A Conversation with Mexico’s Ambassador Arturo Sarukhán

By: Lisa Coleman

Having interviewed and talked to quite a number of Mexican government officials in my years as a journalist, I must say I have heard enough canned rhetoric to last a lifetime. More often than not, I found myself wishing for someone who would skip the press releases and just have an honest one-on-one conversation. After a recent interview with Arturo Sarukhán, the current Ambassador of Mexico to the United States, I think I found just the person I was looking for. What a pleasure to meet someone who is so willing to discuss Mexico’s issues with such refreshing, and almost surprising, candor.

Ambassador Arturo Sarukhán

Though our interview was via webcast, I could tell in an instant this man was different. Straightforward, intelligent and engaging, Ambassador Sarukhán was immediately open and receptive to all questions. There were four other bloggers participating in the interview, and I am quite sure they share my sentiment about the Ambassador’s discussion.

His credentials read like a laundry list of over achievement:  Sarukhán is a former Consul General at New York City, and served as foreign policy coordinator in Calderon’s presidential campaign and transition team. He graduated from El Colegio de México with a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and received a master’s degree in U.S. Foreign Policy at the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) of Johns Hopkins University in Washington, D.C., where he studied as a Fulbright scholar and Ford Foundation Fellow. In 1988–1989, before joining Mexico’s Foreign Service, Sarukhán served as the Executive Secretary of the Commission for the Future of Mexico-US relations, a non-governmental initiative funded by the Ford Foundation to recast the Mexico-US relationship.

And, for the cherry on top, rumor has it that in October 2009, Sarukhán became the first Ambassador in Washington, D.C. to have a personal Twitter account. (He tweets under the handle @arturo_Sarukhán.)

That said… you can imagine how interesting it was to talk some Mexico with him. He started our conversation with an overview of the U.S./Mexico relationship. “The muscle tone of the U.S.-Mexico relationship is, I think, despite occasional background noise of media and public opinion, extremely good.  This is the best level of engagement and best strategic sense of direction since days of NAFTA.”

With endless negative press about the drug wars and what’s “wrong” in Mexico, it was particularly compelling to hear the Ambassador bring the focus back to what’s “right” in Mexico: the pillars of economic structure, the ambitious free trade framework and the successful social programs.  Sarukhán went on to discuss in detail that Mexico’s network of free trade has “changed the footprint of economic development and activity in Mexico.”  Mexico is now the third largest trading partner and second in the purchasing of goods from the United States. Every day Mexico and the U.S. trade $1 billion, move goods on 5,000 trucks, and host one million legal border crossings. In his words, this makes for “an extremely dynamic relationship with the U.S.”

A question was also raised about the U.S. auto industry building manufacturing plants south of the border, a choice that has been widely criticized here in the states. All major manufacturers in Mexico plan to expand operations, which plays to the American public as more job loss for our workers. Sarukhán was quick to point out that “Mexico is either the first or second largest trading partner to 22 U.S. states. There are 8 million jobs in those twenty-two states directly linked to trade with Mexico.  What I think  what we need to continue to do is highlight and underscore how this interconnectedness we’ve developed in North America is, at end of the day, creating (and not displacing jobs) from the United States and Canada.” In addition, he makes the argument that, “Enhanced job creation in Mexico equates to falling immigration rates into the United States.”

I, of course, had to ask about tourism and how the government plans to position itself in a more positive light to travelers and the American public as a whole. We agreed the biggest problem, and most challenging for Mexico, is the lack of geographical knowledge or reference on the part of the American public. Sarukhán noted, “There are a total of 2700 municipalities in Mexico with only 80 reporting violence. The challenge is that if it bleeds it leads.” This is unfortunately so very true, especially when it comes to Mexico. He also mentioned there is a “Master plan that will contemplate a public awareness or public education campaign to help alleviate fears of the tourists,” and he hoped the premiere of the Mexico: The Royal Tour (with Peter Greenberg and Calderon) will hopefully play a role in the perspective of tourism.

