Category Archives: Events

Explore Tourism Social Media Boot Camp 2011 in Riviera Maya

by Jeanine Kitchel

Kay Walten of Locogringo.com has transitioned into social media consulting with her new Walten group and Explore Tourism Seminars. October 8 and 9 she’ll host the social media boot camp in the Riviera Maya-Cancun area at Dreams Riviera Cancun Resort and Spa in Puerto Morelos.

The two day seminar will discuss how social media and networking can be used effectively by travel and tourism businesses, and explore strategies for tourism marketing for Cancun and the Riviera Maya.

Walten says Mexico is in the process of winning the battle against negative press and social media and the use of social networks can assist in overcoming some of the challenges Mexico faces in the international press.

Explore Tourism Social Media Boot Camp 2011 will educate industry professionals, both large and small, on how they can create a voice for their business and work with others to promote Mexico as a destination.  The seminar is designed for marketing professionals, business owners, management staff and employees in the Mexican tourism industry, resort hotels, small hotels, e-commerce site owners, tour companies and small businesses such as dive shops, restaurants, wedding planners and spas.

Walten’s success with Locogringo.com has dovetailed with her new efforts in social media.

“Since  the internet evolved and social media marketing began to get popular in 2007, I naturally  gravitated towards more platforms than the Locogringo forums and website,” Walten said.  “In 2011 I have discovered I have valuable information and want to share it with other businesses in the area so they can easily start or continue a social media marketing strategy that is not only good for their own businesses but for the area as well.”

Walten has lived in Akumal for over 19 years.  She and husband Gary founded the popular locogringo website in the mid-90s, which is the largest independently owned online booking and resource website for the area and has been written up by the New York Times and the Washington Post.

The seminar begins October 8 and 9 at 9 a.m. and finishes at 1:30 p.m. Early bird discounted tickets start at 1750 pesos plus a 57.75 peso processing fee.  The event includes lunch and refreshments. For more information, contact Kay Walten at kay@kaywalten.com.

2012 The Year of the Maya – Doomsday Or A New Day? Plan Early

MERIDA, Mexico – Will December 21, 2012 fulfill the ancient Mayan prophecy as the end of the world or will it be the beginning of a new era of enlightenment?

Banking on the latter, Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon has designated 2012 The Year of the Maya. This year-long festival of special events celebrates all things Maya and will include international exhibits, symposiums with renowned scholars, dance festivals, concerts, and regional culinary festivals. Facilities under construction for this special year include two new museums on the Maya, and the public opening of several new archaeological sites.

El Caracol, a Maya astronomical observatory at Chichen Itza. Click on photo for more information.

Early Planning is Essential! Put a Stay at Hacienda Xcanatun on The Calendar Now.

Savvy travelers are already reserving luxury accommodations at the historic and centrally located Hacienda Xcanatun (www.xcanatun.com).The elegant, boutique hotel is set on the outskirts of Merida, and recommended by Patricia Schultz in the second edition of her book 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. Guests enjoy a prime vantage point for sampling a luxe lifestyle and easy access to all the special events and new venues in and around Merida during The Year of the Maya.

What’s On Tap for 2012?

Almost around the corner from Hacienda Xcanatun, is Merida’s new archaeology museum: The Museum of the Mayan World (Museo del Mundo Maya). It is expected to open in October 2012. Interactive exhibitions will showcase rare Mayan miniatures and ceramic pieces, along with a collection of carved Chacmool statues. The Chacmool is often associated with the rain god Chac, and at other times served as an altar for offerings to the gods.

Chac Mool sculpture from Chichen Itza. Please click on the photo for more information.

Another major exhibit will document the rise and fall of sisal and the sisal plantations in the 18th century. Sisal, a.k.a. green gold, was essential for making rope, critical to the shipping industry. It became the Yucatan’s most important cash crop creating 100’s of millionaires who built opulent plantations and a lifestyle to match. Other exhibitions will showcase Mexico’s ethnic groups. A botanical garden and an IMAX theater will also be housed in the new facility.

The Palace of the Mayan World (El Palacio del Mundo Maya) is under construction 7 miles from Chichen Itza, in the town of Yaxkaba. Promising a different kind of experience, The Palace will replicate a sacred Maya city when completed, where visitors can experience how life was organized and the daily activities in a holy center. For bikers, a trail from Chichen Itza to The Palace runs over a sacbe or “white road” similar to those great ceremonial avenues connecting ancient Maya centers.

