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The spatial distribution of Mexico’s GDP

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Dec 062012
 

Mexico’s National Statistics Agency recently released a breakdown of GDP by state for 2011. The data allow for an analysis of the spatial distribution of Mexico’s GDP. The graph below shows each state’s contribution to GDP (blue bars) and their share of Mexico’s total population (red bars):

Population & GDP by state, 2011

Population & GDP by state, 2011. Data: INEGI. Credit: Tony Burton / Geo-Mexico; all rights reserved

In general, Mexico’s larger states (in terms of population) contribute more towards national GDP than its smaller states. Equally, even after population is taken into account, it is clear that some states contribute far more than others to Mexico’s GDP. The states of Campeche and  Tabasco both stand out as contributing far more than their fair share towards national GDP; this is on account of their oil and gas reserves. The Federal District, Nuevo León, Quintana Roo and Querétaro also outperform in terms of economic output. On the other hand, Michoacán, Chiapas, Oaxaca and Guerrero all stand out for contributing less to Mexico’s GDP than the size of their population would suggest.

The economic disparities revealed by the data are closely matched by other indicators of economic disparity such as differences in poverty rates and the distribution of the wealthiest households. For more about these topics, start with the related posts listed below.

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Pemex boosts reserves and reduces its emissions

 Mexico's geography in the Press, Updates to Geo-Mexico  Comments Off on Pemex boosts reserves and reduces its emissions
Dec 032012
 

It may come as something of a surprise to many observers, but during 2012, Mexico’s state-owned oil company Pemex (Petróleos Mexicanos) has received several well-deserved plaudits for its efforts to slash the emissions associated with oil and gas exploration, reserves and production.

For the fifth consecutive year, the Global Reporting Initiative awarded Pemex the highest possible rating for social responsibility. The company also received excellent ratings for sustainable asset management. During 2011, Pemex’s proven reserves increased 1.1%, while the petro-giant cut total emissions by 17.3% compared to the previous year. Crude oil output averaged 2.55 million barrels a day in 2011. Carbon dioxide emissions were down 8.8% in 2011, while sulfur oxides have now fallen more than 50% since 2007.

Meanwhile, the production division of Pemex has been praised by World Bank experts for having reduced burn-off from its giant Cantarell gas field from 31% in 2008 to 3% in July 2011. Pemex has invested more than 1.6 billion dollars in the Cantarell field over the last six years in order to improve efficiency, with the installation of compressors, flow separation devices and re-injection technology. In the past three years, it has reduced total emissions, including greenhouse gases, from 13.6 billion cubic meters a year to 2.1 billion. Pemex is well on track to beat its target of 99% efficiency in gas recovery by 2014.

Crude oil production has risen steadily in 2012. For example, in August 2012, Pemex produced 2.56 million barrels of oil a day (b/d), its highest output since May 2011. The Chicontepec field in Veracruz is doing especially well. Its single best-performing well, named Presidente Alemán 1565, uses innovative technology, including three dimensional seismic mapping and horizontal drilling, to yield as much as the combined output of 28 other wells in the region.

Mexico’s current 3P (proven, probable, possible) reserves are also on the rise, and currently total 43 billion barrels of crude oil equivalent. After years of depletion, Pemex is now adding more oil and gas each year to its reserves than it is extracting. The oil giant recently announced a huge deep water, light crude discovery in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Tamaulipas, its first major find in the Perdido Fold Belt, where the total 3P reserves could be as high as 10 billion barrels. The Trión-1 well, drilled to a total depth of 4,500 meters (14,800 feet), is 40 km (25 miles) inside Mexico’s territorial waters and is expected to yield up to 400 million barrels of high quality crude.

Pemex also recently reported the largest land-based discovery of oil for about a decade. The Navegante-1 well, drilled in the South-East Basins 20 km from Villahermosa (Tabasco) found light crude oil with an APR gravity of 45 degrees, at a depth of 6800 meters. The field is 87 square kilometers in area and has estimated 3P reserves of about 300 million barrels of crude oil equivalent.

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Using Google to map areas influenced by drug cartel activity

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Nov 282012
 

The area of influence of each individual drug cartel in Mexico is far from fixed. As cartels fight each other (and government forces) to control their markets, the cartels’ areas of influence expand and contract. This inevitably means that conventional maps of drug cartel “territories” are only a snapshot, each valid only for a limited time. Territories change so rapidly that it is seemingly impossible to keep up.

Two Harvard graduate students have now shown how Google can be used to derive maps of cartel influence. In How and where do criminals operate? Using Google to track Mexican drug trafficking organizations, Viridiana Ríos and Michele Coscia use an algorithm called MOGO (Making Order Using Google As an Oracle) and show how Google data can be processed into maps and graphs.

The method is a much faster, and lower-cost alternative to the sophisticated intelligence and research techniques employed by private security consultants and research institutes.The new approach suggests that different drug groups operate in quite different ways.

Coscia & Ríos, Figure 8: Changing pattern of Juárez cartel

Coscia & Ríos, Figure 8: Changing pattern of Juárez cartel

The spatial patterns related to the activity of each cartel show distinctive peculiarities. For instance, the longer-established cartels, including the Juárez cartel (see graphic) and Sinaloa cartel, “have a tendency towards being not competitive, being most of the time the first to operate in a particular territory. They operate in a large number of municipalities but also have a high turn over.”

Coscia & Ríos, Figure 9: Changing pattern of Zetas

Coscia & Ríos, Figure 9: Changing pattern of Zetas

On the other hand, newer groups such as the Zetas  (see maps) are “Expansionary competitive”, being both highly competitive and very willing to explore new territories.”In other words, they not only try to invade others’ territories but also are the first to colonize new markets and to operate in areas where drug tracking organizations had never been present before.” By mid-2012, the Zetas operated in 324 municipalities. They were adding “an average of 38.87 new municipalities every year”. However, they also “abandon an average of 22 municipalities per year, lasting an average of only 2.86 years in each one of them.”

These findings appear to lend support to the view that, even in the worst-hit areas, the violence related to cartel activities does not last indefinitely. Indeed, the latest homicide figures from Ciudad Juárez and many other northern border areas show a significant improvement from a year or two ago. Hopefully, the new administration will continue to make progress in tackling the violence. According to press reports, Enrique Peña Nieto, whose six year term as President starts 1 December, will focus his public security policies on reducing Mexico’s homicide rate, as well as reducing the rates of kidnapping and extortion.

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The geography of music and dance in Mexico

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Nov 272012
 

Numerous different regional music styles are found in Mexico (see map), some strongly influenced by indigenous instruments but most relying on the string and brass instruments brought by early Spanish settlers. Curiously, mariachi music, which is often considered Mexico’s national musical style, is believed to owe its origin to French immigrants and refer to wedding (mariage) music. Other popular music types include rancheras (country style songs), corridos (songs telling stories, often about heroes), norteño (northern), rock and pop.

Music and dance in Mexico.

Music and dance in Mexico. Fig 13.3 of Geo-Mexico, the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico. All rights reserved.

Musical instruments vary regionally as well. For instance, the marimba, a kind of wooden xylophone, is most often heard in Chiapas whereas the harp is more characteristic of Veracruz.

Regional dance styles have provided the stimulus for Mexico’s numerous baile folklórico (folkloric ballet) groups, many of which tour internationally. Some examples of regional dances are shown on the map.

Dance of the Quetzals, Cuetzalan, Puebla.

Dance of the Quetzals, Cuetzalan, Puebla. Photo: Tony Burton; all rights reserved.

Some of these dances are very localized. For example, the Quetzal Dance, with its elaborate headdresses (see photo)  is performed almost exclusively in the village of Cuetzalan in the state of Puebla.

In addition to these cultural manifestations there are significant spatial variations among many other facets of culture, including sport, dress, architectural styles and handicrafts. Regional differences are also found in some forms of literature.

