May 282015
 

Remittances sent home by Mexican migrants (almost all of them residing in the USA) rose to $2.26 billion in March 2015, 7.6% higher than the same month a year earlier. This was the highest monthly figure since May 2012, and the highest ever figure for March.

The average remittance sent to Mexico in March 2015 was $311.30, the highest figure since July 2012, and the number of transfers was 7.25 million.

The March figure brought the total remittances for the first quarter of this year to $5.7 billion, 4.9% higher than the same period in 2014.

Workers in California sent remittances worth $1.59 billion home during the first three months of this year, more than the workers in any other state. Texas came in second place with $763.9 million and Illinois placed third at $199.3 million.

The three main receiving states in Mexico were:

  • Michoacán – $603 million
  • Jalisco – $539 million
  • Guanajuato – $509 million

For an introduction to the topic of remittances, with links to some of the key posts on this blog, see

A comprehensive index page listing all the posts oon Geo-Mexico related to migration and remittances can be found at Migration and remittances: an index page.

May 252015
 

The Mexican government is funding a 100-million-dollar project to build Mexico’s first cruise ship home port at Puerto Peñasco (Rocky Point) in Sonora on the Sea of Cortés (Gulf of California). Construction began in 2013 and is scheduled to be completed by early in 2017.  Proponents hope that the port will help transform the existing town (population about 60,000) into a fully-fledged tourist resort, taking advantage of its proximity to Phoenix and Tucson in Arizona. The project includes a state-of-the-art terminal and convention center.

pinacate-map-google

The town already has a small international airport, inaugurated in 2008, which has a daily capacity of 2000 passengers and would need to be expanded if the port takes off.

Puerto Peñasco has an embryonic tourism industry at present, mainly attracting Arizonans (it is their nearest beach), fishing enthusiasts, and school and college students during spring-break (attracted, in part, by the legal drinking age being 18 in the town, compared to 21 in Arizona).

puerto-penasco

Puerto Peñasco also has research stations of the Universidad de Sonora: its Centro de Investigaciones Científicas y Tecnológicas (Scientific and Technological Research Center) and its Centro de Estudios del Desierto (Center for Desert Studies).

According to cruise line statistics, the number of Mexicans taking cruises in 2014 rose by 15%, but analysts argue that many Mexicans stay at home and are unable to take cruises at present because they lack a U.S. visa. Establishing a home port in Mexico, they argue, would therefore open up a significant new market. A cruise ship port at Puerto Peñasco would clearly have immense impacts on the town, boosting the local economy and generating up to 2,500 direct and 5,000 indirect jobs.

However, critics say this will come at a cost. They cite potential problems related to local residents, wildlife and biodiversity. They fear that development of the town will raise property prices beyond the level of affordability of local residents. A Tucson-based non-profit, The Intercultural Center for the Study of Deserts and Oceans is working with local fishermen and government agencies to “empower coastal communities in the Northern Gulf of California region with the knowledge and tools to create sustainable livelihoods that exist in concert with the surrounding natural and multicultural environment”. The research center believes the port development will lead to environmental changes adversely affecting important fishing grounds. The center has also expressed concern about the potential hazards to nesting sites used by sea turtles.

Related posts:

May 212015
 

According to the 2015 Direct Foreign Investment Confidence Index of consultancy A.T. Kearney, Mexico is currently the ninth most attractive country worldwide for FDI (Foreign Direct Investment). Mexico has risen 3 places in the rankings since the 2014 Index was released.

The report highlights the improving business climate in Mexico following the implementation of the government’s reform agenda, and says that “investors continue to be drawn to opportunities in many sectors, including manufacturing, energy, and telecoms”.

The top 10 countries in the overall FDI rankings (see graph) are U.S., China, U.K., Canada, Germany, Brazil, Japan, France, Mexico and Australia.

