The 2014 Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 off-road race

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Nov 082014

Entrants in the 2014 Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 off-road race have to complete a grueling off-road route that runs almost the entire length of the Baja California Peninsula. The race starts in Ensenada, Baja California, and ends in La Paz, Baja California Sur (see map). The approximate point-to-point distance is 1820 kilometers (1,130 miles). The 47th Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 race is being held this year from 12-16 November.

Route of Score 1000 Baja off-road race

Route of Score 1000 Baja off-road race

The race gives us a good excuse to offer this brief introduction to the geography of the very long, narrow Baja California Peninsula, which stretches for about 1150 km (700 mi).

In the north, it is composed of mostly granite, while the south is mostly marine sediments and lava.

To the east of the peninsula, the Sea of Cortés (Gulf of California) occupies a trough resulting from a series of faults which are linked to the famous San Andreas Fault system in California. Prior to the opening up of the Gulf of California, the peninsula was attached to the mainland. There are several volcanic islands in the Gulf.

The backbone of the peninsula is a crystalline mountain system with many peaks exceeding 1500 m (5000 ft) and some reaching as high as 3000 m (10,000 ft). The mountains have longer, gentler western slopes and steeper more rugged eastern slopes. Thus, as viewed from the Gulf of California, the Baja Mountains and the Western Sierra Madre look steep, foreboding and very rugged, while from the other side they look more subdued.

Climatically, almost the entire peninsula is extremely arid and forms the western part of the Sonoran Desert. It receives only limited and infrequent rainfall. However, the southern part of the peninsula does experience the occasional hurricane (such as Hurricane Odile earlier this year) which brings powerful winds and torrential downpours.

Population is distributed very unevenly on the Baja California Peninsula. The heaviest concentration of people is found in the extreme north, close to the U.S. border, a region which includes the cities of Tijuana, Mexicali and Ensenada. There are very low densities of population in most of the middle section of the peninsula, where the most important settlements include Guerrero Negro, Santa Rosalía,Ciudad Insurgentes and Ciudad Constitución.

The southern portion of the peninsula has attracted more settlement and this area, which includes San José del Cabo, Cabo San Lucas, La Paz and Todos Santos, is one of Mexico’s premier tourism regions.

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Foreign runners help preserve an ancient Tarahumara tradition

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Jul 262013

While generally referred to in English as the Tarahumara, the people’s own name for themselves is Raramuri“, literally “the light‑footed ones” or “footrunners”. The Tarahumara live in the Copper Canyon region of Mexico and are renowned for their long distance running exploits across some of the world’s most inhospitable terrain. As “modern” life encroaches on the Tarahumara and begins to change their traditional way of life, bringing problems like environmental damage, loss of native lands, and narco-trafficking, will they manage to preserve their ancient traditions such as long distance foot races?

As his contribution towards helping the Tarahumara preserve their foot races, a few years ago, Micah True, an American better known as ultramarathon runner “Caballo Blanco”, who regularly visited the town of Urique in the Copper Canyon, organized a Copper Canyon Ultramarathon. True, who died in 2012, was featured in Christopher McDougall’s book Born to Run. As True hoped, the Copper Canyon Ultramarathon has become an annual event, now known as the Ultra Caballo Blanco that helps maintain the running heritage aspect of Tarahumara culture. The event is usually held in March. Completing the race requires running an estimated 50 miles (80 km) of tracks, trails and and dirt roads, which start and finish in the main plaza of the town of Urique. The event has become the focal point for a cultural celebration.

This short 9-minute Youtube video–Super Athletes of the Sierra Madre–describes the 2009 Copper Canyon Ultramarathon.

Ini additional to some great shots of the rugged scenery and the race itself, the video includes brief references to the history of the area, and details some of the current pressures on the Tarahumara way of life. The Copper Canyon ultramarathon is aptly labelled “the greatest race the world has never seen”. The race is not sponsored and there are no huge monetary prizes for the race winners. Donations are accepted to offset the cost of prizes. Anyone who completes the course within the 14-hour time limit is awarded a voucher for 500 lb of corn. Foreign athletes who compete alongside the Tarahumara in this event donate their corn and prizes back to the community. The event attracts more than 200 runners, with about half of them normally completing the course.

Route of Ultra Caballo Blanco

Route of Ultra Caballo Blanco

This image of the course (from Ultra Caballo Blanco) gives some idea of the terrain in which this race is run. The race starts with a 21+ mile loop up-river from Urique, followed by another 18+ mile loop down-river, and then a final loop (up to the Tarahumara village of Guadalupe Coronado and back down to Urique) adding another 10+ miles to the total distance.

The 12th Annual Ultra Caballo Blanco will take place on March, 2, 2014.

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Sep 062010

Bike riding is quite a common recreational activity in Mexico, as well as being many people’s chosen means of transport to work.

