Feb 29, 2008

Catemaco Roads

Catemaco is in the middle of nowhere.

22 hours from the border, 8 hours from Mexico City, 4 hours from Veracruz City. So a decision to vacation in Catemaco should obligate the local tourist industry to maximize its welcome of visitors and provide for their comfort. At present, the majority of visitors to Catemaco are tour bus day trippers, who combine a Catemaco stop with other stops, usually spend less than a day here, and have created a thriving public bathroom industry and sanitation department.

Catemaco and Los Tuxtlas are targeted by the Veracruz state government as a major tourism destination and, almost daily, a mention is made about one road or another that is being built, planned, repaired or paved. But tourists, both foreign and national, using their own cars, or dependent on bus transportation, are insulted by the deplorable lack or condition of access roads to Catemaco and Los Tuxtlas.

Only very adventurous tourists will leave the main highway, Mex 180, to enjoy the splendor of so many of the natural wonders of Los Tuxtlas which should result in a stay of several days in the region. Instead, after one night, most tourists drive north or south to spend their money in more accessible locations.

These reflections represent my experience of driving these roads since 2002, and represent data as of August 2006. Most roads are under the jurisdiction of SECOM, the Veracruz Department of Transportation. Ironically a former mayor of Catemaco unfortunately heads a large branch of that Department

MEX 180 - Mexican federal highway.

This road runs from the US border at Brownsville to Cancun and has done so for more than 50 years. The road was probably in better condition 50 years ago than it is now. The section from Veracruz to Catemaco is a consistent nightmare of pot holes, more than 50 topes, some of which are unmarked monsters, road repairs, washouts, and road obstructions. At any one time, some section is being painted black, which is the local equivalent of paving, and usually lasts less than a year. The section from Catemaco to Minatitlan/Coatzacoalcos is in similar condition.

Access to the Cuota - Toll Road near Catemaco.

The toll road that stretches from La Tinaja to near Villahermosa, aside from being outrageously expensive, is usually in good repair, but also prone to lack of maintenance, especially around the Minatitlan area. Access to Catemaco is via 2 exits.

a) MEX 179 near Isla to Santiago Tuxtla and then MEX 180 to Catemaco. This road at present is fair, after being a nightmare for more than 2 years.

b) A turnoff at Acayucan, then through terribly marked city roads to MEX 180. In one of those famous 5 year development plans for Los Tuxtlas, another access road from near Covarrubias to the Cuota was proposed but never pursued.

The San Martin Circuit Road and coastal highway,

This is a loop road leaving Mex 180 at El Tropico, passing along the Gulf via Montepio, then returning to 180 near Catemaco.

a) Section of Catemaco to Montepio:

The deplorable dirt road in place for more than 20 years, and probably promised to be paved for almost as long, was finally completed in 2007, includings outrageous topes near Sontecomapan, and a heavy collection of pot holes from Catemaco to Sontecomapan. Biologists from the UNAM Biological Station demanded that the section of road passing through their reserve be constructed in a natural manner. The result is probably the worst kilometer of constructed road in the world. Even the Aztecs built better roads from stone.

b) Section of Montepio to El Tropico:

This former dune & dirt trail with frightening river crossings is now completely paved and bridged. Expect potholes and lots of topes.

Eyipantla waterfall.

The road runs from Mex 180 at Sihuapan, near San Andrés Tuxtla, to Eypantla and continues to Covarrubias. The touristically important section to the waterfall, (4.5 km), is recently paved (2007).

Santiago Tuxtla to Tres Zapotes.

Turning from Mex 180 to MEX 179 at Santiago Tuxtla and then proceeding to unmarked Dos Caminos is ok. The touristically important section from the turnoff at Dos Caminos to Tres Zapotes (13.5 km) is another one of those once paved, but not maintained nightmares. It also is on the long promised list of roads to be repaired. Tres Zapotes holds an important Olmec museum and used to have a well attended equinox celebration.

The Laguna Catemaco circumference road

Unfortunately at present this road along the laguna is incomplete, but circumnavigation of the Laguna is only possible via La Magdalena and Barossa, turning a 50 kilometer trip into a 100 kilometer odyssey.