Archaeological sites unavailable to the public will be opened, and several older archaeology sites are being further restored with improved access roads and facilities.

Maya dancers performing at the Teatro Indigena in Tocopo, Yucatan, Mexican
Yucatec Maya Dancers. Please click on the photo for more information.

The Best Place To Stay? Hacienda Xcanatun!

Hacienda Xcanatun was once one of the largest and grandest sisal plantations in the Yucatan. Current owners Cristina Baker and Jorge Ruz, son of one of Mexico’s most famous archaeologists, spent five years transforming the estate into a luxe manor house hotel with acres of gardens and manicured jungle. From the beginning they have instilled the Maya legacy of living in harmony with nature into their management style. This commitment extends to the intimate spa, where Carolina Martinez, Xcanatun’s head Maya therapist, trained by her shaman (healer) grandfather, creates unique treatments from ancient Maya rituals. Very popular with guests are Hacienda Xcanatun’s customized private day trips guided by skilled archaeologists and ecologists native to the Yucatan. These trips should be arranged in advance when booking 2012 reservations!

Accommodations feature 18 high-ceilinged suites, each with a private balcony or patio. All are air-conditioned and individually decorated in a Carib-colonial style with hand-carved furnishings, antiques, and marble bathrooms. Two swimming pools provide a calm oasis deep in the gardens. Casa de Piedra, their gourmet restaurant, highlights enticing Fusion Yucatecan specialties. It is ranked among the top 50 restaurants in Mexico.

From 2011 through 2012 nightly rates range from $260 – $345 single or double occupancy (Christmas/New Year’s slightly higher). The rates include continental breakfast. Taxes and hotel service charges are additional.

For reservations and more information about Hacienda Xcanatun and the Year of the Maya call toll-free: USA 1-888–883-3633; in Canada: 877-838-1445. The website is at www.xcanatun.com; or e-mail hacienda@xcanatun.com

Hacienda Xcanatun
Km. 12 Carretera Merida-Progreso
Merida, Yucatan, Mexico

Images by John Mitchell

Tis the Season for Wine in Mexico! Salud!

By: Lisa Coleman

Last week in Oaxaca I was reminded of the exquisite tastes that can be found throughout Mexico. But, tis the season for wine! And at my age… wine is the key. I never thought I would become one of those people who perused the wine list with my cheater reading glasses and actually gave damn about where a particular grape came from. But I do try! Whether I know what I’m ordering isn’t exactly the point, but I have really fallen in love with everything about wine. I have morphed into a real wino, oh, and a foodie. Isn’t that an odd term? “Foodie”… who came up with that? (My “Foodie” blogger friends will have to let me know!)

Anyway, as my wine drinking years crisscrossed into my Mexico travel career, it was quickly apparent that:  A.) It wasn’t about how many tequila shots I could do anymore (which at one point was indeed an impressive number!) B.) The Mexican wine scene did in fact exist. C.) It’s quite a good scene.
Once again, as with most things in Mexico, there is far more here than meets the eye. Even sophisticated sippers may not understand the depth and excellence of our neighbor’s southern grapes. To bring you up to speed, here’s a quick history lesson and a bit of interesting information.

Wine has been a companion of food since the dawn of time. Yet in Mexico the possibilities of the grape were not discovered until the 18th century, long after the wine regions of France had defined themselves. A Jesuit priest, Father Juan de Ugarte, and his missionaries arrived to Baja California in 1701 and took charge of the Loreto Mission. It was he who planted the original grapevines on the peninsula and initiated the future of Mexico’s vineyards.
What most connoisseurs may not know is that Mexico has a privileged region for the breeding and cultivation of great wines. In the northern most part of the Baja Peninsula, predominantly between Ensenada and Tecate, lie two famous valleys – Guadalupe and Calafia. In these areas, well within the wine-producing zone of the Northern Hemisphere, the waters of the Pacific Ocean dictate coastal weather. This creates a somewhat Mediterranean climate with winter rain and dry springs and summers. The result is a weather pattern that resembles that of France’s Rhone and Southern Burgundy regions.