In recent years, an increasing number of cities have started regular bike festivals or other events. The Festival de Bicicleta in Xalapa, the state capital of Vercaruz, is just one example.

Back in 1972, in Mexico City, famous Belgian cyclist Eddy Merckx, considered by many to be the greatest cyclist in the history of the sport, smashed the world one-hour distance record by pedaling 49.431 km (30.715 miles). He simultaneously established new 10 km (6.2 miles) and 20 km records by covering 10 km in 11 minutes 53.2 secs and 20 km in 24 minutes 6.8 secs. One curiosity of this achievement is that contemporary ads for Windsor bikes purport to claim that he was riding a Windsor bike when he smashed the record, whereas he was actually riding an Italian bike! Merckx’s distance record stood for more than a decade before being broken, also in Mexico City, by Francesco Moser.

Mexico City is catching up with the craze for bike riding, too. It sees bikes as one way to reduce air pollution. About 30 km ( miles) of downtown streets, including the 8-lane Avenida Reforma, are closed to powered vehicles on Sunday mornings, to provide unhindered access for pedal bikes, walkers, and wheelchairs.

Earlier this year, the city began a bike rental system, Ecobici. More than 1,000 bikes were distributed between 85 specially-designed bike stations, spaced around the city center. Users purchase swipe cards which allow them to access a bike. After the trip, the bikes can be returned to any of the stations. City officials anticipate 24,000 riders using the system by the end of the year.

Stamp of Bike exports

As the postage stamp suggests, Mexico exports bikes, mainly to the USA. The export market has declined, however, in the past decade as several manufacturers who used to assemble bikes in Mexico have moved their operations to China. Firms which have relocated their operations away from Mexico include Huffy (formerly in Nuevo Laredo), Windzy (Monterrey), Brunswick (Ojinaga) and SRAM.

The website of the National Association of Bicycle Manufacturers claims that its 14 member companies produce about 3 million bikes a year and employ, between them, 4,000 workers.

The 14 bike manufacturers listed are:

  • Bicicletas Cinelli – Santa Catarina, Nuevo León
  • Nahel – Durango, Durango
  • Goray – Torreón, Coahuila
  • Grupo Veloci – Zapopan, Jalisco
  • Rebimo de Guadalajara – Zapopan, Jalisco
  • Biciclo – San Luis Potosí
  • Bicicletas Mercurio, Mérida, Yucatá and San Luis Potosí (they acquired the famous Acer-Mex Windsor brand in 2001)
  • Bimex – Mexico City
  • BR – Mexico City
  • Magistroni – Mexico City
  • Benotto (primarily a distributor) – Mexico City
  • Grupo Oriental – Mexico City
  • Bicicletas Ozeki – Atizapan de Zaragoza, State of México
  • Bicileyca – Yauhquemehcan, Tlaxcala

Q. Is there any pattern to the distribution of bike manufacturers in Mexico? Try plotting the locations mentioned on a map of Mexico to see if any pattern emerges.

Q. What factors do you think bicycle manufacturers must take into account when deciding where to locate?

Mexico’s manufacturing industry is discussed in chapter 16 of  Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico. Mexico’s transportation system is discussed in chapter 17, and its exports in chapter 20.

Ask your library to buy a copy of this handy reference guide to all aspects of Mexico’s geography today! Better yet, order your own copy…

Mexico, Manchester United, and a new soccer stadium in Guadalajara

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Apr 082010

The British soccer (fútbol) giants Manchester United have signed their first ever player from Mexico. Javier Hernández—”El Chicharito” (the Little Pea)—is a 21-year-old striker who has already scored four goals for Mexico in just four games, and is expected to play an important part in Mexico’s World Cup bid in South Africa in the summer. So far this season playing for Guadalajara-based Club Deportivo Guadalajara (better known as Chivas) in Mexico’s Primera División, Hernández has scored 10 goals in 11 matches, an outstanding strike rate, making him joint third in the goal-scoring charts.

And the origin of his nickname “El Chicharito”? Apparently, it comes from his father who was also a Chivas and Mexico soccer player, and whose nickname was “El Chicharo” (‘The Pea). Hernández’s grandfather also played for Chivas.

The deal between Manchester United and Chivas is worth about 9 million dollars. It includes an agreement for Manchester United to play Chivas in Guadalajara in July this year in a friendly game to mark the official opening of Chivas’ new 45,000-seat stadium prior to the start of the 2010/11 season. The new stadium is on the western edge of Mexico’s second city, and was designed by French firm Studio Massaud Pouzet and built by HOK (Mexico-USA).

The geography of soccer is increasingly tied to the forces of globalization. We’ll take a more in-depth look at the geography of soccer in Mexico in future posts.