All posts by Dave

Checking In With A New Expat

David Simmonds

I want to introduce you to Stacy Taylor, a friend of mine. Stacy has spent most of his adult life in radio as a talk-show host. He’s one of the best in the business, having had good runs in San Diego, Chicago, and most recently San Francisco. Stacy couldn’t do the right-wing scream that dominates the airwaves. He’s way too smart and independent for that, so he’s in Mexico, a place he has always like. In fact, that is how we got to know each other about 17 years ago when I was publishing the Mexico File and he had a top-rated show in San Diego. He graciously had me on his show a few times.

Well, the radio biz has changed in recent years and Stacy is now living in Rosarito Beach in Baja, just about 30 miles south of the border on the West Coast.  I wanted you to read some of his thoughts that he posts on his blog. I have the feeling that Stacy will be migrating from radio to writing, and if you read this piece you’ll see why.

http://stacytaylor.com/living-in-mexico/baja/some-observations-after-two-months-in-baja/

The Maya Said What?

Read Jeanine Kitchel’s Book for the Answer

 By David Simmonds

Maya 2012 Revealed, Demystifying the Prophecy, Jeanine Kitchel, 2012, Amazon, itunes, Nook.

If you’re like me, you may have been wondering what all the Maya “it’s-the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it” controversy is all about. As has been widely reported, on December 21, 2012, there will be a rare alignment in the skies when the sun will be positioned exactly on the crossroads between the galactic equinox (huh?) and the Milky Way – my favorite candy bar. Apparently, this is a big deal, so we better all take note.

One thing we know for sure about the ancient Maya is that they were excellent astronomers, and they saw this day coming many centuries ago, naming it the Sacred Tree. So if the Maya really believed this, one would be well advised to pay attention. You never want to be caught with your pants down when cataclysmic events are on the horizon (I refer to Hannibal and the Romans at the Battle of the Trebia, or when the guy jumps out of the trunk in The Hangover).

There appear to be several interpretations as to exactly what will happen on that fateful day. One camp (and we know who you are) is predicting total annihilation of Mother Earth and you darn well better make peace with your maker, if not the IRS and your ex-spouse. Another more scholarly group points out that for the Maya all events are circular – there are no endings. So December 21 will be a reset day – a new beginning for mankind. That doesn’t sound like such a bad idea given the cost of a college education these days. And, of course, there are the New Age acolytes, fully prepared to experience the Age of Aquarius, sung with such passion on stage in the Hair production four decades ago. Love and Peace forever, brother.

Fortunately, Jeanine Kitchel has written an engaging and scholarly book just in time to clear up the confusion. I first met the author about 13 years ago as I passed through Puerto Morelos, Quintana Roo, Mexico, where she was living and running an English-language bookstore with her husband, Paul. It was there that she became enthralled with the Maya, reading all that she could about that great civilization, and like everyone else, trying to figure out what happened to cause the abandonment of the thousands of cities and villages, many of which have since been dug out of the dense jungles of Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras and the southern Mexico states of Chiapas, Tabasco, Campeche, Yucatán and Quintana Roo. In the book Jeanine painstakingly cites all of the Maya-phile works, from John Lloyd Stephens to Michael Coe to David Stuart.

“It was something I loved to read about,” she says. “I was fascinated by the Maya culture and the fact that, at the time, no one could break the code. It was this incredible mystery and a very exciting time in the Yucatan and I was at the source. As each new Maya title was published -about the civilization, the code, the pyramids – I ordered it. I read everything I could get my hands on. I was seriously addicted.”

Jeanine had a lot of ground to cover, as the Maya have been around a long time, dating back to the Pre-Classic period of c. 2000 BC to AD 250. And, of course, they are still with us – about seven million at last count. The advanced, lost civilizations may have mysteriously disappeared, but the people have always remained. There are still many different dialects spoken and in many settlements, way back in the bush, daily life and rituals have been maintained in close accordance with their ancestors of long ago. Many settlements have both secular and religious leaders, and offerings are made in the manner of the ancient Maya. They have a distinctive dress, with the women wearing colorful huipiles (blouses) and the men still working the corn fields of their forefathers. They are truly a fascinating and enduring people – a culture that has survived and adapted, and one that we may all be wise to learn from.

Kitchel has written an essential book for anyone who would like to learn about the Maya. She has condensed volumes of information into an easy-to-read and understand page-turner. So what is her conclusion about what will happen on December 21? Well, just pick up an ebook copy for a cheap price to find out, and you’ll also be helping out some Maya kids. On each book sold, a portion of the profits will go to edúcaTE Yucatán, an educational non-profit organization in Yucatán that helps send poor Maya children to school. To get a copy of Maya 2012 Revealed, Demystifying the Prophecy, check Kitchel’s website at www.jeaninekitchel.com or Amazon.com, iTunes and Nook.

This article was originally published on http://www.mexicotoday.org Visit for more news about Mexico.

