Jul 072014
 

Update (14 July 2014):

Civil Protection groups in Chiapas report that a total of 9,000 homes in that state were damaged by the 6.9 magnitude earthquake that struck the region on 7 July 2014 (see below). Three people lost their lives as a result of the ‘quake: two in Hixtla and the other in Mapastepec.

Minor damages have been reported for various public buildings including the Town Hall in Tapachula, primary schools in Tapachula and Tuxtla Chico, two health care centers in Villacomaltitlán and the municipal market in Escuintla.

While all highways remained open to traffic, minor highway damages were reported on several roads including:

  • the road connecting Unión Juárez to Talquián, Córdova and Chiquihuites
  • the road linking Huixtla to El Jocote

A total of 38 municipalities in Chiapas have now been formally declared “Disaster Areas” which gives them access to funds from the federal Natural Disaster Fund.

The municipalities are Acacoyagua, Acapetahua, Amatenango de la Frontera, Arriaga, Bejucal de Ocampo, Bella Vista, Cacahoatán, Chicomuselo, El Porvenir, Escuintla, Frontera Comalapa, Frontera Hidalgo, Huehuetán, Huixtla, La Grandeza, Mapastepec, Mazapa de Madero, Mazatán, Metapa, Montecristo de Guerrero, Motozintla, Pijijiapan, Siltepec, Suchiate, Tapachula, Tonalá, Tuxtla Chico, Tuzantán, Unión Juárez, Villa Comaltitlán, Altamirano, Ángel Albino Corzo, Comitán de Domínguez, El Parral, La Concordia, Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Villa Corzo and Villaflores.

Original post (7 July 2014):

A strong earthquake has rocked Mexico’s southern state of Chiapas and the neighboring San Marcos region of Guatemala. There are two reported fatalities in Chiapas, while in Guatemala casualties were restricted to a new-born baby, tragically killed by falling debris. About 300 homes in 15 municipalities in Chiapas are reported to have been damaged.

The earthquake, at about 6:30 am local (Chiapas) time, registered 6.9 on the Richter scale, though the US Geological Survey had earlier reported it as magnitude 7.1. The epicenter of the earthquake was 2km north-northeast of Puerto Madero, Chiapas, very close to Tapachula.

The airport of Tapachula, close to the Mexico-Guatemala border, is now reported to be operating normally, having sustained minor damages (see below) and having been briefly closed for inspection, with no flights allowed to land or take off.

Credit: @TapachulaCentro

Credit: @TapachulaCentro

A sequence of images posted by Mexico City daily Milenio shows some of the damage and devastation caused by the earthquake.

Damage is also reported to many homes in Tapachula, and the town market in Huixtla (north-west of Tapachula) has been partially closed due to structural damage.

We will update this report as more information becomes available.

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Jul 072014
 

How severe is poverty in Mexico? How does it compare to poverty in other countries? A new study released in June 2014 suggests that 2.8% of Mexicans live in severe poverty based on a Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) developed by the Oxford (University) Poverty & Human Development Initiative (OPHI) [1]. For all 108 countries in the study (representing roughly 78% of the world’s population), 32% live in severe poverty; thus the percentage for Mexico appears rather small in comparison to most places. This post is an update of previous Geo-Mexico posts on this topic:

The MPI in the study discussed here is based on a complicated methodology which relies on three different sets of household survey data. Its approach looks at poverty characteristics of household. This is superior to most other poverty measures that look at incomes in comparison to some type of poverty line, which varies widely from country to country. A household may have adequate income, but if that money is spent frivolously on alcohol, drugs, gambling, entertainment, etc., the children in the household might still be living in severe poverty.

Multi-dimensional Poverty Index

Multi-dimensional Poverty Index. (From Alkire & Santos, 2010)

The MPI uses ten indicators (see graphic) representing three equally weighted dimensions of poverty or deprivation within a household: Education, Health and Standard of Living [2]. Education looks at whether any member of the household has at least five years of schooling and if all school –aged children are attending school. Health focuses on whether a child in the family has died and if any adult or child in the household is malnourished. Standard of Living has six indicators for each household: electricity, safe drinking water, proper sanitation, adequate house flooring (not dirt, sand or dung), clean cooking fuel (not wood, charcoal or dung), and ownership of more than one of the following – radio, TV, telephone, bike, motorbike, refrigerator or ownership of a car or truck. Obviously these indicators reveal far more details about poverty than simple income measures. A complicated formula is used to combine these indicators to identify households in severe poverty. A more detailed description of the methodology is provided in this previous post.

As noted above, according to MPI, 2.8% of Mexicans or 3.3 million people are severely poor [3] compared to 32% or 1.6 billion in the 108 countries analyzed which include most of the countries of Latin American, Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe. Of the 108 countries, 29 have smaller percentages living in severe poverty than Mexico. These include Belarus (0.0%), Russia (1.3%), Ecuador (2.2%) and Brazil (2.7%). It is interesting that Ecuador and Brazil have lower MDI levels of poverty than Mexico because both have lower per capita incomes than Mexico and far more income inequality. For example, 0.7% of Mexicans live on under $1.25 a day and 4.5% live on under $2.00 a day, compared to 4.4% and 13.6% for Ecuador and 3.8% and 9.9% for Brazil. Apparently, in Ecuador and Brazil either survival necessities are cheaper or they spend their incomes more wisely or public safety nets are more effective. This suggests that Mexicans could do a better job of combating severe poverty.

Countries with slightly worse MPI levels than Mexico are Argentina (3.0%), the Czech Republic (3.1%), Hungary (4.6%), Dominican Republic (4.6%), Colombia (5.4%), Egypt (6.0%) and Turkey (6.6%). That the Czech Republic and Hungary are below Mexico is a bit of a surprise. Further down on the list are China (12.5%), South Africa (13.4%), Peru (19.9%), Indonesia (20.8%), and Guatemala (25.9%). The countries with the severest MPI levels include Pakistan (49.4%), India (53.7%), Nigeria (54.1%), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (73.2%), Ethiopia (88.6%), and lastly Niger (92.4%).

According to the study the country with the most people living in severe poverty is India (612 million) followed by China (162m), Bangladesh (83m), Nigeria (82m), Pakistan (81m), Ethiopia (66m), Indonesia (48m), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (44m). Compared to these countries, the 3.3 million in Mexico seems like a rather small number.

Though severe poverty in Mexico is far less than in most other countries, it is still a very serious problem which needs to be addressed. As might be expected, within Mexico severe poverty is worst in rural areas and southern states; we will look more closely at this in a subsequent post.

References:

[1] Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), “Global MPI Data Tables for 2014”, Oxford University, June 2014.

[2] Sabine Alkire and Maria Emma Santos, “Acute Multidimensional Poverty: A new Index for Developing Countries”, Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative (OPHI), July 2010, Paper No. 38, .

[3] According to the Mexican Government’s Poverty Line, 52% of Mexicans live in poverty. Obviously this is a very different poverty measure than the MPI.

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 Posted by at 6:49 am  Tagged with:
Jul 052014
 

The interesting, but unpretentious, town of Tacámbaro in Michoacán was awarded Magic Town status in 2012. The town has a population of around 26,000 and is located at an elevation of 1650 meters above mean sea level on the edge of Mexico’s tierra caliente. Its full formal name is Tacámbaro de Codallos, so-named to honor a Venezuelan who defended federalism in the early years of Mexico’s Independence.

tacambaro

Among the tourist highlights of this Magic Town, set in the midst of stunning mountain scenery, are:

  • The town center. Despite a serious town center fire a few years ago, there is plenty to see here, including an old chapel around the corner from the main church.
  • The Hotel-Restaurant El Molino (The Mill) located near the entrance to the town. The main restaurant building is a converted, museum-piece nineteenth century flour mill, complete with grinding wheels. Simply and artistically decorated and furnished, this hotel-restaurant has an excellent fixed-price mid-day meal (comida) with subtle sauces and a varied menu.

Though not normally open to the public, a few minutes outside Tacámbaro, is the private hacienda-studio of master printer Juan Pascoe. Pascoe produces superb quality, limited collectible editions, using one of the oldest printing presses still in operation anywhere in the world: an R. Hoe Washington handpress dating back to 1838.

Historical links to Belgium

One of the more curious incidents in local Tacámbaro history is the so-called “Pardon of the Belgians” in 1865.

Belgian forces on the side of Maximilian, under Major Tydgat, were under siege in Tacámbaro on April 11, 1865. They chose to take several Republican families hostage, including the wife and three children of Nicolás de Régules, the Liberal general who was in charge of the Juarist (Republican) forces attacking the city. When Republican lieutenants realized that the hostages included the family of their general, they first requested orders for their troops to change course and avoid attacking the city, but the general answered, “Men, to your posts! Everyone has to do his duty. The Fatherland comes first!”

