Dec 21, 2011

Catemaco Homshuk

Catemaco actually has a Harvard graduate.

It's most famous former resident, supposedly from Tenaspi Island in the Catemaco lake apparently disappeared from Catemaco and turned up at Harvard University. From there he reappeared at the Anthropology Museum in Xalapa, Veracruz.

Clicking on the photo or link, which will take you to a nice fable about the small statue, supposedly of the Popoluca god "Homshuk", first identified by Frans Blom in 1925 in Catemaco.

Dec 18, 2011

Catemaco and the Four Winds

In 1933, the somnolent village of Catemaco first made international headlines.

On the 10th of June 1933, two Spanish airmen set off from Spain for Cuba to fly 40 hours in the first successful  non stop crossing of the central Atlantic in a single engine aircraft.

Early morning on June 20th the plane left Cuba for Mexico City, where 60 000 celebrants eagerly awaited the plane`s arrival.

Curiously, the flight was only planned to Villa Hermosa in the neighboring state of Tabasco, where it never landed. From there, the Four Winds (Cuatro Vientos in Spanish) disappeared into the haze of mystery.

The Mexican Air Force immediately dispatched a squadron of search and rescue planes, one of which later made an emergency landing in nearby San Andrés Tuxtla and provided Los Tuxtlas with the thrill of its first aviation experience.

The flight of the Cuatro Vientos was the equivalent of the Lindbergh experience in the Latin world and received huge press and radio coverage.

After the unsuccessful air search, hampered by bad weather, the then Mexican president,  presuming the crash occurred in Los Tuxtlas, ordered an expeditionary force to begin a ground search. The operations center was to be Catemaco, and the sleepy village became inundated with  reporters and searchers, depleting the shelves of its few grocery stores.

Locals guided the unsuccessful searchers through the surrounding jungles, where two died of snake bites and many more came down with tropical diseases.

The fate of the aircraft and its crew has never been officially explained. The most popular story claims the aviators crashed in the nearby Mazateca region of the Oaxaca mountains and were then killed and buried by natives. In 2008 a Mexican colonel reported it actually crashed in Veracruz mountains north of Los Tuxtlas.
Conspiracy buffs of course believe the Mexican government buried the facts to avoid international embarrassment.

Catemaco had gotten its first taste of flying, and soon an airfield was leveled near the El Cerrito hill which is now the center of the town. Nearby San Andrès actually operated an airfield with scheduled flights to a number of cities. All that ended coincident with an airliner flying into a mountain in the 1950's.

Both airfields have disappeared. A dirt strip outside of San Andrés receives an occasional aircraft and for years now, Los Tuxtlas is humming with political promises of a new airport to be built.

Read about the history of the flight, in Spanish, of course:

Dec 5, 2011

Catemaco Beaches

Well, these two really are not in Catemaco, but  few people know  that they are in San Andrès Tuxtla, the largest burg in Los Tuxtlas.

I stopped publishing English stories in a year ago.  This one is a temporary rarity, because it is still awaiting translation to Spanish. I am mentioning it here, because it has 2 nice videos.

Nov 19, 2011

Catemaco Deads

Catemaco seriously needs more dead people, or maybe a kidnapping. That is when newspaper readership of local rags doubles and triples in exemplars sold. That is according to the only news distributor in Catemaco who claims to average less than 250 sales per day of mostly state newspapers.

Since I wrote this, two cadavers from the neighboring town of San Andrès were found in Catemaco, promptly fueling a media spike about Catemaco, and sending my readership through the roof.
Update 2
Ok, we had a major kidnapping, of the brother of a previously kidnapped Catemaco hardware store owner in neighboring San Andres. Yikes, what a spike in Spanish readership!

The municipality of roughly 48 thousand inhabitants of Catemaco has No newspaper, No television, and No Radio! Radio arrives from San Andrés Tuxtla, TV from Veracruz City.

News in Catemaco is served by two flyers appearing whenever a juicy crime happens. Any other news arrives from the neighboring city of San Andrès Tuxtla, which is possibly equipped with more news rags and columnists than its relatively few literate inhabitants need.

Usually the only news filtering out of Catemaco is political events, including up to dozens of the names of attendees, and very little about what actually happened..

The only daily is Diario Los Tuxtlas
Possibly the worst newspaper on the internet. Always takes vacations on weekends, appears a day or two after its original publication and often, in the past, runs out of availability on the internet because of failure to buy sufficient bandwidth.

Appearing 2 to 3 times a week is the Diario Eyipantla Milenio.
The oldest new rag in Los Tuxtlas has nothing to do with a Daily, Millenium or Eyipantla, and of course its news worthy stories are somewhat stale. Nevertheless, it is the only local news source that presents an idea of what is going on locally, aside from reprinting political handouts.

There are also several weeklies:

This is a weekly that rehashes what happened during the last week, supplanted by political feel goods, and an amazing amount of national columnists having absolutely nothing to do with Los Tuxtlas. To give them credit, they also publish a few musing of local writers, including a columnist from Catemaco.

A five municpality rag, Periodico de San Andres, Catemaco, Hueyapan, etc. also publishes once a week.
Aside from that there are others, that go into print whenever they feel like it: Politica en Los Tuxtlas, Perfil Diario, Renovacion. And then there are internet versions like: Sucesos Los Tuxtlas, Informantes en Red, and political bloggers like:  Francoenlinea, Revista Juicio, El Pregòn de Los Tuxtlas, etc.

See the complete linked  list of news sources:
Catemaco Diario - fuentes de noticias

Nov 11, 2011

The Colors of Catemaco

At times the lake of Catemaco shimmers with more colors than the famous Laguna Bacalar in Quintanta Roo. At other time, when the strong winds of summer churn strong, beautiful storm waves, the lakes`s waters glitter bright blue between brillant white froth. The rest of the time, the lake vacillates among shades of light brown and weird green. 