FDI-COnfidence-Index2015

The report says,

Mexico gains three spots to reach 9th, as President Enrique Peña Nieto’s reform agenda continues to improve Mexico’s business climate. Its 2013 FDI levels of $38 billion were an all-time high, with the majority of investment targeted at Mexico’s growing manufacturing sector, including high-value-added electronics. Mexico’s Economy Ministry has reported that flows fell to $22.6 billion in 2014, with inflows of $33.9 billion offset by $11.4 billion in outflows. Significant reforms in the energy sector will occur this year to allow foreign private investment.

As a result of the telecom reforms that targeted Carlos Slim’s América Móvil, which controls 70 percent of the market, customer prices fell nearly 17 percent between February 2013 and January 2015. In response to the policy changes, AT&T made a $5 billion divestment in América Móvil and subsequently acquired Grupo Iusacell SA, Mexico’s third-largest wireless operator, for $1.7 billion. Going forward, these reforms are expected to open up growth opportunities for smaller competitors.

In November 2014, the American chemicals maker PPG Industries acquired paints maker Consorcio Comex for $2.3 billion. This followed the rejection by the Mexican federal competition authority of the sale to Sherwin-Williams for a proposed $2.34 billion on the grounds that it would create unfair market conditions.

According to this recent press report, Mexico’s FDI during the first three months of 2015 totaled $7.573 billion, an all-time record for the first quarter. The figure comes from 1357 separate investments originating from the USA (59.4%), Spain (14.3%), Japan (8.2%), South Korea (4.8%), France (2.9%), and the Netherlands (2.3%), with the remaining 8.1% coming from 48 other nations.

 Posted by at 6:29 am  Tagged with:
May 182015
 

We have frequently commented on the importance of migration channels linking specific towns in Mexico to particular places in the USA.

quinonesIn his latest book, Dreamland: The True Tale of Americas Opiate Epidemic, journalist Sam Quinones, one of our favorite writers about Mexico, describes the fascinating details of how one particular migration channel – from the small, nondescript town of Xalisco in the western state of Nayarit, to the city of Denver – has fueled an innovative delivery network for black tar heroin, a network that now spreads its tentacles across much of the USA.

Quinones relates the work of narcotics officer Dennis Chavez, who joined the narcotics unit of the Denver Police Department, and was determined to understand the reasons behind the escalation of black tar heroin dealing. Chavez listened carefully to his informants and a key breakthrough came when one particular informant told Chavez that while “the dealers, the couriers with backpacks of heroin, the drivers with balloons of heroin”, all looked very random and scattered, they were not. They were all connected. “They’re all from a town called Xalisco.”

Indeed they were, and the system they had set up was enterprising, innovative, and designed to avoid undue attention.

Read an excerpt:

This excerpt from Dreamland: The True Tale of Americas Opiate Epidemic, published on Daily Beast, explains how “in the 1990s, innovative drug traffickers from Mexico figured out that white kids cared most about service and convenience.”

Sam Quinones’ latest book is a gripping account of many previously murky aspects of the U.S. drug scene. It should interest anyone who wants to understand the human stories behind drug trafficking, international migration and globalization. A must-read!

Related posts:

May 142015
 

Mexico has literally thousands of geotourism sites (locations where the primary recreational attraction is some phenomenon of geographic importance, such as a coral reef, mangrove swamp, volcano, mountain peak, cave or canyon. Many of Mexico’s geotourism sites are geomorphosites, where the primary attraction is one or more ”landforms that have acquired a scientific, cultural/historical, aesthetic and/or social/economic value due to human perception or exploitation.” (Panniza, 2001)

Here is a partial index (by state) to the geotourism sites described on Geo-mexico.com to date:

Baja California Sur

Chiapas

Chihuahua

Colima

Hidalgo

Jalisco

México (State of)

Michoacán

Morelos

Nayarit

Nuevo León

Oaxaca

Puebla

Querétaro

Quintana Roo

San Luis Potosí

Sonora

Tamaulipas

Veracruz

Reference:

  • Panizza M. (2001) Geomorphosites : concepts, methods and example of geomorphological survey. Chinese Science Bulletin, 46: 4-6
May 112015
 

The sinking of parts of Mexico City into the former lake bed on which much of it is built is well documented, but to what extent does subsidence also affect other Mexican cities?

