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Yucatan News: Sisal Hammock Scam

News starting May 10th.

Call for Applicants: Fulbright-Garcia Robles Scholarship


If you know of a Mexican National who teaches English, he or she may be eligible for a Fulbright-Garcia Robles scholarship. Applicants must be under the age of 29 and willing to go to the U.S. to improve their teaching skills and learn about the American culture. While there, they will function as teaching assistants to two Spanish classes and take two graduate level classes of their choice. This is a great opportunity for anyone. School is paid for, as are housing and travel costs, and the graduate student will get a small stipend as well. This call closes on June 21, 2010, and classes begin in August, so pass the word! For more information, e-mail Lic. Fabiola Meza (fmeza [at] comexux [dot] org [dot] mx), call (55) 5592-2861 Ext. 113 or visit the C-mexus website.

Swim With Whale Sharks
Whale Shorks in Holbox, YucatanHas another year gone by this fast? Seems as if the season just ended and here it is, open again! May 15 through September 15, will find whale sharks off the coast of Isla Holbox. This is the only place in Mexico where the government allows tours and, even then, there are very strict regulations. Don’t miss a chance to see these sometimes 50 ft. long gentle giants of the deep as they spend their summer at Isla Holbox.

ATM Fee Changes
Gone are the days of no and low charges for using your ATM card in ATMs will cost you in MexicoMexico, depending on where the card is from, where the ATM is located, and what kind of transaction you are trying to make. Each bank has its own schedule for what it will charge for everything from accepting a card from another bank to checking your balance and withdrawing cash. Fees can range from fifty cents to two dollars and up per transaction. If you live in Yucatan, you might want to shop around for the lowest charge on the most common transactions you make. If you do not live here, just understand that using your debit card is no longer “cheap,” but it’s often more convenient than trying to find a money exchange booth.  

PEMEX Paid!
Last week, the vehicles of more than 100 individuals were damaged by gasoline contaminated with diesel. Luckily, the error was found quickly and the contaminated gasoline had been sold only from one station in Progreso. Also, as luck would have it, that station had not only documentation of which two pumps had the bad gasoline, but it also has security cameras that caught the entire line of drivers on camera. The first thing PEMEX said was that it would fix the vehicles, but the owners had to have a receipt. As soon as cameras were noticed (and PROFECO was called), the stations were authorized to begin fixing the vehicles. As far as we know, all 120 damaged cars have now been fixed by the station, which will be reimbursed by PEMEX.

Yucatan Online More Each Day
We have been watching Yucatan.WS with some interest for several months now and thought we would share a link to their site with our readers. Yucatan.WS covers news in Baca, Buctxotz, Chicxulub Pueblo, Merida, Mococha, Progreso, Samahil, Sinache, Tixkokob and Tixpeual. Those who are interested in life outside of Merida, but not necessarily at the beach, will want to check out the pages of Yucatan.WS.  We believe there is something for everyone somewhere in Yucatan and hope you enjoy your search for your perfect new home as much as we did.

Is It All a Show for the Tourists?


Every year, we learn so much more about our adopted state and about life as it is here for just ordinary folks. But we still hear the question that asks “but what’s it really like in Yucatan?” Well – like where you live, we have our problems. We’ve got rich folks and poor folks, some needing more help than others. Like where you live, our school districts can be best described as “getting better.” Our food might be a little healthier than yours, but you probably have better organized plans for what to do about the needs of the very old. Like where you live, we have animal shelters and rodeos, handicraft clubs, artists, and musicians. Our music is probably a little more romantic than yours, but we like it that way. That having been said, Yucatan loves a show and loves a competition of any kind! If you want to draw a crowd of 1,000 people, have an Idol show! American Idol, village idol, school idol – it doesn’t matter – everybody goes! …and nary a tourist to be found in any of the audiences. So, it actually is different here when the tourists go home. Yucatan loves to share its history and culture with tourists but, when they go home, we get to live in the culture, and that makes all the difference.

Beating the Heat in YucatanInteresting Beat the Heat Statistics
In Yucatan, as the heat climbs closer to 100 ºF, the sale of air conditioners is up 50% and the sale of pedestal fans is up between 30% and 40%. There are those of us who remember when there was no air conditioning in our own culture. It was hot, but we managed. Now, we cannot seem to do without it. One has to wonder if 50 years from now the Yucatecan children of today will be reminding their grandchildren that there really was a time when there was no air conditioning in Yucatan. This huge leap forward into the 21st century is certainly something to ponder.

