Yucatan News: Trees, Parks and Education
Adopt a Tree(Includes Contract & Home Visits)
The Partido Verde Ecologista de México (PVEM) has opened a permanent program for tree adoption at their headquarters (Calle 20 # 396-A de la Miguel Aleman), and they are kicking it off with an initial offering of 15,000 trees for adoption. Adoptions will be granted on a first-come, first-served basis, with potential humans expected to sign a contract promising to treat the tree as a pet. Home visits will be conducted by environmental science students who will make certain the tree is doing well in the care of the adoptive parents. PVEM has a large variety of fruit trees and ornamentals. For more information, call: 927-8602 or 927-5193.
Yucatan’s Organic Farmers of the Future
Yucatan is setting the curve on a number of fronts, not in the least of which is in the area of organic farming. It is the goal of the School of Ecology at U Yitz Ka’an, in the Municipality of Mani, to have 100 functioning organic farms on the peninsula by the year 2012. They have been working toward this goal for 13 long years and, so far, have a total of 9 fully functional organic farms up and running. With this year’s crop of graduates, the pace is now picking up and they are expected to reach their goal of 100 farms in the next four years. Everyone at U Yitz Ka’an believes strongly in the development of agriculture without the use of chemicals, a philosophy that can only benefit the consuming public in Yucatan. Congratulations to the school, the teachers, and – most of all – to the graduates!
Mexican Supreme Court Rules Against Walmex Voucher Pay
It seems as if Walmex has been paying its workers, in part, with vouchers they can only spend in Walmex. Since that was one of the very situations that led to revolution in 1910, Mexico takes a dim view of such practices. Owing one’s soul to the company store is unacceptable in any society, and especially in one that still remembers the pain of having to survive such an atrocity. This is the reason the practice is outlawed under the Mexican Constitution. Walmex still pays low wages and still discourages unions, as does its parent company in Arkansas. If their practices are questioned, they simply threaten to close their store and move on, which would throw hundreds of people out of work at a time. Somehow, corporations that use this management model seem to think that “business management” is the equivalent of “right to govern with impunity,” and then they are truly surprised when the courts rule against them. A special thank you to the Mexican Supreme Court for stepping in on behalf of these Walmex workers. We hope this ruling will make life easier for everyone who works for this company and others like it.
SCA Tissue Maker Building Near Mexico City
The largest tissue company in Europe, SCA, is located Stockholm, Sweden. SCA has decided to build a $230 million dollar plant near Mexico City. For some time now, SCA has been expanding into the Mexican market and now holds 18% of all tissue sales in the country. For a look at this company and its products, visit the SCA website.
Meat Export/Import Heating Up
Over the past few months, Mexican produce has been blamed for any number of epidemics in the U.S., with absolutely no direct documentation. In fact, the real culprit, in at least one case, was an American shipping competitor! Now, attention has turned to meat and the two groups of producers (Americans and Mexicans) are squaring off. The situation is threatening to turn into one of “you bar my products and I’ll bar yours.” With economies in both countries already in trouble, consumers hardly deserve such foolishness between food producers at any level. It is too easy for consumers to grow a home garden and find a local butcher to provide locally raised meat. Producers on both sides of the border could, quite easily, find themselves in a position of not being needed at all. We hope that cooler heads prevail and this type of behavior is left to the areas in which it is most commonly found – among unsupervised (and not very well brought up) children on playgrounds.
One Giant (Language) Leap Forward
Beginning this week, all teachers assigned to areas in which there is a significant indigenous population will be fluent in both Spanish and Mayan. This agreement is between the National Department of Education and all three states on our peninsula. With the Mayan language fully incorporated into the public school system, many of the people to whom this land actually belongs will be able to understand the nuances of the social, cultural, legal, and political world that surrounds them for the very first time. Congratulations to the Mayan people at the dawn of an era that will, finally, be theirs again.
After the shock of finding 12 corpses in Merida a few weeks ago, the government response has been to increase security around the city and step up their efforts to catch the ones responsible. It is generally agreed that the murders were due to feuds between narcotraficantes (drug traffickers). If you are driving around town and find yourself stopped or slowed by a roadblock, don’t worry… this is the Merida and Yucatan and Quintana Roo police force doing their jobs. In the last two weeks, three people have been captured, one has admitted to at least one murder and a “safe house” has been found and secured. In addition, Yucatan has passed a law that heavily tinted windows are no longer legal. Apparently, window tints come in degrees, and tints of the 1 and 2 variety are legal, but anything higher is not. So if you have tinted the windows on your car, it might be time to check to make sure they are legal. The law goes into effect on September 19.
What Languages Do Mayans Speak? More Than You Think!
There are still places in Yucatan that are far off the tourist map, but working hard on catching up. Such is the case in Rio Lagartos, where descriptive terms historically include such phrases as: ‘way out in the boondocks’, ‘a place that time and advancement forgot’, and ‘where the crocodiles roam’. Who would have ever thought – literally in a million years – that the Mayans of Rio Lagartos would give “taking time out to learn English, Spanish, and Italian” as a reason for taking an extra three years to develop their ecotourism program. Today, whatever language you speak is probably spoken somewhere in Yucatan, so come on down and enjoy!
