How Nafta Has Affected Immigration

David Simmonds

Immigration has been a very useful political football for the past three decades, summarily trotted out to rally the troops by limp-kneed elected officials whenever they are up for re-election. Most recently it was the GOP’s turn to throw some red meat to their starving jackals as they declared, “by God, we’ll build a fence”, ignoring the reality that as long as there are jobs waiting for Mexican border-crossers, no fence is going to keep them out, virtual or otherwise. Yes, big business loves that cheap labor.

Now that we are down to three viable presidential candidates, McCain, Clinton, and Obama, we haven’t heard much in their many debates on the subject. What has been discussed in more detail by the Dems is NAFTA, the trade agreement signed by Bill “Big Dog” Clinton in 1993, after years of being promoted by the Republicans and major corporations. I was a critic of it then, and even more so now.

Fortunately, the Democratic contenders now both agree that is hasn’t quite worked out as advertised, for the U.S. or Mexico. McCain doesn’t mention it often, but he thinks it’s just swell as is, and by the way, keep that big biz lobby money coming. Meanwhile, a million manufacturing jobs have moved out of the U.S., to a country with an $8.00 a day minimum wage. That really was a sucking sound that Ross Perot talked about. Since the signing Wall Street has rejoiced, Main Street has suffered. I don’t know about you, but I hang on Main Street.

A major repercussion has been a huge increase in illegal immigration, as many millions of Mexicans have slipped into poverty, especially in the rural areas where subsistence farming had been a family provider for many generations.

Ted Lewis, from Global Exchange, has written a brilliant, accurate summation on how NAFTA and immigration are directly linked, and how a new U.S. president will have a unique opportunity to  renogotiate the treaty and present programs, with Mexico’s cooperation, that will result in a Mexico that will gradually be able to create more jobs for their excellent work force. To read the article please click here:

Mexico Travel Marketplace Announces 2008 Schedule for U.S. Events

MP Mexico News Staff

( Travel professionals across the U.S. are being invited to attend the 14th annual series of Mexico Travel Marketplace. These events unite Mexico’s most important tourism suppliers and tour operators with an audience of travel professionals in nine key U.S. markets.

These comprehensive events were launched in 1995. They are being coordinated and produced by Oregon-based Destination Ventures, Ltd. Experts in Mexico marketing, Destination Ventures is best known as the organizers of the popular “Magic of Mexico” seminar series (sponsored by the Mexico Tourism Board) and Cancun Tourism Institute (sponsored by the Cancun CVB).

In 2008, the tradeshow series will continue with a thematic structure. This year’s theme is “Luxury, Lifestyle, Living.” The theme will be infused into the destination and supplier presentations.

“We will also encourage our exhibitors and sponsors to convey their luxury, upscale products and opportunities for longer stay vacations,” says Greg Custer, Vice President of Destination Ventures, Ltd.

“Mexico’s luxury product has matured and improved to the point where there are now 10 AAA Five Diamond winners, numerous luxury developments, and dozens of second home/condo opportunities. Agents need to stay up on these developments to satisfy the growing retirement market seeking longer stay trips and the chance to find a variety of lifestyle options,” explains Custer.

Also new for 2008 is an agreement with Virtuoso, Ltd. They will extend special invitations to both their member agencies and preferred Mexico suppliers. The 2008 program offers a highly interactive experience. Attendees can expect small-group, face-to-face supplier meetings, a sit-down dinner and classroom-style education (a 90-minute seminar based on material from the “Magic of Mexico” training program, focused on four destination sponsors).

The nine planned events are sponsored by the Mexico Tourism Board and various airlines and destination CVB’s. Current exhibitors include Aeromexico, Classic Vacations, GoGo Worldwide Vacations, Pleasant Holidays, Happy Vacations, and the CVBs of Mazatlán, Riviera Nayarit, Campeche State, Puerto Vallarta, Sol Meliá, Oasis Hotels, Crown Paradise Hotels, The Villa Group, and others. The “Magic of Mexico” interactive online learning and specialist program will also be featured.

2008 U.S. Event Schedule:

March 11 Chicago, IL (Venue: Café La Cave)
March 12 Denver, CO (Venue: Westin Westminster)
March 13 Houston, TX (Venue: JW Marriott)

April 21 Phoenix, AZ (Venue TBA)
April 22 San Diego, CA (Venue TBA)
April 23 West Los Angeles, CA (Venue TBA)

May 13 Seattle, WA (Venue TBA)
May 14 Portland, OR (Venue TBA)
May 15 Sacramento, CA (Venue TBA)

The cost to attend is U.S. $15 and parking is hosted. Agents will also receive a gourmet dinner, hosted wine, face-to-face supplier meetings, classroom-style education, supplier package previews, and a chance to win vacation prizes. Full details and on-line registration is now available at For more information, call 1-800-599-6633.
Greg or Jane Custer,
Phone: (541) 385-4923,

Tianguis Turistico 2008

MP Mexico News Staff

Once every year Mexico sponsors and hosts Latin America’s largest travel trade show/conference in the beautiful port town of Acapulco. Tianguis Turistico brings buyers and suppliers together for four days of business appointments and parties, as well as distinguished speakers and an international press corp to cover the action. We at Mexico Premiere have attended the event every year for the past decade and will make it again this year from April 13 – 16, posting news back to you on a daily basis.

Held at Acapulco’s splendid Convention Center, many of the major hotels lining the bay will be filled with busy participants who will work hard and party harder. The invitation-only dinners and Hollywood-style soirees that are held at the finest resorts and multi-million dollar private villas help to make the event a spectacle that attendees savor and long-remember. Thousands of travel-business professionals from numerous countries are sure to sign deals that will determine their direction and success for the coming year.

Mexico’s Tourism Board deserves great thanks and recognition for hosting such an important and well-run affair. Click here for more information:

Has the Recapture of Culture Gone Too Far?

By: Lisa Coleman

When the mayor of Mexico City, Marcel Ebrard, installed an ice skating rink in the middle of the zocalo for Christmas, I thought it was a rather grand gesture. Yet, I know the poverty levels of this massive city and skating during the holidays was something most Mexicans could never have imagined. Even though it was a bit “out there,” it seemed to make the people happy… so no harm done. Hey, it was Christmas, good will, good tidings, strange ideas…. it all works with trees and lights.

So what’s the story now? (Other than Mr. Mayor setting up sand “beaches” in public parks.) Well, it seems the mayor has decided that it would be a good idea to recapture Mexico City’s ancient culture by having ALL city employees (from bus drivers to hospital workers) learn the Aztec language of Nahuatl. Okay, seriously, is this guy a few pucks short of a goal? 

He wants to “revive the ancient tongue.” It’s just my opinion, but my guess is that a city the size of Mexico City (with an overflow of SERIOUS issues) might need to spend time on something other than learning how to communicate in Nahuatl. I am all for preserving culture. I get it, I respect it. But come on… This is a language that was dominant in central Mexico over 1,000 years ago. Of  the whopping 107 million people in Mexico, only 1.4 million still speak in this ancient tongue.

The theory is that many of the poor migrant workers who come to the city for jobs only speak this language and are therefore further discriminated against. But, according to reports, there are only about 30,000 of these Nahuatl guys. So, does it makes sense to educate 300,000 city employees through classroom sessions and online courses so they understand this tiny slice of the population? Kind of seems “bass ackwards”” to me.

I am all for educating the public (not just city workers) about their culture… but there simply has to be a better, smarter way. Maybe provide free public seminars or events to perpetuate the study of the language? Maybe offer Spanish classes to those only speak Nahuatl? Maybe offer incentive to Nahuatl speakers to teach classes to the work force? Just thinking outloud here… but there has to be something else, anything else other than this plan.  Mexico City needs far more than a language class to keep pace with the problems at hand.  I think Marcelo Ebrard is on some thin ice with this one.

George O. Jackson Photo Exhibit In San Antonio

 Legacy of George O. Jackson
Mexican Festivals A Feast for the Eyes
 Marita Adair
In 2001, when George O. Jackson crossed the first goal line of his enormous Essence of Mexico Project  11 years after he started,hehad photographed 330 of the most important indigenous festivals in Mexico as they existed in the last decade of the millennium. He had also ensured that the more than 76,000 images would be housed at the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection at the University of Texas at Austin  and available to future  generations of scholars.

A portion of that legacy will be on view March 15-May 25, 2008, when the public is presented a glimpse of festivals in Mexico’s Huasteca region through Jackson’s lens at the San Antonio Museum of Art, San Antonio, Texas. El Cuerpo Adornado: Exploring the Aesthetic Spirit of Mexico  
with 25 life-size color giclé photographs. Over several years Jackson spent months in this culturally rich area where six Mexican states converge—Tamaulipas, Veracruz, San Luis Potosi, Hidalgo, Queretaro and Puebla.

He  describes the Huasteca region as “probably the most fascinating area left in Mexico.” Because there’s no disruptive commercial reason for the outside world to go there, it’s relatively untouched. Thus, this show reveals a world few outside of it have seen.

The Smithsonian Museum, which has a show of his photographs in progress in Washington, D. C., pronounced that Jackson “is widely regarded as among the most accomplished photographers of Mexican ceremonial life today.”
Whether or not there is ever hall of fame recognition for this contribution (in my mind, there should be), future generations will marvel at his stamina and cultural eye just as we do the work of other noted scholars such as Carl Lumholtz, Oscar Lewis,  Frederick A. Ober, Stephens and Catherwood and others who left us a distinct vision of Mexico in their time.

Over all, he searched out festivals in 23 Mexican states and the Federal District and included 62 cultural groups. Besides the Benson Library, Jackson donated 10,000 of the most publishable photographs to The San Antonio Museum of Art; the photographs from this show will remain in its permanent collection.
Statistics, however, fail at telling the whole Essence of Mexico story. As you may know, to photographically document a Mexican festival requires enormous energy and unflagging determination.  You have to be tough to keep up particularly when covering a festival start to finish as Jackson did; most festivals last several days from sunup to far beyond sundown. Jackson averaged 30 of these a year lugging a 35mm Nikon on each shoulder, bulging pockets of film, and all the other appropriate camera equipment. For at least half of the decade funding the dream was a constant uncertainty.
His show  of 150 images, Mexican Cycles, at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History,  in Washington, D. C.  has been held over through April of 2008. The Smithsonian images depict religious festivals in indigenous communities across Mexico. From there it will go on display at Mexico City’s  Museo Nacional de Antropologia de Mexico, followed by a 22-year tour to Mexico’s cultural venues around the world. A long tour for a big dream that continues to unfold.
Since the two shows mentioned here showcase only 200 of Jackson’s thousands of  photos, keep your eyes peeled, folks, there’s lots more to come. Jackson offers his festival prints for sale in large format. Contact him at  His more
contemporary work can be seen at

Dubai Making (Expensive) Tracks in Cabo


Have you ever been to the One&Only Palmilla in Los Cabos? It’s a pretty amazing place. I was there for a few days courtesy of the administration when I worked as Mexico Editor for Recommend magazine. I have to say, it’s pretty high up on my list of favorite hotels. Not only is it beautiful, but the attention to detail is extraordinary. A lot of the credit goes to its GM, a lovely man by the name of Edward Steiner…

Anyway, before I start drooling on my keyboard, I wanted to share a little note I found in Reuters. Apparently, Mr. Sol Kerzner, he of the One&Only’s around the world, has decided to sell 50% of his lovely Palmilla retreat to a massive developer from Dubai. You might recall that Power Point show making the rounds of inboxes everywhere showing those palm tree-shaped islands? Those guys. Of course, if someone offered me $315 million, I’d probably sell, too.

According to Reuter’s, it’s the Nakheel company’s “first foray into Latin America.” With the kind of money these guys have and the incredible allure of said continent, methinks it won’t be the last.

A Man and His Donkey Walk Mexico

MP Mexico News Staff

We found this piece and thought it should be read by more people…a nice story for your weekend.



JONATHAN DUNHAM is walking the earth. Assisting him in this endeavor is his donkey, named Judas. They have stopped to rest for a few days in Colinas de San Lorenzo, a slum in this dusty town on the cattle-raising plains of northwestern Venezuela.

On a recent Sunday morning, reggaetón blared from a house near the abandoned shack where Mr. Dunham has been sleeping on the floor. Barefoot children wandered up to his hovel, petting Judas. They giggled and stared at Mr. Dunham, 33, whose disheveled look evokes that of a graduate student for whom surfing, or maybe foosball, is high art.

“Are you an athlete?” one of the children asked him. “Or a missionary?”

“No,” Mr. Dunham replied. “I’m just a guy.”

In fact, Mr. Dunham is just a guy searching for the meaning of life.

His quest began more than two years ago in Portland, Ore., where he was working as a substitute teacher in the public schools. One day, he decided to start walking south, down through the western United States. From Texas he crossed the border into the northern Mexican state of Tamaulipas, where he stopped for a while. He said he hoped to walk for two more years across the rest of South America until reaching Patagonia.

In an interview here, Mr. Dunham retraced his tracks. He said a family in Tamaulipas allowed him to care for some of their dairy cows while he stayed with them for several months. It was there that he honed his Spanish and his milking technique. When he left, they gave him a donkey to help carry his load: a few books, a bit of food, some secondhand clothes.

Mr. Dunham named the donkey Whothey (the origins of the name are obscure), which in Spanish is roughly pronounced Judas. Now 4 years old, Judas is something of a minor celebrity in parts of Latin America. The donkey and Mr. Dunham arouse curiosity wherever they go.

“Judas is not just any donkey,” El Heraldo, a newspaper in Barranquilla, Colombia, reported last October, when public health officials barred him from entering the country because of sanitary rules governing the import of donkeys. “He was born and grew up in a beautiful and well-managed hacienda.

“Jon is a well-mannered and shy biochemist,” the newspaper continued in its description of Mr. Dunham, who did in fact earn his college degree, from Denison University, in biochemistry. “He was unsatisfied with living in the materialist realm, with the eternal anguish of getting the dollars for the gluttony of consumer society: laptop, new car, Chanel No. 5, cellphone, the latest release by Madonna or Shakira.”

Well, sort of.

The precise motivation for Mr. Dunham’s travels is not entirely clear, even to him; perhaps it never will be, though at a minimum it is a journey of self-discovery and endurance. In the meantime, newspapers along his route have reported that he was walking for world peace or to set a world record or to spread the word of God.

“THEY always find something to say,” Mr. Dunham said of the reporters who beat a path to meet him and Judas.

Mr. Dunham has relied on the kindness of strangers along his way through Mexico, Central America and, now, Venezuela. He keeps away from big cities, aware that they are no place for a donkey like Judas. He often seeks out a church upon arriving in a new town or village in search of a safe place to sleep. Judas helps him meet people, Mr. Dunham said.

Here in Tinaco, for instance, Mr. Dunham and Judas were resting in a park where artisans sell their wares. “I struck up a conversation with the quiet gringo and his burro,” said Williams Exaga, 38. “I thought, ‘Here’s a chance to cure some of the animosity between our governments.’ ”

Mr. Exaga allowed Mr. Dunham to stay in an empty shack on a lot he owns where he hopes one day to build a house. The shack, Mr. Exaga explained, is in the middle of the poorest slum in the poorest town in one of Venezuela’s poorest states, Cojedes. Mr. Dunham jumped at the opportunity.

Tinaco is a long way from where Mr. Dunham grew up in Laramie, Wy., the son of a university professor. Although he studied biochemistry, he comfortably cites philosophers like Hegel and Sartre in the same sentence. Once in a while, he finds an Internet cafe to send an e-mail message updating family and friends on his trip.

Mr. Dunham, who was planning to enter medical school before his walk began, speaks some Arabic, having traveled by camel in Sudan, and some Tok Pisin, having spent part of his childhood in Papua New Guinea, where his father went on sabbatical. “The Bible,” he replied when asked about what he was currently reading. “And some Plantinga.”

That would be Alvin Plantinga, the American religious philosopher at the University of Notre Dame. Mr. Dunham also carries an MP3 player that he uses to listen to lectures by renowned professors. He said he had given away most of the books he read during the last two years.

“People probably start fires with the books I leave behind,” he said.

His journey has had its ups and downs. While walking in the United States, he said, he sometimes was so hesitant to spend money that he ate discarded food, like half a cheeseburger or pieces of pizza. In Nicaragua, Mr. Dunham, who lacks health insurance, contracted dengue fever. Both he and Judas have battled parasitic infections.

He traveled by ship from Panama to Venezuela to avoid traversing the dangerous Darién Gap separating Colombia from Panama. Even taking precautions, and even though he carries almost no cash and little else of value, Mr. Dunham has been robbed twice. The most traumatic episode was in the harbor outside Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela, where he and his donkey were on a Panamanian merchant vessel waiting to enter the country. Gun-toting pirates stormed the boat and robbed everyone.

MR. DUNHAM recently had another close call on a rural road in Guárico, a state in Venezuela’s interior, where soldiers from the National Guard interrogated him for eight hours, trying to determine if he was a spy. They let him go after asking his opinion of President Hugo Chávez.

“I don’t know enough to give an honest opinion of Chávez,” Mr. Dunham said.

While Venezuela might at times seem like a hostile place for an American to be walking alone, he said he had witnessed greater generosity in this country than almost anywhere but Mexico.

One Venezuelan gave him an old prepaid cellphone (the first such device Mr. Dunham has owned). Others have given him food, clothing and shoes, crucial gifts for someone surviving on about $2 a day.

Over a breakfast here of Pepsi and arepas, the corn-based bread that is a staple of the Venezuelan diet, Mr. Dunham quietly ate under the beaming look of the cook, Ada Boza, 47, a housewife in Colinas de San Lorenzo who has prepared food for Mr. Dunham while he has stayed here. She lives in a shack across from where he is staying.

“Jonathan came into our lives a few days ago, and has shared with us his good spirit,” said Ms. Boza as she doted on him and other visitors. “We will miss him immensely when he moves on.”