I guess green is what the current mayor of Catemaco saw, when he began painting the municipal infrastructure a bright shade of green. 
The mayor before him saw red, and painted anything available to slap paint over, a nice obnoxious red, incluiding the street curbs. 
The mayor before him, obviously a whimp, painted all of the Catemaco Malecón in white.
 That is after his predecessor painted the same structures black. 
Curiously, except for the red mayor, all others, including the current one, paint the curbs of their new streets bright yellow, which only last as long as about a third of their term in office. 

A gallon of paint costs about the equivalent of  4 daily minimal salaries. 

Of course everybody loves the colors of Mexico!

Nov 10, 2011

Say hello to the new Catemaco monkeys

Depiste reservations by any naturalists in their right mind, the powers that be yesterday transferred a troop of 12 Spider moneys, including 2 males to a little bitty island in Lake Catemaco.

The former occupants, remnants of a troop of asiatic Macaque monkeys imported 35 years ago, apparently lost their local birthright and are to be shipped to a nature park in Quintana Roo.

Here are some photos from the transfer:

Let`s hope the banana throwing tourists appreciate these extremely endangered monkeys.

Read more about Catemaco monkeys here:

Nov 5, 2011

Catemaco Quetch

Ok, I turned the music off.  
Click on a song to turn it on .
There are 12 songs and they will play continuously while you stay on this page.

Nov 4, 2011

Catemaco Medicine Man

The 1992 film "Medicine Man", known in Mexico as "Curandero de la Selva", put Catemaco on the map for nature tourism. 

Starring Sean Connery and a mega million budget, with much of it spent in Catemaco, the film was mostly shot in Nanciyaga, and  left many of its stage sets behind, forming the basis for the future success of that nature park.

Nov 2, 2011

New York Time's Catemaco

Mexico's richest man keeps buying chunks of the New York Times, Maybe that has something to do with this strange article about one aspect of Catemaco's brujo tourism.


Driven to Cast Charms Against Drug Lords’ Darker Forces

more about brujos, here

Oct 27, 2011

Terry's Catemaco

Remember the good ol' days when the hunting was great in Catemaco?
This is a snippet of Terry's Guide to Mexico from 1965. 

That was also the first time I saw Catemaco. For about 15 minutes, on a cold, rain storming day from a one horse gas station, on the way to Quintana Roo.

Oct 12, 2011

Catemaco Facebook

Catemaco News is now on Facebook

Oct 5, 2011

Catemaco October 2011

This is supposed to be about September, but I'll take a time out about October.

This was the eighth month in the old Roman calendar,  until January and February were added to the in use calendar. That should make it the 12th month.  Possibly because of that incongruity, the world sponsors the first week of the month as "Mental Illness Awareness week", or month, depending on whose side you are on.

Ok, back to September.

September was pleasantly drier most of the month than usual, and re-invigorated some of my spirits. Unfortunately that is all the news. Nothing happened. Deader than a door nail! No narco killings, no major scandals. No new good places to eat or raise hell. The doldrums, except for the annual independence day celebrations, whose decorations still hang around. I have about 50 pictures of the parade in Picasa, if you need to know what marching kids look like.

Governmentally, another half a dozen councils were added for a series of very worthwhile causes, but, they   usually last as long as the 3 year mayor, now at the end of his first year in office, can hold his breath.

October is looking good. A buffalo meat joint will open its doors and provide free tastes on the 10th.

The road to the south is still a misery, but surprisingly, a potential washout near Maxacapan, 2 miles south, that I had been bitching about for 2 years is now being rebuilt, BEFORE it actually collapses. Miracles never cease.

The road north to Veracruz is now a pain, where before it was almost tolerable. Stay tuned!

The peso has been gyrating, but in effect has been making everything cheaper for US dollar spenders. Now is a great time to buy one of those multi million dollar properties in Catemaco or elsewhere in Mexico, that  locals laugh about because they have been on the market for a dozen years while the owners religiously keep raising their prices.

PHOTO; Original art by Ramón Cano Mantilla. Release of  paper  hot air balloons to celebrate independence day in nearby San Andrés Tuxtla.

Oct 3, 2011

Catemaco Terrorists

I get so tired of Mexico message boards in English, where a handful of posters regularly spout narco terror messages on threads about people wanting to drive through Mexico. Lately, of course, Veracruz is getting a deserved bashing

Mike Vondruska is a former short term resident of Catemaco, who at one time, was involved in the kayak business on the Malecon. He now operates a Veracruz Tour business, so of course he has a selfish agenda. Nevertheless, the comments he recently made on his blog, are a good defensive read about the current situation and I would suggest forwarding the link to anyone who is interested in Veracruz.

Veracruz Hits the News
October 3rd, 2011
Yes, the city of Veracruz sure did get some attention this past week. Killings, Killings, Killings. Dead bodies dumped in the street.
So now the word is,
“Don’t go to Mexico!”
“Don’t go to Veracruz!”

Incidentally, I do not know of a single US tourist having been killed in 10 years on the principal gulf coast highway #180  running from Brownsville, Texas to Cancun. 

But I did find the curious item of  Texas having had 3,071 traffic deaths in 2009,  with almost half on its rural, non-interstate roads which you need to travel to get to Brownsville.

I am now considering to become a terrorist on Mexico's Spanish message boards about travel to the US.

Sep 28, 2011

Catemaco Olmecs

Politicians of Catemaco pretend that Catemaco was civilized during the Olmec stage of local pre-hispanic history.

There is very little or no proof. Excavations on Isla Agaltepec and recently in Teotepec show only rudimentary occupation before 0 BC.

Nevertheless, politically it now seems to have become imperative to link Catemaco to the Olmec culture.

The first documented presence of settlers in Los Tuxtlas stems from sediment studies of a lake near San Andrés Tuxtla (neighboring municipality) which dated corn pollen about 5000 years ago. 