From Catemaco to Tebanca the road is paved, but heavily potholed in sections. From there, a badly eroded dirt road subject to flooding runs to the turnoff to Las Margaritas. From the turnoff via Benito Juarez to La Magdalena the dirt road climbs a steep hill which is hazardous during rains. At the entrance of La Magdalena, the road splits, and if in doubt about which direction the illegible sign indicates, ask someone, otherwise you are on your way to Soteapan.

From La Magdalena the road crosses the proverbial hills and vales and arrives at Barossa on Mex 180, 15 miles south of Catemaco.

Catemaco via Coyame to Lopez Mateos, Miguel Hidalgo and Las Margaritas

Catemaco to Coyame is paved but badly potholed

a) Lopez Mateos - a rollercoaster dirt road leaves Coyame uphill.

b) Miguel Hidalgo - via paved road to Tebanca. The road then turns into badly maintained dirt, subject to flooding and hopefully arrives at a sign leading uphill to Lopez Mateos. It is a very pretty ride but not recommended when wet.

c) Las Margaritas via Tebanca - after the Lopez Mateos turnoff, keep going, stay right at the Benito Juarez turnoff and dead end at La Margaritas. Impassable during heavy rains.

Laguna Catemaco South Shore

The road begins off Mex 180 at La Victoria, 3 miles south of Catemaco, then turns to dirt to Pozolapan, Mimiahua and El Porvenir. It the dead ends because the road bridging the Tepeyaga peninsula before Las Margaritas has been studied and approved but has not been funded.

The El Porvenir stretch is only recommendable to high lift vehicles.

The Santa Marta Circuit Road

Catemaco to Tebanca is paved, then turns to dirt via the turnoff to Benito Juarez and La Magdalena to Soteapan. This stretch is called the "Brecha de Maiz" and has been funded to be paved in 2008. Near Soteapan there are many unmarked intersections and you will get lost if you do not ask for directions. From Soteapan to Acayucan and Mex 180, the road is paved for return to Catemaco.

The Santa Marta Coastal Road

At present this road is a pipe dream because it lacks a connection from Catemaco to Arrecifes.

Only a 4x4 should venture to cross via the barge at La Barra and the fording near El Carrizal, and several other rivers until Arrecifes.

From Arrecifes to Tatahuicapan the dirt road is under construction and some parts are paved.

a) From Tatahuicapan, a partially paved road runs via Pajapan to the unpaved section to Jicacal on the edge of Laguna del Ostion. A bridge from there to connect to Barillas is funded but construction is halted because of environmental concerns (Feb 2008). Crossing is only available via small boats. From Barillas to Coatzacoalcos, the road is paved.

b) The temporary (hopefully) bypass is from Tatahuicapan on pavement via Huazuntlan and Oteapan to Mex 180 south of Acayucan.

9. The Road from San Andres Tuxtla to La Nueva Victoria, via Ruiz Cortines.

The section to Ruiz Cortines is paved and a wonderful country drive, the section to near Los Organos and La Nueva Victoria is passable, but not recommendable. After Ruiz Cortines the road crosses a section of cloud forest with magnificent varieties of butterflies and flora.

Other touristically significant roads:

1, La Palma to La Barra Beach, via El Real, relaxing palapa seafood and beach community, terrrible condition, projected to be paved, 168,000 pesos already spent on just studying the project.

2, Catemaco -Coyame to Adolfo Lopez Mateos, minor community eco resort, uncomfortably passable dirt road.

3, Catemaco -Tebanca to Miguel Hidalgo.

Via beautiful Poza Azul and Poza Reina waterfalls. Passable dirt road - projected to be improved/paved.

4, Soteapan to Santa Martha

- 1200 m altitude, unfriendly villagers block access to trails in the gorgeous mountain surroundings - terrible road condition

5, Catemaco/Montepio Road to Playa Jicacal.

wonderful beach, uncomfortably passable road. same road to Playa Escondida, great views, monkeys and birds, nightmare condition.

6, Catemaco/Montepio Road to Balzapote,

historic port and beach, uncomfortably passable.

7, Mex 180, south of Catemaco, from Barossa to Santa Rosa Loma Larga Community Museum, barely passable.

11. A few of the dozens of other local roads worth sightseeing while preferably driving a 4×4:

1, Dos Amates to Ruiz Cortines, via Perla San Martin - great views, mountain air, horrible condition after recently being reworked.

2, Catemaco to Vista Hermosa, great views, bird watching, tall lookout mountain climbing steps without a view, horrible condition

3, Tebanca to El Bastonal via Rancho La Vikina, great views, birdwatching, horrible condition, supposedly under repair. This road used to lead into the Santa Marta and exit at the village of Santa Martha near Soteapan. That section is now impassable.

4, Mex 180, south of Catemaco, from Zapoapan de Cabañas to Dos Arroyos via El Aguila, one way, beautiful country, recently made passable. A shortcut to La Magdalena is available via El Aguila only for heavy duty 4×4’s.

5, Coyame to San Rafael, beautiful landscape, passable dirt road, recently improved to the cattle gates of a rich politician (2005). Formerly the road connected to Vista Hermosa and Peninsula de Moreno. Both are now dysfunctional.

6, Catemaco to Ruiz Cortines, via Cuauthemoc, great views of Cerro Mono Blanco and bird life, horrible road condition.

Feb 28, 2008

Nanciyaga owner interview

Nanciyaga is possibly the only place around Catemaco, Veracruz that retains a commercialized version of the mystery of the Los Tuxtlas magic. Founded in the early 1980’s, this small Laguna Catemaco enclave gained publicity and funds with the filming in its reserve of the movie Medicine Man with Sean Connery. Since then Nanciyaga has turned itself into an ecology reserve and a small Disney World of magic.

The owner was recently interviewed in a Mexican newspaper. Unfortunately that link has disappeared, but was stored on an older blog. Here is GOOGLE garbled translated version.
to read the original Spanish - click here.

Here you sleep with the music of the jungle

Aquí sí Con la música de la selva duerme

Caco, Carlos Rodríguez Ecologista:
Here you sleep with the music of the jungle

"He lived the destruction of forests in Latin America and eventually became a pioneer of ecological tourism. Black sheep of a family of cigar makers, Carlos Rodríguez, known as Cocoa, 62, bought the 40 in a swampy area in Lake Catemaco (Veracruz) and created Nanciyaga Ecological Reserve, park living and a kind of pre-Hispanic spa , temascal baths (with red volcanic stone), mud, massage and clean witch. Their cabins are among the most coveted rooms in Mexico.

"I always thought that a day would have a jungle, like when I was niño." Then everything was beautiful, it was all bush and forest. Although my grandfather told me that there were many animals as possible. You went from here to the sea and it was all jungle, crystal clear rivulets, there was no garbage or plastic. Nanciyaga was always a need, I could do later.

"His tenacity born of a kind of youthful trauma, right?" I studied veterinary medicine and came back. Governments started to distribute land, until a national commission was cut and a law that you could accuse of having vacant land if there was rain on your ranch. Not measured the consequences. Some lands were used for agriculture, others for livestock, but after a while the quality of livestock and corn was poor and did not work. The lands were not to survive and forest that had been abandoned.

He saw the birth of the chain saw ... "I got to see that fucking invention of the chainsaw, that mill by allowing Tatil end it all. Progress was to end Sunday with the last circle of mountain and organize the slaughter of animals who had taken refuge allí. "That's why he left the guild ganadero." I sold my ranch and I bought this place. I had to do something productive and show that the forest does more to break down the trees and grassland. And the idea worked, but they told me I was crazy and was not viable.

- Did the government? "Rather refused to accept that this was a reservoir, said he was too young. After a thousand red tape, was registered as an ecological reserve education. But we are showing that there are options in the forest production .-

What about education? "We make a major environmental education. Come to discover the jungle areas many children I knew as a huge forest. They now live in the midst of bad grass, ill-gotten, ill agriculture. Here are many animals at the commencement feared man, and now we close, we do not have fear, you can portray, almost touching.

-Nanciyaga also gives trabajo. "We hired 60 people, a list that scares, especially in these times of storms and cyclones, which must continue Gandola pa. On vacation students hired as guides.

- What does the Nanciyaga "" We welcome tourists and we make a trip through the jungle, which are reproductions of antiquities, of our making. They go to a spring of mineral water and drinking from a hole dug as a vessel using a plant leaf apiche. It makes them a mineral mud mask ...

"He has a theater within the selva." We played a Mozart or Beethoven, and percussion music from Senegal and Cuba. We have also represented to Cervantes. At the musicians were afraid to put the instruments in the humidity of the jungle, but now everyone wants to come play .- "If you enter the bathhouse can sail with the wind," writes Laura Esquivel's novel "It's Malinche. bath vapor, culture of ancient Mexico. All had their houses and had a ritual bathhouse, another to make decisions for the tribe ... We tried to get closer to tradition. You can not describe, you have to get into it. I can say that is very healthy: eliminate toxins, the filth you have, and grow, there is a spiritual growth.

"Birth of a river of water carbónica.-On leaving the bathhouse, you get into a mineral water spring, a special gift we have here. We do not sell mineral water: we dive into it.

"The gem is the 10 cabañas." It's amazing that people come from Spain, or Israel, only to the cabins. La Mexicana review we cited as one of the most sought 10 rooms in Mexico. And, yes, we have taken out many times of trouble, because, although more expensive than the hotels are always full and booked months in advance. Rooms are privileged, because it sleeps cradled by the night music of the jungle.

"They have up to chamán." We do not want problems, and our shaman only makes a sweep of the aura with herbs from the forest. Not involved, such as Catemaco, evils of witchcraft love or black. The magic is not given by witchcraft, but by the natural magnetism of the region of Los Tuxtlas.

Feb 27, 2008

Wooden Catemaco

Tlacotalpan, about 90 minutes away from beautiful downtown Catemaco, Veracruz is a World Heritage site, primarily because its inhabitants tired of seeing their houses burn and instituted a building code prohibiting wooden buildings.

Catemaco is known as the place of burned houses. (Nahuatl language reference). This is possibly a reference to a fairly recent eruption of San Martin Tuxtla Volcano. Since those eruptions, Catemaco's inhabitants happily lived in wooden houses for hundreds of years and never reported a fire conflagration.

Locally it is said that when a Catemaco home owner wanted to move to another location, he simply dismantled his house and reconstructed it in his choice of plot. Noone here apparently heard of insurance fraud.

About 7 years ago, the State of Veracruz did one of those surveys and proposals that the Mexican bureaucracy is famous for, and apparently only found 6 worthwhile items to consider preservable in Catemaco, dating to the late 1890's.

The town may not have visible roots beyond 1890, but anywhere the earth is turned, there are shards of prehispanic occupation. The big shards have magically disappeared.

Photo: one of the few remaining wooden homes

Feb 26, 2008

Thursday Brujos of Catemaco

Most available white and black witches, warlocks, healers, brujos and whatnots will swarm to beautiful downtown Catemaco, Veracruz beginning Thursday, March 6 for their annual event.

The local government, in spirit with the event, but too dispirited to call it "Congreso de Brujos" (Convention of witches), in the last few years has titled the event "First Friday in March". And if you do not show up by Thursday, you will miss most of the fun.

Highlights this year are a midnight black mass on White Monkey Mountain, and an afternoon of spiritual cleansing on the laguna beaches north of downtown Catemaco.

For the complete schedule of the event in Spanish, visit Catemaco Brujos.
PhotoSimulation: White Monkey Mountain

Feb 24, 2008

New Catemaco historic neighbors

The Tepango Valley (northwest of Catemaco, near San Andrés Tuxtla) Archaeological Survey (TVAS) was undertaken of 120 km2 within the Tepango River valley in the Tuxtla Mountains, southern Veracruz, México to gain an understanding of the occupational history of this important area. Data are used to retrodict the political organization of the Tepango Valley during every major epoch of pre-Columbian occupation. These data are then briefly compared to settlement in the neighboring Catemaco River valley. While materials and settlement analyses are still underway, this report comes to the conclusion that El Picayo (the primary center within the Tepango Valley), Matacapan (the primary center within the Catemaco Valley), and their corresponding hinterlands evolved simultaneously into relatively equal, but distinct, political entities. However, political authority within each valley appears to have been based on different themes. This has implications for the evolution of both valleys, particularly the role of Teotihuacán in the development of the Matacapan and the Catemaco Valley.

Source: FAMSI

Feb 22, 2008

Catemaco Brujo Circus

CATEMACO: "I will not participate in the First Friday in March event (Annual witch convention on first Friday of March), to be undertaken by the city council", said Apolinar Gueixpal Seba, better known as the brujo mayor (chief warlock) of Catemaco.

He added that the main reason why he will not participate in the event that the city council plans to carry out with 12 other brujos is because witchcraft deserves to be respected and that a mass black must be performed in private and not in the presence of the public. Brujo Guexpal, known as the Tiger's Leap said that the city council is making a circus of witchcraft with the first Friday of March event, but despite this, he respects his fellow brujo colleagues but does not agree with this type of celebration.

"The real witches, as did our ancestors, need to provide witchcraft as a service to the people and not as a business. There is now a lot of charlatanería (false witchcraft), and that is why I say to people not to be fooled and also ask people to tell the municipal authorities that witchcraft be given the respect it deserves and not to be used to deceive people", said Apolinar Gueixpal.

Source: Loose translation from Politica en Los Tuxtlas

Catemaco Earthquake

The Catemaco area experiences earthquakes several times a year. Usually the seismic centers are far away enough not to feel anything. A few days ago a Oaxaca quake came to visit and I actually felt my first earthquake in Catemaco.

On the other hand:
A big earthquake with the strength of 8.1 on the Richter scale has hit Mexico.
Two million Mexicans have died and over a million are injured. The country is totally ruined and the government doesn't know where to start with providing help to rebuild. The rest of the world is in shock.
Canada is sending troopers to help the Mexican army control the riots.
Saudi Arabia is sending oil.
Other Latin American countries are sending supplies.
The European community (except France) is sending food and money.
The United States, not to be outdone, is sending two million replacement Mexicans.
God Bless America

Feb 20, 2008

Catemaco Airports

View Larger Map

The two airports serving Catemaco are Veracruz and Minatitlan. At present both are about 3 hours drive from Catemaco. Car rental is available at both.

An airfield is under construction in San Andrés Tuxtla, but probably will not be in service for several more years.

On a direct route the Canticas airport is considerably closer to Catemaco and with decent roads would be accessible within 1 1/2 hours. At present access is only via Mex 180 via Acayucan and dependent on using the tollroad because the free road is usually choked with traffic, and takes almost 3 hours.

Several projects have been played with for many years to improve the situation.

1. Access via Soteapan
This is actually doable now, but only via dirt roads, and a long detour around Laguna Catemaco because the Tepeyaga peninsula still blocks fast access to Catemaco. Funding is in place to pave the "Brecha de Maiz", a road linking Soteapan to near Las Margaritas. The Tepeyaga link (from near Las Margaritas to Catemaco via Pozolapan is also approved but is in the usual nevernever land of Mexican politics.

2. Access via the coastal Highway
Another dream project has recently received new attention. At present there is no road connecting Catemaco to the southern coast from La Barra via Arrecifes to Tatahuicapan.
The dirt road from Arrecifes is now under construction and several miles have been paved. The stretch from Arrecifes to La Barra or Sontecomapan is basically a horse trail usable only by high lift vehicles preferably with 4x4 and equipped with a snorkel during rainy weather.

Stay tuned in 2015!

Feb 16, 2008

San Andrés Tuxtla Regional Museum

Preview of the new museum soon to open in downtown San Andrés Tuxla near Catemaco.

Feb 15, 2008

Butterflies of Los Tuxtlas

Photo by bevscott107.
This lady has photographed and identified 95 butterfly species in Veracruz, mostly around Xalapa. Most of these beauties also reside in Catemaco and Los Tuxtlas.