May 092014
 

We have repeatedly questioned the long-term wisdom of large-scale tourist developments along Mexico’s coastline. See, for example:

The good news, in June 2012, was that it looked as if the conflict at Cabo Pulmo, in Baja California Sur, had been resolved in favor of protecting the environment:

Unfortunately, land developers won’t take “No” for an answer. Immediately after its “cancellation”, the Cabo Cortés project was renamed Los Pericúes and relaunched, with few if any differences from the original version. Two years on, the project has been taken over by a new consortium of developers and renamed “Cabo Dorado”. Some changes have been made along the way, and Cabo Dorado no longer includes a marina or desalination plant, and its plans appear to have a lower building density.

There are still some legitimate concerns about the long-term impact of such a project in this area, so kudos to Carolina Herrera (Latin America Advocate of the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington DC) for her impassioned plea calling for Cabo Pulmo to be protected from the latest incarnation of this long-proposed tourist megaproject.

The project is located immediately north of the Cabo Pulmo Marine Park, which over its 19 year lifespan has proven to be hugely successful in conservation terms (The extraordinary ecological recovery of Mexico’s Cabo Pulmo Marine Park), while providing local people with the opportunity to offer a variety of alternative forms of low impact tourism. The site of the Cabo Dorado project site is home to 26 “at risk” species, including endemic plants and endangered sea turtles.

Cabo Dorado is a 3.6-bilion-dollar joint investment by La Rivera Desarrollos BCS, a joint venture of Glorious Earth Group (USA) and Beijing Sansong International Trade Group (China), together with China State Construction Engineering Corporation.

The project is for the construction of a new “ecotourist city” on 3770 hectares (9317 acres) of land. Slightly more than two-thirds of this area will be retained as a “conservation reserve”.

The master plan for the developed third includes:

  • 6,141 homes  (443 ha)
  • 9 hotels with 4,080 hotel rooms (721 ha) [the 22,503 number on the infographic below is an error]
  • 2 golf courses and practice ground (162 ha)
  • Services, infrastructure, maintenance (334 ha)
  • 1 landing strip
  • 1 14-km aqueduct
  • Shops, convention center, etc
Infographic from www.cabopulmovivo.org

Infographic from www.cabopulmovivo.org   Click to enlarge

According to the developers. Cabo Dorado “will be a fully integrated development, a first of its kind in the country, as it combines educational, recreational activities, scientific research, health promotional centers and a strong commitment to preserve the environment.” To this end, the project includes “an interpretation center, a technological and biological research center for studies related to the Sea of Cortes and the Desert of Baja California Sur, as well as a cultural exchange center, an educational institute and a student campus. In addition, there will be centers dedicated to the promotion of trade and investments, a high performance sports center, 9 world-class hotels and residences for temporary visitors and full time residents.”

Cabo Dorado will extract up to 4.8 million cubic meters of water a year from Santiago aquifer, roughly equivalent to the water needs of a city of 82,000 people) and will generate 711,900 kilograms of waste per day.

On the positive side, the project will create 18,000 direct and indirect jobs and bring around 900 million dollars/year into this area. It does not involve a marina or pumping wastewater into the sea which should prevent direct adverse ecological impact on marine life. The masterplan includes a “support town” for workers, which means that the local municipality does not need to build additional infrastructure to support the project.

The Mexican Center for Environmental Law (CEMDA) has called for a formal public meeting and consultation to ensure people are adequately informed about the latest plans and the potential social and environmental impacts.

Further reading:

For an exceptionally informative series of papers (in Spanish) on all aspects of tourism and sustainability in Cabo Pulmo, see Tourism and sustainability in Cabo Pulmo, published in 2008 (large pdf file).

Related posts:

May 072014
 

Three cities in Mexico – Mexico City Metropolitan Area, Monterrey Metropolitan Area and Querétaro - are included on the 2013 list of “The World’s Most Competitive Cities. A Global Investor’s Perspective on True City Competitiveness”, a report issued by Site Selection magazine in cooperation with IBM Global Business Services.

