Dec 31, 2009

Catemaco Wrapup 2009

Nothing really exciting happened in beautiful downtown Catemaco during 2009.

On the tourism level, three tiny house based hotelitos are now offering rooms from 149 pesos per double and up. The hotel Las Brisas added a few rooms and a handful of ecotouristic enterprises popped up around the Laguna. The coast saw a new small hotel in Playa Hermosa, and a tourist train now zips around Catemaco.

Bus fares went up again, the promised airport and heliport are at a standstill, and the owner of the Hotel Prashanti now intermittently offers sightseeing flights over the Laguna and the surrounding volcanoes.
A new road opened to Punta Puntilla at the northern end of Los Tuxtlas, but the existing road network was ignored and is now again in deplorable condition.

Shopping improved exponentially with the opening of mini versions of two chain stores in Catemaco, Aurrera and Coppel. La Casa de Los Tesoros opened with a nice selection of handicrafts from throughout Mexico, finally giving tourists a chance to spend some serious money.
In the last month of the year a promising good Spanish restaurant opened, but my favorite place closed earlier in the year after struggling for 4 months.

The city government as usual excelled in idiocies, tearing down the welcome arch to the entrance of Catemaco and painting  red the curbs and guard rails of the Malecon.

Weather was benign, with a mini drought extending the dry season in the spring, less than usual rains in the summer and fall, and the absence of major storms and washouts.

Crime stayed about the same with a few murders and the usual extorsions and kidnappings so common throughout Mexico. Rumors of Mafia style rackets intruding on the city are whispered but not reported.

Politics enthralled most of the underprivileged with massive vote buying during the mid year elections and 10's of thousands of political handouts of chickens and food baskets setting the stage for next year's elections.

Population growth seems to be absent, but there do seem to be a few extra gringo snowbirds in town.

Prices kept creeping upward and the Guadalajara Reporter renewed its survey, tracking  food costs.


Dec 21, 2009

Catemaco Lamp Posts

Did you know that Mexico's most famous pyramids at Chichen Itza are actually privately owned and the Mexican government is having a hell of a time trying to turn them into a "patrimonio nacional".

"Patrimonio Nacional" is one of those famous catch words in Mexico. Basically it translates to national assets. This applies to lamp posts as well as pyramids. So if you crash into a post when leaving your favorite cantina you will likely be accused of having damaged "Patrimonio Nacional" and will go to jail, unless you carry big bucks or an insurance carrier with 24 hour service.

On the local level I am constantly surprised to learn that anything worthwhile seeing is actually in private hands or access is controlled by them.

Most notable are the red rock cliffs on the way to Catemaco. Many travel writers have erroneously described them as Olmec workshops, without knowing that the 100 or so owners of the ejido (co-op) of Angel R Cabada actually own them and make a fortune off the cliff's gravel, when roads are constructed anywhere near there.

The georgeous Eypantla Waterfall is actually a 50 year concession to the 102 ejidatarios of the nearby pueblo. Every entry fee from the up to 2000 visitors per day goes into their coffers, and unless the local government chips in, not one centavo is used to keep the tourist facilities in good state.

Poza Reyna (aka Poza Reina), a magnificent set of rapids and cascades along a river about 15 miles from Catemaco is definitely Patrimonio Nacional, in the sense that 5 meters along the side of a river's highest flood level is federal property. Instead, a super rich owner from San Andres collects 30 pesos per person to cross his private property to get to the river. He graciously provides an outdoor toilet and parking.

Cola de Caballos, a magnificent waterfall, featured in numerous commercials and publicity drivel about Los Tuxtlas, is another case. Access is  through private property with up to 10 cattle gates or an obligatory hike through ejidal land that slithers down a dangerous precipice while collecting guide fees . Although federal and state sources are spending 10's of thousands of dollars to accomodate an ecotouristic project, apparently no pesos are available to provide a few steps and public access.
There are a dozens of similar locales in Los Tuxtlas. By the time I add all the nitpicking private fees within the so called Biosphere Reserve to the measly 20 pesos that the "vaunted" reserve keeps unsuccessfully trying to collect, a few days  in Los Tuxtlas can financially mount up to a day in Disneyworld , Orlando.
Tht is not only true in Catemaco, but throughout Mexico.

Catemaco Migra-ine 2

"Si Dios quiere", answered the person on the other end of the Mexican immigration phone line in Veracruz City, when I asked them whether they would be open today on Monday.

Considering my yearly problems with this bureaucratic bunch of asinine orifices, I feel like a fool for not having asked whether they would also accept tramites (documents/applications), because when I arrived, the security guard shoved a notice at me stating that as of the 18th of December the office would NOT accept tramites, until after January 6th. So I demanded to see the jefe.

30 minutes later I faced him squatting inside his fully staffed office, and shared with him my opinion of "si Dios quiere". He graciously whipped out his rubber seal and stamped my application for renewal and sent me on my way.

Of course, I will now be an illegal as of the 23rd when my visa expires. And if  you think that I trust this orifice´s rubber stamp to impress those friendly federales and their buddy border inspectors on my way to the border, you probably  think burrocats are highly paid Mexican federal office managers. Fortunately on a local living basis I have never officially been asked to proof my legal residence in more than 7 years.

So I might have to depend on one of  the few kind souls who offered to pick up a camera for me on their way south from gringolandia. Unfortunately no one also offered to pick me up a cute little 4x4.

On the good side, the Veracruz- Catemaco highway  is in the best condition that I have seen in years. An overpass is being build on the Veracruz buypass road at Paso del Toro, otherwise smooth sailing, except for the usual mess in San Andres.

Dec 19, 2009

More Gringos in Mexico

The often quoted  number of legal gringo residents in Mexico has unofficially fluctuated between a hundred thousand and more than a million.

Recently the  Instituto Nacional de Migración, Mexico´s immigration service, posted some official statistics for the first 11 months of 2009. I extrapolated some yearly (12 months) figures:
1 - total original FM2, FM3 and inmigrado documents issued -57,858.
2 - total renewals of FM2 and FM3 - 127,788
3 - Total US citizens receiving their first FM2, FM3 or inmigrado - 10,052 or 17.4 por cent.

I applied the percentage of gringos receiving their first documents to the number of renewals -22,235.
Total legal US nationals in Mexico 32,287.

That number seems extraordinarily low, I had thought more than that lived just in Mexico City.

Dec 15, 2009

For Sale: Free Internet Satellite System in Mexico

I would like to clean my roof off a Starband two way internet satellite system that worked fine for 3 years in Catemaco until I disconnected it because I received a direct phone line with internet access in 2008.

The system consists of a 120cm dish, transmitter/receiver, modem, and an I-link hub to connect more stations. At the time of use, the system used Mexsat 5. The cost was around 60 US per month.
The system has a certified Mexican importation bill.

I wil not warrant that anything works, nor ship the system anywhere. Pick it up, if you care.

Dec 11, 2009

Catemaco Mail Order

Beautiful downtown Catemaco of course has internet access to, and all the other mail order houses. Unfortunately many companies will not ship selected products to Mexico.

I want to buy a replacement digital camera. Amazon quotes it at US $279, but will not ship. Several competing photography dealers WILL ship with prices that are a little higher.

