News starting June 15, 2009
Yucatan Kids Win Ecology Contest in Sweden
Volvo, along with the U.N. Environment Program, held a worldwide ecological project event. In other words, this was one huge, worldwide ecology science project competition between 379 projects from 56 nations. The name of the contest was Volvo Adventure. This year, 5 Yucatecos represented Mexico. Their group is called Hunab-B and their slogan is Project of Life. Their project was based on methods that can be used to rescue species that are in danger of extinction and means of contributing to the preservation of the invironment. Our congratulations to the students and to their teachers, parents, and sponsors.What a thrill to see our Yucatan kids, dressed in traditional costumes, up on the stage accepting a $10,000 USD award in Sweden!! You can read more about it at the Volvo Adventure website. Well done, Yucatan!
We honestly just cannot say enough about the new U.S. Cultural Envoy to Mexico, Carla Dirlikov. This past week, she has found the time to not only sing in the countryside, but to hold workshops with over 350 children in Izamal, Motul, Timucuy and Alborada, as well as in Colonia San Jose Tecoh in Merida. All of these children are participants in the State System of Juvenile Orchestras, under the masterful direction of one of Yucatan’s own international stars, Jose Luis Chan Sabido. Can you imagine the excitement of the children when this lovely, talented young lady arrives and pays so much attention to them? There is little wonder that the State of Yucatan ultimately produces such masters in all of the artistic disciplines. We are very proud of Carla Dirlikov as the new U.S. Cultural Envoy to Mexico and so glad she has come to visit us in Yucatan!
A Word About Human Trafficking, Prostitution, and Orphans in Yucatan
Much has been made, over the last week, of two Costa Rican prostitutes who were duped into coming to Yucatan on the pretext of having a better life, then forced into a life of prostitution here as well. Once discovered and liberated, it should be noted that they are receiving excellent care and, when they arrive at home, both they and their families will receive psychological support to address the trauma associated with this event. It has also been claimed, by at least one group, that they are rescuing orphans from the streets of Merida, where the children are (they say) eating out of garbage cans and being forced into prostitution and pornography. It is appropriate here to inform our readers that the State of Yucatan and the Catholic Church have a number of excellent orphanages and feeding programs throughout the city and state to ensure that no one goes hungry in Yucatan. Even the expats contribute their part in helping to feed the poor and educate both orphans and the children of poor families. Since anyone who snatches a child from the streets of Merida, and transports them to another city, without permission from the courts and the DIF would be in serious legal trouble, we suspect these claims may be a ploy to get donations from unsuspecting folks outside of the country. If you are asked to donate to any charity, please investigate that charity first. They will not be rated if they are "religious" or if they take in less than $500,000 per year. If that is the case, please do not donate to them unless you can get on-the-scene, independent information about the individuals and their activities.
Glorious Izamal Getaway
Last weekend, the Working Gringos decided to drop their mouses, turn off their monitors and spend an evening gazing at the moon in the lovely town of Izamal. We were invited to stay at Hotel Macanche, with a number of other locals, in the first (but hopefully not last) Full Moon Party there. Dinner was provided by Alfred and Emily, the owners of Macanche who moved here from Seattle many moons ago. It’s hard to remember, but we’re pretty sure Alfred prepared sixteen courses of delicious food, including some vegetarian dishes… ending with moon cakes that looked like captured moons, brought down from the heavens and sprinkled with sesame seeds. The infamous Yucatones provided entertainment into the early morning hours and a good time was had by all.
Now we hear that Macanche is offering Bed and Breakfast Spa Weekends… a perfect getaway for locals who want to get out of the city but don’t want to brave the madding crowds at the beach. The weekend at Macanche features a pedicure, a massage and a yoga class, as well as a delicious breakfast. Put together the many offerings of the city of Izamal with the special weekend at Macanche, and you’ve got a muy bueno expat mini-vacation.
