind in Mexico. The use of cleaner-burning natural gas is an energy efficient option that is welcome in a country that now keeps its eye on the future as much as on the past and present.

Distinguished Teacher 2010 To Retire Next Year

Juan Ramon Bastarrachea Manzano was born in Tixkokob just 69 years ago and, thus far, has lived an amazing life! Don Juan grew up to become a physician, but had to give that profession up because he could not bring himself to charge poor people for his services. At that point, young Juan had to go back to college and jokes that he chose to study anthropology because there weren't many of them, so he knew it would earn him a living.

There are a few laws of physics and chemistry that will not be denied, one of which is related to the old saying that “cream always rises to the top” – and it certainly did in this case! Today, this physician and anthropologist speaks Spanish, English, French, and Maya, and is an internationally well-known expert on the history and culture of the Maya. He has taught in universities in Mexico, Central America and the U.S. At one time, he was the head of the Mexican Academy of Languages and has written 5 Maya dictionaries! He produces television shows in Maya, and teaches at UADY and at the high school he founded. Sadly, diabetes is no respecter of persons and Don Juan is losing his sight.

Even so, this has been quite a run for a fella from Tixkokob who never gave up his sandals! We know that, for folks like Juan Ramon Bastarrachea Manzano, retirement never quite actually means retiring, so we will be on the lookout for what's next for Yucatan's Distinguished Teacher of 2010. In the meantime, click on the photo of the snake to read Don Juan's article about the meaning of the word "Cancun"!

Hostel San Vicente de Paul: New and Improved

There are some great things going on in Yucatan, and one of them is the remodeling and expanding of services at Hostel San Vicente de Paul, next door to O'Horan Hospital. There is a list of things they need on their donations web page, and a history of the shelter on their Who We Are page. Be sure to read both pages. There are lots of pictures there and we know that some of our readers will be interested in helping this worthy cause, especially since summer weather is particularly difficult for the elderly poor to survive on their own. The Hostel San Vicente de Paul now serves 110 individuals and, with your help, soon there will be space and services for more.

Latin American Orchestras Go to Spain!

Wouldn't you love to see the reaction of the Spanish people when they hear the best of Latin America perform at the 59th International Festival of Music and Dance in Granada? We are not talking about just good performances here. We're talking about the Symphony of the State of Mexico and the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela! There is nowhere in the world that anyone can see anything better than those two magnificent groups performing in 38 different places throughout Spain. One can only imagine what it must have been like on opening night at the Palace of Charles V.

If you have never heard these groups, please click on the following links for just a taste of what is happening right now in Spain! Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela  and Symphony of the State of Mexico. Of course, the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra is the organization that gave birth to Gustavo Dudamel (pictured on the right), the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra's new music director.

By the way, we thought you might also like to know that, while the Youth Orchestra of Venezuela is made up of college-aged young people, Venezuela has plenty of high school orchestras coming up behind them, as well as young directors. Please take a minute to see and hear The Teresa Carreno Youth Orchestra, led by the same young Venezuelan director, Gustavo Dudamel, who is taking the world by storm.

Speaking of Orchestras…

Working Gringa represented at a meeting last week of the International Community Living in the Yucatan with the General Director of the Instituto de Cultura de Yucatán (ICY), set up by the always-charming Maricarmen Perez, the appointed ambassador between the department and the growing expat community. The meeting was attended by a select group of local expats who have demonstrated an interest in the local culture.

Mr. Renan Guillermo Gonzalez, the director, told us about exciting new developments in the department.

In September, ICY will be opening up a School of Literature, with advanced video technology that will allow literature teachers to teach children in any of the 106 municipalities in Yucatan. The Visual Arts section of ICY, run by Sr. May Tilán, has just published a book, Panoramica de las Artes Plasticas de Yucatan 1910-2010, a review of visual arts in Yucatan for the last 100 years. We didn’t get a chance to look through the beautiful coffee table book, but we’ll be getting down to the ICY bookstore to pick one up very soon.

ICY has also just finished creating virtual files for all the historical documents in the municipal archives of Merida. Now the documents are available in digital form in a virtual library, preserved for posterity and made available to the world. Next, the group will be going out to all 106 municipalities to rescue and then preserve the documents found there. This is a huge task, and an important one. The director told us that the documents are often in bad shape and in danger of being lost to humidity and decay. He considers this activity one of the most important things that the ICY has done under his watch.

Did we mention music? The state now boasts three orchestras, the Yucatan Symphony Orchestra (over five years old now), the Orchestra Juventil (for teenagers, going on 2 years now) and the Orchestra Infantil, an orchestra for children, located in Motul and opened in December of 2009. There is also now in Merida a Yucatan Trova School, with 180 students, dedicated to keeping the art of trova music alive and well. The music programs continue to be expanded into every one of the 106 municipalities, with teaching, orchestras and smaller groups providing opportunities for practice and advancement for the students. Yucatan seems to be taking music teaching very seriously, not just for the pleasure and beauty of the result, but also for the discipline and teamwork that it teaches the students, beginning at a very young age.