AHA. Now comes the question of why Amazon will not ship and the others will! The answer lies in rules related to country of origin and application of import duties. These rules and duties are so complicated and so subject to interpretations that only a professional customs broker might understand the half of it.

Let's just say, that Amazon thinks that because of these rules I may get an amazing customs bill, because the camera was manufactured in Japan. Other dealers could care less of what happens after they ship an item.
But I really do not know.

There are various ways to ship small merchandise to Mexico, the airborne carriers FEDEX, UPS and DHL, and the US post office. 

The US post office connects to the Mexican post office and is generally reserved for people that love to pine for lost things. The exception may be US International priority mail, which is reputed to arrive relatively fast (5 to 14 days), usually does not get stolen and, THIS IS THE BIGGY, is reputed to be usually ignored by Mexican customs.

The airborne carriers all charge between 45 and 65 dollars per small package and WILL enter the Mexican aduana (customs). Generally the minimum charge will be the equivalent of Mexican 15% IVA (sales tax), plus, depending on the customs inspectors hangover, applicable duties which  range as high as 1000%  for footwear supposedly flooding the land of huaraches (sandals).

Ok - back to the camera. Should I buy it from B&H for $289, plus $50 shipping, plus $40 IVA and handling for a total of US $379, PLUS a possible duty charge? OR spend the equivalent of  5700 pesos Mexican (app. US $438, which is the cheapest price advertised on Mercadolibre, (the Mexican EBAY)) which has considerable shipping , payment and delivery problems?

After spending sleepless days over the problem, I am now processing a reservation to take a dirt cheap ($ 50) flight from Veracruz City to the Mexican border near McAllen via Vivaareobus, buy the camera at Walmart, pick up some Horseradish, buy some needed 10 dollar polo shirts that don´t shrink and maybe a nice little 4x4.

Quick response from my friend "Fool on the Hill"
Good article.
Well, maybe I’ve just been lucky; but 30 years with the past ten averaging 4 to 5 shipments per month – that’s a lotta luck. I will admit, I have heard some horror stories.
My exception would relate to “. the Mexican post office." . In 30 years I’ve lost mebbe five packages; and way back when, everything came parcel post. Just this month I received an LL Bean order USPS Parcel Post; only way they ship other than carrier.
Defense:  In my first 2 years in Catemaco I lost 1 out of 4 mail packages (2002). The Catemaco post office apparently loves the Fool..

Dec 5, 2009

Catemaco Parades

Beautiful downtown Catemaco seems to have a daily parade to celebrate civic events.

That "daily" might be slighly exaggerated, but not by much. Within the last few days I saw a parade for a local wedding, a celebration of the handicapped, a religious procession and none for the Dia de la Revolucion, which is normally a biggy but was poopooed by the Veracruz government as an accumulator of transmittable diseases.

Normally it seems there is a parade every week by schoolchildren  accompanied by oompapah bands who apparently have nothing better to do than to march through the streets of  Catemaco with signs opposing or supporting social programs ranging from poverty to aids prevention.

Less frequently are parades for politically induced social causes like "No to the Cost of Water" or prevalent political rallies for a paying political representatives, or even public announcement parades of weddings or funerals. A lot more frequent are religious parades, with candle and placard holders marching to support their favorite Virgin.

Aside from keeping kids and their mothers out of school, all of these events add to the remarkably high noise level of this small provincial town, which is also afflicted by the usual outcries of dozens of loudspeaker equipped vendors of pineapples, newspapers, furniture and dozens of other offerings.

Dec 1, 2009

Well, I'll be dammed in Catemaco

I simply could not resist to post that headline to describe a recently discovered  adventure tour on the outskirts of Catemaco, visiting two extrordinarily attractive dams near the city.

Catemaco Walmart

Life in beautiful downtown Catemaco just got more complicated. Today Walmart opened the smallest size store in its arsenal on the main road leading into Catemaco.

The new so called Bodega Aurrera has only about a third of the items in a full size Aurrera and less than 15% of a full size Mexican Walmart.

So now, instead of getting my staples at the local Rodeo mini supermarket, I will probably shop at Bodega because it has a slighly larger selection and some frozen items. I then have to visit San Andres to shop at Aurrera and Soriana to buy the stuff missing in Catemaco. Then of course I have to make a frequent trip to Veracruz to get anything slightly unusal. And after that, of course there is mail order for stuff I simply cannot live without.

AH, progress in Catemaco is painful.

Nov 30, 2009

What's eating me in Catemaco

That wonderful chef  Zarela has done it again! Sitting there in ugly downtown New York, she serves the best Catemaco food most of which I have never eaten in beautiful downtown Catemaco.

This is a ripoff  of her webpage of her current offering:
Catemaco and the surrounding area is one of the most beautiful places in Mexico with some of the best food in all of Veracruz and maybe Mexico. No wonder that ancient Mexicans thought that this was the paradise where all good souls went to rest and play for all eternity.

This weekend we are featuring a menu of specialties from the Catemaco-Los Tuxtlas area and following is one of my favorite recipes from the region: Picadillo de Pobre


Soup - Tatabiguiyayo
Beef stew flavored with achiote, tomato, mint, parsley and oregano

Corn masa and green plantain made into a thick ‘pinched’ tortilla, topped with lime and chile sauce and crumbled queso fresco

Chile Relleno de Picadillo de Pobre
Roasted poblano chile filled with shaved beef, potatoes, and carrots, flavored with achiote

Tamal de Champinones
Corn masa filled with cheese and button mushrooms sautéed with tomato, chile, herbs and spices, steamed in corn husk

Pescado al Mojo de Ajo
Fish fillet sautéed with whole unpeeled garlic cloves, lime and parsley

Costillas Ahumadas
Smoked baby back ribs served with salsa macha verde

Vegetable - Tortitas de Berros
Watercress and cheese ‘cakes’ served with ranchero sauce

Nov 29, 2009

Catemaco Potpourri

Just catching up on some things that catch my fancy in beautiful downtown Catemaco.

28 percent
That is what the Mexican IRS will charge you on the profit of a sale of unoccupied property. This is not what you have to pay with your  Mexican tax return, instead, it is directly collected  in the notary/escritura process.
Catemaco asses
Their products reach one of the most beautiful areas to the west of  Catemaco City.
Still working on the link.
Good Food & Drinks
My personal best La Sol y La Luna bit the dust.
Current runnerup is a tiny Swiss flavored restaurant in Dos Amates, on the way to the coast.
A new Spanish food restaurant is supposed to open.
And the best available restaurant on the Montepio coast, Las Casitas, is closed till the next highroller tourists arrive in April.
A new stripjoint opened, after the old one lacked well endowed clients.
You can still expect to be deadlined because of floods, wash-outs or political protest road closings anywhere in southern Veracruz, or probably anywhere in Mexico.
Sex is now illegal in Veracruz unless it is for procreational purposes. The state recently enacted a rabid anti-abortion law.
Cheap Women.
The state of Veracruz is still on the top of the list of tolerating the sale of minor and young women in indigenous communities.
Round Trips.
Mexico has hundreds of destinations that are only accessible one way for usually more than dozens of miles.
Yesterday I discovered  a new local Catemaco roundtrip along a gorgeous river and scenery  almost suitable for any car. And that is saying a lot in Los Tuxtlas.
Check for the link mañana, of course.

