News Starting August 29, 2011
The Underpass on Paseo de Montejo
We received permission to photograph the progress of the underpass on Paseo de Montejo this past week and thought you might like to see one of the pictures. Since this project is still very much a construction site, there’s not much to see, but work is progressing as permitted by weather. We will continue to bring you updates as we receive them.
All Together Now: “Rain Rain, Go Away!”
While the world watched as Hurricane Irene crawled up the east coast of the U.S., it rained in Yucatan – and Merida even saw a little spate of hail in Fraccionamiento Francisco de Montejo. There is no sense in even getting excited when we have a bit of sunshine because there is plenty of weather still coming our way. Tropical storm #10 has formed in the eastern Atlantic and its future is what we are watching now. Please remember that hurricane season continues until November 1, so do continue to be prepared.
The Space Race is On!
Mexican-American astronaut Jose Hernandez will be visiting Mexico again in early September, just about the time we are to find out more information about official plans for Mexico’s future space program. It looks as if the new announcement will be that Mexico is not going to put all of its eggs in one basket. The main office for AEXA (Agencia Especial Mexicana) will be in Mexico City, but there will be installations throughout the country that will build equipment and conduct research. Universities are also stepping up the pace in educating aeronautical engineers. The actual launch site (spaceport) will be on 30 secluded hectares near Chetumal. This site is far enough away from populated areas to ensure safety, but close enough to the sea to conduct underwater research. One of the most interesting facets of this program is the notion of space tourism, especially because the commercial aspect involves a significant investment by Russia. What makes this even more interesting is that NASA is shutting down their shuttle era and moving toward commercial launches as well – and they too are partnering with Russia. These projects won’t be complete until about 2020, so don’t pack your bags for a vacation in space any time soon. We’ll keep you informed as further developments are released.
New Mosquitoes Fighting Dengue Fever!
Australian researchers have bred a mosquito that now carries the tiny Wolbachia bacteria. This isn’t a new bacteria. Its naturally present in many insects. What’s special about it is that it blocks the growth of the dengue virus. Another neat thing about this bacteria is that it is passed from the mother to her offspring, so none of the offspring of a mother that carries the bacteria will become carriers of the dengue virus. Plus, if a male that carries the Wolbachia bacteria mates with a female that doesn’t carry the bacteria, all of her offspring will die. When the bacteria carrying mosquitoes were released in two towns in Australia, they quickly, in just a single release, replaced the wild population by 100% in one town and by 90% in the other. Papers are being written and research published. The next step is to introduce the bacteria modified mosquitoes into areas that are plagued with dengue fever outbreaks. The world is watching as we are on the brink of completely doing away with one of the most devastating diseases in history.
Drug War Rhetoric Season Begins
Is it that time of year again already? After the terrible incident in a Monterrey, N.L., casino this past week, the drug war rhetoric that now accompanies the annual return of the Snowbirds is heating up again. Thankfully, there are now a growing number of voices of reason in print and we want to thank them for their ability to bring a bit of sanity to a situation to which most of us have thrown up our hands and stopped even trying to explain. Today we saw an article in the Seattle Times, written by a travel editor that has traveled to Mexico and has planned her next trip to the Yucatan. She interviewed Gloria Guevara, Mexico’s Secretary of Tourism, and reports some interesting facts and statistics. Also, in a special article for the San Francisco Chronicle, Christine Delsol gives us a more realistic view of travel to and safety in Mexico. For example, did you know that Mexico City’s drug-related homicide rate per 100K population is one-tenth of Washington, D.C.’s overall homicide rate per 100K population? …and did you know that, of the 2,400 municipalities (counties) in Mexico, only 80 have any drug-related violence at all? We were particularly pleased to learn that new crime figures show that Yucatan has 0.1 of a murder for each 100K population and not even one U.S tourist destination comes close to that. We hope everyone reads Christine Delsol’s Mexico Safer Than Headlines Indicate and Carol Pucci’s How Safe Is Travel In Mexico? and do please pass the link on to friends and family.
Fundacion Expresa in Yucatan
Over thirty entertainers and athletes have come together to support an organization known as Fundacion Expresa. Their mission is to bring new and creative cultural and entertainment events to Mexican communities and residents who are disadvantaged physically, economically or socially. The foundation contributes to projects aimed at social development, focusing on culture, sports and health. This month, they have been in Yucatan, bringing a travel movie to outdoor settings throughout the rural areas of our state. Now, at the beginning of their last week in Yucatan, the announcement has been made that Fundacion Expresa will be supporting a breakfast program for the economically and physically disadvantaged in a number of our state’s outlying municipalities. The fee for breakfast will be two pesos, but mayors will have the option of allowing some children and elderly people to eat for free. If you would like to contribute to the wonderful work undertaken by Fundacion Expresa, complete instructions are on the Fundacion Empresa website.
The Fisherwomen of San Felipe
After Hurricane Isidore (2002) destroyed 90% of the plants along the coast near San Felipe and almost totally wrecked their environment, a local women’s fishing cooperative rose to meet the crisis by getting themselves trained in mangrove ecology. These ladies soon became politically active and organized their community to carry out everything from waste separation and management to environmental clean-up efforts. These are busy ladies who are already working out on their boats from 9:00 PM to 5:00 AM during crabbing season. They are the fisherwomen who catch the bait crabs used in pulpo fishing. Counted in their number is San Felipe Mayor Adlemi Marrufo, one of the founders of Mujeres Trabajadoras del Mar. Since 1999, these 13 ladies have faced a fragile environment and are making a difference, for themselves and for their community, without waiting for outside help that may or may not come. As long as we have lived in Yucatan, there never seems to be an end to Yucatecos who take the bull by the horns and manage to turn around situations that would spell disaster for other populations. These ladies are the latest in a long line of Yucateca heroes.
What If You Could Change the World?
Is anyone watching us as we go about our lives in Yucatan? Do our volunteer projects have any long-lasting effects? Maybe more than you think. This week, as we read the Cozumel 4 You Newsletter, we found a story that must be shared. Ten years ago, a young vet came to spend a little time working with the Cozumel Humane Society. It was the first time that Cathy King, DVM PhD, had an opportunity to see the situation in which dogs in other countries often find themselves. Now, Cathy King has sent Monica, of Cozumel Humane Society, an update on what she has been doing for the past ten years and Laura shares it with us in the Cozumel 4 You Newsletter. Cathy King writes: “I wanted you to know that my experience there inspired me to start an organization to provide veterinary services for animals in developing countries. In 2008 I sold my veterinary hospital to provide full time leadership for World Vets. We work in 34 countries on 6 continents, have over 3,200 veterinary volunteers and at any given time will have 2-3 teams abroad. We run numerous large scale spay/neuter campaigns (and) we are the veterinary NGO providing civilian veterinarians for US Navy humanitarian aid missions around the world. We have a huge veterinary student program in international veterinary medicine and recently opened a new facility in Nicaragua which provides surgical training for Latin American vets. We coordinate programs for livestock, working horses and other animals (and) donate more than $1 million (USD) per year in veterinary equipment and supplies to charities worldwide. Long story short, this was all inspired by the Cozumel Humane Society! Thanks for all of the great work you have been doing for all of these years in Cozumel!” …and our thanks to Laura, at Cozumel 4 You, to Monica Velasco at the Cozumel Humane Society, and to Cathy King, Founder of World Vets. Thanks, too, to all of the expats who volunteer their time and effort with any number of volunteer projects in Yucatan. Remember, you never know who is watching you or when what you do might, literally, change the world.
Wheel Chair Athletes and Olympic Sailing
Yucatan will be sending twelve athletes to compete in the National Chairs on Wheels Championship in San Luis Potosi from September 26 through 30. One will be Freddy Sandoval Chi, who is currently on the comeback trail. While this is not an event that will be used to qualify for Guadalajara 2011, it will go a long way toward helping build Yucatan’s Olympic team and keep the athletes active and engaged for the events that will lead to the Olympic Games. Of course, David Mier y Teran Cuevas will represent Yucatan and Mexico in the Pan American Games in Guadalajara and will also represent Mexico in London in 2012. He is already a bronze medal holder on the world sailing stage and is working hard to turn it to gold. As hard as he works, we think he has an excellent chance of making that dream a reality.
Cancun Gets New Urban Image
New laws, concerning billboards and other forms of public advertising, now carry fines of between $1,500 and $5,000 pesos if they are broken. This has resulted in the removal of approximately 3,500 billboards in the city. The object of the big fines is to make the cost of illegally replacing the billboards too high for business owners. We are of two minds on this topic. First, Mexico has some of the most colorful advertisements we have ever seen. Many are works of art in and of themselves. But second, we do agree that too much of a good thing can totally ruin the effect. If the people of Cancun felt their city needed a makeover, we wish them every success.
IRS: Do you have a Foreign Bank Account?
If you are living abroad and have a foreign bank account, the tax laws are changing and you need to be aware of that because the fines for not filing an FBAR with your regular tax forms are quite large. However, there is also forgiveness – all the way back to 2003 – for not having filed the extra FBAR form with your regular taxes – but only if you catch them up to date. The IRS has all of the information you need on their IRS FBAR Frequently Asked Questions Page. If this law pertains to you, please consult with your tax professional as all foreign banks will be required to report foreign assets and accounts to the IRS by 2014 and some are already doing so.
Note to Teachers North of the Border
We just thought that all of our teacher friends back home might like to know that they aren’t the only ones trapped in in-service purgatory. Last week, 23,000 teachers in Yucatan sat through their own in-service before beginning classes this week. We don’t know if it makes you feel better to know that you aren’t the only ones… but we hope so. All we can say, for all teachers everywhere, is “Bless your hearts” and “Have a Great Year!”