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