Monthly Archives: March 2011

Nearly Three Years Now…

The Santa Elena Community Development Project began in May, 2008. The initial idea was to promote self employment in a region where traditional job sites are almost non-existent.

At first the participants were unsure and had little comprehension of how they could have their own business. Their experience had been to work for someone else who would explain exactly what they were supposed to do, would pay them and then that was it… Their work was never secure; they depended 100% on the fortunes of others or upon the government.

But with energy and enthusiasm they began to look at different models. Eventually a two-pronged approach was decided upon. One group created a day excursion through their community that they call, “Walk the Mayan Way.” Visitors to Yucatan will love this delightful tour of a contemporary Mayan village. For further information, you can contact me and I’ll pass a  message along.                                                                                                                                                                                                        

The other group used their creative skills and developed a line of products to sell. They wanted items that would be attractive to both local residents and tourists. After several attempts, the colorful vinyl shopping bags were clearly the winners.

Many of these have been purchased and later they’ve been spotted on a street in New York as well as in the Santiago market and many places between…

The sale of these bags has made a tremendous difference to the lives of the project members. One of them said recently. “Thanks to the income from the sales, our children have gone to school with all they need – books, uniforms and so on. We are so happy to have this work!”

What started out as a project to develop income sources turned into one that has developed self esteem and pride.

Please support the Santa Elena Sustainable Development Project. The bags will be for sale at the AANY artisan fair to be held this weekend from 10 am – 8 pm. at the Camara de Comercio on Avenida Itzaes and 31st Street.

All orders large or small will be gratefully filled.                                                              


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TTT’s Annual Talent Night

TTT’s Back Courtyard… the setting for the Talent Night

As many of you know, in 1990 my husband Jorge and I founded a college here in Merida.

Tecnología Turística Total (TTT) offers two bachelor degrees to the local young people: Tourism Administration and Modern Languages. We also have an international students’ program and life long learning options. TTT is a busy place – morning, noon and night!

About half of the students in our two programs are from Merida and the other half come from towns in Yucatan as well as from several other states in the country. Our students are an interesting mix indeed! And they love nothing better than to have a good time.

Several times a year, they organize events and last night they staged the annual “Talent Night”. Singing… dancing… poetry… skits… The variety was incredible.

Thanks must also go to Prof. Luis Martinez who helps the students coordinate all the logistics…

I have such admiration for the way the young people in Mexico are so willing to get up in front of a crowd and entertain. They are so unselfconscious and enjoy making others happy.

I am attaching lots of pictures today so you can see what a great time we  had!

I wish I knew how to insert the shots properly, but here they are… such as they are!


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New Developments in Santa Elena

For nearly three years the women of the Santa Elena Sustainable Development Project have been working towards their goal of self-determination. These twelve women are not educated and in fact, until last year, they’d never been to Merida, the state capital just 100 kilometers away from their town. They had never developed a product, followed a design, nor heard of the concept of quality control. The ladies had never coordinated fabrics and colors, run an industrial sewing machine… they’d never earned any money.

They have now accomplished all this and today they took still another step. From now on, the group will handle their finances and do their own buying. They have a simple accounting and inventory model they’ll follow and although somewhat nervous about having the complete responsibility for their project, they are excited and proud of themselves.

The ladies developed several projects over the past three years and each has     taught them a lesson. They hope to have other offerings soon. Meanwhile their colorful market bags are a big hit with Merida shoppers. They will be on sale at the AANY Handcrafts sale to be held this weekend at the Chamber of Commerce. Rosa said, “When we took our bags to the sale at Christmastime, I was very nervous of what the other vendors would think. But they were all welcoming and I look forward to seeing them again.”

For those readers not familiar with the AANY show… here’s your chance to attend a great event. Joan Farrel, a member of Merida’s international community and the volunteers from her group have interviewed a large number of local artists and gathered them together to sell their wares. This weekend will mark the fifth event and will feature more than 50 artists; the Santa Elena ladies among them with 66 bags for sale. The bags make great gifts for friends’ birthdays. The hours are from 9am – 7 pm. The Chamber of Commerce building is located on the corner of Avenida Izaes and Calle31.


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La Prima-donna

My cousin Donna has been nick-named “La Prima-donna” (Get it?) She is far from being a high maintenance guest but it’s a great pun!

I continue to be “on holiday in my own town”… we’re having a great time! Today began with a breakfast to celebrate our friend Nancy’s birthday. If you’ve never been to the Sunday brunch at El Castellano, you need to give yourself a treat one of these fine days…

With very full tummies, we set off to the symphony. For this week’s program, the orchestra director Juan Carlos Lomónaco selected works of composers Mikhail Glinka, Reinhold Gliére and Pitor Ilich Tchaikovsky. Harpist Ruth Bennet was the featured soloist with her interpretation of Gliére’s 74th Opus . Amazing!

This season, the symphony is not playing at the Peon Contreras Opera House because the building is undergoing     extensive renovations. I had my doubts about the quality of sound we’d experience at the surrogate venue, the Teatro Armando Manzanero. My reservations were completely unfounded, the acoustics were wonderful and because we sat so close to the stage, we had the opportunity to really observe the musicians.

First violin Christopher Collins held us spellbound. He rarely seems to consult his musical score and he practically jumps out of his seat during his favorite segues. Striking, patrician Elizabeth Arnott, also a violinist seems to emanate serenity as she plays. The bassists always impress – what a lot of work to play those huge instruments. Violas, violoncellos, flutes, oboes, horns, trumpets trombones and tubas… the percussionists – every player riveted his/her eyes on Maestro Lomónaco and the beautiful music flowed over the stage and into our souls.

Leaving the theatre, we said goodbye to all the friends attending the performance and then headed home to the pool to refresh, rehydrate and replay the lovely day…


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You felt it, didn’t you?

You felt it, didn’t you?

Since Wednesday there has been a shift… When you walk outside you can feel… the heat cometh!

In Merida, hot temperatures and high humidity are not unknown from November to March. We do have steamy days and sultry nights but during those months it’s as though the heat comes from an isolated source. From November to March when it’s hot I feel as though I’m standing in front of an open oven door or heating vent. I know that when the peak hours (10 am – 6 pm) pass, it will get much cooler… and it does.

However, the heat we’re poised to receive for the next seven to eight months does not feel like it is reflecting from a nearby hot spot… it is an all pervasive part of the environment…

Mercifully, there’s usually some relief in the evenings because the breeze blows in from the Gulf of Mexico. But the humidity is still so heavy. If you think you can “take the heat”… these coming months will test your mettle.

March to November separates the men from the boys… so to speak. I must be truthful and place myself in the      “sniveling baby” category. I’ve been known complain and look for air-conditioning anywhere I go. But after living here for such a long time, I have learned that its much better to work with the heat. Fighting it is a losing battle. Here are a few of my strategies…

H… Have water at your side all the time; drink at least 8 glasses a day and eat lightly

E… Exercise during the early morning or late evening; always walk on the shady side of the street

A… Attitude is important; don’t obsess about the heat

T… Take a siesta during the hot hours; staying rested will keep you cool

If you have access to a pool, this is a Godsend. Submerging your full body in the water will cool your core and bring your temperature down. Air conditioning (at least in the bedroom) is another blessing…

Actually, I don’t dislike the feel of the heat except when I have to get “dressed up.” Make-up running down my face, hair wilting and clothing sticking to me like Saran-Wrap is not a pleasant experience… I have built up a wardrobe of light-weight cotton blouses, Capri-length pants and strappy sandals. Don’t worry about being seen in the same clothing all the time. Be comfortable.

There are days when even my best laid strategies fall short of the intended result. There are days when the heat gets to me and when that’s the case… I retire to my room. Don’t push yourself too hard…

And do keep in mind that November is only about 220 sleeps away!


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I’m on holiday (in my yard…)

My cousin Donna is visiting from the far-far-far north and she is happy just hanging out. When she left her home in Fort Nelson (1,000 miles north of Vancouver, BC, Canada) the temperature was -32 C. Today, out in my yard, it was +32 C. Quite a difference… “eh?”

This is Spring Break and Donna says there is still lots of snow in her town… the only birds she sees are huge black ravens and of course, no flowers dare peek through the frozen ground. In my garden today, we saw parrots, turtle doves and hummingbirds. Hibiscus, orchids and oleander bloom in abundance.

At first glance, it would seem that Merida is a much easier place to live. But one must look a tad deeper. Four years ago, Donna who is from Vancouver Island moved to her new home, located at Mile 300 on the Alaska Highway. She sees moose, elk and bears any old time. The clear running rivers converge in her town, providing spectacular views. A host of interesting and odd characters provide plenty of fodder for funny stories. She has grown to love the place.                                                              

As a middle school principal, Donna holds an important position in the community and she is proud that her efforts have been well received. Her move afforded her an extremely interesting career change.

When we were young girls, we didn’t get to see one another too often but when that happened, it felt like a holiday… and that has not changed one iota! Certainly we never imagined that we would end up in such diverse corners of the world.

So for the next week, we’re going to laze by the pool, have happy hour with groovy great music playing (kinda’ loud…) We’ll go out for dinner, and maybe do a little shopping too… that’s what you do when you’re on holiday… “eh?”


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The truth always comes out

Sunday… with my Canadian tias, I attended Brazos Abiertos second annual house tour, an event held to raise funds that will support their goals for this year.

In the past while, there has been some confusion about Brazos‘ aims.  So the following might help…

Brazos Abiertos´ mission is to empower the people of Yucatan, Mexico to respond to AIDS. The vision for Brazos Abiertos is to be the catalyst for change where knowledge, prevention, and treatment of AIDS replace fear, discrimination, prejudice, and death for those infected.

It is important to know that Brazos Abiertos is a registered non-profit corporation established in México  since 2007, by Public Notary No. 76, and which documentation remains in the Public Registry of the Property of the State of Yucatan. This organization is the legal owner of the building that hosts and operates the “Brazos Abiertos Education & Prevention Center”.

The goals are…

  • To decrease the spread of HIV and sexually transmitted diseases in Yucatan.
  • To improve access to healthcare and improve the overall quality of life for those people already infected with HIV.

Brazos Abiertos means “open arms” in Spanish.

The house tour included eight of Merida’s most lovingly restored homes. Not all the featured places were huge palaces, (although a few were…) but every one of them tastefully reflected the owners’ unique style. The architects and designers were on hand to answer questions.

One could not help but notice how many young people attended – a good number of them from the Faculty of Architecture of the Autonomous University of Yucatan. One of the 5th semester students told me, “Seeing these homes gives me new ideas for the future. They are very inspiring!” 65% of those attending the house tour were Meridanos and the rest, members of the city’s international community

Everyone blended well and the organizers report that enough money was raised to fund their projects for a full year. At “Hennessy’s”, the venue for the after-party, I spoke with some of the board members and organizers of the extremely successful, well attended event. They were visibly  moved by the show of support from every strata of Merida’s society. Brazos‘ General Director Dr. Carlos Cabrera said he knew the organization would continue to grow and serve more people in the community.

Adversity has made Brazos Abiertos an even stronger and more mature non-profit. The organization itself and individuals who are associated with it have endured negativite  criticism but have kept up their commitments. Polemic attitudes  abound  but as we saw on Sunday, Brazos has strong community support… The truth will always come out.

The volunteers, board members, the sponsors and the guests all look forward to the next beautiful, creative fund raiser.

Check out the coverage of the event in the Monday March 21st edition of the  Diario de Yucatan.



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