Mexican wine and winemaking got off to a rather sluggish start and national names struggled to make a reputation for themselves around the world. But over time, modernization, development and a commitment to quality have cultivated the valleys’ resources the highest level. Mexico is indeed producing fine wines. The larger wineries like Pedro Domecq, Bodegas de Santo Tomás and L.A. Cetto continue to elevate the standards of Mexican blends. The smaller boutique houses, namely Cavas Valmar, Monte Xanic, Casa de Piedra, Liceaga, Vinisterra and Chateau Camou are also producing low volume runs of extremely flavorful and structured selections that have gained international notoriety. The level of excellence in today’s wine from the Baja is at a pinnacle never before attained in Mexico. It is not uncommon to see Mexican wines on import lists in the United States and Europe, even in France. (see a map of the region and wineries here: http://www.wineriesinbaja.com/baja-winery-maps.htm

As long as there has been wine, there has been celebration of the harvest. And celebrations are at their best in Mexico. With splendor, grandeur, beauty and excitement the Mexican people embrace the tradition of recognizing the moment when grapes mature and new wines are born. Each year, beginning the first week in August, the Mexican wineries host the Grape Harvest Fiesta (Fiesta de la Vendimia).

Over the course of four weeks, in the Valley of Guadalupe in the municipality of Ensenada, Baja California, grapes are carefully plucked from their vines and festivities abound. Cultural events, tours of the Valley, tastings and sumptuous feasts are the highlight for hundreds of visitors who partake in the offerings of local producers. Throughout the month, each winery has a schedule of happenings geared specifically for the introduction of their latest creations. Most of the wineries participate in group events.

The quality of the wine estates of Mexico is constantly improving. Consumption is increasing and the wines of the Baja have surpassed the era when there were merely aspirations of collectors and curious connoisseurs. Like its cuisine, Mexican wine is now a respected contender in the wine circles of the world.

For more information about the Fiestas de la Vendimia in and around Ensendada area, check out http://www.fiestasdelavendimia.com/ or  http://www.bajabound.com/events/vendimiaschedule.php. This year’s events kick off on August 5th with an opening “Wine Experience” and culminate with a Paella Cooking Contest on August 22nd.. Most events cost between $25 and $150.00 US dollars, but admission is free for the traditional street fair on August 19th and 20th at Santo Tomás. 

If you’re a wine drinker, this should certainly make your list of events. I say bottoms up, Mexico and cheers for stepping so proudly and successfully into the wine arena.

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  a joint public and private sector initiative designed to help promote Mexico as a global business partner and an unrivaled tourist destination.

RIVIERA MAYA STAGES FIFTH ANNUAL MAYAN SACRED JOURNEY EVENT

By John Mitchell

Canoes leaving the village of Polé at the Sacred Mayan Journey 2011 event, Riviera Maya, Mexico. Click on photo to see larger version.

Perched on steep cliffs overlooking white-sand beaches and the startlingly blue Caribbean Sea, the ruined city of Tulum is now a magnet for tourists visiting the Riviera Maya. At one time, however, Tulum was part of a network of busy ports from which Mayan seafarers embarked on trading journeys that took them as far away as Panama. The Yucatec Maya also made frequent pilgrimages to the island of Cutzamil, now modern-day Cozumel, where they worshiped the moon goddess Ixchel who – among other things – governed the tides, sent hurricanes and bestowed fertility.

The Sacred Mayan Journey project was founded in 2007 with the intent of bringing this ancient religious pilgrimage back to life. Then and every year since, about 300 men and women volunteers from the Riviera Maya communities of Xcaret, Cozumel and Playa del Carmen have trained for months in order to make the grueling 100-kilometer (60-mile) round trip to Cozumel in up to 30 traditional Mayan dugout canoes. The crossing takes at least five hours each way on the rough waters of the Cozumel channel.

This year (May 19-21, 2011), the Riviera Maya marked the fifth anniversary of the Sacred Mayan Journey event, and I was fortunate enough to be invited, along with a number of other travel journalists, to attend the festivities. The event began at Xcaret with the re-creation of an ancient Mayan market or Kii’wik. Before entering the market, we were told to put our pesos and dollars away. Each of us was then given a bag of cacao beans (most other visitors had to pay for theirs), which were used as currency by the Maya in pre-Hispanic times. Once inside the bustling outdoor marketplace, we were immersed in a world of exotic sights, sounds, and smells.