Join A New Bike Club
Yucatan by Bicycle is a group looking to start a few bike clubs. They will begin riding 5 miles a day on June 25, between 4:00 PM and 7:00 PM. There is an invitation to join HERE along with a marvelous contraption that is labeled "a photo of my bike." We all know that is a joke. This man and his wife are biking experts! They are right, though… Get up and ride! Reg McGhee who wrote our recent Biking in Merida article also reports that he is interested in taking people biking.
New York Times Discovers Merida… Again
A few months ago, we got a call from a writer at the New York Times, asking us about haciendas in the Yucatan where you could stay for less. We suggested Yaxcopoil and Hacienda Santa Cruz, two of our favorites that are both under $200 a night… in the case of Yaxcopoil, a LOT under. The writer went to both of them, and wrote about them too! A mention like this in a major newspaper is good for business, so congratulations to the two haciendas!
Water Water Everywhere!
Its almost vacation time, can you tell? By the time July rolls around, the streets of the beach towns will have what is better known as a "spit polish shine" on them! Even Chelem and Chuburna are getting spiffy this year, including the cleaning out of the water lines so that there will be no shortage of water during June and July. And the municipal water department was already getting two new water pumps when the one at San Ignacio burned out. It was replaced with a used one, then a new one was ordered. Plans are being finalized for cases of emergency, such as hurricanes, so that everyone will have water as quickly as possible, and they are even catching up on old past-due water bills by letting people pay them in installments. For those who are new at the beach, you have no clue how lucky you are not to remember "the good old days." But that’s ok, if you are here for the summer for the first time, wait til you get a look at the July and August crowds! Then you will understand why water pipes, pumps and payments are such a hot topic along the beach.
Fire in Chicxulub
Late Wednesday afternoon, two restaurants burned in Chicxulub Puerto. One, Pepe’s Beach, is where the fire began. At this point, it is a suspected case of arson because the restaurant has been closed for 6 months and because the fire started in its palapa. Unfortunately, it took Los Tiburones with it when it went – and to the tune of $500,000 pesos! While we are sorry for the owners of these restaurants, especially since vacation time is just around the corner and they will lose the majority of their income for the year… but we are glad to know what happens when there is a fire in one of the outlying beach towns. Within 10 minutes of the first report of the fire, 50 fire trucks were on hand to fight it. It took two hours to put it out because (a) palapas burn fast and (b) the wind from the Gulf was fanning the flames. However, they did put it out and no one was hurt.
It was a sad day in Sonora when the tragic daycare center fire claimed the lives of 44 children, with more than 30 remaining injured in the hospital. Although the daycare center had plenty of exits, all but one were locked from the inside. The center burned as a result of a fire next door.
Mexico’s reaction to this fire is exactly the same as its reaction to the H1N1 scare. By the end of the day of the fire, almost every daycare center in the entire country had called their local fire departments and asked to be inspected for safety. By the time the Mexican government asked for such inspections to be done (in less than 24 hours), many had already been completed.
This was no small feat, since there are 8,296 private daycare centers in the country. The same thing happened during the H1N1 scare, when the entire nation shut down and washed Mexico down with bleach. But that isn’t all. They’ve done that twice so far, and will do so again before vacations begin in July.
These are the types of situations that generate tabloid headlines. "Entire nation shuts down"-type headlines. But that is the way Mexico is. The Mexican people handle these kinds of fixable problems immediately and as an entire nation. Why sit on your hands and wait for the same tragedy to happen somewhere else, when it can be avoided across the entire nation in what amounts to little more than a matter of hours?
Yes, Sonora is a long way from Yucatan, but Yucatan’s daycare centers called and got themselves inspected before the day of the fire in Sonora was over – and all passed with flying colors. Now – just one more wipe-down with cloro (bleach) and there won’t be a risk of danger at a daycare center or a single speck of H1N1 left in all of Mexico.
WHO Raises H1N1 Threat to Level 6
The Director of WHO, Dr. Margaret Chan, has announced that Mexico will face a second wave of H1N1 and that the worldwide threat level on this flu virus has now been raised to 6. The problem with that is that nobody is listening. When we got to the WHO International blog site, there was only one comment to her announcement.
In the past "pandemic," there would have been thousands. Even we had a hard time reading the article from beginning to end. The urge to discount it and move on was almost irresistable. That is what happens when agencies, such as WHO and the CDC, over-hype illnesses they know are, for the most part, not killers.
We know the precautions Mexico has taken, including education programs for the people and this seemingly endless cleaning of every inch of the country. Is WHO aware of this? Their implication is that Mexico is doing nothing to avoid or avert another wave of H1N1. Is what we are doing enough? Is it the right thing? What else could we be doing? These are things we need answered by WHO and the CDC – not their obscure dire warnings.
They were wrong before – and they knew it. Is this an attempt to save face after that fiasco or is it a real threat to the health of Mexico? No one who loves Mexico, vacations in Mexico, or lives in Mexico is about to let these agencies make an all-out attack on the economy of this nation again. Yet, there is that nagging feeling… are they right? Is another wave of H1N1 coming? We cannot get the CDC telephone media conference out of our heads. When asked what they thought about the fact that H1N1 was not turning out to be a killer, the CDC spokesperson shrugged and said "We needed to practice our pandemic response anyway."
For this, they needlessly destroyed the economy of an entire nation, knew they were doing it, didn’t care, and now want us to listen to their next set of warnings. It is also not helpful that, when other nations, such as Indonesia, call H1N1 "Mexico flu," neither the CDC nor WHO makes any effort at all to stop them or to educate them about this disease.
This is another of those situations where we will have to wait to find out the end of the story. In the meantime, clean your house, yard, and vehicles. Eat well, sleep well, and get plenty of exercise. Beyond that, try to avoid large, closed in crowds and wash your hands often. These are all the habits of healthy people anyway.
PEMEX to Double Offshort Production by Next Year
It has been announced that PEMEX will be able to bring its production from the Ixtal oil field up to 180,000 barrels a day by 2010. This news comes at the same time that it is announced that the Ku Maloob Zaap field, also offshore from Veracruz, will be able to maintain peak output of 830,000 barrels per day for the next 7 years. After winning international and United Nations awards for Social Responsibility and getting all of the much-needed financial backing they need from the Mexican Government, PEMEX is riding high these days.
Our Little Huts in Yucatan: Stone and Mayan Art
Yes Yes – We know. The prevailing attitude in much of the world is that we probably all live in "huts" in the "dark and mysterious jungles of Yucatan." Well – Maybe not. Everybody’s got a blog these days, and Raul Yvan Perez Herrera is no exception. One of our most popular columns ever was one we wrote on the Stones of Dzitya. But take a look at what Stone and Mayan Art is up to these days! We guess this means that the folks back home have probably figured out that we don’t really live in huts. What constantly amazes us is that most of these wonderful creations are well within the construction budgets of most expats. Our lifestyle is greatly enhanced by the work of the stonecutters of Dzitya.
Feria de Emprendedores 2009 (Entrepreneur Fair)
This fair has been organized by the Instituto Tecnologico Superior Progreso. Participating will be 20 companies, all formed by students from the school. They will present their invention, which will actually be on sale to the general public. These students have worked hard to learn every step of business planning, financial statements, market studies, strategies of sales, publicity and marketing research, in addition to inventing the products themselves. They have already been through judging and have already made improvements to both their companies and to their products. This fair is to demonstrate their professionalism to the public, as well as their mission, their goals, and the vision they have for their companies. We hope that everyone will turn out to support these young inventors and their first attempts at developing their own businesses. Who knows? You might just find something you have always wished someone would invent and that you can’t live without!
Date: Saturday, June 13
Location: Parque Morelos, Progreso
Time: 6:30 PM
Coca-Cola Zero Banned in Venezuela
The Minister of Health in Venezuela has announced that Coca-Cola Zero has a component that is detrimental to human health. He did not say what that component is, but he has ordered that Coca-Cola Femsa, of Mexico, take all Coca-Cola Zero in Venezuela off the shelves and not bring any more into the country. Coca-Cola is stunned by this move, since the product is sold around the world with no problems at all. Coca-Cola Femsa employs about 8,000 people in Venezuela and pays about $140 million USD in taxes there. It will be interesting to see how this topic develops.