Nov 26, 2009

Dos Amates, Catemaco

Dos Amates is one of the nicer villages in the 500 to 1000 population range in Los Tuxtlas. I had the benefit of  having my Popoluca's daughter spending a year of social service in the community to atone for her medical school education. Naturally we visited often and took lots of photos.

I recommend reading the page because it is a microcosm of the social development of  a non native community in Los Tuxtlas. The village is also a beautiful place to visit with an attractive waterfall and a great little Swiss restaurant.

Nov 24, 2009

San Martin Pajapan

On my list of adventures to get away from beautiful downtown Catemaco is a climb up the San Martin Pajapan volcano. This trip is now 5 years in procrastination so I think it is time to make room for someone who actually did it.

Trip report from Coen Driessen:

Last Saturday I went to climb relatively unknown San Martin Pajapan Volcano and because there is not much information and/or pictures on the internet about this volcano, I have added some pictures so you might want to post it on your website for general use.

To climb the mountain you'll have to go to the town Pajapan. There aren't many locals who know the way all up to the top, but after asking around for about an hour we met a man named Roberto Martinez Martinez (Adolfo Ruiz Cortines # 45, Pajapan, no phone) who works in the 'biosfera' on the mountain and has an excellent knowledge of the area. It is strongly recommended to use a guide because of the vast jungle and very few trails.

The hike to the top takes about 3-4 hours and is mainly dense jungle. There is not too much of a trail to the top, so mostly you'll have to use a machete to cut your way through. There are many monkeys living on the moutain (mainly on the upper part ) which makes it quite interesting. From the top of the mountain you will have an excellent view of the sea and the city of Coatzacoalcos.

Roberto, the guide (54-years old), told me that several months ago a scientist stayed at the top for about a month, documenting all flora and fauna existing on the volcano. Probably he has much more information about the volcano.

There is just one steep part where you have to pass through some sort of a canyon which is quite steep and slippery (because of loose sand, leaves, tree branches etc), but that is the only difficult part.

The spot where the Pajapan statue was found is, as far as I understood from the guide, between 2 outcroppings somewhere on the top. We did not pass by that spot on the route we took. I do think however that Roberto, the guide, knows exactly where the statue was located.

All in all it is a great trek and definitely worth a visit.

If you need more info, you can mail me at
Thanks Coen, when I make it to the top, I'll be toasting you.

Cerro Pipiapan, Catemaco

Beautiful Catemaco unfortunately is afflicted by mayors who are graduates of the school for the deaf, dumb and blind.

While neighboring San Andres is remodeling its downtown to impress tourists, and creating natural parks like El Parque Ecologico del Cerro de Venado and the Luis Bianchi Botanical Gardens, the Catemaco government promotes the opening of more cantinas and strip clubs.

There is a magnificent hill in Catemaco, which would put to shame the multimillion peso investment of Cerro Venado.

Cerro Pipiapan, on the dirt road to Vista Hermosa, just north of Laguna Catemaco, is already furnished with volcanic rock steps to its summit with fantastic views of the Gulf of Mexico, Laguna Catemaco and Laguna Sontecomapan. Heck, you can even see San Andres in the distance.

The property is for sale- cheap!, because parts of it have been invaded by the usual politically motivated land grabbers of Los Tuxtlas.

Nov 22, 2009

Beautiful downtown Catemaco is a hotbed of internet manipulations. One would think that this godforsaken paradise in Los Tuxtlas would not generate enough interest to internet warriors.

The usual domains: - owned by an internet domain trader, refused a US 1000 dollar offer. - I own it, whoopeedo! - owned by a shoestring resort operator, against  all .org domain rules. - owned by someone in Xalapa, Veracruz without  a website.

The Mexican Domains - now owned by a domain trader. The original Catemaco owner was too mad at me for starting a competing page and rejected my $ 1000 for the domain name, and when he was too broke to pay for the renewal, I missed out on the new registration. - became available in October  09 and is now owned by a domain trader. - the official Catemaco government site. The page is dead, of course!

Other names in use - Hotel Catemaco

I also own and, and - I registered it because I was and am disenchated with them, to put it mildly. 

Google lately has been changinging its search algorithms and  seems to be very much preferential to searches in Spanish for sites with any latin country domain suffix instead of  the language used on the web site.

So I looked to register a few quicky .mx or names.
It turns out Mexico is the most expensive place in the world to register a domain name! Instead of the usual $7.99 cost to register most international domains, I am now quoted US $ 50.00 by the Mexican registration agency. (They are so backward that they still do not publicize the increased .mx costs).

Nov 11, 2009

Nanciyaga, Catemaco

A drive to Nanciyaga was my first venture out of beautiful downtown Catemaco many years ago. I paid my entrance fee and thought I would take a nice solitary walk around the park and therefore rejected the entreaties of guides to accompany me. Trying to cross the hanging bridge, the owner dressed in a suit, chased me down and forbade me to go any further without a guide. I turned around and left.

Four years later, I mellowed down and actually took a guided tour. A few more years later I discovered the owner was actually a nice human being. So now, after a few more years and a few hundred pages about most anything in existence in Catemaco and Los Tuxtlas, I finally devoted a page to:

Oct 24, 2009

Catemaco Ears

While my kids were growing up I probably became a major contributor to the financial wellbeing of whoever manufactured the drug Amoxicillin which supposedly cured ear infections.

Now in my "golden" years, in beautiful downtown Catemaco, I have been battling my own recurrent ear problems. So I went to see a 350 peso specialist in San Andres, who after prescribing one of each medication available in local drug stores calmly told me to stay away from Catemaco water. I tried to abide by that, but after a week, my Popoluca requested that I sleep on the roof  to protect her air quality.

Now I am stuck with a local doctor who proudly displays his sheepskin of being a graduate of the Swiss Institute of Tropical Medicine. He recommended I see his buddy, the local Belgian chiropractor, to have my neck adjusted, and told me that ear infections are very common in tropical climates. Do you want to know what I think of Swiss medicine?

My good local friend, fondly known as the Fool on the Hill,  recommended his Zapotec wife's cure of their children's ear problems consisting of inserting a funnel of paper in the ear and setting it afire. I tried that, and the newspaper I used burned off much of my remaining hair, but it did diminish the ear problem, probably because I had to concentrate on third degree burns.

My native maid recommended I stick chilis in my ear, so I went to the street market and asked for ear chili. I never knew these damn things came in hundreds of shapes up to the size of bananas. The little ones she gave me came with instructions to moisten them before plugging into the ear. That didn´t work either.

I had already tried my grandmother´s ineffective remedy of cotton balls with hot oil, so I went on the internet to seek relief.

I found a recommendation for vinegar and alcohol! Aha! finally a concoction to my taste. In consultation with my Swiss tropical medicine graduate I blended those two ingredients with liquid athlete's foot medication and some other ingredients and repeatedly dribbled the potion in my ear. I expected a miracle. WRONG!

