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Jan 262015
 

A survey of more than 75,000 Condé Nast Traveler readers placed seven Mexican hotels in the world’s top 100.

Location of Mexico's Top Seven Hotels

Location of Mexico’s Top Seven Hotels

Mexico’s top hotel (#15 in the rankings) was the Viceroy Rivera Maya hotel, in Playa del Carmen (Quintana Roo). It was joined in the top 100 by Rancho La Puerta in Tecate (Baja California), St. Regis Punta Mita Resort (Nayarit), Las Alcobas hotel (Mexico City), Hotel Matilda in San Miguel de Allende (Guanajuato), Hotel Esperanza in Cabo San Lucas (Baja California Sur) and the Excellence Playa Mujeres (Quintana Roo).

In related news, Grupo Posadas is investing one billion dollars over the next three years to open 49 new hotels, many of them in the firm’s Fiesta Americana chain. Meanwhile, at the opposite end of the hotel spectrum, Motel 6, the “McDonald’s of the hotel industry”, which has 1,200 locations in the USA and Canada, is opening 30 hotels in Mexico within the next three years.

The operator of the Motel 6 chain, G6 Hospitality, will introduce both its brands: Motel 6 and Estudio 6 (designed for extended stays) during its first foray into Latin America. The first of the new hotels will open in Salamanca (Guanajuato) in late-2015, with additional locations to follow, including Mexico City, Monterrey and several resort destinations.

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Jan 252015
 

According to its website, “The QMI Agency is French and English Canada’s leading news reference for daily, intermittent and event-driven needs. Its offering most notably includes texts, images, videos and other interactive content.”

QMI’s Facebook page promotes its graphics department which “creates infographics for use throughout our chain” and boasts that “QMI Agency provides reliable, complete and up-to-the-minute news coverage over a full range of platforms.” And, indeed, many of the infographics shown on its Facebook page are very well designed, interesting, colorful and informative.

QMI-Christmas

Infographic from Niagara Advance newspaper for 25 December 2014

However, this infographic attributed to the QMI Agency, published in the Niagara Advance newspaper for 25 December 2014 (which Geo-Mexico happened to see while admiring Niagara Falls) was far less convincing. Entitled “Christmas around the world”, this particular infographic  took a “look at various traditions and customs”, and opened with a description intended to summarize Christmas in Mexico:

Mexico: Christmas dinner consists of oxtail soup with beans and hot chili, as well as roasted turkey and vegetables. Instead of receiving their gifts on Christmas Day, they get presents on Jan. 5, the eve of Twelfth Night.”

Hmm… really? As we have noted many times on Geo-Mexico, Mexican cuisine varies regionally. Even so, if any reader knows where “oxtail soup with beans and hot chili, as well as roasted turkey and vegetables” is the typical menu for Christmas, please let us know, to add to our list of regional delights.

As for presents being received on “Jan. 5, the eve of Twelfth Night”, err… no. The Mexican tradition of gifts on Three Kings Day involves Mexican children stuffing shoes (or a  box) with straw, and leaving them outside their bedroom door on the night of 5 January, in anticipation of finding gifts (new toys) the following morning, the morning of 6 January, Three Kings Day.

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Jan 212015
 

The table shows the number of tourists (national and international) visiting Cancún, Quintana Roo, Mexico, 2000-2013.

Cancún by Arthur Gonoretzky (Flickr)

Cancún by Arthur Gonoretzky (Flickr)

From 2000 until 2011, tourist numbers fluctuated between 2.8 and 3.3 million. Since 2011, tourist numbers have risen sharply, to 3.6 million in 2012, 4.1 million in 2013 and a preliminary estimate of 4.3 million for 2014.

YearNumber of touristsYearNumber of tourists
20003 043 00020083 265 591
20012 986 00020092 878 811
20022 826 00020103 015 690
2003n/a20113 115 177
2004n/a20123 642 449
20053 072 00020134 093 942
2006n/a20144 300 000 (estimate)
20073 004 8022015?

Cancún currently has more than 3000 condominium units and more than 35,000 hotel rooms. According to the first draft of the Programa de Desarrollo Urbano del Centro de Población Cancún 2014-2030, the city could have as many as 46,000 hotel rooms by 2030.

