Yucatan News: Smoking, Honey & Tequila
Yucatan Living is Best Destination Blog
Ethel Diary asked readers to write in and nominate their favorite destination blog for consideration in a contest for which blog has the best “quality writing and/or photography that make(s) you want to book a flight to that location.” Our thanks to the reader who nominated Yucatan Living and to the owner of the Ethel Diary for the following comment:
“Final Verdict: I guess voting for the destination category may be influenced by the destinations voters ‘may want to visit,’ or have visited, when it should be the blog that ‘makes them want to visit.’ While I do like reading Chronicles of On The Road Travel myself, and enjoy traveling in South America without too much prompting, I’m going to try and put my personal feelings aside and concentrate on the blog that would make me want to go to the destination the most. ‘Dream of Italy’ and ‘Italy del Giorno’ are both tempting but 'Yucatan Living' urges me to search for available seats and board the plane. The flight tickets wouldn’t even have to be the cheapest; as the blog has persuaded me to go there and live.”
Mexico to Ban Cigarette Smoking in Eateries and Public Spaces
For those gringos who thought of Mexico as the last outpost where they could relax and enjoy a cigarette, those days are soon to be significantly affected by a new nationwide law. Mexican lawmakers have already passed the comprehensive law and it is only waiting for President Calderon’s signature. Even then, it will take another six months or more before the ban is fully implemented. From Reuters we learn that the nationwide law will ban smoking in indoor workplaces and enclosed public spaces such as offices, schools, hospitals and on public transport. Smoking in bars and restaurants will only be permitted in separate rooms or on open-air terraces. Establishments found breaching the law could be fined up to $500,000 MXP ($46,000 USD), or double that for a repeat offense. Individual smokers caught illicitly puffing can be thrown in jail for up to 36 hours. Of 105 million Mexicans, 13 million are smokers.
Sharon Helgason & the Canadians
No - that isn’t the name of a rock group - but Sharon Helgason and the Canadians “rock” just the same. This week, the Canadians of Chicxulub Puerto and Uaymitun, led by Sharon Helgason, donated a tricycle (triciclo) to the primary school “Andres Quintana Roo.” It seems that, at this particular school, lunch is delivered from a different location. Unfortunately, the food could not be delivered all in one trip. Sharon Helgason and the Canadians to the rescue!!! For our readers who don’t already know, the La Virgen de la Asunción Food Bank in Progreso is a project that was founded by Sharon and is now supported by American and Canadian volunteers, as well as by the people of Progreso and greater Yucatan. Once again, Sharon and the Canadians have stepped up to the plate and filled a need in their adopted community.
Lobster Season Has Ended
At the close of the season, lobster was selling off the ships for $420 MXP per kilo. That is approximately $1.77 USD per pound. The total catch last season weighed in at 100 tons. This season, fishermen brought in 130 tons. Congratulations to them all for a successful season. Now, its Spring and pink shrimp season. Que rico! (roughly translated as How delicious!)
Cachibol Classes in Izamal: Must Be Age 60 or Older
Yes indeed! We’ve had our eye on the elderly in Yucatan for quite some time. In the past, we have reported that they are now taking organized tours of Centro’s art galleries and museums; having lunch in sidewalk cafes; taking art, handicraft, dance and music classes; getting senior citizen centers in almost every city, town, and village; and learning how to manage their lives so they can avoid the ravages of diabetes and coronary disease. Now, the senior citizens of Yucatan are taking up Cachibol! The first classes in Cachibol are beginning in Izamal, but, knowing Yucateco seniors as we do, Cachibol is certain to sweep the state in short order. Cachibol is like volleyball, except that the ball is a bit bigger and the game is played with 6 players. It is good therapy for seniors because it not only tones muscles, but also develops coordination, lowers glucose levels, and improves blood pressure. If the elderly of the State of Yucatan are involved, you can expect a Cachibol Olympics at any moment. We’ll keep you posted!
Solved: The Mystery of Maya Blue
For centuries, the ancient Mayans painted ceremonial and sacrificial objects a color that was all their own. The color is meant to mimic the Caribbean sky and is called Maya Blue. This practice was so common that a 14 foot thick layer of Maya Blue sediment rests at the bottom of the Sacred Cenote at Chichen Itza. But where did the Mayans get the paint? Is there a recipe? Now, the mystery has been solved. Researchers at Chicago’s Field Museum analyzed the paint and found that it contains copal incense, palygorskite, and probably the leaves of the indigo plant. This mixture was slowly heated and produced the pigment that is now known as Maya Blue. This combination produces a strong chemical bond that researchers were finally able to identify using scanning electron micriscopy. One Mayan mystery solved... thousands remaining.
How to Count Hummingbirds (For Real!)
As we all know, the Red-throated Hummingbird spends its winters in an area that extends from the Yucatan Peninsula through Central America. Hopefully, we all have at least one hummingbird feeder in our gardens. Suppose you do have a hummingbird feeder and you want to know how many of the little darlings you are currently supporting. The Fat Finch Bird Brain Blog ("birds ask for it by name!", they say) gives us a means of determining exactly how many hummingbirds we are feeding from each feeder. Read their article on Counting Hummingbirds. We love the tone of their blog and would be thrilled if they could come down one winter to help us count our hummingbirds.