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Magic Town #66: Lagos de Moreno, “the Athens of Jalisco”

 Mexico's geography in the Press  Comments Off on Magic Town #66: Lagos de Moreno, “the Athens of Jalisco”
Nov 242012
 

Lagos de Moreno, just designated Mexico’s Magic Town #66, is a town with a charming ambiance. A succession of small squares with old trees and gardens, connected by shaded streets, gives it a cultured university air. At every turn there are beautifully kept old buildings to be enjoyed and it is absolutely fitting that the town, in its entirety, should have been declared a national monument.

Lagos de Moreno is Jalisco’s fifth Magic Town. Boasting more than 380 cultural and historic sites, its peak coincided with the governments of President Porfirio Díaz in the late 1800s when local haciendas produced both an aristocratic elite and plenty of money enabling them to enjoy what they considered were the better things in life.

La Rinconada restaurant, Lagos de Moreno

La Rinconada restaurant, Lagos de Moreno. Credit: Mark Eager / Sombrero Books

Lagos was founded as Santa María de los Lagos in 1563 on the west bank of the broad Lagos River. It assumed its modern name in 1827. In early colonial times, its inhabitants had to withstand repeated attacks from the Chichimecas. When silver was discovered in large quantities near Zacatecas, further north, the town became a natural staging-post on the mule route to Mexico City, where all colonial silver was taken for assaying. At the same time, the main contraband route across Mexico, between Tampico, on the Atlantic, and San Blas, on the Pacific, passed through the town. As a result of this strategic location, the city was fortified with walls, some of which still remain. There are few examples in Mexico of colonial walled cities. Lagos is one of the best preserved.

The width of the river necessitated the construction of a bridge, at least for more modern traffic, and in the eighteenth century Lagos Bridge was built on the northern edge of the town. This bridge is the subject of one of the charming tales in El Alcalde de Lagos (The Mayor of Lagos), a delightful collection of witty short stories compiled by Alfonso de Alba. The stories capture the provincial nature of the town perfectly, complete with the very different perceptions of the local intelligentsia and their rural campesino counterparts as the town grew to maturity.

The imposing ultrabaroque parish church of the Assumption is also eighteenth century and looks onto the principal plaza. Two blocks away, the former Capuchinas convent has been converted into the Casa de la Cultura, with a concert hall, spaces for art exhibits, library and music classes. Few Casas de la Cultura anywhere in the country are housed in quite such an historic or magnificent building. Walk into the patio and see for yourself. The mural inside depicts Pedro Moreno, hero of the Independence movement, who was born near the town, and after whom the town is named. Another building in the Capuchinas square houses the Agustín Rivera Museum with its displays of archaeological and historical items.

Behind the parish church is the Rosas Moreno theater, one of the few provincial theaters to have survived with its interior spaces and decorations unchanged from the end of the nineteenth century. This building, designed by Primitivo Serrano, was begun in 1887, and inaugurated in 1907. It is named in honor of locally-born José Rosas Moreno, the Children’s Poet, a renowned writer of fables. Serrano built many other fine buildings in Lagos de Moreno, and his influence is everywhere in the lovely Hacienda Las Cajas, now a small hotel.

The central area of Lagos de Moreno, with its romantic corners and shaded walks, is a place to wander through slowly, savoring the sights and sounds of an unashamedly provincial town, one proud of its history and still retaining a dignified air. An overnight stay allows visitors to savor the unique atmosphere of this lovely town in the early morning or late evening when lower-angled sunlight shows the colors and details in the stonework to best effect.

[Lightly edited extract from Tony Burton’s Western Mexico: A Traveler’s Treasury.]

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How does Mexico’s telephone system compare with that in other countries?

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Nov 192012
 

Mexico’s first telephone line was erected in Puebla in the early 1880s. Before long, the Mexican Telephone Company, a subsidiary of Bell, was operating in Mexico City. The first telephone lines did not work very well and were limited to downtown areas. Only public officials, police stations, a few select businesses and the wealthy used the telephone service.

The growth of telephony was slow because it lacked strong government support, was expensive and had a very limited range. By 1893 telephone services had spread to 13 more cities even though intercity lines would not become available until much later. In about 1950 all Mexico’s telephone companies were purchased by a single group of investors to form Teléfonos de México (Telmex) which established a monopoly. Even after the government nationalized the company in 1972, few incentives were offered for expansion and it was still almost impossible to obtain a new telephone line.

Access to fixed line and cell phones by country.

Access to fixed line and cell phones by country. Fig. 18.1 of Geo-Mexico; all rights reserved.

In 1990 Telmex was re-privatized in one of Mexico’s largest, most complicated and most controversial privatizations. The government sold majority voting rights and a 20% stake in Telmex to a consortium of investors for $1.8 billion and it sold $3.7 billion in shares to the public. The newly privatized Telmex invested significantly in the mid 1990s, enabling millions to get new lines but raising rates dramatically. Competitors were allowed to enter the telephone market but Telmex has remained the dominant player, especially for residential services. It remains fashionable for its customers to complain about its poor service and very high long distance rates.

Mexico and the USA are closely linked by telephone. Over 90% of the international calls from Mexico go to the USA whereas roughly 13% of all US international calls go to Mexico.

For a country of Mexico’s wealth and sophistication, it lags behind most of the world in telephony (see graph). In 2007, Mexico had 19 fixed telephone lines per 100 population compared to 53 in the USA and 56 in Canada. The Federal District had the best service with about 50 fixed telephone lines per 100 people, followed by Nuevo León with 33 and Baja California with 27. Chiapas had the fewest with only 5 per 100, not far behind Oaxaca with 6 and Tabasco with 7. Telephone communications are difficult or inconvenient in these southern states; this limits their residents’ quality of life and economic competitiveness. Other states with poor telephone service (less than 12 lines per 100 people) are Hidalgo, Zacatecas, Campeche, Tlaxcala, Guerrero, Veracruz and San Luis Potosí.

Mexicans have better access to cell phones than fixed lines with 63% of the population owning one in 2007, compared to 84% in the USA, 62% in Canada and a staggering 107% (more than one cell phone per person) in Argentina. While lagging slightly behind Guatemala where 76% of the population has a cell phone, a higher percentage of people in Mexico use cell phones than in China or India.

Cell phone use in Mexico has grown rapidly in the capital and other big cities but has also grown spectacularly in southern and rural areas where there are few wired telephones. Many rural villages with only a few fixed line phones now have dozens of cell phones, mostly used by those under age thirty. When asked why they don’t use cell phones more, some older rural adults say they find cell phones too complicated because of their many small buttons.

Many rural residents get cell phones from relatives who have migrated to the USA. They avoid monthly fees by buying pre-paid cell phone cards when they have the money. When the card runs out, they make no calls until they can afford to buy another one. Some enterprising rural residents use their cell phone as a pay phone. In short, cell phone technology has greatly improved communications in many Mexican rural areas.

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Women’s Migration Networks in Mexico and Beyond (review)

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Nov 172012
 

As long ago as 1885, Ernst Georg Ravenstein, a German-English cartographer, proposed seven “laws of migration” that arose from his studies of migration in the U.K.

The original seven laws, as expressed by Ravenstein, were:

  • 1) Most migrants only proceed a short distance, and toward centers of absorption.
  • 2) As migrants move toward absorption centers, they leave “gaps” that are filled up by migrants from more remote districts, creating migration flows that reach to “the most remote corner of the kingdom.”
  • 3) The process of dispersion is inverse to that of absorption.
  • 4) Each main current of migration produces a compensating counter-current.
  • 5) Migrants proceeding long distances generally go by preference to one of the great centers of commerce or industry.
  • 6) The natives of towns are less migratory than those of the rural parts of the country.
  • 7) Females are more migratory than males.

These laws, though certainly not accepted uncritically, have provided a basic framework for many later studies of migration. Surprisingly, despite the wording of law 7, there has been remarkably little focus on female migration in the literature, with far more attention being paid in most studies to the migration of men.

Wilson-Tamar-Diana-coverRecognizing this, anthropologist Tamar Wilson provides a detailed account of several important aspects of female migration in her Women’s Migration Networks in Mexico and Beyond (University of New Mexico Press, 2009).

Wilson’s book focuses on the experiences and thoughts of doña Consuelo [all names are pseudonyms], a woman she met while researching in Colonia Popular, a Mexicali squatter settlement, in 1988, and her daughters Anamaria and Irma.

Over a period of several years, and in small part due to marrying a man from Colonia Popular, the author was able to become an insider, invited to all family functions, helping pay for expenses of other family members for such things as tuition, gaining a unique perspective that extends far beyond that usually available to researchers. Yet, at the same time, she remained an observer, recording conversations and impressions and arranging interviews as she felt necessary in order to tease out the details relating to the migration network involved.

The book is solidly grounded in migration theory and the early chapters call heavily on secondary sources. The first chapter (Herstories) provides a useful summary of the history of Mexican migration to the USA since the mid-nineteenth century, and of the increasing participation of women in international migration from Mexico.

Chapter 2 summarizes the history of female employment in Mexico over the same time period, and changes in gender relations in recent decades, while Chapter 3 provides the theoretical background, emphasizing the key concepts of migration networks, social capital and the peculiarities of transnational migration.

Wilson summarizes the findings of previous studies as suggesting that, “Women migrants within Mexico tend to be disproportionately single and either separated, abandoned, or widowed, and single mothers tend to accompany parents. Young, single women seem to be attracted to the border by the possibilities of finding work in the maquiladoras, underscoring women’s generally ignored status as labor migrants. ” However, based on her fieldwork between 1988 and 1992, she found that  “None of the women in Colonia Popular had migrated to Mexicali in order to work in the maquiladoras, but some of their teenage daughters were employed in those assembly plants”.

Six chapters then focus on the personal experiences of doña Consuelo and her family and friends. Extensive quotations (translated into English) from interviews are linked with a clear narrative. These chapters are full of interest as the reader is drawn into the lives of the women and family members involved.

In the final chapter, Wilson draws nine general conclusions from her research:

  1. Poor women in Mexico engage in a variety of income-producing activities in both the formal and informal economies that may involve migration.
  2. Many if not most women accept the system of male domination but may opt out of an unhappy marriage if men do not live up to certain standards they consider fair. This is especially true in urban areas where women can find work.
  3. Although many women migrate under the auspices of husbands or fathers, women’s migration in Mexico can take [place independently of males.
  4. Extended family migration to a given city often also involves migration to a specific colonia or neighborhood within that city.
  5. The social capital provided by networks exists on individual, familial and community levels
  6. Strong ties can be either reinforced or weakened over time and the family life cycle, and weak tie can be converted into strong ties or abandoned. Transnational migration networks multiply in urban centers when siblings or offspring marry.
  7. Transnational migration networks can be anchored in a multiplicity of locales, including place of origin, place of anterior (internal or transnational) migration, or place of one’s current residence or that of one’s parents, spouse’s parents or other kin
  8. Adaptation networks for urban-origin migrants at destination may be, to a great extent, composed of work-site acquaintances converted into friends or ritual kin, and both friends and ritual kin may introduce migrants to future friends and ritual kin.
  9. Transnationalism involves individuals embedded in households, families and networks who, through their ability to cross borders, provide connecting links between kin in Mexico and kin in the United States.

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Nov 152012
 

In a previous post, we quoted a press release from the Pew Hispanic Center suggesting that the net migration flow from Mexico to the USA had slowed down to a trickle, and possibly even gone into reverse (ie with more migrants moving from USA to Mexico than in the opposite direction):

We also looked at data related to the vexed question of which Mexicans, if any, may still want to move to the USA:

There are some slight signs now that the net migration flow northwards is on the increase again. According to this press article, the National Statistics Institute (INEGI) has reported that out-migration from Mexico started to rise again in the second quarter of this year.

During the second quarter, international immigration into Mexico was estimated (based on survey evidence) at 14.3 / 10,000 total population, and emigration from Mexico to another country at 41.9 / 10,000, meaning a net migration outflow from Mexico of 27.6 / 10,000.

It seems like the average age of migrants is also slowly rising. For instance, INEGI data suggest that 31% of emigrants were between 30 and 49 years of age during the period from 2006 to 2008, compared to 35% for the 2009-2011 period.

It is still far too early to say whether or not the flow of migrants from Mexico to the USA will become as strong, and involve as many people, as in the 1990s and 2000s, but watch this space.

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La Yesca HEP station officially opened

 Mexico's geography in the Press, Updates to Geo-Mexico  Comments Off on La Yesca HEP station officially opened
Nov 122012
 

The La Yesca dam was officially opened last week by President Calderón. According to the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE), at 208.5 meters (684 feet) high, it is the second highest dam of its kind in the world, 22 meters lower than the dam for the Shibuya hydroelectric plant on the Qingjiang River in China.

The dam is located on the Santiago River, on the border between Nayarit and Jalisco, 105 km NW of Guadalajara (Jalisco) and 23 km NW of the town of Hostotipaquillo (Jalisco). This location is north of the towns of Magdalena and Tequila.

La Yesca dam and reservoir

The reservoir has a total capacity of 2.5 billion cubic meters, of which about half can be used for generating HEP. The surface area of the reservoir is 33.4 square kilometers (13 sq mi).

La Yesca is upstream of two other major HEP dams: El Cajón and Aguamilpa, and represents the latest addition to Mexico’s ambitious plan to increase the proportion of its energy needs coming from renewable sources. La Yesca has a total installed capacity of 750 MW, equivalent to about half the total electricity requirements of Guadalajara, Mexico’s second largest city.

La Yesca dam

The La Yesca HEP scheme represents an investment of about 1.1 billion dollars and was constructed by a consortium led by Mexican firm Ingenieros Civiles Asociados (ICA). Construction began in September 2007. The Santiago River was temporarily diverted in March 2009, and the first generating unit entered service in October 2012. The second unit will enter service this month. The machine house is on the northern side of the river, and the spillway on the southern side.

The three major dams on the River Santiago help to reduce flooding downstream, while also increasing fishing opportunities. According to a CFE study, fish yields from Aguamilpa, the most accessible of the three major dams, have risen from 33.5 metric tons/yr to 5,000 metric tons/yr since the reservoir was completed.

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The geography of cement production in Mexico

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Nov 102012
 

In a recent post we saw how Mexico is one of the world’s leading cement manufacturing countries:

The map shows the location of the 34 cement plants currently operating in Mexico. They include 15 belonging to Cemex, 7 to Holcim Apasco, 4 to Cruz Azul, 3 to Cementos Chihuahua, 3 to Cementos Moctezuma and 2 to Lafarge. A new company, Cementos Fortaleza (part-owned by Carlos Slim, the world’s richest man), is due to open in the state of Hidalgo early next year.

Cement plants in Mexico, 2011

Cement plants in Mexico, 2011. Credit: Tony Burton / Geo-Mexico; all rights reserved. Click to enlarge.

According to the Center for Clean Air Policy’s “Sector-based Approaches Case Study: Mexico”,

“The northern region of the country has traditionally been the largest consumer of cement, accounting for 48% of sales mainly for use in infrastructure construction projects, housing and office complexes, and other construction activities. Central Mexico is also a relatively strong market for domestic producers. However, the primary use differs somewhat in that the main source of demand is from construction of new buildings such as hotels and office complexes. The relatively slower pace of economic growth in southern Mexico accounts for the lower share (17%) of domestic cement sales in the south.”

The paucity of cement plants in southern Mexico is particularly well reflected by the map.

The main raw material for cement is limestone. The distribution of cement plants in Mexico tends to follow the distribution of “limestones and clastic rocks” (rocks made of particles of other rocks) on the map of Mexico’s surface geology.

Mexico's surface geology

Mexico’s surface geology. Click map to enlarge.

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