No Red Tide So Far This Year!
In a world filled with erupting volcanoes and exploding oil wells, the fact that there is no red tide in Yucatan this year went almost unnoticed. This is wonderful news for our fishermen because so much of our state’s economy depends on the health and welfare of this one group of long-suffering, hard working heroes. They haven’t had a break in a long time. It’s their turn now and the absence of a red tide so far this year is the best news we’ve heard in a long time!

Don’t Be Cheated! Be Aware of the Differences Between Sisal and Cotton
This is a notice we have been asked to bring to our readers on behalf of our friend Silvia Terán, of
Maya Chuy – Maya Embroidery. We thank Silvia for this valuable information, and her husband, anthropologist Christian Rasmussen, for getting it to us. Silvia writes:

Recently, at an international congress here in Merida, a lady from Chile approached our stand of
embroidery and handicrafts, and insisted on buying a hammock of sisal/henequen for her
grandchild. She had been told that they were the best.

It was practically impossible to convince her that hammocks today are not made of sisal, since
this fiber is very crude and scratches your body. True enough, some years ago, self-sufficient
milpa-farmers would make their hammocks of that fiber, but no longer… and today, never for
commercial sale.

All good, accommodating hammocks today are made from different threads of cotton. More
Weather-resistant hammocks are made from artificial threads, such as nylon, but they are not so
comfortable, especially when the weather is hot.

In the village of Euan, there is a small production of hammocks made from the fibers of the
plant lengua de vaca or sansiviera. This fiber looks like sisal, but is much softer, and you really
have to search for them to find one.

I am not sure that I convinced the lady and, at the same time, I was wondering where she had
gotten her ideas about sisal hammocks. It was then that I found a wandering salesman in
Merida, promoting the sale of his cotton hammocks as “Real Yucatecan: Made of Sisal”,
attempting, in this way, to make money from the history of Yucatan’s green gold: henequen/sisal.

To my even greater amazement, in Calle 59, I was approached by a sales-boy offering shirts of
henequen. With wondering eyes, I asked, “Shirts made of sisal?!” “Yes!”, he answered and
insisted. “Please show me!”, I replied. He then took me to his shop and what he showed me were
shirts made of crude cotton (!), certainly not sisal! However, in the lining of each shirt was a
label that read: 100% agave. Made in Mexico.

The sales people said the shirts were made in Tixkokob. So, in the village of Tixkokob, famous
for making hammocks – of cotton and nylon – there is a company that knowingly is making
fools of buyers by selling cotton advertised as sisal!

I wonder if this practice is legal. At the very least, it is certainly not correct or fair to the many
tourists who come to Yucatan and want to go home with a real souvenir from Yucatan. So, be
aware and let your friends know about buying shirts or hammocks made of sisal, because they do not
exist!

Habaneros Online
Habanero ChilisSometimes (rarely – but sometimes) we have absolutely nothing to do and go in search of other folks who may be loafing at work as well – or who might also share our point of view… and we found Boloco’s Inspired Burritos in Boston, Massachusetts! Since they are featuring the Yucatan Habanero for the next two weeks, we have sent them our article on Habanero High Noon! We hope they stop by to visit when they visit Yucatan. Do visit their website. We just love their actitud.

 

 


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13 Responses to “Yucatan News: Sisal Hammock Scam”

  1. Khaki Scott:
    A similar situation has occurred to me with regard to hand woven rugs. There are sellers in Merida on Calle 59 that will take you to a side street shop with an old man weaving rugs on a large loom. They say they come from a small village (can’t remember where) and are made of wool. I did buy one, and I’m very happy with it’s design and wearability, but I wonder if that is also a scam sale.

  2. Hola,

    Well, the “sisal” hammock scandal got me going at some point when I learned about it, but then I saw this stupid error repeated in the most popular local guidebook, then I gave up on trying to tell people otherwise.
    Who knows what was first, the myth or the guidebook, but since I saw a reputable guidebook state that the sisal hammocks are the best, and you have people asking for it, you will have salespeople make it for you.

  3. Anyone who has ever had a sisal rug would probably confirm that sleeping in a sisal hammock would be like lying on a (flexible) bed of nails.

    Perhaps helpful for the penitent’s self-castigation, but not useful for the somnolent or insomniac.

  4. I would like to purchase hammocks to sell in the US. Anyone have contacts in the Yucatan for me?

  5. Reading this after my trip to Merida… I feel bad because we bought a “Sisal Shirt” for $$ and it seemed like a nice legitimate store, and the salesman seemed honest and sincere. I’m very naive I guess… Still, I enjoyed Merida and the Yucatan immensely! I got caught up in a few tourist traps though.

  6. Kim, don’t feel bad. It happens to all of us. I think the phrase we heard the most in the first year we were in Merida was “Oh, you paid too much!”. In fact, a friend of ours even composed a song with those words as lyrics!

  7. Well, I bought a henequen shirt at Maya Yacuum on 62 st in Merida, half a block south from the Hotel Colonial. It was a very nice Guyabera, very fine, very soft.
    A very nice and helpful university student started to talk to us at the corner of the street and was so nice and helpfull, we followed him to a “Mayan cooperative” store. It all seem so legit. The told us that all of the salespeople had to go back their village that afternoon to make you think you would be missing on such a great deal if you didn’t buy.
    well, I bought a henequen shirt for $1200 pesos, roughly $100.00 USD.
    My wife and I speak Spanish and over the course of the day and evening had a chance to speak with other people that sold shirts who admitted their is NO SUCH THING AS A HENEQUEN SHIRT. After feeling a little stupid we decided to back and ask for an adjustment. The salesman was there (the one that was had to go back to his village the night before). He returned our money after we told him we would go to the police (Ministerio Publico). Don’t get ripped off. Do have a great time in Merida; it’s a very nice town.

  8. Well, that’s great that you got your money back. Though there may not be a henequen shirt, there are beautiful and well-made cotton and linen guayaberas, some of which are well worth 100 USD. There are many beautiful ones for about 300 pesos as well, so it pays to shop around.

  9. Thanks for publishing the information about the sisal scam. We got caught up in it ourselves — buying a “sisal” shirt and a “sisal” hammock among other items on Calle 62 at Casa Artes Hunab. At the cafe where we were having a drink, he told us that he was the manager of the cafe (lie one). Then he told us about the Maya store and how all the proceeds go to the Maya (lie 2). Since the store was closing for a week-long Maya celebration, we had to be there by 4:30 (lies 3 and 4). So he walked us over — lucky us! Then we proceeded to pay $$$ for a large “sisal” hammock and other items. Nothing had a price tag. At the end we got a discount. No itemized receipt. I began to realize we were probably ripped off when the store was open the next day. We went to the Tourist Bureau. They had us file a complaint and go get our goods. A police officer went to the store with us where we got about 95% of our money back. These disreputable shop owners just can’t stop chiseling. They really should be brought to justice.

  10. Throughout the world, storekeepers in heavily touristed areas can be counted upon to try to get more than the market price for their goods. That’s good that you went to the police and got your money back. If more people did that, maybe it would stop.

  11. My wife and I have only been in Merida for about a week. We got out of our taxi at Plaza Grande. A very nice man began complimenting me on my hat and telling us about Sisal Panama hats, hammocks, shirts, etc. and how the Mayan people benefit from them. Like many gringo tourists, we fell right in the hole, followed like Llemmings to the sea. His price was $230 for a family hammock, but he would give us a really good deal. Something didn’t feel right so we walked away. After walking away from the Panama hat, and I wanted a simpler shirt, the sales person busied himself with something else and seemed reluctant to continue any conversion. We left thinking we might return today. My wife googled Sisal and found this article needless to say we are not going to return to this shop.

    Thank you for your good work and great articles they are very helpful. We love Merida and will be here until December 1, and will be back.

  12. You’re welcome :-)

  13. Wow. Glad i read this.

    Earlier today, I was approached by Alfonso who claimed to be a teacher. He said he was just hanging out looking to practice his English. We chatted for about an hour. He told me about Maya Mundo – a purported Mayan co-op – where I could buy a shirt of sisal. This immediately sounded kind of off. Any time someone says they have no motive in approaching strangers and then mentions a store? Seemed odd.

    Alfonso and I went to the Banamex museum together. It seemed like people knew him there. So, my radar’s warnings increased. Finally, he insisted we go to Maya Mundo together because the store closes at 1 and he has to meet his wife at 1 anyway. I went in and could not tell the difference between sisal and cotton. I said I would have to get money and buy later.

    As soon as we got outside, Alfonso became pouty and, despite it being 12:15, said he had to go meet his wife immediately at the zocalo. I went back to my hotel to grab my camera for sightseeing.

    I spotted Alfonso at 1 chatting up some Americans by Iglesias de Jesus telling them the same things he told me.

    Possible lies he used to bait me:
    His grandfather was a shaman
    His grandfather was a stone worker
    He is a teacher
    He just wants to practice his English
    The store closes at 1
    Sisal is good for shirts.

    I had a good time talking and refuse to buy things when pressured, so I lost nothing, but please beware.

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