Sep 282013
 

Canadian firm Goldcorp is the largest gold miner in Mexico, with mining concessions covering more than 40,000 hectares. Since 2008, it has been actively developing the mine of Los Filos, in the municipality of Eduardo Neri, which could become Latin America’s largest gold mine.

Los Filos is in Guerrero’s “Gold Belt” that runs from Mezcala to Argelia. The open-cast mine at Los Filos is midway between Mezcala and El Carrizalillo, some 50 km from the state capital Chilpancingo. The mining project will employ 800 workers and double the population of El Carrizalillo. The rocks here contain between 0.5 and 0.8 grams of gold per ton of ore. Los Filos is expected to yield 60 million metric tons of gold ore over the next 20 years, as well as some ancillary silver, lead and zinc. The mining operation will require investments of $1 billion over the mine’s anticipated 20-30 year lifetime.

Los Filos mine, Guerrero. Credit: Goldcorp

Los Filos mine, Guerrero. Credit: Goldcorp

The Los Filos project is actively opposed by several environmental groups, including The Mexican Network of People Affected by Mining (La Red Mexicana de Afectados por la Minería, REMA), a network of communities, movements, organization, groups and individuals “affected by, and concerned about, the socio-economic impacts of mining in Mexico”.

REMA has joined the campaign to force Canadian mining firm Goldcorp to halt work at Los Filos. REMA supports the recently created  Mesoamerican Movement Against the Extractive Mining Model, which claims that the existing extractive mining model has proven to be “highly predatory”, and has “significantly increased extraction, causing destruction of territory, seriously affecting natural resources, and irreversibly damaging the health of Mexican citizens”. It is especially concerned that hundreds of tons of cyanide have already been used in Mexico to process gold ore, contaminating water reserves.

REMA cites Goldcorp’s “Los Filos” mining project in Guerrero as a point of particular concern and an example of what is happening throughout the country. REMA claims that there is inadequate regulation and environmental monitoring and that the project is “causing division of communities, disease and death from the chemicals used and environmental damage through drainage of acids and polluting dusts”.

Another Goldcorp mining proposal, at Alto Lucero in the state of Veracruz, also met with substantial opposition from local residents and environmental groups. For more information about the amounts of cyanide believed to be used in mines throughout Latin America, including Goldcorp projects, see:

Will Los Filos turn out to be a mega-mine or a mega-disaster? Only time will tell.

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Sep 262013
 

In 2012, the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness (Instituto Mexicano para la Competitividad AC, IMCO) published an analysis of the competitiveness of 77 of the largest cities in Mexico, looking to see which of them offered balanced growth alongside a good quality of life for their inhabitants.

portada_indiceThe elements of competitiveness considered included the degree of compactness (more compact cities are more efficient and sustainable), public finances, transport, security, water management and waste management. The IMCO methodology is explained in detail in the report Índice de Competitividad Urbana 2012. In short, IMCO evaluated each of the 364 municipalities involved in the 77 cities, using 60 indicators grouped into 10 mutually-exclusive sub-indexes.

Between them, these 77 cities house 63% of Mexico’s total population and account for 80% of Mexico’s GDP. 55% of Mexico’s population live in cities managed by two or more municipalities. IMCO found that public transport was adequately coordinated in only 13% of cities with two or more municipalities, while urban planning was coordinated in 35% of the multi-municipality cities.

The IMCO report concludes than most Mexican cities do NOT offer balanced growth and a decent quality of life for residents. Individual cities can be compared using this IMCO site.

The only city offering a “High” level of competitiveness was Monterrey.

Several cities offered an “Adequate” level: Mexico City, San Luis Potosí, Querétaro, Ciudad del Carmen, Saltillo, Tampico, Colima, Guadalajara, Mexicali, Monclova and Campeche.

At the other end of the spectrum, the competitiveness of several cities in Mexico was categorized as “Low”: La Piedad, Cd. Cárdenas, Rioverde, Matamoros, Tehuantepec, Tijuana, San Francisco del Rincón, Cd. Juárez, Ensenada and Poza Rica.