Later in the ensuing fighting, in a last ditch effort to prevent defeat, the Belgians produced the family of de Régules and placed them directly in the line of fire. Even that did not stop de Régules who ordered his troops to keep fighting and to take as many prisoners alive as possible. After the battle was over, de Régules had taken more than 300 prisoners, but had not taken revenge for the killing of his family. What a noble act!

The events in Tacámbaro are commemorated by monuments in two Belgian cities: Beverlo and Audenarde.

How to get there:

Tacámbaro is about an hour’s drive from the city of Morelia, the capital of Michoacán state. Follow the Morelia-Pátzcuaro highway westwards, exiting at Tiripetío (“place of gold”), where a former Augustinian college of higher studies, one of the earliest in the Americas, founded in 1537, has been restored and now houses an invaluable historical archive. From Tiripetío, follow signs for Villa Madero, and then Tacámbaro.

Jul 022014
 

A few months back, the New York Public Library (NYPL) announced that it was placing high resolution scans of more than 20,000 cartographic works online. The NYPL also asserted that it believed that “these maps have no known US copyright restrictions” and that it “is distributing these images under a Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.”

The maps can be viewed and downloaded via the New York Public Library’s Digital Collections page, and the NYPL Map Warper.

Naturally, this piqued Geo-Mexico’s interest, and we spent several enjoyable hours browsing the various maps included in this online treasure-trove that have some relation to Mexico. A search for “Mexico” yielded 36 maps, though this number included many that depict New Mexico.

seller

This 1679 map “Mexico, or, New Spain” (above) comes from “Atlas minimus, or, A book of geography : shewing all the empires, monarchies, kingdomes, regions, dominions, principalities and countries, in the whole world”, by John Seller.

Far more detailed, and a more recognizable shape emerged by 1713, with the publication of Mexico, or, New Spain : divided into the audiance of Guadalayara, Mexico, and Guatimala, Florida, from “System of geography with new maps”.

Carey's 1814 map.

Carey’s 1814 map.

This 1814 map “Mexico of New Spain” (above) is part of “Carey’s general atlas, improved and enlarged : being a collection of maps of the world and quarters, their principal empires, kingdoms, &c.”

From the mid-nineteenth century, the maps become very much like modern-day atlas maps. For example, this 1876 map, “Mexico; Mexico to Vera-Cruz; The Isthmus of Tehuantepecfrom the “New illustrated atlas of Dutchess County, New York. / Compiled & drawn from personal examinations, surveys etc. under the personal supervision of O.W. Gray & Son and F.A. Davis, and published under the superintendence of H. L. Kochersperger”.

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Jun 302014
 

The Wildlife Protection and Conservation Program at the CIIDIR Sinaloa campus of Instituto Politécnico Nacional (National Polytechnic Institute), has developed a series of research projects focusing on sea turtle conservation in northwest Mexico. For one of their projects, researchers released (on the Playa Las Glorias beach in the city of Guasave) three sea turtles who can now be tracked using satellite tracking devices affixed to their shells. The main purpose is to allow researchers to determine the sea turtles’ migration routes.

leatherback-turtle

These three Loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) now carry transmitters that are connected to the ARGOS satellite system. This should enable their location to be closely tracked for at least a year. The migration of these three sub-adult Loggerhead turtles – named Umi, Baawe and La Hija del Señor – can be followed via the Seaturtle.org website:

These sea turtles nest in Japan, but then migrate to the coasts of Hawaii and Mexico to feed and develop. Experts say that they will only migrate back to Japan once they have reached sexual maturity.

This research is only one of many that involves tracking sea turtles. Off the Gulf Coast of Mexico , a longer-established study has sought to determine the movements of Kemp’s Ridley turtles (Lepidochelys kempii), many of which nest in Tecolutla, Veracruz. These turtles nest an average of 2.5-3.0 times per season, and tracking their movements should help predict where and when the turtles might nest, helping conservationists identify and protect nesting sites.

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Jun 282014
 

This webpage of photos of Mexico  has a great series of photos that reveal just how diverse Mexico really is!

Captions are in Spanish, but most are easy to translate or guess the meaning of.

Enjoy!

 Posted by at 6:15 am  Tagged with:
Jun 262014
 

A recently released study [1] indicates that genetic diversity among indigenous Mexicans is far greater than previously thought. Ethnic Seri living in isolated parts of Sonora are as genetically different from isolated Lacandon living near the Guatemala border as Europeans are from Chinese. These differences must have existed for thousands of years before Europeans arrived in the New World. The differences are also reflected in mestizos living in geographically separated parts of Mexico.