 

Should You Move to Mexico?

David Simmonds

It seems like a simple enough question, doesn’t it? You are at point in your life when a major change is possible. You’ve traveled to a few places in Mexico, kicked back on the beach at sunset with a cold cerveza and thought “I really like this place – the weather is perfect, prices are good, the people are amazing – yes, maybe I could make this happen.” And then, of course, most of us go back home and dutifully fall into the familiar daily grind, only occasionally allowing ourselves to remember that day on the beach and the possible plan that always seems…just out of reach.

But now, more and more of us are acting on those elusive dreams. For many that time in life has arrived when the impossible becomes the possible, the impractical becomes “just maybe.” The Baby Boomers, those ‘60’s counterculture rebels-in-waiting, have worked for 40 years and are finally ready to be the people they remember they were. At the core, they are still the backpackers and wanderers, the idealists and the dreamers. And Mexico, after all, is so close, and it has all those warm beaches, and history, and food carts serving those mesquite tacos…just maybe.

And it’s not just the Boomers. The internet has changed everything over the past 20 years. Today you find younger gringos, many with families, living in Mexico. They have web-based businesses they can run from anywhere, or they have started a physical business in Mexico – a restaurant, a tour business, a real estate office. They live in a Mexican neighborhood and are learning Spanish. They have discovered the concept of community, a soul-satisfying lifestyle that has all but disappeared in many towns and cities north of the border.

Moving to another country, without doubt, is a big deal, and requires extensive research and planning. That beautiful little colonial town in the highlands seemed like a place you could call home forever when you visited for that one idyllic week last year. As did the fishing village where you spent two weeks last Christmas – well before the rainy season with all the bugs and humidity that no one thought to mention to you. Finding your spot, the place that you could live, requires that you spend some time there, summer and winter. You need to see if you can adjust to the pace, the daily life challenges, the Mexican way.

Pick several places that you think you could live. Do extensive research on the net, read the blogs and join the discussion groups. Ask questions from people who are in Mexico. Learn all that you can, and then plan a road trip, either by car, bus, plane or most likely a combination of all three. Initially, spend at least a few days in the places you are considering. Look at the neighborhoods where you might live, not just the tourist area. How is the local transportation, the town infrastructure, the cultural options? Can you get back to the US or Canada directly if you need to without sitting all day in the Mexico City airport waiting for your flight. If you’re on the ocean is the water actually accessible for safe swimming? How are the medical services? That is a big issue. How will you spend your days? If you are retiring, what are you going to do with yourself? Will you soon be bored, waiting for happy-hour every day? These are just some of the many questions you will need to answer before you haul all your things down there to set up house and a new life.

I am always asked “where is the best place in Mexico?” And, of course, it is impossible to answer. It is a different place for everyone, and is answered from the heart more than the head. For me it is the West Coast of mainland Mexico, in the states of Nayarit, Jalisco and Colima. I like the jungle, warm water, and crashing surf. I like to watch the sun set over the sea and the discovery of a beach with no footprints that I haven’t seen before. Yes, for me, that is the best place in Mexico, I answer them.

So, is Mexico for you? It is estimated that about a million Americans and Canadians live at least a few months in Mexico every year. I know many of them, and most have told me it is the best decision they have ever made. They feel safe, leading full, interesting lives, and wouldn’t go back full time to their old hometowns if you paid them to. They have discovered that it’s never too late to be that person they remember. How about you?

This article was oringally published on www.mexicotoday.org . Click to visit the site for all current Mexico news.

 

 

Working Tour of Sonora

Hermosillo, Sonora, 16 July 2012.- During his tour of the state of Sonora, President Calderón inaugurated two roads that will improve traffic and therefore, the quality of life of the inhabitants of Hermosillo.

Firstly, the bridge over Bulevar García Morales, at the intersection with Bulevar Antonio Quiroga, links major freeways and will benefit over 62,000 vehicles that travel through the area daily. Moreover, in order to speed up traffic entering and leaving the south of Hermosillo, a road distributor was built on Bulevar Solidaridad, at the intersection with Manuel J. Clouthier.

Measuring one kilometer, it will ease traffic for the over 100,000 vehicles traveling through the area. The president remarked that the Federal Government’s investment in these two works exceeded 560 million pesos.

The president stressed that by 2011, the Federal Government had assigned nearly 7.5 billion pesos for the construction and modernization of highways and country roads in Sonora. These resources have permitted key works such as the modernization of the San Luis Río Colorado-Mexicali and Caborca-Sonoyta roads and the construction of the International San Luis Río Colorado Bridge. To have some idea of the funds invested in the modernization and construction of the highways in the state, suffice it to say that the amounts are greater than the entire amount invested in all the country’s highways five years ago. In regard to other achievements in infrastructure, the president announced that in addition to highway, water supply and treatment projects have also been completed.

