Jun 022014
 

This engaging book analyses the historical geography of the port of San Blas, on Mexico’s west coast, and its hinterland which includes the small city of Tepic, the state capital of Nayarit. This area held immense importance during colonial times, was one of the main gateways for trade and influence peddling during the nineteenth century, before lapsing into relative obscurity at the end of the that century, and into the twentieth century. The tourism industry has sparked a mini-revival but none of the many grandiose plans for this coast have even been brought fully to fruition.

richter-coverThe Camino Real in Richter’s title is actually a branch from the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro (The Inland Royal Road, the spine of the colonial road system in New Spain). During colonial times, this linked the inland city of Guadalajara to Tepic and thence San Blas, though the modern highways uniting these places no longer follow the same route.

Robert Richter has known this area personally for decades, and his intimate knowledge of the local geography shines through. The book combines his own personal experiences with intensive historical research, both in the library and on the ground. Richter’s objective is to pin down the precise route of the Camino Real, and then find every remaining vestige of it that he can on the ground.

In reading the story of San Blas and the Camino Real, readers are treated to a dazzling array of insights into what made this area tick for so long before subsiding into something of a backwater. This branch of the Camino Real, from Guadalajara to San Blas, played a key role in the history of Western Mexico, and saw everything from pirates and adventurers to soldiers, priests and smugglers.

As Richter points out, “The Matanchen Bay-San Blas region grew in geographic and strategic importance to become the most important Pacific seaport between Guayaquil, Ecuador, and San Francisco, California, in the 1830s, a major international way station for both legal and contraband trade between an ungovernable Mexico and the rest of the world.”

This growth continued and, “In the 1850s, the cultural, economic, and political events roiling all along the Camino Real from San Blas to Guadalajara, especially in the mild sierra valley surrounding the city of Tepic, spawned a new regional identity, and eventually, a new political entity—the Mexican state of Nayarit.”

Richter tells his story with passion and it is impossible not to be drawn into the narrative and share his excitement as he sets out to find “missing” sections of the Camino Real, accompanied by a motley crew of secondary characters. To what extend does he succeed? Sorry, no spoilers here!

Inevitably, the past merges with the present and the future. What began as a seemingly straightforward historical geography becomes at turns a travelogue, journal of fieldwork and short essay about the sustainability of economic development along this coast. Richter is clearly not against change, but argues strongly that local tourist development in the future must take account and respect the region’s ecology, its history and its culture.

As the back cover blurb aptly states, “To explore Nayarit’s wild and gorgeous geography, trying to site the ancient Camino Real, is to stumble over another road running toward the state’s future economic development as part of the Mexican Riviera.”

This book should be of interest to geographers everywhere. It serves to prove that historical geography need not be dull and stuffy but can be made relevant, exciting and even entertaining, at the same time as it offers us valuable insights into possible futures.

One minor plea: please add an index when the second edition of this book is prepared!

Search for the Camino Real, a history of San Bad and the road to get there” is one of several books by Richter centered on the fading coastal village culture of Nayarit and the Mexican Riviera. His adventure novel, “Something like a Dream” (Oak Tree Press, 2014) is an especially entertaining read, with a lively plot and well-described settings ranging from the tourist resort of Puerto Vallarta to Nayarit fishing villages and tiny Huichol Indian settlements high in the Western Sierra Madre.

Map of the beaches of Colima, Jalisco and Nayarit, Mexico shows the location of all the key places mentioned in Richter’s books.

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Potential locations for Green Cities in Mexico

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May 312014
 

Following on from our look at the feasibility and practicality of establishing sustainable, accessible Green Cities in Mexico, this post seeks to identify the best locations in Mexico for Green Cities based on an analysis of the natural resources of wind, solar and water.

Of the 31 states in Mexico, only ten were evaluated in detail. Twelve were not evaluated due to their current social conflicts. Seven others were not evaluated because of their propensity for hurricanes, and two were not evaluated due to their mountainous terrain, which is not favorable for generating energy from the wind. The remaining ten states were evaluated using maps similar to those in our previous post about Green Cities.

