All posts by madair

Tourism Going Strong in Mexico

By MP Mexico News Staff

• Monarch Butterfly Biosphere and San Miguel de Allende, two new attractions in Mexico
• Archaeological sites, traditions, gastronomy and the friendly people are top reasons Americans travel to Mexico
• US tourist flow increases to 3 million during the first 4 months of 2008
• More than 40% of Americans travel to Mexico for cultural tourism

Mexico DF, July 14, 2008– The trend that indicates the growth of American tourists to Mexico was steady during the first four months of 2008, while executives at the Mexico Tourism Board (MTB) assured that this growth will increase during the summer months, especially because of the dollar’s weakness against the Euro and an integral offer which highlights culture.

According to the most recent statistics from the Integrated System for Immigration Operations (SIOM), a total of 3,073,895 American tourists visited their southern neighbor during the first four months of the present year, compared to the 2,992,472 that did so during the same period in 2007.

According to Oscar Fitch, CEO of the MTB, this trend will continue throughout 2008, because a great number of Americans are choosing Mexico over European vacations due in partly because of its affordability due to the skyrocketing value of the American dollar to the Euro.

“More American tourists are discovering that they can get more for less in Mexico. I am sure this trend will continue throughout all of 2008, not only because of the economical advantages, but also because of the quality and variety of our offerings, specifically our magnificent culture.” said Fitch.

According to studies released by the Secretary of Tourism, more than 40 percent of the tourists that travel to Mexico, take part in cultural activities as part of their trip attracted by one of the most rich and diverse offers in the world that includes archeological sites, traditions, people and food.

This interest had a new push last Monday, July 7, when UNESCO named the city of San Miguel de Allende and the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, World Heritage Sites, increasing the number of places and festivities that have been designated as such to 29.

San Miguel de Allende unites itself to other nine cities that have received the distinction: Campeche, Mexico City, Guanajuato, Morelia, Oaxaca, Puebla, Queretaro, Tlacotalpan and Zacatecas; meanwhile the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve was added to a list that includes Sian Ka’an, the Whale Sanctuary at El Vizcaino, and the Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California.

Other wonderful archaeological centers include Calakmul, Chichen Itza, El Tajin, Paquime, Palenque, Teotihuacan, Uxmal and Xochicalco; sites such as Rock Paintings of the Sierra de San Francisco, Monasteries of the 16th Century on the Slopes of Popocatepetl, the Hospicio Cabanas in Guadalajara, the Franciscan Missions in the Sierra Gorda in Queretaro, the House and Studio of Mexican architect Luis Barragan in Mexico City, the Agave Landscape and Ancient Industrial Installations in the town of Tequila, and the Central University City Campus of the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM); as well as the Indigenous Festivities of Day of the Dead.

Adding to these unforgettable places and festivities is a diverse offering for the aroma and taste where, along succulent traditional delicacies such as the Mole and the Chiles en Nogada, a new gastronomy has surged which includes delicacies such as Fish Tacos, Stuffed Chiles with Lobster and Seafood, Cactus and Scallops Salad, Salmon Fillet in Tomato Salsa, Honey and Sesame, and the Tuna Carpaccio of the Coast. This gastronomical offering satisfies any taste.

For more information please visit:

About the Mexico Tourism Board
The Mexico Tourism Board (MTB) brings together the resources of federal and state governments, municipalities and private companies to promote Mexico’s tourism attractions and destinations internationally. Created in 1999, the MTB is Mexico’s tourism promotion agency, and its participants include members of both the private and public sectors. The MTB has offices throughout North America, Europe, Asia and Latin America.

New Explorations Under Pyramid Of The Sun

Beneath Teotihuacan’s Pyramid of the Sun.

Further Explorations in the “Place Where Gods Were Born”

By Marita Adair


It’s not breaking news that a long series of caves, or interconnected chambers, exist below Mexico’s Pyramid of the Sun at the massive Teotihuacan archeological site near Mexico City.  They have been mapped for some time. But new explorations that began in 2005 continue again for a third and final season beginning July 1.

Spelunking doesn’t apply, in case you’re wondering, even though they are called caves. By all accounts these had sacred significance and ceremonial use. However, somewhere in time most chambers were blockaded and their purpose is part of the mystery

The chamber of interest this year is a large man-made one just below the main façade/platform of the Pyramid of the Sun. According to Alejandro Sarabia Gonzalez, project director, and director of Teotihuacan “The objective of the new exploration is to determine events that happened in there and to obtain elements that allow discovering its meaning and the reason why it was covered completely.”

As it always is with this sort of exploration, new discoveries and questions lead to new studies. Thus the multi-era platforms at the foot of the main façade also became part of the study, as did a tunnel dug at the beginning of the 20th century. 

Occupation of Teotihuacan was begun around 100 A.D. and the Pyramid of the Sun dates from between the first and second centuries A.D.  Even then the caves were central to life and beliefs. The Pyramid of the Sun was “centered on the cave’s entrance and dedicated to the Great Goddess and the god of storm, lightening and rain” according to authors of the book Teotihuacan, Art from the City of the Gods (Thames & Hudson, 1993)  The position of the cave figured in the orientation of the pyramid and the setting sun. The book has an excellent drawing of the line of interlocking chambers.

Archeological explorations are ongoing in many parts of this site that once covered 20 square miles and held 125,000 inhabitants. Tremendous influence from these unknown inhabitants has been recorded as far south as Guatemala. Alas, no one knows yet what the people of this city looked like, what they called themselves, or why they abandoned the city after more than 600 years of use. Photos of Teotihuacan are at  Specialized tours of Teotihuacan started in April 2008 and are described at For tour reservations, and possibly more details, contact


Cracking The Maya Code On PBS

Late Breaking News
Cracking the Maya Code
The week of April 8, 2008 on PBS stations

Marita Adair

Fasten your seatbelts. Prepare for a head-spinning ride through the centuries on a twist-and-turn journey that ends with the decipherment of Maya hieroglyphs.
Based on the extraordinarily riveting book Breaking the Maya Code by Michael D. Coe, PBS,  invites us on this journey that includes a cast of characters and storyline worthy of a major motion picture: vicious scholarly rivalries, major setbacks, generous heroes  and heroines, ancient archaeological sites, amazing sleuthing, dusty archives, lost-then-found manuscripts, sweat and scholarship.  That’s without mentioning what the deciphered glyphs reveal:  named people, dates, events, births, deaths, kings, queens, wars, sacrifices, and rivalries that now speak from carved stone. The trail leads around the world and back again to the Maya Civilization found in southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador.

In his book Michael Coe compares cracking the Maya code to the importance of space exploration and discovering the genetic code. You read that correctly. And as you’ll see in the film, “new” sites and information reveal more each year.

As for this movie version, if you are thinking dull documentary, forget it. For one thing, Coe’s prose is so lively, opinion-filled, and rich in characters, that the book is hard to put down. But you must in order to digest it all.  So the PBS version, that distills it into 56 minutes, provides the provocative overview that may send you running to the bookstore for your personal copy of the book which, of course, holds all the enthralling details It’s one of those “keeper” books every lover of Mexico must have.

Teachers and layfolk alike will appreciate the aids PBS has on its site that include a time line of decipherment, a fascinating “reading” of the 8th-century glyph on Stela 3 from Piedras Negras, Guatemala and hearing it in Maya,  seeing a Maya mural discovered in Guatemala in 2001, a map of the Maya World, plus teacher aids, and an exemplary list of books.

At last, in our lifetime, this multi-country mystery with many linguistic challenges, has been pieced together. Now all we have to do is go and see what the ancients built. And then stuff ourselves with knowledge about a life so important that they carved stories in stone with primitive tools and built enormous stone cities in commemoration. Or stuff ourselves and then go.

Check your local PBS TV listing for film times. Or, if you miss it, see it online at the PBS website. Some stations may repeat it several times this week.



15 Special Inns In Mexico Make National Geo List

Marita Adair 

Hot off the press. The April 2008 issue of National Geographic Traveler showcases 15 inns in Mexico, among 150 in Mexico, Canada, the U.S. and Caribbean, as exuding the best “Sense of Place.” That’s out of a starting list of more than 600.  To make the cut, each inn demonstrated how the guest experience incorporates the locale and its soul via food, ambiance, decoration, architecture, nature, culture, setting, staff etc., and how the inn gives back to the community, among other criteria. All that plus being a great place to stay. Selection didn’t require being big or on the beach, although a few are both.

Just to tease, below are eight inns from the list of fifteen in Mexico.

The former ghost town of Alamos, Sonora, in northern Mexico, achieves the honor for remoteness. It’s not easy to get to and there aren’t many places to stay. So it’s remarkable that two inns, of the fifteen selected in Mexico, rose to the honored list.   Even today Alamos’ architecture exudes its 18th century silver mining heyday. Thick-walled, white washed, common-walled structures front narrow winding streets hinting at what lies within. What better experience than to stay in historic spaces created to serve silver grandees: the 27-room Hacienda de los Santos Resort and Spa (  and the 10-room Hotel Colonial (www.alamoshotelcolonial).