So I decided to apply lots of alcohol internally. Now I have absolutely no problem.


Oct 15, 2009

Mexico jokes

What do you call a Mexican with a rubber toe?


Ironically there is no Spanish page of gringo jokes. They would probably be a lot more funnier than this collecton of largely racist Mexican jokes at Mexico Jokes. I'm glad I'm not Polish.

Catemaco Subdivisions

Selling tiny bits of Catemaco is BIG business.

Aside from the dozens of established colonias (neighborhoods) in Catemaco, there are also dozens of newer colonias in the hills of Catemaco that are sparsely populated, generally lack city water, electricity and paved roads. Almost monthly newer colonias are being promoted, and sold, without any municipal services.

Veracruz has a substantial, reasonable set of laws on the books that are supposed to control subdivisions (colonias). These laws require water, drainage, sewage and adequate roads.

All these laws in Catemaco and elsewhere in Mexico are circumvented by receiving permission from a municipal mayor to subdivide a terrain. Usually this involves a strawman purchase of up to 10 % of the lots involved in the subdiivision in favor of the mayor.

A current political aspirant of Catemaco announced a new colonia to house 156 families, offering the lots at 4500 pesos with a 2000 pesos downpayment, designed for extremely low income habitants in a federally protected reserve. Naturally none of the lots have any municipal facilities.

On a daily basis, inhabitants of the previously established colonias with a few built homes, demand that the municipal government provide them with water, electricity and drainage. And, as political expediency permits, rudimentary facilities are extended to these areas, primarily in order for the current mayor to garner good will and steal at least 10% of the cost of the projects.

The built out costs of these older and new colonias is enormous and an extraordinary hardship on municipal finances, primarily because of extraordinarily low property taxes in Catemaco and most of Mexico.


Sep 23, 2009

Down 1 in Catemaco

The latest arrival of the few handfuls of Gringo residents of Catemaco just bit the dust.
The single, 60+, former schoolmarm  lived in the one and only gringo ghetto on the outskirts of beautiful downtown Catemaco, wrote umpteen pages of an enthusiastic blog about possibly making it here on $900 a month without a car and the lack of local friends, took hundreds of photos and lasted for 2 months, before hightailing to the more civilized haunts of Oaxaca.

There is no moral to the story.

Update Oct 3
As usual it is not over until the fat lady sings.
She did!
This Lorena Bobbit  from the vaunted California educational system has now vented her opinion on settling in her self chosen one and only trailer trash enclave in Catemaco, and dependent on the input of a local taxi driver because of her inability to waddle, explored a few miles of Catemaco and promptly became an expert on local historical, sociological and creepy crawly stuff .
I regret ever having mentioned her name, website, and buying her breakfast..

Sep 22, 2009

Cheap Catemaco Hotels

Many hotel owners in beautiful downtown Catemaco are mistakenly under the impresssion that tourists should pay through the nose for spending a day or two along one of the most beautiful lakes in Mexico.

Fortunately the peso devaluation has somewhat mitigated the local frenzy of rate hikes that, in many instance, have doubled room rates in the last 5 years. Mexican peso earners and spenders, though, are still subject to blood letting.

Along came some local neoliberal capitalists and within the last year opened three resonably priced hotelitos, along  bed and breakfast lines. Rates are as low as 179 pesos per double, in clean, newly equipped rooms.

At those rates you can spend an extra month here, and skip Cancun.

See all the Catemaco Hotels here

Sep 10, 2009

The Lakes of Catemaco

If Laguna Catemaco would dry up a few meters there would be another lake in Los Tuxtlas. The laguna averages 23 feet in depth and at its deepest central point measures about 34 feet.
But there is a hole between the city of Catemaco and Agaltepec island that is 70 feet deep. Since that island was a ceremonial center for pre-colombian inhabitants, it would be interesting to to see what's lying on the bottom of its murky waters.
There are a total of 6 marvelous lakes and lagunas in the Catemaco Municipio. The most famous and largest is Laguna Catemaco, followed by Laguna Sontecomapan. Catemaco City is surrounded by lagunas Chalchoapan, Nixtamalapan and Amaloapan. On the Sierra Santa Marta side, near Miguel Hidalgo is the small Apompal lake.
All of the smaller lakes are of volcanic origin, are filled with ground water, and are described in Wikipedia as follows: A maar is a broad, low-relief volcanic crater that is caused by a phreatomagmatic eruption, an explosion caused by groundwater coming into contact with hot lava or magma. A maar characteristically fills with water to form a relatively shallow crater lake.
Laguna Catemaco is a true lake, created by volcanic activity blocking off a valley that accepted streams from the surrounding hills. Laguna Sontecomapan is a true lagoon connected to the Gulf of Mexico.

Aug 26, 2009

Catemaco Rapture

"...At the northernmost point of the American tropics lies the beautiful Los Tuxtlas Mountains of southern Veracruz. This lush flora supports individual species of several tropical bird families, such as tinamous, woodcreepers, parrots, tropical flycatchers, and foliage-gleaners. Our stay here will include visits to a variety of habitats, with easy walks amongst spectacular lowland rainforest and cloud forest, and a boat trip on a scenic coastal lagoon.The lowland forest reserves of the UNAM Biological Station and Nanciyaga hold Red-lored Parrot, Bat Falcon, Keel-billed Toucan, Slaty-tailed Trogon, White-bellied Emerald, Stripe-throated Hermit, Golden-olive Woodpecker, Bright-rumped Attila, White-breasted and Spot-breasted Wren, Red-crowned and Red-throated Ant-Tanager, Ruddy Crake, and the spectacular White Hawk. In the cloud forests, we should see Emerald Toucanet, the endemic Long-tailed Sabrewing, Scaly-throated and Buff-throated Foliage-gleaners, Eye-ringed Flatbill, Common Bush- Tanager, Golden-crowned and Golden-browed Warblers, White-winged Tanager, and a local subspecies of Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch. This lovely forest is also home to the endemic Tuxtla Quail-Dove. During our boat trip on the Sontecomapan Lagoon, we hope to see Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, Violet Sabrewing, up to 5 kingfisher species, and perhaps the elusive Sungrebe and Gray-necked Wood-Rail. Additionally, en route to Catemaco, we will explore an extensive natural savannah at Las Barrancas to look for Pinnated Bittern, Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, Aplomado Falcon, Double-striped Thick-knee, and Fork-tailed and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers. Our evening owling trip might yield Mottled, Spectacled, and Black-and-white Owl."

OK, had enough birds? Here is the link:
River of Raptors - Veracruz Conference 4-10 Oct. 2009

Aug 24, 2009

Dying to Visit Catemaco?

We went to visit my Popoluca's father on his first anniversary in the local cemetery.
While there I kicked a few rocks at my first local friend and a number of acquaintances I have known here during the last 7 years.

Aside from a few dozen fellow warriors I have never known so many dead people in my life. Life expectancy in Mexico stands at an average of 76.2 years, which is pretty amazing when compared to the 78.2 years in the US with its vaunted marvels of scientific medicine. So, perhaps it is just that I associate with people that die quicker in beautiful downtown Catemaco.

My Popoluca suggests that I should embroider my golf shirts with a warning message. Danger: Proximity may result in premature death.

Come see a video of the Panteón (cemetery)

Aug 14, 2009

Cheap Thrills in Catemaco

The bishop of Cordoba, not far from beautiful downtown Catemaco, yesterday mowed down six pedestrians with his SUV, and the old adage "you go to jail if you have an accident in Mexico" held true.

The holy man spend the afternoon in jail and 90,000 pesos for the privilege of killing a little old lady and hurting 5 younger ones, incuding a few kids.

So how much is your dead grandmother (or granddaughter) worth in Mexico?

About 37,000 pesos!

The sum is fixed by the Mexican Ley Federal de Trabajo, which pegs the fine at 700 times the minimum wage in Mexico City.

Heck, that's cheaper than buying car insurance in New York City.

Although Mexico probably has as many lawyers per population as the US, it is not blessed with the tort system of multimillion dollar verdicts. Instead most lawyers are employed by the government to use their legal expertise in political offices like departments of agriculture, road building, welfare and similar feeding grounds. I don´t know which system is worse.

Aug 5, 2009

Los Tuxtlas Deforestation

Treehuggers are a rarity in beautiful downtown Catemaco. Instead the pueblo is the historic center of the most voracious lumberjacks in Los Tuxtlas.

Greenpeace recently touted Los Tuxtlas as 90% deforested. I don't understand why they are picking on us. So is the rest of Veracruz, Mexico, and most of the world.

Anyway I put together a slideshow of the actual situation in Los Tuxtlas. Lots of pretty pictures and hair raising statistics. In Spanish, of course. But I think you'll get the drift.

Los Tuxtlas Deforestation -a musical slideshow

Aug 1, 2009

Catemaco hotel for sale

Chicken Charley was one of the gringo princes of Catemaco. He arrived at a relatively young age, married a local señorita, raised kids and involved himself in dozens of businesses in Catemaco, ranging from chicken farming to card board recycling.

He recently died, leaving unfinished his last venture of the construction of a massive concrete miscarriage on the Malecon across from the Catemaco lake.
The term prince comes into play here, because the building needed considerable political finesse to bypass the regulations affecting common people such as federal zone, height requirement and parking facilities.

So now, the proposed 6 story hotel, stands at an unfinished 4 stories and graces its corner on Catemaco's busiest tourist street with unsightly construction debris.
The surviving owners, which at one point were alleged to include a local Catemaco mayor are now offering the property for sale.

Got 25 million pesos to spare?

Catemaco Rentals and its forerunners have been around since 2003, but it is only in the last year that I have seen a strong upsurge in inquiries about living in beautiful downtown Catemaco. Of course I conceitedly attribute that to a greatly expanded tourism section in the info pages.

When I first arrived in 2001, I almost left because I could not find a comfortable place to rent. Since then, dozens of new apartments have been built. Many older units are also available. Unfurnished apartments range from 1200 to 1800 Pesos and do not include appliances.

A few dozen unfurnished houses are also available, usually in poor conditions, and renting between 2 and 5000 Pesos to primarily Mexicans. There are a handful of houses that are usually occupied by gringos on their first venture here and include two bungalows in the hills with great views plus 2 modern houses on the Malecon , ranging from 3500 to 6000 pesos. In addition there is a trailer park that has converted 6 or 7 furnished one bedrooms starting at 400 Dollars.

There is no real estate market or advertising medium for rentals or even sales. "For Rent by Owner" via word of mouth is the local mantra. Most rentals are month to month, although some will demand the customary deposits plus a Guarantor.

I've put together an overview of what living or retiring in Catemaco entails, so I can just send a link to this page to the next person that does not read the fine print of "We do not handle rentals, because they pay no commissions" on the real estate email pages.

a survival guide

Jul 14, 2009

Catemaco Pilgrims

In a more than 300 year old tradition, pilgrims from deep within the mountainous Sierra Santa Marta began arriving in Catemaco today.

Thousands make the yearly trek, walking up to 60 miles, in the hot sun or pouring rain, crossing rugged mountains and, depending on the rain, torrid rivers. Most will stay in Catemaco till July 16th to worship the catholic Holy Mary in its local version of  "la Virgen del Carmel", alleged to have appeared here to a fisherman in a cave in the 1600's.

The pilgrims are accompanied by more than a hundred horse riders bearing the standards of their faith, while hundreds of bicycle riding pilgrims and road runners will brave the treacherous Los Tuxtlas roads from as far away as Oaxaca and Chiapas.

Dozens of tour buses, plus a downtown fair, choke beautiful downtown Catemaco and joyous singing and the smell of a plethora of dozens of open air food stalls permeates the evening. while in the nights every nook and cranny will be jammed with pilgrims overnighting on cold concrete.

Visit the Catemaco Basilica, Home of the Virgin

Jul 8, 2009

Catemaco Eggs

Growing up 60 years ago I was fascinated by the market stalls selling eggs sitting atop contraptions lit from underneath to see the condition of the eggs.

The memory crossed my mind after cracking my umpteenth rotten egg in beautiful downtown Catemaco, which is part of chicken country with 10 times as many chickens as people.

The last time I saw eggs for sale, which were maintained in a cooler, was years ago. Local eggs are kept for sale a room temperature which regularly reaches above 90 degrees in unventilated stores. And as for quality I regularly get eggs in sizes ranging from pigeons to small ostriches. And I have also learned to love fertilized eggs.

Egg flavors also come in surprises because of the food choices by free ranging chickens, and on occasion an egg will smell like a good fart, or almost as bad as the smell of Baluts (dead embryonic duck eggs) favored by many in South East Asia. But I have learned to appreciate my Popoluca teaching me to never crack eggs directly into a pan.

My dependable local quality egg provider was unfortunately put out of business by a snake feasting on his hens, and since then my soft boiled and eggs over easy consumption has dropped drastically, especially after considering that Mexico is a haven for salmonella induced diarreah, and wondering how much of it stems from eggs.

Photo: BioSciencia

Jul 5, 2009

Today is Torta day in Catemaco

Ever since the French invasions of Mexico, tortas have been making inroads on tacos. Tortas are sandwiches of the submarine genre, served on small sizes of French bread, often called "bolillos". Lately foreign fast food joints are competing with them and to protect the Mexican tradition there are now several state torta festivals to celebrate and promote the second best fast food group in Mexico.

Tortas are served both hot and cold and ingredients range from beef tongues to stuffed chiles, fried fish, chunks of pork and the staple of sliced ham. Usually sold in mom'n pop stands, the owners name their tortas after whatevever suits them, so don't expect a  "Tejano" torta to taste the same in Xalapa and Acayucan.

Today only, beautiful downtown Catemaco along with the rest of Mexico serves a unique version of a so called torta. It is an imaginary bread roll stuffed with a 500 peso bill and swallowed by zillions of impoverished peasants and workers ready to sell their vote to the torta giver. Of course the process is illegal, but election officials nationwide are deaf, dumb and blind to the entrenched custom.

The rest of July is a great month to be in Los Tuxtlas. Giant parties, street festivals, dances, lots of beer and loud music roil  the three major cities.

July 9-12
Verafest 2009
San Andres Tuxtla

July 12-9
Celebration of the Virgin del Carmen and county fair

July 18 & 19
Climbing around Volcano San Martin Tuxtla
reserved for 200 by DEMATAC

July 18-26
Celebration of Saint James
Patron Saint of Santiago Tuxtla

Photo of Torta - El Asador

Jun 30, 2009

Catemaco License

I'm becoming more Mexican every day. A friendly officer at a recent police stop away from beautiful downtown Catemaco reminded me that my license was about to expire. So one day I set off to battle the fiercesome Mexican bureaucrcy.

Surprise! 30 minutes later, not including 90 minutes of playing musical chairs at Hacienda (the Federal cash register), I walked out  with a 3 year permit for 746 pesos. That's a lot of pesos!
Other requirements were originals plus copies of passport, FM2 visa, proof of residency. The doctor was not around, so no eye test was administered, which I would have flunked.
The written exam was 12 or so computerized questions  about traffic signs and general driving, which I often guessed at, especially the one about which side should you drive on in a narrow street with cars parked on both sides? The driving test was administered by a traffic police officer in his  half ton pickup truck and involved driving around the block once.

Jun 28, 2009

Mexico 1934

.. Mexican worker doesn't live like a tourist and he wouldn't want to. In Mexican products, which provide him with all he needs, a peso has the buying power of a pre-inflation dollar. Oranges cost three centavos (less than one penny). Avocado pears cost the same. The staples, black beans and pink rice, cost usually 20 centavos a kilo, which is more than two pounds. That's 2½¢ a pound. And if you've eaten black bean paste with chili sauce and Mexican pink rice, you know you don't have to feel sorry for anyone who makes it his daily fare...
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.
Bob Dylan should have sung that in Spanish 75 years ago

Historic Time magazine articles mentioning Veracruz

Jun 24, 2009

Catemaco Call Home

Today beautiful  downtown Catemaco received new phone books. Actually it is the phone book for 83 cities in Veracruz, including Veracruz City.

It is a shame that no entrepreneur in Los Tuxtlas has the desire to produce a Los Tuxtlas directory with both white and yellow pages. Considering the junky advertising sheets and magazines that are constantly published here, this could be a profitable business for someone.

The phone book delivery man said they would distribute about 1600 books in Catemaco. My page count of numbers shows about 1700 (I counted one row and mulitplied it by 16).

I did  the same count last year, and it looks like there is a little growth in Catemaco. (La Victoria and Sontecomapan were split off the Catemaco phone book this year, about 100 combined)

Of  those 1800 I would guess no more than 15% (270) have internet access at home, plus a 100 or more machines in internet cafes primarily devoted to hotmail and pornography.

Catemaco Noticias (not Catemaco News) averages a measly 600 returning readers per month,  plus another 20,000 fly bys and I would guess most everyone in Catemaco reads the Noticias at least twice before upchucking.

The local monopoly of TELMEX which delivered the book against a 10 peso propina, considers its white pages a military secret. Idiotically, only Telmex subscribers have access to the pages.

The yellow pages, also of course, have no listing for Catemaco, until you figure out that the section listings are ordered by by cities.

And also "off" course the current and previous mayor have no listing, and the roll of last names sounds like any small town in southern Spain, with a focus on Dominguez, Hernandez and Perez, the equivalents of Smith and Brown.

TELMEX (owned by the second richest man in the world, depending on the dollar exchange) has some of the highest rates in the world, but I have no complaints about either its quality or service.

Catemaco info made a very small effort to list some of the basic phone numbers in the soon to be finished (2015):
Los Tuxtlas Directory

Dive Catemaco

Next time you drop in to beautiful downtown Catemaco, bring your snorkel! It will come in handy during the rainy season which is just about to start and you can also use it on the surprising number of dive sites along the Los Tuxtlas coast.

The state of Veracruz recently published a dive guide for Veracruz in English and Spanish,  which is curiously titled Submarine Tourism.

It was designed for myopic internet users. To read it download the whole guide to your computer.

Jun 19, 2009

Catemaco Homos

In beautiful downtown Catemaco the news is primarily spread by word of mouth, followed by dilapidated vehicles announcing whatever a publisher thinks will get people to pay 5 pesos for a copy of their drivel.

The most reliable news seems to be an FM radio station that knows which of its sides is politically buttered.

Today's 120 decibel news announcement was of a homosexual killed on the passing federal highway, allegedly after enjoying himself on the Malecon.

Mexico, aside from having  the propensity of killing reporters, also has has some of the most perverse laws on the books for defamation and libel and regularly jails reporters for investigatory comments.

The most recent local perversion is jailing a legless reporter, Victor Luna,  for alleging improprieties in the lottery system of the nearby city of San Andrés Tuxtla. The most recent national notoriety is an ongoing battle of a reporter alleging a governor to be a child pornographer and drug dealer.

The really annoying aspect is that newspapers are afraid of mentioning anything or anyone with political pull, when describing an accident or crime scene. Usually those occured in a "lugar conocido"  by an "empresario conocido" ( known place and known businessman).

That does not stop them from publishing gruesome photos of crime victims, including their names and data, but, curiously, when I published one, Google yanked it off my blog.

Lesbian ran over while reading Catemao News
Tomorrow I am awaiting full photo coverage and personal details of a bisexual, transsexual, or oh shucks, a lesbian, who got run over by a heterosexual while reading Catemaco News on a, whatever sex,  lap top.

Jun 15, 2009

Catemaco Noah

Anyone driving up to beautiful downtown Catemaco must have noticed the giant wooden ship being constructed in Alvarado. I once tried to enter the boat yard to take some photos but had the gate closed in my face. Finally there is news on what it is about.
Apparently a millionaire is building a trimaran hulled sailing ship to sail the seas and spread the word of peace in the Mayan language. He previously built a replica of  the Columbus vessel, Santa Maria, which is now used as a tourist cruiser in Puerto Vallarta.

Jun 14, 2009

Catemaco Politics

I thought the long bliss with my Popoluca, ongoing 7 years, had opened her mind to my political commentary.

But, no, she refuses to participate in a mickey mouse poll that I placed on my Spanish web site. She worries that she may be discovered in who she voted for and would thus affect some of her daughters who are employed by the government.

If she could be traced through this mickey mouse Google Poll widget, (now deleted because you know what) she would probably be correct. Of course she cannot be traced but fear is what drives Mexican politics.

Fear to lose your government job, fear to lose your government allotments, fear, fear, fear.

For people on a subsistence level of survival that fear is predominant in their political decisions.  The difference between a few hundred pesos of allotment and none can create drastic life style changes. And usually the candidate who delivers a plastic bag called "despensa" filled with a week's survival food for a family of four, just before the election  will be guaranteed a vote.

My Popoluca gives out her own despensas and fears noone on a local level, but she also knows that anything on a state level is subject to influence peddling and corruption.  And she does have 2 daughters on that level.

And what really pisses me off is her attidude of  "asi es", and her acceptance of  the going concern concept of corruption and intimidation..

Mexico will not change in the foreseeable future, and will remain one of the best places in the world with the best polical and judicial system to buy cheap, in relation to what it would cost to corrupt the same institutions in the US.

