The Bigger Picture – Mexico’s Expanding Waistline

By: Lisa Coleman

I was going to say Holy Guacamole, but it was far too cliché for a very real and deadly serious problem happening in Mexico.  And this has nothing to do with drug cartels…. When I’m not dedicated to blogging about Mexico, you can find me behind my desk at RecoverRite® changing the world one heart patient at a time. Since starting the business after my mother’s heart attack several years ago, I have become acutely and personally aware of the impact of heart disease.

It’s no secret that America is getting fatter. In 2010, it was predicted that heart disease cost the U.S. $316.4 billion (including health care services, medication and lost productivity). Our society is not getting healthier. The American Heart Association estimates that 81,100,000  people (one in three) in the U.S. have cardiovascular disease, many having more than one disorder, which causes one out of every six deaths. Unfortunately, things aren’t much better in Mexico.

The press seems all consumed with discussing the loss of life from drug violence, but not too many are writing stories about Mexico’s bigger killers… obesity and heart disease. With a high poverty level, combined with cigarettes, cheap processed food and the greatest consumption of Coca Cola per capita in the world, Mexico’s health issues are growing at an alarming rate. With 73% of Mexicans overweight or obese, and the smoking problem at epidemic levels (with almost 40% of the male population in their 20s being smokers), it’s time for education and a commitment to change the health and future of a country.

The rate of heart disease in Mexico has nearly doubled in thirty years, and according to an article on Reuters website, “half of women were found to have abdominal obesity (defined as having a waist size of about 35 inches for women, 40 inches for men).High blood pressure was not far behind — affecting almost 30 percent of both men and women. Meanwhile, about 13 percent of adults had diabetes, and a similar percentage had high cholesterol.”

Mexico is second only to the U.S. in obesity so their struggles will undoubtedly continue. But I have to believe that information and education can change the fate of a generation. Perhaps there will be a public outcry for healthy options, and maybe (someday), the dangers of smoking will be taught to the Mexican youth. My hope is the new administration that takes the reins in 2012 will put health on the agenda and save the hearts of the beautiful Mexican people.

You only have one body… treat it well.


Disclosure: I am being compensated for my work in creating and managing content as a Community Manager for the México Today Program. All stories, opinions and passion for all things México shared here are completely my own. Mexico Today is a joint public and private sector initiative designed to help promote Mexico as a global business partner and an unrivaled tourist destination.

Ecotourism and Adventure Travel – Mexico’s Undiscovered Natural Splendor

By: Lisa Coleman

With all the focus on the positive side of travel to Mexico, I thought I might just jump on the band wagon. For most people, Mexico is about beaches, sunsets and margaritas. For others, it’s about archeology, history and culture. Mexico is certainly all of those things, but it also happens to be one the world’s five richest countries in terms of biological diversity. Its land is a remarkable mosaic of ecosystems ranging from northern arid deserts and an interior filled with pine forests and snow-capped mountains, to tropical jungles dominating the south. (Not to mention more than 6,000 miles of coastline!) This means that it’s time to skip the tequila and put on your hiking boots!

Nature lovers and outdoor sports enthusiasts can discover a new realm of possibilities and really change the dynamic of their Mexico travel experience. In terms of ecological and adventure tourism, Mexico is has taken some notable steps. In the last decade, the country has tripled the amount of acreage set aside for protected land. There are now over 18 million acres of ecological preserves, including 44 national parks, 24 biosphere reserves, 111 protected areas, and a substantial number of national marine parks. Some standouts for adventure are the Monarch Butterfly sanctuary in Michoacan, interacting with the wildlife of the Baja, the Copper Canyon in Chihuahua, white ater rafting in Veracruz, and mountain climbing near Mexico City.

Buttrrefly season is almost here. Every year (November through March, with the best month being February) millions of black and orange monarch butterflies fly more than two thousand miles from southern Canada and the northern U.S. to a remote area in the mountains of the central Mexican state of Michoacan. Here they spend the winter months pulsating in the trees and creating one of nature’s most unforgettable spectacles. Organized tours are available from the capital city of Morelia.

