Monthly Archives: June 2010

The Bicentennial Page

June 30, 2010

The Bicentennial Page

Today I did not write a new entry for this blog. Instead I used my time to gather the 13 Bicentennial articles together  into one comprehensive narrative. Now  you can find all the information in one place and in chronollogical order. Click on the “Bicentennial”  catagory,  located right under the WRITING FROM MERIDA heading.

I’m sorry the pictures and text are not perfectly aligned but the technical aspects of blogging are still challenging to me. However… the information is all there and I hope it’s somehow useful to you!


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Santa Elena – Onward and Upward!

June 30, 2010

Santa Elena – Onward and Upward!

Don Felix, Santa Elena’s shaman

On Monday, I drove a group of  Santa Elena Sustainable Economic Development Project supporters straight through Tropical Storm Alex! Navigating the torrential rain was a nightmare but our spirits lifted immediately once we arrived in the town.

In the midst of heavy deluge and flooding, the residents of Santa Elena were optomistic and happy. They have a dynamic new mayor with great plans for their town. They are also beginning to truly believe their talent is going to help them improve their income and enable them to continue living in their community.

Besides the opportunity to meet the new mayor, Mr. Wilberth Che Leon and his team; Beth, Nancy, Theresa, Valerie and I were honored to judge the handcraft contest. The fifty women who participated in a fabric painting course that had been sponsored by the State government were displaying what they had made.

Underneath the makeshift, tin roofed “classroom” it looked like a garden in bloom with brightly colored flowers! How difficult it was to choose … but eventually we managed to narrow down to the three winners. We were very careful to point out that all the pieces were exceptional and that each woman should be very proud of her skill.

Next Wednesday, Rosa, Elizabeth and Abel will be coming to Merida with Valerie and we’ll go shopping for the materials they need in order to create an inventory for the next winter season’s visitors to the town. The precious pesos  we require to buy fabric, thread, buttons and so on have been donated by extremely generous private donors. We are very grateful to them for coming to the project’s aid when the grant we hoped for did not materialize.

After our shopping expedition we will take our three Santa Elena friends to lunch at Las Vigas. If you’d like to join us and meet Rosa, Elizabeth and Abel, come by the restaurant about 1 pm.

We are so heartened to see how much the project is progressing. Click on this link and enjoy the photographs taken by Beth Knepp. They show much more than more of my words ever could.

santa elena powerpoint



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Bicentennial XII

 June 29, 2010

Bicentennial XII

This is the last in a twelve part series on Mexico’s Bicentennial. We have looked at the history of the country from the beginning of the Independence movement, the years of the Hapsburg monarchy through the Revolution 100 years later to the Agrarian Reform and the long 75 year reign of the PRI. In 2000, Vicente Fox, a member of the PAN was elected president

Vicente Fox’s presidency ended in disappointment and the election of a new PAN (Partido de Acción Nacional) President in 2006 was tarnished with accusations of election fraud. Whether the current political situation is a natural consequence of many years of enforced PRI (Partido Revolucionario Institucional) party rule has not been determined. One thing is certain though; Mexicans in general and Yucatecans in particular, are much more involved in the election process. There has been an increase in political awareness and the hope is for a continuation of the democratic process.

In October 2006 US President George W Bush signed legislation to build 1,125 km of fencing along the US-Mexico border. Mexico condemned plans for the barrier, which was intended to curb illegal immigration.

Again, the trial against former president Luis Echeveria was suspended – probably forever this time…

Heavy rains flooded the state of Tabasco in October. Some 500,000 were left homeless in one of the country’s worst natural disasters.

 Drug-related killings continued to soar. Murders linked to organized crime leapt to almost 1,400 in first five months of 2007. Hundreds of thousands joined marches throughout Mexico to protest against continuing wave of violence.

Faced with drop in Mexican oil production, the government passed series of energy reforms. The package included controversial plans to allow private investment in state oil giant Pemex.

 Already in the first decade of the new millennium, hurricanes have done much damage in the Yucatan peninsula. On Sept. 23, 2002, Hurricane Isadora was particularly destructive to Merida. In 2005, Emily, Katrina, and Wilma veered north and Yucatan was spared but Cancun was not so lucky. The destruction from Wilma was extensive and so the 50,000 tourists who were in the area were bused to Merida. The city’s authorities, business sector and private citizens did a heroic job of looking after the unexpected throng and within three days, everyone was on their way back home.

Yet in the face of the continued struggle, the Mexican people always find something to renew their energy and optimism… such as the designation of the Mayan archaeological site, Chichen Itza, as one of the seven new wonders of the world.

Since the mid 1970s, Mexico has experienced a succession of serious economic and social challenges, but because of tourism and the constant influx of capital, Yucatan has not suffered as greatly as have other parts of the republic. More than 2.5 million visitors come to the Yucatan peninsula every year. With Chichen Itza’s new fame, this is expected to increase. Investment in the region has grown in every sector of the economy, and improved infrastructure has enriched the quality of life for the inhabitants.

During the past twenty years, and especially during the last ten, Yucatan has experienced a large influx of new residents from abroad. The international press is full of unflattering portrayals of the country and truthfully, many issues are unresolved. But this has not deterred the influx. One wonders why…

I believe there is something very special and about this country. Despite the political and social ills, the population is basically generous and happy. Mexicans have the ability to fully enjoy life… Most who come here, even once can feel it and are lured back time and again. This explosive joy is the true milagro mexicano – the magical Mexican miracle.


Images: All are from Google Images


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Another travel option

June 28, 2010

Another travel option

Puebla and Oaxaca


February 9 – 16, 2011 – 8 days, 7 nights

 By popular demand, Life Long Learning will be repeating the trip to Puebla and Oaxaca. I hope you’ll be able to join us! These excursions are a great way to meet new friends and see other parts of the country. The itinerary is not too strenuous but participants need to be aware that road conditions and other factors sometimes necessitate long bus rides and meal delays. Taking snacks and drinks onto the bus is recommended.

The tour will be led by  “Yours truly” and my husband, Jorge.

A guide, Sergio, who we’ve worked with since 1988 will also accompany us for the entire duration.

Day 1: Wed. February 9: We will meet at the Mexico City airport at 12:00 noon. From there we will board a chartered bus and drive to Puebla (approximately 2 hours). After checking in at our hotel we will take a walking tour of the city. Free evening.

Day 2: Thurs. February 10: Breakfast will be at 9:00 am at the hotel. Afterwards, we will continue exploring this colonial city and visit the Museo Amparo and the Talavera district. Free afternoon and evening.

Day 3: Fri. February 11 : Breakfast will be at 9:00 am at the hotel. We’ll go on a full-day tour to Cholula (a short distance from Puebla ) and explore its churches, museums, and markets. In the evening, we’ll have dinner together.

Day 4: Sat. February 12: Breakfast will be at 8:00 am at the hotel after which we will drive to Oaxaca (approximately 5 hours). After arriving in Oaxaca and checking into our hotel, there will be a walking tour of the city center. Free evening.

Day 5: Sun. February 13: Breakfast will be at 9:00 am at the hotel. We willspend our day exploring Oaxaca museums, churches, markets,and more. Free evening

Day 6: Mon. February 14: Breakfast will be at 9:00 am at the hotel. After breakfast we will visit the Zapotec site of Mitla, “El Tule,” and a weaver’s studio. Free evening. 

Day 7: Tues. February 15: Breakfast will be at 9:00 am. Today we’ll visit Monte Alban. The afternoon and evening will be free

Day 8: Wed. February 16: Our final breakfast will be at the hotel at 8:00 am. We’ll drive back to Mexico City (approximately 5 hours)

 For further information and reservations, call:

 (52 999) 928-3515 (ask for Maggie or Aris)

 Or E-mail:

Photos: The one opposite of Cholula and the plate of chiles en Nogada are from Google Images. The others are mine.


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ICY: Yucatan’s Institute of Culture

June 26,2010                                                                                                                    

ICY: Yucatan’s Institute of Culture

The international community of Merida is a growing, dynamic group of people from all over the world. Among many of its members, there is a strong desire to join and form service clubs that help a diverse number of causes.  

Yesterday I was invited to attend a meeting at the Instituto de Cultura (ICY) – the State of Yucatan’s Cultural Institute. The purpose was to inform international community representatives of the aims and accomplishments of the institute and to show us their willingness to help with the projects we are involved in.

About twenty of us were welcomed by Maricarmen Perez and the Director of the ICY, Mr. Renan Guillermo Gonzalez. We were then shown a video that highlighted the achievements of the ICY…  and they are many!

The main thrust of the ICY is to promote cultural arts. There are programs and initiatives that support the performing and visual arts; literature and writing, cultural patrimony, education, traditional medicine and hand crafts. It is truly amazing what they have accomplished. There are success stories all over the state.

Just to name a few – there are five youth symphony orchestras; a college that delivers Bachelor degrees in the Arts; regional dance and Salsa classes for the senior citizens! The Director of the ICY explained that the government is convinced these programs are essential to combating gang influence and the proliferation of an unhealthy lifestyle.  

I have always believed that much of a person’s education comes from observation and being exposed to culture. These programs are doing just that. Imagine how novel and exciting it must be for small children when they are given musical instruments for the first time. Then they are given lessons by professional musicians from Merida’s Symphony Orchestra… This builds tremendous self confidence and gives them a focus that they carry into other areas of their lives.

I think there is something wonderful about a state that places such a high priority of fomenting cultural enjoyment… I applaud the ICY’s accomplishments and am very gratified they have taken the initiative in welcoming the international community’s involvement in their agenda.

The office of the ICY is located in García Ginerés in the ex-Banrural building. (Calle 18 No. 204 X 18)  Maricarmen Perez, the liaison between the ICY and the community (who is also an amazing singer and speaks very perfect English) says that she welcomes any members of Yucatan’s international community who want information about, or the the support of the ICY. You can call 920-3210 and make an appointment with her. 

*** All images are from the ICY website


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Let’s go on a trip…

June 25, 2010

Life Long Learning  Travel, 2011



January 29 – February 6, 2011

Over the next few days, I will be posting information about the Life Long Learning travel for 2011. I hope you’ll be able to join us!

Blue Agave fields close to Guadalajara

Saturday January 29: Our trip will begin with a flight from Merida to Guadalajara. Although the local travel agency will make a group booking,  you may elect to travel independently and meet us there. Our first activity will commence at 5 pm with a walking tour from our hotel to downtown. 

Sunday January 30: Today, we will spend all day visiting the second largest city in the country. We’ll see the Teatro Degollado, Orozco’s murals at the Instituto Cultural Cabañas, mariachis, markets and other historic landmarks. This evening you decide whether to rest at the hotel or return to the action!

Monday January 31: We’re off on an all day tour to Tequila. Travelling by train through agave fields, we’ll partake in tequila tasting, tour the distillery and enjoy a dinner – show. Once back at our hotel, the evening will be free for you to spend as you please.

Tuesday Feb 1: We’ll head out of town today and visit the communities of Ajijic, Lake Chapala and Tlaquepaque.  As well as sight seeing, we’ll have the opportunity to do some shopping and dine in typical Tapatio eateries.

Wednesday Feb 2: Departing Guadalajara by 9 am, we’ll drive to Guanajuato for a two night stay. You’ll enjoy the scenery of central Mexico – so different to Yucatan! After checking into our hotel we’ll take a walking tour of historic city, ending our evening with “la estudiantina” – a strolling minstrel group

Thursday Feb. 3: All day sightseeing in Guanajuato will include the University, Callejon del Beso., the funicular ride to El Pipila and many other attractions. Now that you are acquainted with this charming city, this evening you’ll enjoy strolling the streets and dining at the restaurant of your choice.

Friday Feb. 4: Today we’ll depart Guanajuato and drive a short distance to San Miguel de Allende, visiting Dolores Hidalgo en route. You’ll enjoy this day immersed in the country’s historical sites and beautiful attractions. In the evening we’ll attend a function at the city’s Biblioteca Publica.                               

Saturday Feb 5: Today we’ll further explore San Miguel de Allende and the surrounding area. This evening there will be a farewell dinner.

Sunday February 6: We’ll need to depart by 9 am for our return trip to Mexico City. Again the scenery will be interesting and we’ll stop in Queretaro for lunch. We will finish our tour at the Mexico City airport at 7 pm. Participants may elect to remain in Mexico City or continue on to another destination 

  • If you want to join us, it is important to sign up as soon as possible as many spaces have already been reserved

For further information:  Call and ask for Maggie or Aris:

Tel: (52 999) 928-3515   or     E-mail:


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The Land

June 24, 2010

The Land

Miguel Miramón

It is late and I’m just home from a book presentation.  Guadalajara author, Jose Antonio Jimenez Diaz  has written the second volume in a trilogy about what he calls “The Satanized Heros of Mexico.” Miguel Miramón is the subject…

If you know his story, you know your Mexican history!  Born in 1830, he enrolled in Military College at the age of 14. Actually he was one of the “Niños Heroes”- the young cadets who defended El Catillo de Chapultapec during the American invasion of Mexico in 1847.  He was elected president of the country at just 26 years of age… but,  at 36, he was one of the Mexican generals who was executed with Emperor Maximiliano  in 1867. An intense short life.

The story of this controversial player in the history of the Independence of Mexico led to really wonderful conversation.

 Jimenez Diáz claims that the biggest injustice the Spanish colonial law makers made was to not give full status to the children of Spanish citizens born in New Spain . The “Spaniards” born in the Spanish colony of  Mexico were never respected by the  Spaniards, born in Spain. They were clasified by the pejorative term, “Creole.”  According to the author, it was this lack of validation that reinforced the resentment that would lead to the fight for independence.  The  colonials realized it is the land itself that defers belonging, and not the bloodline.   The residents wanted their land to be independent, to have a name and give them dignity.

And isn’t this still true today? Like me, many of you who read this blog were not born in Mexico and although the tie may be weakened by time,  not-so-pleasant experiences or whatever, the country of one’s birth is always “home plate.”

My children were born in Mexico but they also have Canadian citizenship. They have spent a lot of time in Canada, speak English perfectly, went to school there and so on, But if forced to claim just one nationality, they would immediately say they are Mexican first. The land where they were born is what gives them their primary identity. The land has a strong hold on us..

If you would like to know more about Miguel Miramón,  Wikipedia has much information. If you read Spanish, José Antonio Jiménez Díaz’ book is called, “Triologia de los Satanizados: II Miguel Miramón, La Redención de los Descarriados”

The pictures of Miramón are from Google Images. The one of my children when they were very young… from my photo album of course.



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