Jan 132015
 

At this time of year, Mexico attracts millions of visitors seeking to escape the cold weather further north. The vast majority of visitors will never experience any problem during their travels in Mexico, but both the US State Department and Canadian government continue to issue regular warnings to those considering travel in Mexico. Some of these warnings are specific to certain stretches of highway; others are broader and focus on cities or regions. Click below for the current US travel warnings related to Mexico.

The states left white on the map below all have advisories in effect (as of mid-January 2015) for most or all of the state in question. For the states shaded light green, only small parts of the state have advisories in place, while no advisories are currently in place for those states shaded dark green.

US Travel Advisory Areas, December 2014

US Travel Advisory Areas, December 2014: All states, other than those colored dark green, have travel advisories in place for at least part of the state

The Canadian government offers its own travel warnings for Mexico:

The Canadian advisories apply to all those states left white on the map below. States shaded dark green have no travel advisory in effect so far as the Canadian government is concerned.

Canadian Travel Advisory, November 2014. No advisory in effect for states colored dark green.

Canadian Travel Advisory, November 2014. No advisory in effect for states colored dark green.

The most obvious difference between the maps is that the US State Department is relatively unconcerned about the states of Jalisco and Nayarit, while the Canadian authorities have included them in a regional advisory.

States shaded dark green on both maps are areas where the US State Department and the Canadian government have no serious concerns about travel safety. These states, where travel is considered safe, include Guanajuato (including the cities of Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende), Querétaro (including Querétaro City), Hidalgo, Puebla (including Puebla City), Oaxaca (Oaxaca City, Puerto Escondido and Huatulco), Chiapas (Tuxtla Gutiérrez and San Cristóbal de las Casas), Tabasco, Campeche, Yucatán (Mérida) and Quintana Roo (Cancún, Riviera Maya).

As always, tourists visiting Mexico and traveling within Mexico are advised to be cautious about visiting rural areas (especially in states where travel warnings are in place), to check local sources such as web forums for updates on the latest conditions, and to avoid driving at night.

Safe travels! Enjoy your trip!

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Jan 102015
 

This post looks at where branches of Banamex (Banco Nacional de México) were founded in the period prior to 1960. Banamex is one of the oldest banking institutions in Mexico. It is now a subsidiary of Citigroup, but remains the second largest bank in the country after BBVA Bancomer.

Diffusion of Banamex branches across Mexico prior to 1960

Diffusion of Banamex branches across Mexico prior to 1960. Click to enlarge

Banamex was formed on 2 June 1884 from the merger of Banco Nacional Mexicano and Banco Mercantil Mexicano, two banks that had only been operating for a couple of years. Shortly after its founding, Banamex had branches in Mexico City, Mérida, Veracruz, Puebla, Guanajuato, San Luis Potosí, and Guadalajara.

The maps to the left are based on Figure 8 of Las Regiones Geográficas en México by Claude Bataillon (8th edition, 1986, Siglo Veintiuno Editores).

Each dot represents the location of a branch of Banamex in the year shown. For simplicity’s sake, it is assumed that all branches present on any earlier map continued to exist through to 1960, and did not close or relocate in the interim.

The concept of spatial diffusion looks at the spread of an innovation, whether a new idea, technique, good, service or brand. The spatial diffusion of information or of the adoption of innovations is an important subset of spatial interactions. Looking at the spatial diffusion of a banking network offers lots of interesting insights into how Mexico’s economic geography has changed over the years.

There are three basic types of diffusion. The first is relocation diffusion where people travel or migrate and bring their cultural and technological practices with them. For example, modern studies in the genetics of corn (maize) have established that ancient Mexicans first domesticated corn in the Balsas valley. They then migrated both northwards and southwards, taking the practice of cultivating corn with them.

The second is contagious diffusion, which generally spreads from person to person and exhibits strong distance decay. An example is the spread of the Jehovah’s Witness faith in Mexico which required a considerable amount of face-to-face personal interaction. Many diseases also spread by contagious diffusion.

The third is hierarchical diffusion, which spreads across higher levels of a hierarchy and then down to lower levels. This is often how information from the top of an organization reaches those at the bottom. An example is the government’s 1970s family planning program that was first adopted in large cities, then smaller cities, and eventually penetrated into rural areas.

Combinations of these three types are also possible. One relatively recent example is the spread of the H1N1 influenza virus in early 2009. First reports were that it started in a rural village, probably in Oaxaca, and spread by contagious diffusion to others in the village. From there an infected person temporarily relocated to Mexico City where the flu again spread by contagious diffusion. From Mexico City, the top of the Mexican hierarchy, it spread down the hierarchy as carriers of the virus traveled to smaller Mexican cities and to other cities worldwide.