Estell Chaussard and her co-authors considered this question in their article entitled “Magnitude and extent of land subsidence in central Mexico revealed by regional InSAR ALOS time-series survey.” Subsidence, often resulting from over-depletion of ground water, has a range of human impacts, including decreased supply of safe water, an increase in flood risk, and a greater hazard threat from building or street failure.

In their time-series analysis of more than 600 Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) images of central Mexico, the authors found evidence of significant subsidence in seventeen cities, including sixteen cities with a population of 100,000 inhabitants or more. The cities affected (with their population in parentheses) are listed here from east to west:

  • Puebla (2,500,000)
  • Mexico City (21,000,000)
  • Toluca (427,000)
  • Querétaro (825,000)
  • San Luis de la Paz (101,000)
  • Celaya (266,000)
  • San Luis Potosí (936,000)
  • Morelia (537,000)
  • Salamanca (144,000)
  • Irapuato (317,000)
  • Silao (147,000)
  • León (1,400,000)
  • Aguascalientes (735,000)
  • Zamora (186,000)
  • Guadalajara (3,800,000)
  • Ahuacatlán (6,500)
  • Tepic (261,000)

Their analysis suggested that the rates of subsidence over a two-year period were nearly constant at most locations, typically between 5 and 10 cm/yr. (In contrast, subsidence in Mexico City was around 30 cm/yr, in line with previous studies.)

ground-fissures

Ground failure by groundwater withdrawal subsidence. Credit: Natural Science, Vol. 6, No 3, 2014.

An earlier study – Subsidence risk due to groundwater extraction in urban areas using fractal analysis of satellite images – had found that the intense groundwater pumping regime in Irapuato for urban supply and agriculture (the area is one of Mexico’s main strawberry-growing centers) had resulted in 18 subsidence fault systems with a total length of 27 km, causing damages to more than 200 houses.

Meanwhile, previous work in nearby Celaya – Subsidence in Celaya, Guanajuato, Central Mexico: implications for groundwater extraction and the neotectonic regime – found that subsidence in that city was due to a complex combination of factors, and not entirely due to excessive groundwater extraction. Most earth fissures in the Celaya area were related to pre-existing structural features, and the authors suggested that thermal springs also appeared to play a role.

References:

Related posts:

May 072015
 

Mexico’s urban hierarchy is still very dominated by Mexico City, its primate capital city. Even though the Mexico City urban area (ZMCM) has grown relatively slowly during the past 30 years, by 2000 it had a population of 17.8 million, almost five times larger than Guadalajara, instead of twice as large as expected from the rank size rule.

The concept of urban hierarchy is more complicated than the rank-size rule, which is based solely on population size. Urban hierarchy is based more on the functions provided by urban centers and their relationships with their hinterlands. An urban hierarchy is conceptually similar to an organization chart or layered pyramid. At the top is the largest center, the dominant financial, economic, and often political center of the country. It has the widest range and most complex set of urban functions and services such as international banking, stock exchanges, trade organizations, and major media and communications centers. It is the center of power of the country: the place where the most important decisions are made.

Fig 21-2 of Geo-Mexico; all rights reserved

Fig 21-2 of Geo-Mexico; all rights reserved

At the second level are a few regional cities that are the centers of power in their region or hinterland. They provide high level services that are not available elsewhere in the region. Such services might include investment banking, an important international airport, as well as sophisticated business, legal and medical centers. At the third level are a larger number of subregional centers which are the focus of economic activity in their subregion. At each succeeding lower level, there are a greater number of centers serving as the economic foci of their smaller hinterlands.

Often a center’s population is a guide to its level in the hierarchy, but not always. Some centers may have a large population, but do not provide a wide range of key economic functions to surrounding areas. For example, Puebla is Mexico’s fourth largest urban area, but does not serve as a real center for a national region because it is so close to Mexico City. In other words, Mexico City is so economically dominant in central Mexico that Puebla has been unable to carve out a substantial hinterland of its own. The same can be said for Toluca, Mexico’s fifth largest urban area.