The lowest levels of competitiveness (“Very Low”) among the 77 cities studied were found in two cities in the state of Guerrero: Chilpancingo and Acapulco.

The report used data from 2010, so some aspects of these cities will have changed since that date. For example, the sharply increased murder rate in Monterrey since 2010 will have reduced its lead over other cities.

Certain cities have faced severe challenges of rapid growth. In recent decades, the cities that have grown most rapidly have not been the very large cities like Monterrey, but mid-sized cities. One example of a mid-sized city that has grown rapidly is Ciudad Juárez, whose area grew 497% from 1980 to 2009, while its population rose 70%. This rapid growth may have contributed to the high levels of crime experienced in the city.

IMCO concludes that Mexican cities are showing clear signs of not functioning well: chaotic expansion, heavey traffic, high levels of air pollution, poor supply and/or quality of potable water, high crime levels. These have caused cities to lose competitiveness and the capacity to attract human talent from outside, whether for business, sports or research.

The single obstacles to increased competitiveness are the lack of professional urban management, and the fact that many cities involve two or more municipalities. The laws governing municipal elections inevitably mean that administrations are short-term, with a high level of staff turnover. The impossibility of re-election means that many urban projects are overly superficial and they lack continuity from one administration to the next.

IMCO suggests that a new administrative position be created: the city manager (administrador urbano). The city manager would be a professional manager, and would ensure that the city has adequate coordination for all urban public services, even where more than one municipality is involved. This would free the municipal politicians from having to tackle the day-to-day management issues of the city and allow them more time to engage productively with the citizenry. However, for this to happen, a major institutional innovation is required.

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Sep 232013
 

A recent study by Pew Research analyzes the geographical distribution of the over 53 million Hispanics who currently live in the USA. The “Hispanic” or “Latino” population is composed of many different segments. It includes families that have lived in the USA for numerous generations as well as recent immigrants from many countries. Mexicans are by far the largest Hispanic origin group. There are 34.7 million Mexicans in the USA accounting for 64% of all Hispanics. A future post will look at the geographic distribution of Mexicans in the USA. Several previous posts, including “Recent trends for Mexicans living in the USA”, have investigated the socio-economic characteristics of Mexicans living in the USA.

Though Hispanics are spreading throughout the country, they still tend to be concentrated in the west, particularly states that border Mexico [see map]. Almost half (46%) of Hispanics live in California (14.4 million) or Texas (9.8). Other states with relatively large Hispanic populations include Florida (3.5m), Illinois (2.1m) and Arizona (1.9m). Almost 47% of New Mexico’s population is Hispanic compared to 38% in both California and Texas.

Map of Hispanic population in USAFully 44% of Hispanics live in only 10 metropolitan areas. Almost half (46%) of the Greater Los Angeles population is Hispanic. The Los Angeles–Long Beach metro area has 5.8 million Hispanics and the neighboring Riverside–San Bernadino metro area has another 2.1 million, giving Greater Los Angeles 7.9 million Hispanics, 15% of the USA total. The New York–Northeastern New Jersey metropolitan area is next with 4.3 million Hispanics. Other metro areas with large Hispanic populations include Houston (2.1m), Chicago (2.0m), Dallas (1.8m), Miami (1.6m), San Francisco–San Jose (1.6), Phoenix (1.2m), San Antonio (1.1m) and San Diego (1.0m).

Over 80% of the Greater Los Angeles Hispanic population is Mexican. Mexicans also dominate the Hispanic populations in Houston (78%), Chicago (79%), Dallas (85%) as well as most other metro areas in the USA. In metro New York, Puerto Ricans are most numerous among Hispanics (28%) followed by Dominicans (21%) and Mexicans (12%). Puerto Ricans are also most numerous in Orlando (51%), Tampa–St Petersburg (34%), Philadelphia (56%), Boston (29%) and Hartford (69%). Cubans dominate the Hispanic population in Miami (55%), Fort Lauderdale (21%) and West Palm Beach (21%). In metro Washington DC, Salvadorians are most numerous among Hispanics (32%).

