Today, 23 July, is Día del Geógrafo de México or Mexican Geographers’ Day. See this earlier post for a brief history of why 23 July came to be chosen.
The community of geographers in Mexico has always been strong, and geographers are held in higher esteem in Mexico than in most countries. Online, for those speaking Spanish, the Facebook page of 23 de Julio: día del Geógrafo de México regularly has interesting links to publications, cartoons, photos and other resources.
One of my recent favorites is this great scenic landscape image from the Facebook page of Los Gastronautas:
Los Gastronautas: Landscape of ham and parsley
Geography is everywhere! A Happy Mexican Geographers’ Day to all geographers, whether in Mexico or elsewhere.
Geo-Mexico has dozens of posts about specific indigenous groups in Mexico. The tag system and the site search engine will locate short articles related to the Huichol, Tarahumara, Aztecs, Maya and several other groups.
The Montebello Lakes National Park (Parque Nacional Lagunas de Montebello) in Chiapas is a 6040-hectare expanse of rainforest, at elevations ranging from 1500 to 1800 metres (5000-6000 ft) above sea level, near the border with Guatemala. The park has 59 small and mid-sized lakes of varying colors. The variations in color include several tones of blue and green, due to differences in mineral content. About a quarter of the lakes are readily accessible by vehicle or on foot, and they are spectacular on a sunny day.
The park, which is an international RAMSAR wetland site, was the earliest national park to be established in Chiapas, and dates back to 1959. It was formally designated a UNESCO biosphere reserve in 2009.
This short (2 min, 20 sec) postandfly video gives a great overview of the park’s beauty:
Several of the lakes are used for swimming, canoeing, and kayaking. The largest is Lake Tziscao.
Additional attractions within the park include sinkholes (cenotes), caves (Grutas San Rafael del Arco) and two Maya ruins, the most important of which is Chinkultic, whose ruins date back to the third century. That site’s main pyramid, the Acropolis, affords an excellent view over the region.
The nearest city to the Montebello park is Comitán, an hour’s drive to the west. The picturesque city of San Cristóbal de las Casas, a very popular tourist city, is about three hour’s drive from the park in the same direction.
The protection of the lakes does face some issues. They are so close to the Guatemalan border that the area has been a regular staging post for central Americans entering Mexico illegally, hoping to eventually reach the USA.
In recent years, scientists have expressed concern that the lakes are losing their colors and becoming muddy and lifeless. They attribute this to untreated wastewater and agricultural runoff entering the lakes (via the Grande River which flows directly into the lakes) and deforestation of parts of the lake basins.
The Chiapas state Congress called for action in 2015, and has renewed its efforts this year. Proponents of action want a special commission to be set up to coordinate protection and recuperation efforts. Among those working to preserve this amazing treasure in southern Mexico are researchers from several major Mexican universities, including the National University (UNAM) and the Autonomous University of Chiapas.
Mexico’s Business Coordination Council (Consejo Coordinador Empresarial, CCE) has launched a publicity drive to counter the disinformation and anti-Mexican rhetoric emerging in U.S. political campaigns. The details of the publicity drive remain unclear.
Juan Pablo Castañón, CCE’s president, says the aim is to emphasize the true strength and importance of good Mexico-U.S. relations. In particular, the NAFTA trade zone accounts for 15% of global trade, 28% of global GDP and 14% of FDI flows. Trade between the three partners has quadrupled since 1993 and exceeded a trillion dollars in 2015, half of which is attributable to U.S.-Mexico trade.
Mexico is the second most important destination for U.S. exports and the main market for exports from California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Goods worth 500 million dollars cross the border daily.
According to Castañón, if U.S. politics puts a brake on this trade, more than six million U.S. workers could lose their jobs. Proposed tariffs on imports of flat screens and vehicles would raise prices significantly in the USA. In addition, 80% of avocados and 50% of tomatoes sold in the USA come from Mexico.
One year on from when we last reported on the desperate plight of Mexico’s “little sea cow”, the endangered vaquita marina, where are we now?
According to the World Wildlife Fund, “The vaquita is at the edge of extinction”. The latest population estimate suggests that the number of vaquita in the wild has fallen from about 100 in 2014 to just 60 today, despite a much-publicized ban on fishing in the main area where the little sea cows are found.
As we reported in Mexico’s “little sea cow” on the verge of extinction two years ago, the sea cow’s fate is inextricably tied to fishing for the (also endangered) totoaba, a fish in demand in China for its swim bladder, which is believed to have medicinal properties. Fishermen in Mexico’s Gulf of California (Sea of Cortés) are reported to have been offered more than $4,000 for a single totoaba bladder, which weighs only 500 grams. The price in China is reported to be between $10,000 and $20,000 each.
Map of sightings and acoustic detection spots. Adapted from North American Conservation Action Plan for the vaquita
In April 2015, federal authorities imposed a two-year ban on gillnets and expanded the vaquita protection area to cover 13,000 square kilometers (5,000 square miles) of the upper Gulf of California . Some 600 gill nets (each of which can be up to # meters long) were seized by the Mexican Navy in 2015 (and 77 individuals detained), and navy personnel claim they are still confiscating nets every day.
The International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita (CIRVA) is trying to make a difference. Among the options being considered by Mexico’s Environment Secretariat (Semarnat) is assisted breeding, though a vaquita expert, Barbara Taylor of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is quoted in The Guardian as claiming that “We have no idea whether it is feasible to find, capture and maintain vaquitas in captivity much less whether they will reproduce. The uncertainties are large.” The World Wildlife Fund Mexico is currently opposed to such a strategy, given the very low number remaining.