The next nearby presence dates from 3600 years ago when Olmecs initiated the first major Pre-Columbian civilization in Mexico around San Lorenzo Tenochtitlan southeast of present day Acayucan. The Olmecs progessively abandoned their centers wth the last one, actually in Los Tuxtlas, at Tres Zapotes, west of present Santiago Tuxtla, fading out about 2500 years ago, but continuing in a derivative version possibly until 900 AD
During its heyday, Olmec culture extended throughout central Mexico, extending to the Pacific and central America.

Apart from Tres Zapotes, few other significant archaeological finds of their presence in Los Tuxtlas have been made, including a sculpture workshop and assorted figurines primarily in Hueyapan, a municipality southeast of Catemaco.

The only significant find in Catemaco was documented in 1923, when Franz Blom, one of the earliest explorers of the area saw a small statue of Homshuk, a supposed Olmec deity parked next to a hovel in the city. Supposedly the figurine had been found on Isla Tenaspi, near the so called monkey islands.

The Olmec culture is one of the least understood in Mexico and abounds with speculations. They left no written, decipherable records, and the few that do exist are based on interpretations of  Maya hieroglyphs. Nevertheless, it is said  that they spoke a version of  the Mixe Zoquean language family, primarily based on there still being remnant speakers of that language in the Olmecs' principal known areas generally around the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.

The third largest of this group of speakers are Popolucas, an indigenous tribe still present in the southern Los Tuxtlas, still dominant in Soteapan and well represented in northern Hueyapan, both neighbors of Catemaco.

Now here it becomes interesting. 
The Catemaco/ Los Tuxtlas area became largely depopulated after 200 BC, possibly because of  volcanism. The next substantial civilization were Nahuatl speakers arriving around 400 AD from the Tehotihuacan civilization centered on Mexico City. They erected Matacapan, a complex of perhaps 50,000 or more, northwest of Catemaco. Numerous subsidiary remnants have been found throughout Catemaco and in other nearby municipalities. 

Most of the historical artifacts still in Los Tuxtlas museums or cluttering up sidewalks, stem from that era. By the end of  the Teotihuacan hegemony, the Matacapan Nahuas where then over run by Pipils, a Nahuatl dialect tribe of speakers, possibly from Cholula. By 900 the Pipils were gone, on their way to form minor empires in Central America.

By the time of the Spanish conquest, Los Tuxtlas was principally a Nahuatl speaking territory. a hundred years later, it is estimated that 80% of the natives had died off.

So what happened to the Olmecs and speakers of their language? I have no idea.

Almost all place names in Los Tuxtlas are Nahuatl, with a few of Pipil origins, and a even less with Popoluca roots. Even the Popoluca territory, which within oral history included the eastern part of Laguna Catemaco, has standardized on Nahuatl for its place names. Catemaco and the northern Los Tuxtlas is principally mestizo, bereft of its indigenous roots. The current indigenous population of Catemaco is less than 600, mostly Nahuats.

In 1911, Catemaco's historic documents were destroyed by arson so there is no record of its historic indigenous components, aside from a ridiculous statement that Catemaco was discovered and founded by settlers from San Andrès in 1714.

The question then becomes from where arises the much hyped mysticism of Catemaco?

From the possibly previous residents (500 years ago) of now disappeared Popolucas and Nahuats now hidden in the communities of the Santa Marta Mountains!

Dozens of sociological studies have identified the beliefs of brujos, chaneques (sprites), nahuals (shape shifters) as originating within the indigenous communities which apparently did not have a major presence in Catemaco during historic times.

Even today, unannounced, there are "real" brujo events occurring in those mountains, that would put the Catemaco hype to shame.

I guess it is ok for the primarily rootless mestizo population of Catemaco to borrow the traditions of  its displaced progenitors.  Maybe soon, they will declare Halloween a Catemaco invention.

If anyone cares for my bibliography, send me an email.

Sep 26, 2011

Catemaco Sports

Catemaco and Los Tuxtlas promoters religiously push the same banal recommendations to visit the area.

Extreme sports are virtually overlooked and under appreciated. Many of  the items mentioned below have been covered in this blog.

There is cave exploration along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico and around the San Martin Volcano.
Hang Gliding is possible off the 2000 foot drop at La Ventana in the Sierra Santa Marta, although I have never seen one flying.
Wreck Diving is possible off the northern shore of Los Tuxtlas.
Mountain Biking is possible most anywhere.
Kite, wind or sky surfing is possible much of the year, although, again, I have never seen someone doing it.
White water kayaking is seasonally possible on many of the Los Tuxtlas rivers.
Rock climbers could be in heaven, especially when ascending the steep faces of waterfall canyons.
Cliff diving and rappelling is possible off the Roca Partida rock face along the gulf.

Where else in the world exist opportunities like that in a 50 mile circumference?

The photo is of a recent 50K bike ride along the Catemaco Lake circumference. Because of political ineptness, there is a 5 km gap in the road which has to be transversed  in many parts by carrying the bike.

Sep 15, 2011

Catemaco STUPID

The coastal highway #180 from the US border to the south of Mexico was begun in the early 1920's. By the 1960's most of it was paved and bridged.

In 2011 you have to stand on your head to find out if the road is passable. There is NO functional system in place to advise motorists. The federal toll roads have an excellent system supported by a web page, Facebook and Twitter. Probably because they also charge a fortune to cross over their facilities.

The federal free roads might as well be in the African Sahara. Supposedly you can call the federal highway police for information. Good luck, to both get connected or to receive sensible advice.

At present the south of Los Tuxtlas is not accessible or passable, or maybe it is. As usual, a culvert crossing collapsed, and a makeshift bridge, unrepaired since last year's storms, was flooded again.

Usually this stuff gets repaired within a day or three or a week, until the next road gets washed out.

Catemaco has enough problems attracting north to south tourism. If this crap of road destruction and failure to inform continues, nobody in their right mind will venture on the already torturous trek through Los Tuxtlas, and instead will choose to bypass Catemaco on the toll road.

I wish someone would stick a sock in the mouth of the Veracruz governor who keeps bragging about tourism being the solution to Veracruz's problems without maintaining the totally vital and only north south coastal highway.