International Real Estate: A Game of Musical Chairs?
This past week, as the Euro bounced between $1.51 and $1.55 USD, the dollar was dropping from $10.8 to just under $10.7 MXP. As more Americans than ever rush to purchase homes in Mexico, it looks as if a significant number of Europeans, using the same logic, are beginning to look at purchasing real estate in the U.S. Rather reminds one of a dance step, as the world population steps off to the music... whispering in unison “West (2, 3, 4) South (2, 3, 4)” ... and the band plays on. What a gift that the world financial game means very little to us. We live in Yucatan. They could be giving property away in another country and we’d quite happily stay right here!
Solar Power in Yucatan: Green Mortgages Available
Did you know that solar power has been used in Yucateco homes, commerce and industry, agriculture, and to support public infrastructure for almost a decade? Now, the Mexican National Fund for Workers’ Dwelling (Infonavit) is granting what they call Green Mortgages and they began a project to finance over 2,000 “green houses” as a start to energy savings in Yucatan. The first two houses were bought by government employees in Caucel last summer. Today, our traffic lights are solar powered, as are a number of irrigation systems. Many homes have new, solar powered hot water heaters. In fact, just one of several solar equipment companies in Yucatan has participated in over 300 solar energy projects in our state. If you are interested in using solar energy, both the expertise and equipment are available. If you just want to dabble with using passive solar techniques to reduce energy consumption, here’s a great online sourcebook: Passive Solar Design that has all kinds of tips and tricks for letting the power of the Yucateco sun save you money on your utility bills while still maintaining a wonderful lifestyle.
Global Warming: Wind, Rain, and Norte #32
Less than two decades ago, snowbirds and new resident gringos were advised to bring “a couple of pairs” of sweat pants for the winter in Yucatan because we had between two and four nortes a year - with temperatures down into the 70s. Now, we’re finishing up Norte #32 (some with temperatures down into the upper 50s), Norte #33 is on its way, and it is raining in a season that is supposed to be relatively dry. If winter has been magnified this much, we can only imagine the heat to come in May through August.
Five Star EcoHotel Coming to Temozon
Since Chichen Itza was named one of the Seven New Wonders of the World, investors have been looking closely at the eastern portion of our state. This area is still virtually unspoiled and the perfect place for our expanding ecotourism industry to grow and thrive. It is our understanding that an investment group is going to build a five star ecohotel (now dubbed an “ecotel”). Rather than opting for a large one-building hotel, the investors are going to build bungalows so that the impact of the resort on the environment will be minimal and so that guests will feel closer to the natural wonders they came to see. This is only one of several projects underway in the area and just this one project is expected to provide, both directly and indirectly, a total of 700 jobs. If this type of development can live up to its promise to protect the environment, it will certainly be welcome in the State of Yucatan.
La Reina Zoological Park’s 33rd Birthday
Last year, we reported the birth of 3 little female deer and a mama turkey sitting on 22 peacock eggs at Tizimin’s La Reina Zoological Park. Now, La Reina has been visited by a delegate from the British Consul on the 33rd anniversary of the founding of the park, named after Queen Isabel II. We hope everyone will take the time to visit La Reina so that Tizimin will know that we appreciate all of their hard work and dedication. Happy Birthday La Reina!
This week, Greenpeace denounced a move in D.F. to relax laws that could result in the destruction of mangrove swamps along Mexico’s coasts so that tourism interests will profit. We are especially proud of Yucatan for realizing that the cultivation of our mangroves can lead to an increase in ecotourism, thus doing double duty - i.e. saving our coast while, at the same time, increasing tourism revenue. In addition, we are especially proud of our gringos on the west coast of Yucatan. While some gringos work to restore the colonial homes of Centro, others are reintroducing native species of plants to their beach property and working hard to “grow” dunes and beaches. We may not be able to do much about what goes on in the rest of the world, but the gringos who live here and those who spend their winters here love our adopted home and will do our best to protect her best interests.
The Cruz Roja in Yucatan
For our readers who are unfamiliar with the work o f the Red Cross in Yucatan, here is an update on the services they provided here in 2008. They opened a new location in Progreso, complete with four ambulances. They also operate a crisis center, a cancer center, and an orthopedic hospital. We have more than one friend who has received excellent care at the International Red Cross Cancer Center in Merida and the orthopedic hospital is an extraordinarily good specialty center. Last year 23,449 patients were served at the cancer center. The orthopedic hospital saw 64,605 patients in Merida, 820 in Valladolid, and 183 in Progreso. The Red Cross of Yucatan accomplished all of this with an average investment, per patient, of only $572 MXP! Funds are provided by donations of money or goods, the sale of scrap gold, the generosity of Oxxo, Boston Restaurant, and a gala ballet. In addition to providing excellent health care in Yucatan, the Cruz Roja of Yucatan also sent food to Tabasco and Tekax after the flood in November. As in other parts of the world, the Red Cross of Yucatan also teaches first aid, search and rescue, fire prevention, and other means of saving lives. In 2008, 50 different courses were taught in 54 companies to 998 individuals. Overall, there are 273 Red Cross volunteers in Yucatan and 273 full time health care workers. March 4 begins the annual drive for donations, so please donate whatever you can: time, money, or goods will all be deeply appreciated.
