All posts by johnmitchell

Google Teams up with INAH

By John Mitchell

Search engine giant Google and INAH, the Mexican National Institute of Anthropology and History, have reportedly teamed up to help revive Mexico’s flagging tourism industry.

Google has agreed to help showcase Mexico’s cultural heritage by highlighting the country’s archaeological sites, museums and historical monuments using photographs and videos supplied by INAH. Google Maps will also be providing guided tours to various cultural destinations.

Written in the Stars: UNESCO to create a pre-Hispanic astronomy database

By John Mitchell

It’s no secret that Mexico’s pre-Hispanic civilizations were accomplished stargazers. The ancient Maya, for instance, accurately charted the movements of the moon and Venus, plus they could predict eclipses and other celestial events. And then there is the famous Aztec Calendar or Sun Stone, a huge and incredibly complex circular calendar that is thought to have originated with the Olmecs, the mother of all the ancient Mexican cultures.

As part of the International Year of Astronomy (2009) celebrations, UNESCO and the Mexican National Institute of History and Anthropology (INAH) will be compiling a database of pre-Hispanic archaeological zones that have astronomical significance. The list will include well known sites such as Chichen Itza, Uxmal, Monte Alban, and Palenque as well as many lesser known locales. Paintings and sculptures will also be added to the database.

For more information, visit the INAH website.

El Caracol, The Mayan astronomical observatory at Chichen Itza
El Caracol, The Mayan astronomical observatory at Chichen Itza

Third Night Free in Mexico City

By John Mitchell

Since I am planning to visit Mexico City in July, and because I’m a frugal traveler, this promotion caught my eye. According to the Tourism Secretary of Mexico City, many hotels in the capital will be offering the third night free to their guests up until August 31, 2009.

A list of participating hotels located in different parts of the city is given on the secretariat’s official Web site. Other package deals are advertised on the site as well. It’s too bad that the information is in Spanish only. But then a good deal is the same in any language.

Flag-lowering ceremony in the Zocalo
Flag-lowering ceremony in the Zocalo

Mexico City’s Museums in Trouble

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By John Mitchell

Part of the fallout from the recent swine flu outbreak in Mexico and the subsequent decline in tourism is that some of Mexico City’s world-class museums are in big financial trouble.

According to an article in The News, an English-language newspaper published in Mexico City, Germany is donating US$70,000 to the cash-strapped Museo Frida Kahlo, whose visitation rates are down 90 percent. Also known as the Casa Azul or “Blue House,” this former home of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo and her husband Diego Rivera in the colonial suburb of Coyacán exhibits paintings and sculptures by the famous couple along with many of Frida’s personal possessions.

Other Mexico City museums have reportedly had to ask the Mexican Government for funding to help them stay afloat during the current economic crisis. They include the Museo Diego Rivera Anahuacalli, which was created by Diego Rivera to display his extensive collection of pre-Hispanic artifacts; the Museo Franz Mayor, a well known history museum in the Centro Histórico; and the Museo Dolores Olmedo Patiño, which has one of the largest and most important collections of works by Diego Rivera.

MEXICO WELCOMES YOU BACK

Montreal, May 19th, 2009

The Mexico Tourism Board is pleased to announce that the travel warning of the Foreign Affairs and International Trade Ministry of Canada has been removed from the Mexican travel report. This announcement was made after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lifted its travel warning against all nonessential travel to Mexico.

The International Health organizations congratulate and encourage the initiatives of the Mexican Federal Government. Just recently, the World Tourism Organization recognized the efforts of the Mexico Government for having confronted “the appearance of the Influenza A (H1N1) virus in a serious and responsible manner” and declared that Mexico’s response could be considered as a benchmark. As the well, the Public Health Agency of Canada will cease some measures such as distributing health alert notices to passengers on direct flights to Mexico and having quarantine officers meet every direct flight entering Canada from Mexico.

“Mexico’s government and tourism authorities are very satisfied with the decision taken by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) … to lift the H1N1 influenza alert against nonessential travel to Mexico. Our main priority continues to be the safety of our citizens and visitors, and with evidence that the flu appears to be less threatening than originally thought, Mexico is ready to welcome back all of its visitors and offer them the hospitality and services that have always distinguished us,” said Rodolfo Elizondo, Mexico’s Minister of Tourism.

