Aug 202015
 

This Chiapas map and index page lists the most interesting posts on Geo-Mexico related to the southern state of Chiapas, and also links to a selection of articles about agriculture and poverty that place Chiapas in the national context.

mapchiapas

Map of Chiapas. Click here for interactive map of Chiapas on Mexconnect.com.

Geological background

Indigenous communities:

About 20% of the 4.8 million people living in Chiapas belong to one or other of the state’s numerous indigenous groups. Development and cultural issues relating to indigenous communities in Chiapas are many and varied as can be seen in the following articles:

Tourism:

Chiapas has huge tourism potential, apart from the Mayan site of Palenque, the state capital Tuxtla Gutiérrez, and the beautiful colonial city of San Cristóbal de las Casas (the former capital).

Mexico’s list of Magic Towns has long included the San Cristóbal de las Casas, but now boasts two more recent additions in Chiapas:

Chiapas is also the site for a (proposed) different type of tourist development:

Agriculture in Chiapas:

Posts which refer to Chiapas in the context of national data on agricultural production include:

Poverty and inequality in Chiapas

Chiapas is recognized as one of the poorest states in Mexico: Articles containing recent data on this topic:

Other topics:

Aug 172015
 

Two recent articles in OOSKAnews, a publication dedicated to news in the water industry, have profound implications for Mexico’s water supply situation. The first (10 July 2015) is a report of a meeting in Guanajuato of national water and water treatment specialists (Segundo Encuentro Nacional de Áreas Técnicas  de las Empresas de Agua y Saneamiento de México).

Selected quotes from the report include,

Mexico’s legal framework for water is out of date and does not reflect the country’s current reality…

Nationwide, water users only pay about 20% of the cost of production; 80% of water costs are subsidized, a situation that is not sustainable…

Legal reforms aimed at protecting human rights with regard to water had harmed service providers, who cannot cut off service to customers who fail to pay their bills.”

The report also comments on the on-going El Zapotillo dam project on the Rio Verde in Jalisco state, saying that it,

is a priority for President Enrique Pena Nieto’s administration, despite ongoing delays and legal conflicts. The $1.24 billion dollar project was approved in 2005 and is more than 80% complete. However, residents of Temacapulín, Acasico and Palmarejo have been fighting construction of the dam, which would flood their villages.”

sacmex

The second report focuses on Mexico City and the estimate by Ramón Aguirre Díaz, the head of Mexico City’s Water System (SACMEX), that fixing leaks in the city’s potable water distribution network would cost around US$430 million. This is a huge cost when compared to the system’s annual budget for maintenance and improvement of infrastructure of about US$135 million.

Aguirre claims that 40% of available water is lost because of leaks in the network. SACMEX is launching a program in 2016 to provide a long-term solution to the problem. In a press interview, the official said that, “A city like ours should be able to supply every citizen by producing 26 cubic meters/second, but currently our system requires 30.5 cubic meters/second”.

The sections of the city with the most severe losses are those like Coyoacán and Tlalpan built on the soft sediments of the former lake-bed, as well as those such as Miguel Hidalgo, Cuauhtémoc, and Benito Juárez, where the supply pipes are more than 70 years old. Combined, these areas house over 2.5 million people.

Aguirre also outlined the progress made in bringing reliable access to potable water to all 1.8 million inhabitants of Iztapalapa, one of the poorest and most densely populated sections of the city. Some 72,000 residents in Iztapalapa lack piped water supply to their homes, and therefore have to depend on provision from tanker trucks. Even those who do have access to piped water have to cope with inadequate pressure, poor water quality and frequent supply outages.

According to Aguirre, the city administration will meet its goal of reliable access to piped water for all of Iztapalapa by 2018. Reaching this point requires the construction of 22 water treatment plants and various other major infrastructure modernization projects.

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Aug 132015
 

Like many of our readers, we love looking at maps. It is always interesting to study maps compiled by cartographers working in different countries and different languages. It can also be a great way to learn some new words and phrases in a foreign language.

world-atlas-spanish

This latest resource is therefore well worth recommending. It is an outstanding Spanish language World Atlas, accessible online as a series of three pdf files:

The lavishly illustrated atlas was prepared by experts from the Geography Institute of Mexico’s National University (UNAM). It is aimed at high school students and the maps are complemented by carefully selected info-graphics and informative text.