More New Parks!
All of Mexico has embarked on a national program called Limpiemos México, for the purpose of, literally, cleaning up the country. As part of that effort, Merida has already developed a program of its own, called Rescate de Espacios Públicos. This is the program that, in recent months, has rescued vacant public lots and created 14 lovely new parks in Merida, complete with sports and cultural activities for children and teens. The program has been so successful that Merida is now beginning the second phase of this effort with plans for 18 more rescued public spaces. Given the recent troubles, parents are more interested than ever in ensuring that their teens are not only occupied, but given opportunity to know that they are full citizens of their municipality. This is the best way to combat the problems that are attempting to gain a foothold in our municipality. Congratulations to the Municipality of Merida for this first line strike toward security for our children and our community, and you can be sure we will be looking into these programs to find out more!
Road Conditions: Merida to Cancun
There was a great deal of talk last year about the poor condition of the free road between Merida and Cancun, especially between Merida and Chichen Itza. It is not in the best of repair and has been dubbed all sorts of negative names, most of which have the term “death” in them. People tend to drive too fast on that road and often pay the ultimate price. Last year, everyone was excited to learn that the free road would be repaired but, alas, it was not to be. All available resources have been turned to improving the quality of the superhighway between Merida and Cancun, including an asphalt overlay in places where the most accidents take place. In fact, many of those repairs will actually be in Quintana Roo, rather than in Yucatan! We are told to think of the superhighway as a commercial investment because it is now designed to connect all of the tourist zones in both states. Sadly, those who live here think of the Yucateco lives lost on the old free road as an investment in our state that now only “might have been.”
Public Transportation Woes in Merida
There is, yet again, a great deal of talk about finally raising the cost of Merida’s public transportation – maybe now… maybe at the first of the year. The problem here is the same as it is everywhere. The cost of gasoline has gone up, as has the cost of repairs. Owner/operators have slacked off on tune-ups, resulting in public transportation that uses far more gasoline than it should. If transportation prices rise, the cost would be especially difficult for families with children in school and for the elderly. Currently the prices are $5 MXP for adults and $3 MXP for the elderly, with children subsidized by the fee for adults. They are proposing raising the rate to a single fee for everyone. This is a difficult situation and one that the folks back home seldom consider. For the average Yucateco family (dad, mom, & 3 children), transportation to and from work and school could easily eat up one whole paycheck. It is a sobering thought and one we hope can be resolved so that families do not have to suffer so deeply just to get to and from work and school.
What a fun thing archaeology must be for UADY students today! With the recent findings of new caverns in central Yucatan, these students find that they now have to swim deeper and farther into uncharted caverns than ever before… or do they? Not at all! They’ve got friends in the Engineering Department who know all about robots and can build exactly what they need! What a “cool” bunch of young people these must be. Whatever their minds can conceive, they and their friends in other disciplines can create the ways and means to turn it into reality. It won’t be long before they’ll have their robotic cameras winding their way through the land that time has never been able to forget. We can’t wait to cover that story!
In These Trying Times: Dr. Gilberto Balam Pereira
This week, it was announced that Dr. Gilberto Balam Pereira is the official winner of the 2008 Eligio Ancona Medal. Eligio Ancona (1836 – 1893) was an outspoken Yucateco politician and writer. The underlying themes of his work were a Meridanesque combination of melodrama and romance, backed up by his focus on the continuous indigenous struggle against invasion by foreigners. Throughout his lifetime, Eligio Ancona used his pen to further the cause of Mexican Independence and solidarity in his beloved Republic of Yucatan. In addition to historical novels, Ancona also published a Mayan history, and a five-volume history of Yucatan itself. He passed away in Mexico in 1893.
Any group of potential foreign invaders, of any stripe, would do well to remember that Yucatecos, as a totally committed group of collective ethnicities, are neither a benign, nor simple population; and their combined memory is endless, as evidenced by the continued annual presentation of the Eligio Ancona Medal. This year’s winner is Dr. Gilberto Balam Pereira, was born in Sotuta in 1931. His education includes degrees in Traditional Medicine, Epidemiology and Human Ecology. He has earned both a masters at the National School of Public Health and a PhD in Sociology. He has also completed studies at the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Germany, worked in research at the National Institute of Nutrition (1957 to 1966), and served as coordinator of the Instituto Nacional Indigenista in Yucatan from 1972 to 1985. For a full biography and bookstore locations, from which you can purchase several of Dr. Balam Pereira’s particularly interesting books, click here. One of his books is about the medicinal plants of Yucatan! Yucatan Living would also like to congratulate Dr. Gilberto Balam Pereira for his ongoing work in objectively assessing the social and cultural engine of the Yucatan.