Source: A. MORENO-ESTRADA ET AL., SCIENCE (2014)

Source: Moreno-Estrada et al. Science (2014)

The study in the June 13 issue of Science was conducted by researchers from the University of California, San Francisco and Stanford. They studied the genomic data from 511 native Mexicans from 20 of Mexico’s 65 indigenous groups scattered throughout Mexico (see map) from the Seri (SER) and Tarahumara (TAR) in the northwest, to the Purépecha (PUR) in the west, Trique (TRQ) and Zapotec (ZAP)in the south as well as three subgroups of Maya (MYA) on the Yucatán Peninsula [2]. They also analyzed similar data from 500 mestizos from ten Mexican states as well as some from Guadalajara and Los Angeles.

The findings have great implications for the study of diseases in these populations [3]. For example a lung capacity test can indicate a disease in one indigenous group while the same test results would be normal in a different indigenous group.

References:

[1] Moreno-Estrada et al. “The genetics of Mexico recapitulates Native American substructure and affects biomedical traits”, Science 13 June 2014; Vol 344 no.6189, p. 1301.

[2] Lizzie Wade. “People from Mexico show stunning amount of genetic diversity”, ScienceMag.org, June 12, 2014.

[3] Karen Weintaub,”Mexico’s Natives didn’t mix much, new study shows”, National Geographic, June 12, 2014.

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Jun 232014
 

Good news for Cabo Pulmo, the marine park in Baja California Sur! Cabo Pulmo is a 7,111-hectare (17,550-acre) marine reserve that boasts the best-preserved coral reef in Mexico’s Pacific region. The proposed tourist megaproject known as Cabo Dorado on the edge of the park has been shelved, at least for now.

The US-Chinese joint venture behind Cabo Dorado said it is halting plans to build the tourist development due to the “well-founded” criticism of environmental groups. [See New threat to Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park] The $3.6 billion project was to have included construction of thousands of hotel guestrooms in the area where another giant development project, Cabo Cortés, had been planned. The Cabo Cortés project was cancelled by government officials on the grounds of environmental concerns.

The firms behind Cabo Dorado are Glorious Earth Group (USA) and Beijing Sansong International Trade Group (China), together with China State Construction Engineering Corporation. The initial proposal was for a project involving the construction of a new “ecotourist city” on 3770 hectares (9317 acres) of land, including 6,141 homes,9 hotels, 2 golf courses, a landing strip, shops and a convention center.

The group has now halted its initial environmental-impact study of the Cabo Dorado project, with the intention of resuming this procedure in the near future with a new project “that meticulously takes into account the well-founded criticisms that have been expressed and which we’ve listened to carefully and with the utmost respect”.

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Jun 212014
 

Mexico is both a growing market for medical tourism and a world leader for the manufacture of medical equipment.

Growing market for medical tourism

The global market for medical tourism in 2013 was estimated to be worth about $2.847 billion, with some 7 million patients seeking medical treatment outside their home country each year. According to Patients without Borders, a U.S. business that specializes in the field, Mexico is currently the second most popular destination for medical tourists, after Thailand. Nationwide, Mexico has more than 71,000 doctors working in hospitals and private clinics. Almost two-thirds of all doctors in Mexico are specialists, compared to an average of 57.7% for all OECD member nations.

Mexico’s Economy Secretariat estimates that, combined, the one million medical tourists in 2013 and the numerous affiliated services such as spas, massages and non-conventional therapies, contributed $4.2 billion to the national economy. This figure is growing at about 7% a year.

Patients without Borders claims that patients from the USA and Canada pay between 36 and 80% less for operations and medical treatments in Mexico than the cost in their home country. The most important states for medical tourism are Nuevo León, Baja California, Baja California Sur, Sonora, Tamaulipas, Chihuahua, Jalisco, Quintana Roo and Yucatán.

A plan to build a new “medical city” has been announced by health officials in Quintana Roo. It would be called “Jardines de la Sabiduría” (Gardens of Wisdom) and located on a 550-hectare lot between Cancún and Puerto Morelos. The new city would have four zones: residential, hospitals, recreation and cultural/educational, and would include at least four hospitals: for children, cancer care, dental work and orthopedic surgeries respectively. It remains to be seen if sufficient foreign investment can be found to bring this project to fruition.

World leader for medical equipment

Mexico is a major manufacturer of medical devices. Sales of Mexican-made medical equipment exceed $10.6 billion a year and are predicted to reach $14.9 billion by 2020. Manufacturing costs for medical devices in Mexico average 25% below those in the USA, the world’s largest market for such products.

Major medical device manufacturing areas in Mexico

Major medical device manufacturing areas in Mexico. Credit: Economy Secretariat.

Mexico’s exports of medical equipment and supplies were worth $6.2 billion in 2011, making Mexico by far the largest exporter of medical devices in Latin America, and the 11th largest in the world. 92 % of medical devices manufactured in Mexico are exported to the USA, accounting for two-thirds of all U.S. imports of those products.

According to Pro-Mexico, Mexico is the world’s largest exporter of bore needles; the 4th largest exporter of medical, surgical, dental and veterinary furniture; the 5th largest exporter worldwide of medical,surgical, dental and veterinary instruments and apparatus; and the 7th largest exporter worldwide of ozone therapy, oxygen therapy, aerosol therapy apparatus, breathing apparatus and other respiratory therapy apparatus.

More than 2,000 separate businesses, and about 135,000 workers help invent, design and manufacture medical devices in Mexico. Medical device manufacturing is concentrated mainly in northern border states, especially Baja California, where the cluster of more than 60 specialist firms includes Smiths, Tyco Healthcare, Cardinal Health, Medtronic, Gambro, ICU Medical, CLP, Sunrise Medical and North Safety Products.

Data:

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Jun 192014
 

Describing somewhere in Mexico as being “located in the Sierra Madre mountains” may conjure up images of high, possibly snow-capped peaks and rugged scenery, but does very little to pin down the location. Mexico has several Sierras Madre (literal translation: Mother Ranges). The three main Sierra Madre regions in Mexico are the Western Sierra Madre, Eastern Sierra Madre and Southern Sierra Madre (see map).

The Western Sierra Madre (Sierra Madre Occidental) is the youngest, highest and most viciously dissected of the three. This region includes the scenically amazing Copper Canyon region we have described in many previous posts, including:

Location of Volcanic Axis and Monarch Butterfly reserves

Location of Volcanic Axis and Monarch Butterfly reserves. Basemap: Figure 3.1 of Geo-Mexico; all rights reserved.

The Western Sierra Madre extends only as far south as the states of Nayarit and Jalisco.

Its counterpart on the eastern side of the country is the Eastern Sierra Madre (Sierra Madre Oriental) which is older, lower and less rugged. Between these two major mountain ranges are mid-elevation basins and plains.

At the southern end of both the Western Sierra Madre and the Eastern Sierra Madre is the Volcanic Axis.

The Southern Sierra Madre (Sierra Madre del Sur) lies south of the Volcanic Axis, largely in the state of Oaxaca.

The details of Mexico’s physiographic regions are complex, but the basic relief pattern of these three Sierra Madre regions, separated by the Volcanic Axis and mid-elevation basins and plains, is fairly simple. It is therefore disappointing when we read references to the Sierra Madre regions that are geographically inaccurate.

The Monarch Butterfly reserves, for instance, are regularly described as being in the Sierra Madre, or the Western Sierra Madre, even though they are located hundreds of kilometers away from the Western Sierra Madre, on the southern edge of the Volcanic Axis (see map). In the original National Geographic article about the “discovery” of the Monarch Butterflies’ overwintering sites (August 1976), the location of the butterflies was deliberately left vague (to prevent human-induced disruption of the sites), so that article can readily be excused for mislocating the sites as being in “Mexico’s Sierra Madre”. (The tiny map that accompanied that article also shifted the Monarch’s wintering areas well away from their real position.)

Despite the efforts of the National Geographic, it was not long before journalists published articles giving the precise locations of the sites, and visitors started to flock to see this marvel of nature. The establishment of reserves has now brought a measure of sanity and control to access and most visitors now behave respectfully.

One of the latest in the long line of journals and magazines to erroneously refer to the site of the Monarch reserves as “in the remote Sierra Madre mountains” (but lacking the original excuse of the National Geographic) is the Canadian Geographic in its December 2013 Annual Wildlife Issue. The general tone of the article is helpful, and it rightly emphasizes the need to protect habitat along the entire migration route between Canada and Mexico, so why mar the overall quality by making such a basic error of Mexican geography? Let’s help educate readers by making it clear that the Monarch Butterfly reserves are not in any Sierra Madre, but are in the Volcanic Axis!