Nov 25, 2006

Hairy food in Catemaco

The last few years, beautiful downtown Catemaco has been graced with an annual "Conservation Week" event which mainly helps to display the conservation efforts of its community leaders, including dozens of government organizations who earn a salary for involving themselves in Los Tuxtlas.

To me the most magnificent specific event was the gastronomic "tour de force" of the cooking abilities of the uptown beautiful Catemaco communities. Especially the ability by the sponsoring Government organizations to talk these uphill impoverished communities into providing giant shrimp with all the trimmings at 5 pesos per plate.

I am no fool!

I ate most anything I could get my mouth around. And that includes some stuff I never thought would cross my lips.

And, WOW !!, most of the food was delicious, except for that tamale stuffed with little slippery fish.

Nov 23, 2006

Counting Catemaco

Mexico is a declared democracy with a constitution which has been amended around 80 times in less than 90 years, and is subject to be further massacred at a moment's notice. The statistics/experiences presented here are not necessarily true of anywhere else in Mexico, although I seriously doubt that.

The election for presidente (mayor) of beautiful uptown and downtown Catemaco, Veracruz occured September 2004, and the mayor occupied his (stripped by the previous administration) office on January 1, 2005. He, (no woman was ever elected), was to retain the office for only three years (Mexican constitutional law prohibits reelection of any government official to the same office, until the passage of one elected term).

On January 2, 2005 began the election campaign for the next mayor of Catemaco. At present there are 26 candidates for the mayor job, distributed among various parties.

The population of Catemaco as of 2000 was 45,383. The municipio is on a minor downward spiral according to population statistics provided by INEGI, the Mexican statistics agency. Thus statistical figures are staying fairly constant.

According to INEGI, in 2000, the Catemaco population above the age of 15 was 21,842. Considering that the minimum age to vote in Mexico is 18, and there was a total population of 45,383, minus 21,182 which were less than 15 years old, minus the proportionate count of those which were less than the minimum age of 18, (2,913), that left a remainder of 20,628 voting age adults.

In the last presidential election (2006) the Catemaco vote count was 17,137. That is an amazing 83 percent of adults (not registered voters) who voted in Catemaco. Registered voter statistics are almost impossible to obtain in Mexico, because they would possibly present 150% voter participation. (I am probably just a stupid foreigner that does not understand Mexican statistics).

In 2004 the municipal election for mayor of Catemaco was won with 6,444 votes of an alleged 17,235 voters.

In 2006 the new Mexican president was elected with a similar less than majority vote.
Mexico is a representative democracy which does not require a majority to win anything. This was never important in the years during which the PRI (party in control of Mexico for 60 years) controlled the government, because they controlled EVERYTHING no matter which way the vote was counted.

Since 2000, when the PRI first lost the presidential office, this lack of majority in anything, has stuck Mexico in a quagmire of indecision, while China usurped its US markets.

Nov 18, 2006

Catemaco banking

There is one inept office of Bancomer in Catemaco, and 3 other banks have ATM machines, one of which, Banorte, has a permanent cash shortage.

For any serious bank action you get to visit San Andres Tuxtla. There you learn that to do any serious banking, maybe Veracruz can help you, or maybe Puebla, but more than likely Mexico City.

That behemoth of neoliberalism, Walmart, known in Mexican financial circles as Walmex, just received approval to start banking in Mexico.

Personally, in my book, Walmart has not added anything special to Mexican retailing, except for putting spikes up the butts of Mexican national chains, and fooling their shoppers with their "lowest prices" campaign. Perhaps they will do the same to local banking, because all of the Mexican banks need a very LARGE spike .

Curiously, there is only one major bank remaining in Mexican hands. All others are multinational conglomerates, whose overseas or US customers would probably start a revolution over the local fees and inept handling of accounts.

So sorry to say, Muy Bienvenido "Banco Wal-Mart de Mexico Adelante".
What a name!

Biosphere Reserve of Los Tuxtlas

39 pages of pretty pictures, statistics and charts, stored on a Veracruz government server which takes long minutes to load.

I think they do that because the Veracruz government thinks there is a superfast Telmex broadband connection in every casita in the state. That is right after putting "two chickens in every pot" as US president Herbert Hoover said in 1928, and proceded to do.

Take the time though, please. It is an excellent presentation.

Catemaco UFO

A strange round object was recently sighted just south of beautiful downtown Catemaco, Veracruz near the edge of Laguna Catemaco.

Catemaco has a history of visits from outer space, which may or may not be the subject of a further blog entry; dependent on whether my abductors will allow me.
Meanwhile, check out more strange object spattered around the Catemaco landscape.

