Oaxaca’s Day Of The Dead

David Simmonds

Thanks in part to the success of this Mexico Premiere web site, I was invited along on a press trip to Oaxaca for the annual Day of the Dead ritual, hosted by the Mexican Tourism Board and their excellent travel PR/Marketing firm, Newlink Group, based in Miami. It was a small group, four women and me, headed by Newlink’s Senior Account manager in charge of the MTB account, Sybelle Demarco. I’ve been on many Press Trips throughout the years, and this was clearly one of the best. Sybelle knows how to make death, faith and skeletons fun, no easy chore since I have no religion and hate death…mine or anyone’s.

Our accommodations were at newly renovated Los Pilares, a beautiful, serene boutique hotel located about a 15-minute walk from the historic zocalo, in the old cobble-stoned Jalatlaco barrio. The colonial building has a long history and was the site of a tanning factory for many decades. I can recommend Los Pilares for anyone visiting Oaxaca if you want to escape the more busy traffic near the touristy center. Start the day with a filling breakfast from their excellent kitchen at a sunny patio table.

Sybelle kept us busy from early morning well into the night, but that’s because there is so much to see in the area. She had the foresight to hire a great tour guide, Diego Cruz, owner of Ayuso Travel, an engaging local who knows his history and has a deep appreciation and  fierce pride in his people.

Instead of repeating what so many others have already written, I suggest this essay by Maria Diaz for a good overview of what The Day of the Dead is all about. From a personal view, I was surprised and relieved to find a general sense of happiness and fond remembrance by the locals who, it seems, all honor the occasion in the  traditional way. Although, I confess to feeling a bit intrusive walking about the gravestones at night as the families gathered to welcome the return of the deceased. They didn’t seem to mind the awkward tourists, in fact smiles and greetings were common from these gentle people. The scene was movie-set perfect with colorful altars, tears and laughter here, a mariachi band over there, a guy offering mescal shooters everywhere. To describe it as magical would demean the aura. It was more than that, and although I remain an unrepentant faithless skeptic, I gained a deep respect and understanding of what it means to so many fine people. The experience was a highlight of my many Mexico travels, ranking up there with the best sunsets I’ve witnessed over the Pacific, nestled in nature’s awesome jungle, at the end of a perfect day spent in the ocean. These are the times that challenge my stubborn views.

Of course, Oaxaca has much more to offer than a yearly ritual. The archaeological sites at nearby Monte Alban and Mitla are some of the country’s best, giving you a deep understanding of the advanced cultures that thrived in the Oaxaca valley centuries ago. And there are the many nearby villages populated by 16 different ethnic groups, each with their own language, that produce some of the world’s finest pottery and textiles. And on the southern coast, on the Pacific, are the beautiful bays of serene Huatulco, the quirky town of Puerto Angel, the nude beach at Playa Zipolite…a throwback bohemian hangout, and the epic waves at Puerto Escondido, still undiscovered by most Mexico travelers, but well-known to the surfing world elite.

So, if you’re wondering where you should go next, where you can fill every day experiencing something you have never done, for a price you can afford, give Oaxaca a try. Day of the Dead is celebrated fron October 31 to November 2, and the rest of the country is open for business year-round.

A New Year Lesson

David Simmonds

Every year about this time I pull out a yellowed, old piece of paper that I have held on to for about 30 years. I first read it at a time when I had to make some life-long decisions, a time when several different paths were within reach, some safer than others. The message has served me well with few very few regrets along the way. Here it is:

The Following Written By An 85 year-old man, who has just learned he was going to die:

“If I had to live my life over again, I’d try to make more mistakes next time, I’d try not to be so perfect. I’d relax more, I’d limber up. I’d be sillier than I’ve been on this trip. In fact, I know very few things that I would take quite so seriously. I’d be crazier, and I’d certainly be less hygienic.

“I’d take more chances, I’d take more trips, I’d climb more mountains, I’d swim more rivers, and I’d watch more sunsets. I’d eat more ice cream and fewer beans. I’d have more actual troubles and few imaginary ones.

“You see, I was one of those people who lived life prophylactically and sanely and sensibly, hour after hour, day after day. Oh, that doesn’t mean I didn’t have my moments, but if I had it all over to do, I’d have more of those moments. In fact, I’d try to have nothing but wonderful moments side by side.

“I’ve been one of those people who never went anywhere without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a gargle, a raincoat and a parachute. If I had to do it all over again, I’d travel lighter next time.

“If I had life to live over again, I’d start barefoot earlier in the spring and I’d stay that way later in the fall. I’d play hookey a lot more. I’d ride more merry-go-rounds. I’d smell more flowers. I’d hug more children. I’d tell more people that I love them. If I had my life to live over again. But, you see I don’t.”



Semarnat Works To Preserve Manatee

During the first two years of government, President Felipe Calderón’s administration assigned over $174 million pesos to promote actions to protect the manatee, $157 million of which were allocated to conservation and technological and productive reconversion and $25 million to actions to preserve biodiversity in the Manatee Sanctuary.

Secretary of the Environment and Natural Resources. Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada explained that these resources have enabled 836 boats to stop fishing in the Protection Polygon and engage in other kinds of activities, and permitted the cancellation of 1,044 fishing permits, making 1,200 square kilometers of the Manatee Sanctuary free of fishing and incidental capture.

These activities have been carried out in addition to the inspection and surveillance work undertaken on a permanent basis by the Naval Secretariat and the Federal Environmental Protection Bureau.
The government official added that the National Institutes of Ecology and Fishing engage in experimental work to test new, alternative forms of fishing that will not harm the manatee and protect the environment. These include the prototype of a light drag net, a net enabling larger species to escape and traps for catching scales and shrimp.

As part of the Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources’ commitment to ensure the care and protection of endangered species, Elvira Quesada reported that the Acoustic Monitoring Cruise Ship recently observed a group of manatees on the coast of the state of Sonora, a crucial phenomenon, since there have been no records of the mammal in this part of the Upper Gulf of California for the past ten years.
The monitoring, carried out by Mexican, Canadian, English, German and Japanese experts, showed that the herd of marsupials detected is in good heath, and has not registered a decline in its population, estimated at 150.

He explained that the cruise ship’s crew includes researchers from the Marine Mammals’ Program of the National Institute of Ecology (INE); as well as specialists from the Southwest Fisheries Science Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Marine Fisheries Center (NMFS).
He said that at the request of fishermen from San Felipe and with the help of INE personnel, discussion and analysis workshops were held in the municipalities of San Felipe, Golfo de Santa Clara and Puerto Peñaso (members of the Upper Gulf of California) where it was agreed that fishing activities would have sustainable planning, with ecological equilibrium for a period of 50 years.

Lastly, the Semarnat director said that joint work is being carried out with the Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fishing and Food, the governments and universities of the state of Baja California and Sonora and the Intercultural Center of Studies of Deserts and Oceans and Pronatura to ensure that the pledges made are shared by the three orders of government and the scientific government, in order to advance towards the conservation and recovery of the species.
Source: Media and Communications Office. Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT).

Fly Me to the Sun: Book Los Cabos and Save!

By MP Mexico News Staff

This winter, travel to a place where all worries and stress melt away, leaving you in a state of complete relaxation and bliss. Fly to Los Cabos for free to enjoy the sun, sand and sea courtesy of the destination’s most luxurious hotels and resorts.

Beginning now and valid through 2009, over 20 world-class hotels and resorts in Los Cabos are offering visitors the opportunity to “leave it all behind” and enjoy a sun-filled and worry-free vacation while saving on airfare. The “Fly Me to the Sun” program provides guests with a $400 per room credit upon hotel check-out, virtually reimbursing guests the cost of one airline ticket.

“With so many fine resorts participating in this promotion from charming boutique hotels to luxury resorts, including several all-inclusive properties we anticipate a great response and look forward to welcoming a multitude of sun-seekers to Los Cabos this winter,” says Gonzalo Franyutti, President of the Los Cabos Convention & Visitors Bureau.

For a complete list of participating hotels and details, please visit www.visitloscabos.travel or contact your local travel agent. This offer is not valid in conjunction with any other hotel promotion and special conditions apply.

Families, honeymooners, mature travelers, golfers, eco-tourists, artists, photographers, sightseers and others find what they are looking for when they visit Los Cabos. Located at the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, Los Cabos offers travelers an exotic escape within easy reach of most U.S. cities.

With non-stop flights or convenient connections available from Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego, San Francisco and Sacramento, California; Houston and Dallas, Texas; Portland, Oregon; Kansas City, Missouri; Atlanta, Chicago, Cincinnati, Denver, Detroit, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, New York/ Newark, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Seattle and more, Los Cabos is both accessible and exciting. For more about Los Cabos–and a copy of its informative travel planner, call 1-866-LOS-CABOS or visit www.visitloscabos.travel.

Diamantes and Guns

By MP Mexico News

Headlining on CNN: Police detain Mexican beauty queen, seize weapons

“23-year-old Mexican beauty queen Laura Zúñiga Huizar and seven men were taken into custody late Monday after being found in vehicles containing weapons and cash in central Mexico, police said Tuesday. According to the Nuestra Belleza Mexico Web site, she is expected to represent Mexico in next year’s Miss International contest.”

We’re thinking Miss Orange Jumpsuit might be more appropriate.

While we’re saddened to have to report on news such as this, we’re also disgusted that someone with such a seemingly bright future, someone who the girls of her native Sinaloa could have looked up to, is now forever linked with that state’s notorious drug trade.

According to the CNN news report, “One of the men in the vehicles was 29-year-old Angel Orlando Garcia Urquiza, who is Zuñiga’s boyfriend and the brother of ‘one of the greatest capos of narcotraffic’. Seriously. How could she not have known. WHAT was she thinking?

We are simultaneously flummoxed and perplexed.

AeroMexico Wins Best Airline Award

HOUSTON, TX – AeroMexico, the global airline of Latin America, has been selected as the “Best Airline in Mexico” for 2008 by the readers of Business Traveler magazine. This marks the third year the award has been bestowed and AeroMexico has received top honors every year. The airline was recognized at a special awards ceremony on December 11 in Los Angeles, along with honorees in other airline, hotel and business-travel related categories.

Frank Galan, Vice President, U.S. Division, AeroMexico, said, “AeroMexico is extremely proud to accept the ‘Best Airline in Mexico’ award for the third consecutive year from Business Traveler’s readers. Winning this award every year it has been presented is a real testament to our employees’ relentless focus on delivering outstanding customer service.”

Eva Leonard, editor in chief at Business Traveler magazine, said, “AeroMexico stands out because the airline excels at meeting the specialized needs of business travelers to Mexico, and provides the highest levels of service, comfort and convenience, as well as an extensive route network.”

Galan added, “Our goal is to make flying on AeroMexico an exceptional experience every time someone gets on board one of our planes — and that takes a real team effort, every day, by our more than 6,000 employees. It’s especially gratifying that AeroMexico has earned this vote of confidence from the readers of Business Traveler because they include some of the world’s most discriminating business travelers.”

This year marks the 20th year of the “Best in Business Travel” awards at Business Traveler. More than 4,000 readers of its U.S. edition were surveyed and asked to choose their favorite airlines, hotels, airports and other business-travel service providers in 55 categories. The survey consisted of open-ended questions with no suggested company names or choices given.

With a circulation of 150,000 for its U.S. edition and global circulation of 500,000 through 10 editions, Business Traveler is read widely by executives who are frequent domestic and international travelers.

Through these and other honors, AeroMexico has been recognized for its distinguished style of attentive, personalized in-flight service, which includes complimentary amenities, meals at meal times and beverages, including cocktails. The airline has also distinguished itself with one of the world’s best on-time flight records, the highest safety and quality standards ratings, outstanding reliability and baggage handling performance, and exceptional value based on its competitive fares and superior service.

AeroMexico and its subsidiary, AeroMexico Connect, currently operate more than 600 daily flights through the airline’s Mexico City International Airport hub to 40 destinations in Mexico, 15 U.S. locations as well as major cities that include Shanghai, Paris and Buenos Aires in 12 other countries worldwide. U.S. cities served currently are Los Angeles, Ontario (Ca.), San Diego, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Seattle/Tacoma, Salt Lake City, Houston, San Antonio, Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, New York City, Orlando and Miami. AeroMexico Vacations provides customized vacation travel packages. The airline also offers connecting service to other international destinations through its Sky Team global airline alliance with 11 full member carriers and three associate carriers. Additional information is available at www.aeromexico.com or 1-800-237-6639.