Roughly one third (36%) of all Hispanics in the USA are foreign-born; the rest were all born in the USA. Miami has the highest proportion of foreign-born Hispanics with 66%. No other metro area with over a million Hispanics has more than 43% foreign-born. On the other hand, only 17% of Hispanics in the San Antonio area are foreign-born with 83% born in the USA.

Source of data:

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Sep 212013
 

Silver working in Mexico

The center of Mexico’s silver craftsmen and silver making industry is the city of Taxco, in the state of Guerrero. Several pre-colonial groups had developed the technical skills needed to fashion elaborate and complex silver items, especially jewelry, but knowledge of these techniques had largely died out by the start of the 20th century. Somewhat surprisingly, the silver-making industry was reignited in Taxco by an American, William Spratling.

taxco silver

Credit: ~ Artesanas Campesinas de Tecalpulco, Taxco, Guerrero

Spratling (1900-1967) was an American-born silversmith and artist, best remembered today for having reinvigorated 20th century Mexican silver design. Spratling started a small silver industry in the picturesque town of Taxco in the state of Guerrero in 1931, with the intention of benefiting local people. Taxco was one of the earliest silver-mining areas exploited during colonial times. Local silver mines were still important in Spratling’s day, but have since closed, with silver brought in to Taxco from elsewhere in Mexico.

William Spratling’s designes were based on pre-colonial motifs and he trained local craftsmen to produce them in his workshop Taller de las Delicias. He gained a reputation for fine designs and excellent workmanship. Many of his apprentices went on to found their own silver workshops. Silver working became very popular in Taxco and the town gradually transformed itself into Mexico’s premier showcase for high quality silver work of all kinds, from jewelry to tableware. Over the years, the town attracted shoppers and has also become a very important tourist destination.

Taxco, Mexico's city of silversmiths

Taxco, Mexico’s city of silversmiths

Sometimes called the “Father of Mexican Silver”, Spratling not only sold silver locally in Taxco, but also supplied silver items to stores such as Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue in New York and elsewhere. Some of his earliest work was inspired by stonework reliefs in nearby archaeological sites such as Xochicalco. The William Spratling Museum near Taxco’s main plaza showcases his personal collection of archeological pieces as well as his original silver-work designs and workshops.

Silver-working exists in many other Mexican towns and cities, but Taxco is the premier place in Mexico for tourists interested in seeing or purchasing fine silver. The town celebrates the National Silver Fair (Feria Nacional de La Plata) in late November each year. The 76th annual Silver Fair runs from Saturday 30 November to Saturday, 7 December 2013.

Many of Spratling’s original designs are still being made today. For example, Spratling Renaissance (which sells silver from Taxco via its online store) proudly proclaims that, “The legacy of William Spratling is the powerful motivator of a collaboration between the last of the generation of Taxco master silversmiths and the rural women artisans of Tecalpulco, a village in the Municipio of Taxco de Alarcón, Guerrero. The jewelry employs old-fashioned jewelry-making arts to fashion ornamental esthetic objects worthy of a museum. Every piece coming from this shop is a perfect reproduction of the unique original masterworks of William Spratling.”

Of several books about Spratling, Sandraline Cederwall’s Spratling Silver stands out. Cederwall is a pre-eminent collectector-dealer of Spratling silver. The latest edition of this work includes an expanded text, many new photographs, and a biographical essay by Barnaby Conrad, a friend and contemporary of the noted silver designer. The book features dramatic black-and-white photographs of silver artworks, underscoring the “intelligent, simple, restrained” yet appealing style that makes Spratling’s designs so collectible.

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Sep 192013
 

An innovative aerial public transport system is being proposed in Mexico City as a way to help reduce traffic congestion and increase personal mobility. TUEP (Transporte Urbano Elevado Personalizado), a Mexican start-up, is being supported by the Federal District’s Secretariat for Science, Technology and Innovation (Seciti) and has manufacturing support from vehicle manufacturer DINA.

TUEP says that its system of aerial cabins offers more flexibility than cable cars and will save energy costs and take some vehicles off the roads, reducing emissions. It proposes a series of routes, each 5 to 10 kilometers long, linking densely populated residential areas to the city’s existing Metro and Metrobús networks.

The proposed system is fully automated. The aerial cabins, each seating two adults or an adult with two children, travel along a steel cable and can be diverted on and off the main route into a series of “docking stations” for passengers to alight or disembark. Each cabin is individually controlled by its passengers who select their destination using push button controls. This 2-minute Spanish-language Youtube news clip shows how the system works:

Each 5-kilometer stretch would be able to transport up to 5,700 passengers an hour at full capacity, at an average velocity of 4 m/s (14.4 km/hr). Cabins would travel about 10 meters (30 feet) apart, which should mean short wait times for passengers, who would pay about 6 pesos (less than 50 cents US) per trip.

Constructing the system will require posts placed every 50 meters along the route, with docking stations every 1000 meters or so. The system is being designed to be installed along avenues that currently have a median divide, so that there is minimum disruption to alternative forms of transport. According to its proponents, building TUEP lines would be at least 40% cheaper than adding additional Metrobús routes and only a fraction of the cost of expanding the city’s Metro system.

More details and images of the proposed system are offered in this 4-minute silent video:

TUEP has suggested 18 routes that are worthy of feasibility studies, which include Marina Nacional, Río San Joaquín, Taxqueña-Miguel Ángel de Quevedo, Lázaro Cárdenas, Constituyentes-Santa Fe and Eje 10. If all the proposed routes were built, the TUEP network would have a total length of 135 kilometers, and would have the capacity to handle up to 37 million trips a year.

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Sep 162013
 

In this post, we consider the unfortunate plight of the Tohono O’odham people, whose ancestral lands now lie on either side of the Mexico-USA border.

How did this happen?

Following Mexico’s War of Independence (1810-1821), 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. At that time, the major flows of migrants linking the USA to Mexico were from the USA to Mexico, the reverse of the direction of more recent flows, where millions of Mexicans have migrated north.

As this map of Mexico in 1824 shows, Mexico’s territory extended well to the north of its present-day limits.

Map of Mexico, 1824

Map of Mexico, 1824

At the end of the Mexican-American War (1846-1848) the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ceded over half of Mexico’s territory to the USA. A few years later, under the 1853 Gadsden Purchase (Treaty of La Mesilla), northern portions of Sonora and Chihuahua (shaded brown on the map below) were transferred to the USA.

Mexico 1853

Source: National Atlas of the United States (public domain)

With minor exceptions since, to take account of changes in the meanders of the Río Bravo (Grande), this established the current border between the two countries.

Impacts on the Tohono O’odham people

One of the immediate impacts of the Gadsden purchase was to split the lands of the Tohono O’odham people into two parts: one in present-day Arizona and the other in the Mexican state of Sonora, divided by the international border. The O’odham who reside in Mexico are often known as Sonoran O’odham.

There are an estimated 25,000 Tohono O’odham living today. Most are in Arizona, but about 1500 live in northern Sonora. In contrast to First Nations (aboriginal) groups living on the USA-Canada border who were allowed dual citizenship, the Tohono O’odham were not granted this right. For decades, this did not really matter, since the two groups of Tohono O’odham kept in regular contact for work, religious ceremonies and festivals, crossing the border when needed without any problem. Stricter border controls introduced in the 1980s, and much tightened since, have greatly reduced the number of Tohono O’odham able to travel freely. This is a particular problem for the Tohono O’odham in Sonora, most of whom were born in Mexico but lack sufficient documentation to acquire a passport.

Tohono o'odhum border protest

Tohono O’odham border protest

Since 2001, several attempts have been made in the USA to solve the “one people-two country” problem by granting U.S. citizenship to all registered members of the Tohono O’odham, regardless of their residence. So far, none has succeeded.

The largest community in the Tohono O’odham Nation (the Arizona section of Tohono O’odham lands) is Sells, which functions as the Nation’s capital. The Sonoran O’odham live in nine villages in Mexico, only five of which are offically recognized as O’odham by the Mexican government.

The border between the two areas is relatively unprotected compared to most other parts of the Mexico-USA border.

The Tohono O’odham Nation is often called upon to provide emergency assistance to undocumented workers (and drug traffickers) from south of the border who have underestimated the severe challenges of crossing this section of the harsh Sonora desert. Tribal officials regularly complain about the failure of the U.S. federal government to reimburse their expenses.

ABC News reports (Tohono O’odham Nation’s Harrowing Mexican-Border War) that the border “has made life a daily hell for a tribe of Native Americans” and that drug seizures on the Tohono O’odham Nation’s lands have increased sharply.

Want to read more?

Sep 142013
 

Welcome to our sixth quiz about the geography of Mexico.

Previous quizzes:

How many of the following can you answer correctly?

If you answer a question incorrectly, you can have more attempts at each question before the answer is revealed.

Good Luck!

Geography of Mexico Quiz 6

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Congratulations - you have completed Geography of Mexico Quiz 6 . You scored %%SCORE%% out of %%TOTAL%%. Your performance has been rated as %%RATING%%
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Sep 122013
 

Production of gold has more than tripled from the 23.5 metric tons recorded in 2000 to 88.6 metric tons in 2012, 3.2% of world production, 5.3% more than the previous year, and the ninth consecutive year-on-year increase. Analysts believe that gold production will double again between now and 2020.

Mexico is the world’s 11th largest producer of gold, well behind China (13% of world total), Australia (10%)  the USA (9%) and Russia (7%). Mexico exports gold, mainly to the USA and Switzerland.

The vast majority of gold and silver production in Mexico comes from a handful of major corporations, led by Canadian mining firm Goldcorp, whose main mines are at Los Filos (Guerrero) and Peñasquito (Zacatecas).

Gold production in Mexico, 2011. Data: INEGI. Credit: Tony Burton/Geo-Mexico

Gold production in Mexico, 2011. Data: INEGI. Credit: Tony Burton/Geo-Mexico

The map shows the six main gold mining states in Mexico. Production in Sonora has grown rapidly in the past decade and that state is now responsible for 32% of national production, ahead of Zacatecas (20%), Chihuahua (15%), Guerrero (13%), Durango (9%) and San Luis Potosí (7%).

The main gold-mining municipalities in each of these six states are:

  • Sonora: Caborca, Sahuaripa, Santa Ana, Álamos, Altar and Trincheras
  • Zacatecas: Mazapil, Luis Moya, Ojocaliente, Fresnillo and Concepción del Oro
  • Chihuahua: Urique, Chinipas, Ocampo, Madera
  • Guerrero: Eduardo Neri and Coyuca de Catalán
  • Durango: Santiago Papasquiaro and San Dimas
  • San Luis Potosí: Villa de la Paz

We will explore the controversy surrounding Goldcorp’s Los Filos opencast mine in Guerrero, billed as Latin America’s largest gold mine development, and some other mining controversies in Mexico, in a future post.

Mining towns described briefly previously on Geo-Mexico.com include:

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Sep 092013
 

Prior to European contact in 1519, what did the Aztec people eat?

The basis of Aztec diet was corn (maize). They cultivated numerous varieties of corn, as well as many other crops including beans, amaranth and squash. Some dishes were seasoned with salt and chili peppers. This mix of items provided a balanced diet that had no significant vitamin or mineral deficiency.

In addition, the Aztec diet included tomatoes, limes, cashews, potatoes, sweet potatoes, peanuts, cacao (chocolate), wild fruits, cactus, mushrooms, fungi, honey, turkey, eggs, dog, duck, fish, the occasional deer, iguana, alongside insects such as grasshoppers. From the lake water, they scooped high protein algae (tecuitlatl), which was also used as a fertilizer.

How did they obtain their food?

The Mexica (who later became the Aztecs) faced a particular dilemma, largely of their own making. Mexica (Aztec) legend tells that they left their home Aztlán (location unproven) on a lengthy pilgrimage lasting hundreds of years. They were seeking a specific sign telling them where to found their new capital and ceremonial center. The sign was an eagle, perched on a cactus. Today, this unlikely combination, with the eagle now devouring a serpent, is a national symbol and appears on the national flag.

Artist's view of the  Aztec capital Tenochititlan in the Valley of Mexico

Artist’s view of the Aztec capital Tenochititlan in the Valley of Mexico

The dilemma arose because they first saw this sign, and founded their new capital Tenochtitlan, on an island in the middle of a lake in central Mexico. An island linked by causeways to several places on the “mainland” might have had some advantages in terms of defense, but supplying the growing settlement with food and fresh water was more of a challenge.

Much of their food came from hunting and gathering, and some food was brought by long-distance trade, but space for farming, especially on the island, was at a premium.

The Aztecs solved their dilemma of how to supply food to their island capital by developing a sophisticated wetland farming system involving raised beds (chinampas) built in the lake (see image below). Originally these chinampas were free-floating but over time they became rooted to the lake floor. The chinampas were separated by narrow canals, barely wide enough for small boats or canoes.

Artist's representation of chinampa farming

Artist’s representation of chinampa farming

From an ecological perspective, these chinampas represented an extraordinary achievement, a food production system which proved to be one of the most environmentally sustainable and high-yielding farming systems anywhere on the planet!

Constructing and maintaining chinampas required a significant input of labor, but the yields per unit area could be very high indeed, especially since four harvests a year were possible for some crops. The system enabled fresh produce to be supplied to the city even during the region’s long dry season, whereas food availability from rain-fed agriculture was highly seasonal.

Artist's interpretation of chinampa construction (from Rojas 1995)

Artist’s interpretation of chinampa construction (from Rojas 1995)

The planting platforms or chinampas were built by hand, with alternate layers of mud, silt and vegetation piled onto a mesh of reeds or branches. Platforms, often but not necessarily rectangular, were about 10 meters wide and could be 100 meters or more in length. Willow trees were often planted on the edges of platforms to help stabilize them and provide shade for other plants and for the canals that separated the platforms. Interplanting crops was common, and polyculture was the norm. For many crops, multicropping (several crops in a single year) was possible.

Because the planting platforms were close to water, extremes of temperature were dampened, and the likelihood of frost damage to crops reduced. The root systems of crops had reliable access to fresh water (sub-irrigation). The canals provided a variety of habitats for fish. The mud from the bottom of canals was periodically dredged by hand and added to the platforms, supplying nutrients and preserving canal depth. Together with the regular addition of waste organic material (compost), this replenished the platforms and meant that their fertility was maintained over very long periods of time.

The system could even cope with polluted water, since the combination of constant filtration on the platforms, and aquatic weeds in the canals, partially removed most impurities from the water.

Where can chinampas be seen today?

Archaeologists have found vestiges of chinampas in several regions of Mexico, some dating back almost 3000 years.

Mexico’s best known chinampas today are those in Xochimilco on the south-eastern outskirts of Mexico City. Xochimilco is a Unesco World Heritage site, but faces heavy pressure from urban encroachment and highway construction. Xochimilco’s canals (with chinampas separating them) are some of the last surviving remnants of the large lake that occupied this valley when the Mexica founded Tenochititlan.

