By David Simmonds
Those of us who have traveled Baja California for decades know that the 900-mile long peninsula is, like a wild Mustang, not easily tamed…and we like it that way. The lone, winding highway connecting Tijuana to land’s end at Cabo San Lucas was completed in 1973, spurring tourist-oriented growth around the southern Cape, now one of Mexico’s most visited destinations. But the majority of Baja has changed little for the past 35 years, attracting road-hardened, adventurous travelers and residents who don’t much like crowds and concrete. Bordered by the Pacific Ocean and the imcomparable Sea of Cortez, the lack of fresh water and searing summer heat have been Nature’s ardent protector from the inevitable advances of the single-minded Hammer-Swingers. If some places on earth deserve protection (of course, they do), then Baja California has to be near the top of that shrinking, sacred list. Make your next Mexico visit to Baja and you’ll see what I mean.
The Baja California Meeting three-day summit was held in Tijuana last week, where a Fonatur (the tourist development arm of the Mexican government) spokesman announced plans to study the pristine area between Gonzaga Bay and Bahia de los Angeles on the Sea of Cortez, about 300 miles south of the border. “We need to build three Cancuns, and we are analyzing where we could do so, and one of them could be in this zone”, is how the Fonatur official matter-of-factly put it. As he was addressing mostly developers and real estate moguls, his musings were met with head-nodding approval.
One Cancun, a Disney-like experience for serious party warriors, is enough. Much of that once ecological and cultural wonder is being destroyed, with no end of destruction in sight. Okay, we’ll give them that one, although I’m not sure the local Mayan civilization would agree. But Cancun was a mistake and should not be repeated…anywhere.
Fortunately, there are several environmental watchdog groups who diligently fight for nature. For a good overview check out Ron Mader’s excellent web site: http://www.planeta.com.
With the recent Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to Al Gore, the sometimes flickering light being shined our earth’s environment has never been brighter. It is up to each of us to get involved. It’s a fight worth fighting.
By Ron Mader
Oaxaca City’s Sánchez Pascuas Market specializes in fresh vegetables and fruits, local cheeses, good food and crafts. In 2007 this traditional market celebrated its 35th anniversary and the party was sublime!
Sánchez Pascuas is documented in the newly developing Oaxaca Market Project, an initiative of Planeta.com and friends in Oaxaca. We ask visitors to print photos (seen here archived on Flickr) and give them to the venders. This puts a new spin on the traditional “take only photographs” mantra by giving the photos back and raising awareness and increasing purchases of traditional crafts and local food.
From piedrazos to tlayudas, the Best of Oaxaca survey addresses specialized treats which makes this place unique.
The survey asks about traditional food items, places to visit and distinctive features including city parks and historic trees.
Nominations are now being accepted in the 2007 Best of Oaxaca Survey. Nominate your favorites now!
The Zapotec community of Teotitlán del Valle holds its annual town fiesta the first week in July. There is an assortment of carnival rides, and on Wednesday, July 4, performances of the famous Danza de la Pluma in which dancers wear elaborate headdresses fashioned from painted feathers.
Lying at the base of the Sierra Juárez, the town is within hiking distance of interesting places such as El Picacho, Cerro Gie Bets, which translates as ‘Stone Brother’ in Zapotec. Tip for visitors – check out weaver-guided tours. New this year will be a Feria de Tamales. Spend some time in the Place of the Gods!
Outside Mexico tourism professionals and journalists ask whether it’s time to promote travel to Oaxaca. Will there be a Guelaguetza? Is it safe? In Oaxaca most locals say ‘yes’ it’s time to promote travel and the sooner the better. True, things remain uncertain (‘unresolved’ is the frequently used word in conversations), but that alone should not deter visitors.
During this time of upheaval, many Oaxacans are seeing the bright side of self-organization and more proactive marketing endeavors that are uniting people who once saw each other as competitors. Among the advances – brand new associations for Spanish language schools and bed and breakfast hotels.
More news about current conditions in Oaxaca on Planeta.com’s guide to Reality tourism in Oaxaca.