At the end of his tour, President Calderón inaugurated the Family Medicine Unit No. 68 of the Social Security Institute, which will serve over 70,000 members. This clinic has an Outpatient’s Unit, which will permit surgeries that do not require the patients’ hospitalization, as well as two operating theaters, areas for chemotherapy, hemodialysis, and 9 doctor’s surgeries. It will deal with specialties such as oncology, ENT, pneumology, nephrology, endoscopy, urology, orthopedics and ophthalmology.
During his administration, 27 new hospitals and clinics have been built in the state of Sonora alone, such as the San Luis Río Colorado Hospital, the Huatabampo Hospital, the Mother and Child Hospital in Obregón and the remodeling of Hermosillo General Hospital
The president concluded his address by announcing that the Popular Insurance Scheme has contributed to universal health coverage in Sonora and declared that universal coverage is an achievement of which all Mexicans should be proud.

The Nick Gallo Award – Travel Writers Submit Now

David Simmonds

Our old friend and colleague Nick Gallo tragically died just over four years ago. Please read about that here. The following year we at Mexico Premiere started the Nick Gallo Award, dedicated to Nick’s memory and the lofty standards he brought, yes, demanded, to travel writing.  The Gallo Award fills the void left when, at that same time, the yearly Pluma de Plata Award, presented every year at Tianguis by the Mexican government, was discontinued. Nick, by the way, was a two-time winner of the Pluma de Plata. The dude was good. Hell, he probably could have won every year. Internet search some of his articles and you’ll see what I mean.

So here we are again and it’s time for all of you travel writers who have written about Mexico in 2011 to send us one or more submissions for this year’s award.  The guidelines can be found here.

Please note that we have opened it up to print and web entries this year, with a minimum of 500 words – although longer is probably better. Nick’s artist wife Laurie designs and makes the beautiful plaque awarded to the winner. And thanks to our good friend Sylvie Laitre of our co-sponsor Mexico Boutique Hotels, we are also offering – drum roll here –  three nights at the incomparable Casa de Mita hotel, near Puerto Vallarta! This is a very exclusive, high-end resort and we are very thankful to them for this generous gift with a monetary value of about $2,000. Yes, I thought that might get your attention.

Casa de Mita is an ultra-chic beachfront pad, and an ode to good taste and effortless elegance. Owner Marc Lindskog has elevated all-inclusive to a new level, where service is as five-star as the meals, and the only place you’ll need your wallet is at the tiny—but irresistible—boutique shop. Their “all-inclusive exclusive” menus vary daily to celebrate the catch of the day, and local specialties are tweaked to haute cuisine. Plus, it’s all served al fresco with ocean views. Its intimate size (six guestrooms and two suites), excellent service and sense of place make it the very definition of a “Mexico Boutique Hotel.”

So, amigos, get those entries in to us now. Lisa Coleman, Lydia Gregory and I look forward to reading each submission, and we really appreciate helping to keep Nick’s legacy alive.

 

The Blue Tarp School

By David Simmonds

The Kids

It was the summer of 1980 when David Lynch, a special-ed teacher from Long Island, New York, traveled to Tijuana with some others to volunteer in a colonia by the municipal dump. As David tells the story, the kids in the colonia were the children of the “trash pickers”, or pepenadores. That is how they made a meager living, by recycling other people’s trash. He quickly noticed that they had no school to attend, so he spread a blue tarp on the ground and asked the kids to join him there. Every day more kids would show up and David would do what he does – teach. Now, 31 years have passed and David is still there. Over 6,000 kids have attended the school and have had their lives forever changed because one man decided to do something bigger than himself.

Illustrated by Hernan Sosa

Thanks to word-of-mouth and media coverage there is now a two-story school built on the original blue tarp site, built with donations (including Susan Sarandon) and a lot of hard work. Felipe Gonzales was one of David’s first students, one of the dump worker’s sons. He is now a teacher at the school, one who knows how important it is to be given an education – a chance at a better life. Many other students have gone on to lead equally productive lives as professionals, shop owners, factory workers and on and on.

 

I met David Lynch when my son, Tanner, a high school junior (who has just been elected ASB President), was looking for a community service project in which to be involved. His research led him to call David Lynch and ask what he could do to help out. Since I have years of driving in Mexico experience, I offered to join Tanner in driving the school’s large van on field trips, which we have done on several occasions. And then more recently, Tanner spearheaded a Santa’s Gift project at his high school in San Diego, collecting over 200 Christmas gifts for the kids at the Tijuana school. The kids were amazed and so grateful, but what struck me more than anything else was how genuine, curious and well-mannered they are. They expect nothing and appreciate everything, seemingly forgotten traits by many kids north of the border. I think Tanner has learned more than he thought possible by his interaction with the Tijuana kids, about humility, perspective and acceptance.

Tanner with some of Santa’s Gifts

There is a children’s book about all of this called Armando and the Blue Tarp School http://www.bluetarpschool.com/, and David Lynch’s web site is here http://www.responsibilityonline.org/

 

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.