Typical repair crew

Catemaco - Dia de Independencia

Updated from 16 September 2006

Independence Day is one of the more important holidays across all of  Mexico.

In beautiful downtown Catemaco, the degree of the celebration is totally related to the whim of the mayor in power for his 3 year elected term. Usually the first year of the term produces a plethora of activities and decorations. By the third year there is usually barely a whim of the party atmosphere of the first one or two years.

This is the first year in office of all the Los Tuxtlas mayors. And they are going ape shit spending the little money that they do have on bangles, baubles and fireworks.

I enjoy it while it lasts.

On the morning of September 10, 1810, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a 57 year old priest from an old family of criollos (Mexican-born Spaniards) begun to harangue his parishioners in the small town of Dolores in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico, about the state of affairs in Spain’s colony of New Spain. 

He ended his sermon with “Viva the Virgin of Guadalupe and Death to the Gachupines (Spaniards in Mexico)”, now famous as the “Grito de Dolores“. The phrase is a pun in Spanish. It can mean both “The Shout from the Town of Dolores,” and “The Cry of Pain,” referring to the pain that Spain’s rule caused Mexico.

Thus began the bloodbath of Mexico’s revolt against Spain, ending almost 10 years later on February 24, 1821, when Agustin Iturbide (Spanish defense) and Vicente Guerrero (Mexican offense) joined in the Plan de Iguala to reject Spanish colonialism. On 24 August 1821, Iturbide and Spanish Viceroy Juan de O’Donojú signed the Treaty of Córdoba in Córdoba, Veracruz, ratifiying the Plan de Iguala and thus confirming Mexico’s independence.

After a year’s haggling, on July 21, 1822 the criollo Iturbide was declared the first emperor of Mexico as Agustin the First. He lasted till March 19, 1823, when in a continuation of the war of independence, former coalition partners warred again him, dethroned him and established the interim triumvirate headed by Pedro Celestino Negrete, with Nicolás Bravo and Guadalupe Victoria.

On October 4, 1824 the Constitution of the United Mexican States was promulgated, establishing a federal government. On October 10, 1824, General General Guadalupe Victoria assumed control of the executive authority, and became the first Mexican president to repeat the “Grito de Dolores“.

Over the years, Miguel Hidalgo’s “Death to the Gapuchines” battle cry was shelved and the more traditional “Viva the Heros of the Nation!”, “Viva the Republic!, and “Viva Mexico!”, etc. were substituted.

Another substitution was the change of the date when the “Grito” is delivered, from September 16 to the previous night of September 15, originally instituted to accommodate the birthday of the then Mexican dictator Porfirio Diaz.

201 years later, the Mexican president, and every mayor in every community in Mexico, including beautiful downtown Catemaco, Veracruz delivers the “Grito” to his patriotic compatriots, accompanied by thousands of  VIVA, VIVA, VIVA MEXICO.

The next morning things cool down a bit, and the traditional parades begin, more or less in line with the US July 4th events, only missing the baton twirlers.

Sep 6, 2011

Catemaco September 2011

Be thankful, I don´t specialize on Veracruz and Mexico News! The local pollyannas would really freak out!

The state news is grim. 10 were killed in 3 separate incidents on Monday. By now the state press almost ignores them. Twitterers of course go ape, especially now that the local governor jailed two for the equivalent of shouting fire in a casino.  Meanwhile the Mexican congress is debating a law which would make it illegal to insult politicians.

And now for the Catemaco weather:
The first of  45 or so cold fronts hit this morning. Lovely, much needed rain! It got so cold, I actually wore a shirt in the house during the day!

And now to the Catemaco news desk:
The long neglected 100 year old clock tower was repaired with functioning clocks and a sound system. Of  course, if you decide to sleep anywhere near the center of town, you will be inspired by the Mexican national anthem followed by church bells at 6 am.

Catemaco is still in the running to become one of the "pueblos magicos" which some pendejo bureaucrat now has decided to rename "Acuarelas Túristicas" (tourist watercolors). Hopefully, that will be after the long promised and more often announced 50 million pesos arrive to fix the sewage running down the streets.

The mayor has spread new gravel across most of the local country roads. It is really a great time to haunt the mountain nooks of Catemaco. Dried up streams are now running wild, more shades of green than fit on any palette and incredible vistas around every corner.

As usual  some "asnos" blocked the road south from here followed the next day by a major washout of a culvert bridge that hasn't been fully repaired since last year. Check locally, before heading south. Unfortunatey there are no Twitterers updating news of the road, and, of course the federal and state agencies are too inept.

There is another news item, but I am too embarrassed to publish it here, so go there.

And on the Catemaco reading desk:
A young woman went partying in Catemaco and wrote about in Spanish

Another one took a good look around and wrote about it in German

And, unbelievably, one of France's best newspapers published the farce of some imported foot stompers from Mexico City as "the ritual dances of Catemaco"

The European interest may have something to with the skyrocketing (percentage wise)  number of  mostly European tourists flying into Veracruz City. (the peso is dirt cheap when valued against the Euro).

The do not insult your legislator law was tabled supposedly because of social network opposition

Sep 4, 2011

La Victoria, Catemaco

La Victoria is the third largest town in the Catemaco county, and features a bucolic atmosphere without tourists. Curiously the town may be related to a British monarch.

60+ photos, maps and a few hundred words.

Aug 29, 2011

Catemaco Reads

There is a new kid on the block of English news in Mexico. Edited by a Dutchman and describing itself a delivering "Independent News from the Heart of the Americas",
The Voice of Mexico recently began publication as an online only service.

Here are a few more :
Inside Mexico - monthly

A good daily news aggregator is the:
and a thoughful weekly:
and almost English daily business commentary from

In addition there are hundreds of blogs, mostly geared more towards entertainment than news.
I recommend a feed of mostly news blogs I established for my personal reading:

More personal blogs can be found at 

Aug 28, 2011

Catemaco Gay

A day ago or so the Mexican presbyterians disavowed their association with the US presbyterians because of gay concerns.
Who cares?. Actually I do not know if there are any presbis in Catemaco.

