May 21, 2008

Catemaco Ramblings

Do they eat dogs in veracruz?
Dog slaughterer reveals taco secrets in a Google translation

Defaunation of Los Tuxtlas? Ever heard that word?
Former head of Los Tuxtlas research station laments the killing of wildlife

9 meter human skeleton found in Los Tuxtlas.
The story was published in the local Periodico de Hueyapan.
Hunters found the bones about 20 miles south of Catemaco and local Popoluca Indians claim they belong to the legendary "Ata-nike-kulkuwati", a fearsome creature prowling the Los Tuxtlas mountains for womanizers and their distinct smell. The 9 meters is probably the result of yokels using an American tape measure marked in feet instead of meters.

Still stuck on 17 Olmec heads! Latest counterfeit head sold for millions
Google Translation of l Universal article

Do you need a Mexican friend?
A nutty blogger from San Miguel Allende takes a closer look

May 15, 2008

Catemaco immigration

After anyone has been living permanently in the Mexican provinces for a while, the joy of "HAVING TO" travel twice a year to a nearby major city with an immigration office to renew an FM2 or FM3 visa becomes a major hindrance to enjoying Mexico.

Many choose to go the route of becoming an "imigrado" which basically gives them absolutely no more privileges than their FM status, except they do not need to waste their lives and money on yearly renewals of their visa.

Some opt for Mexican citizenship, especially those in the zones not fit for foreigners to buy (50 kilometers within the coastline and 100 kilometers within the border).

This choice of citizenship is usually available after having spent 5 years of residence in Mexico on FM visas without any notable blemishes. It also requires a knowledge of Spanish , a few other
quirks, and a penchant for waiting for eternity.

Apparently, like most anything in Mexico, citizenships are for sale. A dimwit monolingual bigot resident in Catemaco, Veracruz apparently recently received his citizenship after paying someone on the Mexican west coast 70,000 pesos to arrange for a passport.

So now he can buy property along the Mexican coast and save himself the fideocomiso costs, now running around 600 + dollars per year less the 2 yearly trips to renew an FM visa less the outrageous annual fees that Mexican immigration charges to annually renew visas.

Considering all that - maybe this dimwit was a smart Catemaco bigot.

Catemaco invasions

One of the favorite pastimes of have-nots in beautiful uptown Catemaco and the rest of Mexico is a game of "invasion de predio". Loosely translated as "invasion of property" the game is to occupy a parcel of land that appears unoccupied or is known to be in the dire straits of Mexican title laws, usually because of inadequate intestate property rules or infrequently because of land hunger for federal or private lands by impoverished native peoples..

This game is usually supported by "haves" with political power who play this game for political reasons, namely future vote getting and a share of the profits.

These invasions occur in such touristic places like Cancun and Baja California but are much more popular in unmentioned corners of the other 30 states of Mexico.

A common version of the game starts when a few or few hundred persons decide to take posession of a piece of property by entering it, setting up a shack, fencing it and frequently posting armed guards (usually machete bearers). Usually it requires the knowledge of someone well versed in the local politics and deed registrations to pick properties to be invaded. And frequently that involves local government officials intent on vote getting and a share of the profits.

If there is no legal contest to the invasion, usually within a half dozen or more years, squatters receive titles to these properties.

If there actually is an owner, often sparks begin to fly to the point where land squabbles produced some of the highest kill rates in Mexico before the advent of the drug war madness.

A legal contestation will drag through courts 2 , 3 or more years. Many property owners therefore avail themselves of extralegal means such as paid off federal or state police agents to dislodge the invaders. That's where often the bloodshed comes in.

I have watched two of these confrontations in Catemaco and am now personally involved in one. And I do not understand the legalities which allow this perversion of land ownership from an owner's viewpoint, except under the Mexican concept of "guilty until proved innocent". Simply producing a current deed and getting the local sheriff to evict the squatters does not work here.
The legal machinery goes into motion and unless very well oiled with payoffs will cause nightmares to property owners.

So next time you see giants walls or fences around most every piddling piece of unimproved terrain in Mexico, maybe these remarks will provide you with a reason for their construction.

May 14, 2008

The white rats of Catemaco

It is almost impossible to see a collection of photos of beautiful downtown Catemaco, Veracruz without a closeup photo of small white herons. And it is also almost impossible to walk along the shore of Catemaco without personally encountering some of the habits of these lovely birds.

Dozens of benches invitingly placed to enjoy the spectacular views of the lagoon are now wrapped in white. Many previously green trees now resemble scenes of snow in Minnesota. Hundreds of feet of walkways previously colored a pretty terracotta color are now covered in white effluent. And so are the Malecon railings presumably designed to stop visitors from chasing after the poor birds and wringing their necks.

These so-called garzas (cow birds, garza ganadera, bulbulus ibis), were originally blown in from Africa to the Caribbean in the early 1950's and by 1963 had established a foothold in Mexico. By now these illegal immigrants have occupied most of tropical humid North and South America.

These birds love nesting along open water, but do not like to eat fish. Their main diet is small insects and anything that moves, including small lizards and mice. Although relatively small, about 20 inches tall and weighing less than a pound, the bird's digestive system would proudly belong to an ostrich.

Ranchers love these birds because they spend their days hanging out around cows catching insects and picking off ticks of their livestock. They nest communally and rear between 2 and 3 chicks once a year.

And they have become a plague in Catemaco.

The Catemaco community has made numerous efforts to control the garza population, ranging from the importation of squirrels, long strings attached to branches to shake the birds out of trees, firecrackers, bells, etc. The only practical solution has been to reduce their nesting trees. I will not say that is the reason for the horrible deforestation of Los Tuxtlas, but it certainly is one of the reasons for the disappearance of trees on properties near the shore of Laguna Catemaco.

I am personally being affected by these little monsters. One crapped on my head yesterday. And today one dumped on my Popoluca.

I intend to get even!

Here are some inexpensive proposals for the local government to consider and implement:

1) Nutritional Studies have been conducted of these birds, and although meagerly fleshed, their nutritional value should be promoted as a welcome addition to the pots of the many poor people in Catemaco. At present no one eats these birds, just their gummy eggs. The larger Chachalaca wild birds are the preferred choice of local gourmets. Local chefs should seriously consider promoting the garzas as local specialty dishes such as "garza a la tachagobi, garza Veracruzana, and even garza tacos in a mole sauce. After all there are 1000's making a living here selling fake monkey meat and slimy snails.

2) The competing drug & political cartels expending their ammunition in most communities of Veracruz should be invited to Catemaco for target practice. Hopefully that will improve their aim and decrease the bird population.

3) All small boys instead of being stuffed with teeth rotting candies and other sweets on Children's Day should receive personal slingshots. There are enough pebbles along the laguna shore to provide ammunition. And little boys require no training in the use of these inexpensive tools.

4) Nesting trees should be replaced by plastic folding trees as used in some of the Apocalypto jungle scenes. Perhaps Mel Gibson could donate a bunch.

5) The local government is lately hell bent on throwing parties on the streets of Catemaco. These parties should be moved under nesting trees and the SUV-sized loudspeakers should be turned skyward to disturb the resting communities of garzas.

6) Ultralight aircraft should be used to intercept Garzas returning from their feeding grounds and chase them back to Africa, or maybe San Andrés Tuxtla.

7) More tree branch hanging ropes should be installed and the hundreds of shills lining the Malecon accosting tourists with boat tour or brujo spiels, should be compelled to forcefully yank on a rope to shake some branches after each uttering of "lancha, lancha."

8) Politicians bus in hundreds or thousands of poor neighboring villagers to attend glorification events. These events should be relocated underneath nesting trees and the villagers should be invited to bring pots and pans to bang on. The political speeches will probably stun the birds and after falling off the trees can then be stored in the pots and carried back home.

9) Down pillows are the preferred luxury head rests of those who can afford them. At present cheap Chinese labor produces them. The federal and Veracruz government which are falling all over each other trying to create sustainable development should seriously spend some of the zillions of pesos being mostly wasted and teach the poor crowds how to pluck garzas, preferably the little ones before fledging which have the softest down. A Catemaco Pillow factory would be a welcome addition on the economic front of Los Tuxtlas.

