Air flights within Mexico have become much cheaper the past few years as start-up airlines have increased competition to the long-time carrier giants, Mexicana and AeroMexico. Utilizing the power of online booking and well-designed web sites, newer airlines such as Alma, Aviacsa, Avolar and Volaris have opened up new routes at competitive prices, fueling the decline in revenues for the Big Two.
Prior to competition being allowed in the domestic market, the price to fly from city-to-city was insane, with fares much greater mile-to-mile than in the U.S. I recently flew on Avolar round-trip from Tijuana to Tepic, about 2,000 miles total, for less than $175.00. So, props to the Mexican regulators for watching out for the public and not succumbing to the “elite-connected” network pressures that so often dictate the agenda.
As the defender of Mexico’s culture and cuisine, the news was shocking. It’s not bad enough that we have to endure an over abundance of fast food in the good ol’ USA, but now (for reasons I will never understand) Taco Bell is opening in Mexico. Yes, you read that right. Apparently, back in 1992, Taco Bell attempted to cross back over the border into Mexico City. And, after giving it a whirl next door to KFC, they packed up their bland, greasy meat, hard shell tacos and headed home.
I’m not Mexican, but I can assure you the taco is sacred. Come on now, from a food perspective, this is a Mexican icon. A real Mexican taco is something to behold. It’s kind of impossible to get a bad one… unless of course you’re in a strip mall at a Taco Bell. The idea for the “Mexican” Taco Bell is to project a “more American fast-food image.” Why, I don’t know, but maybe there is a marketing guy at Yum Brands, Inc. corporate headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky that knows something the Mexican’s don’t. By the way, Yum Brands, Inc. is also the proud owner of the culinary gems KFC and Pizza Hut.
To make it even more alluring… they have added French fries to the menu at Mexican locations. Not just plain oil-drenched fries, but some with a special south-of-the-border twist. In an attempt to further devastate the Mexican palate, the fries will be topped with a choice of cheese, tomatoes, cream or ground meat. Yum. Yum. Need I go on?
Want to learn Spanish?Here’s an idea for retirees, ex-pats, and other gringos with time to spend in
Mexico:Study Spanish at a university program.
The program I know best is Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara (UAG), but there are others.(See below.)Autónoma roughly means private.
UAG offers a 4-week program every 4 weeks, starting on Mondays, year round.Placement tests are given on the previous Friday and pre-registration is encouraged.If you’re late, however, it’s generally OK to test and register on the first day of class.They’ll even let you take just the first half of the course (for half price), if you want to study only 2 weeks.UAG accepts Visa and Mastercard, for a fee of about $10.
If you want, the university will arrange a home stay with a Mexican family in a shared room and including all meals.The homes are close to the university in the upscale suburb of
UAG’s Spanish course is 4 credit hours of grammar and conversation, 5 days a week.Some sessions include a culture option.An excursion to a nearby locale such as Tequila or Sayula, a cooking class, and a salsa class, for example, are offered as extras.
While non-traditional students often take the course, most of your classmates will be college-age from universities in the
U.S. and Canada – Perfect for maintaining your youthful outlook!
And the best part:UAG’s low cost.(All USD)
4 weeks tuition:$350 plus $25 admin fee
(Optional culture class: add $200)
4 weeks optional home stay $375 + $20 admin fee
Textbook: about $12
Full immersion cultural experience:Priceless
Compare this with a 3-credit Spanish course at my state college, part-time in-state tuition.(Your state’s may cost more):
Tuition and fees:$741
Full immersion cultural experience:Not available
Of course, there are Spanish language institutes in
Guadalajara and all over Mexico that don’t grant university credit, but my research indicates that the institutes generally cost more than the universities.Also don’t sign up for a program through an American college or university.Most add on a sizeable profit, usually about 100%, and some 4- to 6-week programs cost as much as $4000.
There are lots of universities.So check the Web or, if you are lucky enough to be in
Mexico already, mosey on over to your local public or autónoma university and ask about a Spanish program!
Due to Hurricane Dean in late August, the Costa Maya port at Majahual will be closed until September 2008, which means cruise passengers will be detoured to other Mexico and Caribbean ports in the meantime.
The Majahual port opened in 2000 and has become Mexico’s second busiest cruise ship port, following Cozumel. But since the class-5 hurricane destroyed much of the town, the pier, and the tourist complex, port officials say it will take a year to complete the reconstruction at the very least.
Other ports of call will be substituted, including Progreso, near Merida, Calica, just south of Playa del Carmen, Belize City, Belize, and Isla Roatan, Honduras. For more details on what to expect at these other locations, check the site www.cruisemates.com.
Every year International Living magazine ranks the the top retirement havens in the world. This year Mexico comes in at #1, up from #4 a year ago. Each country is evaluated and given a score in eight categories: Real Estate, Special Benefits, Cost of Living, Culture, Health, Infrastructure, Safety/Stability, and Climate. As stated in the magazine “Mexico offers the perfect mix of centuries-old traditions and contemporary lifestyles. Moving to Mexico means you can still have all of the amenities you grew accustomed to north of the border: cable TV, high-speed Internet, and modern home appliances.” The article goes on to say, “If health care is a concern, you should know that in much of Mexico the health care is first rate. Private clinics and hospitals are staffed by expert physicians (many who trained in the U.S., Europe, or in Mexico’s own world-renowned teaching hospitals), and medical care and prescription drugs will cost you only a fraction of what you would pay in the States.”
Mexico was followed by Ecuador, Italy, Panama, Australia, Malta, Spain, South Africa, Mayalasia, and France.
Juany Appleseed…. has a nice ring to it doesn’t it? In the last several years, Mexico has spent a tremendous amount of time and money on promoting ecotourism. The government and tourism programs have made a significant effort to educate nationals and foreigners about the country’s natural resources. Nonetheless, Mexico City has always been a sore spot with more cars and air pollution than they can even begin to overcome… but, the good news is… they are making that effort.
On the “Treehugger” website, it was recently published that Mexico’s new president has taken aggressive steps to things going green not just in Mexico City, but country-wide. Part of his strategy of change is to reduce CO2 by 25 million tons. It’s an optimistic plan, but we’ll take it. According to www.treehugger.com, the idea is to plant 250 million trees by the end of 2007 to help develop wood-based biofuels in forest communities and restore agricultural lands.
In and around Mexico City, there will be three million trees planted in 25 communities over 49,000 acres. I for one think it’s a grand and great idea. Hopefully, the children of Mexico City and rural Mexico will one day see clear blue skies!
Hats off to you Senor Calderon for making this effort!