Oct 122015

A recent OOSKAnews report says that Mexico City’s water authority (Sacmex) is seeking to purchase 27,835 more water meters that it plans to install in coming months. Sacmex supplies water to around 2 million separate addresses, of which 1.4 million are already metered. The latest purchase is part of Sacmex’s plan to ensure that 100% of connections to the water system are metered. Sacmex’s current budget includes $3.5 million for an additional 40,000 meters.


At present, users without a meter pay a fixed bi-monthly tariff based on the building category, and intended type of water use (domestic/industrial/commercial).

Funding for the meters will be part of a $200 million World Bank-supported “Program to Improve the Efficiency of Operating Organizations” (PROME) which has already financed various projects across the country for urban areas with populations over 20,000. Projects already funded by the Progam include more efficient pumps, the updating of user databases with geo-referencing technology, and studies to gauge the robustness of indicators such as water pressure, water quality and leak detection.

Sacmex is also working on other distribution issues. Earlier this year – see Water in Mexico: a human right that is currently subsidized and wasted – Sacmex CEO Ramón Aguirre Diaz said that the agency required $430 million to combat leakages in the system (currently estimated at around 40% of supply), and claimed that a long-term program to fix the problem would be introduced next year.

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Oct 082015

Which are the most livable cities in Mexico? In an attempt to find out, each year the consultancy Gabinete de Comunicación Estratégica (GCE) publishes its National Quality of Life Index. For the 2015 version of this index, GCE polled more than 30,000 people in 55 cities about their housing, education, transport, cleanliness, recreational opportunities, security, natural beauty and local attractions.

Cities mentioned in this post

Cities mentioned in this post

Which city came top? The top-ranking city was Mérida, which scored 83.3 out of a possible 100 points, followed by Saltillo (79.6), and Aguascalientes and Mazatlán (tied at 78.8).

Which cities came bottom? The five cities rated least desirable were Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Ecatepec, Acapulco, Ciudad del Carmen and Chilpancingo.

Which cities rose most in the rankings? The cities which rose most in the rankings from last year were Saltillo, which rose five places; Tijuana, which jumped 21 places to #25, and Tlalnepantla, which improved 13 places to #36.

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Oct 052015

There are almost fifty places where people can legally cross the Mexico–United States border, but only one where the cities on either side of the border have the same name: Nogales.


The fascinating history of the two Nogales (Ambos Nogales), twin cities on either side of the border, is related in this detailed 2010 blog post by Robert Lucas: Ambos Nogales Face Across the Border.

The geographic curiosities of the border between Nogales (Sonora) and Nogales (Arizona) included, historically, a street that ran east-west along the border, with one half of the street in Mexico and the other half in the USA:

Postcard of Ambos Nogales, ca 1915

Postcard of Ambos Nogales, ca 1915

This postcard from about one hundred years ago shows International Avenue, Nogales. The boundary line on the postcard was added by the publisher to indicate that the border ran down the middle of the street. Even in the absence of any boundary fence, residents were apparently still required to cross at one of two entry points: either the Morley Avenue crossing (shown in the postcard) or the Grand Avenue crossing further to the west.

Prior to the building of the International Avenue, which created a clear separation between Mexico and the USA, there had been some interesting consequences of having a bi-national city straddling the international border. For example, after Arizona introduced prohibition, outlawing the production and sale of alcohol in that state, some publicans took advantage of the unusual geography of Nogales to build saloons that straddled the border. Patrons tired of sipping their tea who wanted to enjoy duty-free mescal could simply move to the south end of the bar…

In 1897, the U.S. Congress ordered that a 60-foot strip along the border in downtown Nogales be cleared of all structures as a measure to suppress customs fraud. Mexico soon followed suit, creating the International Avenue. The International Avenue did not look like the view in the postcard for for very long. By 1916, a temporary fence had been erected down the middle.

Two years later, on 27 August 1918, this area was the scene of the Battle of Ambos Nogales (La batalla del 27 de agosto), which led to a permanent fence being built, forever separating Ambos Nogales into two distinct cities.