Exploring these maps is a great way for native English speakers to improve their Spanish language geographic vocabulary!

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 Posted by at 6:26 am  Tagged with:
Aug 102015
 

Earlier this summer, Mexico City’s Water System (SACMEX) inaugurated a network of 230 drinking fountains installed in public spaces across the city. The fountains are part of the city’s initiative to curb reliance on bottled water. (Mexicans consume more bottled water per person than any other country in the world).

water-fountains-mexico-city

Click for interactive map of Mexico City water fountains

The sites for the fountains were selected taking local water quality into account. An interactive website enables residents and visitors alike to find the locations of the fountains, and offers up-to-date information about the water quality parameters.

water-quality-xochimilco-july-2015.

Sample water quality report – Xochimilco, July 2015 [Click to enlarge]

Water from all the fountains is being tested on a regular basis to ensure that it complies fully with official water quality standards.

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Aug 062015
 

Last year, three Mexico City climate researchers published a comprehensive study of the 7300+ deaths due to lightning in Mexico during the period 1979 to 2011.

In “Deaths by Lightning in Mexico (1979–2011): Threat or Vulnerability?“, G. B. Raga, M. G. de la Parra and Beata Kucienska examined the distribution of fatalities due to lighting, looking for links to population density, vulnerability and other factors.

The number of deaths from lightning averaged 230 a year for the period studied. Given Mexico’s population, this means a rate of 2.72 fatalities from lightning for every million people. This is the highest rate in the Americas.

Fatalities were not distributed evenly. Seven of Mexico’s 32 states accounted for 60% of all lightning fatalities. Almost one-quarter of all deaths from lightning occurred in the State of México. Other states with high rates included Michoacán, Oaxaca and Guanajuato.

More than 45% of all deaths from lightning were young males under the age of 25 (with those aged 10 to 19 at particular risk). Overall, far fewer females died from lightning than males, though for females, too, the highest rates were for the under-25 age group.

Most deaths happened in the first half of the rainy season, between June and August, when thunderstorms are most likely.

Lightning incidence, North America, 2012-2014

Lightning incidence, North America, 2012-2014. Credit: Vaisala

What do all these numbers mean?

The incidence of lightning strikes in not equal across the country. For example, in the period 2012-2014 (see map) there were far more lightning events in in central and southern Mexico than in the northern part of the country and the Baja California Peninsula. This means that there is no clear connection between deaths by lightning and population density. However, neither is there a clear connection between deaths by lightning and the places where most lightning strikes occur.

The key factor is not just how likely a lightning strike is to occur in a particular place but also how vulnerable the local populace is. Some sectors of the population are much more vulnerable than others. Those working outdoors, for example, are at higher risk than those working indoors. This makes rural workers more vulnerable than urban workers. It also makes younger people more vulnerable than older people.

Education and awareness also play a part. Many countries have seen a dramatic fall in deaths from lightning as a direct result of launching campaigns to make people more aware and provide education about safety precautions. In the USA, fewer than 40 people now die each year from lightning, compared to about 400 in the 1930s, when the population was smaller.

For this reason, the study also concluded that the large number of deaths in Mexico is partly due to “the government’s failure to implement education and prevention strategies in communities living and working in vulnerable conditions”. Sadly, this means that there will probably be further tragic incidents similar to the one that took the lives of several members of the same family last month in the remote mountainous community of Mesa Cuata in Guanajuato.

Reference:

G. B. Raga, M. G. de la Parra, and Beata Kucienska, 2014: “Deaths by Lightning in Mexico (1979–2011): Threat or Vulnerability?”. Weather, Climate & Society, 6, 434–444.

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Aug 032015
 

As we saw in “How long is Mexico’s coastline?“, geographical “facts” and “records” are often not quite as simple to determine as might appear at first sight.

Take waterfalls for example. Mexico’s “highest” waterfalls are not necessarily the same as Mexico’s “tallest” waterfalls, since height refers to elevation, rather than stature. I’m not sure which is Mexico’s highest waterfall, but assume it is likely to be a small waterfall near the summit of one of Mexico’s many major volcanic peaks.