In the case of the diffusion of Banamex branches shown on the maps, the main type of diffusion involved is hierarchical. In this case, given that Banamex is a banking institution, the hierarchy reflects where most economic activity is taking place at the time. (There would be little point in placing a new branch in a location where little money was in circulation).

The 1930 distribution of Banamex branches looks to be quite scattered across the country, though Baja California and north-west Mexico have no branches and fall outside the network. By 1940 more additional branches have opened in the northern half of Mexico than the southern half, and the north-south economic divide that we have commented on in many previous posts is beginning to become apparent. Between 1940 and 1952 many new Banamex branches are added in central Mexico (this is the period when in-migration was turning Mexico City into a monster) and along the west coast, following the line of Highway 15 which runs from Guadalajara to the border with California. Overall, the north-south divide is now quite clear.

Between 1952 and 1960 additional branches open close to the US border, a branch finally reaches Baja California Sur (in La Paz) and the economic dominance of northern Mexico over southern Mexico is clearly established.

One of the most striking features, when comparing all four maps, is how the number of Banamex branches in southern and south-eastern Mexico (defined as the states of Chiapas, Tabasco, Campeche, Yucatán and Quintana Roo) barely changed between 1930 and 1960.

It would be interesting to update this example with similar maps for more recent years. Please contact us if you have access to suitable data or know where such data may be found.

Other posts related to the concept of diffusion:

Another instance of diffusion, of cholera in Mexico during the 1991-1996 epidemic, is mapped and discussed in chapter 18 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico. Geo-Mexico also includes an analysis of the pattern of HIV-AIDS in Mexico, and of the significance of diabetes in Mexico.

Jan 062015
 

Unlike the USA and Canada, where gifts are usually exchanged on Christmas Day (25 December), the original tradition in Mexico over the Christmas season was to exchange presents on Three Kings Day (Día de los Reyes, 6 January). In the Christian calendar, 6 January marks the Feast of the Epiphany, the day when the magi arrived in Bethlehem with their gifts for the infant Jesus. In homage to this occasion, Mexican children would dutifully stuff the largest shoes (or box) they could find with straw, and leave them outside their bedroom door on the night of 5 January, in anticipation of finding new toys the following morning.

Rosca de Reyes

A typical family-sized Rosca de Reyes

Three Kings Day is still very much a family day throughout Mexico. In the late afternoon or early evening, it is traditional for the whole family to share a rosca. Roscas are ring-shaped loaves of sweet bread, sold to be eaten on special occasions. The roscas for Three Kings Day each contain a small muñeco (doll). These muñecos were originally ceramic, but are now more usually plastic. The recipient of the piece of rosca containing the muñeco has to throw a party on 2 February (Candlemas day, Día de la Candelaria) for all those present at the sharing of the rosca. It is customary to provide tamales to feed everyone gathering on Candlemas day.

Cristina Potters’ outstanding blog Mexico Cooks! includes a comprehensive account of the significance of the cuisine associated with Three Kings Day and Candlemas Day,

In the 20th century the Three Kings Day tradition in some regions of Mexico broke down in the face of the enormous consumer-oriented publicity from north of the border, which stressed Christmas (rather than Epiphany) gifts. Some especially greedy Mexican middle- and upper-class children claim that their parents and grandparents should not only preserve the old customs but also embrace the new version, and therefore hope to receive gifts on both days!

Jan 032015
 

The northern state of Nuevo León is an industrial powerhouse, centered on Monterrey, Mexico’s third-largest city. The state’s shape on a map is unusual in more ways than one. The state has a long north-south axis and is very narrow from west to east. The strange indentation south of Monterrey is largely determined by relief. The peaks of the mountains on the Nuevo León side of that state boundary comprise a National Park, the Parque Nacional Cumbres de Monterrey.

Source: Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León (UANL)

Source: Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León (UANL)

Perhaps the strangest aspect of the shape of Nuevo León is the peculiar extension that forms the state’s north-eastern extremity (see map above). This small section of the state, about 15 km across, is sandwiched between the states of Coahuila and Tamaulipas, and extends to the Río Bravo and the U.S. border. The reason for this particular extension must date back a long time since it is clearly shown on this 1824 map of Mexico.

(Note that the shape of the neighboring state of Tamaulipas, with its lengthy extension north-west paralleling the US border, made much more sense in the early nineteenth century before the current international boundary was established).

While we’re not sure of the precise timing or reasons for the “neck” of land that gave Nuevo León access to the Río Bravo even before the current international boundary was fixed, it has certainly brought the state some benefit in recent decades in terms of economics and trade. Nuevo León is the smallest of the combined ten “border states” in the USA and Mexico.

A closer look at the Google Map image (above) of this area shows the border crossing of Laredo-Colombia across the Solidarity International bridge. Colombia is the name of the small grid-pattern town on the Mexican side, just west of the crossing.

Zooming in on the area of the crossing reveals the distinctive street pattern of a major border crossing, with extensive parking and loading areas.

The 371-meter-long (1216 ft) bridge has eight lanes for traffic and two walkways for pedestrians. It is one of four vehicular international bridges close to the city of Laredo, Texas. The community of Colombia and the international bridge were built to give Nuevo León its only international “port” for direct trade to and from the USA.

Related posts:

Jan 012015
 

We had no idea when we first published Geo-Mexico, the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico, and started this associated blog, how many readers we would reach.

Geo-Mexico-ThumbnailOn the one hand, very few U.S. or Canadian universities have courses devoted specifically to Mexico. There are quite a number of geography courses with titles such as “The Geography of Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America”, or “The Geography of Latin America”, but very few that focus mainly or solely on Mexico. This is unfortunate and means that most geography students graduating from USA universities will have only a partial knowledge, at best, of their southern neighbor. It also means that Geo-Mexico was not adopted by as many university courses as we might have hoped.

On the other hand, the book has been used in several courses that were not part of its target market, including courses in “The Politics of Mexico” and at least one International Affairs program. Equally, it has exceeded our expectations in providing a basic guide for non-specialists interested in getting a better knowledge of Mexico; the frequent feedback from readers has been overwhelmingly positive and gratifying. (Please keep it coming!)

The blog has proved to be very popular, and its audience continues to grow ~ don’t forget to recommend it to friends and colleagues. We welcome all comments and suggestions for future posts. We also welcome 400-800 word submissions (which will be published with your byline), but please contact us first.

Maps from Geo-Mexico have been included in many academic publications and a number of graduate theses. Publications that referred to the book, and/or blog, cover an amazing range of topics. A random sampling includes:

  • “Environmental risk, resilience and migration: implications for natural resource management and agriculture” in Environmental Research Letters  (2012)
  • “Texas and Mexico: Sharing a Legacy of Poverty and Neglected Tropical Diseases” in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases (2012)
  • “Zapatista Autonomy in Cartel Mexico: Preserving Smallholder Viability”, in Culture, Agriculture, Food and Environment (2011)
  • “NAFTA: The Mexican Economy, and Undocumented Migration” a research paper of Naval War College Newport, RI, Joint Military Operations Dept. (2011)
  • The Future of Entrepreneurship in Latin America (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012)
  • “Climate Change, Migration and Security, Best Practice Policy and Operational Options for Mexico”, an Interim Report from the Royal United Services Institute, Whitehall, London (2012)
  • “Vulnerability and Surviving Pattern of Elderly Migrants in Urban Mexico”, in Journal of Sociological Research (2012)
  • OECD Reviews of Risk Management Policies: Mexico 2013 Review of the Mexican National Civil Protection System (OECD 2013)

To all our readers, thanks for your support, and we wish you all a

Happy New Year! ¡Feliz año nuevo!

 Posted by at 12:21 am
Dec 292014
 

Geologists have discovered that some strange things are happening off the southern coast of the Baja California Peninsula.

In essence, while most of Mexico rests on the North American plate, the Baja California Peninsula is on the gigantic Pacific plate. The Pacific plate is moving slowly northwest and the pressures in the zone where these two plates intersect, under the Sea of Cortés (Gulf of California), has caused a complex series of parallel faults which (further north) link to the California’s San Andreas Fault system. Thus, the Sea of Cortés is an area of heavy seismic activity.

The Alarcón Rise is a 31-mile-long (50 kilometer) spreading center at the mouth of the Gulf of California. Along ocean spreading ridges like the Alarcón Rise, the seafloor is splitting apart as lava wells up from underneath. Credit: (c) 2012 MBARI

Location of the Alarcón Rise. Credit: (c) 2012 MBARI

The Alarcón Rise (see map) is a 50km (30 mi) long “bump” under the Sea of Cortés. New seafloor is being continuously created along the Alarcón Rise as undersea magma rises to the surface and cools to become lava. As the plates continue to move, this lave is then carried away to either side of the Alarcón Rise, allowing fresh lava to take its place, and so on. The rate of sea-floor spreading here is a relatively slow 5 cm (2 in) a year.

The Alarcón Rise has been studied in considerable detail by geologists attached to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) in California. Using a sonar-mapping robot, they discovered new deep-sea hydrothermal vents.

But their most surprising find was a “Weird Underwater Volcano.

In most zones of sea-floor spreading, the lavas are relatively low in silica and therefore free-flowing. Such lavas are known, on account of their chemistry, as “basic” lavas. (Lavas higher in silica, known collectively as acid lavas, tend to be more viscous and flow less easily. Acid lava volcanoes tend to erupt far more explosively than basic lava volcanoes.)

The curiosity of the Alarcón Rise is that while the vast majority of lava flows along the ridge are basic (basalt) lavas, those associated with at least one volcano are clearly acidic, not basic.

Researchers used a remote-control vehicle to collect samples and explore the volcano, which is 2375 m (7800 ft) below the surface. Samples of the lava show that it is primarily rhyolite with some dacite, with a silica content of up to 77%, the highest of any rock ever found along a mid-ocean ridge, according to Brian Dreyer, a geochemist at the University of California, Santa Cruz. The volcano with acid lava forms a small dome, about 50 meters (165 ft) in height and covers an area of about 1200 meters by 500 meters (4000 feet by 1640 feet). The dome is probably several thousand years old.

The lavas solidified quickly to form angular chunky blocks, some of which then rolled down the sides of the rise to form talus (scree). The individual blocks can be as large as cars or small houses.

The findings suggest that this particular volcano could give rise to hazardous eruptions. It is only 100 km (60 mi) from land and very close to the major tourist areas fringing the coast of Baja California Sur. Any major explosive eruption from this volcano could also cause a tsunami with the potential to devastate settlements on both coasts of the Sea of Cortés (Gulf of California).

Geologists are still working on trying to fully explain this apparent anomaly in lava composition. They have already discarded several ideas, and their current hypothesis is that the magma source was at some point contaminated by seawater, resulting in an unusually high concentration of volatiles such as water, sulfur and chlorine.

Related posts:

Dec 272014
 

Mexico is one of the world’s “Top Ten” countries for vehicle production and for vehicle exports. In 2014, it has overtaken Brazil to become the world’s 7th largest vehicle producer and fourth largest exporter. 80% of Mexico’s production of around 3.3 million vehicles in 2014 were made for export. The trade surplus generated by the automotive sector exceeded 47 billion dollars in 2014.

auto-exports-forbes

Mexico’s vehicle exports in 2014

The industry attracts large amounts of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Vehicle assembly plants provide around 65,000 jobs, with a further 85,000 employed in distributorships nationwide and a whopping 450,000 employed in the autoparts sector.

The autoparts sector along produces items worth $80 billion/year, but Mexico also has to import components made elsewhere worth a further $35 billion. Clearly, this offers some opportunities for additional investment aimed at import substitution. Most of the opportunities are likely to be for Tier 2 companies. It is customary to divide the autoparts sector into three distinct parts: OEM, Tier 1 and Tier 2. OEM (Original equipment manufacturer) refers to companies that make a final product for the consumer marketplace (eg Volkswagen). Tier 1 companies are direct suppliers of components to OEMs, and Tier 2 companies are the key suppliers of parts or raw materials to Tier 1 suppliers.

Total production in 2014 topped the 3 million barrier, and the Mexican Automotive Industry Association (AMIA) believes production could reach 4 million units by 2015 and 5 million by 2020.According to  AMIA, the best selling models on the domestic market are the Aveo (GM), Jetta (VW), Versa and Tsuru (both Nissan).

There are about 30 vehicle assembly plants in Mexico, manufacturing many brands of cars and trucks (see map). In addition, there are 1200 firms specializing in making parts for vehicles.

Vehicle manufacturing firms that have announced or confirmed major new investments during 2014 include:

  • Chrysler – 1.25 billion dollars to expand its assembly plant in Saltillo and manufacture a new line of Tigershark engines.
  • Nissan – to open its second plant in Aguascalientes.
  • Mazda – an additional 120 million dollars for its plant in Salamanca (Guanajuato), where it will manufacture several Mazda models as well as one Toyota model.
  • GM – investments worth 690 million dollars, divided  between its plants in Silao (Guanajuato), San Luis Potosí and Toluca (State of México).
  • Audi – about to open a 1.3-billion-dollar plant in San Jose Chiapa, near Puebla.
  • VW – 700 million dollars investment to adapt production lines in Puebla to produce its redesigned Golf hatchback.
  • Kia – plans to build a $1 billion vehicle assembly plant at Pesquería in the state of Nuevo Leon (scheduled to open in 2016) to produce up to 300,000 vehicles a year. The new plant is expected to generate a further 1.5 billion dollars in investment from firms seeking to join Kia’s supply chain.

This map is an updated version of the map we included in Where are Mexico’s vehicle assembly plants located? (2011).

Vehicle assembly plants in Mexico, 2014

Vehicle assembly plants in Mexico, 2014. Credit: Tony Burton/Geo-Mexico; all rights reserved.

As the map shows, certain areas of Mexico have attracted more investment in vehicle assembly plants than other areas. The two largest existing concentrations are focused on Toluca in the State of México, and on Saltillo-Ramos Arizpe in northern Mexico. However, the fastest growing cluster is in the central state of Guanajuato.

Virtual visit to the Chrysler plant in Saltillo (video, no commentary):

For a series of discussion questions related to this map and the vehicle assembly industry, see our earlier post – Where are Mexico’s vehicle assembly plants located?

Related posts:

Dec 242014
 

Geo-Mexico wishes all its readers the warmest seasonal greetings.

tenango-de-flores-xmas-tree2

The photo shows Mexico’s only floating Christmas Tree. It can be seen near Tenago de las Flores in the municipality of Huachinango in the northern part of the state of Puebla. The 15-meter-high tree, with Christmas lights, stands on a wooden platform atop a raft of 32 metal drums in the middle of the Tenango reservoir, upstream from the Necaxa Dam, Mexico’s first hydroelectric project, dating back to 1905. The tradition started only three years ago when local residents decided that a floating Christmas tree might prove to be a tourist attraction.

The 10-min video below shows the “light up” of the tree early this month, complete with music and singing.

Tenango de las Flores has been more famous in the past for its large-scale production of flowers (floriculture) and for its annual Flower Festival, as well as for featuring in an award-winning 1957 film called Tizoc: Amor Indio, starring María Félix and Pedro Infante. The film won the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 15th Golden Globe Awards (1958).

tenango-de-flores-xmas-tree-day

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Dec 222014
 

Plans to expand Mexico City’s metro network, announced by the federal government, will require investments totaling around 2.8 billion dollars. The first contracts are expected to be awarded next year, with most projects due to be completed by 2018, the final year of this administration.

Mexico-City-Metro-MapThe major proposals affect three metro lines:

Metro Line A (Pantitlán to La Paz) will be extended 12.9 kilometers to the southeast, with six new intermediate stations, to Chalco in the state of Mexico, at a cost of about 1 billion dollars.

The lengthening of Metro Line 4 (Martín Carrera to Santa Anita) northeastwards to reach Tepexpan will require investments of 1.5 billion dollars and add 19 intermediate stations as well as a terminal in Tepexpan. It will have improved links to other Metro and Metrobús lines.

Metro Line 12 will be extended northwards beyond its present terminus in Mixcoac to include new two intermediate stations and a new terminal station in Observatorio. This line will improve transit through Observatorio for passengers, including those using the future high-speed train link between Toluca and Mexico City.

Note that the elevated (above ground) southern section of Metro Line 12 between Tlahuac and Atlalilco stations, closed for repairs since March 2014, remains closed and is not expected to reopen until the second half of 2015. A replacement bus system has been established between those stations.

Useful links:

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Dec 202014
 

At the end of the nineteenth century, during the successive presidencies of Porfirio Díaz, railway building leapt forward. Díaz aggressively encouraged rail development through generous concessions and government subsidies to foreign investors. By 1884 Mexico had 12,000 km of track, including a US-financed link from Mexico City to the USA through Torreón, Chihuahua and Ciudad Juárez. A British company had completed lines from Mexico City to Guadalajara, and from Mexico City via Monterrey to Nuevo Laredo.

Fig. 17.2 The development of Mexico's railway network

Fig. 17.2 The development of Mexico’s railway network. Copyright: Geo-Mexico; all rights reserved

By the start of the twentieth century, additional tracks connected Guadalajara, San Luis Potosí and Monterrey to the Gulf coast port of Tampico. A line connecting the Pacific and Gulf coasts was also completed. Durango was now connected to Eagle Pass on the US border. A second line to Veracruz was constructed, with a spur to Oaxaca. Laws passed in 1898 sought to bring order to the rapid and chaotic expansion of Mexico’s rail system. Foreign concessions were restricted. Subsidies were only made available for the completion of missing links such as lines to Manzanillo and the Guatemala border. Efforts were made to standardize track gauges.

After the Revolution, network improvements were hindered by poor administration, corruption, labor unions and a shift of government priority to roads. The west coast railroad from Sonora to Guadalajara was completed in 1927. The Yucatán Peninsula was joined to the national network in the 1950s and the famous Chihuahua to Los Mochis line through the Copper Canyon was completed in 1961, finally linking Texas and Mexico’s northern plateau to the Pacific Ocean.

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