This series is from The Mexico File newsletter.
Back Issues and Subscriptions available.



New Mexican Law

The Mexican Congress has recently enacted a law allowing journalists to protect the confidentiality of their sources. Press organizations in the U.S. have been campaigning for this as well, so far unsuccessfully, as evidenced by the incarceration of New York Times reporter Judith Miller. “The United States should follow the example of Mexico in allowing this fundamental right of the press,” said a spokesman for the Paris-based press group Reporters Without Borders. In 2002, Mexico passed a transparency law, allowing all members of the public to demand to see government documents. Next, the Mexican government needs to deal with journalists being killed by narco-traffickers and organized crime for printing the truth. 

Obrador on the Ropes

After recently enjoying a 16-point lead in the upcoming Mexico presidential election, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has seen his margin fall to three or four points ahead of the PAN ruling party candidate Felipe Calderon. There is a growing fear that Obrador is too far to the left politically and that his vow to help the poor will harm the fledgling and volatile economy. He also got into a spat with still-popular President Vicente Fox, comparing him to a “chachalaca,” a wild bird with a loud squawk. He has since apologized. 

Cancun Now Restored

Six months after being ravaged by Hurricane Wilma, the Mexican government has declared Cancun’s beaches to be officially restored. The restoration involved $19 million used to dredge sand from the ocean floor, replacing miles of beaches adjacent to the glitzy resort hotels that define the Riviera Maya. Up to 100,000 square feet of sand a day were dredged to complete the task. The hurricane is estimated to have caused over $1 billion in damage. Cancun normally receives around 3 million visitors a year, primarily from the United States and Europe.




New Oil Discovery

President Fox recently announced a new oil discovery in the Gulf of Mexico that could be larger than the famed Cantarell offshore field, the second largest producing field in the world, discovered in 1976 and producing since 1978. Original total reserves at Cantarell were 35 billion barrels, but its output has been on the decline since 1981. The new find is in very deep, under 3,117 feet of water and another 13,120 feet underground. Mexico has been investing $5 billion a year in oil exploration. 

Nukes to be Revivied

Faced with rapidly growing energy needs, the Mexican government plans to expand their long-dormant nuclear power program. The plans call for a new plant, costing about $4 billion, to be completed by 2020. The company’s existing nuclear plant, the Laguna Verde plant in Vera Cruz, built in 1990, provides about 5 percent of the Mexico’s energy. No location for the new plant was announced, but expect heavy opposition for those old enough to remember Three Mile or Chernobyl. 

US Cuts Aid to Mexico

The Associated Press recently reported that since last fall, the U.S. has suspended military assistance to Mexico due to a dispute over whether U.S. citizens should be exempt from prosecution by the International Criminal Court. Mexico agreed to the Hague-based ICC which was formed to track down perpetrators of genocide and other crimes against humanity. A total of $1.1 million has been withheld from Mexico that was earmarked for English language, counterterrorism, and counter-narcotics training.




 Guns for Computers

In a unique attempt at slowing the crime rate, Mexico City has begun offering a computer to anyone who brings in a gun to exchange. The program is similar to a previous attempt in which groceries were offered for guns with mixed results. The guns-for-computer program is being offered only in the most crime-ridden districts. 

Undocumented Migrants in Mexico

Mexico arrested more than 240,000 undocumented migrants in 2005, nearly 75% more than just three years ago. Of the arrested, 89% were from Central America. The remaining were from Brazil, Venezuela, and other countries as far away as China. Mexico has set up seven new detention centers throughout the country to house the detainees. 

Tourism continues to Grow

From January to November 2005, Mexico increased the number of international visitors to 19.68 million, an 8 percent increase over the same period the previous year. Tourism generated nearly US$11 million in revenue for the same time period, an increase of nearly 12 percent.. The tourism sector employed nearly 2 million workers in November 2005. According to 2006 Travel Trends, Mexico tops the list of top 10 international destinations with five vacation options. Number two was Riviera Maya, number three was Cancun, while Puerto Vallarta came in at number five. Mexico cruises were in the number nine spot with Cabo San Lucas ranked 10th

Obrador Still in Lead

Ex-Mexico City mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the PRD still leads in polling to become the next president of Mexico, although the PAN candidate, Felipe Calderon Hinojosa is running a strong second with the PRI’s Roberto Madrazo coming in a distant third. Obrador, the populist favorite in Mexico City has maintained the lead for several months despite attempts to discredit him by the opposition.



ABOUT MEXICO, 12/2005 

Mexico Wants Montezuma’s Headdress

The bejeweled headdress thought to have been worn by Montezuma II has been in an Austrian museum since the 16th century and now Mexico wants it back. President Fox has already asked Austrian president Heinz Fischer to return the artifact in 2005, but is now being more insistent in his request. The headdress is nearly a three feet wide and is made from more than 450 bright green feathers from the elusive quetzal bird in a gold encrusted crown. 

Absentee Voter Drive

Mexico has passed a law allowing its citizens living abroad to vote in the 2006 presidential election, but so far only 18,600 people have applied to do so out of around 4 million potential voters. It was expected that 400,000 would take advantage of the opportunity. The process requires a complicated set of rules and forms to be filled out, possibly explaining the lack of interest. The Mexican government spent nearly $12 million promoting the absentee vote. With Mexicans having sent $16 billion back to their hometowns last year, it was expected that the interest in voting would be significant. 

Mexicana Airlines Sold

GruposPosadas, owners and operators of 64 hotels in Mexico, including the Fiesta Americana, has agreed to pay $165 million for Mexicana Airlines, Mexico’s second largest airline behind AeroMexico. Including debts and liabilities the sale is valued at $1.46 billion. The Mexican government, through a holding company, are the sellers of the airline that has been a financial drain for years. It is expected that AeroMexico, also owned primarily by the government, will be sold in 2006.




Inflation Rate Falls

Mexico’s annual inflation rate fell to 3.05 percent in the twelve months through October, the lowest rate since the central bank started to keep records in 1969. The drop should result in the central bank’s cutting interest rates to increase economic growth. The monthly inflation rate fell to 0.25 percent from 0.40 percent the previous month. 

Monarchs to Return to Large Numbers

Experts are expecting as many as 200 million Monarch butterflies to make the annual migration to Mexico this year, nearly ten times as many as in 2004. At first a mystery, it is now believed that last year’s decline was the result of bad weather, pollution and deforestation. Last year fewer than 23 million butterflies survived long enough to make the trip from the United States and Canada, but this year the conditions are much more favorable. The last time there was a large decrease in 2000 it was followed by a large resurgence the following year. 

Mexico’s Michelada Beer to U.S.

Mexican’s have long enjoyed michelada, beer served with lime juice, various sweet and sour spices, Tabasco, ice and salt on the glass rim. Now some Mexican brewers are bringing the michelada to the U.S.. The Spanish translation is “my cold beer,” but the popular English name has become “beer lemonade.” It can be found along the U.S. side of the Mexican border, but is sure to spread to your neighborhood soon.  

Manuel Jimenez Dies In Oaxaca

October marked the death of Manuel Jimenez of Arrazola, Oaxaca, universally considered by all Mexican folk art aficionados to be the father of Oaxacan wood-carving. Featured in several popular books on both Mexican and Oaxacan art, Jimenez was the only woodcarver included in the Fomento Cultural Banamex book and exhibition, Great Masters of Mexican Folk Art. Originally a stone mason working on the restoration of Monte Alban, he began his career carving toys for his children from copallia wood. Nelson Rockefeller discovered him in the mid-1900's, bought all the carvings he had available, and encouraged him to spend more of his time developing his craft. One of the criteria for inclusion in Great Masters is that the artist contribute to the education and betterment of his community. During his lifetime Jimenez not only taught woodcarving to his own sons, but also to many other artists working in Arrazola today. He will be sorely missed by his legions of fans worldwide. Fortunately, his sons Isaias and Angelico are carrying on his tradition of excellence.




Agave for Weight Loss

Mexican scientists have discovered that the juice extracted form the blue agave plant, better known in its final product of tequila, may help dieters lose some pounds and cut cholesterol. Unfortunately, the diet benefits are not evident in the tequila form.The key ingredient is fructans, which are known to reduce cholesterol and alters the absorption of fat in the intestine in animals. Now a team of 20 researchers is confident that they will find the same results in humans. The agave prices have slipped in recent years as supply has outpaced demand. This could open up new markets for the plant for years to come. 

Mexico Credit Card Defaults

The Banking and Securities Commission in Mexico reports that the defaults on credit card loans in Mexico are growing faster than performing loans and accounted for 16.1 percent of total past-due loans from commercial banks. Non-payment of consumer loans has increased for five consecutive quarters, but defaults on commercial loans, mortgages, and loans to the government have been declining. 

Budget Airlines on the Horizon

Four new budget airlines are being proposed for Mexico, which could result in much lower fares and better service while stimulating economic development. Cut rate carriers have prospered throughout the world in recent years such as Southwest Airlines and JetBlue in the U.S, Gol Airlines in Brazil, and Ryanair and EasyJet in Europe. Air travel within Mexico has been dominated by Aeromexico and Mexicana, both owned by the government. There are plans for both airlines to be sold before the end of the year if buyers can be found. Iberia Airlines from Spain has shown in interest, but that is now cooling. It presently costs more to fly from Mexico City to Monterrey than it does to fly from Mexico City to New York. Budget alternatives will spur competition and make flying around Mexico much less expensive.




ABOUT MEXICO, 8/2005  

Convention Business  Booming

In hosting more than 90.000 meeting and convention participants last year, Mexico ranked eleventh worldwide, moving up from 27th the previous year. Mexico receives more than 20 million business and leisure travelers a year, making it the eighth most important international tourism destination worldwide. The country boasts 38 modern convention centers in 25 cities and over 245,000 hotel rooms for conventions. 

New World Heritage Site

Mexico now has 25 World Heritage Sites, designated by UNESCO, with the new honor going to an area in the Sea of Cortez. Mexico is ranked first in the Americas and eighth worldwide in this regard, designated so by their historical, cultural and natural importance. The areas in the Sea that comprise the designation are some 244 islands, islets and protected areas up and down the Sea of Cortez. The Sea is home to 39 percent of the world’s total number of species of marine mammals and a third of the world’s marine cetacean species. Since 1972, UNESCO has designated 812 properties in 137 countries worldwide on its World Heritage List. 

Mazda to Enter Mexico

Mazda Motor Corp will enter the Mexican market this month, selling cars assembled in the US and Japan. They plan to sell 2,000 units of three types of cars including a small vehicle and sports car. Honda Motor Co. and Nissan currently sell cars in Mexico with a volume of around one million. 

Fox to Cut Debt

President Fox has proposed a budget and spending plan for 2005 that would use record high oil prices to reduce the nation’s international debt to its lowest in more than 30 years. The plan would allow Mexico, the sixth largest oil producer in the world, to cut its debt to 6.8 percent of gross domestic product. Fox is also proposing that the government show a budget surplus in 2006 for the first time in twelve years.




ABOUT MEXICO, 7/2005  

Mexico Rejects U.S. Proposal

The United States has proposed to the OAS (Organization of American States) that they create a “democracy supervision mechanism” whereby the U.S. would monitor elections and ensure that democratic principles be upheld in OAS countries. Mexico flatly rejected the notion, stating essentially that they agreed with democratic principles but didn’t need the US supervising their affairs. Condoleeza Rice, US Secretary of State, in a seemingly ironic statement, said that countries failing to fulfill democratic principles have to respond to the U.S. 

Obrador Offers Free Medical

Mexico City Mayor Andrea Manuel Obrador has announced plans to provide free home care for all of his city’s 350,000 elderly. His proposal also includes a monthly stipend for the elderly. The program is to be staffed by 200 doctors. Obrador has announced that he will resign as mayor on July 31st in order to run for Mexico’s presidency. He currently leads in most of the polls by wide margins. 

Mexico First to Support UN Initiative

Mexico is the first country to commit its government and all of its agencies to the principles proposed by Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations. The proposal, termed the Global Compact, is designed to challenge businesses around the world to take a greater responsibility in society and to support human rights, labor rights and the environment. More than 200 companies in Mexico have voiced their support, as have another 400 in Latin America. 

Tourism Rising

Mexico’s Tourism Secretary (SECTUR) has announced that international travel to Mexico in March generated $1.91 billion in revenues, 30.6% more than in March of 2004. The number of tourists totaled 2.16 million for the month, up 18.7% from last year.




ABOUT MEXICO, 6/2005  

Free Flights to Mexico

For the second summer in a row, free plane rides will be provided to illegal immigrants caught crossing the Mexican border into Arizona. The Tucson area has been the busiest area for illicit border crossings for years, accounting for more than one-half of the 1.1 million apprehensions. The plan disrupts the usual practice of sending illegals back across the border only to have them try again the next day. More than 70 percent of illegal immigrants arrested in Arizona come from south of Mexico City. The plan, negotiated with the Mexican government, will provide two flights a day from Tucson to Mexico City, taking 33,900 immigrants back to the interior this summer.

Obrador Will Win or go Home

Mexico City leftist mayor, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the leading candidate to become Mexico’s next president in 2006, has stated that if he does not win the election he will go home to his home state of Tabasco. “I’ll go home and give classes in history,” he recently declared. Obrador, from the PRD, leads in most polls by more than 10 percent to replace President Fox, who has been unable to deliver on the changes in government that he promised when he took office. Most politicians remain in politics, enjoying the perks and privilege that come with the job. It is just this attitude that will probably propel Obrador to victory. He is widely recognized as a “man of the people.”




ABOUT MEXICO, 5/2005  

Minimum Wage Support

Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel López Obrador supports raising the country’s minimum wage at 2 percent above the inflation rate to compensate for two decades of lost purchasing power. The minimum wage is now $4.25 per day and the inflation rate is 4.5 percent. Worker’s unions have countered that the minimum wage would need to increase by 300 percent in order to provide a bare subsistence for working families. A substantial increase would have a large effect on Mexicans’ choosing to stay home rather than going to the U.S. for better paying jobs. 

Obrador’s Popularity Rises

A recent poll in Mexico City has shown that their mayor, Obrador, has gained popularity – now at an all-time high of 84%, up from 76% three months ago. A recent fight with President Fox’s government over a minor legal case that could have prevented Obrador for running for president in 2006 has worked in Obrador’s favor, improving his image and popularity. In a recent national poll, President Fox’s approval rating has dropped to 60% from 64% because of his fight with Obrador.




ABOUT MEXICO, 4/2005  

New Trade Pact

After three years of negotiations, Japan and Mexico have signed a free trade agreement. Japan’s hope is to increase exports of autos and electronics and Mexico wants to export more farm products as well as entice more foreign investment. The pact immediately eliminates 91 percent of Japan’s tariffs on Mexican goods and 40 percent of Mexico’s tariffs on Japanese goods. Mexico has now signed eleven free trade agreements with 42 countries, including the powerful European Union. 

NASA looks at Mexican Lakes

In the hot Chihuahua Desert is a series of lagoons surrounding the town of Cuatro Ciénegas that evolutionary biologists have studied for years. Now scientists from NASA’s Astrobiology Institute are investigating the primitive pools where turtle, snail and fish species reside that are much like those in the Galapagos islands. The hope is that the organisms will help identify the unique atmospheric conditions created by primitive life on planets in other solar systems in helping to determine if life exists there. The theory is that planets near other stars could be populated by similar colonies of primitive bacteria, which comprised the basis from which multi-cell plants and animals that inhabit the earth later evolved. 

Sea of Cortez Fishing

A leading environmental group, the Natural Resources Defense Council, has directly accused the Mexican government and a San Diego company, Ocean Gardens, owned by Mexico’s foreign trade bank, of causing rapidly declining fish populations in the once-abundant Sea of Cortez, the body of water separating Baja California and mainland Mexico. Shrimping techniques, over-fishing and lax enforcement of existing laws are identified as the cause. The shrimpers employ huge nets that sweep the ocean of all marine life, often resulting in scoops that contain as little as four percent shrimp. The remainder are allowed to die before dumping them back into the sea, as shrimpers are allowed to harvest only shrimp. Ocean Garden is the largest exporter of shrimp from Mexico to the United States.




ABOUT MEXICO, 3/2005  

Mexican’s Abroad May Get Vote

Mexico’s lower house in Congress has approved a bill to allow Mexicans living abroad to vote in the 2006 presidential election. The bill also allows voters abroad to campaign and register voters. The bill will become law if passed by the Senate. An estimated 10 million Mexicans live abroad, mostly in the United States. The house bill was passed by a 391-5 vote.

Marine Life Damage

Stanford University researchers have concluded that there is a direct link between fertilizer runoff and the proliferation of marine algae in the Sea of Cortez, the abundant body of water separating mainland Mexico from the Baja California peninsula. Although natural algae blooms (phytoplankton) can benefit marine life, the algae produced by farming irrigation runoff generates destructive blooms, commonly known as red tides. Excess algae also suck oxygen from the water, resulting in dead zones where few fish can survive. The source of the runoff was identified as coming from the Yaqui River Valley on mainland Mexico, which produces much of Mexico’s wheat supply.

Carlos Slim Ranks Fourth

Telecom giant Carlos Slim Helu has been named the fourth richest man in the world by Forbes magazine, with an estimated net worth of $23.8 billion US. The growth of the Mexican stock market and an aggressive marketing program were primarily responsible for the rise from number 17 on the list just a year ago. It has been speculated that he may pass Bill Gates, with a net worth of $46.5 billion, as the richest man in the world in coming years. The irony is that Slim lives in a country where one-half of the people live on less than $10 per day.




ABOUT MEXICO, 2/2005  

Ambassador and the Heiress

Texan-born U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Tony Garza, has become engaged to Maria Asuncion Aramburuzabala, heiress to a family fortune worth $1.5 billion. Included in her portfolio are Grupo Modelo, which makes Corona beer amongst others, as well as Grupo Televisa. Garza has never been married and she is once divorced. 

Mexican Composer Dies

The composer of the romantic hit song, “Besame Mucho,” Consuelo Velazquez, died recently in Mexico City from heart problems. Having started playing the piano at age four, Velazquez penned her famous ballad in 1941 and it soon became a world-wide hit as it was recorded by various artists. More recent renditions have been covered by Placido Domingo, Luis Miguel, and even the Beatles. 

Ancient Find in Chapultepec

Scientists have discovered the remains of ten people in Mexico City’s large Chapultepec Park, one dating back to 1,300 B.C. The discoveries are part of a major project sponsored by the National Museum of History in an ongoing study of preHispanic culture in Mexico City. 

Private Investment In Oil

Mexico’s government oil company Pemex is drawing up contracts that for the first time will provide for private, foreign and domestic investment in drilling for crude. It is expected that the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico contain some 54 billion barrels of crude oil, more than the country’s current total reserves. The Chicontepec field in the state of Veracruz has potential reserves of 139 million barrels. These totals would put Mexico in the class of Iraq and Kuwait as major world oil producers. There will be significant opposition within the country to allowing foreign investment in oil of any kind, as oil produces 60% of the country’s gross revenues.




ABOUT MEXICO, 12/2004  

The Mezcal Worm

Mezcal, the tequila-like liquor made from the same agave plant, will no longer have the infamous worm that many a macho male has gagged down after a few shooters. Mexican officials believe that the worms release little globules of fat into the alcohol that doesn’t conform to new regulations designed to improve the back-yard production reputation that mescal has enjoyed for decades. The new law is to take effect on February 10, unless a growing opposition can stop the madness. 

Tourism to Rise

Mexico has expectations to realize $11.5 billion US from tourism in 2005, an increase of 11 percent from 2004. Continued world-wide terrorism concerns as well as a weakening peso are expected to keep U.S. travelers close to home. International tourism is Mexico’s third-largest money generator after oil and money sent home from relatives. The Mexican peso has weakened against the U.S. dollar by 4.3 percent and 13 percent against the Canadian dollar in the past year. 

Minimum Wage Increase

Mexico’s daily minimum wage will get a small increase next year. Urban wages will rise about 3.5 percent to 47 pesos per day (about $4.15) up from 45 pesos per day a year ago.

That is a day, not an hour. 

Subcommander Marcos Published

The first chapter of a novel written by Mexican rebel Subcommander Marcos has been published in the leftist newspaper, La Jornada. The work in progress is a fiction story set in Chiapas, where Marcos and his followers first took up arms against the government in 1994. The book is titled Muertos Incomodos, or Awkward Deaths. Marcos is still in hiding, most likely in the Chiapas jungle.




ABOUT MEXICO, 11/2004    

AeroMexico Rated Tops

In a recent poll of its readers, Travel Survey magazine named AeroMexico the “Best Airline to Mexico.” The magazine asked its readers to rate international and domestic airlines worldwide in a number of “best of” categories based on their own travel experiences, as well as on such amenities and offerings as airport lounges and frequent flyer programs. AeroMexico, Mexico’s largest airline, offers travelers to Mexico a convenient choice of schedules and routes between 17 U.S. gateways and 40 Mexican destinations – and is the favorite airline of The Mexico File

Aztec Empire in NYC

The Aztec Empire, the largest and most comprehensive exhibit of Aztec art and culture ever presented, has opened at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. The show contains more than 435 works from public and private collections. The exhibit will running through February 13, 2005. For more information contact (212) 423-3500 or visit www.guggenheim.or/exhibitions/aztecs. 

Tourism Rising

In his latest State of the Nation address, President Fox said that Mexico is working hard to increase foreign tourism revenues. Tourism revenues in 2003, he reported, were up 6.8% over the prior year. And private tourism investment increased 12.2% from 2002 to 2003. In the first six months of 2004, the number of foreign visitors rose by 11.1%, with expectations to number 20 million by the end of the year. It is expected that more than $11 billion tourism dollars will be spent this year, a record number.




ABOUT MEXICO, 10/2004    

Putin Visits Mexico 

Vladimir Putin, the first Russian leader ever to visit Mexico, met with Vincente Fox, expressing a desire to invest in Mexico’s energy sector, which has been closed to foreign companies for decades. The two leaders did firm up plans for Russia to build a helicopter assembly plant in the Gulf coast state of Vera Cruz and a heavy machinery assembly plant near Mexico City. 

U.S. Produces Ads for Mexicans to Stay Home 

The U.S. border patrol has designed an ad campaign called “No Mas Cruces en la Frontera”, warning potential illegal border crossers not to make the attempt. The $450,000 TV and radio campaign is being test-marketed in Atlanta, Phoenix and Tucson, before wider release in the United States. In Mexico, the spots have aired in Michoacan and Zacatecas, before going nationwide. The ads are targeted to two groups – first-time immigrants who live in Mexico, and family members who are already in the U.S. who might encourage relatives to cross. Whether a TV ad can convince people who need work to feed their families can be effective has yet to be proven.




ABOUT MEXICO, 8/2004  

Mexico NOW  in NYC

New York City is hosting the first city-wide, multi-venue arts festival focused entirely on contemporary Mexico. Over 100 Mexican architects, writers, filmmakers, music, theater and dance artists will be showcased at 31 of NYC’s leading arts venues for the entire month of November. The project is being sponsored by Arts International, the only U.S. non-profit organization devoted to connecting U.S. artists and audiences to the diversity of the arts worldwide. 

Videos in Butterfly Reserve

In an attempt to discourage illegal logging that has been severely damaging to forests of central Mexico, Mexican authorities have placed the first of 29 planned video cameras in the forests. Hundreds of millions Monarch butterflies migrate to Mexico from the U.S. and Canada each fall in the 138,380-acre Monarch Butterfly Biosphere. The loggers operate primarily at night in remote areas, making them hard to guard against. 

Mexico City Renovation

The center of Mexico City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site covering 668 blocks built by the Spanish on what was once a lake, has been deteriorating for decades. Now the government and private money sources have vowed to restore the area, investing millions of dollars to save the culturally rich neighborhood. Between 1970 and 1995 the district population fell 46 percent, from a little over 142,000 to about 77,000 and then the earthquake of 1985 inflicted much damage. The single biggest spender in the project is Carlos Slim, Latin America’s richest man, with an estimated worth of $14 billion.




ABOUT MEXICO, 7/2004  

Fox Wife Won’t Run

In an attempt to defuse harsh criticism and speculation, President Fox has said that his wife, Marta Sahagun, has no intention of running for the presidency when his term ends in December 2006. Fox’s chief of staff, Alfonso Durazo, recently resigned his post, objecting to the idea that the first lady would be seeking the presidency. This is a sensitive issue in Mexico, which is trying to escape from a legacy of presidents choosing their successors.  

Woman Wins Historic Vote

Amalia Garcia was recently elected to the office of governor of the state of Zacatecas, becoming the first female governor in Mexico since the end of one-party domination in 2000. Garcia, the daughter of an ex-governor, is a member of the leftist PRD, soundly defeated the PRI and PAN candidates. About 1.5 million voters from Zacatecas live in the U.S. Garcia, who also was the first woman to lead a political party as the president of the PRD, attributed her victory to the large number of female supporters in a state where many men have migrated to work in the United States. 

Actor Asked to Perform Miracles

James Caviezel, who played Jesus in Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion of the Christ, has been besieged with requests to perform miracles by Mexican fans who believe he really is Jesus Christ. The 35-year-old actor was on a one-week tour of the east Mexican state of Veracruz where dozens of residents from villages throughout the state, one of the poorest in the country, asked him to heal the sick and perform other miracles as he passed through. The actor, who is himself a strict Catholic, said: “It was a shock for me to see how they came up to me to ask for my help. I had to explain to them that I was only an actor, and wasn't really the son of God.” Mexico has the biggest population of Catholics in the world after Brazil and has been visited by the Pope five times.




ABOUT MEXICO, 6/2004  

Butterfly Refuge Under Attack

 The Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve is a 10,000 year old forest stretching from the outskirts of Mexico City to the mountains of Michoacan. where millions of North America butterflies migrate to annually. Tens of thousands of tourists visit this forest set aside by presidential decree 18 years ago. But when the migration season ends, mobs of loggers descend, cutting down an estimated 70 mature trees per day, taking the law into their own hands and threatening violence to anyone who complains. President Fox sent the army into the forest in May, but this war continues. As elsewhere in the world, the indigenous people view the forest as theirs, and logging is what they do to feed their families. The government and environmental groups disagree.

New Health Guide for Travelers 

A doctor from Tempe, Arizona, has published a book that any Mexico traveler should consider buying. Mexico Health and Safety Travel Guide by Dr. Robert Page contains a regional directory of 180 qualified physicians, extensive symptom and disease overviews, and an index covering medicines, symptoms and medical translations. The book also lists 200 facilities in 40 of the most popular cities, including the size and staffing of each hospital and the names of English-speaking doctors. See for purchase information. 

Oaxaca Festival in July 

From July 17 to 26, the city of Oaxaca will host the Guelaguetza, an annual folkloric festival that dates back centuries and attracting thousands of visitors from throughout the world. Groups representing the various states of Oaxaca travel to the capital city to showcase their cultural heritage with regional song and dance.




ABOUT MEXICO, 5/2004  

Illegal Crossings Increase

President Bush’s proposal to enact a guest-worker program for illegal immigrants has drastically increased a surge toward the border based on expectations that another amnesty will follow for new arrivals. Ironically, many border agents have reported that the huge numbers that they are having to deal with has created a situation  where foreign terrorists will have an easier time slipping across the border. No additional funding for border protection has been proposed to help mitigate the situation. The Bush program will give renewable work visas for three years to millions of undocumented immigrants inside the U.S., as well as to others who wish to enter provided that they can prove they have been offered a job. 

Slim Speaks on Economy

Mexico’s version of billionaire Warren Buffett, Carlos Slim, says that Mexico is poised for economic growth at double the current pace. Slim, one of the world’s wealthiest persons, has an empire centered around telecom (TelMex), retail and industrial concerns. He is currently No. 17 on the Forbes world billionaire list with a net worth of around $11.5 billion. Slim says that Mexico’s economic picture is very solid, with healthy foreign reserves, improving interest rates, good public financing and low inflation. He has been calling for to the government to spend more on infrastructure and housing for Mexican citizens.





New Tax on Cruisers

In the middle of the very competitive cruise ship business, the Tourism Ministry and the Transportation Ministry of Mexico have proposed a new tax on ship passengers, with the money to be used for improving infrastructure where the ships dock. Citing the desire to see more cruise ships dock in Mexico, adding an extra expense to the customers seems like a bad decision. The Cabo golf industry employs the same reasoning. They want more revenue, so they keep raising prices, effectively discouraging business ($250 a round!). 

Casinos May Return

Three far better proposals by the National Tourism Council of the Private Sector are to promote the legalization of casino gambling in Mexico, to eliminate sales taxes that tourists pay, and to implement three-day weekends. There were no specifics on who could operate a casino or what regulations would be implemented. Tourist hotel taxes often add 12 to 17 % to the cost of a room, money that goes straight to the government. It is uncertain how that money is spent. For the three-day weekend, holidays falling on Saturday, Sunday or mid-week would be observed on Friday or Monday. 

Airline Business Up

Mexico has increased its tourism advertising significantly in each of the past three years, and the results are positive. Mexico air traffic increased ten percent during the first quarter of 2004. Domestic traffic increased 8%, traffic between the U.S. and Mexico increased by 14%, and Europe by 8%. Eighty-five percent of foreign arrivals are travelers from the U.S. Mexican airlines increased sales by 5% during the first quarter but  registered a loss of about 1.5 billion pesos.





Miguel de la Madrid Comes Clean

President Miguel de la Madrid, who governed Mexico from 1982 to 1988, has just published his memoirs where he has confessed what many believed to be true – the presidential election of 1988 that enshrined Carlos Salinas de Gortari was rigged. Basically, the PRI was losing badly to then Mexico City mayor Cuauhtemoc Cardenas of the PRD when the government declared that the computers counting the votes had crashed. They then announced that the long dominant PRI had once again won. Three years later an alliance was formed between the PRI and the conservative PAN party that agreed to burn the ballots, thereby destroying the only evidence of the stolen election. In an unrelated story, the U.S. is gearing up for computer balloting in the next presidential election, with no paper trail to be available on how each of us voted.

Protected Marshlands Designated

The Environmental Department of Mexico has designated 34 areas as protected under the international Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. That makes 51 areas in 17 Mexican states that are now protected, making it the third-highest number of convention- protected areas worldwide. The requirements are that Mexico is will have to increase spending to protect the newly designated areas. 

Free Books, Fight Crime

Basing the concept on the idea that when people read, they become better people, Mexico City has started to hand out free books to subway riders in the hopes that they will return the books after finishing them. Some 250,000 books are being handed out during each morning’s rush hour. The plan is to distribute some 7 million books in the next two years. Tokyo has had a similar plan for several years which seems to be a success.





Mexico City Festival

The 20th Annual Historic Downtown Festival of Mexico will be held in the nation’s capital March 10 - 28, 2004. Over a million local and foreign visitors are expected to attend during the two weeks of events that include concerts, theater, art exhibits, dance productions, lectures, conferences and exciting gourmet fare. All of the money raised will go towards the rescue and restoration of the architecture and art of Mexico City’s downtown area, a World Heritage site since 1987. For updated information visit or email

Krispy Kreme Invades Mexico

As if there aren’t enough carbs in the Mexican diet, carbohydrate and fat-laden Krispy Kreme doughnuts has opened their first store in Interlomas, a wealthy suburb just west of Mexico City. They have plans for at least 19 more stores in the country within six years. For those of us who have enjoyed the local panaderias for years for purchasing pan dulce and bolillos, this appears to be globalization gone too far.

Casinos May be Coming

After a 70-year prohibition, Mexico is considering, once again, the authorizing of gambling casinos at select locations throughout the country. The subject has come up every year for the last decade, but eventually gets shot down in the decision-making process. Driving the current interest is the obvious monetary benefit that would be derived, a mighty consideration in today’s economic environment.

Ex-President Portillo Dies

Jose Luis Portillo, president of Mexico from 1976 to 1982, died recently of pneumonia at the age of 83. Apparently, few in Mexico were saddened by his passing, as he was seen as the leader who led the country into a cataclysmic economic crisis. Portillo took office shortly after Mexico had discovered vast oil reserves that promised vast wealth and development for the country, upon which Portillo borrowed billions of dollars against the future revenue. But when oil prices slumped and widespread corruption was uncovered, Mexico found itself in debt to the tune of $80 billion. When the currency devalued by nearly 42 percent in 1982, many families’ life savings were lost. At the completion of his six-year term, Portillo fled to Spain and Italy to live.





Cancun, Los Cabos...Loreto? 

It’s official. The next major tourist destination in Mexico will be Loreto, the small Mexican town about 700 miles down the Baja peninsula. The Villages of Loreto Bay will be a series of seaside villages built on 3,000 acres on the Sea of Cortez three miles south of Loreto. The first 60 homes recently went on sale and sold out on the first day. The total buildout will include 5,000 homes, hotels, service and retail businesses, and recreational facilities. Home prices currently start in the $150,000 range. The development is a partnership between Mexican, Canadian and American investors. Besides driving the transpeninsular highway to access Loreto, there is Loreto International Airport. For more information visit  

Airport Security Not Welcomed

Mexican politicians, religious leaders and human rights groups have lodged official complaints with government ministries requesting to know why there are U.S. security agents at the Mexico City airport. The major complaint is that Mexican law ensures that passengers are not searched by foreigners on Mexican soil. Mexico has complied with the U.S. request to place armed, undercover federal police on key flights destined for the U.S., but its sovereignty is being questioned regarding the searches. (Editor’s Note: Mexican airlines appear much more diligent in inspecting passengers than those in the U.S. Passenger profiling doesn’t seem to be a civil rights issue and I can’t imagine one of their pilots being a terrorist and not being discovered).   

Tourism Numbers Increase

International tourism to Mexico increased by 7.1 percent from January to September, 2003, compared to the same months in 2002. The revenue generated was a staggering $7.04 billion, with a historic record $9 billion within reach for the year. The average amount of money spent per visitor also increased by nearly 5 %. One reason for the increase has been attributed to the launch of Nuestro Mexico, a program aimed at promoting travel to Mexico among Mexicans residing in the U.S. and Americans descended from Mexico.





Oaxaca 3 Set Free 

Three Americans, one of whom is Mary Ellen Sanger, a Mexico File contributor (cf. the December/January 2002 and the August/September 2003 issues), have been released from a month-long jail incarceration in Oaxaca, having been charged with invading and looting property in a publicized land-rights case.

At issue was a property dispute between a 91-year-old American writer and former City College of New York professor, Russell Ames, and the University of the Americas in Mexico City which is run by Alejandro Gertz Manero, Mexico’s minister of public security. 

Ames has lived on the mountainside house outside Oaxaca City, near the village of San Pablo Etla, for 50 years. He and his late wife, who died three years ago, had donated the property to the university in 1988 with the condition that they could live there until they died. The dispute arose because the property was in his wife’s name, and when she died the university declared the land now to be theirs. 

The three Americans, Sanger, John Barbato and Joseph Simpson, who is fighting cancer, had been taking care of the elderly Ames. They were arrested on October 6 and thrown in jail as a pressure tactic to get Ames to leave the property. Many of the local village residents protested the arrest and testified in court on the Americans’ behalf. Word spread fast via the internet (The Mexico File sent out numerous emails) and pressure was brought on the Mexican government to get involved in this “land grab.” The U.S. Embassy in Mexico declared the charges to be “a miscarriage of justice.” 

Finally, after a month in jail, a local judge decreed that there was no merit to the charges, and that the three could return to Ames’ house. Sanger, who has lived in Mexico for 16 years, is returning to the U.S. for a while after a month of sleeping on a concrete floor.





Don’t Worry, Be Happy

The World Values Survey in New Scientist magazine has concluded what many of us have suspected all along, ranking Mexico as having the second highest percent of happy people in the world, trailing only Nigeria (huh?). The United States, with a large percent of the world’s total wealth, came in a dismal 16th – something to consider the next time you are crawling along on a freeway after pulling another 12-hour work day.

Home Depot Expands Operations

Home Depot, the Atlanta-based home improvement retailer that blazed across America in the 1980’s and 90’s, has moved into Mexico intent on becoming the dominant player in the field. With a growing middle-class and the fiscal crisis from eight years ago in reverse, they see a great opportunity to capture the $12.5 billion home improvement business. Home Depot currently has 15 stores in Mexico with three more planned this year, providing 2,000 new jobs. Ace Hardware, which has 84 stores in Mexico, is understandably concerned about the competition.  

New Telescope Nears Completion

Near the small town of Aztitzintla (pop. 7,000), on top of the Sierra Negra volcano about 100 miles east of Mexico City, dozens of welders, scientists, and engineers have been working daily, constructing a $100 million radio telescope with an antenna 165 feet in diameter. When completed in a couple of years, it will be the most powerful of its kind in the world, peering into now unknown galaxies. The location, in a 15,000 foot inactive volcano, has an oxygen level of only 57% of that at sea level. Newly developed millimeter wavelength detection devices will be put to test here, which may advance communications technology as well as security measures. The project is being funded and developed by both the United States and Mexico, with Mexico spending $50 million.





U.S. Corn Subsidies Harm Mexico

A recent report by OxFam International is entitled “Dumping Without U.S. Borders: How U.S. Agricultural Policies Are Destroying the Livelihoods of Mexican Corn Farmers.” The U.S. currently spends more than $10 billion annually in taxpayer’s money in subsidies to domestic agribusiness giants which allows them to sell their grain at prices far below what it costs to produce. The result is cheap American corn flooding the Mexican market. How’s this for irony, ignoring the fact that Mexico is the birthplace of corn: 15 million Mexicans depend on corn for their livelihood. When they can no longer feed their families, they head north to illegally enter the United States, infuriating many Americans, so that they can get jobs¼.like picking corn. 

Mexico’s First Lady

Many eyebrows were raised when President Fox married his press secretary, Marta Sahagun. First ladies in Mexico have always followed in the ceremonial role of smiling demurely and keeping quiet, but Marta has quickly changed that tradition. Perhaps emboldened by Hillary, she is always in the news – looking good and giving opinions. Now it is being rumored that she has designs on becoming Mexico’s first lady-president, a charge she flatly denies. Recent polls show her to be one of the most popular public figures in the country. 

Mexico To Host Summit On Poverty

The Organization of American States will hold an interim summit in Mexico this January to discuss social and economic issues related to concerns about growing poverty in Latin America. This is seen as an emergency situation prompting the meeting to be held before the scheduled gathering of Western Hemisphere leaders in 2005 to discuss free trade. They will discuss issues that deal with economic growth and social development, which has been battered in recent years in this volatile part of the world.




ABOUT MEXICO, 7/2003  

Gigante to Expand

The ubiquitous Mexican retail outlet, Gigante, has plans to expand its presence in the U.S. this year, targeting Hispanics who have incomes several times higher than their Mexican customers. The three new stores will all be in Los Angeles, where the per capita income of Latinos is nearly $30,000, as compared to $6,000 in Mexico. 

Fox Wants Expatriate Vote

President Fox has plans to push for legislation that will allow Mexican nationals living in foreign countries to vote in the 2006 election. The hope is that they will reward his party with their votes for his efforts in liberalizing U.S. citizenship requirements, although they have been unsuccessful after 9/11. The recent congressional election which resulted in a seat loss will make this effort very difficult. 

Monarch Butterfly Findings

The astounding journey of the Monarch butterfly from eastern and Midwestern North America to the pine woods of Michoacan, Mexico, has long baffled scientists. Researchers now say that the butterfly uses an intricate interplay of its internal body clock in coordination with the position of the sun that causes them to fly in a southwesterly direction.  




ABOUT MEXICO, 6/2003  

Fox Signs Historic Bill

For the first time in its history, Mexico has a new law banning all forms of discrimination. The details have not been worked out yet, but will be authored by the new National Commission for the Prevention of Discrimination. Most people thought that the bill had little chance of passing when it was first proposed over a year ago, but after a year of debate it was passed by both houses of Congress.  

Tour Tips from Reader

Jim Nelson, a long time subscriber to The Mexico File, sent in a couple of news tips. Saltillo has a San Francisco-style cable car tour bus that runs a circular route to the main tourist sites, allowing the passengers to get on and off four times in a day. Mexico City has a double-decker tour bus which goes to sites all over the city. You can get on and off as many times as you would like, and you are given earphones for an English language description of the various sites. 

Christmas in Oaxaca

Far Horizons Archaelogical and Cultural Trips is planning a trip to Oaxaca from December 20 to 28, 2003. Throughout December, Oaxaca comes alive with color and pageantry as citizens commemorate everything from their patron saint’s day to the artistry of the lowly radish. The trip is led by Dr. David Sellen who has lived in Mexico periodically for a decade and is fluent in Spanish, Nahuatl and Zapotec. Call (800) 552-4575, email , web



ABOUT MEXICO, 5/2003  

Famed Highway to be Safer 

The old highway that runs 140 miles through the Sierra Madre mountains from the west coast town of Mazatlán to the old wild-west town of Durango is lined with some 150 crosses, each memorializing a deadly traffic accident. Likewise, the ravines along the way are littered with the ruins of vehicles that flew off the road. It is an amazing drive that requires your full attention should you attempt it. Guardrails are few and curves are as tight as J-Lo. Now, the federal government has announced plans to widen and improve the entire length of Highway 40, forever changing what is a true adventure. Hopefully, they’ll run out of money. 

Fox Retires His Boots 

Due to back surgery last month, President Fox has been told that he needs to quit wearing his trademark cowboy boots. He was recently seen sporting black orthopedic shoes with thick soles, not the image he likes to portray of having non-traditional attitudes – a macho guy not unlike the Marlboro Man who eventually coughed up a lung. So far, Maine-born President Bush still partakes in “clearing brush” on his 1999 purchased Crawford, Texas, ranch, whenever photographers are in the area.



ABOUT MEXICO, 4/2003  

AeroMexico Enhances Faresavers

Passengers of AeroMexico, Mexico’s largest airline, can now more easily make travel arrangements online thanks to the airline’s technology-enhanced Faresavers program. With the addition of a feature on the airline’s home page (, passengers can click on a section of the website that offers instant rock bottom deals. Travelers can register to receive the best fares to Mexico every Thursday when a new page with weekly savings is loaded onto the site. Once you decide to purchase a faresaver special, you can automatically book your electronic ticket via the internet. AeroMexico’s gateway cities are Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, El Paso, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Ontario, Orlando, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, San Diego and Tucson. 

Mexican’s Personal Records Sold to U.S. 

Associated Press has reported that the driving records of 6 million Mexico City residents and the country’s entire voter registry of 65 million people have been sold to U.S. government agencies, allowing officials to track Mexicans entering and living in the United States. Both federal and Mexico City laws prohibit public distribution of personal data contained on voter rolls and driver registration lists. The Mexican Attorney General’s office has called for an immediate investigation. U.S. officials claim that the data could help law enforcers identify potential terrorists. Is it getting weird enough for you yet? 

Famed Architect Dies 

Abraham Zabludovsky, one of Mexico’s giants of architecture, has died in  Mexico City at the age of 78 of a heart attack. His best known works were the Rufino Tamayo Museum, the National Education University and the Mexican Library, all in Mexico City. Although born in Poland, he moved to Mexico at the age of three and studied architecture at National Autonomous University, later winning the gold medal at the World Architecture Biennial in Bulgaria. 

Mexico City Passes Smoking Laws

The Mexico City legislature has passed a law requiring restaurants, bars, and night-clubs to provide non-smoking areas. Smoking is still widely practiced in Mexico. Businesses will now have to designate 40 percent of their space for non-smokers and to install special ventilation so that smoke does not migrate into nonsmoking areas.



ABOUT MEXICO, 3/2003  

Monarchs Are Back

One year after a mass death of monarch butterflies in the mountains of Mexico, researchers have declared that they seem to be back in near normal numbers. More than 200 million butterflies that had migrated from the United States and Canada died in the winter of 2002 from a severe storm. Generally, the monarch population will cover about 24 acres of forest. Last year that number was reduced to 5 acres, with expectations that it would be around the same this year. But researchers were surprised to find that 20 acres were filled this year, where the butterflies cluster in high tree fir tree branches. The annual migration is a major tourist attraction for the state of Michoacan. 

Pemex Stock May Be Offered

Pemex, Mexico’s state owned oil company, may soon offer stock to the public in an attempt to raise 19 billion dollars needed to modernize its production and refining operations. The world’s seventh largest energy company, Pemex was nationalized in 1938 and has been a symbol of Mexico’s sovereignty, supplying up to one-third of the country’s revenues. Many of Mexico’s potential reserves remain untapped due to lack of sufficient funds, causing the oil-rich country to be unable to meet its domestic needs. 

Cold War Spying

Recent documents released in Washington DC and Mexico City have revealed that Mexico had a deal with the United States during the Cold War that had Mexico officials spying on Cuba from the embassy in Havana. In return, the U.S. agreed to maintain the image of the Mexican government as revolutionary, a ploy to keep the leftist elements in the country appeased and under control.



ABOUT MEXICO, 2/2003  

A Name Change

The PAN party, apparently lacking enough important issues to tackle, hopes to change the official name of their country to Mexico, from the constitutionally given name of United Mexican States. It seems like mostly a symbolic measure, but it would require changing the name on mounds of government stationery, amending three articles of the constitution, and possibly redesigning the peso. There are two camps on the issue. One, citing Mexico’s pride and independence, are in favor of the name change and the need to show a new face for Mexico to the international community. On the other side are the pragmatists who are more concerned with fundamental changes that will actually improve people’s lives. 

Economic Concern of War In Iraq 

There is concern in the Mexican government over the effects that the U.S. war against Iraq will have on the global economy and oil prices. Mexico has been one of a majority of countries that has opposed unilateral action by the U.S. in prosecuting the war. Relations have cooled considerably since 9/11 between the two countries as any type of immigration reform has been tabled by the U.S. Not surprisingly, each country acts in its own interest, and for now a war is not in the best interest of Mexico. And when it comes to the U.S.’s best interest, oil is usually the driving factor. 

Mexico City Mayor 

Although he is of the PRD, Mexico’s third political party, Mexico city Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is being touted as a serious presidential candidate in the 2006 elections. In a recent poll he received a 67% approval rating compared to 59% for President Vicente Fox. It is speculated that the voters might decide that the long in power PRI and the presently in power PAN have had their chances and that little has improved for the average citizen. So they may vote for the left-leaning PRD and see what happens. The highly visible Obrador is enjoying popularity in Mexico City due to making capital improvements that have been ignored for decades. But some say he is spending irresponsibly to gain favor now and will be gone when the bills come due.



ABOUT MEXICO, 12/2002  

The News, Mexico’s premier English-language newspaper, has been sold to a Sonora-based group that publishes El Imparcial. The newspaper has been long owned by the O’Farrill family, a consistent supporter of the PRI, the political party that was defeated in the last presidential election for the first time in over 70 years. Whether the change in government power was a factor in their decision to sell has not been made clear. The newspaper has discontinued publication for a while and will start again under a different, undetermined name sometime in 2003.


The Mexican government has agreed to raise the minimum wage by 4.5% starting in 2003. For the most expensive areas of Mexico the daily wage will be raised to 43.65 pesos a day – just about $4.35US. In less expensive areas the minimum will be 40.30 pesos, or about $4.00. That is a day – not per hour.

In an effort to improve taxi service, the ever-present green VW bug, or vocho as it is called, is to be eliminated as a cab in Mexico City over a several year phase-out. The cabbies like them because they are cheap and they are easy to move through the city, but city officials say that the air-cooled rear engine throws out too many pollutants and fouls the city air. The cars have also been associated with the bandit problem the city had for a while, where the thieves would pose as cabbies and their prey were easy captives due to the bug’s having no back doors for an escape route. Nearly 60,000 green taxis are now in the city, making the transformation a huge undertaking. The government intends to help 10,000 cabbies buy new cars over the next three years. These will be more traditional four-door sedans. The VW plant in Puebla still produces about 30,000 bugs a year at a sticker price of $6,200US. They intend to keep making the Beetle as long as people want them



ABOUT MEXICO, 11/2002  

New Guadalajara Guidebook

Moon Handbooks, which publishes the best travel guidebooks on Mexico, has a new title: Guadalajara by Bruce Whipperman. Bruce also authors the Puerto Vallarta and the Pacific Mexico guidebboks. Guadalajara is a great tourist destination, often overlooked by the sun seekers and the Maya ruin and culture devotees. The booked is packed with detailed maps, historical and cultural backgrounds, and information about where to stay and what to do. The book can be found at major bookstores and online bookstores - check out

Mexico UNESCO award

The Mexican Academy of Human Rights, one of Latin America's longest-established rights groups, was named as this year's winner of UNESCO's Prize for Human Rights Education. It was lauded for its "pioneering role in the promotion of human rights education in Mexico." The UNESCO prize was first awarded in 1978 to mark the 30th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Cultural Music Festival

VII Encuentro de Dos Tradiciones, an annual festival celebrating traditional music from Mexico and the U.S., will be held March 3 - 5, 2003, in Mexico City. It will begin with a series of conferences, films and musical workshops and will culminate with a binational concert. This will be followed by a trip to Michoacán and Guerrero on March 6 - 11. In addition to the music, a temazcal (pre-Hispanic steam bath), and a visit to the Monarch Butterfly Reserve will also be offered. The event is open to the general public. Also being offered are scholarships for the musical exchange through Dos Tradiciones, a non-profit organization that promotes traditional music and cultural exchange.  The deadline for registration is February 1, 2003. For information contact Lindajoy Fenley at her email address:  The web site is 



ABOUT MEXICO, 10/2002  

Oaxaca and Big Mac

If you have been to Oaxaca, you know that it has some great food and a thriving indigenous culture that attracts visitors from all over the world. The central plaza is perhaps the nicest and most genteel in Mexico with a Indo-Spanish cuisine that is a source of great pride. Now McDonalds would like to further the international mix by opening one of their burger brothels right on the plaza. This isn’t setting too well with many of the locals, who have been handing out free tamales to all passers by in protest. The fast-food representatives are now worried that there might be some trouble as they continue their quest. I would say that they can count on it. 

Dam and the Mayan Ruins

Mexico is exploring the possibility of reviving its plans to dam the Usumacinta River near the Guatemala border. The project could provide enough electricity to provide two percent of the nation’s power needs. The cost would be the destruction of numerous archaeological sites, many that have yet to be excavated, including Piedras Negras, a major Maya site. It would also inflame the Zapatista rebels, who have been at odds with the government for years. 

People’s Guide Turns 30

The venerable “People’s Guide to Mexico,” by Carl Franz and Lorena Havens is just out in a new updated 12th edition, and it is better than ever. I highly recommend this book for anyone thinking of traveling to Mexico, either in person or in mind. I have a copy of the original book from 1974 that taught me more about how to get around in Mexico than anything I have read since. They also have a great web site at



ABOUT MEXICO, 8/2002  

AeroMexico to Upgrade Planes

AeroMexico, Mexico’s largest and best airline, announced that it has ordered 15 Boeing 737-700 type aircraft equipped with winglets. The first of the next-generation Boeing airplanes is scheduled for delivery in August of 2003, with the remainder arriving at the rate of one every two months after that. As the new 737’s are placed into service, AeroMexico will phase out its DC-9's, which only operate within Mexico. 

Far Horizons Maya Tour

You can visit the capital cities of the ancient Maya with Dr. Marc Zender, one of the rising stars of epigraphy, on a nine-day exploration through Central America and Mexico’s Chiapas state. Included will be stops in Copán, Tikal, Bonampak and Yaxchilán. The dates are November 9-17, 2002, at a cost of $3,795 per person. Contact Far Horizons at (800) 552-4575, email:  Webpage:  

Competition for Pemex

Pemex, the nationally owned oil monopoly in Mexico, has never had to worry about competition. They are the only company that can sell gas in Mexico…period. Now, however, in many of the border towns Mexicans are pouring into the U.S. and Belize on the southern border to fill their gas tanks. Gas in Mexico has arisen to about $2.10 a gallon, considerably more than the $1.40 a gallon available in the competing foreign towns. Mexico has responded by lowering its prices, but only where the border competition comes into play. The majority of the country remains high-priced – without competition. 

Guanajuato Cervantino Art Festival

This is the 30th International Cervantino Festival. It is estimated that 2,800 artists will attend from 30 nations from October 9 - 27 in the beautiful colonial town of Guanajuato. The guest nation this year will be Canada and the Mexican state of Tamaulipas will be the guest state. Music, theater, dance, exhibits and outdoor events will be on display.




Katy Jurado (1924-2002)

She was the only Mexican actress to ever be nominated for an Academy Award – for her role in Broken Lance. She also starred opposite Grace Kelly and Gary Cooper in High Noon, playing the ex-girlfriend of Cooper. Other roles included One –Eyed Jacks with Marlon Brando and The Bullfighter and the Lady. She later married the American actor Ernest Borgnine, although most of her life was lived in guarded privacy. Katy Jurado died in her sleep July 5 at her home in Cuernavaca.

Mexican ID Cards

Historically, many illegal Mexicans didn’t carry any identification when coming to the U.S. in order to avoid prosecution if caught by authorities. And the U.S. banks had refused service to most Mexicans because they could not verify their identities. After September 11, the Mexican government started lobbying the United States government to recognize a consular ID card that it has been issuing for over ten years. The result is that many banks, The county of Los Angeles, and the city of Chicago, as well as many police departments, have agreed to accept the identification. This spells bad news for the many money-transfer businesses which have charged exorbitant prices to the Mexicans who wished to send money home to their families.

Landmark Worker’s Settlement

In a historic court case, the Mexican government reached a settlement with a U.S. egg farm concerning working conditions. The out-of-court settlement is estimated to be $3.2 million US to be paid by DeCoster Egg Farm of Turner, Maine, which has agreed to continue improving working conditions for egg sorters, most who came to work from Mexico. The case originated in 1998, accusing DeCoster of racially discriminating practices. The award will be divided among some 800 workers, with the lead plaintiffs receiving up to $20,000 each.




Mexico Ranks Second in Work Ethic

According to a study reported in the Teheran Times, Mexico ranks second in the world in work ethic. Employees in Germany and The Netherlands tied for first place in having work scruples, with the U.S. coming in third, behind Mexico. Surprisingly, Japanese workers ranked number seven.

Fox Opens Public Records

President Vicente Fox has signed into law Mexico’s first freedom of information act, allowing for greater public scrutiny of government records. The Feds are now required to provide, within 20 days, a citizen’s request to copies of public documents from all branches of the government. Fox had campaigned for a more open government before unseating the long dominant Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), recognizing that a government run in secrecy from its citizens results in a weakened country – a good reminder for us all.

Mexico City Street Vendors

According to the latest survey, the number of street vendors in the capital has tripled in the last four years, from 92,200 to 294,165. A falling economy is credited for the dramatic increase, with 1.5 million jobs lost just last year. It was noted that the street vendor dates back to pre-Hispanic times and is very much a trademark characteristic of Mexico’s society. It also provides a means of support for many otherwise unemployed citizens, although without some regulation many of the streets and public right-of-ways become clogged and impassable.

Folk Art Exhibit

The Museum of Man in Balboa Park in San Diego is the site for a 900-piece Mexican folk art exhibit, some pieces which have never been shown and others not seen since the 1960’s. “Hecho in Mexico” is the largest exhibit of this type ever to be shown in the United States. The show includes wood carvings, pottery, textiles, ceramics, baskets and jewelry from all of Mexico. In addition to many pieces dating back to the 1940’s and 1950’s , there are many contemporary pieces depicting the state of folk art being produced today. The show will run through February 16, 2003.




Greenpeace Opposes Power Plants

With the latest evidence that once powerful energy giant, Texas-based Enron manipulated  the energy market that resulted in California essentially going broke trying to keep the lights on, it is no surprise that Greenpeace has come out in opposition of a proposed 600 megawatt, gas-powered plant in Mexicali, just miles from the U.S. border. “The dirty energy is destined for California, where it is unwanted and unneeded,” Greenpeace said. The environmental group, while agreeing that the border area will need new energy sources for the foreseeable future, believes that fossil fuels are not the answer. Rather, they promote the solution of developing renewable energy sources such as solar and wind-powered electricity. This solution also addresses the importance of the U.S. becoming energy independent in what has become a very volatile world. A report was recently issued that declared that with the advances in solar energy technology, 125 square miles of solar panels in the Nevada desert could generate enough power to serve the entire United States. Now, where are the politicians with the vision and courage to offer such a proposal? 

Juan Gabriel Gets a Star

Before an enthusiastic crowd of some 1,000 fans, Mexico’s super-star composer and singer, Juan Gabriel, has been honored with a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. Gabriel has just won the Billboard Latin Music Awards in the categories of best songwriter, track of the year, airplay track of the year and track of the year for a vocal duo. The six-time Grammy nominee has sold more than 30 million albums in his 30 year career. Raised in the border town of Juarez, Gabriel now owns the mansion where his mother worked as a housekeeper when he was growing up. Besides singing and composing, Gabriel has also produced hit albums for Lola Beltran, Marc Anthony and Paul Anka. 

Japan To Donate for Heritage Sites

Japanese Foreign Ministry official Tatsuo Sunahara has announced  plans to donate $1.73 million US to Mexico, earmarked for research and protection for cultural sites for which funding has dried up. Mexico has 21 UNESCO World Heritage sites, many of which will benefit from the funds. Specifically mentioned are the Mayan city of Palenque, the Oaxaca site of Monte Alban, and Teotihuacan pyramids near Mexico City. Japan would also like to see more sites within Mexico registered with UNESCO.




AeroMexico Tops Again 

AeroMexico, Mexico’s largest airline, announced that 85.5% of its flights arrived on time in 2001, beating the on-time performance of all 11 largest airlines in the U.S. AeroMexico has posted a better on-time record than any major U.S. carrier for each consecutive year since 1990. “On time performance is AeroMexico’s absolute priority,” said Rolf Hoehn, AeroMexico’s Vice President, U.S. division. “AeroMexico’s objective is to be the most punctual airline in the world. Quite simply, it’s a matter of pride to us.” Yeah, that and free cocktails. 

Zedillo to Head Yale Globalization Center 

The former president of Mexico, Ernesto Zedillo, is to become the next director of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization. The stated goal of the institute is to study the increasing economic, cultural and political interdependence between nations. Zedillo’s primary interest is to focus on bringing the benefits of globalization to third world countries which are often exploited by the richer countries. Zedillo, 50, attended Yale where he received his Ph.D. in economics in 1981. 

Greens win in Cancún 

Think of Cancún and environmental vision does not come readily to mind. Quite the opposite. However, Federal Officials have reinstated the Green’s Party’s win in Cancún city elections less than a month after the state electoral board had annulled the victory. The Green’s candidate, Juan Ignacio Garcia, is now the leader of the municipality governing the tourist resort. 

Death of a Legend 

During the 1940’s, when Hollywood was busy making films promoting the U.S. in a war time, Mexico experienced the Epoca Dorada del Cine Mexicana, or The Golden Age of Mexican Cinema. And there was no bigger star that the beautiful and sultry Maria Felix. She was recently laid to rest, at the age of 88, in a Mexico City cemetery. A close friend to Jean-Paul Sartre and Jean Cocteau, Felix was painted often by the great artist Diego Rivera. Her beauty and independent spirit were legendary, not only in Mexico but in Europe as well, where she made many movies. She was an early supporter of women’s rights and very vocal at a time that pre-dated Steinhem and the pill. Last respects were held at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City, where a line of mourners wrapped around the block into the following day.




Gambling to Return?

At a recent speech in Las Vegas, former U.S. ambassador to Mexico, James Jones, said legalized casino gambling could soon return to Mexico after more than 70 years. President Fox has been reported to favor overturning national laws barring gambling if new casinos are built in tourist towns. 

A Bi-National Literary Translation Workshop

World to World, lead by award-winning poet and translator, Amanda Powell, will focus on three aspects of translating fiction, poetry and creative nonfiction:transculturation, or the rendering of  contextual elements from the original into the receiving culture; the translation of figurative and colloquial language, especially metaphor; and translation as a co-creative process. The workshop, limited to 16 participants with fourth year university equivalency in a second language of Spanish or English, is a co-creative process with individual and group work, enhanced by guest authors and translators. World to World is made possible by a grant from the Fideicomiso para la Cultura Mexico. Inquiries at (877) 687-6968 or 

A Legal Drug Goes to Market

If you have never heard of the salvia plant, you’re probably not alone. You may hear plenty in the near future, however. It seems that this thick stemmed and sticky leafed plant grown in the Sierra Mazateca Mountains of Oaxaca has a hallucinogenic property greater than peyote or psilocybin mushrooms and the word is getting around. So far, it is legal. Salvia is a member of the mint family and a relative of cooking sage that grows naturally in these remote Oaxacan highlands.




AeroMexico to Install Defibrillators

Mexico’s best and largest airline, AeroMexico, has announced plans to install automated heart defibrillators on every aircraft in its fleet. Defibrillators have been shown to increase the chance of survival by 68 percent when used within four minutes after the occurrence of sudden cardiac arrest following CPR techniques. All inflight personnel are being trained accordingly. For those of you in the Los Angeles region, I just flew AeroMexico’s new direct, non-stop flight to Acapulco. The flight was typically right on time (AeroMexico has the best on time record in the world) and not having to go through Mexico City was a huge improvement. From take-off to standing on my hotel balcony was four hours. Their website is  

Fox’s Approval in Decline

After one year in office, the harsh realities involved in making effective changes in a country that has been in the strong grip of the opposition PRI party have proved to be a daunting task. Fox has seen his approval rating fall from a high of 74 percent in February 2001 to 45 percent a year later. A major obstacle is that Congress is divided among three main parties, and Fox does not have control of his own party. He concentrated on three main issues in his first year, all of which were not terribly successful. Fox attempted to solve the rebel conflict in Chiapas with the passage of an Indian rights bill. But it was watered down so much by Congress that the Indian groups and the Zapatistas rejected the legislation. He was working on a pact on migration with the Bush government, but September 11 stopped that dead cold.

Then, he tried to pass legislation on a tax reform package that would have put a value-added tax on all goods, including food and medicines. The people of Mexico were quite vocal in their opposition to any plan to raise taxes. Oh-for-three is not a good record in any league. Hopefully, this year will be more successful as Fox attempts to reform the judicial system and fighting crime. These are important issues that affect every Mexican and its many foreign visitors.



ABOUT MEXICO, 12/2001 


Japanese automaker Toyota has announced that they will begin selling vehicles in the second quarter of 2002 in Mexico. They are currently setting up a network of sales and service centers at many of the major cities throughout the country. 


Some 32,000 midwives will care for Mexico’s poorest women, many located in isolated areas, in an effort to reduce infant mortality rates. The program, initiated by first lady Martha Sahagun and called “An Equal Start to Life,” will cover seven states during its first phase. This program will eventually benefit all the women of Mexico who do not have access to health care. At present, 20,000 newborns die each year within 28 days of birth, with another 20,000 dying within the first year of life. The program hopes to save 16,000 lives during the next five years.


AeroMexico, Mexico’s largest airline, has some great airfares available, but you have to book online to get them. These are the cheapest fares I have seen in years, and with the thermometer sinking fast at home, it’s a great time for a trip south. Go to  and click on Faresavers. Tickets must be purchased by January 9, 2002, for travel starting in early January through the end of February.


ABOUT MEXICO, 11/2001 

New Area Codes for Mexico

Mexico has now installed new telephone area codes, adding a third number to the existing number. For a complete chart for any town in Mexico, go to  and click on the “English Version” tab and then the “Area Code by State” button. There you can type in any town and state and get the new area code. 

AeroMexico Expands Security

AeroMexico, Mexico’s largest and best airline, has announced that it is continuing to implement a strategic security program designed to protect passengers, crew members and facilities systemwide. They will be installing cockpit door security bars to prevent unwanted entry. This should be completed on all 767’s, 757’s and MD80’s by mid-December. The second phase of the program consists of a phased-in installation of explosive-proof and bulletproof cockpit walls and doors. Additionally, they have hired 106 additional security guards at Mexico City’s airport, as well as beefing up security throughout the country. 

Fox Asks for Media’s Help

After recently criticizing the media for “creating a lot of distortion, slander and untruths,” President Fox softened his rhetoric and asked the press to work for Mexico “instead of trying to erode or destroy the presidency.” Under increasing pressure to produce on his campaign promises, Fox listed a number of actions he has taken to ensure the stability of the nation, including the strengthening of individual rights, the economy, and the establishment of social and educational policies.



ABOUT MEXICO, 10/2001 

Mexico Sends Them Back

Since mid-July, in a project partially funded by the U.S., Mexico has been transporting migrants back to their countries of origin rather than just back to the Guatemala side of their southern border. More than 168,000 migrants were deported from Mexico last year, primarily those from Central America. The United states is the final destination for most of these people – trying to escape economic hardship at home. 

Fox Weds His Press Secretary

One of Mexico’s worst kept secrets came to a celebratory conclusion when President Vicente Fox married Marta Sahagun, his press secretary. Fox, 59, and Sahagun, 48, were married in a private ceremony on the grounds of Los Pinos, the presidential compound. The two Catholics defied church law by remarrying. Their united family now numbers seven children and a grandchild. 

Airport Study is Inconclusive

Mexico City has long desired a new airport, but can’t decide where to put it. A long awaited study by the National Autonomous University (UNAM) proved to be useless in solving the dilemma. Two sites have been proposed. The states of Hidalgo and Mexico have been lobbying for months to be the chosen location, but the study was unable to recommend either because of environmental and security reasons. Mexico City’s Benito Juarez International Airport is expected to reach a saturation point in 2006. 

Mexico City to Restore Historic Center

President Fox and Mexico City mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador have signed a document that will establish a foundation that will rescue and restore the Historic Center of the nation’s capital. The hope is that the project will reverse the deterioration  of the area while improving the living conditions of those who live there. The program will seek funds and donations from home and abroad to help fund the massive effort.



Mexico City to Ban Street Vendors

The mayor of Mexico City, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has vowed that the recent edict forbidding street vendors in the city center will be strictly enforced. He said that he will seek to reorganize informal commerce through agreements with street vendor organizations. He went on to acknowledge that it could take a long time to rid the city of this age-old practice. It would seem to us that there are many pressing problems in Mexico City that need attention other than hammering these hard working people who have no other skills to feed their families. 

Mexico City Hotels Offering Big Discounts

A group of Mexico City hotels, including very expensive as well as moderately priced, has announced weekend discount rates up to 60 percent. The promotion, which will last until January 13, 2002, includes seventy-four of the city’s hotels. Friday, Saturday and Sunday night examples include: the Sheraton Maria Isabel and the Hotel Nikko at around $130 per night, the wonderful Best Western Majestic for $50 and the Regente and Ambassador for $40. For a complete list of participating hotels and rates see 

AeroMexico Continues to Shine

For the second year in a row, AeroMexico’s Club Premier has won first place for best newsletter and fourth place for overall program of the year at the 13th Freddie Awards ceremony. This is the most prestigious prize awarded to Loyalty Programs worldwide in the airline industry. Club Premier was also among the first 10 best programs in six of the seven categories in which it participated, including the following: 1st place for Best Bulletin, 4th place for Best Loyalty Program, 5th place for best Redemption Program, 6th place for Best Internet Site, 7th place for Best Elite Program, 9th place for Best Customer Service. This is why AeroMexico remains our favorite way to get to Mexico.



Mexico File Contributors Receive Awards

Two past contributors to The Mexico File have recently been honored with The Pluma de Plata (Silver Pen), the Mexican government’s annual award for outstanding foreign journalism. Joe Cummings was awarded for his guidebook, Mexico City, published by Moon Handbooks/Avalon Publishing in 2000. He has also authored several additional travel guides for Moon which we use frequently when traveling. Joe’s article, A Return to the City, was printed in the November 1999 issue of The Mexico File. The other award recipient was Nick Gallo, a Seattle freelance writer, who won for the best Mexico Travel Article of the Year. The article was published recently in Travel and Life magazine and featured the Los Cabos area of Baja California Sur. He has been publishing articles in national and regional magazines for more than 15 years. Nick’s contribution to The Mexico File was in May 2000 and featured a fine article on Rincon de Guayabitos on Mexico’s Pacific coast, north of Puerto Vallarta. The awards were presented by none other than Presidente Fox at the annual Tianguis trade show / conference in Acapulco this past April. The Mexico File congratulates both Joe and Nick without the least bit of petty jealousy (primarily because they’re both good guys . . . otherwise?).

The Return Of Díaz?

Porfirio Díaz ruled Mexico for 35 years and is widely regarded as the impetus behind the Mexican Revolution. When he died in exile in Paris in 1915 his last wish was to be buried in his beloved Oaxaca, the state of his birth. But the reigning political party for the last 71 years has been the PRI, who has never been fond of Díaz or his legacy. To this day, he remains in a Gothic crypt in the Parisian cemetery, Montparnasse, nestled next to an urn filled with Oaxacan soil. Meanwhile, at the Basilica of the Virgin of Soledad in Oaxaca City, a burial spot awaits his return. Despite his dictator-like regime, much of Mexico was improved during his time in power. Foreign investment flourished and the rail system was increased from 400 miles of track to over 12,000 miles. But, as we found out here in the U.S. in the 1980’s, trickle down is often more like trickled on. The wealth never found its way to the masses – hence, the Revolution, and 71 more years of one-party rule. Now the question remains¼where go the remains? There is a movement afoot to bring him back, which, symbolically, could be a positive step forward in a country dealing with its troubled past.




Sea of Cortez Nautical Route

On February 21, an agreement was signed by President Fox and the governors of Baja Norte, Baja Sur, Sonora and Sinaloa designed to create the Nautical Route. The plan calls for a network of 22 ports to be developed up and down the Baja peninsula and the west coast of the mainland, with no one more than 120 miles be. Seven of the ports already exist and will be expanded. It also includes plans to build a road across the peninsula from the Pacific Ocean port of Santa Rosalillita to Bahia de Los Angeles on the Sea of Cortez. This will enable boats from having to navigate the long journey around the Cape to get back up into the Sea. Plans also call for the construction of 20 airfields. The purpose, of course, is to increase tourism and the local economies involved in the project. In our opinion, the result could be an ecological disaster. We will be monitoring this scheme very closely in the months ahead. For any ongoing developments, please contact our non-profit foundation, The Sea of Cortez International Preservation Foundation, at 858-456-4030 or .You can become a member if you want to help our cause.

Archaeological Tour

Far Horizons, based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is hosting a tour to little-traveled Honduras from July 15 through 22. The week-long exploration  will examine seldom-visited archeological sites and travel through dense rainforest teeming with unusual wildlife, spectacular ferns, bromeliads and orchids. Two days will be spent at an eco-lodge in the Pico Bonito National Park, home to more than 275 species of birds as well as jaguars, ocelots, kinkajous, peccaries and monkeys. Call Far Horizons at (800) 552-4575, email: , web:




Summer Air Fare Deals is advertising low airfares to Mexico City, Guadalajara, Monterrey and Leon effective from now through May 31. They also have a special on kids’ airfare if they travel with adults. Each adult can bring up to two children ages 2 through 17 for as low as $158 roundtrip each with their South of the Border companion fares. The best travel days are Monday through Thursday with destinations including Acapulco, Cancun, Guadalajara, Los Cabos, Mexico City, Puerto Vallarta and more. Check it out at . And, as always, great prices can be found on AeroMexico’s website with their Faresavers specials. Recent examples include Los Angeles to Puerto Vallarta roundtrip for $199 including a car, and Atlanta to Merida roundtrip including a car for $159. The webpage, which should be bookmarked, is

Mexico Trucks Will Have Full U.S. Access

The Bush administration will allow Mexican trucks full access to U.S. highways starting January 1, 2002 (oh, that’s right – the Teamsters Union backed Gore). The plan, which was presented to Mexico in February, will require Mexican rigs to comply with U.S. safety regulations and have insurance with U.S. registered agents. This was all agreed on in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994 but was never implemented due to concerns from the Clinton administration involving truck safety. Currently, Mexican trucks entering the United States are restricted to an area about 20 miles from the border, in designated zones where their cargo is transferred onto a U.S. truck and hauled away. U.S. labor unions and consumer advocates argue that the Mexican rigs are dangerous and the drivers poorly regulated.

VAT Changed Being Considered

Mexico’s finance minister, Francisco Gil, has said that a controversial proposal to extend a value-added tax to food and medicine will boost government income by the equivalent of 2.2% of gross domestic product in the first year. President Fox added that the reforms are needed to raise funds to build hospitals, highways and schools, which will help the poor, rather than harm them, as some have charged. Mexico has one of Latin America’s lowest tax collection rates at about 10.5% of GDP, compared with about 20% in Brazil and Argentina. Extending the value-added tax to foods, medicines, school fees and other items now exempt would generate another $14.7 billion in the first year.




LPG Price Concerns

The price of liquid propane gas, used by 85% of households throughout Mexico, has risen by 40% in the past year. Now there are plans to increase the price by 2% per month this year. This far exceeds the rate of inflation of 9% last year and an estimated 6.5% this year. The country imports 30% of the total gas needed to supply the country. The protestors claim that the six major distributors are gouging the public and are demanding some action from the new Fox government. Much of the protest is being spearheaded by the ousted political party, the PRI. The honeymoon is over.

Drug Fight Gains

As the U.S. certified Mexico as a cooperative partner in the controversial “war on drugs,” authorities in Mexico released numbers supporting the action. However, President Vicente Fox has made it clear he disapproves of the annual stamp of approval, largely based on the grounds that the U.S. is largely to blame for the demand in drugs. The Federal Attorney General’s office reported that confiscations of marijuana rose 50% last year, while cocaine confiscations rose 5%. It also claimed that 10,134 kilos of marijuana were seized, 388,923 plants were destroyed, and 31,169 hectares of plantations were uprooted. For the year, 11,000 people, foreign and domestic, were arrested for drug trafficking.

New Web Site for Insurance

International Insurance Group, Inc. and Grupo Nacional Provincial, Mexico’s second largest insurer, have announced the launch of a new web site designed to help consumers and agents purchase Mexican Auto and Business Property Insurance. The site allows consumers to instantly purchase and print auto insurance policies. The site includes lots of helpful information on business and commercial insurance in Mexico. This new site is located at




AeroMexico Sets Record

AeroMexico, Mexico’s largest airline, announced that it set a record in the number of annual passengers traveling between the U.S. and Mexico during the year 2000. The number passed the two-million mark in mid-December. Since 1984, AeroMexico has increased daily flights between the two countries by nearly 85 percent to meet the growing demand in the market, which has sustained a 5.4 percent annual growth since 1988

New Web Site For Safety

The Mexico Ministry of Tourism has set up a Web site devoted to safe travel in Mexico. Check it out for many good tips about safe travel throughout the country. Log on to 

Fox Scores High On Opinion Poll

On a score of one to 10, President Vicente Fox has scored a very impressive 8.2. In a recent telephone poll of 810 persons, 82% say that Fox and his cabinet are “on the right road.” Fully 87% said they like what they see so far in Fox, and 51% have a “good opinion” of his work. Seventy-seven percent said they think Fox will improve the quality of life of Mexicans. Asked whether they think the president should conduct himself more formally, 86% said they like him just the way he is, and just 12% agreed that he is too informal as a head of state. Of those interviewed, 30% said that the main problem for Fox to solve is public security, while 14% said the biggest challenge is poverty, 13% cited the economic crisis, 10% said unemployment, 8% the Chiapas conflict, and 8% corruption.




Mexico and its Volcanoes

Much has been written about the volcano they call Popo, just 40 miles from Mexico City. Its recent activity is the greatest in 1,000 years, often belching ash down on the millions of residents within its range. However, some 38 million Mexicans live in close proximity to the country’s largest volcanic chain, the Neovolcanic Central Axis, which consists of seven volcanoes. The Axis stretches from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Coast spanning the center of the country over 14 states with 15 volcanoes surrounding 38 million people. According to National Statistics, Geography, and Information Institute (INEGI), the volcanoes with the highest risk of erupting, besides Popo, are Colima and La Primavera in the west, the Pico de Orizaba and San Martin Tuxtla in the east, and the Chichonal and Tacana in the southeast.  

New Telephone Number for Consular Information

The Consul General of the United States has announced a new telephone number for those desiring consular information. The new number is 1-900-849-49 49. This number connects with a new call center for information or appointments regarding the processing of visa at the US Embassy in Mexico City or the nine consulates located throughout the country. The charge for the call is 12 pesos per minute from anywhere in Mexico. The new call center is located in Leon, Guanajuato, and is operated by Teletech. Calls can be made from 0500 hours to 1900 hours weekdays, and on Saturday and Sundays from 0700 hours to 1300 hours. An alternate means of communication is via internet at:  

New Flight from AeroMexico

Starting January 8, AeroMexico, Mexico’s largest airline, will offer nonstop service from New York’s Kennedy International Airport to Monterrey, Mexico. The continuing flight will end in Guadalajara. Both Mexican cities are bustling business centers, with Guadalajara a thriving area for new technology. Call AeroMexico at (800) 237-6639 or visit the airlines website at




Salinas Returns

Exiled Ex-President Carlos Salinas de Gortari returned recently to Mexico – apparently to rehabilitate himself. He maintains that nothing he left the country for (peso devaluation, the murder of Colosio who was the PRI candidate to succeed him, etc.) was his fault. From all accounts no one was buying it. He soon disappeared, presumably back to Ireland or Cuba.

No Smog Alerts For a Year

Mexico City celebrated its first year in a decade without a smog alert, although it may have been an aberration. The improvements are attributed to tougher vehicle inspections and standards, driving bans, and factory improvements. Once considered the most polluted city in the world, Mexico City has now been topped by Bejing, New Delhi and a few others.

Fox to oppose U.S. embargo on Cuba

President-elect Vicente Fox has declared his intention to oppose the United States’ long embargo on Cuba. He has called for more investment, complete democracy, and respect for human rights in Cuba, a long-time friend of Mexico. He maintained that he will keep an open relationship with the island nation, despite pressure from the U.S. Coincidentally, a statue of Mexico hero Benito Juarez was recently unveiled in Havana, and the ceremony was attended by Fidel Castro.




AeroMexico Begins Ticket Auction

AeroMexico, Mexico’s largest airline, has become the first Latin America carrier to auction tickets via the Internet with the launch of a real time web auction. Travelers can log on to  to participate in a live auction for special promotional fares on flights between the U.S. and Mexico. Successful bids are notified within minutes. 

Mexican Beer Flying High

Once merely the choice of recent Mexico travelers, Mexican beers are now the most popular imported brews in the United States. Dutch and Canadian beers are the second and third in popularity. Led by Corona, Tecate and Dos Equis in order of sales, Mexican beers accounted for 37.2 percent of the U.S. import market in 1999. The Mexican beer craze expanded when Grupo Modelo began distributing its Corona Extra beer to restaurants and bars just for on-premise sales. These days a six-pack of Corona will cost about $7.00 in a US liquor store and ranks fifth in world-wide sales. Per capita beer consumption runs about 80 liters a year in the U.S. compared to 50 liters in Mexico. 

AeroMexico and Mexicana to Be Sold

Following a recommendation by antitrust authorities in Mexico, it is expected that Mexico’s two largest airlines will be sold in the first half of next year. Cintra, the primarily government-owned holding company of AeroMexico and Mexicana Airlines, will draw up plans in the coming weeks for the sale. The Federal Competition Commission (CFC) recommended that Cintra be dissolved and the two airlines sold separately in order to spur competition in the domestic air travel market and end “monopolistic abuses.” The decision was partly based on the charge that the two airlines control 80% of the domestic air transport market. Both airlines are deemed to be financially sound enough to stand on their own. There are said to be several interested bidders in line to submit offers. We consider AeroMexico to be a truly great carrier and hope that a change in ownership will not affect their stellar work. 

Economic Growth Continues

Mexico will have posted 60 months of consecutive growth at the end of this year with an annual rate of at least five percent, according to the Finance Ministry. All productive sectors have experienced growth, especially exports and private investment, both of which are at the top historically in relation to the Gross Domestic Production. Inflation has also dramatically decreased after reaching 50% in 1995, at a present-day rate of less than 10%. The economic performance of the past few years has strengthened Mexico’s economic foundations, thereby reducing its vulnerability to internal upheavals and creating a sound base for sustained growth.



AeroMexico Adds Flights

AeroMexico, Mexico’s largest airline, has expanded its European Service with three new destinations in France, adding daily Air France code-share flights to Lyon, Nice and Toulouse, from Paris. These new routes join AeroMexico’s current European destinations of Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Madrid, Paris and Zurich. The new intra-France flights connect with AeroMexico’s two daily nonstop flights between Mexico City and Paris, continuing on to Lyon, Nice and Toulouse via Air France equipment. 

Education Levels On The Rise

The education levels in Mexico continue to improve with the percentage of people over 12 who have finished high school up from 14% in 1991 to 19.4% in 1999. The economically active population with a high school education rose from 17.3% to 22.8% during the same period. 

Pemex Earnings Up

Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) has exported some 8.412 billion dollars in crude sales so far this year, a figure that surpasses by 4.352 billion dollars  that of the same period in 1999. Pemex reported that so far exports of different types of crude registered an average of 1.622 million barrels per day.



Mexico City a Bargain

Century 21 has declared Mexico City the cheapest for prices for real estate  when compared to thirty great world cities. Paris and Hong Kong tied for the most expensive. The study compared what type of house could be purchased for a family of four for $235,000. The home selected in Mexico City for that price is in Club de Golf La Hacienda, has six bedrooms and a three car garage, is situated 500 meters from a park, and is 20 minutes from downtown. 

Mexico Eighth Most Visited

Mexico has become the eighth-most-visited nation in the world and the eleventh most prolific foreign currency earner. The tourism industry was the third-greatest source of foreign currency earnings for the country, down from second last year, according to Sectur’s Elais Rivas Torres. 

Mexican Writer Signs Contract

The Mexican author of the internationally popular book, “Like Water for Chocolate,” has signed a million dollar contract with the U.S. publishing firm Crown to publish her new novel. Laura Esquivel’s new novel is about her father, whereas her previous book was about her mother. The novel, “As Swift as Desire,” details her father’s life –  “who worked at a telegraph office trying to improve messages in order to create greater harmony in the world.” It will be in bookstores during Autumn, 2000. 

Govt. to Research Agave Shortage

The National Institute of Forestry, Agriculture and Fishing Investigations and the Center of Scientific Investigations of Yucatán will sign an agreement to support the production of tequila and mezcal. In the states of Jalisco and Guanajuato, producers of tequila are hampered by the low output of agave which has been affected by the presence of diseases. With mezcal, the land dedicated to the cultivation of the plant is worn out, a situation which affects the mezcal region of the southern state of Oaxaca. 


Although no longer breaking news, Vicente Fox and the PAN party have won the presidency of Mexico. We at The Mexico File are ecstatic about the outcome. Seventy-one years of PRI rule had created a corrupt bureaucracy unable to fulfill the enormous potential of the country. There is certainly a monumental task at hand for the new government and change might come later than sooner. But it’s an important start. Outgoing president Zedillo is to be congratulated for his graciousness and honesty in accepting his party’s defeat. One could argue that he has been Mexico’s best President to date.



Ferry Service to Cuba

Claudia Herrera Vivas, the General Director of Integral Port Administration of Quintana Roo, has announced that her organization has signed an agreement with a Spanish concern which is investing ten million dollars to create a ferry service for vehicles and passengers from Puerto Morelos in Quintana Roo to Havana, Cuba. She said the dredging work has already started on the 1,500-meter-long, 100-meter-wide navigation canal, so that the vessels for the new sea route will be able to use the waterway. Flying to Cuba from Mexico has been very popular in recent years for both Mexicans and Americans. 

Improving CPI

The National Consumer Price Index during May was 0.3 percent, the lowest level in 28 years says the Bank of Mexico. The bank stated that at the end of May the annual inflation rate was 9.49 percent, which means the increase of prices, excluding oil and services, was just 8.36 percent. In both cases this is the lowest increase for a similar period since 1994. The annual variation of the National Product Price Index, which includes oils and services, was 9.63 percent. 

Rivera Mural Found in Russia

The director of the Museo Casa-Estudio Diego Rivera, Blanca Garduno, was asked by the National Institute of Fine Arts to trace and find the whereabouts of some lost works of Mexican art. Among several important discoveries was the Gloriosa Victoria mural painted by Diego Rivera in his San Angel studio in 1958, which was discovered to be in the Pushkin Museum in Moscow. In a three-day visit to Moscow and a two-day visit to St. Petersburg, she found the mural, but was unable to locate “Pesadilla de Guerra, Sueño de Paz,” also by Rivera, which was her prime objective. Although she was able to visit several important museums, the Marx and Engles and Lenin museums are closed, preventing her from furthering her search. Those efforts continue today.

The finding of the mural confirmed that an incomplete painting lies on the other side of the canvas. The unfinished work was begun by Rivera in 1954 in response to problems between the United States and Guatemala which culminated in a military coup and the explosion of a bomb in Guatemala which caused the deaths of hundreds of innocent civilians. At the time, Rivera said that if the authorities of both countries refused to admit that a bomb had killed hundreds, he was going to show the truth through the painting. Ultimately, Rivera never finished the work because the conflict changed after the explosion and he decided to turn the canvas over and start another painting.

The painting, along with several others from Rivera, was given to the USSR Artists Union by Rivera in 1955, which then donated them to the Pushkin Museum, where it has stayed in perfect condition. Included is “Paisaje Puntillista,” which the artist painted in Paris in 1911 while he was a poor struggling artist. Found at the Heritage Museum in St. Petersburg were 135 prints by Mexican and Latin American artists, including Alberto Beltran, Celia Calderon, and Jose Clemente Orozco.



Passenger Rail Service Reaches End of the Line

For most of the 20th century, Mexico’s railroads linked isolated communities scattered across the country’s rugged terrain. The system provided an essential mode of transport to merchants, farmers and migrant workers in a cheap manner. Train fares were generally much lower than bus fares, and although service was limited, huge distances could be covered from border to border. The first railroad built in Mexico linked the nation’s capital with Veracruz, bringing freight from the Gulf Coast to Mexico City and carrying export goods to the coast. The trains have served as vital links between isolated communities and have provided employment and income for those living along the rail lines – selling drinks, snacks and handicrafts. Now, despite protests in the states of Coahuila, Durango, Oaxaca, and Zacatecas, the federal government has recently said it will proceed with the cancellation of passenger rail services in areas where alternative means of transport are available. These rail lines are said to be underused and costly to subsidize. Last year, the feds provided special funding for the construction of rural roads connecting communities previously linked only by rail service. Rail service will gradually be phased out in the states that still have limited service as new highways are built. Eventually, the only passenger service subsidized by the government will be the scenic Chihuahua-Pacific “Copper Canyon” route, operated by Ferromex and popular with tourists. In November, the federal government brought an abrupt end to the majority of Mexico’s passenger train services with the liquidation of state-owned Ferrocariles Nacionales de Mexico. 

Mexico Food on the Web

Expecting to capitalize on the growing market in the U.S. for the exotic spicy flavors of Mexico, is open for business. Included on the site are popular brand names, such as Herdez, Doña Maria, Jumex, Del Valle, Emabasa, Jarritos, La Costena, Valentina, La Victoria and Rosarita, as well as cooking equipment and cookbooks. Another web site specializing in ethnic foods is, located in Miami, a company that has reported sales of $50,000 a day. 

Election Watchdogs

The Confederation of Business Owners of Mexico (COPARMEX) has plans to recruit 15,000 to 20,000 observers to oversee the July 2 federal elections. The goal is to prevent or stop coercion and intimidation that might take place during voting, and to ensure a prompt vote count, according to COPARMEX president Fernandez Garza. He said that the recruits will observe the election and take note of complaints. Before the election the volunteers will promote a campaign of civic education. The publicity campaign will be launched using radio spots, billboards and stickers. 

Crime Fighting Funded

The federal government is spending more than ever on fighting crime, ever mindful of the importance of tourism to the country’s economy. This year the government is spending 12 billion pesos to fight crime, an historic high. During the four years between 1996 and 1999 the nation spent a total of just 15 billion pesos, according to Gobernación Secretary Diodoro Carrasco Altamirano. “One important innovation was the creation of the Federal Preventive Police (FPF) which is taking an active part in guarding federal property.” He also said “the funds will be used to unite forces to stop the advance of crime in society and to close the areas of impunity.” 

On the other Hand...

Shin Takagi, head of Sony Mexico, has said that crime is causing major companies to reconsider investments in Mexico. “The situation with respect to public security is so critical that it is starting to give sufficient reasons for the company to decide to diminish its investment or move its installations to a more secure country.” President Zedillo was in attendance at the meeting where Takagi made his comments. “At this moment, we do not have plans to move to other countries, but if there is no change...we would have to seriously consider these things.”

Sony has four assembly plants, known as maquiladoras, near the U.S. border, employing 13,000 people. Tijuana and Chihuahua have been plagued in recent years by violence linked to illegal drug trafficking. Takagi said that Sony has doubled its spending on security last year to $1 million.




Good Economic Outlook Seen

Maybe it will be different this time and Mexico can avert a major peso devaluation after the July national elections. Several international financial groups see ongoing success in the Mexican economy. The World Bank has described Mexico’s free-floating exchange policies as an enormous success. This is expected to provide stability with the upcoming change of administration – without the sort of crisis that has afflicted the nation every six years for the last 25 years. The perceived stability is attracting foreign investment at a brisk pace. The International Financial Institute director, Charles Dallara, credited his optimism about Mexico’s transition on the way it has developed and enforced its structural reform, embracing painful banking sector measures, macroeconomic reforms and fiscal-deficit management.

Election Observers

The Confederation of Business Owners of Mexico (Coparmex) has announced plans to recruit 15,000 to 20,000 observers to oversee the July federal elections. Coparmex president said the major concern is over possible coercion and intimidation. Recruits will observe the election, taking note of complaints. They will not serve as either “judge or referee,” stated Fernandez.

Mexico Transforming

The Pacific Council on International Policy, based in Los Angeles, has recently published a fascinating and informative report that it hopes will influence decision-makers in Mexico and the United States. Mexico Transforming attempts to provide a realistic look at Mexico’s transformation, which is not very well understood by most people in the U.S. The project by the Pacific Council included organizing a binational study group which is comprised of people of different professions, regions, generations, and political backgrounds. This is a terrific piece for anyone interested in the truth about Mexico. Best of all, you can order it for free by calling (213) 740-4296 or send an email to




Salt Plant Project Axed

In a huge victory for environmentalists throughout the world, President Zedillo stopped the expansion of a huge salt plant project that opponents claimed threatened a breeding ground for gray whales in San Ignacio Lagoon in Baja California. Zedillo’s stated goal is to preserve the entire Vizcaino Biosphere Preserve. Said Zedillo, “We’re dealing with a unique palce in the world both for the species that inhabit it and for its natural beauty, which we should preserve.” The site was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1993. The companies that had jointly ventured to construct the expansion, Japan’s Mitsubishi Corporation and Exporta de Sal of Mexico, said they would not challenge the decision. The project had been opposed by groups in Mexico and the U.S. and had received world-wide attention. Last summer, 34 respected scientists signed a letter that appeared in several newspapers across the globe condemning the project.

PRI Turns 71

Mexico’s dominant political party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party, turned 71 recently, never having been challenged for the presidency. According to the next presidential candidate, Francisco Labastida, it will continue for years to come. “If we have remained in power, it is because we know how to change and how to be a leader in changes and we will keep on doing it.” Labastida faces strong opposition from Vicente Fox of the National Action Party (PAN) in this summer’s election. The incumbent party has strong support among peasant groups, local governments and organized labor. The Mexico File would like to see a challenge at the top as the best chance for Mexico’s becoming a true democracy – as the country becomes a major player in the world




University Strike Ends

With very little opposition, the 9½-month occupation of the National Autonomous University of Mexico was ended by 2,400 federal police armed with batons and shields. The police arrested 430 students, including the eight top strike leaders. The strike began in April to protest plans to raise annual tuition, which had been just a few cents, to the equivalent of $140. The university soon backed down on the increase, but a small group continued to occupy the campus, pushing a six-point agenda to reverse recent academic reforms and give students more power with the university administration. They also voiced their opposition to Mexico’s political system. It is doubtful that we have heard the end of the concerns.

Job Creation

There were some 706,000 jobs created nationwide in Mexico during 1999, which is a 6.2% increase over 1998, according to the Finance Secretariat (Hacienda). Referring to the nation’s economic performance, Hacienda said sustained economic growth has allowed greater job creation. The report said in November 1999 employment climbed 1.4% in the manufacturing sector compared to the same period in 1998. Salaries in the manufacturing sector rose 3%.

 World Heritage Ranking

Mexico is now among the top ten countries in the world in the number of sites that have been designated a World Heritage Site. To date, Mexico has 21 World Heritage Sites – the cities of Guanajuato, Merida, Morelia, Puebla, Zacatecas and Mexico City’s Historic Center, as well as several archaeological sites and nature reserves.




Say it Ain’t So, Jose!

Tequila, the stuff I’ve used to remove rust from camping gear, apparently is becoming so popular that supply is running low and prices are going up. Tequila exports rose 33% and domestic consumption

117% from 1995 to 1998. It is estimated that they will rise another 20% this year. Due to a shortage of the tequila source, blue agave, retail prices have doubled between 1996 and 1998. A decent-brand bottle in a Mexican supermarket can easily run $10-12US. Fortunately, some of our taste buds have been so badly damaged over the years that the cheap stuff works just fine. Don’t forget the salt and lime.

The blue agave only grows in the state of Jalisco, most of it in the vicinity if the town of Tequila, about 50 miles north of Guadalajara. About ten years ago, there were only 15 or so brands in the country. Today there are over 250 registered brands available and many more of the home-grown variety. Now you can find designer, hand-blown tequila bottles that will cost you $500US. A shot of Herradura Reserva Suprema can set you back a cool $60US at a ritzy bar, which really isn’t a bar (wood bar, broken mirror behind, several uneven-legged stools), but a “cocktail lounge.” I’d say they should get busy planting more plants.

99 Million

The year end census for Mexico came in at 99 million, making it the tenth most-populated country on the planet. The projections for the future are 112 million for the year 2010 and 123 million in 2020. Due to an increase in contraception from 1 in 10 in 1970 to 7 in 10 today, the number of children in a family has decreased from six at the beginning of the century to 2.5 today. Life expectancy in Mexico is now 72.8 for men and 77.3 for women, some 45 more years than in 1900.

TB Concerns

Due to a dramatic increase in the incidence of tuberculosis along the U.S.-Mexico border, the Mexican government is now working with U.S. officials to identify the carriers and make sure they get medication. U.S. customs and public health authorities are calling for screening of immigrants. The Gulf coast state of Vera Cruz has one of the worst TB rates in Mexico and is also one of the states with the highest immigration.




Car Deposit Put on Hold

After receiving much criticism about a newly planned program to collect refundable deposits from U.S. registered cars heading into Mexico, the Mexican government has announced a postponement and revision of the plan. The new law will charge drivers of U.S. cars $400 for cars produced in 1994 or earlier, $600 for models from 1995 to 1998 and $800 for those made this year or later. The fee will be refunded when the car returns to the U.S. The law will go into effect in a few weeks after two changes are made. Those are: the ability to pay by credit card instead of cash, and to allow the payer to get the refund at any border crossing, not just the one he or she entered through. Mexico has cited the reason for the program is to discourage people from selling U.S. registered vehicles in Mexico, depriving the Mexican treasury of duties on new car sales and creating registration confusion. It is estimated that of Mexico’s 14 million cars, about 1 million are illegal.

Low Inflation Expected

Guillermo Ortiz, of the Bank of Mexico, has declared a continued low inflation for the country, citing September’s and October’s rates as being less than 1.0 percent. The yearly inflation rate is expected to come in at about 13 percent, high by U.S. standards, but quite good for Mexico in recent years. Ortiz further predicted a 10 percent goal for 2000, a presidential election year in which anything could happen.

81 Rebel Groups In Country

Wilfredo Robledo, head of the newly formed Federal Prevention Police, recently stated that 81 guerrilla groups are known to be in Mexico, and that only three of them posed a major threat. He identified those as the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), the Revolutionary Army of the Insurgent People (ERPI) and the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR). He identified many of the other guerrilla groups as being fronts for kidnappers and drug traffickers. The Zapatistas were formed in Chiapas in 1994 as the protectors of indigenous rights. They have had a tenuous cease fire for the last three years. The EPR, based mainly in Oaxaca and Guerrero, was formed in 1996, while the ERPI splintered off from that group in 1998 over political differences.




Alliance News

In the last issue we talked about the political alliance being formed by the two opposition parties to the dominant PRI and their plan to defeat the PRI in the next presidential election. Well, it’s not looking too good at this point. The longtime distrust between the PRD and PAN seems to be insurmountable after the two sides disbanded their panel after failing to reach an agreement on how to proceed. The collapse is an obvious big boost to the PRI, which has been slowly regaining much of its support. The opposition parties faced many obstacles in forming an alliance because of their many strong philosophical differences. Two major differences have been their views on a massive bank bailout and the last two federal budgets. Their candidates, former Guanajuato governor Vincente Fox of the PAN and former Mexico City mayor Cuauhtemoc Cardenas of the PRD, both have strong personalities and would be reluctant to step aside and endorse the other.

Salt Plant in Baja

The Mexican government has planned a joint venture with Mitsubishi of Japan to develop a salt production facility at San Ignacio Lagoon in Baja California. Oceans Futures Society President Jean-Michael Cousteau has strongly urged the government to abandon the project that he warned threatens the future of the gray whale and the general environment. The proposed plant calls for the pumping of 6,000 gallons per second from the lagoon to flood some 116 square miles to create vast evaporation pools.

Cousteau cited the many environmental problems at the nearby salt plant in Guerrero Negro that has the same two partners as its owners. Said Cousteau, “Truthfully, I cannot predict the consequence of this proposal on whales and on the environment in one can. However, having personally witnessed many examples of well-laid plans to protect the environment by developers that ultimately go awry and considering the environmental record at Guerrero Negro, I conclude that major developments are incompatible with protecting wild places and species.”




The Political Alliance

Mexico will go to the polls in July, 2000, possibly to elect the first non-PRI president in 70 years. To advance this goal, the two dominant opposition parties have announced the “Alliance For Mexico.” Of course, this is Mexico, and glaring cracks are already evident. The center-right PAN candidate, Vicente Fox, is leading the polls with roughly 50 percent of the voters. This has given him a boastful, intractable attitude of one with little motive for negotiation.

The liberal PRD candidate, Mexico City mayor (but soon resigning) Cuauhtemoc Cardenas is favored by roughly 13 to 17 percent of the voters. He hopes he can increase those numbers by quitting the mayor’s job and concentrating on his poll numbers.  

The latest Mexico City poll shows that if Fox led the coalition, he would be in a virtual tie with either of the PRI’s likely candidates Francisco Labastida or Roberto Madrazo. Both of them easily could defeat  Cardenas, should he be the coalition candidate.

If the coalition fails to overcome their ideological differences, and each fields its own candidate, the PRI’s chances are greatly improved, according the poll. If Labastida becomes the candidate, he would garner 35 percent support, 27 percent for Fox, and 15 percent would vote for Cardenas. If it is to be Madrazo for the PRI, he would have 36 percent, compared to 27 for Fox and 14 percent for Cardenas. 

If Fox were to be the candidate of an alliance, he would have 39 percent of the vote – about the same as either of the PRI possibilities. Cardenas would have about 25 percent, compared to 47 for the PRI’s choices.

A year ago I would have absolutely predicted a defeat for the continuation of PRI rule, but it now looks like a toss-up. Expect a stable political and financial environment until election time. After that, all bets are off.




Raúl Salinas’ Sentence Reduced

Raúl Salinas, brother of former president Carlos Salinas, had his prison sentence slashed from 50 years down to 27 ½ years. He was convicted for planning the murder of the number two man in the PRI party, the man who was married to his only sister. This ruling came only hours after Switzerland’s top court overturned the seizure of $114.4 million that Salinas held in Swiss bank accounts.

It appears that these events may be a signal that Raúl Salinas may be freed once President Ernest Zedillo leaves office next year. In addition to these two dramatic events, in April Raúl was moved from a maximum security prison to a looser institution on the outskirts of Mexico City. Then Carlos Salinas returned to Mexico in June for a visit after four years of self-imposed exile in Ireland. While the conviction of Raúl was generally applauded by Mexicans who have mistrusted a judiciary that allows the wealthy to escape punishment, the government now may be slowly showing more leniency to avoid angering some higher-ups before next year’s presidential election.




Ferry Attacked

Stealing a page from the pirates of yore, the ferry that transports passengers from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel was robbed recently by six hooded men carrying assault rifles and grenades. Passengers were relieved of their money and valuables, while two security guards were beaten and thrown overboard. Although a rare occurrence, the Mexican government has to do more to ensure the safety of visitors who bring so much money to this area of the country.

Salinas Returns

Carlos Salinas de Gortari, the former president, returned to Mexico for the first time since he left in disgrace four years ago when he was widely blamed for the peso crisis and recession. He has been living in Ireland since that time, although I have a friend who told me he has seen him in Cuba. Although he admitted “some errors were committed” during a television interview, he primarily avoided addressing the many problems that have ensued since his departure. The general public is for the most part, unforgiving. It is a long Mexican tradition that ex-presidents are not called to account after leaving office.




Old Soldiers Eventually Die

The last surviving soldier from the army of Mexico dictator Porfirio Diaz, Teodoro Garcia, died recently at the age of 110. This was the army that fought the hero/rebel Pancho Villa. With help from Villa, Diaz was overthrown in 1911 by Francisco Madero. Garcia was from a wealthy landowner family in the northern state of Coahuila. As the revolution progressed, the family lost much of its land. In 1920 Garcia took his wife and children to San Antonio, Texas, and finally settled in Texas City. Garcia was said to be proud of the fact that he quit smoking at 95 and gave up his drinking habit at 100. Do you hear that, doc?

More About Pancho

In a related story, it has been discovered that Pancho Villa, besides being a leader of fierce fighters, was also a pretty good negotiator. In 1913, Villa and his men held up a Wells Fargo express train, relieving it of 122 silver bars. The bars were worth over $160,000, $830,000 in today’s money. The trouble was, he couldn’t find a buyer for the loot, so he arranged to sell it back to Wells Fargo for $50,000 cash. Villa promised not to rob them again, and Wells Fargo decided to keep the whole affair a secret. Can you imagine, bankers not being forthcoming with the public? The University of California at Berkeley obtained a collection of Wells Fargo corporate history in 1996, from which this curious piece of history has been culled.

PRI Helps the Poor – It Must Be Election Time

President Ernesto Zedillo has recently earmarked $978 million for an anti-poverty program that will aid the 91 poorest areas in Mexico. The program is designed to provide food, education and health services to those living in poverty, estimated to be 40% of the country’s population. Coincidentally, many of those are of voting age and will presumably be very appreciative come polling day. Many of the expert prognosticators are predicting a PRI victory in the upcoming presidential election in the summer of 2000. The party has shown surprising strength in recent state elections, after it was widely assumed that they would lose the presidency in the wake of the 1994-95 economic crisis. Although the opposing political parties, the PRD and PAN, have pockets of deep loyalty, the PRI continues to show strength nationally. Many are now predicting that there may not be a change at the top until 2006. Additionally, you may have noticed the continuing strength of the peso to the dollar. From a low of over a 10.5 conversion rate, it now stands at 9.2. Recent history has shown an artificial support for the peso up until just after election time, followed by a devaluation. Investors beware.

When the Volcano Blow

As Jimmy Buffett sings, "I don’t know where I’m gonna go, when the volcano blow." The Colima volcano in west central Mexico, seventy-five miles from Guadalajara, is acting up, and it will probably get worse. It is now predicted that the indicators are showing a 60% chance of a major blow, perhaps of the magnitude of the 1913 eruption, which was substantial. Several of the villages surrounding the volcano have been evacuated following a recent series of belches that have produced lava flow.

Workers Gain Clout

Mexico’s supreme court has ruled in favor of "open shop" rules of companies. The ruling allows employees to belong to any union, or none at all. It is believed that the large pro-government unions will be adversely affected by the ruling and will curtail their practice of automatically signing workers and deducting union dues from their paychecks.





With the help of a strengthened peso, consumer prices rose at their slowest rate in 10 months for the month of March. Inflation for the month was 0.93%, its lowest since May, 1998. Inflation for 1999 may well come in substantially lower than the 17-18 % predicted at the beginning of the year. A factor of concern is that many believe the peso to be currently overvalued. A weakening of the peso would cause inflation to spike upward. This would also affect interest rates, currently standing at around 20%, the rate of the 28-day treasury bill (Cetes).


Although Mexico’s population has now surged to 98.1 million from 81.2 million in 1990, the country’s birth rate has decreased dramatically over the last 25 years. In 1974 the average family had seven children. Today the average is 2.5.


Just as Quintana Roo’s (home of Cancún) governor, Mario Villanueva’s, term was about to expire, in an age old tradition of Mexican politicians, he split. Not coincidentally, this was at the same time his criminal immunity would run out. Villanueva, of the PRI party, has been under investigation for having ties to the narcotics trade. It has also been reported that there is evidence of off-shore bank accounts totaling millions of dollars. Villanueva has since sent a videotape that ran on Televisa proclaiming his innocence of all charges and claiming that he was being set up. He pleaded with President Zedillo to intercede on his behalf. His whereabouts are unknown. The more things change, the more they....





In a rather blatant attempt to increase the federal coffers, Mexico has announced its intention of charging all visitors traveling beyond 20 miles from the border a "friendship" charge of $15US. To take effect July 1, 1999, the new fee is expected to raise $150 million US per year, based on last year’s estimate of 10 million foreign visitors.

In Baja California, the coastal towns of San Felipe and Ensenada have petitioned and received approval to be exempt from the new fee, which would have had a devastating effect on their tourist-dominated economies.

It might be a good idea if the Feds reconsidered the public relations backlash that this admission charge might cause. The "Amigo" country should be working on ways to entice more visitors rather than taxing them for the privilege of spending their vacation dollars there rather than elsewhere.


Vincente Fox, governor of Guanajuato, is the front-runner for the presidential election for the year 2000. The popular National Action Party (PAN) candidate easily came out the winner in the nationwide poll published by El Universal newspaper.

The results among the leading contenders had Fox leading with 31.6% of the respondents, Mexico City mayor Cuauhtemoc Cardenas (PRD) second with 19.9%, and two ruling PRI candidates trailing as the third and fourth choices. Cardenas, long considered the favorite, has seen his support decrease considerably as he struggles with the daunting, daily problems that continue in a city of 20 million people.

Much of Fox’s support can be attributed to his stated populist desire to make Mexico a more just country, with the poor become richer and the rich becoming poorer. His flamboyant style is highlighted by his proclivity for jeans, leather jacket and cowboy boots rather than pinstripes. At 56, he speaks to the people in straight, simple terms, usually with an attitude. An ardent believer in the free market, he also sees a role of the state in guiding the economy.

The PRI has had a 70 year run in a country that is ripe for new leadership. Vincente Fox may well be the man who steers Mexico into a more democratic era in the new millennium.


He doesn’t get the million dollar endorsements like Tiger Woods nor the adoring fans of Freddie Couples, but that’s all right with Esteban Toledo. He’s doing something no one from his youth would have believed possible, not when you grew up in a dirt farm shack outside Mexicali in Baja California Norte. With ten brothers and sisters and a father who died when Esteban was five, golf didn’t seem like a probable career choice for the man who earned $327,244US last year on the PGA tour.

Shoes and food were hard to come by for the boy who took up boxing as a way to escape the poverty, to gain a spark of respect. After winning 12 of 13 fights as a pro, he had an appendectomy, ending his promising pugilist career. Always looking for a way to feed himself, Esteban would collect golf balls from the river running through the Mexicali Country Club, selling them to the golfers playing through.

Soon he picked up a few clubs and figured out how to hit it straight, winning his first tournament at 17. He caught the eye of a wealthy Norteamericano who took him to San Jose, California, to begin the improbable life he now lives. After several years on the Nike tour, he now has his PGA card, finishing 93rd on the money list in 1998.

No, he’ll never have the superstar name recognition of Arnie or Jack. But no one is prouder of his personal accomplishments than Esteban Toledo. Follow his progress in your local sports page. And if he ever plays a tournament in your area, get out to the course and let him know he has a friend in the gallery.





Mexicophile Dan Toporoski has sent us an update on the new ferry service started by American Viking Lines that we announced in the December 1998/January 1999 issue of The Mexico File. Here is the text of his message to us: "The Tampa/Progresso ferry is already out of business. They were underfunded and couldn’t make it until they got more business. The ferry has already been returned to its owners. The Port of Tampa is supposedly looking for another operator. Too bad. I wanted to take the trip next year!"


Mexico has joined with the University of Massachusetts to begin construction of the world’s largest millimeter-wave radio telescope, which is designed to see through interstellar dust to probe the birthplaces of stars and planets. It is being built on Cerro Las Negra, a 15,000-foot mountain about 150 miles east of Mexico City and four miles from Orizaba, the country’s highest point. The antenna spans more than 150 feet and enables researchers to capture radio waves that cannot be seen by most telescopes. It will be housed in a 16-story high protective dome to shield it from wind and sun.


A recent Mexican study commissioned by the Mexican Congress outlines options and budgetary estimates to allow voting to the estimated 10 million Mexicans living in the United States. The report concludes that it is a viable plan in which locations would be set up all across the U.S. at the time of Mexico’s presidential elections. The idea is heavily supported by the opposition parties who claim they would greatly benefit since many of the migrants blame the PRI party for the reason they had to leave their homeland to make a living. The report showed that 75% of the immigrants live in 33 counties in California, Arizona, Colorado, Texas, Illinois, Georgia and New York. The ballots would be cast in consulates, churches, Mexican-owned businesses and immigrant homes. The cost is estimated to be between 76 and 356 million dollars





American Viking Lines, a U.S. ferry company, has started ferry service between Tampa, Florida, and the Mexican port of Progresso, 21 miles from Merida, in the Yucatán peninsula. Hauling cargo and passengers, the ship, Scotia Prince, leaves Tampa on Friday nights and Tuesday mornings and returns from Progresso on Sunday and Wednesday nights. The trip takes 36 hours each way. The ferry can carry 630 passengers and 220 vehicles, including cargo containers. Round trip fares are $144 per passenger and $199 per vehicle.


A Swiss tourist was killed recently while attempting to videotape a train robbery in the northern border state of Chihuahua. The robbery took place on the spectacular Copper Canyon route, popular with many tourists. Ernest Schmidt was shot three times after refusing orders to can the camera. Schmidt didn’t understand Spanish. Six other tourists were treated for bullet wounds in Los Mochis. This was the first robbery in three years. All of the passengers were held hostage for around 40 minutes as the bandits went from person to person, guns drawn, relieving them of their money, gold and silver. Armed guards are usually on the train, but this time they weren’t. If you make this trip, make sure the guards are on board.


Confounding conventional belief, archaeologists digging inside the Pyramid of the Moon in Teotihuacan, have uncovered what could be a pre-Columbian civilization even older than the mysterious Teotihuacans. The pyramid was built on top of the remains of at least three buildings, one of which contained a human skeleton surrounded by funeral offerings and other artifacts. Although human remains have been found in Egypt and other ancient civilizations, it has been unheard of inside Mexican pyramids.


Kenneth Brugger of Austin, Texas, made an amazing discovery in the winter of 1975. While driving in the wooded mountains at the 10,000 foot level some 80 miles southwest of Mexico City, he noticed that the Oyamel firs were covered with butterflies. Best estimates are that there are four million per acre. Those who studied the Monarch knew that they went someplace to procreate, and that their offspring returned to Canada and the U.S. like clockwork. But they didn’t know where they went. Imagine, we had put a man on the moon at that time in history, but no one knew where these butterflies went. The results of the discovery were many, creating a tourist attraction among the native Indians, forever to change their culture, as well as creating a campaign to protect the monarchs’ sanctuaries from loggers and other modern encroachments. Another ironic fact — Brugger was colorblind, unable to see the amazing spectacle of colors that so many enjoyed.


Being a major oil producer is no guarantee of cheap gasoline. Although the world price of oil is now under $10 per barrel, Mexico has raised the pump price by another 15%. The equivalent price is now about $1.70US per gallon. Worker purchasing power is continuing to decline as the prices of many staples continue to rise. An estimated six million Mexican workers earn the minimum wage of $3.20 per day. The average for all workers in Guadalajara is $7.50 per day. As the Mexican government has announced further belt-tightening for the coming year, 1999 will be a tough year for the majority of its people. Please remember this on your trips to their country. A generous tip or even a few pesos in a tin cup can go a long way toward helping these fine people feed their loved ones.





Mexico City Mayor Cuauhtemoc Cardenas has announced plans to decentralize the city’s law enforcement force. More funding and autonomy has been promised to the city’s 16 precincts to increase public safety and fight crime. The city also purchased 186 new police patrol cars which will be dispatched to different precincts, each equipped with communication systems that will allow officers to respond quicker to emergency calls. The cars are fueled on natural gas in order to cut down on air pollution.


All those new design VW Beetles you see in your town aren’t made in Germany, but in Puebla, near Mexico City. And although the plant can produce 160,000 units a year, demand has been so high that it may start production in Europe, where it will soon be for sale. The original Beetle, launched in 1945, has sold more than 21 million units and is still produced at the Puebla plant, mainly for developing world markets. Puebla also makes the Golf and Jetta for Volkswagen.


In a very bizarre and backward proposal, the PAN political party prepared a bill to create a "national commission for social communication" which would regulate and control the press and the electronic media. For a country that is rapidly striving to become more democratic, the PAN proposal was immediately denounced and rejected. Former U.S. House Leader Newt Gingrich has denied being the architect of the failed idea.


Elena Garro, writer and journalist, recently died at the age of 78 after suffering a heart attack. Garro was the first wife of recently deceased Nobel Prize winner Octavio Paz, to whom she was married from 1937 to 1966. Her best known work was Los Recuerdos del Porvenir (Memories of the Future). A prominent critic of the 1968 Mexico City massacre, she lived in exile in Paris for twenty years following the event.





It has been announced that income from tourism in 1998 in Mexico will likely surpass revenue from oil sales for the first time in recent history. The number one money generator is derived from manufacturing exports. Tourism revenues will reach 8 billion dollars this year. Twenty years ago Mexico was almost completely dependent on oil revenues. It would seem that the many reports of crime has not deterred visitors.


AmeriCare, an American-style emergency health care facility, is now open in Cancún. AmeriCare is staffed by Board-certified, English-speaking physicians and nurses and is located in Cancún’s hotel zone. To inquire about membership call 1-800-420-6180 or see the website:


As further evidence of the diminishing power of the once omnipotent PRI, the government newspaper El Nacional has published its last newspaper. After 69 years as the voice of government, the money-losing paper could no longer justify its existence in an era of continuing openness and freedom of the press. You can’t sell what no one is buying.


It continues to look worse for the brother of ex-president Carlos Salinas as federal investigators have uncovered 289 secret bank accounts and many properties belonging to Raul Salinas. The bank accounts in Mexico and abroad total over $150 million dollars. Raul Salinas has been in jail for four years on charges ranging from money-laundering to masterminding the murder of his ex-brother-in-law. It seems that there is some scepticism concerning Salinas’ ability to have amassed a small fortune as a midlevel government employee during his brother’s presidency.




Telmex Takes A Hit

Unbelievably, until just recently, telephone customers of giant Telmex (Telfonos de Mexico) have received and paid their telephone bills without the benefit have having their bills itemized. They would get a bill with a total due with no idea how the amount was deduced. There were many complaints of inflated numbers of calls made. But, in a rare beneficial policy change mandated by the government, phone bills now must contain a list of all calls made.

Sally-Sue Murdered

Popular society columnist for the English-language The Mexico City Times, Sally-Sue Hulse was murdered in her Zona Rosa apartment in early August. Also found dead was Cutberto Chavez Cruz, Sally’s live-in porter. Police are searching for the boyfriend of Chavez, believing him to be the primary suspect. It is reported that he may have gone to his home state of Oaxaca. His description has been described as 5-feet-3-inches tall, brown-skinned, slim and with fine hair. Could be a tough search.

Working Girls Sign Accord

First, understand that prostitution is neither strictly prohibited nor absolutely legal under Mexican law. The ladies do have a certain amount of political persuasion, as evidenced by a recent accord (this was negotiated?) they signed allowing them to work freely in Mexico City’s Historic Center, as long as they keep a distance of 20 meters from churches, schools and hospitals. They must also avoid wearing clothing that reveals their underwear or intimate body parts. It is rumored that the U.S. Senate is considering the same requirements of White House interns.






Detlev Kappstein, owner of Viajes San Miguel travel agency, now offers first-class bus service from the Mexico City airport to Queretero followed by van transport to your hotel in San Miguel for 240 pesos per person. Soon he will have a daily shuttle between San Miguel and Leon airport for only $20 US per person. Call (415) 2-25-37 or fax (415) 2-25-38 for reservations. E-mail: 


In continuing ex-President Salinas’ policy of the privatization of government-owned enterprises, the feds have put nine airports on the selling block. The sale will include airports in the Southeastern part of the country, including Cancun, Cozumel and Huatulco where traffic has increased by 12 percent in the past year. Sixty-seven international and domestic companies have expressed interest in the sale. The plan outlines a total of 35 of the more profitable airports to be sold eventually. This should be good news for the Mexico traveler since private business usually does a better job. 


Loggerhead turtles have been laying their eggs on the beaches of Xcacel, 65 miles south of Cancun in the state of Quintana Roo, for...a long, long time. Now, the state has sold 113 acres of this coastline to Sol Melia, the Spanish luxury hotel developer, and marine biologists say it is a disaster. They say that the glare of artificial light coming from hundreds of hotel rooms will drive the turtles back into the sea. Says marine biologist Brian Bowen of the University of Florida, who has studied Xcacel for years, “If the Xcacel nesting ground is eliminated, twenty percent of the genetic diversity in Atlantic loggerheads and 22 percent of Atlantic green turtles will be lost forever. Such a loss would be disastrous.” Genetic diversity is the insurance that allows species to survive climate changes, pollution and other environmental challenges.





Change in Border Policy

The U.S. Customs Service has declared a new plan to inspect cars entering Mexico. The plan is to install video cameras in the southbound lanes to record the license plate numbers of every vehicle going south. The reported purpose is to discourage smuggling of drug money, stolen vehicles and arms into Mexico. Information from the license plate readers will be forwarded to the inspectors working the southbound lanes. The Customs Service has further declared that the new procedure will not slow traffic heading south.

The new policy will first take effect at the San Ysidro border crossing into Tijuana. The results will determine if the policy will be extended along the other border entries. Some would argue that your right to privacy just took another hit.

Viewing The Remains

For the first time, burial vaults under the Independence Monument in Mexico City have been opened to the public. Displaying the remains of its heroes is a culturally accepted practice in Mexico that dates back centuries. The skulls of four of Mexico’s founding fathers can be viewed, most notably Miguel Hidalgo, at the Monument which is located in the Cuauhtemoc precinct.

Dual Nationality

As a result of three amendments to the Mexican Constitution, Mexican legal residents acquiring U.S. citizenship will be able to retain their Mexican nationality. Also, those who were previously naturalized will have five years to regain it. The new law is in large part a response to claims by Latino groups in the U.S. that countless Mexican immigrants who are eligible to become citizens have not done so for fear of losing their property rights in Mexico.

The dual-nationality law does not provide for dual citizenship rights such as the right to vote, serve in the Mexican military, or hold political office. It does preserve the economic and property rights of Mexican citizens who become citizens of another country. Canada, along with 50 other countries, also recognizes dual-nationality.




Change in Border Policy

The U.S. Customs Service has declared a new plan to inspect cars entering Mexico. The plan is to install video cameras in the southbound lanes to record the license plate numbers of every vehicle going south. The reported purpose is to discourage smuggling of drug money, stolen vehicles and arms into Mexico. Information from the license plate readers will be forwarded to the inspectors working the southbound lanes. The Customs Service has further declared that the new procedure will not slow traffic heading south.

The new policy will first take effect at the San Ysidro border crossing into Tijuana. The results will determine if the policy will be extended along the other border entries. Some would argue that your right to privacy just took another hit.

Viewing The Remains

For the first time, burial vaults under the Independence Monument in Mexico City have been opened to the public. Displaying the remains of its heroes is a culturally accepted practice in Mexico that dates back centuries. The skulls of four of Mexico’s founding fathers can be viewed, most notably Miguel Hidalgo, at the Monument which is located in the Cuauhtemoc precinct.

Dual Nationality

As a result of three amendments to the Mexican Constitution, Mexican legal residents acquiring U.S. citizenship will be able to retain their Mexican nationality. Also, those who were previously naturalized will have five years to regain it. The new law is in large part a response to claims by Latino groups in the U.S. that countless Mexican immigrants who are eligible to become citizens have not done so for fear of losing their property rights in Mexico.

The dual-nationality law does not provide for dual citizenship rights such as the right to vote, serve in the Mexican military, or hold political office. It does preserve the economic and property rights of Mexican citizens who become citizens of another country. Canada, along with 50 other countries, also recognizes dual-nationality.





John Bryant and his wife, Jean, retired in Guadalajara twelve years ago and have since written several books on retirement in Mexico. The Bryants have drawn on their own experiences, as well as those of their friends and neighbors, to put together a program that provides "factual, current information on retirement in Mexico from Americans who live there." Bryant’s program begins with a first-day seminar on the financial, cultural, medical and legal aspects of living in Mexico. He also addresses security and safety, lifestyle, learning the Spanish language and housing. One section of the program is devoted to the different retirement area within Mexico. On days two and three Bryant provides guided tours of the North American neighborhoods in Guadalajara and Lake Chapala. Also offered are tours of Colonial Mexico.

For information on the workshop and the tours contact Marion Bayer at 1-800-679-2746 or fax: (352) 371-8368.


Since the rebel uprising in Chiapas four years ago, many foreigners have trekked in to offer support, observe, and report on the conflict. The local authorities have been less than pleased by their presence. As of now, the rules have changed. Foreigners are now being routinely stopped in San Cristobal de las Casas and being required to provide identification. President Zedillo has publicly warned humanitarian groups to back off. The Mexican constitution prohibits foreigners from being involved in the country’s internal affairs. Some people are now being expelled on these grounds. This is not to infer that you shouldn’t go to this region. Just be aware of the climate and don’t give the authorities any reason for harassment unless you are ready for the consequence.




Snorkeling Adventure

The world-famous Scripps Institution of Oceanography, along with Baja Safari, is offering a snorkeling adventure to the palapa village and coral reef of Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park, sixty miles north of Cabo San Lucas in Baja California. Situated at the only living coral reef on the west coast of North America, Cabo Pulmo is alive with whale sharks, giant manta rays and numerous reef fish. Accommodations will be in a unique 28-room resort. The snorkeling will be led by Scripps staff, providing an extraordinary and truly educational experience. I will be visiting the site in March to give you a better description of the area in the April issue. I know these people and I’m sure they are offering a great trip. For further information and reservations contact Baja Safari at (619) 470-1890.

Snow in Guadalajara?

That’s what I heard from jennifer j. rose in Morelia. She says it is the first time since 1881. She recently moved there from Iowa, presumably to flee the cold weather, among other reasons. "Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder."

Mexico’s Top Anchor Signs Off

Jacobo Zabludovsky, for 27 years the anchor of the weeknight prime-time news program on Televisa, Mexico’s largest and most powerful network, has retired. For years, Televisa was the only national network and was controlled by the PRI. Says Zablodovsky, "For many years Mexico lived under a virtual single-party system. Our margin of action was limited by these circumstances." Another pillar falls as the country rushes towards a true democracy.

Have a Problem, Contact the Prez

Do you ever wish you could go right to the top when you have a beef? Sure, it probably won’t do any good — but just in case you want to feel better, here is how to send a message to Zedillo.

Lic. Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon
Presidente de la Republica, Palacio Nacional
06067, Mexico, D.F.
Fax: 52-5-516-5762 /515-4783




B& B For Birders

Canadians Annette and Bob Mason (see Mexico File, Vol. I, No. 8) operate Hogar de Refugio Infantil Villa Juarez, an orphanage near Ciudad Obregon in the state of Sonora. I met them a couple of years ago while visiting the colonial town of Alamos and have kept a correspondence with them.

Since money is usually a problem for those who sacrifice lucrative careers to assist those less fortunate, the Mason's now are also in the bed and breakfast business. This coastal region is a prime wintering and migratory area for shorebirds and is half an hour from Isla Huivulai. The B& B is $25US per person with dinner available for an extra $10US. And, of course, you don't have to be a birder to be a guest.

The Masons spend a couple thousand dollars a month of their own money to operate the orphanage. Please help them if you can. For more information and directions, call 011-52-644-81318.

Economic Growth at Seven Percent

Mexico is growing at its fastest pace since before the 1982 peso devaluation. The government says the country’s economy will expand 7 percent in 1997, up from 5.1 percent growth last year.

Upper Class Protest

Mexico's upper class recently marched shoulder-to-shoulder with clerks and laborers protesting crime and police corruption in the nation's capital. The marchers blame police for being a major contributor to the problem in the city where an estimated 600 crimes involving a weapon are committed daily, resulting in an average of six homicides per day.

Fishing Rules May Change

Bob Fletcher, president of the Sportfishing Association of California, and Barney Thompson, SAC's liason with the Mexican government, recently attended an important fisheries meeting in Mexico City. The two delivered a proposal for a change in fishing regulations to the National Consulting Committee on Responsible Fisheries. The proposal asked that fishermen be allowed to use live bait to catch a limit of fish. At present, only two fish of an angler's limit may be caught on live bait. They also asked the committee to again allow the filleting of fish aboard sport boats in Mexico. The two are hoping the changes will be made by next summer.




Ranked # 1

International Living newsletter has ranked Mexico as the number one country in the world as a retirement destination. Among the reasons in the survey that put Mexico on top are the real estate prices an the excellent healthcare system. Commenting on the fairly high crime rate in the country, it was noted that foreigners are"rarely the targets of the Mexican criminal classes." The close proximity to the United States was also cited as a plus. The next nine countries are ranked in order: Honduras, Ecuador, Malta, Panama, Belize, Spain, Ireland, Portugal and France.

Changing Time Zones

Mexico first applied daylight savings time in 1996 in order to be in concert with the United States. This year, for the first time, the state of Quintana Roo did not turn their clocks back with the rest of the country since it is adopting Eastern Standard Time, the only Mexican state to do so. In April, when Mexico returns to daylight savings time, the northern state of Chihuahua will shift from Central to Mountain time.

Mexico Gambling ?

It doesn't look like it, not for now anyway. President Ernesto Zedillo has shelved plans to introduce legislation aimed at returning casino gambling to Mexico. A major factor cited as a reason was a 13 percent rise this year in tourism revenue, Mexico's third largest earner of dollars. This year, Mexico is on track to ring up $6 billion from international tourism. Another factor considered in the decision not to pursue casino gambling is the opposition parties’ increased clout in Congress.

Mexicana Deal

Mexicana Airlines is offering a Family Plan special where the fifth person flies free. Two of the purchased tickets must be full adult fares. This deal is available from Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, San Antonio, San Francisco and San Jose. All cities in Mexico that they serve are included. There are certain blackout dates and the special ends on April 15, 1998.




Jailed Tourist is Released

You may recall our report in the June 1997 issue of The Mexico File on David Busch, the insurance salesman from Wisconsin who was arrested after buying $566.70 worth of medicines, some requiring a prescription and others not, at a farmacía in Tijuana. Busch, who at one point faced federal drug trafficking charges that carry a 10 to 25 year penalty, was released after a three-judge appeals panel in the state capital of Mexicali absolved him of all charges. He claims that he simply followed the advice offered him at the farmacía and was unaware of the Mexican laws regarding the need for prescriptions for some medications. Unfortunately, the farmacía he chose was under surveillance for selling controlled substances without a prescription. Owners of the growing number of pharmacies sprouting up along the border in Tijuana claim that their business has fallen off as a result of the publicity surrounding Busch’s arrest. Recently the Tijuana Pharmacy Association has printed up flyers listing the rules and regulations governing pharmacy sales. They have also stepped up training classes for employees of the farmacías, and they are pushing local educational institutions to create a new specialty: pharmacy technician. Before flying back to Wisconsin, Busch said that he still has his job but has not been paid since March. He said he has lost tens of thousands of dollars, $40,000 in wages and $20,000 in legal fees. Ignorance of Mexican law, as in many cases, seems to be no excuse.

Nutrition study

The results of the National Inquest of Nutrition in Rural Areas 1996 were recently made public. The findings about the rural population's nutrition, particularly that of children under five years of age, is startling. 800,000 peasant children, 20% of the population of this age group in rural areas, suffer from severe malnutrition and 1,200,000 have "light nutritional deficiencies." In general, malnutrition affects more than half of the children under 5 years of age, according to size and age (55.9%). In states such as Geuerrero, Chiapas, Hidalgo, Puebla, Querétero, Vera Cruz and Yucatán, a family’s expenses for food do not exceed three pesos daily (40cents US). In Puebla, Chiapas, and Yucatán more than half the families have no access to milk. As democratic changes progress in Mexico, it will be interesting to see if these conditions improve over time.

IVA May Be Lowered

Opposition parties have introduced legislation lowering the national sales tax from 15% to 10%. The rate was raised from 10% to 15% in March 1995 as part of President Zedillo's economic austerity policy. He is said to oppose the decrease at this time.





As promised by the ruling PRI, the recent elections were the cleanest since they took power in 1929. The Federal Electoral Institute and President Zedillo deserve commendation for allowing the democratic process to work, even though they knew it would diminish the power of the reigning government.

The Mexico City mayoral election was easily won by Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas and the left-leaning PRD. He is the first-ever elected mayor of the capital, which was previously an appointed position and the appointment always went to a PRI member.

The PRI also lost majority control of the Chamber of Deputies (similar to the U.S. House of Representatives). The PRI retained 39 percent of its congressional votes, with 27 percent for the right-leaning PAN and 26 percent for the PRD.

Now the hard part begins. Since the 1930's executive-generated initiatives have been virtually rubber-stamped by the PRI-controlled Congress, which usually held about 85 percent of the seats. If you think there is a lot of gridlock in the U.S. system of government with two major political parties, wait until the three parties of Mexico try to find consensus on anything. The PRI will have to work some deals to get legislation passed and for the first time become accountable to the public.

As for the opposition parties, instead of being in just the position of vocal critics, they will now need to actually govern and capitulate on certain issues in order to be effective. They will need to show the people of Mexico that they can be trusted to look out for their best interests with the same single-minded effort it took to change the system. No one said democracy would be easy.

President Zedillo, widely seen as weak and ineffective since he took office, now has a great opportunity to go down in history as a hero, one who brought true democracy to his country. If nothing else, he is a realist. He repeatedly makes promises of political reform, economic recovery, and an overhaul of the judicial system. Has he adopted these views because his countrymen have demanded them? Probably. There is little evidence that change would have started at the behest of the ruling party. And it is still questionable how much resistance there will be by the old-line "dinosaurs" who still have tremendous power within the PRI. It's hard to imagine total acquiescence on their part. Sharing the vast wealth and power that many of them have accumulated will not come easily.

At a recent speech in Chicago, Zedillo reminded people in the United States and Mexico that he is delivering on his promises to bring economic stability and a new democracy to his country. He went on to say, "We Mexicans are constructing a political culture of tolerance, moderation and understanding. We know that the stronger we are in our fundamental values the stronger we will be and the more respected we will be throughout the world."

Zedillo has also publically conceded that the PRI will probably lose the presidency in the next election in the year 2000. He also warned those within his party who would fight political reform, acknowledging that the Mexican people will not tolerate any impediment to their quest for democracy.


The United States Postal Service has a new service available, Dinero Seguro. Here’s how it works, in their words:

1. Fill out the application form

2. Hand it to the postal employee with the money you are sending. If you are sending over $1,000US, show appropriate ID.

3. The postal employee will tell you how much the transaction costs. Dinero Seguro rates are very competitive.

4. Keep the receipt with the confirmation number. This amount printed on the receipt is the actual amount the recipient will receive in Mexican pesos, with no hidden fees.

5. Use your free three-minute phone call to contact your family and provide the confirmation number printed on the receipt. At Bancomer, your recipient must show a valid photo ID and say that the money was sent with Dinero Seguro.

I called the toll-free number (888-368-4669) for some clarification and found out that the recipient need not be a family member: it just has to be the person you designate. Bancomer branches throughout Mexico are the places the money is received. The charge to wire $1,000 is $41US.


The Mexican government has plans to sell off its rail assets to private companies to attract fresh capital and overhaul the rail system. Transportacion Maritima Mexicana SA and its partners have taken over the Northeast Railroad, the first of the country's rail networks to be placed in private hands. Also, the U.S.-Mexican consortium that include Union Pacific was awarded 50-year concessions to run two of Mexico's major rail lines.

For Union Pacific, now the largest railroad company in the United States, the aquisition provides gateways to Mexico through El Centro, California, as well as El Paso and Eagle Rock, Texas. Sixty percent of Mexico's railroad system and eighty percent of the nation’s freight capacity soon will be in private hands.




'Don Fidel,' Mexico's Labor Leader, Dies at 97

Fidel Velázquez, legendary labor boss, died June 21, and many in Mexico see it as a symbolic changing of the guard. Over the fifty years he was a labor leader, Mr. Velázquez was instrumental in enacting laws that guaranteed the right to strike, low-cost housing and free health care for union members. In return, he guaranteed the ruling PRI the support of millions within the Confederation of Mexican Workers.

The timing of his death is especially unfortunate for the PRI, as he had vowed to deliver hundreds of thousands of votes in the July 6 mayoral election in Mexico City. The PRI candidate is trailing the leftist candidate, Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas of the PRD, by a wide margin. "It is a historic coincidence that, with the apparent triumph of the PRD, Don Fidel is leaving us, " said Arturo Alcade, a Mexico City labor lawyer.

Don Fidel's influence and power had eroded in recent years as he was seen by many as having lost touch with the workers and had become somewhat of a pawn for the ruling PRI. Both his supporters and detractors agree that his influence and power base will be hard to duplicate for any of the many who might hope to replace him.

New Spanish Language School

Jane Perkins, a resident of Todos Santos (see The Mexico File, November 1995) in Baja Sur and occasional contributor to MF, is starting a Spanish language school. "I think that there will be good interest in this topic as people like to go to school in distinctive places with some cultural enrichment in the process and we have that for sure," opined Jane recently. "I will be having instructors who are Mexican but who are teachers at the University, so they are used to working with adults."

Jane was the previous owner of El Tecolote Bookstore, which she sold a few months ago. For further information on the language school and lodging possibilities in Todos Santos, see the classified advertisements in this issue.





Former president Carlos Salinas de Gortari has told Proceso magazine he wants to come home. He has been in self-imposed exile in Ireland, following brief stays in Cuba and Canada, since he left the country following the end of his presidency in December 1994. His image has been damaged since the collapse of the peso and the arrest of his brother, Raúl.


A recent study, conducted jointly by Douglass Massey of the University of Pennsylvania and Jorge Durand of the University of Guadalajara, shows that most of the Mexican immigrants to the United States don't stay. The study shows that 85 percent of new entrants to the U.S. from Mexico are offset by the return to Mexico of previous immigrants after less than a two-year stay.

The study also estimates that 39 percent of Mexican males have entered the U.S. without documentation by age 30. It was concluded that they come to work, not to seek welfare. It was found that first time Mexican immigrants to the U.S. averaged $14 a day in wages, and that more experienced migrants averaged $21 a day. Much of the money goes home to care for family and housing costs.


President Ernesto Zedillo has recently stated that the National Water Commission's (Conagua) organizational structure will be modernized to ensure adequate water distribution to the nation's citizens. Zedillo was quoted to say, "As Mexicans, we are deciding to build a more productive country, a more just, equitable and more democratic nation. As a necessary base for this, today we have a clear and viable program for the better handling, utilization, and conservation of water."





Gabriel Figueroa Mateos, who was nominated for an academy award for John Huston's "The Night of the Iguana," which was filmed in Puerto Vallarta, has died at the age of 90.

Figueroa was known throughout the world for his depiction of revolutionary Mexico and bandits in broad brimmed sombreros beneath threatening clouds. Although he learned his craft in Hollywood, he returned to Mexico to film his many movies. After befriending several Hollywood actors who fled to Mexico during the McCarthy era, Mr. Figueroa himself was blacklisted in the United States. When John Huston wanted him to film "Prizzi's Honor," the United States still denied him entry...and this was as recently as 1983.

Among his many honors were being named twice for best photography by the Cannes Film Festival in 1946 and 1960. In 1995 the American Society of Cinematographers awarded him its Lifetime Achievement Award.

Mr. Figueroa lived and died in Mexico City and is survived by his wife and three children.


Another option has become available to travelers. The International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers is a nonprofit organization that publishes a directory listing 850 English-speaking doctors in 130 countries who will treat travelers for set prices. Membership is free. The fees run $55 US for an office visit, $75 US for a house or hotel call, $95 US at night or holidays. The participating doctors are U.S., Canada or British trained. For further information call (716) 754-4883.


Prior to enacting the North American Free Trade Agreement the United States had a slight positive trade balance with Mexico. Shortly after the signing, the peso crashed along with Mexican living standards and the result has been an annual $16 billion deficit for the U.S. Mexicans have been unable to afford U.S. products, as warned by the anti-NAFTA voices. The "side agreements" on environmental standards and labor practices have also been ignored. The promised jobs in Mexico? The United States remains more an economic magnet than ever, as Mexicans cross the border in droves seeking a job to support their families back home. D.S.





Just four months before Mexico City residents select their mayor for the first time, the conservative PAN party has seen its popularity plummet in a recent Louis Harris poll. Since holding a commanding 17 point lead in January, the party has fallen 15 points in two months since they nominated Castillo Perez for mayor. The left-leaning PRD led the March Harris poll with 30 percent, while the long time ruling PRI was picked by just 19 percent of those surveyed.


In an effort to eradicate police corruption in the capital, the city will soon be raising the pay for police officers 500 to 700 pesos per month. The theory is that with increased pay, the police will not be so willing to accept bribes. The current pay is 1,200 pesos per month ( $156.00US). The increase will raise the pay to around $240.00U.S. per month. I'm not sure it will have a major impact on the mordida.


A longtime buddy of mine, Paul Anes (a.k.a. Doctor Mung), operates a shark diving business in the Sea of Cortez. These are the trips where you submerge in a cage and Doc swims around outside the cage attracting sharks. Another of his nicknames is Lucky, by the way, and not really because he is. But he's a great guy and runs a great operation that you might consider. Besides swimming with sharks you will encounter giant manta rays at San Benedicto Island and frolic with the comical sea lions of Los Ilotes. I hope to be going on one of his trips this year and will give you a complete report. To find out more contact:

San Diego Shark Divers Expeditions
6747 Friar's Road, Suite 112
San Diego, CA 92108-1110
Phone: (619) 299-8560, Fax: (619) 299-1088
Toll free: 1-888-SD-SHARK
Web page:




Greyhound Runs in Mexico

Greyhound Bus Lines has entered the Mexico carrier market with a route from Los Angeles to Ciudad Obregon in the interior of Mexico. Ciudad Obregon is an agricultural center some 700 miles southeast of San Diego/Tijuana. Greyhound operates the route aboard 42-passenger buses owned by a company called Crucero, a subsidiary of Estrella Blanca Autobuses de Mexico. Greyhound plans to purchase a minority equity stake in Crucero, a first for an American company and a Mexican carrier. If this venture proves to be successful, Greyhound will probably open a route between Phoenix and Obregon.

Under NAFTA, both Mexican and U.S. bus lines are permitted to make application to operate in the other country. To date, no Mexican bus line has applied to travel in the U.S.

Editor’s Note: They might have to retrain their drivers to rely a little less on faith and a little more on sound driving technique. Have you ever noticed how they work in two-man teams...and while one is driving, the other sleeps in the baggage compartment on the side of the bus? At a shift change the sleeper crawls out, bleary-eyed, takes the wheel, says a little prayer to the standard equipment crucifix hanging from the rear-view mirror, and off you go. Yahoo!

Political Change—It's Coming

A poll taken by the Center for Opinion Studies based at the University of Guadalajara showed that 68.1 percent of 3,600 Mexicans polled in Mexico City and 24 states want the next president to come from a party other than the PRI. Although congressional, gubernatorial and local elections will be held in July, the next presidential election isn't until 2000.

The same poll found that although 59 percent approved of the job the current PRI president, Zedillo, is doing, 78 percent did not believe that the country is emerging from its severe economic crisis, which began in December, 1994.

The party most likely to succeed is the conservative National Action Party (PAN), which was named by 43 percent as the party they would vote for today. The PRI was chosen by 31 percent and only 14 percent chose the more liberal Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD).

The leader of the PRD, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, has proposed a political alliance between his party and the PAN party to ensure the defeat of the PRI. Such a move would put great pressure on the ruling party to stay in power. However the PAN party is reluctant to do so. Already the PAN has mayors in 15 of Mexico's 20 largest cities and holds governorships in Baja California, Chihuahua, Guanajuato and Jalisco.

Editor’s Note: I expect a bitter struggle before the PRI will relinquish the dominance it has held since 1929 at the federal level. Hopefully the coming changes, whenever they happen, will be peaceful. But I wouldn't bet on it. The recent events have turned into a daily soap opera. Power, money, corruption, drugs, Chiapas,'s all there. And as they said 30 years ago in the U.S., "the whole world is watching."

If the events dictate that certain areas of Mexico are unsafe to travel, we will try to let you know. For now, that isn't the case. You may read or hear of an occasional robbery or murder, but I still feel as safe on most Mexican streets as anywhere else. Millions of people are traveling to Mexico every year with nothing to report but a wonderful time in a land of gracious people.

Toxic Face Cream

Two face creams sold in Mexico have been shown to contain dangerous levels of mercury. One bottle is 6 to 10 percent mercury by weight, an amount that is 1,000 times more than the safe limit as outlined by USDA guidelines. Symptoms include depression, memory loss, fatigue, nervousness, severe headaches, tingling and burning sensations, weakness, and personality changes. The long term effect can be severe kidney damage. The two face creams, used for acne and to smooth out skin, are: Crema de Beleza Manning and Nutrapiel. These products should be off the shelves throughout the country by now, but if not, avoid purchasing them.





Crime has increased substantially since the economic crisis began in December, 1994. The crime rate rose 36 percent in 1995 and another 15 percent since then. Two of the primary targets have been embassy employees and tourists, and the thieves have been cab drivers and their accomplices. In 1996 there were 2,215 reported taxi robberies, an average of six per day. Many more go unreported.

The U.S. State Department has issued an advisory recommending that U.S. citizens avoid regular taxis and take only taxis leaving from established stands. Especially to be avoided are the VW "bug" taxis. Although robbery is the motive, physical harm has also been reported in some cases.

Many of the robberies are from taxis which have been stolen. Ask for a license and identification for further protection and rely on your hotel to hail a reliable driver when convenient. The dishonest cabbies are a very small percent of the thousands of hard-working hack drivers...but take precaution nonetheless.

The Mexican government has acknowledged the problem but claims to have addressed it a year ago with favorable results. A task force was formed by the city attorney general's office last June which has resulted in the arrest of 126 people in that period. They are reporting that robberies of foreign taxi passengers have dropped 13 percent for a total of 165 assaults in 1996. The government officials stress the fact that a small fraction of the 1.4 million residents and visitors who ride in taxis each day are victims of robbery. Thus, they seem to want to minimize the problem.


A Consular Information Sheet is available from the U.S. State Department detailing travel information to any country. The Mexico sheet currently runs four pages and covers entry requirements, crime information, security, travel tips and other relevant information.

For recorded travel information, call: (202) 647-5225. For information by fax: (202) 647-3000 from your fax machine. The internet address is:


Mexico's population now exceeds 93 million, although the growth has slowed to 1.8 percent a year from 2.3 percent in the 1980's. Other statistics—Median age: 21, up from 19 in 1990. Percent living in cities of more than 100,000: 46, up from 23 in 1970. Villages of populations less than 25,000: 24 percent, down from 41 percent in 1970. Illiteracy rates: down to 10.6 percent from 26 percent in 1970 and 12 percent in 1995. However, the rate is in excess of 25 percent in some of the poorer, southern states with high Indian populations.




Cancun Clinic

AmeriCare Clinics International, a U.S. based group, has opened its first foreign medical facility in Cancun. Travelers with minor ailments and injuries can walk in for treatment. They will accept all U.S. health and travel insurance medical payments. You must first become a member at your travel agency at the cost of about $35 US. This covers one trip to Mexico for up to thirty days. The program may be expanded to other tourist areas if successful. For further details call Americare at (800) 227-3485.





Mar de Jade is a cross-cultural, oceanfront retreat located in a fishing village about 60 miles north of Puerto Vallarta. You can vacation, learn Spanish and or/work in the community health clinic. Language classes are small and personalized; all teachers are native speakers. Between classes you can ride horseback on the beach, take long hikes through coastal rainforest or just relax in a hammock under some shade trees and enjoy the beautiful tropical climate. For more details, call Global Exchange (800) 497-1994.


The Chamber of Deputies and the Senate recently passed a bill to establish a nine-member council to run the Federal Electoral Institute, which oversees Mexico's elections. This is widely seen as an attempt to pry the ruling PRI, who has held power since 1929, apart from the government.

The election board, until now, was controlled by the post closest to the presidency, the interior secretary. This arrangement has been viewed by the minority parties as facilitating election fraud. The congressional elections to be held in July will be the first job of the new leadership, which has a seven year term.

Campaign funding and political advertising rules are still being debated by the political parties. Has anyone seen Ross south of the border?


Mexico's purchasing power has fallen by over 43% in the past nine years. At the same time, analysts are predicting another devaluation of the peso, causing an inflationary spiral that will further erode the value of salaries.

The price of the "basic food basket," the bare minimum of staples for a family of five, has risen by 633% since December, 1987. In the same time the average salary has increased 375%, resulting in roughly a 50% decrease in buying power.

The last two years have been especially damaging. In 1995 the Consumer Price Index rose 52% while the minimum salary increased by only 9%. This year, 1996, has had similar numbers.


International Living newsletter has ranked Mexico as the third best place to retire in their annual Global Retirement Index, trailing only the Philippines and Ireland. Among the considerations factored into the index: real estate, culture, cost of living, safety and stability, health care, climate, special benefits, and infrastructure.


The Elderhostel service program invites those 55 or older (or the spouse of an age-eligible participant) to learn more about their volunteer programs, many of which are located in Mexico, Belize, and on the open seas. The cost is minimal for interesting travel opportunities, exposure to different cultures, helping

on economic development and ecological projects, education, and the chance to meet a wide variety of people. For more information on these exciting programs, write to Elderhostel Service Programs, Dept. PV, P.O. Box 1959, Wakefield, MA 01880-5959.




One of our fellow Mexicophiles has come up with a useful service for those of us who travel to Mexico. Marilyn Sharp of Sacramento is starting a new home-based business, Amigos Travel Service. She will specialize in Mexico and Central America with a focus on culture, education and eco-tourism. Marilyn is developing a new Mexican Homestay Program for visitors who wish to experience the people and culture of Mexico as "guests rather than tourists." Guests will stay with a Mexican family and will have meals and join in other family and community activities. The cost of this program will start at $20.00 per day, plus a registration fee. Marilyn would like to hear from readers who have information about Mexican (and American) families who have comfortable, spacious homes to share, as well as small inns and B&B's in Mexico. Amigos Travel will work with an established Homestay Network in Central American countries. Write Marilyn at 500 Del Verde Circle, #1, Sacramento, CA 95833 or call her at (916) 648-1617.

Long Distance Scam

Caller, beware of the blue-colored phones appearing in many of the tourist zones. You are instructed to dial "O" and are told you will be charged $7 US plus around $0.23 per minute to your credit card. They lie. You actually will be charged far more, more like $4.50 US along with an operator and account fee. An eight-minute call from Puerto Vallarta to the States was recently $60.00 US.

Road Sign Help

Philip Grosse, a retired foreign language teacher form Scottsdale, Arizona, has produced a helpful booklet for driving in Mexico. It contains more than 200 worded and graphic traffic signs. It also includes phrases to help you communicate ("check the air pressure, please"). The booklets, which cost $1 each, may be purchased by mail with a self-addressed stamped envelope sent to Philip Grosse, 5055 North 83rd Street, Scottsdale, AZ 85250.

Immigration Perspective

Estimates indicate that there are over one million undocumented Mexicans in the United States. This accumulative number represents only 1.1 percent of the Mexican population and less than 0.4 percent of the population of the United States. Most of these people would rather stay in Mexico. They just want to work and feed their families, and the U.S. is where the jobs are.

Legendary Bullfighter Dies

Manolo Martinez, considered by many Mexico's best bullfighter ever, died in La Jolla, California, recently at the age of 50 of liver and heart disease. He was in California awaiting a liver transplant. The matador was one of the very few from Mexico ever invited to perform in Spain. Although his skills were widely acknowledged, he never created a rapport with his many fans as did his contemporary rival, Antonio Lomelin. He has been buried in Monterrey, Mexico.




Since November, 1993, almost 17,000 Mexican men have had vasectomies. This is when the government began offering a relatively new techniique developed in China that made sterilization less rigorous for the patient. During the previous two decades, no more than 800 men a year had vasectomies. It is predicted that by the end of the decade more than 100,000 a year will have the procedure.


The Web Site for Mexico Tourism on the Intemet can be accessed via computer at http://www.mexicotravel. corn


Food costs in Mexico in US dollars per pound
whole chicken $0.82
tomatoes $0.28
t-bone steak $1.94
cabbage $0.10
eggs (doz) $1.25
oranges $0.27
potatoes $0.27

Medical and dental costs:
Tooth filling $20.25
Doctors office visit including EKG $26.75
Teeth cleaned and x-rayed $20.25


The Mexican government has announced a plan to repay the United States $7 billion US ahead of schedule as part of the $20 billion borrowed last year. That would leave the total debt remaining at $3.5 billion US. More importantly, it will defise any criticism by the Republicans as to the wisdom of the loan, especially important to the Clinton administration as the presidential election approaches.

Mexico is financing the loan repayment primarily through the sale of $6 billion US worth of bonds in the Furobond market. This tactic of paying old debts with new debt is the same strategy used by past governments. The new loans inevitably come due during the first year the next government takes office. It creates the impression to foreign investors that the country is able to pay its debts and there is no danger of crisis or devaluation. And so it goes....





In the last six years, Mexico has built more miles of highway than any other country. Just over 3,000 miles have been added. Major toll roads now connect Mexico City to Acapulco, Guadalajara and Oaxaca. Under construction is a toll road connecting Guadalajara to Mazatlan and most of the way to the border at Juarez. The toll prices vary, but you can figure on spending approximately $20 US for a full day of driving. Your driving time is often cut in half and the trip is much safer. The downside is missing the small villages and towns you would normally see. A combination of toll road (cuota) and the free road (libre) is a good compromise.


Tel: (503) 385-9282. Operated 24 hours a day by the Mexican Ministry of Tourism, this service provides fax-back information on a wide range of topics, including transportation, sightseeing, sports, shopping, restaurants, and more than 400 hotels.


There has been an agreement among Mexico's main political parties to a constitutional amendment that will allow Mexicans living abroad to vote in presidential elections.

Expected to win approval by the Mexican congress, the proposal will allow several million Mexicans living in the United States to vote in Mexico's election in the year 2000.


When the United States and Mexico went to war 150 years ago controversy raged in the U.S. Most of the newspapers fully endorsed the war. However New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley proclaimed: "Is not life miserable enough, comes not death soon enough, without resort to the hideous engineer of war?"

Noted poet Walt Whiunan enthusiastically stated: "Mexico must be thoroughly chastised.... America knows how to crush, as well as how to expand!" Conversely, Henry David Thoreau protested the war by going to jail rather than paying a poll tax.