Green-Cities-States

Of the ten states evaluated (see map), two were rated as having the “Best” wind and solar. But, of the two, Tlaxcala has the best overall ratings of wind, solar and moisture. The best locations in Tlaxcala are in the north and northeast areas of the state. Two other states have a wind and solar rating of “Better”, and three are rated “Good.” Three more have a rating of “Poor.” See the summary chart below.

Summary chart of wind, solar, moisture by state:

Summary chart of wind, solar, moisture by state. Individual ratings: 0 = Poor, 1 = Good, 2 = Better, 3 = Best, 4 = Excellent

State Wind Solar Moisture Total
Tlaxcala 3.3 2.0 2.4 7.7
Oaxaca 2.0 2.0 3.1 7.1
Aguascalientes 3.4 2.0 1.0 6.4
Hidalgo 2.1 1.9 1.7 5.7
Zacatecas 2.7 2.0 0.9 5.6
San Luis Potosí 2.6 1.9 1.0 5.5
Guanajuato 2.2 2.0 1.2 5.4
Puebla 1.1 1.8 2.4 5.3
Querétaro 1.4 2.0 1.0 4.4
Durango 1.0 2.3 1.0 4.3

 

Recommendation:

The recommendation is to do additional evaluations on Tlaxcala, Guanajuato, Hidalgo and Oaxaca, all of which have potential areas suitable for a Green City. Aguascalientes, Zacatecas and San Luis Potosí have good wind and solar ratings, but low moisture ratings which could be a problem. But, they could also be acceptable if suitable “Air to Water” technology were available.

How similar are Mexico’s two major deserts, the Sonoran Desert and the Chihuahuan Desert?

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May 292014
 

There are four desert areas in North America. Two of these areas (Great Basin and Mojave) are in the USA. The other two (the Sonoran Desert and the Chihuahuan Desert) are almost entirely in Mexico, but extend northwards across the border. The Sonoran Desert includes most of the Baja California Peninsula, together with the western part of the state of Sonora. The Chihuahuan desert is the northern section of the Central Plateau, including the northern parts of the states of Chihuahua.

The Chihuahuan Desert has been intensively studied by scientists interested in the possibility of life on Mars – see this New York Times article: Learning About Life on Mars, via a Detour to Mexico.

In a previous post – Why is northern Mexico a desert region? , we saw how the combination of the descending air of the Hadley Cell, which results in surface high pressure, and the effects of rain shadows resulting from neighboring mountain ranges contribute to the low annual rainfall total characteristic of both Mexico’s desert areas.

deserts-colorWhile these two deserts both experience an arid climate, they also have many differences.

Area

The Sonoran Desert has an area of about 311,000 square kilometers (120,000 sq mi). The Chihuahuan Desert has an area of about 362,000 square kilometers (139,769 sq mi).

Elevation

The Sonoran Desert is lower in elevation that the Chihuahuan Desert, with some parts (in the USA) lying below sea level. The Chihuahuan Desert varies in elevation from 600–1675 m (1969–5495 ft).

Summer temperatures

The Sonoran Desert tends to have higher summer temperatures than the Chihuahuan Desert, though even in the Chihuahuan Desert, daytime temperatures in summer are usually between 35 and 40̊C (95-104̊F).

Seasonal rainfall patterns

The ratio of winter to summer rainfall decreases from west to east. Most of the Sonoran Desert (to the west) has a bimodal rainfall regime with spring and summer peaks. On the other hand, most of the limited rain that falls in the Chihuahuan Desert comes in late summer.

The Chihuahuan Desert has a mean annual precipitation of 235 mm (9.3 in), though annual totals vary from 150 to 400 mm (6–16 in).

Vegetation, fauna and biodiversity

These seasonal rainfall differences result in significant differences in the vegetation of the two areas.

The bimodal precipitation in the Sonoran Desert provides two flowering seasons each year. Some plants bloom in spring, following winter rains, while others flower in late summer, following summer rains. Typical plants in the Sonoran Desert include columnar cacti (Cereus spp.) such as sahuaro, organ pipe, and cardon, as well as many other types of cacti, including barrels (Echinocereus), chollas (Opuntia spp.) and prickly pear (Opuntia spp.). Other succulent plants are also common.

More than 60 mammal species, 350 bird species, 20 amphibian species, 100 reptile species, 30 native fish species, 1000 native bee species, and 2000 native plant species have been recorded in the Sonoran Desert. The Sonoran Desert includes the Colorado River Delta, which was once an ecological hotspot within the desert, fueled by the fresh water brought by the river, though this flow has become negligible in recent years. See, for example, Will the mighty Colorado River ever reach its delta?

The vegetation of the Chihuahuan Desert is dominated by grasslands and shrubs, both evergreen and deciduous. Common species include tarbush (Flourensia ternua), whitethorn acacia (Acacia constrictor) and creosote bush (Larrea tridentata). The Chihuahuan desert has small cacti; succulent agaves (Agave spp.) and yuccas. Plants bloom in late summer, following the summer rains.

The Chihuahuan Desert is home to about 350 of the world’s 1500 known species of cactus, and includes the fascinating area of Cuatro Ciénegas, which has an unusually high number of endemic plant species and is one of the world’s richest hotspots for locally endemic cacti.

The Chihuahuan Desert is considered to be one of the three most biologically rich and diverse desert ecoregions in the world, rivaled only by the Great Sandy Tanmi Desert of Australia and the Namib-Karoo of southern Africa. However, settlements and grazing have heavily degraded the natural vegetation of some parts of the Chihuahuan Desert.

he Chihuahuan Desert has about 3500 plant species, including up to 1000 species (29%) that are endemic. The high rate of endemism (true for cacti, butterflies, spiders, scorpions, ants, lizards and snakes) is due to a combination of the isolating effects of the basin and range topography, climate changes over the past 10,000 years, and the colonization of seemingly inhospitable habitats by adaptive species. See here for more details of the flora and fauna of the Chihuahua Desert.

Landforms

This basin and range landscape of the Sonoran Desert trends north-northwest to south-south-east. Parallel faulted blocks are separated by alluvial bajadas (broad, debris-covered slopes), pediments and plains, which become wider approaching the coast. Despite being a desert area, this region exhibits many features that have resulted from water action, including wadis, salt flats, stream terraces and alluvial fans.

For a fuller description of the landforms of the Sonoran Desert, see this extract from A Natural History of the Sonoran Desert (edited by Steven J. Phillips and Patricia Wentworth Comus) published by the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

The Sonoran Desert includes the subregion of the Sierra of Pinacate (part of El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve) with its distinctive volcanic cones, craters and lava flows. For more details, see The landforms of the El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve.

The landforms of the Chihuahuan Desert have been molded by tectonic uplift and erosion. Steep-sided but low hills are separated by wide bajadas from former lake beds and alluvial plains, occupying inland basins known as bolsons. Many parts form closed, interior basins with no external drainage. South of Ciudad Juárez, at Samalayuca, is one of Mexico’s most extensive areas of sand dunes. This is one of the most arid parts of the country, with high levels of salinization.

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May 262014
 

In a recent post – Mexico’s internet connections and e-commerce – we looked at how 35.8% of Mexican households now have computers, 30.7% are now connected to the internet, and at the very rapid rise of e-commerce over the past few years.

How does internet access in Mexico compare to other countries? Comparative studies show that Mexico lags well behind almost all major countries in terms of internet access. Mexico’s rate of 30.7% of households with internet access compares poorly with other countries in Latin America such as Brazil (37.8%), Chile (37.8%) and Argentina (34.0%).

Among OECD member states, Mexico ranks bottom in terms of internet access. South Korea ranks top, with 97.2%. The Netherlands, Norway, Iceland, Luxembourg, Sweden and Denmark all have rates over 90%. Canada has a rate of 78.4%, the USA 71.1% and Japan 67.1%. The lowest ranking European countries are Turkey (41.6%), Greece (50.2%) and Portugal (58.0%).

Within Mexico, the rate of internet access varies widely from one state to another (see graph).

Percentage of households with internet access

Percentage of households with internet access. Source: INEGI (2014)

The disparities are evident from the graph, but the pattern becomes much clearer when the data are grouped and mapped:

Internet access, 2013

Pattern of internet access, 2013. Data: INEGI. Credit: Geo-Mexico

The north-south divide in Mexico, that we have frequently referred to in previous posts, is immediately evident (with the notable exception of the easternmost state of Quintana Roo). Perhaps not surprisingly, there is a close correlation between GDP/capita in different states and their internet access.

Discussion question:

What other factors are likely to influence rates of internet access? To support, or challenge your ideas, try using Geo-Mexico’s map index to find maps to compare with the map of internet access.

Source of data:

  • Estadísticas a Propósito del Día Mundial de Internet” (pdf file) (INEGI 2014)

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May 242014
 

This guest post, by C.G. Machlan of the fledgling Green City Development Organization, looks at the feasibility and practicality of establishing sustainable, accessible cities in Mexico.

If it is feasible and practical to build wind farms in Mexico then it must also be feasible and practical to build sustainable, accessible Green Cities. Here’s why!

Mexico has sufficient wind and solar resources as indicated by these two maps, of wind resource and solar radiation respectively:

Mexico-Wind-Map-2

Source: http://www.altestore.com/howto/images/article/Mexico-Wind-Map.jpg

energia-solar-mexico

Source: http://www.evwind.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/energia-solar-mexico.jpg

Wind Farms

Mexico has approximately 31 wind farms occupying over 11,000 hectares in 8 states, generating more than 1,300 megawatts (MW) of power for the national grid system. Additional wind farms are in the planning and development stages. These wind farms are needed, and are an important component of efforts to increase Mexico’s electricity-generating capacity. Wind farms are ecologically clean, produce needed electricity for the national grid, reduce Mexico’s carbon footprint, and create some long term jobs.

Green Cities versus Wind Farms

While wind farms contribute to Mexico’s electricity-generating capacity they do little to help the long term employment situation in Mexico. On the other hand, Green Cities can help boost employment. The Green City Feasibility Study looked at 10 Mexican states and identified potential locations having sufficient wind, solar and moisture resources to support a Green City. When built, each city would be able to house an estimated population of 250,000 to 300,000, and could create more than 100,000 new jobs across all sectors. Each city would be totally sustainable as regards electricity, by incorporating vertical and horizontal wind turbines together with solar panels in both residential and non-residential areas.

The Green City Electrical Analysis suggests that a Green City will require 54.6 to 63.3 megawatts daily for an estimated 54,000 houses, and between 288 and 661 MW for the non-residential areas at the projected mean and maximum population levels. This is a similar number of megawatts to the 250 MW produced by the Eurus Wind farm located in Juchitan de Zaragoza, Oaxaca, or the 632 MW, oil fired, Puerto Libertad power plant in Pitiquito, Sonora, but has the very important additional advantage of helping to create more than 100,000 new jobs in each city.

Green City Water Sustainability

Both electricity and water are essential for any city, Green Cities included, to grow and prosper. If Green Cities are located in areas where there is good wind speed/density and sufficient solar radiation to produce the electrical energy required, then the next question becomes, “Is there enough water available?”

Annual precipitation in Mexico (Fig .4.3 of Geo-Mexico)

Annual precipitation in Mexico (Fig .4.3 of Geo-Mexico, the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico) All rights reserved.

The normal rainfall season in many areas of Mexico is from May through September, so Green Cities would need to rely on aquifers as a year-round water source. Mexico has 653 identified aquifers, more than 100 of which are said to be overexploited.

Map of overexploited aquifers and areas of salinization

Overexploited aquifers and areas of salinization (Fig 6-7 of Geo-Mexico; all rights reserved)

Fortunately, Green Cities can be totally water sustainable by:

  • Recycling all wastewater to a quality suitable for potable use.
  • Incorporating “Air to Water” methods to obtain replacement water thus reducing aquifer usage.
  • Designing runoff systems to collect and clean rainfall (stormwater) when it is available.
  • Recharging aquifers, using excess water obtained from stormwater runoff.

The Green City Water Analysis estimates that a typical Green City will consume 71,563 cubic meters of water daily. Of this amount, 48,904 cubic meters will become wastewater requiring treatment. Assuming that 10% of the wastewater is lost during processing, approximately 24,925 cubic meters of replacement water will be needed daily, which must come from an aquifer, rainwater and/or “Air to Water” methods.

Calculations indicate each city could be fully water sustainable if rainwater was efficiently harvested. Assuming 10 cities were built in the various locations identified in the feasibility study (examined in an upcoming post) as much as 128 million cubic meters of water could be available for aquifer recharging each year.

Accessibility for All Individuals

If new cities are to be built it seems logical to make them completely accessible to all individuals so everyone has equal opportunity to live, learn and work. This, too, is possible with Green Cities. All houses and non-residential buildings are designed to be totally accessible, making the cities not only unique in Mexico, but in the world!

In Closing

It is feasible, socially acceptable, and economically practical to build sustainable, accessible Green Cities in Mexico! Green Cities are especially important for Mexico. Like most other emerging and developing countries, Mexico lacks sufficient electricity-generating capacity to promote the industrial growth needed for its population. Building more wind farms can help existing cities (via the national grid) but Green Cities can provide even more long term benefits to the people of Mexico, including as many as 1 million new jobs from the construction of 10 new cities.

The technology is available. Now it requires planning, refinement, cost analysis and implementation. Is Mexico ready? We believe the answer is YES!

[Text submitted by C.G. Machlan, The Green City Development Organization (GCID.org). Mr. Machlan can be contacted via bmachlan@hotmail.com]

Join the Discussion

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Pemex works at its Clean Fuels Policy

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May 222014
 

As part of its Clean Fuels Policy, Pemex is modernizing its refineries in Ciudad Madero, Minatitlán, Salamanca, Salina Cruz and Tula.The total investment involved is 3.4 billion dollars. The plan, which will take 4 years to complete, includes the construction of new plants in several of the locations

Pemex installations in Mexico. (Adapted from Fig 15.5 of Geo-Mexico). All rights reserved.

Pemex installations in Mexico. (Adapted from Fig 15.5 of Geo-Mexico). All rights reserved.

The objective is to produce Ultra Low Sulfur diesel fuel (UBA) in the five refineries, in compliance with Mexican standards. The new technology will reduce vehicle emissions of carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides by between 50 and 80%.

Since last September, 42,500 barrels/day of ultra low sulfur gasoline is already being produced at the Pemex refinery in Cadereyta, Nuevo León.

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May 192014
 

Both the state and the city of Querétaro are growing rapidly in importance. The state has grown faster than any other over the past decade and has attracted significant foreign direct investments, especially in the aeronautical sector, but also other technology firms attracted by the state’s central location, proximity to Mexico City, easy access to other major cities, such as Guadalajara and Monterrey, excellent transport links to the northern border and both coasts, its highly educated workforce and enviable living standards.

The state’s success has not gone unrecognized. For example, Joseph Parilla and Alan Berube of the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Studies Program in “Finding the ‘New’ Mexico in Querétaro” describe the state as “ground zero for the country’s economic revolution, achieving average annual GDP growth of 5.5% over the last decade, highest among Mexico’s 31 states. It is home to major multinational corporations like GE and Samsung, a burgeoning middle class, new golf courses, and what will soon be Latin America’s second-largest shopping mall, all within a stone’s throw of an immaculately preserved colonial center (a UNESCO World Heritage site).”

This recent PBS video segment looks at how economic reforms have enabled boomtowns such as Querétaro to spur economic growth in Mexico.

Two proposed projects in Querétaro deserve further comment.

The first is the announcement earlier this year that Arkansas State University was joining with private investors in Querétaro to break ground on the first U.S. university residential branch campus in Mexico. The campus is slated to be built in the municipality of Colón, some distance from the state capital. Just how significant this project is remains to be seen.

The second project, which holds much greater significance, is the renewed interest in constructing a high speed rail link capable of moving as many as 20,000 passengers/day connecting Querétaro City with Mexico City. This idea has been around for at least 20 years, but may finally be approaching lift off.

At a later stage, this line could easily be extended into the Bajío Region, to the industrial cities of León and Guanajuato, and also possibly westwards to Guadalajara. Tapatíos (the residents of Guadalajara) have dreamed of a high speed rail link to Mexico City for the past 30 years, following the demise at that time of the convenient and popular overnight train service linking the two cities.

The line’s proposed route is from the Buenavista station in Mexico City to Huehuetoca, and then mainly following the route of highway 57, the main Mexico City-Querétaro highway, to Querétaro.

The project would generate up to 9,000 direct jobs during construction and take about four years to complete at an estimated cost of $3.3 billion.

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Mexico’s internet connections and e-commerce

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May 172014
 

Mexico, Argentina, Spain and another twenty countries from around the world celebrate today (17 May) as “World Internet Day”.  This seems like the ideal time to review just how “connected” (or not) Mexico’s cybernauts are.

Household survey figures from INEGI, the National Statistics Institute, show 11.1 million homes in Mexico (35.8% of the total) have a computer, but that 14% of these households do not have internet access. About 46 million Mexicans aged six years or older access the internet. Three quarters of all users are under the age of 35.

Digital divide map

Internet traffic flows Credit: Stephen Eick, Bell Labs / Visual Insights, <http://www.visualinsights.com>)

64% of users utilize the internet for information, 42% as a means of communication, 36% for entertainment, 35% for education and 35.1% for social networking. (These categories are not mutually exclusive.) 43.6% of all users access internet daily, 45.5% weekly and 7.1% less often. In terms of education, 20.2% of all users have completed primary school only, 24.5% junior high and 28.6% senior high, while 23% already have a degree and 2% have postgraduate qualifications.

Data from the Mexican Internet Association (AMIPCI) shows that Mexicans’ acceptance of e-commerce is rising very rapidly. E-commerce was worth around $9.3 billion in 2013, an increase of 41% from a year earlier when the comparable figure was $6.6 billion. Indeed, APIPCI data show that e-commerce has risen at double digit rates for several years. There is still considerable room for growth since the INEGI survey shows that only about 6% of Mexico’s cybernauts currently use the internet to make purchases or pay bills.

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Mexico’s multinationals: KidZania and its child-sized cities

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May 152014
 

KidZania is one of Mexico’s more unusual multinational corporations. It is a Mexican-owned chain of family entertainment centers, aimed at children aged 4 to 14. Each KidZania location is a child-sized replica of a real city, complete with buildings, paved streets, shops, vehicles and pedestrians. All buildings are scaled to be two-thirds their real-life size.

kidzania-logoChildren enter the city (usually via an airport-like setting) and then engage in role-play jobs in such branded activities as bottling Coca-Cola, serving at a McDonald’s restaurant or working in a Crest-sponsored dentist’s office. Others undertake the roles of firemen, doctors, police officers, journalists and shopkeepers, etc. “Workers” earn kidZos (local currency) to spend on entertainment, at the gift shop, or for premium KidZania activities. Each KidZania offers about 100 role-playing activities in 60 or so distinct establishments.

Between them, KidZania centers attract more than 4 million young visitors a year. This Youtube promotional video – KidZania Global Overview 2013 – provides a good introduction.

Alternatively, the 5-minute video below, from PBS’s American Milestones, describes how KidZania works, with particular emphasis on its claimed educational value:

The Mexican entrepreneur behind KidZania is CEO Xavier López Ancona. The first KidZania (later renamed La Ciudad de los Niños – The City of the Children) opened in September 1999 in Santa Fe Shopping Mall in Mexico City. Two more locations have since opened in Mexico: Monterrey, in northern Mexico, and Cuiculco, in the southern part of the Federal District.

The first KidZania outside Mexico opened as a franchise in Tokyo, Japan, in 2006. Since then KidZania has opened centers in:

  • Jakarta, Indonesia (2007)
  • Koshien, Japan (2009)
  • Lisbon, Portugal (2009)
  • Dubai (2010)
  • Seoul, South Korea (2010)
  • Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (2012)
  • Santiago, Chile (2012)
  • Bangkok, Thailand (2013)
  • Mumbai, India (2013)
  • Kuwait (2013)
  • Cairo, Egypt (2013)
  • Istanbul, Turkey (2014)
  • London, U.K. (2015)

The chain is still expanding, with plans to establish new centers in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; São Paulo, Brazil; Singapore; Moscow, Russia; Manila, Philippines; Doha, Qatar;  and Chicago, USA.