It is the first time the city of Querétaro (2010 population: 805,000) has been included on the list; Mexico City and Monterrey are old-timers on the list.

The 100 cities studied all have a minimum population of 1 million inhabitants in the local labor catchment area and attracted at least 25 foreign investment projects in 2009-2011. The study aims to rank the competitiveness of cities “to attract investment and international projects in various sectors”, and to identify those locations with the best combined “cost-quality” for particular types of investment project.

The report presents rankings and findings for five different types of operations:

  • International headquarters, coordinating corporate operations in a global region
  • Financial services center of competence
  • Software development center
  • R&D center for life sciences, combined with pilot production
  • Shared services center, providing support for corporate operations in finance, customer support, human resources or IT
Criteria used to rank world's 100 most competitive cities

Criteria used to rank world’s 100 most competitive cities

Rankings are based on 30 factors or parameters (see chart above).

The most competitive cities in the world were London, U.K. (score of 78.0), Singapore (78.5), New York City (77.4), Amsterdam (76.3) and Hong Kong (75.9).

Mexico City Metropolitan Area was ranked as number 57, with a score of 55.8. Monterrey Metropolitan Area ranked number 72 (48.2) and Querétaro city ranked number 90 (43.6).

Related posts:

May 042014
 

The holiday of Cinco de Mayo (5 May) commemorates the Battle of Puebla, fought on May 5, 1862. The battle (against the French) marks Mexico’s only major military success since its independence from Spain in 1821. Today, in a curious example of cultural adaptation, the resulting holiday is actually celebrated more widely in the USA than in Mexico!

Cinco de Mayo: Google image search results

Cinco de Mayo: Google image search results

For an account of the history behind the Cinco de Mayo, and for an explanation of why the holiday is now celebrated more in the USA than in Mexico:

In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is celebrated with a parade in the City of Puebla each year, but, in another strange twist of geography,  the longest-running annual re-enactment takes place in Mexico City:

In 2013, construction began of a 2-km cable car linking the main site of the Battle of Puebla (on a hill overlooking the city) with the city’s historic downtown district, but construction was halted following protests due to the demolition of a protected, historic building in the city center as part of the rush to complete the project before the opening of Mexico’s 2013 Tourism Tianguis, the largest tourism trade fair in Latin America.

Want to read more?

MexConnect has several informative articles relating to Cinco de Mayo, including:

May 032014
 

Mexicans are the world’s largest consumers of bottled water, both in individual small bottles (1.5 liters or less) and in garrafones (large, 20-liter bottles).

The main reason is a lack of confidence in the purity of public water supplies, resulting in part from perceived inefficiencies in how city water systems are managed and maintained. These concerns may be valid in some parts of Mexico, but are certainly not the case in all areas. Other factors resulting in a high acceptance of bottled water are the convenience, Mexico’s warm climate, and the vigorous publicity and advertising campaigns carried out by bottled water companies. It does not help that consumer groups repeatedly express concerns even about the quality of water in garrafones, claiming that some companies apparently take insufficient precautions to prevent its contamination.

For its part, the National Water Commission repeatedly claims that the problem of water quality is not due to the main distribution lines in Mexico, but to problems at a local level, in the final stages of the network between supply and consumers.

garrafon

Typical 20-liter garrafon

According to Euromonitor International, bottled water consumption in Mexico in 2013 averaged 186.7 liters/person, well ahead of Italy (175.1 liters/person), Nigeria (163.1), Turkey (147.7) and Spain (143.2). [Note that an earlier estimate in 2010 by Beverage Marketing Corporation put per person consumption of bottled water in Mexico at 234 liters a year, with equivalent figures for Italy, Spain and the USA of 191 liters, 119 liters and 110 liters respectively; the difference from 2010 to 2013 is almost certainly due to methodological differences].

Mexico consumes about 13% of all bottled water sold in the world! The only countries consuming more bottled water (in total volume) than Mexico were the much more populous countries of the USA, China and Nigeria.

Bottling water is a highly profitable business. The cost of 1,000 liters from the tap is 25 pesos (about 2 dollars); the same water, sold in bottles, is worth between 6000 and 8500 pesos (450 to 650 dollars).

The bottled water market in Mexico has grown from 6.5 billion dollars in 2009 to 10.4 billion in 2013, according to Euromonitor.  It is dominated by three foreign firms: Danone (France), Coca-Cola (USA) and PepsiCo (USA). Between them, they supply 82% of the market, according to a Euromonitor report, with the three leading brands being Bonafont (Danone) which accounts for 38% of the market, followed by Ciel (Coca-Cola) which has a 25% share and Epura (PepsiCo) 19%.

The cost of bottled water in an average Mexican household is considerable. For instance, assuming an average consumption of 15.55 liters/month/person, and that all water is bought in 1-liter bottles (which cost about 8 pesos each), then the monthly cost per household would be close to 500 pesos (38 dollars).

An industry dominated by four multinationals

Inside the Bottle: An Exposé of the Bottled Water Industry, a book by Canadian activist Tony Clark, provides a vivid and disturbing portrayal of how, worldwide, four big companies – Nestlé, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola and Danone – dominate the bottled water industry. As summarized by infinitewaterinc.com, the book examines several key issues of public concern about the operations of these companies, including how they:

  • pay little or nothing for the water they take from rural springs or public systems;
  • turn ‘water’ into ‘water’ through elaborate treatment processes;
  • produce a product that is not necessarily safer then, nor as regulated as, tap water;
  • package it in plastic bottles made of environmentally destructive toxic chemicals;
  • market it to an unsuspecting public as ‘pure, healthy, safe drinking water’; and
  • sell it at prices hundreds, even thousands of times more costly than ordinary tap water.

Related posts:

May 012014
 

Carlos Slim Helú , director of Grupo Carso, continues to head the list of the 10 richest Mexicans, despite his fortune declining in 2013 due to the falling value of his holdings in Frisco mining company and América Móvil. Slim Helú was overtaken as the world’s richest person in 2013 by Bill Gates.

According to Forbes magazine, between them, these ten Mexicans have a fortune of 132.9 billion dollars, equivalent to 11% of Mexico’s GDP.

The top 10 are:

  1. Carlos Slim,  72 billion dollars
  2. Germán Larrea, mining, 14.7 billion dollars.
  3. Alberto Bailleres, mining, 12.4 billion dollars.
  4. Ricardo Salinas Pliego, Grupo Salinas (TV Azteca, Elektra, Banco Azteca) 8.3 billion dollars.
  5. Eva Gonda de Rivera, Coca Cola-Femsa shareholder, 6.4 billion dollars.
  6. María Asunción Arumburuzabala, former president of Grupo Modelo, 5.2 billion dollars.
  7. Antonio del Valle Ruiz, Mexichem, Pochteca y Banco Ve por Más, 5.0 billion dollars.
  8. Jerónimo Arango, whose family founded Aurrerá, 4.2 billion dollars.
  9. Emilio Azcárraga Jean, Televisa, 2.6 billion dollars.
  10. David Peñaloza Sandoval, construction firm Triturados Basálticos (Tribasa), 2.1 billion dollars.

Related posts:

Apr 282014
 

Environmental noise is everywhere in Mexico, from traffic and fiestas to garbage collection and gas delivery. For more examples, see The distinctive sounds of Mexico’s towns and cities and The Sounds of Mexico. The traffic whistles made by police are an important subset of the sounds in any Mexican town or city. They have a mini-language of their own, explored in this MexConnect article: Did you know that different traffic whistles in Mexico mean different things?

This 3 minute Youtube video is a fun introduction to some of the Sounds of Mexico City though it must be admitted that some of the sounds are far more melodious than others:

Sounds and whistles may be very useful, but exposure to environmental noise can have deleterious effects on an individual’s well-being. Research in many countries has supported legislation to limit people’s exposure to loud noise on the grounds that such exposure can seriously damage health. Working days are lost and the resulting healthcare costs are considerable.

For example, a Spanish group, The National Association Against Noise Pollution, claims that the volume of music blasting out of automobile speakers makes many of that country’s younger generation “candidates for deafness”. The Association has lobbied for “coherent and efficient” legislation to prevent this modern urban environmental problem. It wants buildings with improved sound insulation and building codes which take account of the “sound maps” of each city.

Environmental noise, even if not sufficiently loud to damage our hearing, can make communication much more difficult, not to say frustrating, and can also interfere with our concentration, increasing the likelihood of potentially dangerous situations in the workplace or on the road. Excessive noise can increase stress and provoke fatigue.

What level of noise is safe? Three factors come into play. First, how intense, or loud, the noise is. This “noise level” is relatively easy to record and is measured in decibels (dB). The second factor is how long the noise lasts – the duration of any particular noise makes a huge difference to its effects on our hearing system. This is also relatively easy to quantify. The third factor – our individual susceptibility to noise – remains extremely difficult to predict in advance, meaning that noises that prove innocuous for some members of the family may permanently damage the hearing of others.

The following list indicates the peak decibel level (dBA) of various recreational and environmental noises:

  • Normal breathing: 10
  • Average home interior: 50
  • Conversational speech: 65
  • Vacuum Cleaner: 85
  • Lawn Mower: 95
  • Video Arcade: 105
  • Car horn: 110
  • Center of Guadalajara: 110
  • Screaming child: 115
  • Chain saw: 125
  • Automobile Stereo: 125-155
  • Fireworks (at range of 3 feet or 1 meter): 162
  • Hand gun:  165

This list clearly suggests that it is unwise to spend all day mowing the lawn or vacuuming your house, let alone using a chain saw or cruising the streets with your car stereo turned up high!

The World Health Organization (WHO) currently considers that 65 decibels (65 dB) should be the maximum noise level to which people are exposed for any prolonged period of time such as a working day. It estimates that at least 120 million people worldwide, mainly city residents, are suffering from hearing problems caused by exposure to excessive noise.

Mexico’s official noise norm NOM-081-SEMARNAT-1994 was first published in 1995 and follows the WHO guidelines. By comparison, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards are a maximum 8 hours exposure to 90 dB, 2 hours exposure to 100 dB, 1 hour to 105 dB or 15 minutes to 115 dB.

noise-chartIn November 2013, Mexico modified the technical details attached to its noise norm, and issued a new chart (see above) showing the maximum permitted noise levels in a variety of different settings. Note that the limits apply to “fixed sources” of noise, not to the occasional passing vehicle with loud-speakers!

The new rules are welcome. As John Pint eloquently puts it in New Federal Norms list decibel limits, this legislation “gives ordinary people a chance to defend themselves from Acoustic Terrorism.”

Related posts:

Apr 262014
 

A 200-million-dollar industrial development project known as Plataforma Logística de Hidalgo (PLATAH) in the central Mexican state of Hidalgo is being promoted as the nation’s latest industrial growth pole. The site’s major advantages are its proximity to Mexico City (30-40 minutes away by road) and its location alongside railways and the Arco Norte highway, which link the region to ports on both the Gulf Coast and the Pacific (see map).

platah-locationPLATAH is being developed by the Hidalgo state government in association with Artha Capital. In its initial stages, a 340-hectare site in Villa de Tezontepec, near Tizayuca, includes industrial sites and multimodal transport interchanges, supported by commercial areas and facilities for education, healthcare and business tourism.

PLATAH is projected to generate up to 10,000 new direct jobs. It is claimed that by providing employment in the region, the industrial park will reduce the need for workers to migrate or commute elsewhere for jobs, saving an estimated 8 million man-hours a year. The first factories in PLATAH are expected to be operational by early next year.

Related posts:

 Posted by at 6:12 am  Tagged with:
Apr 232014
 

The resort of Cancún in Quintana Roo is celebrating its 44th birthday this year. Local officials have arranged a series of events between 19 and 27 April, including an exhibition of vintage cars, to mark the occasion.

The construction of the purpose-built resort Cancún, planned by the Federal Tourism Development Agency FONATUR, began in 1970:

The tourist part of the city has thrived. Cancún now has more than 3000 condominium units, luxury shopping centers, restaurants, museums, discos, bars, an international airport and more than 150 hotels, with 35,087 hotel rooms.

In 2013, some 14 million visitors passed through the airport. Hotels had a profitable 2013, with an average room occupancy of 77.2%. Visitors to Cancún contributed an estimated 4.36 billion dollars to the local economy. Tourism provides direct employment in Cancún for around 52,600 people, and indirect employment for 175,000.

Cancún by Arthur Gonoretzky (Flickr)

Cancún by Arthur Gonoretzky (Flickr)

There is a less rosy side to Cancún. Besides the obvious adverse impacts of so many tourists, there are many other issues arising from the extraordinarily rapid growth of tourism in this area. For example, see Beach erosion in the tourist resort of Cancún, Mexico.

For a fuller discussion of the issues associated with 40 years of tourist development in Cancún, see “Ending a Touristic Destination in Four Decades: Cancun’s Creation, Peak and Agony“, which appeared in a 2013 special issue of the International Journal of Humanities and Social Science.

Tourism aside, perhaps the biggest single issue is in the “regular” city of Cancún (as opposed to the tourist zone). Cancún city (2010 population: 628,000, but sometimes claimed now to be more like 800,000) is where most supporting services are located, and most workers live. The city has grown so fast that it lacks sufficient services and fails to offer a good quality of life for its residents.

Related posts:

Apr 212014
 

Recent reforms to the energy sector have meant that Pemex has had to define its priority areas, those areas where it wishes to continue exploration and development. At a later date, it is then possible for the government to ask for bids from other oil companies, and award contracts to explore and develop oil and gas fields in other areas of Mexico. The first stage is known as Round Zero.

In March, Pemex published its portfolio of areas for exploration for “Round Zero” (Ronda Cero), with preliminary data for 2P (proven, probable) and 3P (proven, probable, possible) reserves as of the start of this year. 2P reserves totaled 24.174 billion barrels of crude equivalent, while 3P reserves totaled 43.8 billion barrels. The figures, slightly lower than the equivalent figures from January 2013, have not yet been confirmed by independent auditors.

Map from Pemex "Round Zero" document

Map from Pemex “Round Zero” document

46% of probable reserves are located in Chicontepec (Proyecto Terciario del Golfo) in Veracruz, and 43% in offshore regions including the Akal, Balam, Ayatsil, Maloob, Kunah and Tsimín fields.

56% of possible reserves are located in Chicontepec, and an additional 34% in offshore regions.

Want to learn more?

Related posts:

Apr 182014
 

Mexicans celebrate Easter in considerable style with processions and re-enactments of religious events. The MexConnect Easter Index page has a varied collection of articles and photo galleries relating to the Easter period in Mexico.

Easter procession in San Miguel de Allende. Photo: Don Fyfe-Wilson. All rights reserved.

Easter celebrations have been held for centuries in many of Mexico’s towns and cities, though the details may have changed over the years. This MexConnect article, for example, features photos from a Good Friday procession held in San Miguel de Allende in the mid 1960s.

The festivities in dozens of villages and towns throughout the country, including Tzintzuntzan in Michoacán and San Cristóbal de las Casas in Chiapas, have a very long history.

In other villages, the present-day, large-scale Easter celebrations are not genuinely “traditional” but are a relatively new introduction to the local culture. This is true, for instance, in the case of the Easter activities in Ajijic, on the northern shore of Lake Chapala, where, “The local townspeople take honor in portraying the cast mentioned in the Bible. Mary, the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary are there, along with wonderfully costumed early Christians and complacent Roman townspeople and authority figures.”

Perhaps the single most famous location in Mexico for witnessing Easter events is Iztapalapa near Mexico City. See here for photos of the 2013 Celebration of Easter Week in Iztapalapa.

[post originally published in April 2010, updated in April 2014]

The geography of Mexico’s religions is analyzed in chapter 11 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico; many other aspects of Mexico’s culture are discussed in chapter 13.

 Posted by at 1:09 pm  Tagged with: