Tag Archives: notthenews

Finally, some good news about Mexico – The Washington Post

For those of you who read my neurotic ramblings – and I know you are out there – and haven’t seen this, here is a link to an article from my pal Edith over at the Washington Post that summarized what a lot of us who live here feel about the place. A little sugary for me, but still, better than yet another report on a narco-beheading, a hotel exploding or a tourist losing an actual arm and a leg to a real shark (as opposed to those tourists who attend the “free” breakfast and lose a virtual arm and a leg to the time share cetaceans)

The link is here:



Offended Mexicans vs BBC Comedy

I received an interesting article on the BBC/Mexico scandal in my junk-infested inbox this morning from my dear Better Half, who in turn received it from a friend whose acerbic wit and online social commentary on life in Merida was often the target for xenophobic hate mail accusing her of being *gasp* a critical wach, of all things.

The Milenio article (available in Spanish here) commented on the recent scandal involving the BBC’s program Top Gear, in which the comedy troupe said stereotypical things about Mexicans which apparently, caused the Mexican ambassador to England to feel such distress that he fired off an official protest letter to the government denouncing the show and its “xenophobic” remarks.

The author at Milenio says, in a nutshell, that everyone that is ‘offended’ by the program should take a look at themselves and the discrimination, racism and lack of tolerance perpetrated every single day in this country, by Mexicans.

Also interesting is the debate below the article. I think the author makes a good point. What do you think?

Merry Christmas to All and to All a Prosperous 2011

Posting as the Neurotic Foreigner, I have been blessed with a small but loyal readership and many of you seem to enjoy my often ascerbic comments on life here in the Yucatan. While it would seem that my writings are often less than flattering, I would remind readers that mostly these are written with the intent to be somewhat humorous (Canadian spelling) and that the viewpoints are those of an admittedly neurotic foreigner and that I really do love it here. I would also like to take this opportunity to wish each and every one of you a happy Christmas and wish you all peace and decent health in the coming year. And thank you to those of you who care enough to comment now and then!

Recent developments in the Riviera Maya/Cancun area what with the gangs and news of Tony Soprano-style extortions do not bode well for the future of the area and it is my sincere wish and hope that this desintegration of the fabric of Mexican society does not spread to this last bastion of relative calm and tranquility that is the state of Yucatan. Of course there are the political battles but these are unfortunately par for the course in this country and albeit unsettling, are not nearly as threatening as the violence and fear that are so commonplace now in many parts of the country. Yucatan is still a fantastic place to live and work.

Merry Christmas to all! Feliz Navidad a todos!!

Aeromexicos New Airline Security Brochure – Endless Fun!

When you find a brochure lying invitingly on an Aeromexico check-in counter at the Merida airport with the title “Security in Airport’s Program” and you have a penchant, as I do, to examine carefully the English texts in this country, you know you are in for a fabulous unintentional comedic treat and will pick it up for a closer look. Sure enough, the second title on the page, in larger letters was “Items and materials restricted for Carrying in Airport’s Sterile Areas and on board any Aircrafts”. Note the random capital letters, as if the writer thought ‘hmm there really should be some capital letters here, but where to put them?!’

Reading through the various prohibitions and restrictions, my interest was rewarded with several gems, some of which I will attempt to describe to you, dear reader(s) in the hopes that you will share my sense of awe and wonderment (and perhaps some indignation also?) at this callously sloppy yet very entertaining literary effort put out by the country’s only remaining major airline.

For starters, the cover indicates that the contents – in spite of being quite lengthy and extremely descriptive – are really not that complete and the list could be expanded to include other things at any time. This, in the business writing world, is known as CYA or Cover Your Ass. They express the concept through the help of their third grade teachers English thusly:

Items listed on this document are just some examples, the restrictions are not limited at this

Good to know that the information inside has already been discredited!

Inside the brochure things get very interesting indeed. All texts in italics are taken verbatim from the original – I have not made any of this up. To differentiate the things you can bring on the plane either in your carry-on or checked luggage, there is a handy graphic at the beginning of the list showing:

  1. a drawing of a piece of luggage and the text:  permitted only as checked in baggage
  2. a drawing of a little airplane and the text: permitted as checked in hand baggage
  3. a drawing of a red circle with a diagonal red line through it with the text: permitted as checked in hand baggage

First of all what is hand baggage? My guess is that it is carry-on luggage. Secondly, don’t those last two symbols have the same text?

Taking those symbols or drawings and their explicatory texts, you learn that ON AEROMEXICO FLIGHTS YOU CAN bring the following items on the plane as long as they are in your checked luggage aka ‘checked in baggage’:

Guns, wheel guns (what the hell is a wheel gun – is for shooting wheels?), rifles, shotguns, Bbguns…. and compressed air, cartridges

Axes, Knives, sport knives, stilotto Knives, cork blade knives, daggers….fencing weapons, machetes, axes, etc. Of special interest is the repetition of the axes concept; particularly useful if you are a Viking and have several of them to stow in your checked in baggage.

Other things you can put in your luggage on Aeromexico flights are:

Martial arts weapons (throwing ones or not) Or not.

Straight Razors

Crokscrews That’s right, Crokscrews. For when your Croks need screwing.

Harpoons Great if you’ve come down for a little golf, tequila and WHALING. You know there’s a lot of that going on.

Subcutaneous syringes and needles for people on board with the appropriate medicine People on board without the appropriate medicine please desist

Nail Removers (Maximum 100 ml per person or 3.4 oz) That’s some pretty strong liquid if it removes the entire nail and not just the nail polish! Also, is 100 ml per person or 100 ml per 3.4 oz? Confusing, somewhat.

There are more, but these are just some of the highlights of what you CAN take on the plane, in your luggage that goes in the cargo area.

If you are a terrorist, this should already be good news! But it gets better!! No more discomfort from hiding pesky explosives in your shoes! No more C4 rash in your crotch area from strapping explosives in  your underwear! In addition to the above items that, according to the brochure in my hand, you can stow in your luggage, Aeromexico allows you to bring on the plane with you (according to those previously mentioned symbols) the following, which should make your work easy for you:

Wet Batteries Just make sure you dry your batteries thoroughly before packing them. They make SUCH a mess.

Acids and Corrosive substances

Butane and Propane Gas

Gasoline and all other flammable liquids All of them. Bring them all.

Radioactive materials Got a Reactor at Home and want to bring it to Cancun? With Aeromexico it’s all good!


Traffic sparklers These sound so San Francisco but could be handy when trying to get the flight attendants attention.

Fireworks, all types of black powder, and any fire-making article OK Tarzan, that is pretty clear. Black powder. Fire-making article. Ugga.

Primers and detonators

and my personal favorite from this list:

Explosives and Hand Grenades

Now there are many more items on this comprehensive list, which is of course – as you recall – not complete and most assuredly has omissions and/or errors and therefore should not be taken in any way seriously.


How can AeroMexico, as Mexicos only remaing major airline, come up with this sort of poorly redacted and translated drivel?  The spelling mistakes that any word processing programs spellchecker would catch; the completely indiscriminate use of capital letters which are sprinkled haphazardly throughout the text and catch your eye like the pink bits in a bowl of Alphabits cereal, and of course the horrendously awful translation, inexcusable in this day and age and more inexcusable for a company of this calibre.

Is it budget? Can it possibly be that the airline is cutting costs in its communications efforts? That this brochure, available in every Mexican airport at Aeromexico counters and read by I dare say thousands of English speaking people every single day (who are laughing) was seen as not so very important and so no effort was made to hire someone to professionally prepare this piece of information?

Is it an excess of confianza? Does Aeromexico feel so safe with Mexicana now out of the picture and with low friends in high places, that they could care less about doing this one right and from their view, at the top of a pile of rapidly decomposing laurels, they feel they couldn’t be bothered? And so they probably created a little company run by the cousin or some other relative of the guy in charge of getting this done and gave him the contract to produce the brochure because he studied English in Iowa in grade 10 and so he knows English and and and.

Or do they just not know any better? This one I can’t believe, sorry.


A brochure like this one, will not change anyone’s life for the better or worse, except perhaps a cerebrally-challenged Taliban suicide bomber who happens to be in Mexico, happens to read English and was counting on taking his detonators, acids, and hand grenades aboard his next flight. Or perhaps Lars the Viking who finds his axes(s) not welcome in his suitcase despite what the brochure says after a great vacation of looting and pillaging in some Mexican village.

What it does do, yet again, is paint Mexicans in general (because an English speaking person reading this brochure will not think this is an Aeromexico problem; it’s all Mexicans) as either sloppy or illiterate. Maybe it’s the Mexican part of me that takes offense at such sloppiness, cohabiting with my Canadian part that finds it all amusing.

I think it is inexcusable to put out this kind of garbage in this day and age. With so many resources available in a globalized economy (internet, anyone?) you would think a company the size of Aeromexico would be able to come up with something professional that was attractive, informative and easy to read in addition to being well written and translated, for something as important as airport security.

Fun Merida Activities – The 9 PM Houston Flight Arrival Event

For those of you constantly whining about how this or that is not the ‘real’ Merida as if all Yucatecans had to wear starched white clothing, clunky sandals and balance a tray with bottle and glasses on their heads for your amusement, here is another unreal Yucatecan activity that you too can participate in!

There are tried and true Merida traditions, like frijol con puerco on Mondays, visiting the family home en masse on Sundays, and spending the summer months at the beach, that you are probably quite aware of. But there are also newer, more modern traditions that you may not be aware of or that are being crafted in our lifetime, right now! One of these is the cultural event that occurs almost nightly at Merida’s airport.

Each night at the Manuel Cresencio Rejon airport (who the hell was that guy anyway) here in the formerly white city, around 9 PM, a crowd gathers at the arrivals gate to welcome the passengers arriving on the almost-daily Continental Airlines flight from Houston, USA.

It’s always a fine cross-section of Merida’s population with all the socioeconomic groups represented.Look carefully!

There are the well-off Meridanos from the clase acomodada, awaiting the arrival of a tia or tio or perhaps a student – mi primo – returning from a semester in the US where they went to study English with all the chicanos and instead learned to appreciate the value of their muchacha as well as the recreational qualities of marijuana. These folks gather in small groups, often based on age groups, because they know each other and ask ‘a quien vienes a buscar‘ which is then followed by a lengthy conversation on the life of the person they are waiting for. This is also a good time to catch up on local gossip once the initial conversation has reached a saturation point and/or flight 1842 is late landing on the tarmac.

Also present is some sort of gringo element in the form of a single man or perhaps a couple, who have come to pick up one of their kind who is coming to visit or stay for an extended period of time in their newly renovated house. These people, wearing garb that ranges from monied and downright elegant to scraggly shorts and a wrinkled guayabera topped off with Felix the Cat facial hair and a bedhead do, are often standing alone and will keep to themselves, even in the presence of other gringos unless of course they are on speaking terms in which case they will make light superficial conversation about life in “Centro”.

There is almost always a family or two of people who fit into neither category, gringo or clase acomodada, and who probably live in one of Merida’s “popular” neighborhoods, “popular” being the local term for the poor and low income people that make up the vast majority of the Yucatans population. These people do not mingle with the aforementioned clusters and arrive in large familial units complete with a gaggle of children accustomed to unusual bedtimes and often with an hipil-clad abuelita in tow.

A fun activity is to try matching the passengers escaping the baggage claim and semaforo area with the people waiting. One can get the occasional surprise when, for example, the low income family with the hipil-clad grandmother is the group that welcomes open-armedly the solitary gringo with one carry-on piece of luggage. Hugs and backslaps from the males, polite handshakes from the women and shy smiles from the many children accompany the lucky gringo (you should consider yourself lucky to get such an enthusiastic reception) to whatever form of transporation is waiting outside.

While enjoying this entertainment, I recommend getting a pretty awful cup of coffee which costs about half a minimum daily wage 😉 at the place next to Burger King, or perhaps ordering some hot french fries at BK itself so you can munch or sip while watching the goings-on.

Look around folks, and welcome to the real Merida.

Pimienta – Good Seafood-y Pasta

The Casual Restaurant Critic had driven by the restaurant called Pimienta, located just a few blocks beyond the Consulado de los Estados Unidos de America, when heading south-north, just before the street opens up to reveal the estadio Salvador Alvarado on the left.  The Critic had also heard some rumors and whispers that this little restaurant was actually pretty good.

So, upon hearing that dear friends were going to visit and were requesting the dubious pleasure of the Critics company, he dusted off his dancing shoes and took the Better Half along with Miss Tenerife and joined aforementioned DearFriends for dinner.

And what a surprise! Pimienta, whose owner was on hand to welcome the group, is indeed a little gem of a restaurant with great food, an elegant room and a waiter with a personality.

As far as food goes, there was pasta had by all. From green linguine buried in a delicious red sauce that the BetterHalf raved about the next day to the scallops in the Fruti di Mare pasta had (for the first time ever) by Miss Tenerife to the Mona Lisa had by the Critic to the pasta with shrimp and an appetizing chunk of meat whose names escape the Critic as usual; all were delicous!

Appetizers included tender, zesty flavored mushrooms sauteed with guajillo chile and sprinkled cheese on top and bruschetta.

Desserts were had as well, although there was absolutely no need to subject the groups digestive system to such abuse; a homemade Tiramisu, a light, just right lemon mousse and a dark chocolate pyramid.

Service was friendly and for the most part right there when needed (ocasionally he could have been a little more attentive) with the only quibble being that the he could have ironed his shirt to be more in keeping with the rest of the dining room which was impeccable.

All in all a pleasant surprise. Recommended!

Frijol con Puerco – A Monday Tradition

Usually made on Mondays because it was “easy” to prepare, frijol con puerco is a true Yucatecan classic I have come to love.

There is the colorful, aromatic array of finely chopped condiments (above), with onions, radishes, limones and plenty of exotic cilantro; these are added to your plate according to your preferences. I’m not a huge fan of onion breath myself so I don’t put more than a teaspoons worth in mine.

Another selection of condiments offered included chopped cucumber, a first for me (below) and creamy avocado which of course helps to boost the dish’s already stratospheric calorie count.

In addition to the condiments there should be a fresh roasted tomato salsa as well as fire-toasted habanero chiles ground with the juice of freshly picked limones, preferably from the obligatory backyard tree.

Once it’s all mixed and prepared as you like it, roll up a hot tortilla, grab that spoon with the other hand and dig in.

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La Taberna de los Frailes – A Valladolid Find!

Whilst visiting the monastery of San Bernadino in Valladolid yesterday, the Casual Restaurant Critic noticed a new (for the Critic anyway) restaurant directly in front of the parking lot of this often visited Valladolid attraction.

After touring the monastery and its multiple austere charms, the Critic and a guest had lunch at this restaurant, owned by a talented Valladolid woman who is also responsible for the upscale cafe on one corner of the city’s main plaza.

The restaurant is very attractive, with a low-tabled bar at the entrance, followed by a high-tabled bar area under a lush maracuya (passion fruit) vine and an elegantly appointed palapa restaurant in back with real tables and comfortable, cushioned chairs. One is struck immediately by the formal table setting in this casual atmosphere, complete with heavy silver and glassware, starched linen napkins wrapped in handmade napkin rings (made from the thorns of the henequen plant among other things) and tablecloths. No plastic Coca Cola tables here!

The food is fantastic – the Critic ordered the Relleno Negro plate while his guest had the Tsik which is usually made with venison but here is prepared with tender smoked pork and served in a lec (gourd) and is both refreshing and delicious.

Service is very attentive and gracious. While the waiter did not speak English, he was very receptive to some English terminology thrown his way, repeating each word carefully to memorize them.

As far as price goes, the total came to $300 pesos before tip, which included one margarita, a Coke and a bottle of water.

Highly recommended!

GoGreen – Merida Eats Healthy

Again the Critic finds himself in the Gran Plaza mall and the Critic is hungry but has absolutely no desire to subject his digestive tract to:

  • the calorie-laden punishment of those nachos
  • reheated calorie-laden deep fried KFC chicken that might or might not actually be reheated
  • calorie-laden Dominos pizza (how do t hey survive in that mall?)
  • calorie-laden Burger King items that Michael Pollan insists are not really ‘food’
  • sushi of dubious quality that might actually kill you

What to do? How about GoGreen?

GoGreen just opened their Gran Plaza mall location about two-four weeks ago (they have a store on Montejo, near the Burger King fountain, which is a landmark a Yucatecan will understand, as its real name has long ago been forgotten) and it presents a fresh, healthier option to all those tacos in the food court. Come to think of it, they should rename the food court to “Tacos… Y Algo Mas” … a common and popular name choice in Merida because it covers your main selling point but leaves the door open to other stuff as well.

The Critic ordered the Buffalo Salad, which has barbecue shredded chicken, celery, lettuce of course, carrots, all tossed with a ranch dressing. The small salad, picture below, costs $61 pesos, or about 5 dollars at today’s exchange rate. Some people will recoil in horror at this price “SESENTA pesos” they will exclaim, covering their mouth with their hand as if the salad was going to jump in it and then they would be obligated to pay, “estan LOCOS”. This is the usual reaction to a price that is somewhat beyond the norm for a product that obviously is of better quality than the norm.

In any case, the salad was cold, fresh and attractively presented. GoGreen is an excellent mall choice for everyone tired of the same old fast food franchises and all those tacos.

Morning Musings

When the power goes out, as it invariably does here in Merida, you are left with contemplating life without electricity, which we (or at least I) take for granted every day.

Making my morning coffee, I am lucky enough to have a little French press that makes coffee for one and a half; a perfect morning starting size for me, what Starbucks might call a venti. Also, like most Yucatecans, I use gas in my kitchen which facilitates the heating of the water for said coffee, coffee harvested from the highland plains of  Costco, sold under the brand name Gila and already ground and stored in my freezer.

Speaking of freezer – and fridge – these must be opened and shut quickly, so as to conserve whatever cold temperatures are inside because one never knows how long these power outages are going to last.

Having charged the laptop throughout the previous night, I am able to write this morning without the distraction of the internet, as the modem is powered, again, by electricity and that little WiFi icon on my screen is blocked by a bright red cross, kind of like one of those AIDS ribbons. As I am typing this, and this is so coincidental as to be downright weird, Microsoft Works (with ads) pops up an ad for National AIDS fund with, as luck would have it, a red ribbon.

For a few days now I wanted to write about some of the wildlife one can see in ones garden if one doesn’t opt for the popular method of slashing and burning all local vegetation on ones property in order to build ones house.  This morning is a good opportunity to do so.

Leaving local trees and plants like the dzidilche, jabin, chaka and even the spiny, twisty catzin, can reward you with a cornucopia of local fauna that will frequent your garden and make sitting at your kitchen window a National Geographic moment, without the ads.

Besides several species of local birds, most prominent among them the k’au, or grackle which delights in surrounding our homes indoor (open to the sky) patio and diving in to the dogs dish to scoop up dog food nuggets and taking them to the pool where they are dipped in water to soften them up before swallowing, there are a few larger animals as well. How the heck do they learn this complex physics concept of a liquid softening up something hard? I have probably mentioned this before so forgive me if I am repeating myself but these birds blow me away with their smarts!

Occasionally, herds (for lack of a better term and without the internet where shall I look to find the correct name) of squirrels invade the treetops, jumping from branch to branch, scurrying along the edge of the roof and leaping great distances to traverse the entire back yard in about 5 minutes, chattering loudly and excitedly. The tree branches rustle and bounce, the dog goes crazy trying to get at them and the show is over in a very short time indeed.

Two days ago, cleaning the leaves and debris tossed into the pool by Karl, the blowhard who didn’t stick around and made his way to Veracruz, I noticed a snake near the edge of the water. About a meter long, it was reddish brown and looked perfectly harmless. As I considered my options, it moved very quickly and sinuously into the pool itself and, head raised triumphantly, slithered-ly swam to the opposite end where it popped out without any effort and disappeared under some rocks. I think about the times I have swum in the pool at night, in the dark without a care in the world.

Yesterday, sitting in this very kitchen and typing on this very computer, a movement caught my eye. Straight ahead of me, perched vertically on the bougainvillea trunk beside the kitchen window, was a very large iguana, dressed in a shade of gray (as usual) and bright green (very unusual) as it had been sitting in the bright green branches above. As I looked around for a camera, it continued downwards and made it’s hip-wiggling way across the lawn to yet another set of rocks where it vanished.

The power has returned and the silence has been broken by the hum of fans, motors, compressors and the neighbors mozo vacuuming their vehicles. The good news for me is that I can upload this post as well as take a shower and get on with my day.

Have a great Sunday, everyone!