In terms of social programs, the Ambassador discussed something quite remarkable called “Oportunidades” (Opportunities).  I had actually never heard of the program before and found it very impressive. The program, originally called Progresa (Progress), was created in 1997. It’s a government social assistance program designed to target poverty by providing cash payments to families in exchange for regular school attendance, health clinic visits, and nutritional support. This cconditional cash transfer micro lending program targets the female head of household. She must provide proof that she and the children are going to the doctor and getting vaccines, and the kids must be enrolled in school and getting passing grades to remain in the program. Oportunidades is credited with decreasing poverty and improving health and educational attainment in regions in which it has been deployed. Around one-quarter (40 million) of Mexico’s population participates in Oportunidades. It is a fascinating social model, and worth exploring if you’re interested.

I truly could have spoken with and listened to the Ambassador for hours. And, I could go on endlessly in this blog about all the topics covered. But suffice to say, it was an excellent interview.  If Ambassador Arturo Sarukhán had a platform to reach the American public on a regular basis, I can assure you their perspective of Mexico would change. Follow him on Twitter, you’ll learn a lot.




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.


Cancun, Mexico (September 26, 2011) – The Cancun Convention and Visitors Bureau is proud to announce that is has been awarded the Meetings & Conventions’ Gold Service Award. This prestigious award honors Convention & Visitors Bureaus that have excelled in professionalism and dedication in their service to meeting professionals.


This year the readers of M&C awarded 91 domestic and 16 international CVBs and tourism boards with the Gold Service award distinction, awarding Cancun’s CVB as one of the best international tourism boards. Relying on their extensive industry experience in both corporate and association markets, M&C’s readers made selections based on key criteria. Criteria included: professionalism of staff; support on hotels and site inspections; assistance with ground transportation planning; guidance on local attractions; and liaison with local venders and services.


“To continually provide quality service to clients sets these superior bureaus apart. All our Gold Service winning CVBs know that the value of creating a lasting impression can never be understated”, said Kirk Lewis, Meetings & Conventions’ Publisher. “The 2011 Gold Service winners continually excel in many valuable areas of service, impressing not only their clients but also the demanding readers of M&C”. Lewis adds, “Our entire staff joins M&C’s readers in honoring these outstanding CVBs and tourist boards to continue to focus on effective working partnerships with meeting professionals”.


Winners will be featured in Meeting & Conventions’ Gold Awards Issue published this November.


Cancun is eager to invite all visitors to take a break from the cold-winter months this winter and enjoy the warmth and hospitality of the Mexican Caribbean along with top attractions, such as the world’s largest Under Water Museum, delicious culinary experiences, and unparalleled nightlife – or to simply bask in the summer sun and take in some much needed R&R.


About Meetings & Conventions In Cancun


The Cancun International Airport is the #1 airport serving international arrivals in Mexico, with two international terminals and direct flights through all major airlines.


Cancun offers over 700,000 sq ft of meeting space and more than 200,000 sq ft of exhibition space between the Cancun Center and 25 properties with the infrastructure to host any kind of meeting. More specifically, The Cancun Convention Center offers


75,000 sq ft of meeting space and 77,000 sq ft of exhibition space, and there are more than 3,500 hotel rooms available within walking distance; while the Cancun Messe offers 271,412 sq. ft. of indoor exhibition space plus and an additional outdoors area of 107,639 sq. ft. in its first stage; and The all-inclusive Moon Palace Resort offers over 150,000 sq ft of meeting space.


To unwind after business is complete, Cancun offers some of the world’s best activities. With thirteen Signature golf courses, more than fifty World Class Spas, five shopping malls in the hotel zone, world-famous Archeological sites, over 200 restaurants in the hotel zone, more than thirty eco-tourism and adventure activities, and some of the world’s most beautiful beaches, Cancun offers something for everyone.


For more information, visit the Cancun Convention and Visitors Bureau website at: www.cancun.travel.

About Cancun

Cancun is located in the northern part of the southeastern Mexican state of Quintana Roo. It is Mexico’s number one tourist destination and is known all over the world for its spectacular beaches, unique beauty and breathtaking turquoise waters.


Cancun’s shoreline recently underwent a $71 Million Dollar makeover, that featured 1.3 billion gallons of sand to renovating the Hotel Zone’s seashore.  The most popular tourism destination in Mexico and Latin America has also added to its sun, beach, and nightlife, by creating a unique five-day route that will offer visitors a chance to experience adventure and interaction with nature. Cancun and the Treasures of the Caribbean invite travelers to discover the vast natural, cultural and gastronomical cultures of Puerto Morelos, and the four islands of the Mexican Caribbean: Holbox, Isla Mujeres, Contoy and Cozumel. Cancun is a multifaceted destination that combines nature, historical Mayan Culture, glamour, luxury and world class tourism with the seduction for adventure, the passion for paradisiacal nature and the enchantment of gastronomical magic.

For more information, visit the Cancun Convention and Visitors Bureau website at: www.cancun.travel. Follow us on Twitter @CancunCVB, “LIKE” us on Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/cancuncvb browse through our videos on YouTube at: http://www.youtube.com/user/cancuntravel and share your pictures of Cancun on our Flickr site at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/22572360@N07/ .


Mexico City Hosts Second Annual International Tourism Fair of the Americas Event is expected to attract 30,000 travel industry professionals and consumers

The Mexico City Ministry of Tourism opened the second annual Tourism Fair of the Americas (FITA by its Spanish acronym), the premier travel trade show in the Western hemisphere. Through exhibitions featuring destinations and new tourism products, FITA promotes and unites the global travel industry, which accounts for approximately 11 percent of worldwide productivity and one in every eleven jobs.

More than 30,000 visitors are expected to attend the four day event. The first two days are limited to travel industry professionals who will engage in an expected 25,000 business meetings on site, establish new partnerships and develop new business and marketing opportunities. The last two days are open to the general public so exhibitors can market their destinations and products directly to consumers.

“We are pleased to once again host this international tourism fair and welcome visitors from around the world to our city,” said Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico City’s Mayor at the opening ceremony. “Mexico City is a natural choice to host FITA, as it is the country’s number one travel destination. We welcome 12 million visitors to Mexico City each year, who come for our many historical and cultural sites, business conventions and world-class restaurants and hotels.”

Exhibitors at FITA include 60 countries from 5 continents, including Brazil, Italy, New Zealand and the United States. Exhibitors include national tourism ministries, airlines, hotel chains and destinations. In addition, attendees can visit pavilions in the convention center dedicated to adventure travel, business meetings and conventions and luxury travel, in addition to other specialized travel opportunities.

FITA will be held from September 22 – 25 at Expo Bancomer, Mexico City’s modern and largest convention center. For more information, visit http://www.fitamx.com/ and www.mexicocityexperience.com

Mexico City is the country’s premier tourism destination, welcoming more than 12 million visitors a year. The ancient capital presents a vibrant, contemporary culture combining pre-Hispanic, colonial and modern influences that span nearly seven centuries. With 160 museums (more than any other city in the world), 31 distinct archeological and historic sites, as well as 100 art galleries, the city’s tourism industry is enhanced with the support of the Mexico City Tourism Promotion Fund (Fondo Mixto de Promocion Turistica del Distrito Federal). For more information, please visit www.mexicocityexperience.com, download the free StyleMap Mexico City app, and for daily updates, please friend/follow us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/MexicoCityExperience) and Twitter (@MexicoCity).

“Mexico: The Royal Tour” – A Good Decision for Calderon, A Good Decision for Mexico

By: Lisa Coleman

Travel host Peter Greenberg’s “Mexico: The Royal Tour” makes its debut tonight and Thursday on PBS channels across the country. A number of my friends attended the preview at the Guggenheim in New York, and several more are at tonight’s event in Los Angeles.

With Mexico’s President, Felipe Calderon, as his guide, the prolific Greenberg gets to explore the grandeur of Mexico in this exquisitely filmed travel profile. Despite portraying Mexico’s beauty to the world, Calderon has come under fire, not only from his detractors, but from his own government as well. The criticism: how could Calderon even endeavor such a project with the country in the obvious throws of drug violence and media assault.

The buzz on the internet today is pretty negative from the Mexican people, which to me is both surprising and disappointing. A blogger friend of mine in Cancun wrote, “It’s unfortunate that most of the Mexicans I have spoken to are pretty disdainful of the “Royal Tour” project. They of course are spouting off “He’s on vacation and making TV shows while he should be dealing with the security of our country!”

I absolutely don’t agree. Maybe the Mexican people can’t see the forest through the trees. As much as they need their President defending the war on drug cartels, they also need him to champion his own country. Tourism is one of the primary sources of revenue to the entire country, and according to the World Tourism Council, provides over 3 million jobs throughout Mexico. You would think the people (and the government) would understand the importance of such a program and positive implications across the board for all of Mexico.

As Calderon himself told the press in New York, “There were a lot of risks,” he said. “There was a lot of criticism. People even in my own administration said it was a mistake. But it was an opportunity for me to show Mexico to people around the world.” I applaud you President Calderon. In my opinion, this program was the right decision for Mexico.


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.

Expedia Brands Recognize Excellence in Mazatlan

Expedia and its TripAdvisor brand recently recognized two Mazatlan companies for delivering superior services. Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay Hotel has been chosen as an Expedia Insiders’ Select 2011 Hotel, one of the travel giant’s top- ranked properties. TripAdvisor awarded Onca Explorations Wildlife Adventures a 2011 Certificate of Excellence.

Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay is a five star AAA Four Diamond hotel, situated on 20 acres overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The hotel is one of two Pueblo Bonito hotels in Mazatlan. According to Expedia Partner Services Group, Expedia Insiders’ Select is “an annual award recognizing the very best hotels available in Expedia’s global marketplace, as judged by customers.” Insiders’ Select properties are identified by customers as “consistently delivering superior services, an exceptional guest experience and notable value…” In addition to this award, Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay staff received one of the top 5 scores in Mexico and Central America according to an annual Condé Nast Traveler readers’ poll published in June.

TripAdvisor, Expedia’s popular travel review site, awards Certificates of Excellence to service providers that continuously receive the best customer reviews. Certificate recipient Onca Explorations provides whale and dolphin watching expeditions, scenic wildlife cruises, as well as a wide variety of ecotours through Mazatlan’s beautiful coastline and islands. The company is owned and operated by Oceanographers and Marine Biologists whose mission is to develop low-impact, high-quality tourism activities that lead to sustainable use of natural resources. Onca’s tours promote environmental awareness through hands-on participation in wildlife research and conservation projects. Most Onca reviews on TripAdvisor include similar comments to those of a Chamainus, B.C. customer. The customer expressed Onca exceeded expectations and provided “highly qualified and personable guides [with] huge respect for environment and marine life. Not gimmicky. We did “Whalequest” but saw much more… hundreds of Bottlenose and common dolphins… sea birds and sea lions as well.”

“These awards recognize the warm hospitality for which Mazatlan is known,” noted Julio Birrueta, Spokesperson for the Mazatlan Tourism Trust.”Expedia and TripAdvisor’s recognitions reflect our industry’s commitment to quality service and providing wonderful travel experiences. We congratulate Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay and Onca Explorations for ranking among the world’s best.”

About Mazatlán

Mazatlán is located on Mexico’s Pacific Coast at the foot of the Sierra Madre Mountains. As Mexico’s second largest coastal city, Mazatlán has nearly 440,000 inhabitants. The city is divided into two main areas: Old Mazatlán or Historic District and Zona Dorada or Golden Zone, with a seven-mile coastal road between the two. Mazatlán has an international sport-fishing reputation. Sites of interest include: the Angela Peralta Theater, Archeological Museum, Plazuela Machado, Sea Shell Museum, Mazatlán Aquarium, The Cathedral and the world’s second-tallest lighthouse. Transportation is available via the local “pulmonías” or four-person open-air vehicles that have become a symbol of the city. Visit Mazatlán on the World Wide Web at www.GoMazatlan.com.