10) Fidel, the Veracruz governor is apparently handing out free red paint (his party color). Catemaco has already applied hundreds of gallons painting lampposts and railing to better show off the color combination of white poop on red. The next step should be to paint the nesting trees red. This should confuse the garzas and will possibly redirect them to other places.

Meanwhile, I strongly advise you to wear a hat in Catemaco and not to park anywhere where the black or grey pavement is actually white. Then you will have a very enjoyable visit to our paradise.

Photo: misplaced source

May 7, 2008

Catemaco breakfasts

After being a while in beautiful places like downtown Catemaco, the variety of restaurant breakfast choices in provincial Mexican "burgs" drives me up the wall.

Same old stuff, huevos rancheros, mexicanos, revueltos, omelette, with or without cheese, mushrooms, ham, and occasionally chorizo or longoniza, with maybe green or red sauce. Huevos Motuleños are an abnormal treat.

Damn , I would love a McDonald´s breakfast burrito or a BurgerKing croissanwich.
And I would die for a Waffle house breakfast burger scattered, smothered and covered with hashed browns.

Just before I would kill for:
two+two+two - two eggs, two pancacakes, two bacons or sausages at the IHOP
Lox, creamcheese, tomatoes, and onions on a sesame bagel at any deli
Blueberry pancakes with fresh cream at any pancake house.

Something simple like: Buttermilk Pancakes, Home style Bacon and Sausage,
Creamy Cheddar Potatoes, Country Grits, Biscuits and Butter available at any "greasy spoon".

Steak'n eggs with fried onions, mushrooms and Texas toast served at any hicktown off ramp
Eggs Benedict as served in the Shark and Tarpon Club in North Miami.
And refills! Wonderful free coffee refills!

But, how about some nice homemade tortillas, flecked with chipotle and wrapped around pig innards, or some nicely sauteed shrimp with chorizo in a quesadilla.

At least that would wake up my customary local restaurant breakfast menus which have almost no relation to what people actually seem to eat in their homes.


Ok - you are what you eat, or so they say. I guess now I am a tortilla.

Catemaco Submarines

A new transportation route has finally opened for the access starved neighborhood of Catemaco and Los Tuxtlas. After being saddled with second class roads connecting to major cities, an air field preserved as a cow pasture and a port on the edge of destruction, relief seems to be arriving from Colombia.

Apparently Colombian drug lords are mass producing submarines for shipping their merchandise along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, while hugging the coast lines. At present the scheduled itineraries include the Yucatan, from where it is just a short snorkel to Catemaco, and then the Texas coast. Presumably these vessels costing around a million dollars US each will be able to accomodate passengers on their return trip.

Possibly to accomodate this future traffic or at least the stampede of sail boaters from the Texas and Florida gulf coast intent on anchoring in Veracruz, the Governor today announced the building of a marina in the port of Veracruz as part of the nautical ladder supposedly extending to Belize. Catemaco, (that is La Barra) must be next on the list.

And I can't wait for a travel agency to offer submarine trips from Galveston or even Miami to Catemaco. What a way to see the Gulf of Mexico!
Photo: Mexican spoil sports

For more information check out, one of the finer low key sources for Mexico insights.

May 1, 2008

Catemaco Puente

Catemaco lives off puentes (bridges).
Puentes are the equivalent of a US long weekend, such as when a holiday falls on a Friday, vacations begin Thursday afternoon.

Mexico adds a little quirk to that system so that when a holiday falls on a Thursday, vacationers head out the door on Wednesday noon till  next Monday morning. Of course this only applies to government officials above the rank of peon (low level worker), much of the upper educational infrastructure and anyone else who can afford it or get away with it.

So the Mexican federal lawmakers passed another one of their new laws in 2006. Many legal holidays that fall on a weekday are now supposed to be celebrated on the next Monday.

This has been a heaven sent gift for Catemaco, because many of those who previously abused puentes have decided to accomodate the new regulations by holding fast to the original holiday and now adding the new holiday on Mondays to their extended vacations. So now think Wednesday noon to Tuesday morning for the original one day holiday.

Naturally many of the hotels fill up in Catemaco, and of course the weasely hotel owners charge the high season tourist rates.

Did you ever wonder what the productivity statistics are in Mexico?