Mexico’s tallest waterfall, on the other hand, is well-known, or is it? Older sources still list the Cascada de Basaseachic in the Copper Canyon region of northern Mexico as the country’s tallest waterfall. That waterfall is 246 meters (807 feet) tall, according to geographer Robert Schmidt, a calculation subsequent confirmed by measurements made by members of a Mexican climbing expedition.

This short Postandfly video shows the Basaseachic Waterfall from the air:

The Basaseachic Waterfall is normally considered to operate year-round, though very little water flows over it on some occasions during the dry season.

In terms of total drop, however, and if we include waterfalls that are seasonal, the Basaseachic Waterfall is overshadowed by the nearby Cascada de Piedra Bolada (Volada). The Piedra Bolada Waterfall, has a total drop of 453 meters (1486 feet), but flows only during the summer rainy season. It is much less accessible, and its true dimensions were only worked out for the first time by an expedition as recently as 1995 by members of the Speology Group of Ciudad Cuauhtémoc, led by Carlos Lazcano.

This latter sections of this amateur video of the Piedra Bolada Waterfall show some of the amazing scenery in this remote area of Mexico:

Curiously, there is some debate as to whether this waterfall should be called Cascada de Piedra Volada (which would translate as the “Flying Stone Waterfall”) or Cascada de Piedra Bolada (“Round Stone Waterfall”). According to members of the Speology Group of Ciudad Cuauhtémoc, its true name is definitely Piedra Bolada, a name referring to a spherical stone, and used in addition for the local stream and for the nearest human settlement.

So, which is Mexico’s tallest waterfall? Well, it all depends…

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Jul 302015
 

Palmitas is a small, densely-populated neighborhood in the city of Pachuca, the capital of the state of Hidalgo in central Mexico. It has a reputation for higher than average levels of deprivation, crime and violence.

An innovative social development project, based on artistic transformation, has turned Palmitas over the past few months into a rainbow-hued, quasi-kaleidoscopic, example of urban renewal.

palmitas-foto-jorge-gonzalez

Palmitas, 2015. Photo credit: Jorge González / UNIÓN Hidalgo

The project involved four main players: an art collective (“Germen Crew”), the city government, Comex (a major national paint manufacturer) and a youth organization that was previously better known for its graffiti art.

The youths joined “Germen Crew” and painted 209 houses, some 20,000 square meters of facade in total, into a single rainbow mural. The specialized materials used, supplied by Comex, have provided maximum long-term protection for the dwellings while turning the streets into ribbons of color. The greatest challenge was that many of the exterior walls were in a very rough shape, and some had never been properly finished or protected.

The “macro mural” has been called the “world’s largest” in some news reports. This title is hotly disputed; other contenders include a mural in Berlin and the Pueblo Levee Project in Colorado.

According to streetartnews, the community involvement in this project from start to finish, led to positive effects on 452 families (1808 people), and a dramatic fall in youth violence, to the point of almost eradicating it.

All the homes were first painted white to symbolize the unity of the community, that all community members are equal, and that all members of the community would benefit from the urban renewal. This pair of photos shows before and after images of Palmitas:

crew-germen-graffiti-town-mural-palmitas

Alongside the months of paintings, numerous community events were held to foment participation and a sense of local ownership of the project.

This short video on Youtube (Spanish) describes the project:

The colorful Palmitas project is an unusual and interesting example of urban improvement, urban renewal or urban regeneration.

Comex has said that it will support similar urban renewal projects elsewhere in Mexico that beautify the local settings and help improve people’s lives, so please report back if you find a similar project happening in your neighborhood.

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 Posted by at 6:02 am  Tagged with: ,
Jul 272015
 

A huge industrial development plan looks set to get underway shortly in the narrow Isthmus of Tehuantepec in southern Mexico. The low-lying Isthmus of Tehuantepec separates the Chiapas Highlands and the low Yucatán Peninsula from the rest of Mexico. The Isthmus was once considered as an alternative location to Panama for a trans-continental canal.

During Mexico’s internal Reform War (1858‑60), between the liberals, led by Benito Juárez, and the conservatives, both sides encountered serious financial problems. At one point in this war, the liberals accepted an offer from the USA to receive four million pesos in exchange for the USA having the “right of traffic” across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec “in perpetuity”. Fortunately, this treaty was never ratified by the US Senate.

Proyecto-Transistmico

In recent years, the Tehuantepec area has received massive investments in wind power, with several major wind farms already operational and more on the drawing board. The latest plans will build on those investments to provide upgraded infrastructure meeting the preconditions for industrial development.

The 300 million dollars allocated to the first phase of the Trans-Isthmus Project will improve railroads, highways, airports, and the ports of Coatzacoalcos on the Gulf Coast and Salina Cruz on the Pacific Coast (see map).

During the second phase, private sector financing will add industrial development areas, which should boost the area’s contribution to national GDP from 2% to 4.5%, and raise the regional GDP/person to $10,000 a year, close to the national average.

The federal government has designated this region as a special economic zone, offering several fiscal incentives to new enterprises. Chinese investors have already expressed interest in building a 200-million-dollar steel manufacturing plant in the isthmus, utilizing nearby iron ore reserves to produce 3 million tons of steel a year.

Posts related to the same general area of Mexico:

Jul 232015
 

A shout out to Marcia Ambler for sharing, via email, her memories of Mexico City in the 1950s. Among other things, she recalled how she lived as a child with her family, “in a suburb of Mexico City, where there was a deep barranca with people who lived as cliff dwellers in the barranca walls. There was also a cave nearby with a deep drop which I went in with my friends.”

Her email brought back some fond personal memories of Mexico City from the late 1970s and early 1980s. Shortly after I moved to the city, Time Life published The Great Cities: Mexico City, by John Cottrell. I found this book fascinating at the time, and a quick re-read earlier this week confirms that it still well worth looking for (inexpensive copies available via Abebooks) if you are interested in what makes one of the world’s largest cities tick.

Mexico City cave dwellers. Photo by from The Great Cities: Mexico City" (Time Life books).

Mexico City cave dwellers. Photo by Harold Sund in “The Great Cities: Mexico City” (Time Life, 1979).

Like most Time Life books, it is lavishly illustrated, which brings me back to the caves and cave dwellers, since one of the photos (above), by Harold Sund shows the area that Marcia remembers, and which was also my first introduction to the curious world of relatively modern-day troglodytes in Mexico City.

Sund’s photo shows the Belén de las Flores community, relatively close to western end of Chapultepec Park, though there may well have been, and almost certainly were, several similar settlements elsewhere. This short newspaper article, from the Bangor Daily News in 1978, describes the “year-round comfort” that can be enjoyed in such caves.

I haven’t had the opportunity to revisit this area of Mexico City for more than thirty years, so I’m anxious to know what it looks like now.

Sincere thanks, Marcia, for your message which certainly took me on a trip down memory lane!

Source of photo:

  • John Cottrell. 1979. The Great Cities: Mexico City (Time Life Books, 1979). Photography by Harold Sund.

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Jul 202015
 

Alejandro del Mazo Maza, head of Mexico’s Commission for Protected Natural Areas (Áreas Naturales Protegidas), says that the formal decrees for seven additional PNAs (Protected Natural Areas) will be published shortly. In some cases, the decrees apply to areas whose status as protected areas was first announced months or even years ago.

The seven new additions are in the north and northwest regions of the country:

Mexico currently has 177 PNAs (in various categories), and the new additions bring that total to 184.

In addition, preparatory studies are underway to establish two additional biosphere reserves, for the Mexican Caribbean and the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortés).

Mexico's Protected Areas (Gallina, 2012)

Mexico’s Protected Areas (Gallina, 2012)

The Commission of PNAs is working hard to complete formal management plans for every PNA – environmental, social and economic issues. At present, only 97 of the 177 PNAs have such plans in place, with the latest plans published only weeks ago for:

For example, the management program for the whale shark reserve authorizes a maximum of 160 whale-watching boats in an effort to ensure sustainability.

Source of Map:

Sonia Gallina, 2012. “Is Sustainablity Possible in Protected Areas in Mexico? Deer as an Example of a Renewable Resource.” Sustainability 2012, 4 (10), 2366-2376

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