Each park represents an initial investment of between 20 and 30 million dollars. Sponsors of KidZania activities vary by location and include (or have included) American Airlines, Coca Cola, Domino’s Pizza, Kellogg’s, Walmart, Danone, Mitsubishi, Honda, HSBC, Johnson & Johnson, Nestlé and Sony.

KidZania has won several major awards, including one as the World’s Top Family Entertainment Center by IAAPA (International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions).

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May 092014
 

We have repeatedly questioned the long-term wisdom of large-scale tourist developments along Mexico’s coastline. See, for example:

The good news, in June 2012, was that it looked as if the conflict at Cabo Pulmo, in Baja California Sur, had been resolved in favor of protecting the environment:

Unfortunately, land developers won’t take “No” for an answer. Immediately after its “cancellation”, the Cabo Cortés project was renamed Los Pericúes and relaunched, with few if any differences from the original version. Two years on, the project has been taken over by a new consortium of developers and renamed “Cabo Dorado”. Some changes have been made along the way, and Cabo Dorado no longer includes a marina or desalination plant, and its plans appear to have a lower building density.

There are still some legitimate concerns about the long-term impact of such a project in this area, so kudos to Carolina Herrera (Latin America Advocate of the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington DC) for her impassioned plea calling for Cabo Pulmo to be protected from the latest incarnation of this long-proposed tourist megaproject.

The project is located immediately north of the Cabo Pulmo Marine Park, which over its 19 year lifespan has proven to be hugely successful in conservation terms (The extraordinary ecological recovery of Mexico’s Cabo Pulmo Marine Park), while providing local people with the opportunity to offer a variety of alternative forms of low impact tourism. The site of the Cabo Dorado project site is home to 26 “at risk” species, including endemic plants and endangered sea turtles.

Cabo Dorado is a 3.6-bilion-dollar joint investment by La Rivera Desarrollos BCS, a joint venture of Glorious Earth Group (USA) and Beijing Sansong International Trade Group (China), together with China State Construction Engineering Corporation.

The project is for the construction of a new “ecotourist city” on 3770 hectares (9317 acres) of land. Slightly more than two-thirds of this area will be retained as a “conservation reserve”.

The master plan for the developed third includes:

  • 6,141 homes  (443 ha)
  • 9 hotels with 4,080 hotel rooms (721 ha) [the 22,503 number on the infographic below is an error]
  • 2 golf courses and practice ground (162 ha)
  • Services, infrastructure, maintenance (334 ha)
  • 1 landing strip
  • 1 14-km aqueduct
  • Shops, convention center, etc
Infographic from www.cabopulmovivo.org

Infographic from www.cabopulmovivo.org   Click to enlarge

According to the developers. Cabo Dorado “will be a fully integrated development, a first of its kind in the country, as it combines educational, recreational activities, scientific research, health promotional centers and a strong commitment to preserve the environment.” To this end, the project includes “an interpretation center, a technological and biological research center for studies related to the Sea of Cortes and the Desert of Baja California Sur, as well as a cultural exchange center, an educational institute and a student campus. In addition, there will be centers dedicated to the promotion of trade and investments, a high performance sports center, 9 world-class hotels and residences for temporary visitors and full time residents.”

Cabo Dorado will extract up to 4.8 million cubic meters of water a year from Santiago aquifer, roughly equivalent to the water needs of a city of 82,000 people) and will generate 711,900 kilograms of waste per day.

On the positive side, the project will create 18,000 direct and indirect jobs and bring around 900 million dollars/year into this area. It does not involve a marina or pumping wastewater into the sea which should prevent direct adverse ecological impact on marine life. The masterplan includes a “support town” for workers, which means that the local municipality does not need to build additional infrastructure to support the project.

The Mexican Center for Environmental Law (CEMDA) has called for a formal public meeting and consultation to ensure people are adequately informed about the latest plans and the potential social and environmental impacts.

Further reading:

For an exceptionally informative series of papers (in Spanish) on all aspects of tourism and sustainability in Cabo Pulmo, see Tourism and sustainability in Cabo Pulmo, published in 2008 (large pdf file).

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