The director impressed upon us that the work of his department is both “complicated and infinite”, a phrase we found exceedingly poetic. He told us about the recently added Article 4 to the Mexican Constitution, which impels every state of Mexico to preserve its indigenous culture (we’ll be looking into this in more detail and report back to you with what we find). He encouraged us to continue to work with his department to provide audiences for events, support for the artists and to help with the children and the education whenever possible. We left feeling very grateful to have been included in the meeting, and to be living in this state of grace called Yucatan.

(Find out more about all the activities provided by ICY at their website,

Add Minutes to Mexican PrePaid Phone From Anywhere!

On June 30, will launch a new service that will allow people anywhere in the world to purchase minutes for prepaid mobile phone users in Mexico. works with all four Mexican mobile operators and covers all prepaid mobile phones in Mexico. They even solve the problem, in Mexico, for prepaid subscribers who have to go in to an office to recharge their minutes. is operated by Vesta Corporation, which is known for combatting online fraud. Customers will also be happy to know that a portion of every transaction goes to the Hispanic College Fund. Telephone service is one of the perks of modern life that gets easier and less expensive with each passing year. We are certain that this new service will be of value to many of our expat and Yucateco friends. 

Movie Theater Returns to Progreso

Plaza del Mar has reopened in Progreso with two showings on Tuesday through Sunday. The theater is located on Calle 27 x 74 y 76, and has plenty of parking for patrons. Each theater has a capacity of 224, and we suspect that going to an air-conditioned movie will be one of the most popular activities of the summer for folks who live in the beach towns.

Chicxulub Gets New PEMEX Station

As 2012 grows closer, facts and legends seem to be losing themselves in each other. More folks than ever are coming to visit Chicxulub, with many entertaining the thought of actually moving nearby to be on hand when the excitement comes. Most know the story of the Chicxulub Crater  and even more seem to be fascinated with myths that have grown up around the end of the Mayan calendar with Chicxulub as the supposed epicenter of whatever is to happen! Meanwhile, back in Chicxulub, real life goes on as usual. Chicxulub continues to grow and now there is a new PEMEX station on the Chicxulub Ring Road. If people want to come for the strange, different and odd reasons related to meteors and calendars, that's fine, but we suggest you might also want to come for the wonderful way of life in a little beach town that is now just minutes away from anything anyone could want, in any direction one chooses to travel.

The School of Authentic Journalism's New Documentary

This past January, Yucatan Living was pleased to meet and get to know the members of The School of Authentic Journalism. Read our article on this group and their philosophy Here. Now, The School of Authentic Journalism has released a 15 minute documentary with the title “Where Are The Maya?”  This documentary is sure to draw both positive and negative reactions, but it is well worth watching in either case.

Khaki’s Editorial: Of Plumes, Lakes of Oil and Nuclear Devices

We are asking our readers to please investigate the background of anyone who is interviewed on any news program, or appears in any video and is introduced as any kind of an expert on any phase of the current tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico.

This past week, just such a man was interviewed by all of the major networks and a video of his statement is making its way around the net. Most of this man's so-called work has been debunked by the scientific community and so, we suspect, have the pronouncements of the rest of the “buy my book” and “invest in my oil leases” doom-slinger crowd. The fact that those people are not legitimate does not mean that all is well. What it does mean is that reality is bad enough. It is not helpful to add the self-aggrandizing opinions of unemployed pseudo-scientists to the deliberate misinformation already being fed to the world by BP, Transocean and various U.S. government agencies.

The same can be said for those who pass this disaster off as no big deal and believe that one good hurricane, to blow the oil away, is all we need. We doubt that this last group has the ability to understand how the environment or the economy actually work, so it is probably best to step away from them and find something more constructive to do with your time and effort. In either case, please do your own investigation before believing anyone on either side of these outrageous claims.    



  • Janine Harris 7 years ago

    I wanted to thank you for the article about We hope that the service has been, and will continue to be, a useful way for your readers to recharge airtime on their Mexican mobile phones. And yes, to celebrate the launch, a portion of each order goes to the Hispanic College Fund to fund scholarships for students of Mexican origin.
    We also proudly sponsor Mano a Mano, a non-profit based in NYC with a portal full of resources on Mexico found at The site is a fantastic resource with information on Mexican culinary and visual arts, culture, and more practical information about work and study in Mexico. I encourage your readers to visit their site.
    We will be sure to keep you updated on news and promotions for and would love to hear from your readers who have used the service--what did they like and how can we improve it? We are always trying to improve the service. And please add to our blog on ways to stay connected while living abroad (
    Thank you, again. We will visit your site often and tweet your articles to our audience. You have a great span of interesting articles - from music to environmental. Please keep up the good work!
    Best to you and your readers,

  • Working Gringos 7 years ago

    Thank you, Heather!! We will keep it up!

  • Heather 7 years ago

    Hello Working Gringa:
    Many thanks for keeping us northerners (who return to Merida and area in winter) up to date on the happenings in Yucatan through your newsy website. We find your articles on the BP spill and Alex very helpful as they answer questions we've had on what possible impact both might have on 'our' genteel winter destination. And it is to your credit and devotion to all things Yucatecan that you were invited to the ICY meeting. Please continue to keep us posted on all activities!

  • alex 7 years ago

    please watch the video 'where are the maya'. it shows how mayan people are exploited in the cancun-playa del carmen area. maybe we should stay at other places instead of the ones that abuse the people to which the land really belongs

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