Nov 17, 2006

Jibbletits of Catemaco

Beautiful downtown Catemaco has its share of jibbletits, and many were celebrating the recent enactment of the first legal acceptance of homosexual unions in Mexico, after 100's of years of homophobic repressions.

There is still a worldwide problem about how to properly address communities outside of the heterosexual mainstream. Usually they are classified as GLBT or GBLT, jibbletit, a brown paper sack for gay, bisexual, lesbian and transexual content.
Mexican laws specifies that a union of a pair of people be done in a civil court. The new law, at present only effective in Mexico City, also gives the rights of a civil union to unmarried couples, which is probably the more worthwhile but less newsworthy aspect of the law.

The religious elements in Mexico, of course, are having a fit.

Catemaco Migra-ine

Living in beautiful downtown Catemaco, Veracruz has a few problems specific to only gringos with FM3 visas.
An FM3 visa holder has to visit the immigration office once a year which requires two days.
I have now discovered a new wrinkle which might require an extra two days. Within the FM3 visa it states that a change of address must be recorded within 30 days.

Like the fool that I am I requested a change of address with my request for an extension of my FM3 visa. The foolish part, of course was that I mentioned that I changed my address more than 30 days before I requested the extension.
So, naturally, in their usual helpful way at this government office, they did not inform me of the penalty for not informing them of my change of address within 30 days.
So today I had to pay a 500 peso multa (fine) for my failure to lie.

And it dawned on me, that some stupid FM3 foreigner living in different hotels in beautiful Catemaco, while seeking a home, would legitimately have to pass more time in Veracruz City than living in any other place in the state, while filing change of address forms.

I do believe that the Veracruz City government tourism office has bribed the Mexican Immigration office to enforce that change of address rule. Otherwise, I would not expect a Mexican government agency to be so stupid.

And if you wonder why I posted these stupid photos, it is because it is absolutely forbidden to take photos within the immigration building, which is really a very beautifully restored historic building. So, naturally, accidentally, my camera clicked.

Nov 16, 2006

Catemaco Press

Aside from the local mayor sending out thugs to rough up a news anouncing wagon, journalists in Catemaco and Los Tuxtlas, Veracruz are doing well. Most receive hand outs from whoever is looking for a political angle.

Others in Mexico get killed because they missed an angle or two. The former editor of the Mexican national newspaper Exelsior was just murdered.

Coming right upon the killing of a journalist in Oaxaca, many periodistas (journalists) are probably thinking of changing their occupation to ecologists. They talk almost as much. But at least they only seem to shoot them in Brazil.

Update 11-22-06
Investigative reporter slain in Veracruz

Nov 15, 2006

Catemaco Corruption

Mexico possibly has one of the best governments anyone could buy. And cheap, too.

In the 1840`s, the then Mexican president tried to sell what is now most of the southern US. ( Mexicans love to forget that fact). In the 1960's another Mexican president bought Acapulco, or at least the part worthwhile having. A later one, turned out to be one of the richest men in the world.

That's the big stuff.

The little stuff is that many municipal employees or their mothers buying two cars and a nice house within a year of their getting a municipal job, on a usually considerably less than 25,000 pesos a month salary. Of course, everyone knows that they skipped their lunches.

Corruption is so ingrained in small town politics in this part of Mexico that it is usually shrugged off by locals as "asi es." (that's the way it is)

Both Mexico and the state of Veracruz are working hard to establish a system of government transparency. Equally, there are just as many local computer programmers working hard to circumvent the system.

The proverbial "asi es" conditions affect monetary shortages in every level of government, from so called paracaidistas, (parachutists who only drop in for kicked back paychecks), to the traditional under the table 10% rebate for any municipal construction work.

Officially (there is no officially, just a estimate) Mexico loses 10% of its possible government expenditures to bribery. On a local level I would venture a guess of a lot closer to 20%.

Considering this theft of money, multiplied by a dozen of previous administrations, can anyone imagine how much better many of the affected communities could be, without of course the former municipal president's castles in town or Cancun, Huatulco or wherever they hide their money?

Nov 14, 2006

Catemaco Weather

There is no weather in beautiful downtown Catemaco. Neither is there weather in Los Tuxtlas, Veracruz.

I have no idea how the natural disaster agencies of the state of Veracruz religiously declare assorted municipios, including Catemaco, disaster zones. They must be using fortune teller crystal balls, or possibly have a direct line to local brujos, because there is not one single weather station in Los Tuxtlas.

And Los Tuxtlas have such wonderful variations as 2 to 5+ meters ( 6-18 feet) of annual rain, and storms often just below hurricane strength.

I am amazed that Yahoo, and assorted other websites, list weather reports for Catemaco, San Andres Tuxtla, and other usually weather impaired places in Los Tuxtlas.

The closest rain counters are in Minatitlan/Coatzacoalcos and Veracruz city. Both several hours distant. The former dozen weather stations around Los Tuxtlas were closed in the early 1990's because of budget cuts. There is a radar station near Alvarado, which apparently lacks the budget to turn on the electricity for more than a few days a month.

This shortage of weather information not only affects Los Tuxtlas. The large urban area of Cordoba, Orizaba also lacks adequate information.

Los Tuxtlas have a unique weather pattern because of the height of its gulf shore volcanoes which disrupt the Gulf of Mexico air flow. And while the sun may be shining in Veracruz or Minatitlan, the inhabitants of Los Tuxtlas scurry to save their belongings from torrential rain or howling winds.

Simple automated weather stations are available for less than 1,000 dollars. One would think the Reserva Biologica de Los Tuxtlas, or the Estacion Biologica de Los Tuxtlas, or even one of the local municipios or even one of the local newspapers could afford to buy and maintain one of those instruments.

Needless to say, locals listen to the Veracruz state weather reports, and half the time, haul their lanchas on shore without attending storms, and the local farmers huddle around their milpas while the sun is shining.

That is ok. The municipal presidents are experts at declaring their counties disaster areas: come rain or come shine.

Mexico Blogs

While most of the world began blogging, Mexico slept.

Blogging in Mexico did not substantially increase until the 2006 Mexican elections. Apparently that event excited the literate cockroaches of Mexico, and now there are hundreds of blogs attempting to vindicate a defeated candidate, or enthrall readers with revolutionary doings.

English and other non-Spanish blogs have also sprouted, and several happily circumvent article 33 of the Mexican constitution desgned to turn foreigners into deaf mutes. lists most of the Mexican blogs, currently almost 5,000.

Aside from blogs, there are thousands of political columnists in Mexico, usually supported by a physical newspaper or internet news rag. Most Mexican columnists have not discovered the benefit of independent logs because they depend on their patronizing news sources.

Beautiful downtown Catemaco is at present saddled with only one blog. And that blog is in English for shame!

That may be related to the local Mexican monopoly of TELMEX, the local phone line operator, who can take up to 2 years to install a telephone/internet connection next to a house that already has an existing phone line.

Nov 12, 2006

Catemaco Mail

Ok, so today I got nailed for a propina (tip) by the same mailman who has been delivering 66.66% of my mail for the last few years. The other 33.33% never arrived here. Must be a problem in AmeriKa, said the local postmistress.

In 1931 the Mexican government instituted the Dia del Cartero (Mail carrier day) allegedly to honor 2 Mexican postmen who used their uniforms to cover their mail to protect it from rain, after some revolutionaries dynamited the train they were riding.

Curiously, in my first Mexican sojourn in the mid 1960's I received all my mail, including my subsistence check. In the 2000's in beautiful downtown Catemaco, Veracruz I get maybe 6 out of 10 pieces of mail, and fortunately do not depend on subsistence checks anymore.

I don´t want to be too critical of the Catemaco mail, because I might only get 2 out of 10 pieces. Fortunately most of my local bills arrive by private carrier.

For more or less guaranteed delivery, several international carrriers, including FEDEX, UPS and DHL, plus Mexican companies like ESTAFETA and Multipack are nibbling on Mexico's delivery system.

Unfortunately their postage stamps only come in 100 peso and much higher sizes.

Nov 11, 2006

Catemaco Duck Burgers

Are you tired of the same old menus while floating around Mexico? Deep fried fish in who knows what sauces or oils, imported shrimp from environmentally destroyed Gulf coasts, meat from the deforested Tuxtlas?

Here is your alternative: DUCK BURGERS.

The Casa de Caballos restaurant in beautiful downtown Catemaco offers genuine home fed good looking ducks slaughtered for your pleasure and served on hamburger buns with all the proper condiments. These are fairly delicious morsels. And with enough condiments one can hardly taste the difference between duck or any other meat product, such as imitation turkey flavored hot dogs.

It is duck migration season in beautiful downtown Catemoo. Formerly millions swarmed here, but because of surrounding habitat destruction and hunger of neighboring communities, the number of ducks cluttering around Laguna Catemacos are diminishing yearly.
As with any wildlife, bigger or faster than a rat, most anything edible has been consumed to extinction in Los Tuxtlas.

Those duck burgers served in Catemaco come from local ducks bred for human consumption. They are guaranteed not to have USA multiple entry visas.

Nov 10, 2006

Don Gringo

In beautiful downtown Catemaco, I have finally joined the nobility. I now find myself among the ranks of Don Juan, Don Corleone, and Don Quixote.

Derived from the Latin "dominus", meaning master or owner, the shortened "Don" and "Doña" entered the Spanish mainstream as an address of respect for mostly noble folks. A few other international organizations have also usurped the title, namely the American Mafia, British university professors, and a few Christian religious orders (Dom).

A recently met Spaniard was visibly upset when he heard me addressed as "Don (plus first name)". Obviously I was not noble enough for him.

In Mexico usage of "Don" has degenerated to where nowadays most everybody is a "Don". It is only used in combination with a first name and generally reserved for somewhat older people and those with a little political or economic clout. So when I look for the shoeless peasant providing me with tree cuttings, I look for Don Jose, and when I speak to my older maid I call her Doña Maria.

The Spaniards, though, are stuck to applying "Don" to real blue blooded nobles and mailing addresses.
Ironically my name is neither Don nor am I a real gringo. I picked up the nickname when after someone addressed me as "Hey Gringo", I replied the equivalent of That is Don Gringo to you".

Nov 8, 2006

Catemaco - Vista Hermosa

The only remaining forested corridor connecting the Los Tuxtlas biosphere reserves of Volcano San Martin and the Sierra Santa Marta lies north of Laguna Catemaco, Veracruz encompassing a range of small volcanic hills separating the laguna from the Gulf of Mexico.

Access to that region is inhibited by the condition of its access roads. One village accessible with a high lift vehicle is Vista Hermosa, an almost abandoned hamlet with breathtaking vistas along its route.
Most remarkable are the views of both Laguna Catemaco and Laguna Sontecomapan from the same road, while bird watchers long ago discovered the many species in its forests.

Midway on the roller coaster road is heavily jungled Cerro Pipiapan, topped by communication antennas. Access to the top is via several hundred rock steps leading to a platform which unfortunately at present is overgrown.

Nov 6, 2006

Catemaco Food Chain

Mexican President to be Felipe Calderon Hinojosa
Net worth: 8,800,000 pesos
Salary: 960,000 pesos Term: 6 years, ending 1 Dec 2012
Basic Campaign expense: 600,000,000 pesos

Veracruz Governor Fidel Herrera Beltrán
Net worth: n/a, declared but not published
Salary: 1,200,000 pesos Term: 6 years

Federal Senator from Veracruz Arturo Herviz Reyes
Net worth: n/a
Salary: 1,600,000 pesos Term: 6 years, coinciding with presidency

Federal Deputy from Veracruz Marina Garay Cabada
Net worth: n/a, known to very wealthy
Salary: 1,800,000 pesos Term: 3 years
State Senator for San Andres Tuxtla Nemesio Dominguez Dominguez
Net worth: n/a Salary: 720,000 est. Term: 3 years
Mayor of Catemaco Sergio Cadena Hernandez
Net worth: n/a Salary: 300,000 pesos, est. Term: 3 years
estimated campaign cost: 3,000,000 pesos

Average Voter Jose Jimador Herradura
Net worth: n/a Salary: 55,000 pesos annual, Term: life sentence
current minimum wage is 48 pesos daily

Nov 2, 2006

Catemaco Buses

A few months ago I made some notes on bus crashes in Mexico and this is how it began:

Fortunately no major bus crashes have occurred in or near Catemaco, Veracruz for several years. That is a wonderful record. Nevertheless bus crashes are daily occurrences in Mexico and are usually barely included in news broadcasts.

(67 died, 23 died, 7 died, etc.- these were mostly inter- village travelers or pilgrims, not worthy of mentioning by occurrence.) The number of bus traffic dead are substantially above the air plane dead of Mexico, but barely receive international mentions, possibly because major bus owners are political tyrannosaurs in Mexico.

Along with the rest of Central and South America, no exact statistics are available on the number of crashes or dead in any of these countries except for the occasional news blurbs in the major newspapers.

And, believe me, there are dozens of crashes every week! Anyone who ever had the chance to ride a third class bus in either Mexico or anywhere in the world will attest to the adrenaline flow incurred by travelling so called "chicken buses", called thus, because of the prevalence of livestock carried on the bus, and the suicidal attitudes of its drivers.

The major bus lines (first & second class) of Mexico have now placed a speed limit on their chauffeurs and created an almost safe sentiment of traveling across Mexico. Just remind the other unregulated bus driving fool traveling 75 miles per hour down the hill with 70 people aboard.

Wednesday night, 7 passengers died after their second class bus plunged off the bridge in Alvarado, 90 km north of Catemaco. That bridge has been a nightmare of construction for more than 3 years, with the only visible results being airconditioned toll collection booths. That bridge also controls beautiful downtown Catemaco's access to the north.

Do a Google search: "Google Search - bus crash mexico -"new mexico" and get a real appreciation for the number of passenger deaths on Mexican highways on this "Dia de Muertos".