The pungent odor of copal incense wafted through the air, and the local Mayan dialect replaced Spanish as vendors dressed in traditional costumes hawked their wares. Offered for sale in a maze of wooden stalls were honey, seashell jewelry, herbs and spices, fresh produce, plus a host of other earthy delights. Craftspeople were hard at work making baskets and wooden carvings, while others cooked tortillas and roasted cacao beans in huge ceramic bowls. From the steps of a stone ceremonial platform at the center of the market, an elderly Maya chieftain or shaman — I wasn’t sure which — sporting a regal feathered headdress serenely surveyed the hectic scene. The market was obviously theater. Nonetheless, the atmosphere was upbeat, and proceeds from sales went to help local Maya communities.

Leaving the market, we joined the throng heading towards the seaside village of Polé to watch the opening ceremonies. En route, we were purified by clouds of copal incense pouring from chalices held high by dancers clad in white gowns. The path wound through lush forest past a voluptuous effigy of Ixchel surrounded by offerings of flowers, ears of corn, and squash. Soon we arrived at the beach where there was a palpable air of anticipation as the spectators awaited the arrival of warriors with Guerrero Gonzalez, a shipwrecked Spanish sailor who had been captured and enslaved by the Maya.

What followed was a program of traditional music, colorful purification rituals and dances that stretched into the night. Our small group eventually headed back to our comfy hotel, the Hacienda Tres Rios, for a few hours of shuteye before returning to Polé to witness the departure of the boats. At the first light of dawn, we were back at the cove with some 3000 people watching the hardy paddlers climb into their canoes and sail off into the choppy water under a pink-tinged sky. Shamans, along with baritone blasts from conch-shell horns and cheers from the crowd, bid the seafarers farewell. Once at Cutzamil, the oarsmen would present the slave Guerrero Gonzalez and other offerings to Ixchel and then ask the goddess for her blessings, which they would take back to the mainland.

On the following afternoon, we gathered on the beach at Xamanhá, now the resort city of Playa del Carmen, to await the pilgrims’ return. The crowd eagerly scanned the horizon for signs of the canoes. Suddenly they appeared from around a rocky point, accompanied by two Mexican naval vessels. Bravos rang out as the first canoes hit the sandy shore, and a wave of people ran to greet and hug the paddlers.

A closing ceremony ensued with more music, dancing and theater, this time featuring a reborn Guerrero Gonzalez, who had been granted his freedom while on Cutzamil and was about to elope with an alluring Mayan princess. Most moving of all, though, was the presentation of awards to the paddlers, who looked tired and sunburned but were obviously in high spirits. The glowing looks on the participants’ faces as they received medals and certificates spoke of their sense of accomplishment and camaraderie that will no doubt ensure the continuation of this demanding journey in years to come.

Here is a slideshow of some of my photos taken at this year’s Sacred Mayan Journey event. Move the cursor over the screen to view captions. Click on individual images to see larger versions and for information on ordering prints or downloading photos.

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Sacred Mayan Journey 2011 – Images by John Mitchell

Off to the Riviera Maya

By John Mitchell

Next week, yours truly will be heading off to the Riviera Maya to attend the Sacred Mayan Journey event (May 19-21). This annual ceremony is the recreation of an ancient Mayan pilgrimage in seagoing canoes to the Island of Cozumel, where the Maya used to worship the moon goddess Ixchel. I shall also be visiting the archaeological sites of Tulum and Cobá. After my return, I will be posting reports of this trip (including lots of photos) on Mexico Premiere. So please stay tuned…

© John Mitchell, Mexico, Coba, mayan pyramid
The Great Pyramid or Nohoch Mul (Great Mound) at the Mayan ruins of Coba, Quintana Roo, Mexico. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Mexico Later

Mazatlán, Sinaloa – Mexico’s Sustainable Nature Tourism Symposium, originally scheduled to take place in April 7-10, 2011, has been postponed due to the severe agricultural crisis that affected more than on million hectares after the record cold weather experienced in Sinaloa in February 2011. Details on the Planeta Wiki

Planeta.com’s Ron Mader was scheduled to present the marketing overview and workshop titled Mexico Now … which is now postponed until … later.

Sustainable Nature Tourism Symposium