Jun 9, 2009

Once upon a time in the Wild West of Catemaco

Most of Catemaco's northeast is inaccessible except by cattle trails and a haphazard one car ferry. All of the area is part of the vaunted Biosphere Reserve of Los Tuxtlas. In actuality this is gorgeous cattle country with infrastructure for settlers from the 19th century, and environmental disregard of the 21st.
If it is slow - switch to Google Chrome

Jun 2, 2009

OT Yahoo Sitebuilder

I unfortunately use Yahoo Sitebuilder to publish and I say unfortunately because Sitebuilder is not transferrable to much better web page designer programs, and I have too much time invested in more than 1000 pages.

Yahoo Sitebuilder Help sucks. In 5 years of going through the growing pains with them I have never received a concise answer to a problem.

I am writing these notes because I know Google will index them and hopefully help another frustrated user.

Sitebuilder uses Java to generate its page design program. But Java upgrades do not necessarily support Sitebuilder.  Over the last few months I have been going nuts over losing snippets of text, headlines and links in many of my reedited pages.

The solution?
Delete any Java file on your computer and then reinstall Sitebuilder, including its OLD version of Java, and do NOT allow Java to upgrade itself!

Memory allocation is not controllable in Sitebuilder and almost impossible to adust.
Here is a way.
Change the original ysitebuilder.bat file in the Yahoo SiteBuilder folder:
"C:\Program Files\Java\jre6\bin\javaw.exe" -cp "C:\Yahoo SiteBuilder\install.jar" RunSiteBuilder ""
"C:\Program Files\Java\jre1.6.0_07\bin\javaw.exe" -cp "C:\Users\dz\Desktop\Yahoo SiteBuilder\install.jar" RunSiteBuilder " -Xmx768m"
where the Xmx768m number reflects the memory you want to allocate to speed up the slowpoke. Do that exactly as written, including the empty spaces.

There is a help group on Yahoo which is worse than Yahoo help answers.
If you have a major problem and need some help, email me and maybe I'll have a solution with 5 years of trial and error experiences.

Yahoo Sitebuilder problem problems problemas error errores uploading

Jun 1, 2009

The News

Mexico's only English language is doing it again! Rattling on bankrupcy doors!. First incepted in the 1950´s,  The News folded in 2002, and resurfaced in 2008.

That venerable paper simply cannot attract enough English readers to be economically efficient, and was sold to Grupo MAC , a mickey mouse 5 newspaper Mexican chain. Apparently the paper, which really had some impressive editorial content, is shrinking from 41 to 14 employees, knocking off its weekend editions, shrinking to 24 pages, and intends to do translations of English news items. What a waste!

May 28, 2009

Kiddy statues of Catemaco

Apparently a statue of a little boy is supposed to reawaken the touristic interest in Veracruz which has gone to the pigs.

Semi.nude boys statues are found peeing all over the world. and now Veracruz will have two that I know of. Confoundingly, though I haver never seen one of a little girl.

Beautiful downtown Catemaco has its own statue of a little boy. Of course, he is peeing. It's a replica of the famous Belgian Manneke Pis  which is a small bronze sculpture depicting a naked little boy urinating into a fountain in Brussels, the Belgian capital. The kid apparently peed upon some attacking soldiers and is credited with winning a battle.

I have no idea why a restaurant serving fried fish on the Malecon in Catemaco would have him decorating an alcove on its outside walls. That is just another one of the wonderful mysteries of Catemaco.

By the way, how would you like to be a little swineflu boy, depicted in green and placed on top of a mountain?  Is this Veracruz governor nuts, or what?

Photo of kid: Burro Hall

For sale 8000 sf Lot on Laguna Catemaco shore

Located 4 minutes south of beautiful downtown Catemaco, Veracruz. 60 feet of  private waterfront, on a hilly incline with spectacular views.
US $ 55,000. 
Please contact

May 22, 2009

Travel in Mexico

As anyone living in Mexico knows, Mexico is an extraordinarly unsafe country.

For gringos that is fortunately not true. Mexican people, and I guess Mexican criminals have this misbegotten idea that any problem involving gringos invokes the Mexican federal government or the US Embassy.

Generally speaking, if you are gringo, you will receive preferrential treatment in the provinces of Mexico. In the border areas you will be considered fresh meat. And if you are dumb enough to travel without car insurance anywhere in Mexico, you will be god's gift to extortionists.

Most Mexicans quiver in their pants over either being kidnapped or being obligated to empty their ATM account.
And many seek safer places.

Recently my Popoluca, who is a realtor, is negotiating several sales of houses of owners who want to leave the insecurity of Catemaco. Meanwhile she is also negotiating for houses for people from other areas of Mexico like Guadalajara and Puebla, who want to retire  to Catemaco because they think it is a safe haven.

The answer to those differences may lie in the middle.

Generally any gringo traveling in Mexico is protected by the "nochingagringos" effect, which is primarily practiced by the federal highway police, and to a limited extent by state police.

All that is obviated by the "gringopagadoble" effect in place in most interactions with local shopkeepers .

May 15, 2009

Catemaco Food

If you want to eat great Catemaco food, I suggest you head to New York City.

Zarela Martínez was born in Mexico and has created a niche market of English cookbooks about Veracruz cooking, and she simply gushes about Catemaco.
She also owns a restaurant in New York and plans to offer Catemaco delicacies, including tegogolos, but she will need a little help finding those.

The food of Catemaco: The place where ancient mexicas thought paradise was

May 6, 2009

Catemaco Tegogolos 2

While the secretary of tourism and the mayor of Catemaco are looking for another way to fill their pockets with selling beer to Catemaqueños who mostly live on less than 2 minimum wages, there is a fabulous opportunity:

The largest snail cocktail in the world!
attempt at the Guiness world record book.

Catemaco is famous for "tegogolos", a shelled fresh water snail endemic to Laguna Catemaco. These snails have a reputation in Mexico as an aphrodisiac and are much more tasty and cheaper than Viagra.

Thus, this event would attract thousands who seek erections to magical Catemaco.

The abandoned structure near the Laguna Catemaco "harbor master's" quarters could be converted into a giant garbage can liner outfitted cocktail glass.

Mexican and international lovers would flood the dozens of hotels and bars in town. The forgotten whores of the Catemaco red zone would earn some well deserved financial cushions, and the snail divers of Maxacapan, who regularly complain about the hard work of catching these snails, would finally be able to buy snorkels.

Furthermore, it could be attached to the upcoming festival  of "Mother's Day" and would solidly cement Catemaco's growing reputation as the best place to get drunk north of Cancun.

Apr 29, 2009

Catemaco Killer Bees

While Mexico is going ballistic over the swine flu, I instead am searching for one of those white monkey suits with sting proof visors. According to personal experience and reports from a major Veracruz daily, Catemaco is under attack by killer bees. Fortunately the local civil defense outfit is on the ball, and wiping out almost 10 hives a day.

But noone cares about that in my household, instead they are running around with face masks and getting hysterical over rumors of hundreds sick and dying in Catemaco. All a bunch of hogwash!