The Sea of Cortez (also known as the Gulf of California) has been called an upside rainforest because of its vast and varied profusion of life beneath the surface. Up to a third of the world’s cetacean species (whales, dolphin, porpoise) are found in these waters. There are nearly 100 untouched desert islands populating the crystal blue waters off the east coast of the Baja Peninsula, many of which are federally protected. In late December through early March, this is one of premiere whale watching destinations in the world. Not to mention home to huge colonies of sea lions and the elusive and endangered blue-footed booby birds. (There some great small cruise ship companies that offer trips on the Sea of Cortez in the fall and winter.)

Also keep in mind that seven of the world’s eight sea turtle species nest on Mexican beaches and have for the last 150 million years. The best nesting beaches are found up and down the pacific coast and Mexico has taken a tremendous stand to keep these giants from extinction. Most hotels in the nesting areas now offer “turtle programs” where the baby turtles are raised and released and travelers are educated about their plight.

The Mexicans joke that the Copper Canyon in the state of Chihuahua is what the Grand Canyon wants to be when it grows up. One of the country’s most extraordinary natural wonders, this is actually a series of interconnecting canyon -some far deeper than its famous counterpart in Arizona. Mexico’s tallest waterfall (984 feet) can also be found here. It’s best to visit after the rainy season in late summer or early fall when the entire area is lush and green.  Most of the canyons are only accessible by a train and this one is said to be one of the “world’s most scenic railroads.” A luxury ride through 400 miles of breathtaking scenery is spectacular. The railroad took 91 years to complete and is considered one of the greatest engineering feats of the 20th century.

 

The latest addition to the canyon is the new  aerial tramway (teleférico) that climbs 1,475 feet for astounding views.  The 60-passenger tram (built by the Swiss-Austrian firm Doppelmayr) takes tourists from the rim of the Canyon down into its depths. The tram system and a series of new zip lines are all part of the Barrancas del Cobre Adventure Park, which state officials are hoping will bring an influx of tourists.  Passengers pay about $20 for a ride.  (Visit www.acloserlooktours.com for info.)

 

 

The state of Veracruz has four main rafting rivers – Filo-Bobos, Antigua, Pescados and Actopan. Rivers are rated from class one to class six (depending on difficulty) and all categories can be found here. There are plenty of rapids for beginners and this is a tremendous way to mix sightseeing with adventure. There are numerous ecotourism companies that specialize in kayaking and river rafting tours in Veracruz. 

 

 

 

 

Finally, yes, there are snow- covered peaks and high mountains in Mexico! Two towering ranges run through eastern and western Mexico. The central plateau between the two is the third highest populated region in the world behind Bolivia and Tibet. A series of volcanoes stand along this plateau and five of them stand taller than any in the continental United States. The best known are the highest, Pico de Orizaba (18,850) in Veracruz, and Popocatepetl or “Popo” (17,887) and Iztaccihuatl or “Sleeping Lady” (17,343) both southeast of Mexico City. Hikers can climb to the summit of Izta and Orizaba, but Popo has been off-limits since it erupted last year.

So change it up a bit…. you can always go back to the beach!

 

Disclosure: I am being compensated for my work in creating and managing content as a Community Manager for the México Today Program. All stories, opinions and passion for all things México shared here are completely my own. Mexico Today is a joint public and private sector initiative designed to help promote Mexico as a global business partner and an unrivaled tourist destination.

Mexico Behind the Scenes: An Exclusive Interview with an Intelligence Operative – Part 2

By David Simmonds

“Jack” is a career military “special operations” operator, a retired “case officer” and still a member of the intelligence community at the highest levels. The name “Jack” is a pseudonym, at his request. His career has taken him to Columbia, Mexico, the Middle East and much of the world. I know Jack well and know him to be very honest, bright, and a stand-up guy. He is a true patriot in every sense of the word.

We have had many conversations. The following is excerpted from various talks and emails, with his permission and approval.

