Tag Archives: turismo

Why I Don’t Read the Newspaper – a Rant

Today, a copy of the Diario de Yucatan, once Merida’s more serious newspaper, entered my home and once again reaffirmed my belief that it is far better to ignore local news in any form because hearing, reading or seeing what is ‘newsworthy’ is really just depressing and makes one’s blood boil.

Boiling Point 1

In the newspaper, dated Saturday 20 of June, 2015, the Local section had this as their top story: “Elogio de la ONU (Spanish for United Nations) a Mérida.

It turns out that someone from the UN came to Merida for an environmental Expo and made encouraging comments about the potentially ‘great business opportunities’ in the area of renewable energy production that exist in the Yucatan along with the fabulous wealth of natural resources.

Now I am not sure what planet she is coming from – although later she mentions being in the DF so anywhere looks promising after that – but perhaps she didn’t read or hear about the rapid rate of contamination of the peninsula’s ground water thanks to complete indifference by authorities and citizens alike, who have no qualms about disposing of waste into the aquifer. Or read the article by another visitor recently who was blown away by the amount of trash that can be found everywhere in the Yucatan, particularly along the so-called Emerald Coast which was named after a visit to the Yucatan by a direct descendant of L. Frank Baum. Or see how trees are cut at an alarming rate both by those exploiting them for lumber or pulp as well as many developers and residents who regard anything resembling a leaf as garbage and ‘undesirable’. Natural resources indeed. Perhaps she was referring to the abundance of limestone. We sure do have a lot of rocks.

When she mentions that “Yucatan has one of the best environmental strategies in the country” I can only wonder at how bad the other states in Mexico really are. Is there potential for wind and solar? Yes. Is it being aggressively pursued by any government agency? Not that I know of, but then I don’t follow the press on a regular basis so am not up to date on the pomp and circumstance of self-congratulatory official pronouncements. There is an ongoing, energetic program to rid the Yucatan of plastic. Kidding. And the reforestation along avenues and highways is also a priority here. Not. Especially not when there is a billboard that needs seeing.

My lethargic cat has more environmental strategies than the Yucatan.

In the article she also states that Merida has ‘buenas vialidades‘; in other words, a good road and street system. I will give you a minute to pick yourself up off the floor. What vialidades is she talking about, I wonder.

  • The multilane manic madness of the Avenida Itzaes with its lanes that are abruptly repainted at each intersection?
  • Downtown streets with its yellow curbed no parking streets that are ignored by the PAN officials who park their cars in front of their office?
  • The white-knuckle bottleneck that is the glorieta experience at the new museum of all things Mayan?

Many of us who live here would beg to differ and it is only getting worse, as the recent opening of Krispy Kreme on Montejo or a drive through the neglected neighborhoods in Merida’s south can attest.

Boiling Point 2

Second article in the Local section, is the confirmation of the construction of yet another centro comercial aka mall, this one called Uptown Center, following the accepted and malinchista protocol of naming all new and exciting commercial developments in English. Uptown Center sounds so… uptown, after all. and that’s where we all want to be. With a Walmart and a Starbucks, it most certainly will feel uptown. Meanwhile, el sur de Mérida continues to languish amidst potholes, deficient street lighting and dilapidated public transportation. What the hell, they’re poor and their apellidos are cortos so who cares.

This new mall location is a large property and it seems the Ayuntamiento has signed off on it. What makes my blood boil is the fact that Merida does not need yet another upscale freaking mall. What Merida needs is parks and green spaces for its citizens.

Imagine the city of Merida leading the way in Mexico and even North America not because of what was already there (Mayan culture, natural location – see boiling point 1) but because of what its citizens and government did to make it that way. But alas, the general interest is not in having a great, livable and healthy city; the general trend is to have as many Walmarts and Starbucks as possible, covering everything with concrete as we pursue that goal, and THAT will make us all feel like we are living in a great city.

Does this not make anyone else angry? Feel free to comment below.

Boiling Point 3

On the inside pages of the Local section, along with stories of multimillion peso frauds committed without consequence by the mayor of Yaxcaba, the usual tawdry reporting on spousal stabbings and spectacular car accidents, there is an article entitled “The Mayans; a tourism magnet”

The powers-that-be of our fine tourism infrastructure are busy promoting – in England no less – all things Mayan. Among the last names of the fine citizens representing the initiative mentioned are Bravo, Ancona, Franco, Tovar y Teresa, Gomez and others. It would seem to me that including one or two actual Mayans would be an interesting and refreshing twist to these continued efforts to milk the Mayan culture dry, that continues decade after decade, without returning a centavo to the actual Mayans living in the Yucatan today. Of course, there are many ambitious and promising projects that are announced with each new governor, mayor or president; projects with fancy logos and stationery and even official vehicles and uniforms; projects that are promptly abandoned or the funds siphoned off for a new vehicle for the office, or other much-needed accoutrements of the white-guayabera-clad functionaries with their iPhones and shiny black shoes, smiling among villagers who have been screwed over again and again and still pose for the photos, in the hope that maybe this time, the promise might be real.

As I have the opportunity to spend time in the villages and comisarías and ejidos, I see real, emaciated and forgotten Mayans every day and can tell you – without hesitation – that these Mayans do not receive any benefits from these promotional junkets.

International trips where Merida chefs prepare and serve tacos de cochinita and antojitos yucatecos; where miniature replicas of Chichen Itza and other Mayan archeological pieces are expensively shipped and displayed for foreigners who then congratulate the officials accompanying the pieces on the cultural heritage of the Yucatan. The last people to benefit from all this promotion of Mayan-ness, to paraphrase my friend Macduff Everton, are the Mayans themselves.

And that, my dear readers makes my blood boil the most; how about you?

Maybe if I read the paper, listed to the radio, turned on the TV on a regular basis, I would become inured to these myopic assaults on common sense, on human dignity and on the vast potential of Merida and the Yucatan.

Alas, (or fortunately, for my own mental health) I do not.

And so, when a newspaper comes between me and the table, and I see the absolute mierda that is occurring around me in the city and state that I love and have come to regard as my own, I rant. For I am seeing this not as a romantic foreigner who just bought a colonial in Santiago and finds the Luca de Galvez market still charming, but a long-time resident that feels coraje at the potential of the place being squandered so cavalierly.

Uxmal. What if?

rising is dangerous photo

Rising is dangerous. Really? Physically rising? Socially aspirational rising?

If you visit Uxmal on a regular basis, showing off this wonderful site to visitors and friends, you may perhaps have a few questions as I do. Criticizing is of course, bad and we wouldn’t want to affect anyone’s self-esteem or God forbid offend anyone, so let’s just ask some hypothetical “what if” questions:

  1. What if: When you arrived at Uxmal there was a welcoming smile at the ticket booth and not the burned out, Mr. Grumpy that currently received visitors who wait patiently in line?
  2. What if: The federal and state authorities were to make a leap of faith, move into the 21st century and trust modern computer and accounting software to divide the entry fee so that visitors could pay one ticket and not lineup for two separate tickets, sold side by side by two employees at two separate desks with two separate cash floats and to be punched by two separate employees at two separate ticket-punching stations? This archaic system works well for the government agencies involved, but is the purpose of Uxmal to benefit the government agencies and their accounting or is it to delight the visitor?
  3. What if: You could buy the ticket to enter Uxmal in less than 2 minutes? If there more than 4 people waiting, you can easily spend 10 minutes in the two lineups to get your two tickets from the two employees in the two windows.
  4. What if: If you did have to wait, you could do so in the shade? If larger groups are in line to buy their tickets, you will stand in the baking April sun thinking “is it really worth it?” while you feel trickles of sweat running down the small of your back. The employees are in the shade and so good for them. What about the visitors? Could they not at least have a canopy of some sort to stop them from literally burning? Would this not make their experience better?
  5. What if: You could choose the best guide and not the one whose turn it is? Some guides are better than others, some speak English better than others and some are better with children. But you can’t choose because there is a system in place that makes you take the next guide in line. Great for the guides – and I love them all – but is the visit to Uxmal about the guides having a fair distribution of clients, or is it about the visitor’s experience?
  6. What if: They actually hired someone who spoke English to translate the signs warning people of the dangers in climbing the ruins and respecting the structures? Signs like “not sit” and “rising is dangerous” are toe-curling embarrassments to those of us who live here and take away from the magnificence of Uxmal. Hiring someone’s cousin who speaks no English to translate the signs obviously benefited someone – wink, wink – but how does this impact the visitor’s experience?

What if the powers that be considered the visitors experience when they arrive in the Yucatan instead of spending millions of pesos on snazzy brochures and costly junkets to tourism fairs to promote the states attractions? Doesn’t magnificent Uxmal and all its grandeur deserve more than just to act as a cash cow for inefficient bureaucracies interested only in self-preservation? Ask yourself these “what if” questions on your next visit to Uxmal and think about how much better it could be. Is this the hospitality we want to show our guests when they arrive in the Yucatan? Yucatecans are famous for their hospitality. Is this really as good as we can be?

A Tourist Arrives in Cancun – Welcome To Mexico!

Better Half and I, fresh off the plane in Cancun from a relaxing work-related week in eastern Canada, encountered what most tourists probably encounter upon leaving the confines of their Air Canada jet and stepping into the thankfully air conditioned Cancun airport terminal.

As an ardent fan of the great amounts of money being spent on promotion at foreign tourism fairs where our elected representatives spend our tax pesos on gourmet meals, fine wines and luxurious accommodation to “promote” tourism to our area, it was a great pleasure to experience Cancun from the tourists standpoint.

Not.

There was one flight and yet, several lineups for the always entertaining immigration procedure. In front of us, an elderly and apparently non-Semitic man was asked – no told – “JEW GLASSES” by a squat immigration agent who was obviously enamoured of her importance in the world. The tourist eventually got the idea – after a second and sterner “JEW GLASSES!!!” that he had to remove his dark prescription glasses (they were thick) so that SquatLady could carefully check his eye color against that in the passport photo.

When it was our turn we tried to make friendly small talk to no avail. Eyebrows raised and tongue pointing firmly inside one cheek to the point that it was pushed out (try it now you will get the idea), she was not to be deterred from her enormous responsibility and simply uttered one word: “passport” in spite of the fact that it was already laid out before her. She took it and carefully examined Better Halfs eye color before proceeding to stamp away. When examining my FM format and passport, she again did the eye check and asked if I spoke Spanish. “Yes” I answered. She proceeded to ask what I did, where I lived etc. etc. and finally sent us on our way. It’s not that she was rude, but if this is your first contact with a Mexican, it is less than welcoming. She also warned me that my passport was just one bended corner away from being unacceptable to the fastidious Mexican authorities who have no qualms about being anally-retentive about such things – when they feel like it.

Then to the luggage carousel where we waited for our bags. You would think Cancun would have a lot of these carousels but no, there are only a few. I popped into the bathroom while Better Half waited.

In the bathroom the tourist is greeted with a cleaning person who has obviously moved in, claimed the area as his own and is now in complete command of this portion of the airport. With a one-handed flourish reminiscent of El Zorro, he motions you to the urinal. When you are done, another extravagant flourish directs your gaze to the sink area where you are shown how to turn on the water, in case you haven’t been in an airport bathroom in the last 20 years. Before you know it, paper towels are thrust towards you to save you the extra three steps to the dispenser. You dry your hands and throw the towels in the garbage whereupon the little man turns into one of those monkeys that dances to an accordion-wielding bearded eastern European on a street in Hungary somewhere and bows his head, turning both hands palms up towards you. In one hand there is a coin. In other words, he awaits a tip for his tremendous and indispensable “service”. The coin, by the way, is Canadian. The man has done his homework and knows that this flight came from Toronto.

Welcome to Mexico.

All the Mexican clichés are coming true for the tourist as he exits the bathroom and proceeds to the streamlined and Swiss-modern customs area, where you must take all your luggage AND HOIST IT YOURSELF ONTO A CONVEYOR BELT SO IT CAN BE SCANNED. Yes, you read that right. And there is only one belt/scanner working. An employee sits, slouchily watching a screen and moving the luggage along on the belt with her on/off switch. If someone is slow in retrieving their luggage, he or she will get yelled at. Something like “PEEK APP JEWER LAGGAGE” (go ahead, say it out loud) emerges from her mouth as she angrily turns from the screen to the collisions ocurring on the other side of the scanner. Other employees, some customs, others from the SAGARPA which is a government agency in charge of controlling plant and animal entry to the country, stand around – dead eyed – like sopilotes waiting for roadkill.

The lady is struggling with her suitcase to get it on the belt? Whatever.

We’ll just stand here and watch.

Welcome to Mexico.

Why are they even scanning the luggage? What is it that is so delicate and special that the TSA people in the US and Canada are not picking up? Your bags have just come off a plane from an international destination and they have been scanned and checked by people far more professional and efficient than any of these poorly trained individuals. What exactly are they looking for? Aha! We found an AK-47 that somehow was missed by security in Canada! We are chingones!!

Once through the scanners, the luggage must be replaced on the cart you hopefully secured beforehand and now comes the Las Vegas part. A random push-the-button system is presented to you. You give the uniformed individual your customs form and they indicate that you must push a button to see if you will get checked to see if you are lying or not. A green light means you are free to go, unless of course the SAGARPA man decides you can’t and he wants to check your luggage for trees or live chickens. A red light means HA! Go over to the tables and a rubber-gloved individual will go through all your luggage to see if you are bringing in any contraband Barbie dolls or porno mags or anything else that might be deemed detrimental to the fragile moral health of the nation. The nation that features beheadings on a regular basis, where porn is available steps from the cathedral in the former white city of Merida and where … ah yes, so many contradictions.

Welcome to Mexico.

Once out of the small ring immigration and customs circus, you enter the big tent aka the gauntlet, where yelling uniformed “tourism” representatives are vying for your transportation dollar. Taxi? Taxi? TAXI?

There is no place that is obvious to the tourist arriving in Cancun for taking a taxi. Most airports have signs and such that lead one to a place where there is a lineup of taxis. Not in Cancun, where unions rule, taxis have apparently been banned and each and every visitor is a potential victim to be exploited. You will be led by a person claiming to be able to procure for you a cab and will find yourself waiting for a van in the van and private transportation area, filled with all manner of dubious subjects all out to get as much money as quickly as possible from their marks. The fact that the person was writing out a transportation order was an indication that we were not getting a cab, but a van which in fact arrived a moment or two later in the form of a 12-passenger Chevrolet Express van for the two of us which indicates to me anyway that the environment is also high on their priority list here in sunny Cancun. The price? $65 according to a laminated color chart presented to us. No problem, I give him a $200 peso bill.

No señor” says Mr. ChartHolder “Ees sisty fie dolla

“Are you f’ing kidding me” I think to myself but hey we are already in the van and what are you going to do. Our Cancun economics teacher informs us that cabs from downtown to the airport are cheaper, but from the airport to downtown, it is more expensive. No kidding – it’s double what paid to get here last week. We pay.

Jew can tip dee driver” says ChartHolder/Economics Teacher and we are off to our downtown destination. Maybe Jew can, but I am not going to.

Welcome to Mexico.