Today the US CDC reported a total of 64 "confirmed" cases, while the Mexican government officially reported 49 "confirmed" cases. But who believes Mexican statitics anyway.

Apr 16, 2009


I've been checking some statistics of beautiful downtown Catemaco and am thinking of changing my favorite phrase to "depressing downtown Catemaco".

On a financial health scale, Catemaco ranks right in the middle of 2458 Mexican municipios at 1303.

Of a total population of  46,702, 9,441 are illiterate and 20,037 adults did not complete primary education
1,206 have no toilets, 2,709 lack electricity. 4,030 have no piped in water. 21,519  live in overcrowded houses and 5,668 live on dirt floors.
32,172 (69%) make less than 2 minimum wages (US$7.50 in 2009).
and 100% cannot drink tap water.

Expenditures for 2008 were app. 73.8 million pesos, about 1,580 pesos per person (US$120 in 2009).
Of course figures for income per capita or total tax revenue is a federal government top secret.

The figures are from 2005 and you can look up your own favorite location at CONAPO.

Meanwhile this time of year "gorgeous downtown Catemaco" is in full bloom, and even broom sticks are flowering.

Apr 1, 2009

7 year itch

How many years does it take to chuck up on Mexico and look for greener pastures?

Judging my unscientific cursory readings of blogs published by gringos moving to Mexico, the 7 year itch usually occurs within 2 years. The ones that hang on longer barely make it to the 7 year mark, and the devoted, or perhaps "hard core" crowd keeps lasting longer, usually till death do them part.

Personally I'm stuck because a Popoluca caught me. Anyone else who has not sunk roots in Mexican culture needs to be pitied for sustaining his stay beyond the first 7 years.

By then, if they are at all financially active, they will have become used to the extraordinary corruptness of the Mexican judiciary, police forces, the day to day  government involvement, and the ridiculously nonchalant attitude of inhabitants towards their institutions.

Mar 31, 2009

Catemaco neighbor

Catemaco is actually a suburb of the neigh-boring city of San Andres Tuxtla. Much of the Catemaco countryside and many of its major businesses are owned by people from San Andres.

There is an unsubstantiated but plausible rumor that the power structure in that city actively discourages development of Catemaco. That becomes apparent to any Catemaco resident who has to make the 1/2 hour trek to the no parking zone of San Andres for anything beyond minimum subsistence needs, whether it is food, healthcare or banking.

Take a better look at that envious neighbor:

Mar 17, 2009

Laguna Sontecomapan

The freshwater lagoon of Sontecomapan is a hidden paradise half an hour away from beautiful downtown Catemaco. It deserves its own internet page. And here it is:
More to see: Laguna Sontecomapan

Mar 7, 2009

Mayas to the Rescue

The main despoilation of walkways in Catemaco is bird droppings. Chewing gum platelets are the second most common blemishes. Both are horrendous to clean up.

So now come the originators of chewing gum to the rescue: 
"A cooperative of over 50 Mayan communities in Mexico´s Yucatán Peninsula, where Sapodilla trees have been tapped for their sticky latex since before the Spanish conquest, will start selling biodegradable chewing gum in British stores this month.

Unlike common chewing gum made of synthetic rubber, which can take years to break down, the cooperative´s "Chicza" brand is made from chicle, a natural substance that degrades quickly, ... the cooperative´s director, told Reuters.

"Chewing gum made from synthetic polymers sticks easily to asphalt because both contain similar polymers".

I will be investigating if the local Popolucas have a recipe for easily removing bird shit.  At present, my own Popoluca is threatening to exterminate the darling birds, at least from in front of our house, in beautiful downtown Catemaco..

Source: The News - which does NOT retain its news items.

Mar 1, 2009

Offroad Catemaco

68 adventurous souls rode off to conquer the roadless  beaches, hills and valleys of the northern Tuxtlas from Coatzacoalcos to Catemaco. The weather is so bad, I wouldn't let my proverbial dog out. Let's see how many actually make it in this 10th annual event.

Feb 27, 2009

Catemaco Road Signs

A curious aspect of road signage in Catemaco and possibly the rest of  Veracruz, Mexico is the proliferation of directional road signs. They are usually placed where noone would either need or heed them, and are apparently placed at the whim of a political contributor to the local governor, or often, by someone who believes in mind reading.

A left turn arrow will usually direct you to a dirt road  that in retrospect was not where you wanted to go. The sign you read, usually presumes that you know where there is an actual turnoff, usually a block or a road further on. If you have traveled in Mexico, I am sure that you took many right turns into corn patches before your intended road.

While traveling in the US, I frequently shot photos of my companions, usually my kds, crossing a state line.

Here in Los Tuxtlas, there are giant signs across the highway placed wherever someone decided to anounce something like:  "Bienvenidos a Catemaco".  The reverse side usually says something like "Thanks for visiting Catemaco"  in Spanish.

A few miles further on you will find the same sign for the next municipio (county/city). Apparently the area between these signs is a no man's land inhabited by illiterate savages.

The concept of county line, apparently, is a nonsequitur in  Spanish. Or more probably signage is a political award to fund some creative enterprises in doubling expenses..

Photo is of a neighboring county's sign after a rainstorm

Feb 26, 2009

The North Tuxtlas Coast

A little more than one hour from beautiful downtown Catemaco are some beaches that may never have been seen by a gringo, unless he was a shipwrecked sailor.

Feb 24, 2009

Catemaco Brujos 2009

The annual brujo conference in Catemaco, known worldwide as occuring on the first Friday in March, as usual will begin on the first Thursday.

More Info: Catemaco Brujos

Feb 18, 2009

Catemaco Monkeys

If you thought that monkeys only hang out in trees - You are wrong!
In beautiful uptown Catemaco the imported  macaques, supposedly sequestered on only one island, have managed to swim to a few other ones. They seem to enjoy their dips into the bordering Laguna.
Dogs love to, also. So do ducks. And the freshwater snail catchers have to. Most any other downtown local yokel prefers sponge baths. Bathtubs are priceless jewels in Los Tuxtlas.
Can you picture this monkey lathering up in a bathtub?

Feb 12, 2009

Brujo War

The internationally famous brujos of Catemaco are losing the publicity war. The dozens of local warlocks Catemaco are being outmaneuvered by hundreds of imitators as far as Europe and the US.

Classified ads in umpteen publications promise spells and limpias by a "brujo originally from Catemaco". There is now even a Google publicity campaign for an outfit calling itself brujodecatemaco with a Mexico City phone number. Another imitation brujo, actually from San Andrés Tuxtla is now promoting a site from Tabasco,accepting internet money transfers and of course, calling his site elbrujodecatemaco.
Aside from phony ads, foreign brujos are now even imitating the drug lords narcomantas (banners with drug dealer complaints), by painting their own Catemaco Brujo banners across federal highways.
So far only one Catemaco brujo has his own website.
Of course I could be judging this all wrong and the local brujos are sending all their offspring to foreign locales to spread the message.

Feb 8, 2009

24 American drug dealers killed in Mexico

That may be the next headline on the supercilious mexicophile blog.
Thank the lord, Canadians don't read these headlines. They freak out after the count of 5.

Headline: Houston Chronicle: More than 200 Americans killed in Mexico since '04