Tourist centers like Cancún and Acapulco are other examples of cities that have a reduced regional importance despite their relatively large populations. They provide vacation and recreation services for visitors from around the world. However, neither is a state capital, and they are not necessarily the key functional center in their respective regions.

Given their complexity, the specific delineation of urban hierarchies has often been as much art as science. So far, no uniformly accepted, easy to use criteria have been developed for this purpose. Efforts to delineate urban hierarchies have traditionally used information on the range of services provided; financial, communication and transportation flows; as well as a center’s location, its surrounding hinterland, and the distance to competing centers.

Mexico City is at the apex on the Mexican urban hierarchy; Guadalajara and Monterrey are key second level cities. Beyond these three centers, there is less agreement concerning the appropriate levels of other urban centers. Some think there are only two genuine level two cities, while others have argued that Toluca, Tijuana and Ciudad Juárez should also be considered level two cities. There is even less agreement when it comes to specifying cities in levels three and four. The exact delineation of the levels is less important than understanding the basic concepts of urban hierarchy and realizing that a city’s level is related to the range of functions it provides to its surrounding hinterland.

The suggested current urban hierarchy of Mexico (see map) is based on objective and subjective information on the urban center itself, as well as the population in its hinterland and its distance from a competing urban center. This hierarchy is only suggestive. Intermediate levels could be added indicating centers that could arguably be included in either the level above or level below.

The current hierarchy is not static and is very different from the urban system of the Colonial era, or even of the 19th century. The one constant is that Mexico City has always been at the apex of the hierarchy. The positions of  individual cities may change drastically with changing economic and political conditions. For example, Guanajuato was once an important level two city, but with the decline of its silver mines, it dropped below level five.

Related posts:

May 042015
 

The Haciendas of Mexico: An Artist’s Record, by Paul Alexander Bartlett, first published in 1990 and now available as a free Gutenburg pdf or Epub, is a great starting point for anyone interested in the history, economics, art and architecture of the hundreds of colonial haciendas which still grace Mexico’s rural areas. Bartlett made one of the earliest artistic records of more than 350 of these haciendas, dragging his family around the country for years as he obsessively explored lesser-known places. The photographs and pen and ink illustrations in his outstanding book were made on site from 1943 to 1985.

bartlett-hacienda-1

Pen-and-ink drawing of Hacienda de Teya, Yucatán, by Paul Bartlett.

Bartlett’s hacienda art work has been displayed at the Los Angeles County Museum, the New York City Public Library, the University of Virginia, the University of Texas, the Instituto Mexicano-Norteamericano in Mexico City, and at the Bancroft Library, among other places.

Paul Alexander Bartlett (1909-1990) attended Oberlin College and the University of Arizona, before studying art at the National University of Mexico (UNAM) and in Guadalajara. He was an instructor in creative writing at Georgia State College, Editor of Publications at the University of California Santa Barbara (1964-70) and wrote dozens of short stories and poems. His books include the short novel Adios, mi México (1983), and the novel When the Owl Cries (1960).

Writing must run in the family. Bartlett’s wife was the well-known poet and writer Elizabeth Bartlett (1911-1994). The couple met in Guadalajara in 1941 and married two years later in Sayula. Their son Steven James Bartlett is a widely published author in the fields of psychology and philosophy.

In the foreward to The Haciendas of Mexico: An Artist’s Record, novelist James Michener writes that:

I first became aware of the high artistic merit of Paul Bartlett’s work on the classic haciendas of Old Mexico when I came upon an exhibition in Texas in 1968. His drawings, sketches, and photographs evoked so effectively the historic buildings I had known when working in Mexico that I wrote to the architect-artist to inform him of my pleasure.”

Gisela von Wobeser observes, in her introduction, that,

When Bartlett began his hacienda visits in the 1940s, he found many of the hacienda buildings in ruins, exposed to the ravages of time and vandalism. Buildings had been converted into chicken coops, pigsties, public apartments, and machine shops. Others served as sources for construction materials, from which were scavenged rocks, bricks, beams, and tiles for the habitations of the local population. In some cases the destruction was total: All the hacienda’s structures were removed, and only the name of the place alluded to the fact that a hacienda had ever existed there.

At other haciendas, buildings were adapted to new uses. They were transformed into hotels, resorts, government buildings, barracks, hospitals, restaurants, and schools. The exterior of the buildings were generally left intact; interiors were completely changed.

The best—preserved hacienda buildings were those that continued to function as country properties or vacation homes. In these, Bartlett often found furnishings and utensils from the epoch of Don Porfirio, surrounded by the old traditions of Mexican country life.”

von Wobeser makes the useful distinction between three types of hacienda: those where grains were the main output, those specializing in cattle-rearing, and those for sugar-cane cultivation and processing.

The book describes haciendas in almost every state of the Republic. A handy map and list are provided of which haciendas are located in each state. There are more than 100 pen-and-ink illustrations and photographs in total in the book, which is arranged in seven chapters:

  1. The Hacienda System
  2. Through the Eyes of Hacienda Visitors
  3. Hacienda Life
  4. Fiestas
  5. Education
  6. The Revolution
  7. Mexico Since the Revolution

The accompanying text, written from a non-specialist perspective, is always lively, informative and interesting. The style of illustrations is varied, in keeping with the immense variety of haciendas that the author explored and sketched.

bartlett-hacienda-zapotitan

Pen-and-ink drawing by Paul Bartlett of Hacienda de Zapotitán, Jalisco

Coincidentally, the hacienda of Zapotitán in Jalisco (see illustration above), located close to Jocotepec and Lake Chapala, is the first hacienda to be featured in the on-going series of articles by modern-day hacienda explorer Jim Cook. Jim spends countless hours researching old haciendas, and regularly goes exploring with friends to see what is left on the ground today. His descriptions and photographs are easily the best contemporary accounts of the haciendas in western Mexico.

All in all, this is a really useful addition to the literature about Mexico’s haciendas, one guaranteed to answer many of the questions and doubts that visitors to Mexico often express about just how haciendas functioned and what working and living conditions were like, both for the owner’s family and the workers.

An archive of Bartlett’s original pen-and-ink illustrations and several hundred photographs is held in the Benson Latin American Collection of the University of Texas in Austin. A second collection of hacienda photographs and other materials is maintained by the Western History Research Center of the University of Wyoming in Laramie.

Want to visit some haciendas?

Chapter 9 of my Western Mexico, A Traveler’s Treasury (2013) focuses on the “Hacienda Route” to the south and west of Guadalajara, with an itinerary that includes visiting several haciendas within easy reach of the city.

Related posts:

Apr 302015
 

Like many geographers, I have long held a more than passing interest in botanical gardens. From a geographic standpoint, botanical gardens offer the chance to closely examine plants that can be very difficult, virtually impossible, to find in the wild. Many botanical gardens display the typical plant assemblages that are common in the local region, while also giving a plant-based snapshot of different environments elsewhere.

Mexico has an extraordinary variety of flowering plants, estimated (even twenty years ago) to include more than 20,000 different species.  Many garden plants commonly planted in Europe, the USA and elsewhere originated in Mexico.

Over the years I’ve looked at Mexican cacti and succulents in numerous botanical gardens around the world, but was pleasantly surprised when visiting Indonesia in 2013 to discover that the Purwodadi Botanic Garden in Pasuruan, East Java, actually has an entire section devoted to the Mexican flora characteristic of semi-arid conditions (see photos).

Entrance to the”Taman Mexico” (Mexico Park):

indonesia-0

The 85-hectare Botanic Garden was first established in 1941, and has plants collected from a wide range of areas in Indonesia, as well as smaller sections devoted to plants from elsewhere. I’m not sure how old the Mexican section is, but the plants are clearly thriving, despite showing some signs of neglect. This is mainly because the climate in the Botanic Garden (located at 8 degrees south of the equator and longitude 113 degrees east) is fairly similar to some parts of Mexico. The Garden has an elevation of 300 meters and an annual rainfall of 2366 mm.

indonesia-3

indonesia-4

indonesia-2

indonesia-5

indonesia-6

Assuming that the Mexican Embassy in Jakarta had some part in establishing this fine display of Mexican flora, perhaps it is time that embassy officials revisit their gift and see whether they can’t enhance the Mexican garden by sponsoring some information signs, so that visitors can truly appreciate these venerable plants, not only for their beauty, but also for their ecological and economic significance.

indonesia-1

There are lots of additional botanical goodies to be seen here in addition to the Mexican Park, including stately jacaranda trees and an amazing collection of banana plants. The Purwodadi Botanic Gardens are well worth a visit if you ever happen to be anywhere in the vicinity. They are located about 70 kilometers south of the city of Surabaya towards Malang. Allow at least 90 minutes for the drive.

Photos by Tony Burton; all rights reserved.

Details:

Purwodadi Botanic Garden, Jl. Surabaya-Malang Km.65 Purwodadi Pasuruan, Pasuruan, East Java 67163, Indonesia. Tel: +62341426046 www.krpurwodadi.lipi.go.id email: redaksiwebkrp@gmail.com

Embassy of Mexico in Jakarta: embmexic@rad.net.id / embmexico@gmail.com

 Posted by at 6:56 am  Tagged with:
Apr 272015
 

David Lida is a well-known and highly respected author who has lived in Mexico City (on and off) for over twenty years. His books include First Stop in the New World: Mexico City, Capital of the 21st Century and the short-story collection Travel Advisory: Stories of Mexico. He also blogs about Mexico City:

lida-bookHis article a few months back in the Guardian about life in Mexico City – An urbanist’s guide to Mexico City: ‘Transport is an adventure and often a nightmare” – is an informative account of his love-hate relationship with the city. The following short extracts from his article, relating to the geography of the city, should sharpen your appetite to read more:

“The greater metropolitan area of Mexico City is home to about 22 million people (known as chilangos) and is laid out over about 600 square miles…. The most recent study, from 2007, says that it takes chilangos an average of an hour and 17 minutes to get from one place to another.”

“Half of the working population toils in the informal economy – parking cars, cleaning houses, packing groceries, selling things on the street. The middle class is squeezed month by month rather than daily, while perhaps 10% has a jolly time with plenty of discretionary income. According to Forbes, Mexico’s elite upper class is made up of 1.7% of the population.”

“Although it is not comprehensive, and the stations are spaced further apart than they are in some other places, if your destination is on the route the metro is the fastest, cheapest and best way to get around Mexico City…. Taxis are abundant and cheap, and depending on your route, can also be quick. As in any big city, you want to avoid getting stuck in rush-hour traffic whenever possible.”

“Bicycling has definitely become more popular in the city, but because of the way people drive cars, I think it is a terrifying prospect.”

“What I believe we are seeing here is a worldwide phenomenon in which the well-to-do are getting sick and tired of long commutes from gated communities on the outskirts and want to move closer to the centre. Many of the poor will probably end up being shunted further and further away from where they have to work.”

“In greater Mexico City there are about 85,000 streets and 5,000 neighbourhoods. Of those streets, about 850 are called Juárez, 750 are named Hidalgo, and 700 are known as Morelos. Two hundred are called 16 de Septiembre, while 100 more are called 16 de Septiembre Avenue, Alley, Mews or Extension…. Like London’s A to Z or Michelin’s Paris Plan, there is a street map in book form here called the Guía Roji, which weighs in at over 150 two-sided pages of maps. If you only own one book while you live here, better make it the Guía Roji.”

Extracts come from David Lida’s – An urbanist’s guide to Mexico City: ‘Transport is an adventure and often a nightmare”. Enjoy!

Related posts: