Feb 27, 2010

Catemaco & Los Tuxtlas A to Z

The Veracruz newpaper AZ recently included a supplement featuring most of the marvels of Catemaco and Los Tuxtlas, including several pages in English.
The supplement is not available on the internet anymore, but I saved it. It is a 68 page, 36MB,  PDF document, that may be a little slow downloading. If you wait, it is worthwhile reading, and the photos are marvelous.

Feb 17, 2010

Brujos of Catemaco

Every year in February I am inundated for requests about the Brujo (witches) Convention, Congress, Festival or whatever in beautiful downtown Catemaco.

I am posting some answers here so I can refer them to the next dozen peoples that ask the same question over and over every year.

What is the Brujo Festival?
Originally the event was sponsored by the actual brujos of Catemaco as a social get together and who invited  the local population to participate and be entertained. In the last decade, the politicians of Catemaco supplanted the brujos and converted the congress into a political event hoping to draw the governor of Veracruz to visit them, and since then, most real brujos have ignored the public event.

When is the Brujo Festival?
The event is always on the first Friday of March. Technically it begins with a black mass on top of volcano Mono Blanco at midnight on Thursday. One minute later is the first Friday of March.

The ride to and climb up the volcano may be fruitless because most brujos nowadays are too lazy or too rich to make the effort.

So if you come to visit on the first Friday, you obviously missed it. Nevertheless several municipal administrations have unsuccessfully tried to turn the event into a 5 day affair beginning on the Tuesday before the first Friday.

Which brujos participate in the event?
Originally most of the brujos participated. In the last years it is usually only the brujo that bribed the Catemaco municipio with 100 thousand pesos or more to obtain the title of "Brujo Mayor" who is entitled to slaughter black chickens in front of burning pentagrams, have a photo opportunity with the Veracruz governor and get quoted by numerous journalists.

What events are scheduled for the Festival?
That totally depends on the municipal government. Events range from mass black masses, mass limpias (spiritual cleanings) in the laguna, booming disco concerts, political parades, supposed natives dancing to bongo drums, getting drunk in front of burning pentagrams, inspection by dozens of journalists, occasional lectures by brujophiles, and being swamped by itinerant Mexican hippies selling handcrafted charms.

Most of the major brujos hold their own private midnight black masses complete with dead chickens and expect gringos to pay  500 pesos or more to participate.

Usually the only functional event is a spring rite ceremony at the Nanciyaga park, 4 miles outside of Catemaco, on Friday night, which is usually fully booked at 150 pesos or so.

Where can I find information about this year's event?
Technically the current  incompetent secretary of tourism of Catemaco handles the event. My experience over the last 8 years, is that the secretariat does not know what they are doing until one week before the event, when they print up a zillion posters and glue them to every lamp post to alert the population of Catemaco which cares less. Specific state or national publicity is usually absent.
Here are phone number of the Catemaco government. Please call them to verify the above information.  (294) 943-0016, or (294) 943 0258. Good luck, and don't call me!

Feb 12, 2010

Catemaco Generics

Courtesy of my Popoluca, I am now blessed with 2 doctors in the family.(Ok, one is an intern.)

Both claim that buying generic medication in Mexico is a potentially deadly hazard. Both have been taught in their medical schools that generic drugs are not equal to brand name drugs. They claim that generics either do not cure or take longer than brand name drugs.

But curiously, the hospitals where they were taught plus all the public hospitals in Mexico are obligated by law to prescribe generic drugs when available. Rich patients and families, of course, buy branded drugs.

Aside from counterfeiting DVDs , Polo shirts and Johnny Walker Scotch, Mexico is also a major source of counterfeit medicines with a volume of US $ 650 million per year equal to 10% of total drug sales in Mexico
Of course my two doctors, along with many others in Mexico, unfortunately believe that anything made in the US is better than in Mexico, and swear that brand name medicine is the only way to go .

Generic equivalents of brand name drugs are now a major business in Mexico, and most of the international players like TEVA, GLAXOSMITHKLINE and others have subsidiaries in Mexico along with dozens of  mom and pop drug producers. Technically the Mexican generic drug industry is well regulated, controlled and examined, but does have a loophole that generic drugs are only to contain the same active ingredients, but are not tested to work the same as the original brand name drug.

Because of monopolies, generic drugs were unknown in Mexico until about 13 years ago when the so called "Dr Simi"  began a generic revolution in Mexico and Latin America which has turned him into one of the Mexico's richest men.

So who do you trust? Dr Simi, or the local pharmaceutical chain store which buys drugs probably through one or two wholesalers, or the corrupt government medical hospitals or clinics, or who?

Send me a postcard after you drop dead because you were not cured, unless of course you get your stuff from mail order Walgreens.

Feb 10, 2010

Catemaco Buses

The incompetent immigration service in Veracruz recently required 4 visits to renew my Mexican resident visa (FM2). Each visit is a minimum 8 hour round trip to downtown Veracruz.

I usually enjoy driving to that city on a  monthly or bimonthly basis to shop for stuff that is not available locally, or even catch a movie.

But four times in 30 days is  more like an unwarranted crusade. So I like to take the 220 peso round trip bus, leaving at 5.30am, which permits me to read, watch a movie, shop and eat breakfast at Sanborn´s, envy the local Nazi who bought a cheap Mexican passport, and be back in beautiful downtown Catemaco by 3:30pm.

ADO,  AU and LOS TUXTLAS bus lines serve Catemaco. A whole mess of other alphabet letters serve the rest of  Mexico. Most are good buses, but many are not. Mexico is and has been hyped as one of the best places to visit on a bus in the world.

A few years ago I began a collection of Mexican bus accidents to identify the "bus ran off a cliff or whatever " type accidents in  Mexico and South America that kill thousands every year, until  I quit after a while because too many internet links refer to the same accident.

The biggest bus drivers in the world fly airplanes. And any accident involving even the teeniest weeniest of crashed  planes is not only publicized news but also the subject of extreme research on what caused it. Buses that regularly kill 20 to 50 people are ignored. That is probably because bus passengers not only ride second class transportation but are also considered second class people.

Here is a Google link on "Mexico bus killed". Enjoy it!

Feb 8, 2010

The Pits of Catemaco

This last week has been terrible in Catemaco. At least according to the local rumor mills which are in hyper drive and touching every local paranoid´s dreams.

4 people shot by the the military was the biggest rumor that I actually believed because some upper echelon government people confirmed it. In actuality, there were two sets of gunfire, both the result of drivers not stopping when asked to stop by military forces carrying machine guns. One stupid young man was shot, but not killed.

Then there are the famous Mexican kidnappings for cash. The last one to be publicized is now rumored to have been a drug vendetta, and the one before that, a bad debt collection. The latest one to cross my sights involved a millon pesos and the father of a kid who supposedly directs some of the nasties in Catemaco. Now that makes absolutely no sense.

Today supposedly a taxi driver was killed in a nearby community. That turned out to be a man on man violation, which is as close to death as you can get in Macho Mexico, without dying.

Meanwhile I happily hop into my topless yellow buggy and cruise the streets of  beautiful down and uptown Catemaco literally 24 hours a day and aside from gathering hundreds of smiles and a few dirty looks,
I feel as safe as Alice in Wonderland.

Feb 3, 2010

Catemaco Construction 3

The work took longer than I expected, because of technical problems.
Here are some figures:
Worker's pay is based on a 5 day, 45 hour work week. (My personal unusual local invention)
Maestro -  250 pesos
Segunda cucharra (Assistant maestro) - 900 pesos
2 Assistants - 140 pesos per day, each

The work involved a little concrete block laying, a little concrete forming and pouring, and mostly stuccoing walls.

Cement, 50kg -  100p
Lime, 25 kg - 34p
Sand, 6 cy - 800p
Gravel, no idea, still had some, last time it cost 1200p
3/8 rebars, 20 feet, 78p
forming lumber, 1x4x8 - 38p

Most of the wiring and plumbing had been installed previously, but unfortunately a starving neighbor stole my exposed copper, and  insultingly clipped the copper at floor level, and we spent days chipping concrete to reconnect it.

Aside from labor, the largest item cost was windows and doors, all with security bars, including an aluminum sliding patio door - 5000p, a regular door -1600p, and 5 large windows averaging 2200 pesos. 2 wooden basic wooden interior doors cost 1200 pesos each with frames, but the closet doors have not yet been priced.

Decent paint is turning out to be a killer, 1150 pesos per 5 gallon bucket.

Although my costs are considerably higher because of details like sloping terrain, 5 levels, and difficult access, I still think a basic casita can be built in Mexico for about 10 bucks a foot., which will not include 2 bucks per foot for gas if you drive an old Ford 150 to haul your stuff, and  a lot more bucks per foot if you want advanced plumbing like one lever faucets, jacuzzis and sinks made of real stainless steel, etc, marble floors, and really straight corners.

A photo will be posted tomorrow, or whenever
This post relates to http://www.catemaconews.com/2010/01/catemaco-construction.html