Mar 122015
 

If you really want to learn more about Mexico’s economy and have a few hours to spare, then the free, open, online video course entitled Mexico’s Economy: Current Prospects and History by MRUniversity is the place to go. The lead instructor is Dr. Robin Grier of the University of Oklahoma. In a series of 51 short videos, she provides an outstanding analysis of Mexico’s economic history and current economic issues.

The course summary reads:

Is Mexico the most dynamic economy in Latin America?  After some tough times in the 1980s and 90s, Mexico has emerged as one of the economic leaders of the region.  Where does it stand among other emerging markets and what are its prospects for the future? In this four-week course, we will study the modern Mexican economy, some of the unique elements of development in a one-party, authoritarian regime, and some of the challenges the country faced in getting to this point.

No prior knowledge of economics (or of Mexico’s geography) is needed to follow the clear and concise min-lectures given by Dr. Grier, though many of her main lines of inquiry will be more than familiar to readers of Geo-Mexico.

There is lots of interesting material in these videos. For example, a short lecture under “Social Issues” entitled “Is There A Height Premium in Mexico?” looks at the evidence that taller people in Mexico earn more and have better economic opportunities than shorter Mexicans, before concluding that “each centimeter of height above the average is equivalent to 2% higher wages”. (Note: This video is a great follow-up to our April 2013 post, How tall is the average Mexican?)

The full list of videos in Mexico’s Economy: Current Prospects and History is

  • 1 An Overview of the Mexican Economy
    • Achievements
    • Challenges & prospects for reform
  • 2 Colonial Legacies: Obstacles to Growth after Independence
    • A reversal of fortune
    • Colonial Transportation Part I
    • Colonial Transportation Part II
    • Political Instability After Independence
    • The Economic Effects of the War of Independence
    • Transportation & Infrastructure in the 19th century
    • Slow Financial Development in Early Mexico
    • Law and Economic Development in Early Mexico
  • 3 Development Strategies
    • State-led development: an overview from 1917-1982
    • Commodity Driven Growth before the 1930s
    • Turning Inward: Industrial Policy after the Great Depression
    • Labor Unions and the PRI until democratization
    • What is a maquiladora?    An overview of Pemex
    • The problems of Pemex
    • Pemex’s poor performance
  • 4 Social Issues
    • Fertility and Demographic Change in Mexico
    • Is There A Height Premium in Mexico?
    • Conditional Cash Transfers
    • Migration and its Wage Effects in the US
    • Migration and Remittances
    • Economics of the Drug War
    • Finance, Law & Trust (Mexico)
    • Education Quality in Mexico
    • Education Inequality in Mexico
    • Why is Teaching Quality so Low?
  • 5 Land & Agriculture
    • Land Reform in an Authoritarian State
    • The Economic Life of the Tortilla
    • A Tomato Border Crossing
    • Watermelon Scale Economies
  • 6 The Debt Crisis of the 1980s
    • External Factors of the Debt Crisis
    • Domestic Factors of the Debt Crisis
    • Resolving the Debt Crisis
  • 7 The State Retreats: Reform in the 1980s & 1990s
    • External Factors Behind Reform
    • Privatization Part I: The state loosens its grip
    • Privatization Part 1a: Charges of Cronyism and Corruption
    • Privatization 2: Dealing with the Opposition
    • Privatization 3: Results
  • 8 The Peso Crisis
    • The Mexican Miracle? The Lead-Up to the Tequila Crisis
    • Tequila crisis
  • 9 NAFTA & the Mexican Economy
    • An Introduction to NAFTA
    • The effects of NAFTA on the Mexican economy
    • NAFTA and Mexican Agriculture
    • FDI & NAFTA
  • 10 Modern Mexico
    • Mexico & the Brics
    • Is Mexico the new China?
    • La Reconquista: Mexican direct investment in the US
    • Mexico as an open economy
    • Mexico and the 2008 Global Financial Crisis

The course is an outstanding resource for teachers and students of geography and economics, and worthy of wide use in a range of high-school A-level and IB courses as well as college and university programs.