Milagro Gata aka Miracle Cat in Mexico

By Jeanine Kitchel
When we moved to Mexico in 1997, we took our three month old cat with us, too. His name is Max, he was born on the 4th of July, and we got him from the San Francisco SPCA on Union Square where they’d set up a tent and were trying to unload kittens. There were little charmers in the cage and Max was the most bodacious of the bunch. Even when a two-alarm SF fire truck went raging past, he didn’t back away while I was trying to pet him through the wire. He was the one.
He’s been neutered and had his shots. That was his life story–and what was ours, the SPCA authority asked. Well, we explained, we were leaving for Mexico in a few weeks and wanted to take a cat with us. We were cat lovers and we trusted the SPCA when looking for a kitty.
Ohhh, not so fast, we were told. How could they be sure we’d provide a good life for the cat south of the border? In Mexico!
Wait a minute, was this really happening? Were we being questioned about our capacity to provide a risk-free life for our new kitty by the San Francisco SPCA?
Apparently so. By this time we had over-bonded with newly named Max, and just thinking about him not in our lives was almost unbearable. Paul, my husband, must have done some real talking about then, because in half an hour we were trotting away with Mr. Max.
Oddly though, in looking back over the past 14 years, we came to see that Ms. SPCA may have had a leg to stand on. Max has endured some unbelievable ordeals, many man made. Let me elaborate. He didn’t get the nickname “Milagro Gato” or Miracle Cat from our trusted Cancun vet for nada.
First of all, Quintana Roo in those days was very unsettled and downright wild as far as critters go. It was literally a jungle in much of Puerto Morelos and our house sat a mile out of town. We had very few neighbors back then and the mangroves across the sascab road were full of, well, varmints:  gray foxes, crocodiles, boa constrictors, monkeys, and coatamundis.   Also to add to the neighborhood combat list — beach dogs and stray cats. Non-neutered cats.
As life rolled along I realized Max was probably the only neutered cat in all of Quintana Roo. All the strays still had
their testosterone.  I could tell by the midnight cat fights that woke me; I’d jump out of bed, open the screen door, and clap my hands a few times to curtail the fight. That usually worked and Max would haul his battered buns inside the house to sleep off his late night wake-up call, and to realize he was indeed a stranger in a strange land.
By now of course he was tri-lingual: English, Spanish and Mayan, but somehow his 4th of July birthday must have given him away and every stray seemed to know he was a gringo through and through.
He’d cat around in those early days, and often when we went back to the US I’d hear neighbors say, Max was over, or we saw Max in the mangroves. When we went back to the US for months at a time we left him with caretakers. Basically their only job was to feed him. I received an email from a neighbor that said he’d lost all his hair and he was as skinny as the pink panther so obviously something was amiss.
We’d assumed the simple task of feeding him was taking place but when we returned home we saw a raggedy cat with no fur from his midsection to his tail. The caretakers said he wasn’t eating.   After checking his food supply –now Whiskas–what happened to the bags of Science Diet I’d left–I discovered it was moldy.  We dragged him to the vet.   Malnutrition had caused the hair loss and the ungas. Ung-what?   It was a fungus, the vet explained, and if  we applied a topical cream it would go away. From then on we asked the neighbor to check in on him while we were gone.
Although Max was usually an outdoor cat who’d use a flapper door for easy in and out privileges, about a year ago he shrank from any open door for a good two days. We were flummoxed because he liked being outside rather than in.  A day or so later the gardener found a four-foot boa in the front yard, and we assumed this was Max’s reasoning for avoiding the outdoors.  We marveled at what he saw on those dark jungle nights, and how he managed to stay alive.  But there was no way he’d stay inside full time.  Not his style. Early on he’d cavort inside and out of our gated property throwing caution to the wind as he ran across the street. But a few years ago he started avoiding going out the gate as the road got busier (it’s paved now). He hung back and restricted himself to being inside the high walls. His nine lives must have been knocking. Over the years we saw why our vet called him the milagro gato. When we first took him to see the vet at the tender age of 6, he’d nicknamed him that.  Why milagro gato?  Why miracle cat?  we’d asked.  No cat can live in the jungle that long! he’d explained. He’s ‘un milagro.’  And that he is.  To this day.