Four exquisitely restored former sisal haciendas on the Yucatan Peninsula ooze the essence of aristocratic life as it was a hundred years ago when the world clamored for Yucatan sisal and made mortals rich, rich, rich.  These include the 18-room Hacienda Xcanatun (, and three haciendas represented by Starwood Hotels: the 11-room Hacienda Santa Rosa, the 28-room Hacienda Temozon, and the 12-room Hacienda Uayamon ( When the clamor ended, once grand haciendas went to ruin. Today travelers bask in history amidst luxurious amenities and manicured surroundings.

Far away from sultry, flat Yucatan, and the desert of Sonora, is the central Mexico mountain village of San Miguel de Allende.  This popular, beautifully preserved, colonial-era town is awash in comely inns. So it’s notable that two inns, created within historic structures (as are many), managed to stand out for offering a special San Miguel stay: the 10-room Casa Quetzal (, and the 10-room Casa Schuck Boutique (

Other featured hotels are in Puebla, Baja California Norte; Nayarit and Quintana Roo. Unfortunately the short descriptions in the magazine don’t reveal all the ways each hotel captures the essence of each place, or its involvement in the community. For that, we must go.

George O. Jackson Photo Exhibit In San Antonio

 Legacy of George O. Jackson
Mexican Festivals A Feast for the Eyes
 Marita Adair
In 2001, when George O. Jackson crossed the first goal line of his enormous Essence of Mexico Project  11 years after he started,hehad photographed 330 of the most important indigenous festivals in Mexico as they existed in the last decade of the millennium. He had also ensured that the more than 76,000 images would be housed at the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection at the University of Texas at Austin  and available to future  generations of scholars.

A portion of that legacy will be on view March 15-May 25, 2008, when the public is presented a glimpse of festivals in Mexico’s Huasteca region through Jackson’s lens at the San Antonio Museum of Art, San Antonio, Texas. El Cuerpo Adornado: Exploring the Aesthetic Spirit of Mexico  
with 25 life-size color giclé photographs. Over several years Jackson spent months in this culturally rich area where six Mexican states converge—Tamaulipas, Veracruz, San Luis Potosi, Hidalgo, Queretaro and Puebla.

He  describes the Huasteca region as “probably the most fascinating area left in Mexico.” Because there’s no disruptive commercial reason for the outside world to go there, it’s relatively untouched. Thus, this show reveals a world few outside of it have seen.

The Smithsonian Museum, which has a show of his photographs in progress in Washington, D. C., pronounced that Jackson “is widely regarded as among the most accomplished photographers of Mexican ceremonial life today.”
Whether or not there is ever hall of fame recognition for this contribution (in my mind, there should be), future generations will marvel at his stamina and cultural eye just as we do the work of other noted scholars such as Carl Lumholtz, Oscar Lewis,  Frederick A. Ober, Stephens and Catherwood and others who left us a distinct vision of Mexico in their time.

Over all, he searched out festivals in 23 Mexican states and the Federal District and included 62 cultural groups. Besides the Benson Library, Jackson donated 10,000 of the most publishable photographs to The San Antonio Museum of Art; the photographs from this show will remain in its permanent collection.
Statistics, however, fail at telling the whole Essence of Mexico story. As you may know, to photographically document a Mexican festival requires enormous energy and unflagging determination.  You have to be tough to keep up particularly when covering a festival start to finish as Jackson did; most festivals last several days from sunup to far beyond sundown. Jackson averaged 30 of these a year lugging a 35mm Nikon on each shoulder, bulging pockets of film, and all the other appropriate camera equipment. For at least half of the decade funding the dream was a constant uncertainty.
His show  of 150 images, Mexican Cycles, at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History,  in Washington, D. C.  has been held over through April of 2008. The Smithsonian images depict religious festivals in indigenous communities across Mexico. From there it will go on display at Mexico City’s  Museo Nacional de Antropologia de Mexico, followed by a 22-year tour to Mexico’s cultural venues around the world. A long tour for a big dream that continues to unfold.
Since the two shows mentioned here showcase only 200 of Jackson’s thousands of  photos, keep your eyes peeled, folks, there’s lots more to come. Jackson offers his festival prints for sale in large format. Contact him at  His more
contemporary work can be seen at