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Dec 182014
 

According to consumer surveys, only one out of every five Mexican households decorates a natural Christmas tree during the holiday season; the other 80% of households decorate artificial trees. About 75% of natural trees are bought from traditional retailers, with the remaining 25% purchased from informal street vendors. Almost all purchases of natural Christmas trees are made between 10 December and 25 December.

As of mid-December 2014, sales of trees are reported to be down on previous years. Retailers claim that the prices for imported trees (ranging from 330 pesos (about 25 dollars) for a 1-meter-high tree to 1,500 pesos (110 dollars) for a large tree) have led to greatly diminished demand. Prices for domestically grown trees range from about 100 to 1,000 pesos.

The total annual demand for natural Christmas trees is about 1.8 million. Mexico currently imports about 1 million trees a year, almost all from the USA and Canada. Annual imports are worth about $12 million. Imports are governed by strict standards, last revised in 2010, to ensure that no unwanted pests or diseases are brought into the country.

As of mid-December, at least 5500 trees had failed the health inspection at the border and had been returned to the USA. Officials from Mexico’s Federal Environmental Protection Agency (Procuraduría Federal de Protección al Ambiente, Profepa) identified several problems in shipments of Douglas Fir and Noble Fir trees. At Tijuana, one shipment of Douglas Fir was found to be infected a resin moth (Synanthedon sp.), and one with flatheaded fir borer (Buprestidae). In Mexicali, a shipment of Douglas Fir was infested with the Douglas-fir Twig Weevil (Cylindrocopturus furnissi), while in Nogales, imported trees were found to be accompanied by unwanted European Paper Wasps (Polistes dominula). None of these pests are normally found in Mexico.

Mexicali is the busiest border crossing in terms of Christmas tree imports, accounting for 35% of the total, followed by Tijuana (25%), Nogales (16%), Colombia (15%), Nuevo Laredo (4%), San Luis Río Colorado (3%), Reynosa (1%) and Puente Zaragoza-Isleta (in Chihuahua) (0.4%).

In the 1970s and 1980s, most natural Christmas trees sold in Mexico came from Mexico’s natural forests. Beginning in the 1990s, specialist Christmas tree nurseries and plantations were started.

Pruning young Christmas trees in Mexico

Pruning young Christmas trees in Mexico to ensure they keep a good shape. Credit: CONAFOR.

According to the National Forestry Commission (CONAFOR), Mexico has almost 17,000 hectares of land planted in Christmas trees. The area of Christmas trees has increased very rapidly in recent years. This year, CONAFOR has provided some degree of financial assistance to farmers with 4,551 hectares of tree plantations in 18 states.

The main areas of Christmas tree plantations are in the interior highlands in the states of Mexico, Veracruz, Nuevo León, Mexico D.F., Puebla, Michoacán, Durango, Coahuila and Guanajuato. These states share temperate climate conditions and are close to the main markets in major cities.

The most common species grown in Mexico are Mexican White Pine (Spanish: Pino ayacahuite), Douglas Fir (Abeto douglas), Mexican Pinyon (Pino piñonero), Sacred Fir (Oyamel) and Aleppo Pine (Pino alepo).

Trees are harvested at between five and ten years of age. Mature plantations of Christmas trees can generate revenue of between 300,000 pesos and 500,000 pesos ($23,000-$38,000) for each hectare. This means that Christmas tree farming has become a profitable form of sustainable development in some rural communities, offering greater profit potential than using the same land to grow traditional rain-fed crops.

The planting of Christmas trees is supported by CONAFOR’s ProArbol program, which offers landowners incentives to conserve, restore, and sustainably exploit forest resources. CONAFOR claims this helps to limit urban sprawl, and counteract forest clearance for arable land, as well as to increase the capture and storage of carbon, thereby mitigating climate change. In addition, conifer plantations generate rural employment, reducing the effects of one of the key “push” factors behind rural-urban migration.

Note: This is an updated version of a post that was first published in 2012.

Main source:

USDA Foreign Agricultural Service GAIN report: Mexico: Christmas Trees, by Dulce Flores, Vanessa Salcido, and Adam Branson. 12 May 2011.

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Dec 152014
 

A week ago, we highlighted the first of a series of four articles in the LA Times about the living and working conditions faced by migrant farmworkers in Mexico as they harvest crops that end up on dinner tables not only in Mexico, but also in the USA. The other three articles in the series are just as disturbing, but make for compelling reading.

la-mexico-farm-labor-map-alejandrina-2014-1212

The pilgrimage of 12-year-old Alejandrina Castillo during a single year as she accompanies her migrant farmworker parents. Credit: LA Times

The journalist and photographer responsible for this series of articles deserve high praise for their persistence and determination in exposing some of the “dirty little secrets” of Mexico’s agribusiness sector.

Links to the full series on the LA Times website:

Part 1: Hardship on Mexico’s farms, a bounty for U.S. tables – Farm exports to the U.S. from Mexico have tripled to $7.6 billion in the last decade, enriching agribusinesses, distributors and retailers. But for thousands of farm laborers south of the border, the boom is a story of exploitation and extreme hardship.

Part 2: Desperate workers on a Mexican mega-farm: ‘They treated us like slaves’ – A raid exposes brutal conditions at Bioparques, one of Mexico’s biggest tomato exporters, which was a Wal-Mart supplier. But the effort to hold the grower accountable is looking more like a tale of impunity.

Part 3: Company stores trap Mexican farmworkers in a cycle of debt – The company store is supposed to be a lifeline for migrant farm laborers. But inflated prices drive people deep into debt. Many go home penniless, obliged to work off their debts at the next harvest.

Part 4: Children harvest crops and sacrifice dreams in Mexico’s fields- About 100,000 children under 14 pick crops for pay at small- and mid-size farms across Mexico, where child labor is illegal. Some of the produce they harvest reaches American consumers, helping to power an export boom.

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Dec 132014
 

Earlier this year, David Korenfeld, the director of Mexico’s National Water Commission (Conagua), was chosen to head the inter-governmental council that oversees UNESCO’s International Hydrological Program (IHP). The IHP is the only inter-governmental program of the U.N. system devoted to water research, water-resources management, and education and capacity building.

In his acceptance speech, Korenfeld called for “greater synergy between decision makers and specialists to combine theory and practice” and stated that “significant challenges remain [in the water sector], including integral basin management, application of the human right to water and water security and sustainability in the context of climate change.

Recent events demonstrate that Mexican courts are happy to uphold the view that water is a basic human right. The 5 Dec 2014 issue of the OOSKAnews, a newsletter dedicated to water industry professionals, included the following short piece about a landmark recent decision by Mexico’s Supreme Court that represents the first ever Supreme Court decision in Mexico upholding the nation’s stance that “water is a basic human right.”

The Supreme Court has for the first time awarded an “amparo” (similar to an injunction, a remedy for the protection of constitutional rights), based on the human right to water.

In this case, members of the court unanimously sided with Lidia Velázquez Reynoso, a resident of the Ampliación Tres de Mayo area in the municipality of Xochitepec, in the state of Morelos.

In their ruling, the court said authorities must meet their obligation to provide Velázquez’s residence with “access, availability, and sanitation of water for personal and domestic consumption in a sufficient, safe, acceptable, and affordable form.” A lower court had already ruled in favor of Velázquez, but the case was appealed.

The Supreme Court said responsible authorities had failed to guaranteed regular delivery of water, since merely connecting Velázquez’s residence to the water system was not good enough. Water quality and volume must also be taken into account. The court said that the water must meet World Health Organization standards, and the volume provided must be at least 50 to 100 liters per person per day.

The court ordered authorities to not only deliver the water to Velázquez, but also to remit records showing that the water meets national and international standards.

(OOSKAnews, 5 December 2014)

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Dec 112014
 

Preventing, diagnosing and treating dengue fever is a major public health issue in many parts of the world, including central America and Mexico. The disease is transmitted by mosquitoes. Infected patients develop a sudden high fever, usually accompanied by generalized body pain and a skin rash. The pain can be very severe, hence the disease’s common name of breakbone fever.

Several species of mosquito can transmit dengue, but female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are the main transmitter of dengue in Mexico. These mosquitoes bite during the day, mostly in the period two hours either side of dawn and dusk. The mosquito bites an infected person and ingests blood with the dengue virus, which incubates in the mosquito for a period of 8 to 12 days, after which the mosquito begins to transmit the virus biting others. From 5-7 days, later the newly infected person may have symptoms.

The graph below shows the monthly number of dengue cases in Mexico from 2000 to 2006. It is clear that most cases are reported between July and November, with very few cases occurring between December and May. This can be explained by Mexico’s climate. Almost of all of Mexico receives most of its rainfall between June and October. The mosquitoes that spread dengue need stagnant water to breed. There are far more small pools of water available for mosquito breeding in and immediately after the annual rainy season. Eliminating potential locations where water can collect and stagnate is an important element of dengue prevention programs.

Monthly incidence of dengue cases in Mexico, 2000-2006

Monthly incidence of dengue cases in Mexico, 2000-2006. Source: San Martín, Brathwaite et al (2014).

The graph also shows that the number of cases of dengue was increasing rapidly between 2000 and 2006. Indeed, numbers continued to rise until 2013 when more than 50,000 cases were reported for the year (an average of more than 4000/month). At first sight, this suggests that dengue prevention programs have not been very successful, but in fact the rise echoes what was happening worldwide. One possible, at least partial, explanation may be that changes in climate have allowed dengue mosquitoes to thrive in environments where they were previously scarce. People in such areas are unprepared for dengue; they may not have instituted prevention programs, and may have been slow to receive correct diagnosis. The migration of people affected by dengue from one region to another may also have helped the disease spread, provided there were host mosquitoes in the destination region.

The good news is that the number of dengue cases in Mexico in 2014 has fallen from its 2013 level by about 50%, so the dengue epidemic may finally be on the wane. As of 24 November 2014, 28,109 cases had been reported for the year, an average nationwide rate of 23.47 cases/100,000 people. Dengue is fatal in a relatively small number of cases, with 33 deaths reported in Mexico so far this year..

The total number of cases may finally be on the decline, but the figures for 2014, when looked at state by state, suggest that the spatial pattern of dengue cases in Mexico is changing. The two maps below compare the rate of cases per 100,000 people on a state-by-state basis for 2007 and 2014. (The color-coded key is identical for both maps).

Rates of dengue by state, 2007 and 2014

Rates of dengue by state, 2007 and 2014. Rates are cases / 100,000 population

In 2007, the highest rates of dengue were found in the states of Veracruz and Quintana Roo, with Oaxaca, Guerrero and Colima comprising the next category. (Those five states are the ones colored red on the 2007 map). At the other extreme, no cases were recorded in 2007 in the state of Baja California, or in several tiny states including Aguascalientes.

The pattern shown on the 2014 map is quite different. In general, rates of dengue at the state level have not increased in Mexico, but decreased. However, there is a clear shift in emphasis towards the north-west, where several states had much higher rates in 2014 than in 2007. The extreme example is Baja California Sur, where the rate for 2014 (up to 24 November) was a whopping 549.9 cases / 100,000 people, more than five times the rate registered in any other state. Equally apparent is the belt of low-rate states (from Chihuahua to the State of México) down the center of the country from the U.S. border to Mexico City. These states are at relatively high elevation where fewer mosquitoes are found.

The states of Baja California Sur, Veracruz, Sinaloa, Sonora and Guerrero account for 55% of the 28,109 confirmed cases of dengue fever reported in Mexico as of 24 November 2014.

Mexico’s Health Secretariat publishes maps of each state showing which municipalities have reported cases of dengue. These maps are updated weekly. The link is to a pdf document with maps for 2014 up to 24 November.

There is some good news. In 2015, Mexico will be the first nation in the world to get a new dengue vaccine, developed by French company Sanofi Pasteur. The company hopes to have manufactured more than 40 million doses by the first half of 2015, and has decided to introduce it first in Mexico, with the first vaccinations likely to be offered to the public late next year or early in 2016. In trials, the vaccine proved 60.8% efficient in preventing the disease.

Reference for graph:

José Luis San Martín, J.L., Brathwaite, O., Zambrano B, et al (2014): “The Epidemiology of Dengue in the Americas Over the Last Three Decades: A Worrisome Reality”; Am. J. Trop. Med. Hyg., 82(1), 2010, pp. 128–135

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Dec 082014
 

Every so often, a news article comes along which rattles our perceptions, causes us to think, and begs us to discuss big issues. This is one of those times.

Los Angeles Times reporter Richard Marosi and photojournalist Don Bartletti traveled across nine Mexican states, observing conditions and interviewing workers at some of the mega-farms that have powered the country’s agricultural export boom.

The resulting article, the first of a four-part series, was published yesterday in the Los Angeles Times, and offers lots of potential for serious discussions in geography classes around the world about agribusiness practices, supply chains, the persistence of inequalities, and a host of other issues. The article is accompanied by some great photographs and short, informative videos.

la-times-article

In “Hardship on Mexico’s farms, a bounty for U.S. tables“, Marosi and Bartletti find that thousands of laborers at Mexico’s mega-farms endure harsh conditions and exploitation while supplying produce for American consumers.

This is a must-read series for anyone interested in the Geography of Mexico, and we can’t wait to see the next three parts of this series.

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Dec 062014
 

In the second half of the 19th century, the Mexican government undertook am ambitious railway building program that eventually connected Mexico City with the USA, as well as with ports on the Atlantic Ocean and Pacific Ocean

Since the privatization of the railway system in 1995, many lines have fallen out of use and passenger services have been all but abandoned, leaving hundreds of kilometers of disused track and isolating some rural communities from the nearest large city. Much of Mexico’s historic railway infrastructure now lies in ruins.

In the past decade, some former railway lines have been turned into walking and cycling trails. For example:

The state of Jalisco has started to recondition 120 kilometers of former railway routes as Green Route (Via Verde) trails for non-motorized traffic (hikers, cyclists, horse riders). Many of the old stations along these routes will be restored to provide essential services and exhibition space. The former train station in Ameca (on the extreme northern edge of the town) has been renovated to serve as the start of one of these routes, with exhibits focusing on the history of the railroad, local fiestas and the region’s haciendas. The lovely building, dating back more than a century, witnessed its last train in 1995.

Given that the railways played such a key role in the Revolution, enabling both sides to move troops quickly around the country, it is fitting that they are now the basis for this new revolution involving cultural tourism. (Western Mexico, A Traveler’s Treasury, p 61).

Others lines, elsewhere in Mexico, have been explored by two intrepid Mexican artists as part of an unusual geo-art project. Artists Ivan Puig and Andres Padilla Domene built a vehicle capable of traveling on train tracks and explored some of the country’s abandoned railway lines. As they went, they photographed hundreds of ruins and recorded hours of interviews with people they met. They later did something similar in Ecuador, but that’s another story.

Their striking silver road-rail vehicle is known as SEFT-1, where SEFT stands for Sonda de Exploración Ferroviaria Tripulada (Manned Railway Exploration Probe).

seft-1

The artists recorded their experiences in videos, photographs and collected objects. Interviewing people they met, often from communities isolated by Mexico’s passenger railway closures, they shared their findings online, where audiences could track the probe’s trajectory, view maps and images and listen to interviews.

Their first London (UK) exhibition, SEFT-1 Abandoned Railways Exploration Probe – Modern Ruins 1:220, was commissioned by The Arts Catalyst and presented at the Furtherfield gallery space in the heart of Finsbury Park. In the exhibit, the artists explore how the ideology of progress is imprinted onto historic landscapes and they also reflect on the two poles of the social experience of technology: use and obsolescence.

For this exhibition, the artists also invited British expert model railway constructors to create scale reproductions of specific Mexican railway ruins exactly as they had found them. One gallery became a space for the process of model ruin construction. The room’s walls displayed the pictures, documents, plans and other materials used as reference for the meticulously-elaborated models.

The Artists

Ivan Puig (born 1977, Guadalajara) has exhibited internationally in Mexico, Germany, Canada, Brazil and the USA. Puig, a member of the collective TRiodO (with Marcela Armas and Gilberto Esparza), lives and works in Mexico City.

Andrés Padilla Domene (born 1986, Guadalajara) has exhibited work in Mexico, the USA and Ecuador. His video work as director and producer with Camper Media includes documentaries, fiction films and TV shows.

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Dec 032014
 

The Mexican Institute for Competitiveness (Instituto Mexicano para la Competitividad AC, IMCO) has published its annual analysis of the competitiveness of Mexico’s states. The report provides some interesting insights into which areas of Mexico are “most competitive” in business terms, defined as their capacity to attract and retain investments and a talented workforce.

This suggests a business environment that maximizes the socio-economic potential of both the business entities and individuals residing in a a specific area. It also suggests that any improved well-being (economic and social) will be maintained (sustained).

The index is based on 89 indicators in 10 sub-indices. The 10 major factors include the reliability and objectivity of the legal system, the sustainable management of the natural environment, the stability of macroeconomic policies, the degree to which society is non-divisive, educated and healthy, and the stability and functioning of the political system.

The latest report relies on 2012 data. Mexico’s basic pattern of competitiveness at the state level is shown in the map.

Mexico, 2014. Map: Tony Burton; all rights reserved

Competitiveness in Mexico, 2014. Map: Tony Burton; all rights reserved

The five most competitive states in Mexico are:

  • Federal District (Mexico D.F.)
  • Baja California Sur
  • Aguascalientes
  • Nuevo León
  • Querétaro

While a full analysis of why some states are more competitive than others is beyond the scope of this post, the single most striking aspect of this map is the persistent low degree of competitiveness of several of Mexico’s poorest states, such as Guerrero, Oaxaca and Chiapas.

In general, states in Northern Mexico are noticeably more competitive than those in Southern Mexico. Two areas on opposite coasts where tourism is extremely important to the local and national economy – Baja California Sur and Quintana Roo – are both very competitive.

Mexico’s economy and workforce are analyzed in chapters 14 to 20 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico. Ask your library to buy a copy of this handy reference guide to all aspects of Mexico’s geography today! Better yet, order your own copy, which will still arrive in time for Christmas…

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Nov 262014
 

For the fourth year running, Mexico was the world’s leading beer exporter in 2013, with beer exports reaching a record 2.2 billion dollars, a rise of 4.2% compared to 2012, and well ahead of both the Netherlands ($2.0 billion) and Belgium ($1.6 billion).

cerveza-victoria-bicentenaryMexico has become the leading supplier of beer to the USA and now accounts for almost 50% of that country’s beer imports. It is also the leading supplier to Australia, Chile, Guatemala, Argentina and New Zealand, as well as the third leading supplier to Canada and the fourth largest to China and Japan.

The two major beer producers in Mexico are Grupo Modelo and Cervecería Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma.

The leading export brand is Corona which reaches 180 countries around the world. Over the past decade, Mexico’s beer industry has grown at 2.5%/year and analysts expect this rate to quicken, predicting output will rise from 71 million hectoliters this year to 82 million in 2020.

In the USA, quite a few Mexican beers will be consumed this Thanksgiving Day… Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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Nov 242014
 

This page lists some of the many maps on Geo-Mexico.com, as of 24 November 2014.

Want to use a map? All these maps [except those marked  (*)] are original Geo-Mexico.com maps. The use of any of Geo-Mexico’s maps for educational purposes is fine, provided credit is given to  Geo-Mexico.com. For commercial use (including business presentations, newsletters, magazines, books, TV), please contact us with details of your project via the link or the Contact Us form.

This page is updated every few months to reflect new additions to our site:

Categories:

Physical geography

Hazards:

Population

Economy

Regional and city maps

Crime:

History:

Other:

Mapping exercises:

 Posted by at 11:15 am  Tagged with:
Nov 232014
 

Many of the arts and crafts found in Michoacán date back to pre-Columbian times, but now incorporate techniques and materials that were brought from Europe and elsewhere. Many of the introductions occurred during the time of Vasco de Quiroga (ca 1470-1565), after whom the town of Quiroga, at the eastern extremity of Lake Pátzcuaro, is named.

Visitors to Michoacán area often amazed to discover that towns even only a few kilometers apart have developed completely different handicrafts, and that all the handicraft workshops in any one town seem to focus on making precisely the same items. If one workshop in a town specializes in wooden items, all the neighboring workshops appear to do the same. Just how did these very distinctive spatial patterns come about?

Craft market in Tzintzuntzan, Michoacan

Craft market in Tzintzuntzan, Michoacan

The answer to the oft-asked question, “Why does each town in Michoacán have its own handicrafts?”lies in the history of this area and, in particular, of the efforts almost five hundred years ago of one Spanish priest.

Who was Vasco de Quiroga?

Vasco de Quiroga trained originally as a lawyer. He later took holy orders and arrived in the New World in 1531, already in his sixties. He gained rapid promotion and six years later was appointed Bishop of Michoacán, with the express purpose of trying to clear up the mess left by Nuño Beltrán de Guzmán’s rampage through western Mexico, and to placate the bad feelings of the indigenous Purépecha populace.

Vasco de Quiroga based his approach on the Utopian principles espoused by Thomas More. He established a series of communities in the vicinity of Lake Pátzcuaro, the heart of Purépecha country, improved security, and set up hospitals and schools serving the local people.

Agricultural improvements

Recognizing the importance of agriculture, Vasco de Quiroga introduced European implements and methods as well as new crops, including wheat and other cereals, fruits and vegetables. Perhaps his most noteworthy introduction was the banana. The first bananas to be grown anywhere in Mexico were brought by Vasco de Quiroga from Santo Domingo in the Caribbean and planted in Tzintzuntzan.

Handicrafts

Alongside religious instruction, Vasco de Quiroga organized training in arts and crafts. His efforts quickly won over many of the local people who came to acknowledge that the hostility they had experienced from their first contacts with Europeans was not typical of all the newcomers. The kindly Bishop came to be sufficiently respected by them to be awarded the honorific title of “Tata” (“Father”) Vasco.

The local indigenous Indians had already developed the skills needed for varied ceramics, wood and leather products, copper items, and woven cotton and agave fiber textiles. They also used the local lake bulrushes (tule). Vasco de Quiroga introduced new techniques which allowed the artisans to multiply their production.

To encourage specialization, and limit direct competition between villages, “Tata” Vasco allocated specific crafts to specific places, a pattern that continues to the present. The particular handicraft developed in each village also reflects the availability of local raw materials such as bulrushes needed for mats, or clay for pottery. On account of the fine quality of local clays, the making of ceramics was encouraged in the villages of Tzintzuntzan, Patamban, Santa Fe de la Laguna, Capula and Pinícuaro. Ironworking and locksmithing were introduced in San Felipe de los Hereros; quilting and embroidery in San Juan de las Colcahas, and so on.

Section of tourist map showing some of handicraft towns near Lake Patzcuaro

Section of tourist map showing some of handicraft towns near Lake Patzcuaro

The arts and crafts skills in the villages around Lake Pátzcuaro and elsewhere in Michoacán have been passed down to this day, becoming more finely honed with each successive generation, producing craftsmen who are among the finest in the country. They are responsible for a truly amazing variety of handicrafts, fine art and furniture items.

Among the better known places to seek out particular handicrafts are:

  • Angangueo: woolen items
  • Cuanajo: wooden chests and furniture
  • Erongarícuaro: wooden furniture, earthenware
  • Ihuatzio: petate mats
  • Jarácuaro: palm hats (woven)
  • Paracho: guitars and stringed instruments
  • Pátzcuaro: wool, lacquer work, silver jewelry, toys, etc
  • Quiroga: painted trays and bowls, leather goods, wooden toys
  • Santa Fe de la Laguna: pottery
  • Santa Clara del Cobre: copper items (housewares, miniatures)
  • Tzintzuntzan: wood, pottery, straw decorations and toys
  • Uruapan: lacquer work
  • Zirahuén: wood and cloth dolls

Given this partial listing, is it any wonder that Michoacán is one of the best states in Mexico for finding interesting handicrafts? Happy shopping!