This projection is well below the earlier estimate, made in 2013, of 64,000 rooms by 2030, but the new figure is claimed to be more in line with planned improvements to local water supply. The development of Cancún has often been criticized for paying insufficient attention to considerations of urban density, water supply and environmental impacts.

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Jan 192015
 

The Codex Mendoza, which we have referred to in several previous posts, can now be viewed via an amazing online interactive resource organized by INAH, Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History, in association with Oxford’s Bodleian Library and King’s College, London.

Compiled in 1542, and richly illustrated, the Codex Mendoza is one of the key primary sources from Aztec times. It was completed at the instigation of Spanish viceroy Antonio de Mendoza and provides exquisite details about Aztec history, the expansion of their “empire” and the territorial tributes that they received from every quarter of their dominions. The Codex also chronicles daily life and social dynamics.

Tribute page from the Codex Mendoza

Tribute page from the Codex Mendoza

The interactive online version has images of the entire document and allows viewers to mouse-over the original text for translations into English or modern Spanish. Clicking on individual images offers more detailed explanations and information.

The digital codex can be viewed online, or downloaded through Apple’s App Store as a 1.02-gigabyte app.

The original Codex Mendoza resides in the library of Oxford University.  (The ship carrying it from New Spain (Mexico) back to Spain in colonial times was attacked by French buccaneers. The booty was subsequently divided up, with the Codex eventually reaching the university library.)

The online Codex Mendoza is  a truly amazing resource. Hopefully, some of the other Mexican codices that currently reside in Europe, too also be “virtually repatriated” in the near future, making it much easier for Mexican scholars to consult them.

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Jan 132015
 

At this time of year, Mexico attracts millions of visitors seeking to escape the cold weather further north. The vast majority of visitors will never experience any problem during their travels in Mexico, but both the US State Department and Canadian government continue to issue regular warnings to those considering travel in Mexico. Some of these warnings are specific to certain stretches of highway; others are broader and focus on cities or regions. Click below for the current US travel warnings related to Mexico.

The states left white on the map below all have advisories in effect (as of mid-January 2015) for most or all of the state in question. For the states shaded light green, only small parts of the state have advisories in place, while no advisories are currently in place for those states shaded dark green.

US Travel Advisory Areas, December 2014

US Travel Advisory Areas, December 2014: All states, other than those colored dark green, have travel advisories in place for at least part of the state

The Canadian government offers its own travel warnings for Mexico:

The Canadian advisories apply to all those states left white on the map below. States shaded dark green have no travel advisory in effect so far as the Canadian government is concerned.

Canadian Travel Advisory, November 2014. No advisory in effect for states colored dark green.

Canadian Travel Advisory, November 2014. No advisory in effect for states colored dark green.

The most obvious difference between the maps is that the US State Department is relatively unconcerned about the states of Jalisco and Nayarit, while the Canadian authorities have included them in a regional advisory.

States shaded dark green on both maps are areas where the US State Department and the Canadian government have no serious concerns about travel safety. These states, where travel is considered safe, include Guanajuato (including the cities of Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende), Querétaro (including Querétaro City), Hidalgo, Puebla (including Puebla City), Oaxaca (Oaxaca City, Puerto Escondido and Huatulco), Chiapas (Tuxtla Gutiérrez and San Cristóbal de las Casas), Tabasco, Campeche, Yucatán (Mérida) and Quintana Roo (Cancún, Riviera Maya).

As always, tourists visiting Mexico and traveling within Mexico are advised to be cautious about visiting rural areas (especially in states where travel warnings are in place), to check local sources such as web forums for updates on the latest conditions, and to avoid driving at night.

Safe travels! Enjoy your trip!

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Jan 062015
 

Unlike the USA and Canada, where gifts are usually exchanged on Christmas Day (25 December), the original tradition in Mexico over the Christmas season was to exchange presents on Three Kings Day (Día de los Reyes, 6 January). In the Christian calendar, 6 January marks the Feast of the Epiphany, the day when the magi arrived in Bethlehem with their gifts for the infant Jesus. In homage to this occasion, Mexican children would dutifully stuff the largest shoes (or box) they could find with straw, and leave them outside their bedroom door on the night of 5 January, in anticipation of finding new toys the following morning.

Rosca de Reyes

A typical family-sized Rosca de Reyes

Three Kings Day is still very much a family day throughout Mexico. In the late afternoon or early evening, it is traditional for the whole family to share a rosca. Roscas are ring-shaped loaves of sweet bread, sold to be eaten on special occasions. The roscas for Three Kings Day each contain a small muñeco (doll). These muñecos were originally ceramic, but are now more usually plastic. The recipient of the piece of rosca containing the muñeco has to throw a party on 2 February (Candlemas day, Día de la Candelaria) for all those present at the sharing of the rosca. It is customary to provide tamales to feed everyone gathering on Candlemas day.

Cristina Potters’ outstanding blog Mexico Cooks! includes a comprehensive account of the significance of the cuisine associated with Three Kings Day and Candlemas Day,

In the 20th century the Three Kings Day tradition in some regions of Mexico broke down in the face of the enormous consumer-oriented publicity from north of the border, which stressed Christmas (rather than Epiphany) gifts. Some especially greedy Mexican middle- and upper-class children claim that their parents and grandparents should not only preserve the old customs but also embrace the new version, and therefore hope to receive gifts on both days!

Jan 032015
 

The northern state of Nuevo León is an industrial powerhouse, centered on Monterrey, Mexico’s third-largest city. The state’s shape on a map is unusual in more ways than one. The state has a long north-south axis and is very narrow from west to east. The strange indentation south of Monterrey is largely determined by relief. The peaks of the mountains on the Nuevo León side of that state boundary comprise a National Park, the Parque Nacional Cumbres de Monterrey.

Source: Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León (UANL)

Source: Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León (UANL)

Perhaps the strangest aspect of the shape of Nuevo León is the peculiar extension that forms the state’s north-eastern extremity (see map above). This small section of the state, about 15 km across, is sandwiched between the states of Coahuila and Tamaulipas, and extends to the Río Bravo and the U.S. border. The reason for this particular extension must date back a long time since it is clearly shown on this 1824 map of Mexico.

(Note that the shape of the neighboring state of Tamaulipas, with its lengthy extension north-west paralleling the US border, made much more sense in the early nineteenth century before the current international boundary was established).

While we’re not sure of the precise timing or reasons for the “neck” of land that gave Nuevo León access to the Río Bravo even before the current international boundary was fixed, it has certainly brought the state some benefit in recent decades in terms of economics and trade. Nuevo León is the smallest of the combined ten “border states” in the USA and Mexico.

A closer look at the Google Map image (above) of this area shows the border crossing of Laredo-Colombia across the Solidarity International bridge. Colombia is the name of the small grid-pattern town on the Mexican side, just west of the crossing.

Zooming in on the area of the crossing reveals the distinctive street pattern of a major border crossing, with extensive parking and loading areas.

The 371-meter-long (1216 ft) bridge has eight lanes for traffic and two walkways for pedestrians. It is one of four vehicular international bridges close to the city of Laredo, Texas. The community of Colombia and the international bridge were built to give Nuevo León its only international “port” for direct trade to and from the USA.

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Jan 012015
 

We had no idea when we first published Geo-Mexico, the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico, and started this associated blog, how many readers we would reach.

Geo-Mexico-ThumbnailOn the one hand, very few U.S. or Canadian universities have courses devoted specifically to Mexico. There are quite a number of geography courses with titles such as “The Geography of Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America”, or “The Geography of Latin America”, but very few that focus mainly or solely on Mexico. This is unfortunate and means that most geography students graduating from USA universities will have only a partial knowledge, at best, of their southern neighbor. It also means that Geo-Mexico was not adopted by as many university courses as we might have hoped.

On the other hand, the book has been used in several courses that were not part of its target market, including courses in “The Politics of Mexico” and at least one International Affairs program. Equally, it has exceeded our expectations in providing a basic guide for non-specialists interested in getting a better knowledge of Mexico; the frequent feedback from readers has been overwhelmingly positive and gratifying. (Please keep it coming!)

The blog has proved to be very popular, and its audience continues to grow ~ don’t forget to recommend it to friends and colleagues. We welcome all comments and suggestions for future posts. We also welcome 400-800 word submissions (which will be published with your byline), but please contact us first.

Maps from Geo-Mexico have been included in many academic publications and a number of graduate theses. Publications that referred to the book, and/or blog, cover an amazing range of topics. A random sampling includes:

  • “Environmental risk, resilience and migration: implications for natural resource management and agriculture” in Environmental Research Letters  (2012)
  • “Texas and Mexico: Sharing a Legacy of Poverty and Neglected Tropical Diseases” in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases (2012)
  • “Zapatista Autonomy in Cartel Mexico: Preserving Smallholder Viability”, in Culture, Agriculture, Food and Environment (2011)
  • “NAFTA: The Mexican Economy, and Undocumented Migration” a research paper of Naval War College Newport, RI, Joint Military Operations Dept. (2011)
  • The Future of Entrepreneurship in Latin America (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012)
  • “Climate Change, Migration and Security, Best Practice Policy and Operational Options for Mexico”, an Interim Report from the Royal United Services Institute, Whitehall, London (2012)
  • “Vulnerability and Surviving Pattern of Elderly Migrants in Urban Mexico”, in Journal of Sociological Research (2012)
  • OECD Reviews of Risk Management Policies: Mexico 2013 Review of the Mexican National Civil Protection System (OECD 2013)

To all our readers, thanks for your support, and we wish you all a

Happy New Year! ¡Feliz año nuevo!

 Posted by at 12:21 am
Dec 292014
 

Geologists have discovered that some strange things are happening off the southern coast of the Baja California Peninsula.

In essence, while most of Mexico rests on the North American plate, the Baja California Peninsula is on the gigantic Pacific plate. The Pacific plate is moving slowly northwest and the pressures in the zone where these two plates intersect, under the Sea of Cortés (Gulf of California), has caused a complex series of parallel faults which (further north) link to the California’s San Andreas Fault system. Thus, the Sea of Cortés is an area of heavy seismic activity.

The Alarcón Rise is a 31-mile-long (50 kilometer) spreading center at the mouth of the Gulf of California. Along ocean spreading ridges like the Alarcón Rise, the seafloor is splitting apart as lava wells up from underneath. Credit: (c) 2012 MBARI

Location of the Alarcón Rise. Credit: (c) 2012 MBARI

The Alarcón Rise (see map) is a 50km (30 mi) long “bump” under the Sea of Cortés. New seafloor is being continuously created along the Alarcón Rise as undersea magma rises to the surface and cools to become lava. As the plates continue to move, this lave is then carried away to either side of the Alarcón Rise, allowing fresh lava to take its place, and so on. The rate of sea-floor spreading here is a relatively slow 5 cm (2 in) a year.

The Alarcón Rise has been studied in considerable detail by geologists attached to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) in California. Using a sonar-mapping robot, they discovered new deep-sea hydrothermal vents.

But their most surprising find was a “Weird Underwater Volcano.

In most zones of sea-floor spreading, the lavas are relatively low in silica and therefore free-flowing. Such lavas are known, on account of their chemistry, as “basic” lavas. (Lavas higher in silica, known collectively as acid lavas, tend to be more viscous and flow less easily. Acid lava volcanoes tend to erupt far more explosively than basic lava volcanoes.)

The curiosity of the Alarcón Rise is that while the vast majority of lava flows along the ridge are basic (basalt) lavas, those associated with at least one volcano are clearly acidic, not basic.

Researchers used a remote-control vehicle to collect samples and explore the volcano, which is 2375 m (7800 ft) below the surface. Samples of the lava show that it is primarily rhyolite with some dacite, with a silica content of up to 77%, the highest of any rock ever found along a mid-ocean ridge, according to Brian Dreyer, a geochemist at the University of California, Santa Cruz. The volcano with acid lava forms a small dome, about 50 meters (165 ft) in height and covers an area of about 1200 meters by 500 meters (4000 feet by 1640 feet). The dome is probably several thousand years old.

The lavas solidified quickly to form angular chunky blocks, some of which then rolled down the sides of the rise to form talus (scree). The individual blocks can be as large as cars or small houses.

The findings suggest that this particular volcano could give rise to hazardous eruptions. It is only 100 km (60 mi) from land and very close to the major tourist areas fringing the coast of Baja California Sur. Any major explosive eruption from this volcano could also cause a tsunami with the potential to devastate settlements on both coasts of the Sea of Cortés (Gulf of California).

Geologists are still working on trying to fully explain this apparent anomaly in lava composition. They have already discarded several ideas, and their current hypothesis is that the magma source was at some point contaminated by seawater, resulting in an unusually high concentration of volatiles such as water, sulfur and chlorine.

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Dec 272014
 

Mexico is one of the world’s “Top Ten” countries for vehicle production and for vehicle exports. In 2014, it has overtaken Brazil to become the world’s 7th largest vehicle producer and fourth largest exporter. 80% of Mexico’s production of around 3.3 million vehicles in 2014 were made for export. The trade surplus generated by the automotive sector exceeded 47 billion dollars in 2014.

auto-exports-forbes

Mexico’s vehicle exports in 2014

The industry attracts large amounts of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Vehicle assembly plants provide around 65,000 jobs, with a further 85,000 employed in distributorships nationwide and a whopping 450,000 employed in the autoparts sector.

The autoparts sector along produces items worth $80 billion/year, but Mexico also has to import components made elsewhere worth a further $35 billion. Clearly, this offers some opportunities for additional investment aimed at import substitution. Most of the opportunities are likely to be for Tier 2 companies. It is customary to divide the autoparts sector into three distinct parts: OEM, Tier 1 and Tier 2. OEM (Original equipment manufacturer) refers to companies that make a final product for the consumer marketplace (eg Volkswagen). Tier 1 companies are direct suppliers of components to OEMs, and Tier 2 companies are the key suppliers of parts or raw materials to Tier 1 suppliers.

Total production in 2014 topped the 3 million barrier, and the Mexican Automotive Industry Association (AMIA) believes production could reach 4 million units by 2015 and 5 million by 2020.According to  AMIA, the best selling models on the domestic market are the Aveo (GM), Jetta (VW), Versa and Tsuru (both Nissan).

There are about 30 vehicle assembly plants in Mexico, manufacturing many brands of cars and trucks (see map). In addition, there are 1200 firms specializing in making parts for vehicles.

Vehicle manufacturing firms that have announced or confirmed major new investments during 2014 include:

  • Chrysler – 1.25 billion dollars to expand its assembly plant in Saltillo and manufacture a new line of Tigershark engines.
  • Nissan – to open its second plant in Aguascalientes.
  • Mazda – an additional 120 million dollars for its plant in Salamanca (Guanajuato), where it will manufacture several Mazda models as well as one Toyota model.
  • GM – investments worth 690 million dollars, divided  between its plants in Silao (Guanajuato), San Luis Potosí and Toluca (State of México).
  • Audi – about to open a 1.3-billion-dollar plant in San Jose Chiapa, near Puebla.
  • VW – 700 million dollars investment to adapt production lines in Puebla to produce its redesigned Golf hatchback.
  • Kia – plans to build a $1 billion vehicle assembly plant at Pesquería in the state of Nuevo Leon (scheduled to open in 2016) to produce up to 300,000 vehicles a year. The new plant is expected to generate a further 1.5 billion dollars in investment from firms seeking to join Kia’s supply chain.

This map is an updated version of the map we included in Where are Mexico’s vehicle assembly plants located? (2011).

Vehicle assembly plants in Mexico, 2014

Vehicle assembly plants in Mexico, 2014. Credit: Tony Burton/Geo-Mexico; all rights reserved.

As the map shows, certain areas of Mexico have attracted more investment in vehicle assembly plants than other areas. The two largest existing concentrations are focused on Toluca in the State of México, and on Saltillo-Ramos Arizpe in northern Mexico. However, the fastest growing cluster is in the central state of Guanajuato.

Virtual visit to the Chrysler plant in Saltillo (video, no commentary):

For a series of discussion questions related to this map and the vehicle assembly industry, see our earlier post – Where are Mexico’s vehicle assembly plants located?

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