What is more pertinent is that Mexico City came out of the closet and declared itself gay friendly a few months ago.

Catemaco, too, should raise its banner and declare itself  gay friendly.

Gays, speaking generally, have more than the average disposable income, enjoy natural wonders, cultural activities and nooks and crannies.

Catemaco qualifies, and could use the business.

What's missing is a boutique hotel declaring itself gay friendly. Actually what's missing is a boutique hotel.

Meanwhile, most of the raunchy cantinas along the federal highway crossing Catemaco serve transvestites as part of their offering.

Catemaco qualifies as a gay destination and should seriously consider promoting itself  as such.

Aug 19, 2011

Catemaco Orphanage

Before I settled in Catemaco I had gotten a whiff that there might be an orphanage here. It took me a few months until I found it. I had previous experience supporting children in the Far East with "Catholic Relief Services" and damaging some of them with another affiliation and I was looking to find a place to put my 2 cents.

In 1995, a religious señora donated one hectare, (2.5 acres) on the outskirts of Catemaco to a charitable agency to establish a home for children without homes.

The receiving agency was the brothers of the Order of Mercy, a catholic monk organization founded in 1218, The Order had begun operations in Mexico City in 1984 and now houses several hundred children there.

A holding facility, locally called "Casa Hogar", with 6 rooms and a supervisor quarter were constructed on the large terrain in Catemaco, a few kids were imported, and then the continuity of the project died.

The monastic order has been trying to enlarge the facility to accomodate more than 100 children, primarily from Los Tuxtlas , BUT, because of changing land values in the last 10 years, survivors of the original donor have been fighting for posession of the property.

For the last 9 years, as far as I know, my Popoluca and I have been the only local private presence supporting the children with electric and electronic equipment, school supplies, food, etc.

In a small way they are supported by the local catholic church organization, and of course by their substantially larger Mexico City Order . According to the "father" supervising the Casa, that support is "negligible".

Originally  I had thought that these childrens were all orphans. Most are not. Instead they were collected from damaging environments, such as child abusers and  violent parents.

I have followed some of  them for the past 9 years and am happy to see some achieve university status.

Meanwhile there is a group of children that need support, and yes, they are tax deductible!

Casa Hogar Villa Nolasco, AC

Photo: Taken in 2005. Usually when I am building something, I invite the kids to work for a stipend, that time, cleaning my beach.

Aug 16, 2011

Catemaco Tourism - part 5

I chuckled when the Catemaco tourism director recently admitted to a 40% occupancy rate instead of the expected 80% during the recently deceased tourist season. He blamed it on newspapers that reported that it was raining in Veracruz, and of course on insecurity. Even at 40%, I think he was stroking his thing. 

Insecurity, though is really becoming a cause celebre. This last month Veracruz City and State has been horrifying with murder rates not seen since the 1980's when the targets were politicians instead of narcos. I expected it, but I would much rather have been wrong.

Of course the director did not mention that less than 2 years ago, the principal paid for attraction in Catemaco raised its rates from 50 to 80 pesos per person for a boat ride to see monkeys.

The key element of Catemaco Tourism is boat trips around the Catemaco Lake, across Laguna Sontecomapan and to a much minor degree, along the coast.

Catemaco Lake tourism began with the introduction of southeast Asian monkeys to a small island within the lake in the 1970's. Fishermen soon discovered the profitability of hauling tourists to see these monkeys, and by now there are more than 154 permissions to operate tourist boats on the lake. 52 of those are owned by cooperatives, 102 others are owned by 39 individuals, (based on outdated statistics from 2000).

All but one of the boats is operated with environmentally damaging 2 cycle outboard engnes. All the boats were apparenty produced on the same set of 2 molds, with mostly 12, plus 16, 20 and 24 passenger configurations. None of the boats have flush decks, none are suitable for anyone with the least handicap, none provide adequate ingress and egress, and none are weather proof.

Almost all boats are shabby, uncomfortable and driven by taciturn drivers, most of whom are not owners but employees.

Additionally they have pretty much wasted and destroyed much of the Catemaco shoreline with flotsam, glass shards, every boat repair and maintenance chemical available and just your nice general household trash from visitors.

Current tariffs for the 1 hour tour are 80 pesos per passenger with a minimum of 450 per boat, including 6 passengers. Other rates are negotiable, and the 100 or more shills promoting the rides are reputed to rip off the unaware.

Because of inclement weather, boats operate perhaps only 2/3 of the year.

The best experiences I ever had on the lake were the rental of a now gone catamaran, shared with friends to many destinations on the lake. The Cat failed, first because of importation legalities and then because of partner squabbles.

Personally I would like to see a a few 50 to 100 seater party boats on the lake, suitable for lunch, dinner moonlight and "see the monkey" cruises.

So called "six pack" and larger weatherproof cabin cruisers with comfortable seating, an ice chest and onboard toilet would be a welcome addition. Even a few captained speed boats would  do wonders for well heeled  visitors.

A few rental Hobie Cats would really look great on the lake, and a few rental captained sail boats would do wonders for the lake`s skyline. But please, dear god, pass a law against unthrottled rental jet skies. 

I agree with a past proposal to erect a boat pier in the laguna on La Punta (proposed, studied, and supposedly funded in 2006), but ignored by succeeding administrations. Even a local Belgian's idea of importing a few hundred sail boats was a good, but I thought unfeasible, idea. 

The idea of a boat pier is wagging its tail again this year, with supposedly an 11 million peso construction going up near La Ola restaurant. At best this is a band aid, and a political rip off.

Catemaco needs a Marina/harbor with seawalls to keep the small boats out of harm's way. If you have ever seen teams of up to 20 men sweating and cursing to haul each of the 150 plus boats on shore before a dozen weather events, you would understand my suggestion.

Of course, I would like to see most of these boats disappear to be replaced with less and bigger boats with lower rates for the big ones.
But that would mean a political war in Catemaco.

Meanwhile something that would really help would be to prepare an accurate script describing the stops and sights of the boat trip, and forcing operators to memorize the script and convey it to passengers. And  shucks, maybe one of them could advertise a trip in English or German or whatever.

Soon: Catemaco Lanchas - in Spanish

All my posts on the subject of Catemaco Tourism are drafts for Spanish transformations  and  meanwhile serve to annoy local politicians and tourism promoters who read them in Google translations. I keep publishing and disappearing them while footballing items with a few friends. Readership of regulars of the blog, compared to the thousands of my regular publications mostly in Spanish, is so minute, I care less who else reads it. See all parts:

Catemaco Zeta

Update: Aug 16, 2011
The violence in Veracruz state has now become something to write home about. Fortunately not in the Veracruz City - Acayucan corridor, including Catemaco.

Go ahead and cry in Spanish:
now in English:

Update:  July 11, 2011
Los Tuxtlas were / are happily in the Los Zetas containment area. I think, in the past, they treated the area as a retreat and laid low. Nevertheless there have been dozens of wannabee's representing themselves as Zetas trying to extort local business people.

There have been local shootings, but because of the intransigence of both the local press and institutions, nobody knows whether anything was narco related.

Near Catemaco (about 40 miles away and often mentioned as being in Los Tuxtlas), is a killing field around Rodriguez Clara through which probably no tourist has passed in the last 12 month. Crime and killings, mostly political in that area,  are SOP going on for 30 years and totally unrelated to the popular narco gangs.

Los Zetas, who supposedly control southern Veracruz, are now threatened by both the Gulf Cartel to the north and associates of  the Sinaloa cartel to the south.  Outbursts of violence have occurred in Veracruz City, Coatzacoalcos and Xalapa.

At present the incidence of violence in southern Veracruz is significantly higher than it was a year ago, but not anywhere near the figures in the border states, and, personally, nothing to write home about.

First publication: Nov 2010
An abridged history of the narcos in the Tamaulipas to Catemaco corridor.

Mexico has long been used as a staging and transshipment point for narcotics, undocumented immigrants and contraband destined for U.S. markets. During the 1980s and early 1990s, Colombia was the main exporter of cocaine. When enforcement efforts intensified in South Florida and the Caribbean, the Colombians formed partnerships with the Mexico-based traffickers to transport cocaine through Mexico into the United States.

Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo known as "El Padrino" (The Godfather) in the 1980s became the first drug czar in Mexico to control all illegal drug traffic in Mexico and the corridors along the Mexico-U.S.A. border.

In 1988, Félix Gallardo began to plan for retirement and convened the nation's top narcos to assign them their respective markets in Mexico. The control of the Tamaulipas (US border in Texas) corridor - then becoming the Gulf Cartel - would be left undisturbed.

Juan Nepomuceno Guerra, a bootlegger and smuggler from the 1930's is credited with founding the Gulf Cartel in the Texas border areas in the 1970's. During the 1980's and 1990's, his nephew Juan Garcia Abrego expanded the business to include Colombian cocaine.

Félix Gallardo was arrested in Mexico in April 8, 1989. and is still in a Mexican high security prison where he enjoys reading his website.
Juan Garcia Abrego was arrested in 1996 and extradited to the US.
Juan Nepomuceno Guerra died in 2001 and never spent a day in jail.

Upon Juan Garcia Abrego´s arrest, Salvador Gómez, assumed control of the cartel. In 1998 he was presumably assassinated by Osiel Cárdenas Guillén, earning Cárdenas the nickname "El Mata Amigos" (The Friend-Killer), who then assumed control.

Cardenas was arrested on 2003 and extradited to the US. Leadership of the cartel then passed to Heriberto Lazcano and cronies.

Los Zetas
Osiel Cárdenas in 1997 had hired Lieutenant Arturo Guzmán Decena, an ex-special forces officer of the Mexican army alleged but not verified to have been trained by the CIA in Georgia. He was soon joined by 30+ other soldiers. They became the enforcement arm of the Gulf Cartel, responsible for most of its violence

Guzmán Decena known as Z1 (Zeta 1, a radio code used by the federal police) was killed in 2002 and succeeded by Z2, Rogelio González Pizaña.

With the arrest of Osiel Cárdenas, Los Zetas in 2003 began its separation from the Gulf Cartel to increase their personal income and initiated a gang war with their former employers, while expanding the geographic reach of  their enterprise to include Veracruz and  to include extorsion, robbery and kidnappings, along with drug smuggling.

The then leader of the Zetas, Rogelio González was captured in 2004 and Z3, Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, then took control of the Zetas.

In 2008 the Zetas formed a collaboration with the Beltrán Leyva gang and the Juarez and Sinaloa Cartel.

Early 2010, more serious confrontations between the Gulf Cartel , now again supported by the Sinaloa Cartel,  and Los Zetas exploded and are the basis of most of the horror stories coming from the Tamaulipas - Veracruz corridor.

Supposedly the 30+ original Zetas have been joined by several hundred other former military or police agents. Most of the original Zetas are still alive and roaming freely.

Affect on Veracruz.
Veracruz has remarkably not been affected by major narco violence. (Although occasional headlines blast shootouts and killings, they are no more than the norm in Veracruz violence, which, compared to the rest of Mexico is unimpressive.

What has been less reported is the fear factor created in Veracruz by the the extortion of businessmen in entire cities, their kidnappings, and the increase of general organized crime without excessive killings all attributed to "Zetas".

At present Z40, Miguel Treviño Morales is supposedly the commander in Veracruz. He attained that position supposedly after a major shootout at a race track in Veracruz in 2007, which included a major property owner from Catemaco.

The Los Tuxtlas area has seen no violence directly attributed to the narco wars, but is affected by the general sense of insecurity in Mexico, which, locally, is attributed to actions of Los Zetas, but more than likely is of the home grown variety.


Aug 11, 2011

I love my Catemaco maid

I inherited my current maid from her sister who is now a relatively well paid full time nanny to a rug rat in Xalapa with my family.

I am now desperately trying to keep the cost of my smoking habit below the cost of my current  6 day,  6 hour a day, maid.

I probably won´t, but who cares, there are another 1000 young women prepared to slave over dirty laundry and dishes for less than my smoking habits.

Just another way to enjoy beautiful downtown Catemaco.

PS - if you did not recognize the sarcasm, you must be living in Vallarta.

Aug 4, 2011

Catemaco worms

This is a repost from 2007

My dogs fairly regularly produce feces with wiggly things and we rush them to the veterinarian.

My Popoluca regularly deworms herself and is incredulous that I prefer not to do so, and she thinks it is an outright lie when I tell her I have never been de-wormed in my adult life.
Since she also knows a few gringos, we have compared notes. Now she is convinced that Mexican worms do not like gringos.

Beautiful small town Catemaco is not that far removed from the days when shoes where a luxury, and topless bathing in the laguna was the norm. And a trip into the higher surrounding sierras will reveal that to still be the norm in many riverside communities.

Parasite infection is a serious problem in rural children in Mexico and the Mexican health system has serious preventative and control measures in place. But apparently the message that once you took all those preventative measures and reached adulthood, that ritual practice of de-worming became unnecessary, has not filtered down, or maybe I am missing something

And the drug producers are happy.
Or maybe I have worms and don´t know it.

Today's headline August 2011

And BTW - she forced me to swallow a cure all for whatever supposedly wiggles in me, and I have been constipated since.

Aug 3, 2011

August 2011 Catemaco

The rainy season is now in full swing, thank G. It was getting a little to dry for my taste.

Of course the first major rains wiped out a bridge to the south and left Catemaco incomunicado again. It is incredible how inept both the federal and state governments are in maintaining their vaunted tourism infrastructure.

On the remaining tourism front, the 3 1/2 hotels under construction were not smart or rich enough to finish their floors to reap the high season's benefits. The former dilapidated La Panga has been reopened after a solid and expensive remodeling job and is becoming a mecca for the evening crowd, and Catemaco's favorite cantina "Los Caballos" is moving to a possible location on the Malecon.

The last few months produced some remarkable festivals in Los Tuxtlas, and local mayors fell all over themselves importing high priced performers, totally out of line with local disposable income. Nevertheless, the underlying festivals, such as the annual celebration of the Virgin in Catemaco, the Jarocha music festival in San Andrès and the street fair in Santiago kept locals happily jockeying between cities.

Of course there are no accurate statistics on actual tourism in Los Tuxtlas, so you have to take my word for it. Business is weak, despite oodles of publicity. The only bright spot, but not particularly profitable, are the increased number of tour buses, many filled with Europeans, mostly spending just a few hours on the Malecòn.

Some new movies have been announced to partially use surrounding locations later this year and next. That always creates some interest.

Unfortunately, Veracruz has seen an upsurge in violence in the past  months which is actually penetrating into Google English news searches. Most of the real goodies barely make it into the state papers, because I think there is a concerted effort to low key the situation for the tourist season. Still a far cry from the major violent states in Mexico, but exasperating, nevertheless, and I hope the situation improves. SOON!

There is an unexplained gap of federal moneys arriving in Catemaco, and the usual announcement of dozens of construction works by a new mayor in office, have been delayed. Little money is being spent in Catemaco and that also affects the local economy. A few of the streets in the hilly part of Catemaco, which is still mostly dirt roads, are being paved and and are opening up some city sections with great views of the lake.

Beach visits have been fairly strong, particularly in the Montepio region. In another month. they'll be ghost towns again and revert to being wonderful places to visit.

Rancho Los Amigos is running some workshops on Yoga and sustainability and drawing a thimble of attendants. I wish there were more thimbles.

Photo: A mural in the parking lot of the Playa Cristal Hotel

Aug 1, 2011

In Defense of Catemaco Monkeys

In 1974 medical researchers imported a troop of Stump Tail Macaques to populate an island in Laguna Catemaco. The research program failed, but the monkeys, imported from Puerto Rico, but originally from Southeast Asia, thrived in their subtropical environment.

Local fishermen soon discovered that transporting tourists to see these monkeys is profitable.

Over the years, the University of Veracruz assumed the responsibility for the island, but never took a serious interest. Various "support the monkeys" were formed by boatmen, but they also fell into abandon. Occasionally the municipal government allocated some funds to the care of the monkeys. But those funds also dried up.

Nowadays  more than 150 boats plow the waters of the Laguna, loaded with up to 24 sightseers each, for a glimpse of the monkeys. During the holiday season, the waters around the island are a madhouse with dozens of boats juggling for a position to see the monkeys who prefer to sleep 3/4 of the day.

Their only irregular support is bananas, some fruit and tourist junk food fattening them during the holidays, and starving them during the off season.

The monkeys have been inbreeding for 36 years, and are obviously not prime specimens any more. Often they look bedraggled and evoke more sympathy than joy from visitors.

Recently it was announced that the Stump Tailed Macaque monkeys on the island will be replaced by critically endangered Mexican Spider Monkeys.


Mexican Spider monkeys are critically endangered, and holding them captive on a tiny island for the amusement of tourists is contraindicatory to common sense, and probably in violation of Mexican laws.

A 6750m2 island (2/3 of a hectare) is not a natural environment for Spiders who in their home range are accustomed to 100's of hectares. 

Spider monkeys are much more active than Macaques. They also prefer to spend their time in tree canopies and will probably disappear into the trees, and become invisible to tourists. A visit to the holding pens at the University of Veracruz's park in Pipiapan will confirm that.

Preferentially, all the monkeys should be removed from the islands to be returned to their natural habitat, or to a professional zoo or wildlife center, and the island should be allowed to regenerate its natural habitat.

But that is not feasible politically. The monkeys have become a cash cow for a large part of the tourism providers of Catemaco, and are the basis for the success of Nanciyaga.

The Macaques should be maintained on the island. Unfortunately the University of Veracruz, who is technically in charge of these monkeys, has failed in its duties, and there is no reason to believe it will improve in the future.

A foundation to maintain the animals should be established in Catemaco, funded with a fee of a few pesos from every boat visiting the island, from the boatmen who now collect up to and more than 100 pesos per person for the trip and who now collect 8? pesos from Nanciyaga for every tourist they drop off at their docks.

The foundation should have a veterinarian on call, an exchange program should be initiated with another wildlife center that breeds Macaques to improve the islanders' blood lines, and a regular supplemental feeding schedule should be adhered to.

That's my opinion!

To read the opposing one I collected several documents and posted them here:

To read some more about all the monkeys in Catemaco, read

Photo: Wikipedia

Update: The Fool on the Hill had to add his two cents:
I agree, but I believe the best solution is to place the remaining monkeys in zoos or wildlife centers. If that proves impossible, euthanasia is an option. Leaving them on the island, even well fed, is prolonging their inbreeding, suffering and ultimate slow death. The hell with the tourist attraction. Tourists can go see the Virgin’s footprint.

UPDATE; Within the last year, the island's monkey population has shrunk to less than 10, noticeably reported by visitors. Something is going on!

Jul 30, 2011

A million Gringos

edited and revised, Aug 3
I keep reading about a million gringos living in Mexico, and keep scratching my head about where they are all hiding.
Presuming that all foreigners in Mexico have a Visa, I come up with a figure considerably less.
In 2010, Mexican immigration reported 64,399 residency visas (FM2&3) issued to what they call North Americans: US, Canada & Bermuda. About 18% were issued to Canadians.

Visas issued in 2010 
                               FM3   FM3   FM2   FM2 
                Issue renew Issue renew  Total       %     
US & Canada     12388 39876  4774  7361  64399  31.40% 
Europe           8945 12963  3545  6977  32430  15.81% 
Others          17480 41015 17861 31889 108245  52.78% 
Total           38813 93854 26180 46227 205074 100.00% 

Veracruz all     1299  1995   569  1041   4904   2.39% 
probable US & Canada based on 31.4%       1520


Two figures need to be added:
Imigrados, those that went beyond their visa requirements, were 639 "North Americans" last year. 
Let's say there are 10 thousand of those.  And then there are those that took the final step and obtained Mexican citizenship. I'll add another 5000 and am now up to 80 thousand, less 18% Canadians, for a total of 66 thousand plus the 65399 on residence visas.

Of course there are the 6 month border trekkers on tourist visas. How many? Anyone's guess! Maybe 50 thousand in Baja and another 100 thousand in the rest of Mexico. And then, of course, there are the snowbirds who show up for 3-4 months. Make them another 100 thousand.
Now I am at 316 thousand.

Now here comes the whammy:
The most important of the million gringo mentions comes from the US State Department
"a million American citizens live in Mexico" 

And that is more or less documented  by INEGI, the Mexican statistical agency, which reported 738,103
inhabitants as being born in the US as of the 2010 census. (click migraciòn)

To extrapolate how many of those would qualify as having been former US full time residents, is fraught with issues that border on racism and others.
Anyway of those 738,103 my presumed 316 thousand need to be deducted, because presumably they were also counted in the census.  
Of the remaining 417 thousand, I'll stick my head out and assume that most of those US citizens living in Mexico think of themselves as Mexicans, and I'll throw in 50 thousand as a fop to add to the total of US gringos living in Mexico.

To sum up, aside from bona fide tourists, I think, that at any one time there are less than 400 thousand US gringos either full or part time retired or working in Mexico. And that is on the high side and does not substantiate that Mexico is a significant choice as a retirement haven for those living in the US.

Jul 27, 2011

Catemaco video

About the extorsion of brujos, fat monkeys and the growth of ecotourism.

Jul 24, 2011

Catemaco Tourism is going down the tubes -9

You thought I forgot about the "Tubes"? WRONG
It's just that I seem to have more exciting things to do.
But you can read a draft here:

Meanwhile the photo is from a recent exhibition at city hall, and should accompany a fantasy article of the pre -hispanic history of Catemaco. In Spanish, of course.

Jul 17, 2011

La Punta of Catemaco

Take a look at the side of Catemaco City that most tourists never see:

from the bus station north to the Gorel restaurant (not the one on the Malecon)

Jul 7, 2011

Catemaco Pepper

Ever tried finding a decent pepper mill in Mexico?  After umpteen years of living with third rate substitutes, my good friend the Fool on the Hill, presented me what according to him was a marvel of German engineering.

For a while it worked great and  permeated my kitchen with the smell of fresh ground lemon pepper imported by the "Fool" from who knows where. The little marvel bit the dust, or should I say ground, a year or so back, and the Fool promptly replaced it with something that would satisfy an elephant in search of a dildo.

Today I made the mistake of  returning the original mill to the Fool, in case he needed spare parts.
He promptly proceeded to lecture me: 

"It is common knowledge among we pepper mill history buffs, that the Zassenhaus Pepper Mill has been around for ages and has been long considered the best. Actually, the mill was invented by a Swede living in Hamburg, who named the mill after his amigo “Hans Julius Zassenhaus”. This occurred just after the invention of Germans (also by Swedes), and in anticipation of the invention of pepper – by Swedes.
Sometime after I bought my original Zassenhaus Mill, many years ago, and prior to purchasing your mill, the Swedes relinquished their time honored right to technical production supervision (They did this after tiring of replacing millions of the little screw-type caps on the mills that the Germans kept losing.) Some German then took it upon himself to replace the metal gears with plastic (undoubtedly a German invention) gears. This accounts for your dysfunctional mill. Is strikes me as most apropos that you, a German, were the first in Mexican history to suffer a dysfunctional Zassenhaus mill.
"Du gamla, Du fria . . . Ja, jag vill leva, jag vill dö i Norden. . . . "

I'll be damned if I accept any more pepper mills from a Fool of Swedish ancestry!