Aug 152016
 

Avid Geo-Mexico readers will know that we included a few paragraphs about the Happy Planet Index in our 2010 book, which we later quoted in this 2013 post, Mexico and the Happy Planet Index.

The latest (2016) Happy Planet Index (HPI), which uses slightly modified criteria, shows that Mexico has risen to 2nd place in the world rankings, behind Costa Rica, but ahead of Colombia, Vanuatu and Vietnam and well ahead of the U.S. (#108) and Canada (#85).

The Happy Planet Index is a compound index that combines four measures:

  • life expectancy
  • well being (life satisfaction)
  • ecological footprint
  • inequality

The HPI looked at data for 140 countries. For life expectancy, Mexico ranked #39, for well being #11, for ecological footprint #77 and for inequality #60.

Global pattern of ecological footprint. Source: HPI report, 2016.

Global pattern of ecological footprint. Source: HPI report, 2016.

The world map for ecological footprint shows the global pattern. The colors show three categories for ecological footprints, those below 1.7, those between 1.7 and 3.5 and those that exceed 3.5, where the numbers are global hectares (gha) per person.

These two sections from the Happy Planet Index country report for Mexico are a useful snapshot of where Mexico stands right now:

What’s working well in Mexico?

In recent years, massive steps have been taken to improve the health of the population of Mexico – notably achieving universal health coverage in 2012, making essential health services available to the entire population.

In 2014, a tax was imposed on sugary drinks with the express aim of tackling of obesity – this despite strong corporate opposition. The tax had already led to a 12% decrease in the consumption of such drinks by the end of the year.

Environmental sustainability is receiving growing political attention, and was included as one of five key pillars in Mexico’s National Development Plan for 2007–12. Mexico was the second country in the world to incorporate long-term climate targets into national legislation, and is taking important steps to conserve its forests and protect its rich biodiversity.

What could be improved?

Significant challenges remain for Mexico: economic inequality is a massive problem with a considerable gap between the richest and poorest – the top 20% of the population earns more than thirteen times as much as the bottom 20% of the population.

Mexico’s poverty rates are particularly high among indigenous people. Amnesty International has  highlighted Mexico’s human rights violations, especially relating to irregular migrants. On top of these issues, the importance of the oil industry to Mexico’s economy complicates its environmental efforts.

Mexico recently reached cross-party agreement on the Pacto por Mexico, a pact of 95 initiatives aiming to tackle some of these issues – an important step for the country’s future.

The HPI attempts to quantify an alternative vision of progress where people strive for happy and healthy lives alongside ecological efficiency in how they use resources. Mexico may have a high happiness index, but (like the rest of the world) it still has an awful long way to go to ensure a sustainable future for our grandchildren.

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Which states grew fastest in 2015?

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Aug 112016
 

The map shows the percentage change in each state’s GDP during 2015. (Data from the National Statistics Agency, INEGI).

Change in GDP, by state, 2014-2015. Data: INEGI. Cartography: Tony Burton / Geo-Mexico

Change in GDP, by state, 2014-2015. Data: INEGI. Cartography: Tony Burton / Geo-Mexico

The fastest growing states in 2015 were Hidalgo (6.3%), Chihuahua (6.2%) and Nuevo León (5.9%).

While the economy of most northern Mexico states grew at a respectable rate during 2015, the economies of three Gulf coast states actually shrank last year, mainly owing to the drop in oil prices. GDP fell in three oil-rich states: Campeche (- 8.2%), Veracruz (- 2.3%) and Tabasco (- 0.2%).

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The continuing revitalization of Acapulco

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Aug 082016
 

Acapulco is busy re-invigorating its tourist industry. In recent months, we’ve looked at the city’s improved public transit system known as Acabús and reported the news that Acapulco International Airport is getting a new, state-of-the-art, 18,800-square feet terminal building. The airport’s operator, Grupo Aeroportuario del Centro-Norte (GACN) says the 30-million-dollar terminal will be capable of handling 1.3 million passengers a year.

acapulco-bay-prob-public-domain

Now, Mexican firm Mundo Imperial, the tourist division of the vehicle financing firm Grupo Autofin, has announced a 1-billion-dollar Master Plan to help revitalize Acapulco, Mexico’s first jet set resort.

The plan aims to return the city to its former glory days by renovating the famed Mundo Imperial, Fairmont Princess and Pierre Marqués hotels, and adding several smaller boutique hotels and a medical center, as well as up-market homes and a high-end shopping plaza.

The project also includes an additional 700-room hotel, new tennis stadium, a hospitality training facility and an eco-adventure park. The plan, which will create around 10,000 jobs in total, will take five years to complete.

According to tourism officials, Acapulco’s reactivation as a tourist center is well under way. They claim that the port resort will host more than 40 major conferences this year, and that the city will be a port-of-call for more than 30 U.S. cruise ships.

Next year, Acapulco will once again host Mexico’s massive annual Tourism Fair, the Tianguis Turístico.

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Index page: Mexico’s indigenous peoples

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Aug 042016
 

As the site continues to grow, in content and readership, we are adding the occasional index page to help new readers find articles of interest. According to the 2010 census, 6,000,000 Mexicans over the age of five speak at least one indigenous language. Another 3,000,000 Mexicans consider themselves indigenous but no longer speak any indigenous language.

General

Specific groups

Maya

Aztec / Mexica

Tohono O’odham

Huichol

Tarahumara

Other Geo-Mexico index pages:

Aug 012016
 

The National Statistics Agency’s (INEGI’s) 2015 Survey of Socioeconomic Conditions includes data for average household incomes in Mexico, on a state-by-state basis. The national average household income (for a three month period) is $45,887 (pesos) . The map below shows how each state’s average household income compares to the national average.

Household income, by state, 2015. Data: INEGI. Cartography: Tony Burton / Geo-Mexico; all rights reserved

Household income, by state, 2015. Data: INEGI. Cartography: Tony Burton / Geo-Mexico

The state with the highest household income is Nuevo León, with $66,836, more than 140% of the national average. The state with the lowest household income is Guerrero ($27,584), where the average household income is only 60.1% of the national average. Guerrero’s average household income is only 41% of the average for Nuevo León.

As we have regularly highlighted in the past, regional differences in Mexico are considerable, and a definite “north-south divide”can be identified for almost every socio-economic variable. Development efforts need to be focused on improving the key indicators for southern Mexico and reducing these regional disparities.

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Instant poverty reduction – just change the baseline

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Jul 282016
 

The latest report on poverty from the National Statistics Agency, INEGI, looks like good news for Mexico’s poorest people but, sadly, this is only a mirage, based on a change in the measurement methods used.

The 2015 edition of INEGI’s Survey of Socioeconomic Conditions showed an overall real increase of 11.9% in household earnings, with an increase of over 30% in some states. According to the report, Mexico’s poor are richer by a third compared to last year, a change that some politicians will no doubt claim is the direct result of their effective policies.

Social activists were stunned by the claims of poverty reduction and Mexico’s National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy (CONEVAL), which measures poverty levels using INEGI’s data, said the changes by the statistics institute were not credible.

According to Jonathan Heath, an independent economic researcher in Mexico City, Inegi is claiming that the previous methods overestimated poverty levels, but the change in methodology, without public consultation, “raises suspicion.”

Quite apart from the misleadingly positive spin on numbers, the change in methodology makes it completely impossible to compare current poverty rates with the rates for previous years.

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Jul 252016
 

We drew attention a few years ago to the issue of Empty houses in Mexico, a problem due in part to on-going rural-urban migration, and in part to the construction of millions of new homes across Mexico. Thirty years ago, there were only 15 recognized metropolitan areas in Mexico, today there are 59.

Poor coordination between the various government departments responsible for housing, services and land development has led to some settlements being authorized even in areas where ownership was disputed or that lacked adequate access to highways or basic services.

Three years ago, a Mexico City news report entitled Desorden urbano dejó en el país millones de viviendas fantasmas claimed that as many as 4 million houses, many of them newly built, were standing empty. Other houses have been abandoned for a variety of reasons, ranging from the death of former owners, or owners moving to other areas, or being unable to keep up with mortgage and loan payments.

Infonavit Housing. Credit: Habitat D.F.

Infonavit Housing. Credit: Habitat D.F.

News reports claim that as many as 14 houses in a single street are abandoned in some areas, such as the Mineral de la Reforma district of the rapidly-growing city of Pachuca in the state of Hidalgo, causing problems for neighbors.

Now, the Mexican Workers’ Housing Fund, Infonavit, has set itself the target of reclaiming 30,000 abandoned houses this year. Infonavit has funded hundreds of developments with small, cookie-cutter houses, across Mexico. Members of Infonavit can access a series of housing-related mortgage products, to buy or remodel a new or existing home.

Starting last year, Infonavit began to rescue abandoned houses, renovate them and then auction them off to its members. Initial success was limited, with only about half of the repossessed homes being sold on, but in the first few months of this year, Infonavit has successfully sold off 92% of the first 3,000 houses it has recovered.

This year, Infonavit plans to auction off homes in Chihuahua, Nuevo León, Tamaulipas, Hidalgo and the State of México.

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23 July: Happy Geographers’ Day! – ¡Feliz Día del Geógrafo de México!

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Jul 232016
 

Today, 23 July, is Día del Geógrafo de México or Mexican Geographers’ Day. See this earlier post for a brief history of why 23 July came to be chosen.

The community of geographers in Mexico has always been strong, and geographers are held in higher esteem in Mexico than in most countries. Online, for those speaking Spanish, the Facebook page of 23 de Julio: día del Geógrafo de México regularly has interesting links to publications, cartoons, photos and other resources.

One of my recent favorites is this great scenic landscape image from the Facebook page of Los Gastronautas:

Los Gastronautas: Landscape of ham and parsely

Los Gastronautas: Landscape of ham and parsley

Geography is everywhere! A Happy Mexican Geographers’ Day to all geographers, whether in Mexico or elsewhere.

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Photos of Mexico’s indigenous peoples

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Jul 212016
 

Mexican photographer Diego Huerta has spent the past four years on a quest to photograph all of the indigenous groups in the country. He publishes select images on his website and on his instagram account and the collection of images makes for compelling viewing, hence articles about him in the press, including one entitled “Photographer Captures The Breathtaking Beauty Of Mexico’s Indigenous Communities” in the Huffington Post.

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For an introduction to Mexico’s indigenous peoples see An overview of Mexico’s indigenous peoples. Recent research has shown that the indigenous groups are more genetically diverse than was previously thought. They add a very significant diversity to the languages spoken in Mexico. See, for example, The geography of languages in Mexico: Spanish and 62 indigenous languages, and Is the number of speakers of indigenous languages in Mexico increasing? The many indigenous languages have resulted in some very distinctive place names.

At least one of the indigenous languages in Mexico is very unusual – Whistling your way from A to B: the whistled language of the Chinantec people in Oaxaca – and some have no words for “left” or “right”, while others are now spoken by only a very small number of people. The extreme example of this is Only two native speakers remain of Ayapaneco, an indigenous language in Tabasco.

Geo-Mexico has dozens of posts about specific indigenous groups in Mexico. The tag system and the site search engine will locate short articles related to the Huichol, Tarahumara, Aztecs, Maya and several other groups.

Jul 182016
 

The Montebello Lakes National Park (Parque Nacional Lagunas de Montebello) in Chiapas is a 6040-hectare expanse of rainforest, at elevations ranging from 1500 to 1800 metres (5000-6000 ft) above sea level, near the border with Guatemala. The park has 59 small and mid-sized lakes of varying colors. The variations in color include several tones of blue and green, due to differences in mineral content. About a quarter of the lakes are readily accessible by vehicle or on foot, and they are spectacular on a sunny day.

montebello-lakes-chiapas-gov

The park, which is an international RAMSAR wetland site, was the earliest national park to be established in Chiapas, and dates back to 1959. It was formally designated a UNESCO biosphere reserve in 2009.

This short (2 min, 20 sec) postandfly video gives a great overview of the park’s beauty:


Several of the lakes are used for swimming, canoeing, and kayaking. The largest is Lake Tziscao.

Additional attractions within the park include sinkholes (cenotes), caves (Grutas San Rafael del Arco) and two Maya ruins, the most important of which is Chinkultic, whose ruins date back to the third century. That site’s main pyramid, the Acropolis, affords an excellent view over the region.

The nearest city to the Montebello park is Comitán, an hour’s drive to the west. The picturesque city of San Cristóbal de las Casas, a very popular tourist city, is about three hour’s drive from the park in the same direction.

The protection of the lakes does face some issues. They are so close to the Guatemalan border that the area has been a regular staging post for central Americans entering Mexico illegally, hoping to eventually reach the USA.

In recent years, scientists have expressed concern that the lakes are losing their colors and becoming muddy and lifeless. They attribute this to untreated wastewater and agricultural runoff entering the lakes (via the Grande River which flows directly into the lakes) and deforestation of parts of the lake basins.

The Chiapas state Congress called for action in 2015, and has renewed its efforts this year. Proponents of action want a special commission to be set up to coordinate protection and recuperation efforts. Among those working to preserve this amazing treasure in southern Mexico are researchers from several major Mexican universities, including the National University (UNAM) and the Autonomous University of Chiapas.

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