“…Mexico is known for its capacity of coming out of tough situations even stronger, and this will not be the exception. The travel industry -at all levels- is ready to offer its visitors what they come here for: diversity, culture, relaxation, luxury, adventure, world class infrastructure and most importantly, the best service in the world,” added Oscar Fitch, CEO of the Mexico Tourism Board.

“Furthermore, Mexico appreciates the efforts and cooperation shown by the Canadian Government through the Health Public Agencies from the beginning of the outbreak, and we are very pleased on the decision taken a few hours ago to lift the travel recommendation on avoiding non essential trips to Mexico. We count on all of our partners in Canada. They have expressed outstanding support during these challenging times. The uniqueness of Mexico will always remain the same and we welcome back our always loyal Canadian tourists,” expressed Alfonso Sumano, Regional Director for Canada of the Mexico Tourism Board.

Mexico will always be beyond your expectation!

For more information on the precautions advised by the CDC and Foreign Affairs and International Trade of Canada, visit their website at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/ and http://www.voyage.gc.ca/countries_pays/report_rapport-eng.asp?id=184000

Mexico City’s Museum of Popular Art

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By John Mitchell

Mexico City supposedly has over 150 museums, more than any other city in the world. I haven’t personally counted or explored them all. But on my last visit to Mexico City, I did get a chance to check out the latest addition to the list.

The Museo de Arte Popular (MAP) is located downtown one block south of the Parque Alameda Central inside a handsome Art Deco building that would look perfectly at home in Gotham City. This former police and fire station may seem an unlikely spot for a museum, but it is one of the best of its kind in the country, bringing together folk art from all of Mexico’s 31 states.

Inaugurated on February 28, 2006, this new museum now showcases some 2000 contemporary and traditional pieces reflecting Mexico’s cultural and geographical diversity. The collections — which range from fanciful papier maché and ceramic sculptures (see photo above) to colorful indigenous costumes and religious art — are arrayed in spacious, well-lighted galleries occupying two upper floors. Descriptions in both Spanish and English accompany the exhibits, and video screens show the production of various crafts as well as festivals and dances from around the country. On the building’s ground floor is one of the best-stocked handicrafts stores that I’ve come across in Mexico City. There is also a peaceful courtyard café that makes an ideal spot to decompress in after roaming the city’s bustling streets.

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The Museo de Arte Popular (Museum of Popular Art) is located at Revillagigedo 11, corner of Independencia in downtown Mexico City. Opening hours are Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m. Admission is 40 Mexican pesos (about US$4.00).

A Fave Mexico Guidebook

By John Mitchell

When people ask me what my favorite Mexico guidebook is, I don’t come back with the latest edition of Lonely Planet or Frommer’s (although both have their merits), but rather a book that has been out of print for almost two decades, Mexico Places and Pleasures by Kate Simon.

The first edition of Mexico Places and Pleasures was published in 1962, and the last one appeared in 1988, two years before its author died of cancer at the age of 77. Kate Simon, whose originall name was Kaila Grobsmith, was a Polish immigrant who grew up in New York City. Cosmopolitan and well traveled, she penned a number of literate and popular guidebooks, including ones on Italy, Paris, London and Rome.

What make Mexico Places and Pleasures so special are its unrepentant subjectivity plus the fact that it is as much a travel memoir as it is a guidebook. Unlike most of today’s travel guides, which tend be long on practicalities and short on fun, Kate Simon’s book is full of vivid descriptions of places that she clearly loves, colorful vignettes of daily life, humorous insights into the Mexican character, and judgments that are usually — but not always — kind. Information about hotels, restaurants, transportation and the like is given, but it always takes the back seat (best to consult Lonely Planet for this).

Finding a copy of Mexican Places and Pleasures could be difficult these days, and I’m not about to sell mine. However, if you can track down a salsa-stained used copy, scoop it up. It just might prove to be worth its weight in Aztec gold.