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Oct 012015

Denomination of origin status (aka designation of origin, appellation of origin) has been awarded over the years to numerous Mexican products (see image). The status provides some legal protection to the use of the name and sets geographic limits on the areas where the items can be produced. The general declarations of denominations of origin are issued by the Mexican Institute of Industrial Property and published in the official federal broadsheet Diario Oficial de la Federación (DOF).


Three products are related to art and handicrafts:

  • Olinalá (laquer work from Olinalá in the state of Guerrero)
  • Talavera ceramics
  • Ambar from Chiapas

Most, however, are related to food and drink:

  • Tequila (Jalisco, Nayarit, Tamaulipas, Michoacán and Guanajuato);
  • Mezcal (Guerrero, Oaxaca, Durango, Zacatecas and San Luis Potosí);
  • Bacanora (Sonora);
  • Coffee from Veracruz (Veracruz);
  • Sotol (Chihuahua, Coahuila y Durango);
  • Coffee from Chiapas (Chiapas)
  • Charanda (Michoacán);
  • Mango Ataulfo from the Soconusco region (Chiapas);
  • Vanilla from Papantla (Veracruz)
  • Chile habanero (Yucatán Peninsula)
  • Rice from Morelos

Perhaps, therefore, it is not surprising that Mexican cuisine has been acclaimed as one of the most varied in the world. In 2010, the traditional Mexican cuisine of Michoacán was added to the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Mexican cuisine was up for more international awards this week when 10 of the country’s restaurants made the list of the top 50 in Latin America.

The World’s 50 Best organization named eight restaurants in Mexico City and one each from Nuevo León and the State of México among the 50 best in Latin America. Three of them — Quintonil which placed sixth, Pujol ninth and Biko 10thalso made the list of the world’s top 50 this year.

They were followed by the only restaurants outside the Federal District: Pangea in Monterrey, Nuevo León, which placed 13th, and Amaranta in Toluca which was 22nd.

The other winners were Sud 777 (27th), Máximo Bistrot (41), Rosetta (44), Nicos (47) and Dulce Patria (49).

– See more at: http://mexiconewsdaily.com/news/10-mx-restaurants-make-top-50-in-latam/?utm_source=Mexico+News+Daily&utm_campaign=e16d4a4877-September+26&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_f1536a3787-e16d4a4877-347991749#sthash.eIuO6Sm7.dpuf

Other aspects of Mexican life and culture on the UNESCO list include the Indigenous Festivity dedicated to the Dead (added in 2003); Places of memory and living traditions of the Otomí-Chichimecas people of Tolimán: the Peña de Bernal (2009); the Ritual ceremony of the Voladores in Veracruz (2009); Parachicos in the January fiesta in Chiapa de Corzo, Chiapas (2010) ; Pirekua, the traditional song of the Purépecha, Michoacán (2010); and mariachi music (2011).

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Sep 282015

The gradual devaluation of Mexico’s Magic Towns (Pueblos Mágicos) program, reported here in earlier posts, continues with the recent addition of 28 new Magic Towns to the list, bringing the total number to 111.

Magic Towns

At the Second Annual Fair of Magic Towns, held in Puebla recently, the Federal Tourism Secretary Enrique de la Madrid announced that 28 of the 180 applicant towns had been accepted into the promotional program. The designation is supposedly reserved for “cities, towns and villages with special symbolic features, legends and history, and opportunities in tourism”, but several existing Magic Towns have very little indeed to offer tourists, and little cultural or historical significance. The same can be said for several of the latest group of 28 Magic Towns.

Towns, by state (September 2015) [corrected]

Mexico’s Magic Towns, by state (September 2015) [corrected]

Towns in the program are eligible for federal grants towards maintenance, rebuilding historic centers, improving infrastructure, installing underground utilities, developing tourism products, training and other projects. According to Magic Town proponents, the program increases visitor numbers and income by between 20 and 30%, though it is very hard to see where such positive numbers come from.

