All posts by Dave

Hurricane Odile – a different view

by David Simmonds
From “The name Odile is a French baby name. The French meaning of the name Odile is Wealthy.”
How’s that for irony? – there IS a lot of money in Cabo, probably the most expensive tourist destination in Mexico.
It’s been over a week now and the town at the end of the Baja highway, Cabo San Lucas, is still a mess, although repairs are in rapid progress. Neighboring San Jose del Cabo was hit too, as was the capital city La Paz, but it was “Cabo” that received the most direct, devastating  haymaker – a punch from which they will not completely recover for many months, maybe a couple of years. This was the strongest blow, a category three,  to hit the area in a long time and the ferocity took most by surprise.
In the aftermath the media often focused on the plight of the tourists, some 30,000, of them, who had their vacations so rudely ruined. I’ve seen and read numerous complaints from some of the unlucky travelers, who were apparently not aware of hurricane season. They recounted how horrible everything was, the inconveniences –  and then having to re-locate (gasp!) to different accommodations, and you know, all that heat without any AC, and they couldn’t go HOME RIGHT AWAY! There was a letter to the editor of the San Diego Union-Tribune that called it shameful of the US government not to use the US military to get the tourists back to their jobs and still – standing homes. They say they should have been “airlifted” because…well, I’m not sure exactly the rationale around that. There were no deaths and a few injuries from things like flying glass. It was an adventure that they will re-tell many times over cocktails. You can always count on Mexico for a good tale.
Forgive my lack of sympathy, but it is the local population of Baja Sur who are the only victims here, and that is where we should put all of our focus. The hotels, resorts and marinas will make the necessary repairs and contact their insurance carriers, as will the expats who have built and bought homes in the area. Mexico people, both native and transplants, are a tough lot. They live in an unforgiving desert in one of the prettiest natural settings I had ever seen when I first stepped off an old Mexican bus into the then tiny town in 1974. These people know what can happen when you live where hurricanes and chubascos brew. It’s part of the contract. They will learn from this and be better prepared for the next one. Because, one day, there will be a next one.
There are many organizations easily found on the web to make a contribution and I strongly suggest that you do so.  Here is one you can trust

Ex-Mexico City Mayor Has Some Things To Say

David Simmonds

There is no argument that Mexico has made tremendous strides in many areas the past 20 years. Manufacturing increase has been a huge success and tourists from around the world have come to know Mexico as a top destination. And after 71 years of stagnation with a one-party rule by the PRI, there is now a growing middle-class.

Mexico City specifically is a good example of success, with more theaters and museums than New Your City, and is considered by many to be the capital of Latin America with a vibrant business and social scene. Some of the credit has to go to Marcelo Ebrard, the PRD liberal party mayor from 2006 to 2011. He was voted as “worlds best mayor” in 2010 by the Project World Mayor.

Now Ebrard seems to be positioning himself for a run at the presidency in 2018 citing the need for a change in direction to address some of the country’s failures. Read what he has to say in this article from the Latin American Herald Tribune

Almost White by Rick Najera – book review

AlmostWhite FINAL_with Cover-1 1

by David Simmonds

Almost White
Rick Najera
Smiley Books, New York, NY

A good book keeps you turning the pages. When you put it down for the night you do so reluctantly – you want to know where it is going and how that might affect you. But above all a good book teaches you something you didn’t know, it expands your perspective in directions you didn’t know existed. You learn something new, and you are better for it.

Rick Najera’s new book, Almost White, succeeds on all counts. It is Rick’s story, from his childhood in San Diego to his successes in Hollywood and Broadway, told with a stark honesty of what it means to be an Hispanic in the “white man’s” traditional domain.

We meet Rick first in the hospital ICU where he is recovering from a bout of pneumonia and a vicious fall that nearly kills him. It is a dire situation, but as is true throughout the book, Rick deftly melds humor with drama as he tells his entertaining stories of his climbing the illusionary ladder, albeit often two steps up and one step down – but always forging ahead, knowing that his life’s work is what he was meant to do, not only for himself and his family, but for the many other talented artists of color who do not always find a voice or an open avenue to succeed.

Reading the book you quickly learn that Rick is a funny guy. After all, Najera writes comedy in Hollywood and it is apparent why. In Living Color and MADtv don’t hire hacks, and he has written for both. He has also written, directed and starred in Latinologues, making him one of only three Latinos to do all three on Broadway. So he has the background to make his story a legitimate one. But there is undeniably an undertone of anger present as Rick recounts his experiences as being perceived as – almost white. It is not a manufactured anger of “woe is me”, but an anger built on years of frustration, obvious racism and nailed-shut doors. And you, the reader, understands that anger can often be a positive force. Anger has always been the spark that has fueled positive change, and that is why, I suspect, Rick has written his story.

Now back to my first paragraph, does the reader learn something from reading Almost White? Yes, without a doubt. I have known people who have tried a life in Hollywood, and it is very difficult to succeed. That’s the reality for anyone not named Clooney or Streep. But having read this book I have learned that there is another layer of challenges for anyone born with the last name of Cepeda, or Trujillo – or Najera. It is real, and it is wrong. Almost White is a well-written, informative read that I highly recommend.

Note: Available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and various bookstores.

Festival Sayulita

David Simmonds

I first drove into the then small rustic town of Sayulita in the summer of 1970, shortly after the road had been paved from Tepic. The town wasn’t much – a few house, a small town center, a sweet break out front that no one was surfing, fishermen with their pangas, and mud in the streets – lots of mud. In other words, perfect.

About 30 years later it had been well-discovered by the travel and surf crowds and now they are hosting the first annual Festival Sayulita. It promises to be great fun with lots to do and see, and I may just have to make it. After all, it’s still a very special place. I’ll just have to make sure I’m not preaching to anyone who will listen “man, you should seen it…” Go here for more info


Time For ATMEX 2

Atmex 1

David Simmonds


Adventure Travel Mexico. Those three words can be interpreted differently by anyone. For many, traveling to Mexico is in itself an adventure, from slurping colorful umbrella cocktails at a 5-star resort to driving the back roads of the Sierra Madre – adventure is where you find it, often determined by your previous experiences or lack thereof. The first time you walk down a cobbled street in a pouring rain is an adventure, or straying into a local’s-only Mexico City cantina qualifies, as well. That lump in your throat is a sure sign.

I have personally driven tens of thousands of miles throughout Mexico and I can guarantee you, every day was an adventure. Entering a small Sierra Madre town on the back roads where few tourists go is an adventure qualifier, as is blowing a tire and remembering that you don’t have a spare or a jack. Ah, but thankfully you remembered the beer – some adventures are more fun than others.Webster defines Adventure as “an exciting or remarkable experience”. That sounds like a good appraisal of life itself, at least for those with the spirit to pursue the unusual. And it sure describes Mexico travel.

But for most people Adventure Travel is something all together different. Wikipedia calls it “a type of tourism, involving exploration or travel to remote, exotic and possibly hostile areas. This may include activities such as mountaineering, trekking, bungee jumping, mountain biking, rafting, zip-lining, paragliding and rock climbing.” And it is these more physical pursuits that make Mexico an obvious choice for your next great adventure. I was lucky enough last year to participate in the inaugural ATMEX, an event that brings buyers and sellers of Adventure Travel to Veracruz City so that they can then help introduce Adventure Travel Mexico to the world.  It was a fabulous several days with knowledgeable speakers preceded by a trip to the jungles of Veracruz for tent/bungalow camping at Mexico Verde where we white-water rafted, zip-lined, mountain biked and ate and slept extremely well. From there it was south to the lakeside town of Catemaco for a day of kayaking. Veracruz may be Mexico’s prettiest state, followed closely by Nayarit, Jalisco and Colima (yes, these are opinions).

Veracruz is rich with AT opportunities, but all of Mexico has their own regional focuses, from whale-watching in Baja to hiking remote barrancas in the Copper Canyon (tip: if you see illegal plants being grown, head the other direction). You could spend a lifetime exploring all of the different trips being offered, or by creating your own. Just make the effort…you won’t be disappointed.

The next ATMEX will again be in Veracruz August 14 – 17. If you are a travel professional you should consider attending. You can learn more here.

Atmex 2

Track That Hurricane

David Simmonds

Well, we are entering my favorite time of the year in Mexico – hurricane season! I kid only slightly, as I do like the rainy/mosquito/humid months in Mexico more than any other. The sunsets become a vibrant 60’s flashback, everything turns from brown to green, and tourism takes a little bit of a break, leaving behind the twisted souls who find  peace in a violent rainstorm followed by an eerie stillness. There is really nothing like it.

There are a lot of good travel deals July – October as hotels understand that some money is better than no money (although much of Mexico travel in August). So if you are looking for a good price at a nice resort or independent hotel this is a good time to start searching the web. And you should also find one or two good hurricane tracker web sites just in case one starts to blow on your travel dates. Just type hurricane tracker into your search engine and you’ll find numerous sites. With enough warning you may even be able to cancel your trip with little or no penalty…or you can go ahead and take your chances.

“If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary.
Jim Rohn

Pemex May Lose Monopoly

David Simmonds

Newly-elected Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto campaigned on the promise to open up oil exploration to foreign and private companies. Pemex, the state owned oil monopoly, has controlled all petroleum-related activities in Mexico since the expropriation of all oil reserves and foreign oil companies in 1938. It has been a major source of income for the government for decades, and a matter of pride to many millions of Mexicans. There are also constitutional issues that could prevent this from taking place, so the courts will also be involved.

If Pena is able to push this through Congress it is sure to be protested by many. There is no argument that oil production has been in decline for nearly a decade, and that the government (Pemex) doesn’t seem to have the funds available to do what is necessary to remedy that. But does the country really want to lose their identity and autonomy, for which there is such pride? Stay tuned to this story – it will have a major impact on Mexico in the coming years