Sep 28, 2010

Catemaco Island

Catemaco is royally screwed.
Highways to the north, south and west are disrupted. Heavy rains and the incompetents that manage the dams holding Laguna Catemaco in check, have resulted in parts of downtown Catemaco being flooded:

Enjoy the views of beautiful downtown Catemaco:

Update: the flood of  less than 2 feet lasted less than 36 hours.

Update: Sep 30 - No passage south or north of Catemaco
Update: 1 Oct - Catemaco to Acayucan - open 1 lane, backed up a mile.
Update: 4 Oct - Catemaco to Veracruz - open with caution.
Update: 6 Oct - Catemaco  to Veracruz - closed again, probably only for a day
Update: 7 Oct - Catemaco - Veracruz, open again


Sep 26, 2010

Catemaco Crock

Allegedly Veracruz was recently wiped out, flooded and destroyed by a recent hurricane, leaving 1 million victims behind among a statewide population of 7 million plus. That is a bunch of crock.

Nevertheless, US newspapers barely picked up on the story probably because only about 14 died  during the week when 20 or more were getting killed every day elsewhere in Mexico.

What did make the international news services though, was the escape of  a crock of 400 or so crocodiles from a breeding farm.

Mexican news was not immune. Every major paper headlined the story. A day later the equivalent of the environmental protection agency supervising the farm trumpeted that NO, the crocs DID NOT get out, and that they still are within the farm property.

Today the Veracruz governor announced that paying  hurricane victims for the capture of those crocodiles in their neighborhoods will be an economic boon to them.

I just love Mexico. It's almost as funny as Florida.

Pissed off in Catemaco

Republished from 2008
She did it again, and this time I hope my truck makes it in the rain.

My Popoluca had pissed me off and I ran away.

I crossed Laguna Catemaco to climb into the Santa Marta volcanic hills, said hello to an old guy in Tatahuicapan who had previously been friendly to me and asked him if the road was clear to El Paraiso, where I wanted to see some local parrots. Three hours later in 4x4 I am still climbing cattle trails until finally I stall out with a presumable transmission problem.

The village was not far away and I walked. And all stared and gave me the evil eye which is a sort of a double crossing of an index finger. And they said possibly tomorrow a car will arrive to take me back to the nearest other village. And I asked for hospice and was invited to sleep in the bed slatterns of a son who had emigrated to the US.

And they fed me something of cactus mixed with chicken and I avoided choking until the old man invited me to his personal stash and we sat and drank it and watched a million stars and talked about televison which he had seen in the low lying villages and wanted to have for his village.

None of this Jorge Castaneda stuff for me. By that time I was making google eyes at one of his resident daughters, but that rotgut finally kicked in and I passed out, I think.

And absolutely nothing mystical happened.

At 5:30 am, on a gorgeous cloudless but full moon sky filled with zillions of points of lights, the promised pickup truck arrived.

And hundreds of mini parrots screamed while we hauled down the mountain.

Forget it - That was some really bad rain, and I prefer my Popoluca.

Pajapan: 13 communities isolated.
Mecayapan: access to the coast wiped out.
Tatahuicapan: 23 communities stuck in the high sierra.
Soteapan: 2500 people isolated.
Hueyapan: totally inundated.
All roads south temporarily destroyed.

Sep 21, 2010

Isla Tepetapan, Catemaco

One of the totally unknown wonders of beautiful downtown Catemaco requires you to find a your  way among dilapitated housing in the suburb of Tepetapan to the entrance of the trail leading along the Rio de Catemaco.
Unknown to most, there is a large river island just south of Catemaco within the Rio de Catemaco, which runs from below the sluice gates  of the bridge near the main highway to just below Hotel Tepetapan.
Technically, the island is a federal zone. Practically it seems to be used by someone grazing cattle.
It is one of the very few areas immediate to Catemaco, that might give you an idea of what the city was like before it was pulled into the third millenium by the construction of a road to Catemaco in the 1950's.