The latest 28 additions to the Magic Towns program are:

  • San José de Casas (Aguascalientes)
  • Candela and Guerrero (Coahuila)
  • Palenque (Chiapas)
  • Aculco, Ixtapan de la Sal [incorrectly given as Ixtapa de la Sal in the press release], Teotihuacán, San Martín de las Pirámides and Villa de Carbón (State of Mexico – Estado de México)
  • Tecozahutla (Hidalgo)
  • Mascota and Talpa de Allende (Jalisco)
  • Sayulita, (Nayarit)
  • Linares (Nuevo León)
  • Huautla de Jiménez, Mazunte, San Pablo Villa Mitla and San Pedro y San Pablo (Oaxaca)
  • Atlixco and Huauchinango (Puebla)
  • Isla Mujeres and Tulum (Quintana Roo)
  • San Joaquín (Querétaro)
  • Mocorito (Sinaloa)
  • Tlaxco (Tlaxcala)
  • Coscomatepec, Orizaba and Zozocolco (Veracruz)

On a positive note, it means that my Western Mexico, A Traveler’s Treasury (2013) now has descriptions and details of no fewer than 18 Magic Towns, rather than the 15 previously included!

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Sep 232015

This Tourism index page lists the most relevant posts on Geo-Mexico related to tourism, including history of tourism in Mexico, types of tourism, major resorts, and current trends. It is updated periodically.

Importance of tourism:

History of tourism in Mexico, hotels, publicity campaigns:

Magic Towns:

Cancún and the Riviera Maya (Maya Riviera), Quintana Roo:

Huatulco and Oaxaca:


Geotourism and ecotourism in Mexico:

Cruise ships:

Lake Chapala, Ajijic, Chapala and the Lerma-Chapala basin:

Megaproject proposals and conflicts over tourism:

Specialized forms of tourism (tourism niche markets):

Other (miscellaneous):

Other Geo-Mexico index pages:

Sep 202015

Mexichem is a Mexican chemical and petrochemicals company (2014 total revenues: US$ 5.6 billion), with headquarters in Tlalnepantla, in Greater Mexico City. Mexichem is a world leader in making and marketing plastic pipes and other products required in the infrastructure, housing, telecommunications, drinking and potable water sectors.

It employs 19,200 workers and has 120 manufacturing operations in more than 30 countries, with a sales presence in 90 countries.

Mexichem operations, 2015

Mexichem operations, 2015 (Source: mexichem.com)

The company’s origins date back to 1953 when a group of Mexican and English investors founded Cables Mexicanos S.A. to make high carbon steel wire ropes. Several changes of name and owners later, it emerged in 2005 as Mexichem. Mexichem has grown rapidly since then, largely due to an aggressive series of acquisitions.

In 2006, Mexichem bought Bayshore Group (PVC compounding). In 2007, it bought Amanco (PVC pipe systems and fittings), Petroquímica Colombiana (maker of PVC resins) and DVG, Industria e Comércio de Plásticos (producer of rigid PVC water and sewage pipes).

In 2008 Mexichem acquired Fluorita de Río Verde (fluorspar production plants and two fluorite mining concessions), Quimir (sodium phosphates), Geotextiles del Perú (geotextiles), Fiberweb Bidim Industria e Comércio de Não-Tecidos (Brazilian geotextile producer) and Colpozos (Colombia’s leading supplier of irrigation and well drilling systems).

The list goes on in succeeding years, with a succession of acquisitions of companies making PVC pipes, connections, polymers, resins, and fluorochemical competitors to become a world leader in the fluorine chemical segment, particularly in the production of refrigerant and medical gases.


To consolidate its fluorite business, in 2012, Mexichem bought Fluorita de México, ensuring access to the highest pure fluorspar available worldwide.

Mexichem has four main business divisions:

  • Pipe systems, fittings, conduits and plastic accessories for the delivery of data, video, communications, electricity, water and gas. The pipe systems are made from polyethylene, PVC, polypropylene and specialty flame and smoke resistant compounds.
  • PVC resin and valuable industrial compounds based on chlorine and caustic soda. PVC has uses from pipes that carry drinking water, wastewater or water for irrigation to construction materials and products, as well as  auto parts, household appliances, clothing, footwear, packaging and medical devices. Caustic soda is used to make soap, shampoo, lotions and detergents and to treat water.
  • Fluorine-based products, technologies and services. Mexichem’s “Mine to Market” structure ensures a secure supply chain of flourine-based products for the steel, cement, aluminum, automotive, refrigeration and pharmaceutical sectors.
  • Energy. This division was created in 2014 in order to capitalize on opportunities arising from Mexico’s new energy policies.

A note on Mexico’s importance for fluorite

Exports of fluorite from Mexico were worth $180.7 million in 2014 (29% of the world total), making Mexico the world’s leading exporter of that mineral, ahead of China ($120.2 m). In 2014, Mexico mined 1.1 million metric tons of fluorite, and was the world’s second largest producer after China (4.4 million tons).

Mexichem sits on the world’s largest high-grade fluorite deposits, in its mine in San Luis Potosí. It produced 529,464 metric tons of fluorite from this mine in the first six months of 2015, 96% of the national total.

The world’s largest total reserves of fluorite are in South Africa (41 million tons), followed by Mexico (32 million), China (24 million) and Mongolia (22 million), according to U.S. government figures.

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Sep 172015

The worst earthquake disaster in modern Mexican history occurred thirty years ago this week. On Thursday 19 September 1985 a magnitude 8.1 earthquake struck at 7:19 a.m. and lasted a full two minutes. It was followed by a 7.5-magnitude earthquake 36 hours later.

Mexico's position in relation to tectonic plates

Mexico’s position in relation to tectonic plates.Map: Geo-Mexico.com; all rights reserved

These earthquakes resulted from the Cocos Plate (see map) pushing under the North American Plate. While the epicenters were 50 km off Mexico’s Pacific coast, near the Michoacán-Guerrero border, most of the damage occurred 350 km (215 mi) away in Mexico City because the city center’s subsoil, being former lakebed, is very unstable. The clay and silt beneath the city is up to 50 m thick in the area that received most damage. Geologists have likened the effects of the earthquake to the shaking of a bowl of jelly.

Further damage was caused by liquefaction, a process in which water is squeezed rapidly through the pore spaces in soil, dramatically reducing its cohesion. The sediments beneath Mexico City amplified the ground motions during the earthquakes and many buildings were stressed well beyond building code limits.

Damage from Mexico City's 1985 earthquake

Damage from Mexico City’s 1985 earthquake. Photo: Tony Burton; all rights reserved

Damage estimates range upward to 10,000 deaths, 50,000 injured and 100,000 homeless. More than 500 buildings collapsed, and a further 600 of the 3000 damaged structures were subsequently razed to the ground. The destruction was concentrated in a relatively small area near the city center and included many public buildings, such as government offices, as well as 11 hospitals and clinics, numerous multi-story apartment blocks, 11 hotels and 10 banks. More than 1600 school classrooms were damaged.

Buildings of between 6 and 15 stories were especially hard hit. The underbelly of the city was exposed; dozens of textile sweatshops were destroyed. The damages revealed many instances of poor construction standards and of poor enforcement of building codes. Well-built high rises such as the Latin American tower, designed to be earthquake-proof, were unscathed.

The total cost to the Mexican economy was estimated to exceed $5 billion, equivalent to 2% of the country’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product).

The disastrous 1985 earthquakes led to much tighter building codes, equal or superior to anywhere in the world, and to the formation of well-trained emergency search and rescue brigades. They also resulted in the establishment of a Seismic Alarm System which provides a 50-second warning for any earthquake measuring over 6.0 on the Richter scale occurring off the coast of Guerrero or Michoacán.

This is an excerpt from chapter 2 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico.  Many more details of Mexico’s geology and landforms are analyzed in other parts of the book; take a look using Amazon.com’s Look Inside feature before buying your copy today!

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Sep 142015

Happy birthday, Mexico! On 16 September 2015, Mexico celebrates the 205th anniversary of its independence from Spain.

Mexican flag

When was Mexico’s War of Independence?

The long struggle for independence began on 16 September 1810; independence was finally “granted” by Spain in 1821.

Want some map-related geographic trivia associated with the War of Independence?

Events in the War of Independence called for an accurate map of Lake Chapala, Mexico’s largest natural lake. The cartographer for this map was José María Narváez, whose major contributions to Mexican cartography in succeeding decades have largely been forgotten.

The first truly national map, compiled in 1857-1858 from a meticulous reconciling of the work of numerous local cartographers, was drawn by Antonio García Cubas. García Cubas did not graduate from university until a few years after completing this map!

Nationalism and the start of Mexico-USA migration, but not in the direction you might think…

Following independence, the rush was on to draw an accurate map of all of Mexico’s territory. Mexico’s boundaries following independence were very different to today. Flows of migrants linking the USA to Mexico at that time were from the USA to Mexico, the reverse of the direction of more recent flows, which have seen millions of Mexicans migrate north looking for work:

Some national symbols are not quite what you might think, either!

The story of the national emblem (used on coins, documents and the flag) of an eagle devouring a serpent, while perched on a prickly-pear cactus, is well known. Or is it?

Why is “El Grito” held on the night of 15 September each year?

In 1910, then president Porfirio Díaz decided that the centenary of Mexican independence should be celebrated in style. One of the reasons why the “traditional” Grito (“shout”) is made on 15 September each year, rather than on the morning of 16 September (when Father Miguel Hidalgo apparently gathered his parishioners in revolt) is because 15 September 1910 happened to be Díaz’s 80th birthday. Why not have one big bash and celebrate both president and country at the same time? Even though the Mexican Revolution broke out later that year (and Díaz was later exiled to Paris), Mexico continues to start its annual independence-day celebrations on the evening of 15 September.

Not to be confused with Cinco de Mayo (5 May)

Many people incorrectly assume that Cinco de Mayo (5 May) is Mexico’s independence day. The Cinco de Mayo has nothing to do with Independence, but everything to do with a famous victory over the French. It commemorates the Battle of Puebla, fought on May 5, 1862. The battle marks Mexico’s only major military success since independence:

Independent country, independent book:

Mexico has come a long way in 200 years, but amazingly, to the best of our knowledge, Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico, is the first-ever book in English focused exclusively on the nation’s varied and fascinating geography.

¡Viva Mexico!

Mexican flag

Sep 102015

We have seen numerous examples in previous posts of Mexico’s astonishingly diverse attractions for international tourism. Having succeeded in attracting mass tourism (e.g. Cancún, Ixtapa, Huatulco), Mexico has sought to diversify its tourism appeal by developing niche markets for visitors with special interests, such as cuisine, adventure tourism, historic sites and health-related holidays.

Mexico’s tourism development agency, FONATUR, recently announced it is seeking help from Spain’s leading cultural tourism firm, Paradores de Turismo, to establish a network of Paradores (luxury hotels in historic buildings) in Mexico. Frequent travelers to Spain will be more than familiar with the Paradores system there which offers visitors the chance to stay in some unique historical buildings without sacrificing too many creature comforts.

Route followed by Cortés, 1519-1521. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Route followed by Cortés, 1519-1521. Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Click to enlarge.

In Mexico, a “History Tourism Plan” is being developed by FONATUR and the Federación de Haciendas, Estancias y Hoteles Históricos de México. In the first stage, an inventory will be compiled of the best existing haciendas, monasteries and other historic buildings that already are, or could be converted to, hotels. At the same time, experts will be discussing which “routes” offer the best combinations and provide most interest to tourists. Routes will be developed to highlight specific themes.

The first route to be proposed is The Route of Cortés, linking properties in five states: Veracruz, Puebla, Tlaxcala, State of Mexico and the Federal District (see map). This is a timely idea given that the 500th Anniversary of the arrival of Cortés and his journey to central Mexico comes in 2019.

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