Mexico has had conservation successes in the past, allowing the populations of other marine animals, including the Guadalupe fur seal and the northern elephant seal, to recover.
Acapulco international airport (ACA), in Guerrero state, currently handles about 800,000 passenger movements each year. The airport is operated by Grupo Aeroportuario del Centro-Norte (GACN), which also manages airports in another 12 cities. With suitable fanfare in 2014, GACN announced plans to replace the terminal building.
Acapulco, Mexico’s first major resort. Photograph by Tony Burton. All rights reserved.
Last month, GACN reiterated it is investing $30.5 million to build a new terminal building for Acapulco capable of handling 1.3 million passengers a year. The group claims that the new terminal, which will be more than 18,000 square meters in area, will have a state-of-the-art design that will reduce the risks associated with natural hazards and provide much greater space for passengers, airlines and all other supporting services. In addition, it will adopt a range of electricity-saving measures, lowering the airport’s regular operating costs.
Now scheduled to be completed by mid-2018, the Acapulco terminal is the most significant single investment that GACN plans to make in the next five years, and comes at a time when city authorities are busy revitalizing the famous resort. An improved public transit system known as Acabús was officially inaugurated in the city in June 2016.
The new terminal will, however, no longer be ready in time for 2017, when Acapulco will once again host Mexico’s massive annual tourism trade fair, the Tianguis Turístico.
A recent Bloomberg analysis highlights Mexico’s “Clean Energy Revolution”. The analysis of Mexico’s electricity sector finds that total energy demand will rise 72% over the next 25 years, from 305,000 GWh in 2015 to 512,000 GWh in 2040, while installed capacity will triple, to around 247 GW.
Fossil fuels are currently the source of 78% of the electricity generated in Mexico, but renewable energy (including hydro-power) will account for 69% by 2040.
According to Bloomberg, the costs of producing wind and solar energy will become fully competitive with electricity from natural gas power stations by 2025.
The report concludes that the renewable energy sector in Mexico represents an enormous investment opportunity, worth up to $186 billion between now and 2040.
The federal government is increasing its investments in research and development of renewable energy sources each year, up to $310 million in 2020, to build more “energy innovation centers” (Cemies). The five existing Cemies focus on geothermal, solar, wind, bioenergy and ocean energy respectively. Two new Cemies will investigate the use of intelligent networks and carbon capture alternatives.
Pemex has concluded a round of upgrades to its refineries which means that all fuels made in Mexico are now “clean” (ultra-low-sulfur). Pemex refineries produce 420,000 barrels of vehicle fuels a day, but national demand is for 800,000 barrels a day.
Imported fuels, which come mainly from refineries in Texas, already meet ultra-low-sulfur standards. The state oil giant has invested 1.7 billion dollars in modifying its six refineries to produce only ultra-low-sulfur fuels.
Despite some recent setbacks to hotel projects planned for the Caribbean side of Mexico, hotel building continues to gather pace elsewhere in the country, seemingly regardless of the long-term advantages and ecological value of retaining an undisturbed, or minimally-disturbed, coastline
In April, at Mexico’s major tourism trade fair, the Tianguis Turistico, in Guadalajara, authorities announced the go-ahead for Costa Canuva, a $1.8 billion tourism project in the state of Nayarit. The project is a joint venture between the federal tourism development agency, Fonatur, and Portuguese construction firm Mota Engil.
Costa Canuva is in the municipality of Compostela, and is situated about 65 km (40 mi) north of Puerto Vallarta international airport and will be under three hours driving time from Guadalajara once the new Guadalajara-Puerto Vallarta road is completed.
The 255 hectares (630 acres) of beach, estuary and mountains involved in Costa Canuva has 7 kilometers (4.3 mi) of beachfront, and was designated by Fonatur several years ago as the site for a purpose-built resort. The original version of the project, which never got off the ground, was known as Costa Capomo.
The revamped project, Costa Canuva, will add five hotels and more than 2,500 homes to this stretch of coast known as Riviera Nayarit. The first phase, expected to take three years and create more than 2,000 direct jobs, includes a luxury Fairmont Hotel, residential areas, and a golf course designed jointly by golf supertars Greg Norman and Lorena Ochoa.
The master plan for the project includes a beachfront village with 2,500 residential units, more than 20 kilometers of cycling tracks designed by the International Mountain Bicycling Association and an adventure park featuring canopy rides and ziplines.
The centerpiece Fairmont hotel will have 250 guestrooms and suites, more than 22,000 square feet of meeting and event space, six restaurants and bars, an expansive outdoor swimming pool and a massive spa, as well as a center for children and young adults.
At the Mexico-China Forum for Cooperation in Mexico City in May 2016, authorities from China’s Guangdong Province met with Mexican officials and discussed plans to invest in Mexico’s recently-established Special Economic Zones.
These zones offer tax benefits and support services to investors in order to generate new sources of employment in southern Mexico (Guerrero, Oaxaca, Chiapas, Michoacán, Veracruz and Tabasco).
Trade between Guangdong Province and Mexico was worth $10.4 billion last year, 25% of the two countries’ total trade. Chinese firms are considering projects related to aerospace, vehicles, electronics and energy, which could add $480 million in foreign direct investment. In support of closer ties between Mexico and China, China Southern Airlines plans direct flights between Guangdong and Mexico starting next year, which would serve business travelers and also boost tourism.