Celebrating Mexico… Some Little Known Facts

By: Lisa Coleman
Before midnight on the evening of September 15th, bells will ring, the President will shout out a cry for patriotism (El Grito) followed by a threefold yell of Viva Mexico! and the fiesta will begin. Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo is NOT Mexican Independence Day… The 5th of May actually commemorates the Mexican army’s unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862.  Mexico’s Independence Day is September 16th. On this date in 1810 the movement, which became known as the Mexican War of Independence, was led by Mexican-born Spaniards, Mestizos and Amerindians who sought independence from Spain. It was a long, hard fought battle to break the ties, but Mexico finally stood on its own.

In honor of the holiday, I thought of writing about food or celebrations or history… but instead decided to broaden your horizons and share some fun Mexico facts.

Did you know:

1. There is a Mexican tamale called the zacahuil is three feet long and weighs about 150 pounds.
2. Chocolate, corn, chilies and the Caesar salad are among Mexico’s gifts to the world.
3. The first printing press in North America was used in Mexico City in 1539.
4. The National University of Mexico was founded in 1551 by Charles V of Spain and is the oldest university in North America.
5. The poinsettia is named after the first American ambassador to Mexico.
6. The border between Mexico and the United States is the second largest border in the world (only the U.S.-Canadian border is longer).
7. Mexico is located in the “Ring of Fire,” one of the earth’s most violent earthquake and volcano zones.
8. Mexico’s flag is made up three vertical stripes. The left green stripe stand for hope, the middle white stripe represents purity, and the right red stripe represents the blood of the Mexican people. The picture of an eagle eating a snake is based on an Aztec legend.
9. Mexico City is built over the ruins of a great Aztec city, Tenochtitlán. Because it is built on a lake, Mexico is sinking at a rate of 6 to 8 inches a year as pumps draw water out for the city’s growing population.
10. Mexico City has the highest elevation and is oldest city in North America. It is also one of the largest cities in the world.
11. Only ten countries in the world have a larger population than Mexico’s 109,955,400 million people.
12. The Aztecs adopted human sacrifice from earlier cultures (such as the Olmecs) because they believed the universe would come to an end and the sun would cease to move without human blood. There are many ancient statues of gods sticking out their tongues, such as Huitzilopochtli, which may be a sacred gesture that suggests their thirst for blood.
13. Actor Anthony Quinn was the first Mexican to win an Academy Award for his role in the 1952 movies Viva Zapata
14. One unusual Mayan weapon was a “hornet bomb,” which was an actual hornet’s nest thrown at enemies during battle.
15. Spanish conquerors brought bullfighting to Mexico, which is now the national sport of Mexico. Bullfighting takes place from November to April, and the Plaza Mexico is the largest bullring in the world.
16. Mexico remained under Spanish control for nearly 300 years until the Mexican people, led by a priest named Father Hidalgo, rose up against the Spanish on September 16, 1810. Hidalgo is widely considered the father of modern Mexico, and Mexican Independence is celebrated on September 15-16.

I’ve never been in Mexico for the holiday, but it’s certainly on my list. So my sombrero is off to my favorite country, and may you all have a wonderful weekend! Viva Mexico! Viva Mexico! Viva Mexico!

This post is part of a Blog Hop…. check out these other great posts about Mexico’s Holiday!

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.