Part 1 can be viewed here: http://www.mexicopremiere.com/?p=5220

 

DS: There are people on both sides of the border who are calling for the legalization of some drugs. Wouldn’t this go a long way towards shutting down the cartels, much as the repeal of prohibition did in the U.S. with the organized crime?

Jack: It’s way more complicated than that, Dave. Legalization will not happen because too many people, many in high places, have too much to lose.

DS: Okay, I get that the cartels would be opposed to it, but who else?

Jack: The major banks in the U.S. are very powerful, as we have learned in the past few years. They have been laundering drug money for a long time, maybe as much as $40 billion a year. Wachovia, HSBC, American Express Bank, Bank of America, Wells Fargo – they have all been involved. Generally they pay a fine that is a fraction of the money they have made. So it’s a good deal for them. Believe me, they don’t want anything to change, and they let the lawmakers know that with their contributions.

There is also the private prison system now so widespread in the U.S.. They pay a lot of money into our lawmaker’s fundraisers to keep drugs illegal. It started with Nixon’s “War On Drugs” in the early 1970’s when smoking pot was put into the same category as harder drugs. The U.S. is now the most imprisoned society in the world and many of those prisoners are there on drug convictions. About one-half of all drug arrests are for marijuana. The prison system has a huge stake in keeping all drugs illegal. They make money by having a constant flow of prisoners – big money.

And there are the arms and weapons manufacturers.

DS: Please explain. You mean because all of the small arms that get into Mexico?

Jack: Yes, but there are much bigger players than that. The Merida Initiative authorizes the U.S. to spend $1.5 billion to help Mexico in fighting the cartels. Much of this money filters to U.S. security companies and manufacturers, such as General Atomics Aeronautical Systems and Boeing.

DS: Are we only supplying systems and equipment or do we have personnel in Mexico, as well.

Jack: Yes, we do have people there. Mexico has already acknowledged it allows US drones to conduct surveillance flights over Mexican air space. Who controls “the flights” is classified, but a Mexican official is present.  The newspaper “La Jornada” wrote an August 8 editorial that “Washington’s growing military, political, intelligence, police & private security contractors interference regarding Mexican laws have been documented in many ways, as has the Mexican’s acceptance of it”. The New York Times, on the weekend of Aug 5th reported that CIA, ex special forces (private security contractors) are already working at one or more Mexican military bases! These are the same security contractors using the same tactics that they used in Afghanistan & Iraq with disastrous results that got them kicked out and Blackwater had to change their name. But these guys are good enough for the Mexican people? No wonder why they support the cartels over government! The Mexican government won’t discuss “specifics of their role” for “national security reasons”.

DS: I have read about CIA being involved in drug smuggling for years. Any truth to that?

Jack: Yes, it’s just an undying myth that the CIA sold drugs, in our country you can say anything you want. It’s just like the perpetual myth all Vietnam Vets are serial killers, deranged maniacs and so on. The newest Drug dealing myth now is the infamous “Operation Fast & Furious” started by CIA to give more modern weapons to one side of the Mexican Drug War. It is just ridiculous! But what do you expect, 40% of all Americans refuse to believe Obama is an American? This CIA stuff will never die, what makes it worse is some old disgruntled employees or former assets have an axe to grind, so they tell/write about such bullshit and a certain segment of our Country will always believe them, make movies, films showing how corrupt the CIA is and there you have it; but thanks for giving me an opportunity to set the record straight! And by the way, the CIA, FBI, all law enforcement agencies have some bad apples that get involved in criminal acts, get caught, and you know that old saying “only one rotten apple will spoil the entire barrel”

Part 3 Next Week

Disclosure: I am being compensated for my work in creating and managing content as a Community Manager for the México Today Program. All stories, opinions and passion for all things México shared here are completely my own. Mexico Today is a joint public and private sector initiative designed to help promote Mexico as a global business partner and an unrivaled tourist destination.

 

AEROMEXICO ANNOUNCES NEW FREQUENCIES BETWEEN LAS VEGAS AND MONTERREY

Mexico City, August 24th, 2011.-Aeromexico, Mexico’s global airline, adds two new frequencies between Las Vegas, Nevada and Monterrey, Mexico, offering eight weekly flights between the two cities.  Previously, Aeromexico was flying this route on Thursdays and Sundays, but the airline is proud to announce that as of August 8th, the flight will also be available on Mondays and Fridays.

The flight schedule is as follows:

Las Vegas – Monterrey

Departure Arrival Frequency
12:40pm 5:30pm Monday*, Thursday, Friday*, Sunday

Monterrey – Las Vegas

Departure Arrival Frequency
10:30am 11:25am Monday*, Thursday, Friday*, Sunday

 

*New frequencies that have been added to the route as of August 8th. Schedules subject to change without prior notice.

With these additional frequencies, Aeromexico adds to its already extensive range of flights, for both business and leisure travelers interested in discovering Monterrey, the capital of the state of Nuevo León, an important industrial and business center known for its colonial and contemporary architecture; and for those who wish to visit The Entertainment Capital of the World, Las Vegas.

Aeromexico increases the variety of flight itineraries for travelers while connecting them to one of its main hubs and also allows travelers to make important connections within Mexico, using the extensive network that the airline has to offer.

Mazatlán Named Host of Mexico’s 2011 World Tourism Day

MAZATLÁN, Mexico (August 19, 2011) – The Pacific Coast City of Mazatlán has been designated as national host of Mexico’s 2011 World Tourism Day celebrations, taking place Sept. 27. Mazatlán’s festivites join
global tributes to this annual event of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).  With flourishing arts and
deeply historic roots, this authentic travel destination promises a vibrant showcase of events celebrating the offical theme for 2011, “Tourism – Linking Cultures.”

Mexico Secretary of Tourism Gloria Guevara Manzo announced the prestigious designation at a press conference earlier this week, alongside Mario Lopez Valdez, Governor of the State of Sinaloa, and State Secretary
of Tourism Oralia Rice.

“Mazatlan is one of the most attractive destinations in our country. The city hosts large events such as Carnaval, boasts great infrastructure for conventions and is easily accessible by land and air,” she noted. “That is why we consider it to be one of the destinations with greatest potential.”

During the joint conference, Secretary Guevara also declared that Mazatlán’s event would be without precedent. Mexico will appoint national ambassadors on behalf of Mazatlán – including renowned celebrities, artists and athletes.

“World Tourism Day spotlights Mazatlán’s ongoing commitment to preserve and encourage cultural legacies while broadening tourism opportunities for our beautiful city,” says Carlos Berdegue, vice president,
Mazatlán Hotel Association and Tourism Board. “Millions of travelers are drawn to Mazatlán’s rich
diversity of offerings – from our historic Colonial town and ecological wonders to modern resorts, gourmet cuisine and world-class events,” he continues. “We are extremely honored and delighted to be recognized as national host, and look forward to an unforgettable World Tourism Day celebration.”

Mazatlan’s has recently emerged as a top tourism destination, thanks to new development and the restoration of Mazatlan’s livelyhistoric district. Investment in the new “Playa Espiritu” tourism corridor – spanning to the nearby eco-tourism destination of “Teacapan” – will further  broaden the region’s scope of diverse experiences for travelers. For more information about Mazatlán and the destination’s 2011 World Tourism Day festivities, visit http://www.GoMazatlan.com.

 

WestJet Welcomes Expanded Canada-Mexico Air Agreement

Airline currently serves six beautiful sun destinations in Mexico
CALGARY /PRNewswire/ – WestJet today welcomed the announcement of an expanded air transport agreement between Canada and Mexico. WestJet is scheduled to fly non-stop 95 times per week to Mexico from 19 Canadian cities as part of its 2011-2012 winter schedule.

“Given that Mexico is a key part of our international air and vacation package strategy, we commend the Canadian and Mexican governments for their initiative and look forward to a completely open framework for non-stop flights between the two countries,” said Hugh Dunleavy, WestJet Executive Vice-President, Strategy and Planning. “With convenient, non-stop service to Cancun, Cozumel, Cabo San Lucas, Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico remains one of the most popular destinations for WestJet guests. This expanded air transport agreement lays the framework for future growth in both leisure and business travel, and we look forward to exploring new opportunities in this important international market.”

About WestJet
WestJet is Canada’s favourite airline, offering scheduled service throughout its 71-city North American and Caribbean network. Inducted into Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures Hall of Fame and named one of Canada’s best employers, WestJet pioneered low-cost flying in Canada. WestJet offers increased legroom, leather seats and live seatback television provided by Bell TV on its modern fleet of 96 Boeing Next-Generation 737 aircraft. With future confirmed deliveries for an additional 39 aircraft through 2018, WestJet strives to be one of the five most successful international airlines in the world.

Mexico Behind the Scenes: An Exclusive Interview with an Intelligence Operative – Part 1

By David Simmonds

Part 1 of my interview with Jack.

“Jack” is a career military “special operations” operator, a retired “case officer” and still a member of the intelligence community at the highest levels. The name “Jack” is a pseudonym, at his request. His career has taken him to Columbia, Mexico, the Middle East and much of the world. I know Jack well and know him to be very honest, bright, and a stand-up guy. He is a true patriot in every sense of the word.

We have had many conversations. The following is excerpted from various talks and emails, with his permission and approval.

DS: Jack, what’s going on with the drug cartel situation in Mexico? How is it ever going to improve?

Jack: The best comparison I can make is what happened in Columbia during the time of Pablo Escobar. We were finally able to get to him when the people of Columbia turned against him. The people have to demand it or it won’t happen.

DS: How does this relate to Mexico in 2011?

Jack: Right now the drug cartels are more popular than the government, the police or the army. The cartels are Mexico’s biggest employer. Think about that! They are providing a living and necessities for many people and communities that otherwise would be nearly starving. You can call it bribery or intimidation, which it is. But for the people benefitting it is salvation, a way to get by day to day.

DS: But the brutality of the cartels is contrary to anything I know to be true of the Mexican people. How do you square that?

Jack: For the most part the violence is directed at people in the drug game – rival drug gangs, informants, etc. If it ever gets directed towards the general public, then the people will rise and demand that it change. But the cartels know this. They want the people on their side because they know that is the only way they can survive. So far they are winning that battle.

DS: But there have been some innocent people killed, Jack.

Jack: Yeah, I know, but they are usually in the wrong place at the wrong time and get caught in the middle of something they had nothing to do with. That can happen anywhere in the world.

DS: How did all of this escalate like it has?

 

Jack: Most people will say that it started with President Calderon’s declaration of war against the cartels. But this really goes back to the 1980’s when the government wanted to change the Mexican economy from a primarily agrarian state to manufacturing. That was when NAFTA began to be negotiated and was finally signed in 1994.

DS: How does NAFTA relate to the situation today?

Jack: NAFTA was intended to benefit Mexico by the growth of manufacturing jobs. At the same time the US started to dump corn into Mexico with the help of subsidies from the US government. As a result, farmers had to leave their farms because they couldn’t get a high enough price for their corn. And the vast manufacturing jobs didn’t quite materialize because of Far East competition, and the work didn’t pay well.

DS: This situation also drove many Mexicans north of the border, right?

Jack: Absolutely. They could no longer make it on the farm or in the city. Enter the drug trade. Either by accident or design they filled a void by “hiring” locals and helping their communities financially. Many people saw just three options – leave their homeland, scrap for a minimum wage job that can’t support a family, or hook up with the bad guys.

This interview will continue in future posts covering drug legalization and who, on both sides of the border, is benefitting from the violence, and the U.S role. I think that many of you will be surprised by what you learn.

 

Disclosure:  I am being compensated for my work in creating and managing content as a Contributor for the México Today Program.  All stories, opinions and passion for all things México shared here are completely my own. Mexico Today is a joint public and private sector initiative designed to help promote Mexico as a global business partner and an unrivaled tourist destination.