Xochimilco (Wikipedia; creative commons)

Xochimilco (Wikipedia; creative commons)

Visiting Xochimilco’s canals and market is a popular weekend excursion for Mexico City residents and tourists alike. However, the modern-day chinampas of Xochimilco are not the same as they would have been centuries ago. First, the total area of chinampas in Xochimilco is only a fraction of what once existed. Secondly, some of the chinampas have been abandoned, while on others chemical fertilizers and pesticides are often used. Thirdly, the area now has many exotic species, including introduced species of fish (such as African tilapia and Asian carp) that threaten native species. Numbers of the axolotl (a local salamander), a prized delicacy on Aztec dinner tables, are in sharp decline. Fourthly, the water table in this area dell dramatically during the last century as Mexico City sucked water from the underground aquifers causing local springs that helped supply Xochimilco to dry up completely. Rubble from the 1985 Mexico City earthquake was also dumped in Xochimilco’s canals.

Lakes is some other parts of Mexico were also used for chinampa farming. For example, in Jalisco, just west of Guadalajara, Magdalena Lake was a prime source of food for the 60,000 or so people living close to the Guachimontones ceremonial site (settled before 350 BC) in Teuchitlán. They learned to construct chinampas, fixed mud beds in the lake, each measuring about 20 meters by 15 meters, which they planted with a variety of crops… The remains of hundreds of these highly productive islets are still visible today.” (Western Mexico: A Traveler’s Treasury, p 69)

Chinampa farming was one of the great agricultural developments in the Americas. Ir was, and still can be, an environmentally-sensitive and sustainable method of intensive wetland agriculture.

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Sep 072013
 

By way of contrast to the much-criticized, and now collapsed, Maya Biosana chocolate project, the Tikul Plantation, near Merida (Yucatán), is a well thought out cacao-growing project, with an educational component, being carried out by people who have decades of real experience with cacao. (Follow the link for a series of photos which gives a good idea of what is involved). Among the principles adapted by the Tikul project is biodynamic farming, which in this case means that “grafting is carried out when the moon is waxing and we harvest the pods when the moon is waning”.

Tikul-logoThat cacao plantation, begun in 2008 by Belgian firm Belcolade, already has 10 hectares of land planted with 10,000 cacao trees (planting density of 1000 cacao trees/hectare). In addition, “20 more hectares have been cleared and cedar and mahogany trees, amongst others, have been planted”. The developers of that project already have the 20,000 cacao trees to be grafted to complete the planting of this area. The shade plants that have been planted include 2000 yucca (cassava), 4000 banana plants,  10,000 cedar trees and 5000 mahogany trees. This means an average planting distance of “a cacao tree every 3 meters, a cedar tree every 6 meters and a mahogany tree every 12 meters”.

Belcolade produces high quality Belgian chocolate for distribution to over 100 countries. “Belcolade, the Real Belgian Chocolate, is produced solely in Belgium following a long tradition of craftsmanship, quality and refinement. It is made from carefully selected cocoa beans using production processes that have been perfected over time, thus assuring that Belcolade’s exquisite taste is in line with consumers’ expectations.”

Visitors to the Tikul Plantation are introduced to the importance of cacao to the Mayan culture in the “Cacao EcoMuseum” near the Plantation’s entrance.

The Cacao Ecomuseum is not without its critics. According to this article in the Yucatán Times, Becolade never received the appropriate permits from the National Institute for Anthropology and History (INAH) to build a structure in a protected zone. The article alleges that construction was only possible because certain INAH officials acted corruptly.

Meanwhile another enterprise Choco-Story, with local partners, (and which has no connection to Belcolade as we incorrectly claimed in an earlier version of this post) has come under heavy fire in the press in recent months because it also started to build Chocolate Museums on the archaeological zones of Chichen Itza and Uxmal. Construction of both has now been halted, with INAH officials ordering that the partially-completed structures be demolished. The latest reports are that the conflict at Uxmal has been resolved and that the Choco-Story museum at that site will open sometime next year.

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