Juice of the Agave Azul (Blue Agave)
About four years ago, we began hearing stories that farmers in Yucatan were going to start growing blue agave on a commercial scale for the purpose of making tequila. Then, news of the project seemed to fade away. Now, the first crop is coming in and there are several options for producing liquor from agave azul. Before the end of another year, one method will be chosen and production will be underway. Congratulations to the blue agave farmers in the area of Valladolid for developing yet another sustainable agricultural crop in the State of Yucatan! And - to all the folks back home... guess what you’re getting for Christmas?
1,400 Recipes Using Honey
As our readers know, Yucatan now has bees and other places in the world do not, especially with the collapse of hives in the U.S. Once every three weeks, the most beautiful e-mail arrives in our in-box from the National Honey Board in Firestone, Colorado. Its called the Honey Feast (go here to sign up). It always has several recipes using honey and all have pictures. On the Honey Board’s website, visitors can search through 1,400 recipes in 16 categories. They can also download wonderful specialty brochures, including those detailing how to use honey as a beauty product. Here’s just one of the recipes for you to try. If you prefer non-alcoholic drinks, the National Honey Board’s recipe pages are the place to find those too.
Mojito Honito: makes 1 serving
1 oz. Honey Simple Syrup (4 parts honey to 1 part hot water - make ahead and keep in covered container)
1 oz. Fresh squeezed lime juice
2 to 3 fresh mint leaves
1 ½ oz. Light rum
4 oz soda water
Combine Honey Simple Syrup, mint leaves, and splash (1 oz) of soda water in a 12-oz glass. Use muddler to lightly press mint and blend flavors. Squeeze 2 halves of lime into the glass, leaving one hull in the mixture. Add rum, stir, and fill with ice. Top with soda water and garnish with mint sprig and lime wheel.
Annual Dog Extermination Programs Begin
Sadly, in many places in Yucatan, Lent is a time of year when stray dogs are still rounded up and exterminated before the Easter holiday begins. In most cases, this is done because they have the potential to become a serious threat to public health if allowed to breed without bound, especially considering Easter crowds. However, the fact that these programs continue to exist at all is a heartbreaking testament to the fact that our job is not yet done. Yucatan would be a nearly perfect paradise “if only”... if only all of the children, puppies, and kittens could have everything they need to live long and happy lives. Every year, Yucatan takes giant leaps toward those goals becoming a reality... but we’re not there yet. Please support your local animal shelter, as well as spay and neuter programs. Follow the arrows on AFAD’s slideshow to see what your donations have made possible at the AFAD Animal Shelter in Merida.
UADY’s School of Dentistry Celebrates 175th Birthday
Each week, we receive requests for information concerning the cost and availability of good dentists in Yucatan. We are happy to report that both the costs and availability of good dentists here could not be better. UADY’s School of Dentistry has just celebrated its 175th birthday and Merida does tend to attract and retain the cream of the crop. Read Working Gringa’s article on Dentists in Merida or leave us a comment with the name of your favorite dentist in the area.
The Answer to Poverty
Ángel Lendechy Grajales, of the Dr. Hideyo Noguchi Regional Research Center at UADY, spoke this week on the topic of the fundamental role played by citizenship in the fight against poverty around the world. By observing world governments, it is becoming increasingly obvious that democratically electing a government and then leaving that government alone to carry out its business (assuming it will conduct business fairly for all) has only served to increase the number of poor in the world. After all, it is easy to write a “policy” declaring there will be no more poverty; and all but impossible to get past special interests so that such a worthy goal can be reached. Lendechy Grajales suggests that a more involved citizenry, working together with the government and with each other - at all levels of society - would give all citizens a stake in the outcome and would go a long way toward ensuring that all people are afforded equal access to such things as health care, education, food, and housing. The concept of participatory citizenship is one that seems to have fallen on fertile ground in Yucatan and is expected to continue to grow throughout the state.
Mexico: Myth vs Reality
We have been reading pre-election newspaper articles from home and happened to notice that a few myths need to meet reality. Here are two of many:
Myth: Mexico has no middle class.
Reality: Business Week (2006) reported that 40% of all Mexican households are “middle class” and that their numbers are growing rapidly. Depending on the statistics you use, that is quite in line with the 45% to 49% of American households that are currently defined as “middle class.”
Myth: Americans shop in Mexico, not the other way around.
Reality: In 2007, Mexicans did enough Christmas shopping in the U.S. to increase retail Christmas spending for the entire nation by 5% over spending for the same season in 2006. This took place in a Christmas season when American spending in the U.S. was, according to the Boston Herald, “flat-lined or worse.”
Have any favorite myths about Mexico you'd like to point out? Do they drive you crazy like they do us sometimes? Leave us a comment!