Mar 092015
 

How much geography can you learn from a novel? In some cases, plenty! Robert Richter’s latest novel, Something for Nothing, is a case in point. Set in the swampy lowlands of coastal Nayarit, it is not only a fun read but provides armchair travelers with an easy introduction to the geography of western Mexico.

The book’s author has known this area intimately for more than forty years and his extensive knowledge and deep appreciation for the varied landscapes of this region are evident throughout. The novel is the third in a series of mysteries starring a small-time hustler named Cotton Walters. This particular tale revolves around archaeologists, drug smugglers and a motley crew of colorful local characters.

The history in this novel is entirely believable, and the plot entertaining, but it is the descriptions of the area’s geography that we focus on here.

richter-something-for-nothing-2015Early on, Richter offers an excellent overview of the landscapes in this region of Mexico:

“From the highway Mex-15 to the coast, between the San Blas turn on the south and the Tuxpan turn on the north, something was going on in that country of streams and gorges and farmers’ fields. Mex-15 wound through breakneck sierra jungle country where a spur of the Sierra Madre Occidental plunges to the coastal lowlands of mangrove estuaries and shrimp-spawning lagoons, banana plantations and  fishermen’s river-edge villages. Between Nayarit’s two major rivers, Río San Pedro on the north, and Río Santiago on the south, this was rugged backcountry known only by the farmers and jungle scroungers who carved an agricultural living from the wilds. From sierra peak plots to fertile lowland fields, from scattered wild fruit groves hacked from the jungle to smooth, cultivated fields and orchards, from blacktop roads to machete-hacked trails, it’s a country of explosive green growth and extreme geography, a native ground of small towns caught in colonial time warp and hidden bayou settlements as primitive as mythic Aztlan.” (Something for Nothing, 9)

The following paragraph provides the likely human and economic geography background to the “something was going on” phrase used earlier, neatly combining comments about accessibility (or lack thereof), drug smuggling routes, the economic importance of marijuana-growing and questions the possible links between the military and the drugs business:

This was October, end of the rain and hurricane season, and the engorged rivers were running full, impassable except at the few major bridges. The army was stationed at each traffic artery coming out of that country to the main highway. Area contained. It had to be a sweep for marijuana growers or a hunt for major harvest warehouses. Sinaloa to the north was known for its poppy fields and cartel trafficking, Michoacán and Guerrero farther south for Sinsemilla and Acapulco Gold. But the barrancas and jungle milpas of Nayarit were starting to contribute their share of quality pot to the Gross National Product and to the local economies. This year’s harvest had been coming in for some time, and this military presence all along the highway had the feel of maneuvers to eradicate or to confiscate. On the other hand, it could be to expedite the flow of product, too. Quién sabe? [Something for Nothing, 10]

Similarly, this extract from a later chapter links tourism to the volcanic landscapes and appraently laments the loss of wilderness that has accompanied tourism growth, before offering an evocative description of the lowland jungle:

We took an oyster shell road out a back street of Sayulita, not headed out toward the highway, but around a jungle-covered lava spill south into the bosque toward Punta Mita and the northern point of Banderas Bay. Today, that road is driven by Vallarta tourist families in rented Chevy Blazers to luxury hotels. In the winter of ‘72, it was a deer trail that died in an arroyo somewhere in the heart of darkness. Under old growth rain forest canopy we pried boulders out of the way, chopped through windfall palm trunks, and pushed on into an ever-closing tropical wilderness.

… Then suddenly, we entered a clearing under giant iguerra blanca trees and towering palms, draped with vines like decoration and full of grackle cries and parrot song, warblers answering and magpies chattering. Beneath the cathedral-like canopy, a village of stick and thatch huts appeared in the mist and smoke of kitchen fires. Dogs and naked children paused in mid-play to stare at the strange metal monster wheeling in from the twentieth century.

Our modern intrusion rent a momentary silence in the tapestry of village routine. Sunlight pierced the jungle crown with spears of silver light. A prehistoric dust hovered in the air. A rooster crowed. A jay answered. Time warped. As we opened our pickup doors kids scurried or stumbled forward, captured by a spell of awe. My own senses reeled under overload reception. I couldn’t tell the century or the hour of the day in the perpetual jungle shade. I simply absorbed the surroundings, only vaguely conscious and aware. (Something for Nothing, 25-26)

The swamps of lowland, coastal Nayarit comprise a region known in Spanish as the Marismas Nacionales. The area is one of the most distinctive of Mexico’s many extraordinary ecosystems, difficult to explore, teeming with insects, birds and aquatic life, and so far relatively untouched by tourism. Cotton Walters, the book’s main character, and his friend Miguel are navigating their way through the swamps when they are spotted by the Mexican Navy:

I crawled back to Miguel in the stern, pointing and screaming, “Navy! Navy! Ándale! We have to reach the first islands!” Miguel opened it up and cut sharply for shore and the first open passage of river between delta sand spits and jungle-covered islands.

The mouth of the Río San Pedro is more a maze of passages through lowland marshes than a distinctive channel of fast flowing current–except now at the height of the rainy season. The San Pedro oozes into the Pacific rather than runs, and the coast from there north to Mazatlan is an ever changing labyrinth of lagoons and meandering rivulets choked with water lilies and low islands thick with marsh grasses and crawling vines. The lowland character changes with the seasons of dryness and deluge, a seething cauldron of crustacean larvae, breeding shrimp, prawn, oyster, and fish during the rainy season, and arid scrub brush pasture for roaming herds of Cebu cattle and their retinue of herons in the dry months. (Something for Nothing, 31)

Richter’s less-than-flattering description of the town of San Blas nevertheless offers an astute summary of its historical significance:

Yeah, San Blas. The seediest backwater port town on Mexico’s west coast. A town as old as the first buccaneers and as ravaged by time as an old hag. An outpost town on the fringe of four or five different cultures, a smugglers’ town since the first Spanish customs house ran up a flag and started squeezing the citizens for coin of the realm. A place where four centuries of highwaymen have bought and sold their stock in trade, their particular treasure or scheme. (Something for Nothing, 53)

Much later in the novel, Cotton Walters breakfasts at McDonald’s restaurant in San Blas. But this particular McDonald’s has nothing to do with golden arches or globalization:

Breakfast at McDonald’s isn’t what you think if it’s in San Blas. No golden arches. No Happy Meal with a movie toy inside. Just a standard Mexican tile-floor, stucco-wall, wooden-tabled restaurant with the ceiling fan trying to cut its way through the thick October air; the waiter Jorge as grim-faced and slow-paced as ever; and Señora Tinzón de McDonald, long-time widow of some American-Scot refugee of the fifties, waiting to make huevos al gusto or hotcakes. The only restaurant near the plaza that served an early breakfast, by 8 a.m. most of McDonald’s tables were full when I arrived. A couple of expats tried to steady their morning shakes with that first cup of coffee, a few of the soccer-fan tourists in shorts and necklaces of long-nosed cameras were chowing down before a jungle trek chasing bright-colored birds, and a few local shop owners and municipal bureaucrats were hanging out over morning cups of caffeine conversation. An empty small table leaned against the far left wall, (Something for Nothing, 92)

I’ve had the pleasure of eating in the Restaurante McDonad’s of San Blas on several occasions, and, as always, Richter’s powers of observation and description are spot-on.

How much geography can you learn from a novel? Plenty, especially if it written by an observer such as Robert Richter who has such an obvious love for, and deep knowledge of, the locales described.

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Mar 052015
 

The Nava brewery, which started operations in May 2010, was built by Grupo Modelo but subsequently sold in 2013 to Constellation Brands, the U.S. company that holds the rights to import Modelo products into the U.S.

Nava brewery

Nava brewery. Credit: Constellation Brands

Constellation Brands (founded in 1945 and based in Victor, New York) is a leading international producer and marketer of beer, wine and spirits with operations in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, New Zealand and Italy.

The Nava brewery is the world’s largest brewery of its kind (see this video overview from company webpage), with about 2000 employees and a brewing capacity of 20 million hectoliters of beer a year. A planned expansion (see 26-second video) will increase capacity to 30 million hectoliters.The plant produces Grupo Modelo brands such as Corona, Corona Light, Negra Modelo and Modelo Especial, under license for export to the U.S.

Where is it?

The beer brewery and bottling plant is located in the Nava municipality in the northern state of Coahuila, about 21 km (13 mi) from the border town of Piedras Negras. It is built alongside highway 57 and spreads over 334 hectares (825 acres) of a greenfield site.

Why is it located in Nava?

The major advantages of this location include:

  • the availability of good quality water
  • proximity to the U.S. border and the U.S. beer market
  • presence of good road, rail and power infrastructure

How does the brewery work?

The brewery is a three-story brewhouse with large metal silos, about 1.6 km (1 mi) of conveyors and four pasteurizers. The facility consists of two brewhouses with malt intake, vacuum evaporation and energy recovery systems, 70 cylindro-conical fermentation and storage tanks, seven clean-in-place (CIP) stations, a yeast cellar with 16 tanks and continuous microfiltration (CMF), 30 pressure tanks and three filtration lines with 1,200 hectoliters/hour capacity each, and a Siemens automated process control system.

The brewery uses rice, barley malt, corn grits and water to produce beer. The feedstock is transported by trains to the plant and stored in silos. A 60 km (37 mi) pipeline connects the brewery to a mountain aquifer supplying about 20 million cubic meters of water a year. The site includes its own wastewater treatment plant.

A raw materials supply system handles the raw materials in bulk and conveys them to the brewhouse, where they first enter a collection bin, and then a mash tun, where water is added. The mixture is then pumped along a pipeline to the cereal cooker of the brewhouse.

Two brew systems consisting of mash tuns and cereal cookers are designed to efficiently use the internal heat. These heaters can also clean them automatically by CIP (clean-in-place) technology. Fermentation takes place in unitanks configured with automated clarification, purging systems and turbidity monitoring. The brewery consumes less than 3 liters of water for each liter of beer. The carbon dioxide reclamation capacity of the brewhouse is about 4,000 kg/hour.

The three bottling lines have the capacity to handle 144,000 bottles/hour, while a canning line outputs up to 66,000 cans/hour.

Filling, pasteurizing and cap feeding is handled by 37 robotic machines. Output is linked to the warehouse by automated trolleys. The automated warehouse is equipped with digisat satellite, a state-of-the-art warehouse management system, and can store about 63,000 pallets.

The high level of automation means that this beer manufacturing and bottling plant has operational costs about 40% lower than the seven older breweries that still belong to Grupo Modelo.

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Mar 022015
 

Officials in Quintana Roo claim that beach replenishment in the state requires the investment of at least 500 million pesos (about 35 million dollars) in the next few years, and are asking for federal help.

After Hurricane Wilma in 2005, many beaches in Quintana Roo were badly damaged. Following the hurricane, initial beach restoration efforts were funded by the federal Tourism Secretariat, with maintenance then passed over to local (municipal) authorities and the state government. The restoration program included the planting of more than 8,000 palm trees in an effort to help stabilize the coast. However, storms in late 2014 caused considerable damage to beaches, especially the Gaviota Azul beach in Punta Cancún, prompting tourism representatives to call for renewed investment in restoration.

State officials have singled out five areas where the beaches are of particular concern:

  • Cancún
  • Playa del Carmen
  • Isla Mujeres
  • Cozumel
  • Holbox Island

Quintana Roo has budgeted 5 million pesos in this year’s budget to complete the five Environmental Impact studies needed prior to applying for federal funding.

In related news, four Quintana Roo towns have applied for Magic Town status:

  • Tulum
  • Holbox
  • Isla Mujeres
  • Felipe Carrillo Puerto

Quintana Roo currently has only one Magic Town: Bacalar.

The Tourism Secretariat has previously announced that it plans to add 17 towns to the list this year, bringing the total by year-end to 100. Towns that have applied for Magic Town status will be evaluated in June this year, with decisions expected to be announced in July. Given the number of towns submitting applications, some locations are clearly going to be disappointed in this round of nominations.

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Feb 262015
 

The recently published ‘Costo de Vida Nacional 2014-2015’ report from Recursos Humanos Mercer (Mercer Human Resources) provides a comparison of the cost of living in 42 cities, based on the cost of 182 different products and services. The study is released annually to provide a basis for corporations to decide on employee remuneration to reflect the varied living costs in different parts of the country.

The products and services used for comparison are divided into 9 different groups:

  • Housing
  • Food
  • Education
  • Public Transport
  • Clothing and footwear
  • Entertainment
  • Health
  • Domestic appliances
  • Personal care
Part played by different products/services in the cost of living of cities in Mexico

Part played by different products/services in the cost of living of cities in Mexico. Source: Mercer

The values for each city reflect differences from the cost of living in Mexico City, which is assigned an index value of 100. The cities with the highest cost of living in 2014-2015 were Los Cabos, Cancún, Monterrey, Mexico City and Cuernavaca (graph below). In the 2013-2014 version, the cities with the highest cost of living were Cancún, Los Cabos, Monterrey, Mexico City and Puebla.

Cities with the highest cost of living in Mexico

Cities with the highest cost of living in Mexico. Source: Mercer

The cities with the lowest cost of living in 2014-2015 were Tlaxcala, Zacatecas, Tepic, Guanajuato and Tuxtla Gutiérrez (graph below). In 2013-2014, the cities with the lowest cost of living were Zacatecas, Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Guanajuato, Tepic and Veracruz.

Cities with the lowest cost of living in Mexico

Cities with the lowest cost of living in Mexico. Source: Mercer

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Feb 232015
 

Consultancy PwC, the world’s second largest multinational professional services network has published an updated edition of The World in 2050. In the latest edition, The World in 2050: Will the shift in global economic power continue?, the authors present economic growth projections for 32 of the largest economies in the world, accounting for around 84% of global GDP.

world-2050-updated-version

“We project the world economy to grow at an average of just over 3% per annum in the period 2014 – 50, doubling in size by 2037 and nearly tripling by 2050.

But we expect a slowdown in global growth after 2020, as the rate of expansion in China and some other major emerging economies moderates to a more sustainable long-term rate, and as working age population growth slows in many large economies.

The global economic power shift away from the established advanced economies in North America, Western Europe and Japan will continue over the next 35 years. China has already overtaken the US in 2014 to become the largest economy in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms. In market exchange rate (MER) terms, we project China to overtake the US in 2028 despite its projected growth slowdown.

We project new emerging economies like Mexico and Indonesia to be larger than the UK and France by 2030 (in PPP terms) while Turkey could become larger than Italy. Nigeria and Vietnam could be the fast growing large economies over the period to 2050.”

A summary table in the PwC report shows the firm’s predictions for major economies in 2050 have Mexico continuing to progress up the world ladder, with its economy reaching world rank #6 by 2050, ahead of Japan, Russia, Nigeria and Germany.

Will the PwC forecasts turn out to be accurate? If this blog is still going strong in 2050, we promise to include an update…

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Feb 192015
 

Rodrigo Medellin, a Mexican expert on bats (Mexico’s Bat Man) was the winner of the 2012 Whitley Fund for Nature Gold Award for his on-going work to study, raise awareness and highlight the importance of Latin America’s bats. The award reflects Medellin’s outstanding contribution to nature conservation.

This short video narrated by Sir David Attenborough, summarizes Medellin’s work:

Medellin, an ecology professor who, among many other achievements, has found bat species previously thought extinct, was the subject of an episode in the 2014-2015 season of the BBC series Natural World. The documentary won the 2014 Panda Award for Best People and Nature Film.

As a child, Mexico’s Bat Man kept vampire bats in his bathroom and some of his own blood “in the fridge so that I could feed them every night”.

Little friend: Rodrigo with one of the Lesser Long Nosed Bats his hard work has helped to conserve

Rodrigo with a lesser long nosed bats Credit: Amy Cooper, BBC2.

Bats are more important to ecology, and Mexico’s economy, than you might think. For instance, the lesser long-nosed bat is the main pollinator of the agave plants from which tequila is produced. Medellin’s research has involved tracking and understanding the extraordinary migrations undertaken by bats such as the lesser long-nosed bat, which pollinates the agaves during its annual migration. (Worldwide, bats also propagate at least 500 other economically important night-flowering species).

The bats’ journey covers 1500 kilometers (almost 1000 miles) from southern Mexico to the Sonoran Desert straddling the Mexico-USA border, via the so-called ‘Nectar Corridor’, the coastal lowlands between the Western Sierra Madre and the Pacific Ocean. Indeed, in the desert region, the lesser long-nosed bat is responsible for pollinating the distinctive saguaro cactus (which is incapable of self-fertilization), the key to the whole Sonoran ecosystem.

Elsewhere, bats can be a tourist attraction, as at Bracken Cave, Texas, home to an estimated 20 million Mexican free-tailed bats. in addition, fruit-eating bats help stimulate the regrowth of rainforests, by distributing five times more seeds per square meter than birds.

Medellin has devoted his life to ensuring the conservation of bats in Mexico and, fortunately for all tequila lovers, appears to have been successful. Because of his work, the Tequila Bat is now off the endangered species list. Over the past three decades, Medellin has campaigned tirelessly for people to appreciate the value and beauty of bats, creating a network of bat-friendly ‘safe caves’, and pioneering conservation techniques that are now being copied around the world.

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Feb 122015
 

The largest salt-making facility on the planet is near Guerrero Negro on the west coast of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula. It produces more than 7 million metric tons of salt each year. The salt here is not mined, but extracted from ocean water by evaporation. The salt fields cover 33,000 hectares (acres), including 28,000 ha of collection ponds and 3,000 ha of crystallization ponds.

Satellite image of part of Guerrero Negro saltworks

Satellite image of part of Guerrero Negro saltworks

The major locational advantages are:

  • the large flat area close to the coast, a former marine floor
  • the dry climate; this is a desert region with very low precipitation
  • the high solar radiation (direct solar powered evaporation!)
  • regular strong winds blowing from the Pacific Ocean
  • the net result of the climate is a high evaporation index

Disadvantage? Since the salt working got underway around the saline Ojo de Liebre coastal lagoon, the entire area has been designated part of the El Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve on account of its importance as a habitat for endangered species and breeding ground for gray whales. The salt lagoons are also located on major flight paths for migratory birds.

Brief history of salt-making in Guerrero Negro

Prior to the 1950s, salt extraction in this area was small-scale and methods were rudimentary. In the 1950s, San Francisco ceased supplying salt to the US west coast paper industry and an alternative source of salt was needed. Daniel Ludwig (who would later build the famed Acapulco Princess Hotel) set up a company at the saline Ojo de Liebre coastal lagoon near Guerrero Negro in 1954; three years later, salt was exported to the USA for the first time. Ludwig sold the company in 1973. Exportadora de Sal (Salt Exporter) is now jointly owned by the Mexican government (51%) and the Japanese Mitsubishi corporation (49%).

Plans to expand the company by building another evaporation plant for salt further south along the Baja California Sur coast were thwarted by officials after a lengthy and acrimonious campaign by environmentalists angered at the probably environmental consequences. (For discussion of some of the issues, see “Mitsubishi and Laguna San Ignacio“, “Mexico’s Friendly Whales” and “The Laguna San Ignacio Conservation Alliance conservation plan“).

What does the landscape look like?

This short, 3-minute Postandfly video shows what the landscape and salt working operations look like from the air:

The salt-making process

The salt-making process is fairly simple. Seawater is pumped into a series of collection ponds. About 700 million tons of seawater enters the system each year. As the water in the ponds evaporates, the salt concentration increases. The collection ponds are controlled by dikes and gates. At a critical level of salt concentration, the water is pumped into the next point, and so on.

Salt trucksEventually, more than a year later, the water becomes saturated with salt, and the mineral salt (almost entirely sodium chloride) begins to crystallize out. The pond is then drained and the salt collected. The harvesting of the salt is done by giant graders which scrape off only the uppermost layer, leaving a hard saltpan below as the future floor of the pond. Giant gondola trucks collect the mounds of salt and carry it to a cleaning plant. The salt is then washed with a salt water solution to purify it still further, before being shipped.

Initial shipping is from the Chaparrito Port (where the washing plant is located) near Guerrero Negro. This port can load barges carrying up to 10,500 metric tons, which take the salt to the much larger port of Morro Redondo, on the southern tip of Cedros Island, a short distance to the west and just inside the state of Baja California. The Morro Redondo facility has additional inspection, storage and packing facilities and handles ocean-going vessels.

Salt bargeEach year, Exportadora de Sal produces almost 7.5 million metric tons of salt of various grades. 60% of the output of industrial salt (for use in pulp and paper, and chemical industries) is exported to Japan. The company also exports salt to many other countries including USA, Canada, Korea, Taiwan and New Zealand. Almost all the 100,000 metric tons of table salt produced each year is sold on the domestic Mexican market or elsewhere in Latin America.

Note: This is an updated version of a post first published here in February 2012.

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Feb 092015
 

Los ninis are young people (aged 15-29) that “ni trabaja, ni estudia” (neither work nor study). They have become the focus of much press attention in the past few years, often accompanied by the phrase “Mexico’s lost generation”.

nini-logo

According to a recent OECD report, “Education at Glance 2015”, two out of every ten Mexicans in the 15-29 age group neither studied nor worked in 2013, the latest year for which there is data. The report found that 22.3% of Mexican in that age category were ninis, a slight decrease compared to 25.0% in 2011. After population increase is taken into account, Mexico has about 200,000 fewer ninis than in 2011.

Mexico’s percentage of ninis is above the average for all 34 OECD member countries, and is the fifth highest among OECD members, after Turkey (31.3%), Greece (28.5 %), Spain (26.8 %) and Italy (26.1 %). Very few of Mexico’s 7.3 million ninis (only 3.8%) are technically “unemployed”; most ninis have not actively sought work and are therefore considered “inactive”.

In Mexico, most ninis are female. For example, in the 20-24 age group, around 10% of males are ninis, compared to 40% of females.

The figure of 7.3 million will no doubt again be disputed by Mexico’s Secretariats of Education (SE) and of Labor and Social Welfare. In 2011, the Secretariats issued a joint rebuttal of the OECD figure, and claimed that 78% of those reported by OECD as ninis were young married women, with children, who dedicated themselves to home-making. The Secretariats emphasized that the figures revealed a gender inequality in access to educational and economic opportunities, linked to cultural patterns where many young women still saw marriage and motherhood as their preferred or only option.

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Feb 052015
 

The local authorities in Iztapalapa, in the eastern section of the Mexico City Metropolitan Area, and one of the most interesting locations in Mexico in which to witness Easter celebrations, calculate that around 10,000 homes are in the area are at “high risk” of serious damage due to ground subsidence. Some parts of the city are falling in elevation as the ground contracts by up to 40 cm/yr.

Low-lying Iztapalapa is one of the most densely populated parts of the city, and is also prone to frequent flooding. Experts say that the severe damage evident in many buildings in the area has been occasioned by ground subsidence, due to the excessive volumes of water being pumped out of the subsoil to satisfy the insatiable demand of Mexico City.

In a short 3-minute news video in Spanish that is linked to in this recent article, Lourdes, a local resident offers us a tour of her home, showing us the damages caused by subsidence. She describes how “the crack that started from outside the house has widened every day and is now almost the width of a hand.” The video shows how the walls of her home are separating; the house is clearly in danger of collapse. Lourdes lives in this house with her four children; some rooms are already far too damaged to be safely used by the family.

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