Sep 17, 2010

Catemaco Bubbles

I'm back to picking on the moss growing between my toes in beautiful downtown Catemaco because of the recent abnormally heavy rainfall. So I'll blow some bubbles.

Just read an absolutely horrid website about Mexico, and thought to myself, if I were a US father, would I let my kid visit Mexico? And then I thought, if I were a Mexican father, how would I feel about the US?

Judging by my website counters, people interested in Catemaco have fallen into a pit. The last four weeks have seen the worst performance in 4 years of keeping track. Unnecessarily declaring Catemaco a disaster zone several times during that period certainly did not help.

Declarations of disaster are often political gimmicks in Mexico to free federal funds (FONDEN) which too often wind up in the hands of those with fraudulent claims. Apparently the local mayor filed for a declaration every time it rained a little hard.

Anyone that has ever seen the haphazard spider webs and connections of electrical lines crossing all Catemaco streets will be amazed at the superb performance that those rats nests deliver. Black and brown outs really are a rarity.

Ok, back to the rain.
Catemaco had 2 minor bridges washed out, just like they do every year, the coastal road also had the same problems. The link to the toll road from Santiago was and is flooded just like it does every 3 or four years. The major rain affectation was the heavy news coverage of southern Veracruz being flooded, and being evacuated. The only true bottlenecks was and is at Lerdo de Tejada which at one point had up to 3 feet of water covering a few vados of its carretera. At no time though, did that stop bus traffic or even itty bit cars making it through there. (900 peso tow trucks also helped).

After a multimillion peso campaign, including 20 thousand free chickens, Catemaco has a new mayor elect. Unbelievably, the election was forced by state mandate to be July 4th for an office to be occupied January 1st of the next year. I hope he saved enough chickens to live on.

I did a recent spot check on pricing in hotel lobbies and discovered that local hotels have apparently raised their tariffs to make up for the absence of visitors. True third world thinking!

Where did my money go?
I invested a heavy chunk of US green when I first got here. So far, ignoring potential appreciation, I have lost 30% because the Mexican peso has lost that value over the last 8 years.  But I did try some small flyers in the equivalent of certificates of deposit paying 20% interest. Sounds good, yes? Unfortunately the institutions offering that kind of interest are not protected by something like a Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

Thousands of people in Catemaco depend on fishing for a living and government handouts to balance their diet. So I find it curious that the local mini Walmart offers the same fish that locals depend on for 2/3 the price. Of course the fish were "made in China".

O yes, before I forget, no body parts, mass graves, shot up vehicles or dead reporters have been seen within a 100 mile circumference in ages. Surprised, aren´t you?

I just got screwed on a TELCEL air time buy. A friend got the message from them that they were offering a 2 for 1 special, buy 100 pesos, get 200 pesos airtime. He bought and got his, I bought and got zilch! I  called the company and was advised that you only get the special if you received the same message. RATS!

Just installed the new Internet Explorer 9 BETA. It is super fast, cleaner and a pain to get used to for an old dog.  But it still has bugs! Wait to install it until the official version is issued.

Sep 16, 2010

Isla Agaltepec, Catemaco

85 years ago, a Danish archaeologist visited beautiful downtown Catemaco and noticed an island across from the city shores and said: "We went to the island and saw that in ancient times, the island had been transformed into a sacred center. We found terraces, staircases, mounds and plazas, and, thanks to the cattle, a tick paradise from hell".

85 years later, the island is still a mystery to Catemaco visitors and residents alike.

Sep 10, 2010

Catemaco´s Ghost Waterfall

This it what some crazy amigos do in beautiful uptown Catemaco while the rest of Veracruz was getting flooded:

Sep 9, 2010

Catemaco Roads

Caution: reading this blog entry is dangerous to the mental health of Tepetapan residents.
I'm getting lots of inquiries about road conditions in around Catemaco and southern Veracruz.

As of today "you can´t get there from here" unless driving in from the south.
Stretches of road around Lerdo de Tejado are under up to 3 feet of water. Buses are still passing, and if your car does not float, truck drivers will move you forward for 900 pesos. The access roads from the toll road at Isla and Cosomaloapan are totally flooded and bridges are destroyed.
Update: 12:55 10/11 - The water in Lerdo is down to 2 feet or less, and a friend just made it in a VW.

But, the tollroad from Veracruz to Villa Hermosa is still open, although that city could be flooding any hour, like the area around Minatitlan did a few days ago. So I guess we'll see you on the way back or next year.
Update: 12:55 10/11 - The rivers are descending!

There unfortunately is no national service to get road information. Status of federal toll roads and bridges can be gotten by dialing 074 in Mexico.

Federal highways have a website, which I know is NOT completely accurate about Veracruz.

Veracruz state highways have no information system.
Photo from El Universal.

Update: I just found a quick way to check road conditions. Check the "Ticketbus" bus schedule for two cities on your route. If they show service, you know the buses are rolling, if not, then you'll have your answer.

Sep 3, 2010

Good ol' Mexico

Old Mexico hands are finally getting a chance to relive the good old days. The murder statistics are now at the levels they were 10 years ago. The only change seems to be in victims and murder tools. Formerly it was a large percentage of politicians, nowadays it is largely drug dealers. And automatic weapon usage has skyrocketed, where simple pistols, knifes and machetes used to probably be the favorite tools.

Oh - for the good all days.

The statistic comes from an interesting article:
How the expiration of the assault weapon ban affected Mexico.
by Diego Valle Jones

You can also find your favorite Mexican crime statistic here.

Official Catemaco crime statistics are so low they are almost laughable. The last statistic from 2008 indicates 32 accidents, and 216 arrests, mostly of the drunk and disorderly variety.

Sep 2, 2010

Catemaco Menu Items

reprint from 2006 with corrections
I just returned to beautiful downtown Catemaco, from hectic, historic, vibrant Veracruz City with some frozen, gorgeous, apparently juicy marbled prime beef steaks.

The rest of my time here I have eat:

A small fresh water snail whose slug body occasionally looks black. It is native to Laguna Catemaco. Its meat is a little chewy, but it tastes good. It is usually prepared like a Mexican shrimp cocktail, with tomato, onion, coriander, Chile, much lime, bay leaf and catchup. It is a known aphrodisiac and that is why Catemaco is so sexy.

These are small silver plated fish, sort of like a guppy. Usually they are served fried with lime and chili, and taste like weird spicy french fries if you close your eyes. They are also available in soups, or even get served in tacos.

This used to be a Catemaco native fish. It has virtually been extinguished by an imported African perch which may or may not taste the same. Mexican visitors apparently do not taste the difference. This is a fairly small fish, (I rarely see one over 2 pounds) and is preferrably served whole and deep fried. It is also available stewed, in soups, a la Veracruzana, and possibly another hundred variations. Most of them are delicious.

I am not sure whether this is a real eel or a snake. They are 2 to 3 feet long and  frequently served after being hashed to shreds (Minilla de Anguila) and colored red. Usually they are served in empanadas, (stuffed tortillas) but also in many more creative versions. Try some, with chili, black beans and olive oil. They do not electrocute anyone.

A sweet and sour fruit, sized like a cherry, usually conserved in alcohol and used in a myriad of desserts. It is mostly grown in Veracruz and Tabasco and is a favorite item on Day of the Dead menus.

And then there are the virtually hundreds of different pastries. Because of them my fingers are now almost too fat to reach individual keys on my keyboard.

That is most of the usual stuff. I would hate to bore you with beans with chonegui or ochote, bexo leaf tamales, chagalapoli juice or wine, or other weird stuff which I have to live on until my steaks disappear, which is probably tomorrow.

See more of the stuff that I have to live with: