Archive for the ‘Viajes’ Category

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Trabajando en la tierra de MacGyver

07/09/2016

Travel [Icon By Buuf]
 Viajes.

Viajar: primero te deja sin palabras; luego te convierte en un narrador de historias.

Ibn Battuta (1304 – 1377). Viajero y explorador marroquí.

Después de un largo tiempo de no haber viajado a los Estados Unidos, esta es mi primera semana en Minneapolis, en el norteño estado de Minnesota. Como la mayoría de las ciudades encontradas en estas latitudes, el clima es extremo: con 30 ºC en verano y -30 ºC en invierno, y una humedad que varía diariamente de tal forma, que lo mismo nos hace sentirnos en el tropical Acapulco que en el árido Nuevo Laredo. Así, cada vez que hemos regresado caminando del trabajo “para estirar las piernas” – pues la distancia al hotel es de alrededor de 5.6 Km – hemos terminado hechos una sopa debido a la sofocante combinación de calor y humedad. Viéndolo del lado amable, a este ritmo no vamos a engordar debido a la pesada comida norteamericana, y además, vamos a mejorar nuestra condición física.

Nuestros anfitriones son muy amables – casi como los canadienses – por lo que nuestra estancia está siendo muy placentera. El trabajo es pesado con muchas reuniones de trabajo, validación de datos y planes de proyecto, pero es agradable sentirse parte de un equipo muy diverso, que incluye no sólo a gringos, sino también gente de la India, Turquía, Polonia y otros países alrededor del mundo. Curiosamente, hay muchos inmigrantes de origen etíope y somalí, por lo que no es extraño toparse con gente usando sus trajes típicos, incluyendo el koofiyad (un sombrero como el de Moroco Topo) y el hyab (ese velo que cubre el rostro de las mujeres musulmanas). Sin embargo, lo que me sorprendió aún más… es la enorme cantidad de mexicanos en estas tierras.

Pic: Taco stand in Minneapolis MN


Un puesto de tacos en East Lake Street, Minneapolis, Minnesota. De acuerdo al censo poblacional de 2010, sólo el 10% de la población es de origen Latino. Yo apostaría a que en 2016, entre el 15 y el 20% de los minneapolitanos provienen del sur del Río Bravo.


Esto le da un significado muy chusco a la manera en que los habitantes de Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl (México) se refieren a esta área conurbada de la Ciudad de México: Mi Nezota. Y sí, muchos inmigrantes que llegan a vivir, trabajar y multiplicarse en Minneapolis, justamente provienen de Neza. Yendo más allá, es interesante ver que un estado considerado tradicionalmente “blanco”, posea una diversidad cultural de tal magnitud, incluyendo una gran cantidad de matrimonios multirraciales: al menos una vez al día veo familias con el niño moreno, la niña güera y el lindo bebé mulato.

Esto por supuesto, derriba muchos mitos encontrados en el cine y televisión norteamericanos: recuerdo que en los 1980’s, la serie de televisión MacGyver (1985 – 1992) pintaba esta región como primordialmente poblada por blancos fanáticos del hockey. Hoy por hoy vemos con agrado que no es así, y que uno de cada dos Minneapolitanos se sale por completo del estereotipo del norteamericano blanco, protestante y conservador. Es más, es muy evidente que la comunidad LGBT también tiene una fuerte presencia por aquí, por lo que esta tolerancia le augura un buen porvenir a esta ciudad.

En fin, de momento seguiremos trabajando para cumplir la misión que nos ha sido encomendada, y publicaremos cualquier cosa que salga de lo ordinario durante estas experiencias en el vecino país del norte.

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Qué tan rápido se puede viajar en 1914, 2016… y el 2036

02/05/2016

Travel [Icon By Buuf]  Viajes.

El mundo es un libro, y quienes no viajan, leen sólo una página.

San Agustín de Hipona (354 – 430), teólogo y filósofo Romano, obispo de la Iglesia Católica.

Aunque la mayoría de nosotros no viaja más allá de un centenar de kilómetros al día, podemos sentirnos afortunados, ya que hace cien años, viajar entre dos puntos que hoy nos parecerían a tiro de piedra, se convertía en un verdadero tormento. De acuerdo al mapa isócrono publicado por la revista Intelligent Life, en 1914 los tiempos de viaje se medían en días, no en horas:

Pic: Isochronic Distances Map - 1914


Mapa isócrono que muestra cuánto tiempo se requería para viajar de la ciudad de Londres (Reino Unido) a cualquier otro punto del planeta, en 1914 (cada tono representa 5 días de viaje). Debido al alto desarrollo del continente Europeo, a principios del siglo pasado viajar de Londres a digamos, Moscú (Rusia) tomaba alrededor de 5 días; viajar de Londres a la mayoría de las capitales de Latinoamérica tomaba entre 10 y 20 días y llegar a lugares que si bien eran cercanos, pero no contaban con infraestructura de transporte alguna, como África o Asia Central, tomaba 40 días o más de recorrido.

Lo interesante es que en aquél entonces, el ferrocarril era el medio de transporte de mayor rapidez, el cual disminuía considerablemente el tiempo de viaje: así podemos explicar cómo en 1914, viajar de las Islas Británicas, que en aquél entonces eran consideradas la capital económica, política y cultural del mundo, a Vladivostok en Rusia Oriental, tomaba tan sólo 5-10 días, gracias al Ferrocarril Transiberiano. Por el contrario, lugares con poca infraestructura ferroviaria como el Amazonas o el corazón de África, podía literalmente, tomar meses de recorrido.

A principios del siglo 21, el medio de transporte más veloz y de mayor uso para viajar estas distancias es el avión comercial. Así, es posible trasladarse a cualquier lugar del mundo en un máximo de 2 o 3 días. Conservando el mismo estilo cartográfico, el sitio de viajes Rome2rio publicó los tiempos necesarios para ir desde Londres a cualquier punto de la Tierra:

Pic: Isochronic Distances Map - 2016


Mapa isócrono que muestra cuánto tiempo toma viajar de la ciudad de Londres a cualquier otro punto del planeta, en 2016 (cada tono representa alrededor de 8 horas). Gracias al avión, viajar del Aeropuerto de Londres-Heathrow a cualquier lugar del mundo toma en promedio, 6 a 12 horas. Por ejemplo, de Londres a Buenos Aires (11,102 kilómetros) tomaría alrededor de 14 horas en un vuelo directo, mientras hace 100 años, este viaje habría requerido de 20 a 30 días para completarse.


(Fuente: rome2rio.com)

Por lo tanto, en nuestra época actual, el mundo está más conectado que nunca: ahora es posible alcanzar destinos tan exóticos como Turquía desde Monterrey (México) en 17 horas, o Irán desde Buenos Aires (Argentina) en tan sólo 22 horas, cuando hace cien años podría habernos tomado un par de meses e incontables rutas por mar y tierra, incluyendo literalmente, aquellas caravanas de camellos que llegamos a ver en las películas.

Sin embargo, este no es el final de la historia. Gracias a visionarios como Richard Branson y John Carmack, dueños de las compañías Virgin Galactic y Armadillo Aerospace respectivamente, dentro de algunos años se perfeccionará el vuelo suborbital comercial, reduciendo los tiempos hasta en un 90% del tiempo actual. Así, dentro de un par de décadas, el viaje de Londres a Nueva York se llevará a cabo en tan sólo 50 minutos (hoy por hoy toma casi 8 horas en vuelos sin escala), convirtiendo éste en un mundo cada vez más pequeño e interconectado, en el que viajar al otro lado de la Tierra – por ejemplo, de Bogotá (Colombia) a su antípoda, Yakarta (Indonesia) – tomará no más de 4 horas. Aunque de momento el costo es prohibitivamente elevado en USD 250,000 por un boleto sencillo, la tecnología ya existe, por lo que seguramente el avance tecnológico y las demandas del mercado terminarán por “democratizar” este nuevo modo de viajar. Sólo como referencia, el mapa de más arriba se generó justo cuando aparecía el primer vuelo comercial del mundo, entre San Petersburgo y Tampa (Florida), el 1o. de Enero de 1914 por un costo aproximado de USD 4,936 a precios actuales.

Si recordamos que para la década de 1920 ya existían varias decenas de aerolíneas comerciales en todo el mundo – incluyendo Colombia, México y Brasil – basándose en una tecnología de apenas 17 años de existencia, no es muy difícil pensar que para la década de los 2030s exista una adopción generalizada del vuelo suborbital, aunque sea para la gente pudiente. Así como algunos de nosotros llegamos a darnos nuestra escapadita en avión a centros vacacionales “cerca de casa” (por ejemplo, Cancún, Los Cabos u Orlando desde la Ciudad de México), es probable que los nietos tengan la posibilidad de darse sus escapaditas a Sídney, Dubái o Macao. Después de todo, los automóviles, los aviones y los cruceros también eran algo que hace apenas unas décadas, sólo los ricos podían pagar.

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What’s the weirdest thing about Mexico, that Mexicans find normal?

09/19/2014

Travel [Icon By Buuf]  Travel.

The truth is, the angrier I am with this country and the further I travel, the more Mexican I feel.

Jorge Ibargüengoitia (1928 – 1983). Mexican novelist and playwright.


Some time ago, the Provincia newspaper, based on the city of Morelia (Michoacan, Mexico), published a small list of Mexican traditions, which would surely intrigue any foreigner visiting our country. It is nice to see that we are not boring at all; just like every other culture in the world, we have our own amazingly odd habits. Not everything is smiles and laughter, however; some of these entries are quite disturbing, even for Mexicans such as myself. For example, according to some studies (including this map), Mexico is very racially tolerant, but whenever we talk about having neighbors of certain beliefs, nationalities or sexual orientation, many Mexicans bring their darkest side to the light.

Anyway, translated for your pleasure, enjoy:

Morelia, Michoacan (Jul/10/2014) – Reddit user MADEDITOR05 has done a simple question: “To those who have visited Mexico, What’s the weirdest thing about Mexico, that Mexicans find normal?” The responses were immediate; here are the best 35:

  1. No shop has spare change, EVER.
  2. There is a love-hate relationship with the United States.
  3. They love public displays of love and very, very long intimate embraces.
  4. They have a VERY good personal hygiene.
  5. They have no moderation in the use of hair gel; it appears that the minimum acceptable is half a jar a day.
  6. It is really disturbing that an old man claiming to be a child appears on a family program every Sunday.
  7. I was surprised at the lack of toilet paper and soap in public places, especially schools.
  8. They are highly educated, greet and say goodbye to everything and make me feel like I have no education.
  9. References to homosexuality abound in their language “joto, marica, puto, etc.”
  10. Canteens bring you food while you’re drinking, for free! They have no idea how lucky they are: Mexican food and Mexican beer is a winning combination.
  11. No decent coffee. Chiapas and Veracruz produce world-class coffee and it seems that everyone drinks Nescafe and OXXO coffee.
  12. The snacks; snacks are delicious.
  13. I was apalled by the lack of timeliness by everyone. If you have a meeting at 4:00 expect people to arrive at 4:30 at the earliest.
  14. That thing they serve at the restaurants is NOT catsup. I don’t know what it its, but it is not catsup.
  15. When I went to a public restroom, they asked for money at the entrance; when I paid they handed me some toilet paper. I was confused…
  16. College education is very casual, lots of communication between students and teachers.
  17. There are hot sauce dispensers for popcorn in theaters.
  18. Wal-Mart has a liquor aisle.
  19. Everyone sells something; either on the corners, outside their homes or even on public transportation.
  20. There are Asians in Asian shops and restaurants, but nowhere else.
  21. I didn’t see any non-Mexican child either…
  22. Everything is an excuse to party, and Mexican fiestas involve the entire family.
  23. Do not listen to what the American television says about Mexico. It is NOTHING like they say.
  24. If you have African ancestry, get used to being the center of attention in Mexico.
  25. They put lime on everything.
  26. Mexicans do not care about monopolies.
  27. They do not seem to care about wildfires, as long as these do not threaten people.
  28. They seem to believe that a drop of chili will be enough to destroy any foreigner. So the custom is to warn every one approaching the sauce bottle with “but it is spicy, OK?”
  29. The drug violence is central to everything that happens in Mexico, but it is taboo to talk about it in public.
  30. If you do not understand the multiple meanings of “chingar” and “pedo“, good luck following any conversation.
  31. Mexicans see any Central and South American as inferior. And they can’t stand the Argentines.
  32. They drink impressive amounts of soda.
  33. Racism is not such a big deal in Mexico. What is a problem is classism.
  34. Together they support the economy of the people. Walmart? never, we go to the tianguis.
  35. Philadelphia Cheese in the maki? Why?!

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100 impressions from a Brazilian in Mexico

01/24/2014

Trips [Icon By Buuf]  Trips.

Stereotypes lose their power when the world is found to be more complex than the stereotype would suggest. When we learn that individuals do not fit the group stereotype, then it begins to fall apart.

Edward Irving “Ed” Koch (1924 – 2013). American lawyer, politician, political commentator, movie critic and reality television arbitrator.

Some time ago I found a nice post from Vinicius Covas, a Brazilian student who lived in Mexico City for most of 2013 thanks to an international student exchange program. According to his observations, he truly enjoyed living here; hoping to see “the real Mexico“, only to find there are no sombreros, burritos nor adobe houses. As many people before him have noticed, there are many Mexican customs and traditions quite unique, even if you consider Brazilians to also be “Latin Americans”. The truth is Brazil and Mexico are very different in many ways; just like Canada and Australia, or the ‘States and England. So, I’ve translated the whole article, which is causing a stir in Mexican social media sites, as it shows Mexico through the eyes of a cidadão Brasileiro. Just a word of caution: this list is especially relevant for Mexico City; not so for other parts of the country: telling someone from Cancun or Tijuana that everyone in Mexico loves tacos is like saying all Americans love their chili con carne. That being said, enjoy:

Vinicius Covas is a Brazilian journalism student who lived in Mexico throughout 2013 as part of a student exchange program. At that time, he traveled, enjoyed, ate, experienced, admired, photographed, recorded, documented and was excited by all the adventures that happened to him in our country. Read here the 100 Vinicius’ impressions:

  1. Mexico is bigger than I thought it was, and much bigger than Mexico itself thinks it is.
  2. Mexico is not just a sombrero, chili and mariachi.
  3. Mexico is warm, cold, very warm and very cold. Usually all on the same day.
  4. Mexico has two capitals. One above ground and one below, with their incredible subway (also known as metro).
  5. The underground capital has less traffic than the above one.
  6. I do not know what’s worse in Mexico: drug trafficking or road traffic.
  7. Mexico has one of the cheapest subway fares in the world. But if it is increased by 2 pesos, chilangos (i.e. Mexico City inhabitants) jump over the tourniquets.
  8. The metro in Mexico is a shopping on rails. And almost always a joint with street DJ’s.
  9. Mexican rail transport and BRT work great. You can travel throughout the capital using metro. Do not know why there are so many cars on the streets.
  10. Mexico is the country with the highest level of pollution in the Americas.
  11. “Ahorita” (right now) is short for “now”, but it is almost always used as “in a while”.
  12. Actually, “Ahorita” is used for anything.
  13. “Wey” or “güey” (dude) is a mandatory greeting. But with rules: a woman can call a woman as “wey”. A man may call a man “wey”. Women can call a man “wey”. But a man cannot call a woman “wey”. It’s in the Mexican Constitution.
  14. “¿Qué onda, wey?” is the Mexican “What’s up, dude?”
  15. “Muy padre” (literal translation: great father) is not that there are many church fathers. “Muy padre” is something like “cool”. “Poca madre” (literal translation: little mother) is also “very cool”. In short, big Father and small Mother. Machismo anyone?
  16. In Mexico everything is “¡muy padre!”
  17. ¡Hijole! Never try to understand Mexican slang, wey. ¡Aguas! with the double meaning slang. ¡Andale! is not to walk out. ¡Orale! is not to start praying.
  18. If you’re Mexican, but not born in Mexico City, you’re provincial. It is as if it were a category under “gringo”.
  19. If you live in Mexico City, you are a Chilango and you’re one of the 25 million inhabitants of the city.
  20. Mexicans fiercely defend the city that bears their accent.
  21. In Mexico, there are 365 types of food. One for every day of the year. Each passing day, you discover a new food.
  22. In Mexico, the food has a name, surname, zip code and story.
  23. In Mexico, you put lime in almost everything.
  24. In Mexico, almost everything is eaten with corn.
  25. In Mexico, almost everything is eaten with chili.
  26. In Mexico, almost everything is eaten.
  27. In Mexico, almost all restaurants have on their tables some containers with chili.
  28. Never ask a Mexican if a chili is strong. Even if they say it isn’t, it is.
  29. In Mexico, all tacos have a surname. Tacos al pastor, tacos dorados, tacos de barbacoa, de flauta, de parrilla…
pic: Tacos al pastor

These are tacos. The other stuff is… well, let’s say those are a glorified hamburguer served over a nacho. In the picture, tacos al pastor, made of pork meat colored by annatto seed and roasted on a vertical spit, known as trompo. These are served with onion, coriander and a slice of pineapple. (Source: philadining.com)
  1. In Mexico, to say burritos is a typical meal is almost a crime. Even if it is in fact, a meal with Mexican origins. It is “Tex-Mex”, they say…
  2. In Mexico, water has several flavors. There is chocolate water, of barley, pineapple, root, melon, sugarcane, orange, strawberry, rice… and even water.
  3. In Mexico breakfast is sacred. Actually, it is the first meal of the day. Stuffed corn dough, atole, quesadillas, pozole, chilaquiles, muffins, pancakes…
  4. For the average Mexican, it is God in heaven and tacos on earth.
  5. In Mexico you can get fat by inhaling fatty tacos, gorditas and quesadillas. ( – . – )
  6. In Mexico, tacos are eaten with your hands. They also prepare them with their hands. But those who make them, don’t handle any money.
  7. Anyway, it’s better not to know how tacos are made. Out of sight, out of mind!
  8. In Mexico if you make an appointment with someone at “noon”, it means it is at 1 PM. Or later.
  9. Not for nothing the main television station has 3 channels: one that displays the current programming, other exhibiting the programming delayed by one hour and another with programming with two hours of delay.
  10. In Mexico gratuity is paid for everything. In the bathroom, if you clean your hands, someone will hand you paper to dry yourself. It isn’t kindness; it is an innovative way to ask for tips.
  11. In Mexico, you have to hang outside with a few coins in your pocket. Someone will surely ask. (In Brazil too).
  12. In Mexico, you never pay what the reader at the supermarket shows. It is always rounded.
  13. And if the cashier does not offer a refill on your phone (buying a prepaid card), you win a free refill.
  14. In Mexico, supermarkets have a big declared fight in advertising. You go to the “super” or “La Comer“. In the “super”, everything costs less.
  15. In Mexico, the price of a bus ticket is according to destination. Up to 5 Km is a price; the more it goes another price it costs.
  16. In Mexico, it is common to see wealth and poverty side by side. When they are on the same side, the poor is usually the rich’s employee.
El Resplandor by G. Emmanuel Hernandez

Mexico, a land of contrasts: In the foreground, one of the multiple “colonias” – and their characteristic houses made of filler block – close to Centenario Avenue, in Mexico City. In the background you can see the skyscrapers of the Santa Fe business district. (Source: Flickr)
  1. Mexicans believe very little in Mexico. But they have great pride in being Mexican. Besides everything else.
  2. The average Mexican is proud of his history and does everything to not forget the heroes of the past.
  3. Foreigners love Mexico.
  4. San Miguel de Allende was voted as the best city in the world, and ironically, the city has more foreigners than Mexicans.
  5. Not all Mexicans go to the United States by crossing the border in search of opportunities. In Mexico there are also opportunities and legal means to travel to the neighboring country.
  6. The second city with the largest number of Mexicans is not a Mexican city. It is Los Angeles, California.
  7. In fact, several large American cities formerly belonged to Mexico. What an irony!
  8. In Mexico voting is not obligatory, but 500 pesos [for the “right” party] make it obligatory.
  9. The current president of Mexico was elected without anyone electing him. It seems…
  10. In Mexico there is a union called CNTE (National Teachers’ Union). I prefer not to comment on it…
  11. Teachers from Mexico do not like to be evaluated. When that happens, they leave school and go to the streets to assess the government.
  12. Mexico has one of the world’s richest men and 45.5% of the population is poor.
  13. Carlos Slim earns $27 million per day. The Mexican minimum wage is 64 pesos a day. A Mexican (Carlos Slim) has the daily salary of 4 million and 756 thousand Mexicans.
  14. However, Carlos Slim has built the Soumaya Museum, which has the name of his wife. Quite original.
  15. Mexico is one of the most resource-rich countries in the world. Precious metals, oil, gold, copper, silver, natural gas… do not know why it is considered poor.
  16. Mexico does not forget the heroes of its history.
  17. Mexico is the land of all civilizations. Totonac, Maya, Toltec, Olmec, Aztec…
  18. The T-shirt printing in Cancun you will buy will be in English.
  19. In Cancun, the Mexican works while the foreigner enjoys.
  20. Playa del Carmen is better than Cancun.
  21. In the Mexican Caribbean it is sunny every day of the year.
  22. Mexico will never die from lack of tourism.
  23. In Cancun things have two prices: one for tourists and one for Mexicans.
  24. In Mexico, men greet each other with a handshake after a hug and then another handshake.
  25. In Mexico telenovelas are pure drama.
  26. Mexicans are friendly.
  27. In Mexico the same word can be written in two ways: in the original formal or with “-ito”. Actually these are diminutives, but almost all leading “-ito”.
  28. Mexican Christmas without piñata is not Christmas in Mexico.
  29. If the Mexican [soccer] team wins, it is the best in the world. If they lose, they are the shame of the country.
  30. The covers of some Mexican newspapers are as follows: on one side, a naked woman; across, a dead person.
  31. Some Mexican politicians spend more on advertising in the campaign, than with investments directed towards governing the people.
  32. In Mexico, not even grandmothers want anything to do with Nieto (the Mexican President).
  33. Before catching a cab in Mexico, check if the driver has put his identification in the window glass.
  34. Mexican Day of the Dead is one of the strongest traditions I’ve seen in my life. Food that the deceased liked is prepared and eaten with “him” over his grave. Music is played and his death is “celebrated”. The cemeteries are made beautiful. It’s exciting.
pic: Day of the Dead in Michoacan, Mexico

During Day of the Dead, altars or graves are decorated with Mexican marigold flowers, candles, food and personal items liked by the deceased (i.e. toys for children, cigars or alcoholic drinks for adults). In the picture, a traditional altar found in the western state of Michoacan, Mexico. (Source: yosoyixtapazihuatanejo.com)
  1. Actually, no one dies in Mexico.
  2. The average Mexican is in love with tequila, but is lover of mezcal.
  3. There are 3 sacred things in Mexico: moms, the Mexican flag and the Virgin of Guadalupe.
  4. In Mexico there are two kinds of people: “buena onda” (good vibes) and “mala onda” (bad vibes).
  5. Lucha libre [Mexican wrestling] is a big lie, but it’s the funniest lie you’ve been told. ¡Muy padre!
  6. The other wrestling is the struggle of Mexicans, which almost always is not free, to combat lies (from governments).
  7. Speaking of lies, Mexican 28 December is a difficult day [It is the Mexican equivalent to April’s Fool]. Lies! It’s not. Lies! It is.
  8. Mexico has a reputation for being dangerous. It is a shame! There are so many good things in the country that could have more fame.
  9. In fact, Mexico has its dangerous side. That side is on the front cover of some tabloid newspapers.
  10. In Mexico, music has an extremely large role. While it is being lost among the young, there is a movement to keep Mexican traditions alive.
  11. Mexico City is one of the cities least “… of Mexico.” It is worth traveling to other parts of the country to learn more about Mexican culture.
  12. The Chapultepec Forest, with its 747 hectares of green, breathes for the grayish Mexico City. Meanwhile…
  13. In Mexico, they have a problem with water and air pollution. The country needs the help of Captain Planet.
  14. In Mexico, it is forbidden to drink alcoholic beverages on the street. Outside the streets everything goes, such as beer with butter, coffee, salt, lemon and chili. They like it.
  15. The Mexican national football team is the green uniform of the America team. Even the coach. I think the team in yellow uniform would win over the green uniform.
  16. In all parts of Mexico you will find a Sanborns.
  17. Mexico is always portrayed in Hollywood movies as the country of drugs and cartels. I don’t know why the Mexican government still allows this.
  18. In Mexico, it is very easy to travel in time. In some cities you live as they lived centuries ago; in others you live in the future.
  19. Actually, the notion of time in Mexico also changes a lot. I have no doubt that in villages across the country the day lasts more than 24 hours.
  20. Mexico is the country of those who still have dreams.
  21. An impression from Vinicius Covas: he is delighted with Mexico.

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Some misconceptions about Mexico and Mexican people

05/31/2013

Trips [Icon By Buuf]  Trips.

Instead of being presented with stereotypes by age, sex, color, class, or religion, children must have the opportunity to learn that within each range, some people are loathsome and some are delightful.

Margaret Mead (1901-1978), American cultural anthropologist.

I love to see how every time a foreigner comes to Mexico, especially American or European, he or she becomes amused and even shocked when visiting our country for the first time. This happens because after they get off the plane at Mexico City, they expect us to be dressed up like Pancho Villa, inhabiting adobe houses in the middle of the desert. This is why I am compiling a small list with the most common misconceptions foreigners have about us when they visit Mexico:

• Mexico is a desert where it is always over 40°C (104°F)

The truth: Mexico is one of the most diverse countries in the world in terms of biomes and climates. Yes, we have the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts in northern Mexico, but only on the extreme north. The rest of the country varies considerably according to altitude and latitude. We have tropical rainforests on the Yucatan Peninsula; plains and grasslands along the Gulf of Mexico; oak and pine forests in the Mexican Central Plateau, and there are even some villages and regions along the Sierra Madre mountain ranges with seasonal snowfalls. For instance, Monterreal in the northern state of Coahuila is the first ski center in Mexico.

Creel, Chihuahua

Creel, on the northern state of Chihuahua, after a snowfall (Source: ImageShack.com)

• Mexico is small and lightly populated

The truth: Mexico is the 15th largest country in the world, with the size of Spain, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Germany combined. Compared against American states, Mexico has three times the size of Texas or almost the size of Alaska. Regarding population figures, Mexico is the 11th most populated country in the world, with approximately 114 million inhabitants (2012), or slightly more than a third of the population of the United States.

• All Mexicans are look-alikes of Speedy Gonzales

The truth: most of us are mestizos – the result of interracial marriages between Native American people and Spanish conquistadors who conquered and settled these lands during the 16th century. Some of us are lighter; some of us are darker. So, we have every shade of the spectrum, with güeros like Inés Sainz and ‘Arab’ Mexicans who are descendants of Middle East immigrants, especially from Lebanon and Israel like Jaime Camil; we also have ‘Afromexicans’, like the soccer player Giovani dos Santos or our second president, Vicente Guerrero. There are even people from Chinese, Filipino and Korean descent making up 1% of our population – comparatively speaking, it is the same proportion of Native Americans, Alaskan and Hawaiian people in the United States. On the other hand, besides national celebrations and soccer matches, I’ve never seen a Mexican wearing a ‘sombrero‘. What I’ve explained to many of our visitors, is that at the beginning of the 20th century, during our Mexican Revolution (1910-1921) several revolutionaries were photographed wearing such clothing, which nowadays is as fashion to us as the top hat – like the one worn by Abraham Lincoln – is to modern-day Americans.

Mestizos mexicanos

Here in Mexico we have every color of the spectrum. And the Mexican sombrero is only worn in festivities like our independence day or soccer matches (Source: Comunidad Lisosomal – Mexico)

• Mexico is pitifully poor…

The truth: Mexico is a “middle class” country. This means we don’t belong to the industrialized world, but we are not part of the “exclusive” group of countries with periodic famine, war – about our narco violence we will talk in a moment – or constant humanitarian missions from the United Nations. According to a study from the Brookings Institution, 60.1% of the Mexican population has a middle-class income level with approximately $10 to $100 US dollars per capita in terms of Purchase Power Parity (PPP). This figure puts Mexican median income above the BRIC block (Brazil, Russia, India, China), who have much lower middle-class populations (Brazil = 33.75%, Russia = 48.1%, India = 15.8%, China = 28.1%) and more on par to countries like Argentina (52.9%), Uruguay (55.84%) and Costa Rica (51.81%).

• …And technologically speaking, we have no more than burritos and adobe houses

The first thing many people ask about Mexico when coming for the first time is: Do you have electricity? How about TV sets? Do you use horses or donkeys as mode of transportation? The reality is Mexico is no longer the backward country from the beginning of the 20th century: nowadays we have electricity – part of it generated by nuclear power – as well as LCD TVs, computers and even electric vehicles; we have cell phone technologies (GPRS/CDMA) and Internet; although expensive, we have schools and hospitals on par to their counterparts in the first world. Our science and technology have been restricted for several years to the maquiladora industry, so knowledge of our own has a long way to go, but certainly we are not in the Middle Ages.

Puerta de Hierro, Guadalajara

Puerta de Hierro residential complex in Zapopan, on the western state of Jalisco (Source: ImageShack.com)

• On Cinco de Mayo (May 5th) we celebrate our independence

The truth: Cinco de Mayo is held to celebrate the Battle of Puebla, where 4,700 Mexican soldiers crushingly defeated 6,480 French soldiers during the Second Franco-Mexican War (1862-1867). It is important because at the time, France was considered the most powerful world power. Due to the Good Neighbor Policy implemented by American president Theodore Roosevelt just before World War II, Cinco de Mayo became a “Mexican-American pride day” in the United States, although it has degenerated into “one of the days everybody gets drunk” at the other side of the border.

• Mexico is like the Wild West

The truth: Mexico has several challenges to overcome, and among them we can count the hasty maneuver performed by our former president Felipe Calderon (term: 2006-2012) with his “War on Drugs”. This has resulted in certain regions and cities in the country with a terrible violence. However, although Mexico has deficient and corruptible law institutions, it still has them. For example, the murder rate per 100,000 people in Mexico is 13.3, which puts the country as a safer place than more developed nations like Argentina (16.8) and Chile (19.6). Even if we compare Mexico against cities in the United States, it is much safer than let’s say, Dallas (15.8), Cincinnati (19.2), Washington DC (46.3) or New Orleans (53.1). We should not forget however, that Ciudad Juarez, right at the US-Mexico border, is one of the most dangerous cities in the world, with 229 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants.

• Mexican food can be summarized into tacos, tortas and tamales

The truth: Mexican cuisine is now considered an intangible cultural heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. From the Nuevo Leon arrachera, the Sonoran tortilla sobaquera, the mole poblano and chiles en nogada from Puebla, the Yucatec cochinita pibil or the Oaxacan tlayudas con asiento, Mexican cuisine is one of the most extensive in the world with a huge variety of ingredients and flavors. Even though tacos, tortas and tamales are quite popular, they have nothing to do with the so-called “Mexican food” outside our borders. One instance is the “chili con carne“, which isn’t Mexican at all (it is Texan, by the way).

• And regarding drinks, all we have is tequila and Corona beer

This false belief is equivalent to the wrong assumption that all Americans drink nothing but Sam Adams or all Europeans keep sipping Heinekens. The truth is, there is a wide array of drinks done and consumed in Mexico. Mezcal, aguardiente, white, pink and red wines; whiskeys, rum and brandy are quite popular; Corona beer could have an impressive marketing campaign outside of Mexico, but here the most popular include Indio and Victoria. And for those who don’t appreciate alcohol, you can find thousands of aguas frescas with many flavors, like horchata, jamaica and tamarindo.

Conclusions

This stereotyping thing is not limited to the way you look, dress or act; it also involves deeper issues such as type of society and economy. It is weird that the existing image of Mexico abroad is no longer prevalent since almost a century ago, while our country is identified with drugs and sombrero-wearing revolutionaries. Well, according to predictions, by 2030 the percentage of middle-class population in Mexico will be around 70 to 85%: something relatively close to a developed country. I cannot imagine the surprise of many when that messed up country south of the American border suddenly becomes the 10th largest economy in the global ranking. Will Mexico become a world power? Of course not, but at least a comfortable place among the “not so poor” countries such as Portugal or South Korea sounds good. It is worth mentioning however, that any further success stories from Mexico are despite the clumsy governments we have had for the last 40 years. But that is another story.

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Algunos tips al viajar a los Estados Unidos

06/28/2012

Trips [Icon By Buuf]  Viajes.

Para hacer un viaje de mil millas, solo necesitas tomar el primer paso.

Lao Tsé (n. 604 A.C.), filósofo Chino.

La semana pasada viajé a San Diego para definir temas de roadmap de producto, soporte y problemas de ámbito técnico. Debido a mis constantes viajes a los Estados Unidos, he notado ciertas particularidades de nuestros vecinos del norte como las propinas, buenos modales o atuendo apropiado en las reuniones de negocios, que en algunos casos difieren mucho de las encontradas en otros países. Por ello, he decidido publicar una pequeña lista de tips que espero sean útiles para todos aquellos que viajan a los Estates por negocios o placer.

• Primero lo primero: es necesario cerciorarse que llevamos con nosotros un pasaporte y visa válidos. No hay nada peor que haber hecho el esfuerzo de llegar hasta allá, sólo para ser rebotados en el puerto de entrada por no llevar los documentos necesarios. De igual manera, no debemos permanecer más tiempo del indicado porque corremos el riesgo de invalidar nuestra visa y quedar vetados de volver a ingresar a los Estados Unidos, en algunos casos, indefinidamente.

• Desde el 9/11, el gobierno norteamericano se ha vuelto más exigente con aquellos que ingresan a su territorio, así que es conveniente ir bien vestidos y poder demostrar que regresaremos a nuestro país de origen en una fecha determinada. Oficialmente, el personal de Homeland Security no solicita el boleto de regreso, pero en caso de volverse temperamentales, es necesario mostrarles nuestra documentación. Por otro lado, la discriminación racial se encuentra vivita y coleando en los Estates, por lo que si somos “hispanos”, es muy peligroso llegar al mostrador de inmigración llevando tenis, gorra de béisbol y bermudas, porque seguramente resultará en un largo y pesado interrogatorio.

• Muchos ya lo saben, pero cuando vayamos a los Estados Unidos es necesario rentar un auto. Por ejemplo, trasladarse de San Francisco a San José California toma hasta 3 horas en transporte público, mientras que en auto el viaje toma apenas 45 minutos. No debemos olvidar rentar un auto con GPS, pues algunas ciudades son bastante complicadas y aunque mucha gente está dispuesta a darnos indicaciones, perderse en el freeway en hora pico puede ser espeluznante.

• Aunque muchos de ellos visten en fachas – ¡Shorts y sandalias con calcetines! ¡En el trabajo! – cuando se trata de reuniones de negocios es recomendable vestir “business casual“. Sin embargo, algunas empresas u organizaciones como bancos y bufetes de abogados todavía requieren vestir de traje y corbata.

• No es necesario llevar efectivo y en todo caso, no más de 50 dólares. Por el contrario, es indispensable llevar una tarjeta de crédito con nuestro nombre grabado, pues de lo contrario tendremos muchos problemas a la hora de pagar el hotel o la transportación. Además, conseguir dinero en los cajeros automáticos no es recomendable ya que el tipo de cambio es más caro que el de una ventanilla bancaria y siempre nos cobrarán un cargo de hasta 5 dólares por transacción.

• Como en cualquier otro país, existen temas tabú que pueden convertirse en una amarga discusión. En el caso de los estadounidenses, la religión, política, control de armas, aborto e inmigración ilegal pueden provocar reacciones violentas. Es recomendable mantener nuestra opinión para nosotros mismos a menos que nuestro interlocutor sea muy íntimo ó nuestra intención sea provocarlo para iniciar una bronca.

Amexican Gothic


Es una mala idea hablar de esto con un gabacho – especialmente con aquellos cerca de la frontera con México. Por ejemplo, la parodia representada por esta imagen es considerada un sacrilegio, ya que el original, titulado American Gothic, es uno de los íconos más reconocidos de la cultura estadounidense.
(Fuente: Interesting Times @ Blogspot.com)

• En cuanto a las propinas, es aceptable del 15 al 20% del consumo total para el mesero ó taxista. Esto es muy alto, pero en los Estados Unidos un monto menor a éste es considerado una ofensa. Sin embargo, la propina también depende de un buen servicio, por lo que si fuimos tratados mal, no estamos obligados a pagar un solo centavo.

• Siempre debemos llegar a tiempo a una cita o reunión. Siempre. Aunque muchos de nosotros tenemos un sentido del tiempo más relajado que los norteamericanos, llegar tarde por más de 5 o 10 minutos los vuelve locos. Y si se trata de reuniones de negocios, peor para nosotros ya que ellos consideran esto como una afrenta personal difícil de olvidar.

• A propósito de esto, ellos son mucho más conscientes acerca del “espacio personal”, por lo que los abrazos, palmaditas en la espalda y besos debemos reservarlos sólo para los conocidos más cercanos. De lo contrario, ellos se sentirán incómodos y los más exagerados considerarán esto como una agresión física ó sexual. Conversar a un mínimo de un brazo de distancia de nuestro interlocutor es bastante aceptable, a menos que nos encontremos en un lugar muy concurrido como un elevador, en cuyo caso la mejor opción es evitar el contacto visual.

• En general, los Estates son bastante seguros, pero las áreas céntricas de las ciudades sí pueden representar un riesgo. Especialmente después de las 6:00 de la tarde, pues la mayoría ya salió de la oficina y se fue a sus casas. Los indigentes y malandros no son viejitos enfermos y desnutridos, sino gente de 1.80 m con facha de ZZ Top que en muchos casos tienen problemas psicológicos o de adicción que los hace impredecibles.

• Si alguien nos invita a cenar a su casa, siempre es importante llevar algo para el anfitrión. Una botella de vino, un bouquet de flores o una caja de chocolates siempre son bien recibidos. Por el contrario, dinero en efectivo, alimentos preparados y productos de consumo rara vez son una buena idea. Las artesanías propias de nuestros países de origen caen en un área intermedia: algunos dan en el clavo; otros son de mal gusto. El ejemplo mexicano podría ser el siguiente: un florero de talavera de Puebla o una botella de tequila Don Julio pueden ser del agrado de nuestros anfitriones; un zarape ó un mexican sombrero sólo generan incomodidad, incluso entre otros mexicanos.

Finalmente, algunas ideas perpetuadas por Hollywood y la televisión, pero tan falsas como que en Australia todos tienen canguros por mascotas:

• Toda la comida en los Estados Unidos es “comida rápida”. En realidad, sólo la gente de escasos recursos y de clase media-baja (alrededor del 30% o 94 millones de 313 en total) come en este tipo de establecimientos, mientras el resto va a cafeterías, come en casa o traen su propio lunch.

• Todos son obesos. Cierto, uno de cada tres norteamericanos es obeso, y esto se relaciona directamente a la cantidad de comida rápida consumida. Sin embargo, la mayoría es consciente de los beneficios que proporcionan el ejercicio y una dieta saludable.

• Todos son blancos, protestantes y conservadores. Aunque las series de televisión sólo muestran familias protagonizadas por gente blanca, la realidad es que sólo el 63% de su población lo es. El resto es multiétnico, siendo la población hispana la de mayor número, con 16% (50 millones). Si se incluyeran los 12 millones de mexicanos viviendo ilegalmente entre ellos, el número subiría hasta el 19% (62 de 325 millones de personas).

• Ninguno de ellos quiere aprender otros idiomas. La realidad es muy diferente ya que año con año, más de 2 millones de norteamericanos toman cursos de otros lenguajes, siendo (¡sorpresa!) el idioma Español (52%), Francés (13%) y Alemán (6%) los más populares.

• La población estadounidense es democrática, cultural y económicamente rica. Nada más lejos de la realidad. Debido a movimientos como Somos el 99% y Occupy Wall Street, nos podemos dar cuenta que tan sólo el 1% de la población es la que detenta el poder y toma las grandes decisiones (o equivocaciones) que afectan a los norteamericanos y directa e indirectamente, al resto del mundo. Así que culpar a un John Smith por las atrocidades de George W. Bush es tan irrelevante como reclamar la Guerra de las Malvinas a un Johnny English ó la Conquista de México a un Juan de los Palotes.

Así pues, welcome to America!

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8 paisajes que parecen de fantasía en México

10/28/2011

Trips [Icon By Buuf]  Viajes.

Nuestro destino nunca es un lugar, sino una nueva manera de ver las cosas.

Henry Miller (1891 – 1980), novelista y pintor estadounidense.

Si hay algo extraordinario de nuestro país es lo increíble de sus áreas naturales. Bosques, playas, selvas, manglares, desiertos y un sinfín de biomas que muchos ni se imaginan y que por una módica suma para llegar hasta ahí nos pueden dejar con la boca abierta. Es así como me topé con esta pequeña pero impresionante muestra de 8 paisajes que parecen de fantasía en México: desde la iglesia de San Juan viejo Parangaricutiro, que está semi-enterrada por roca volcánica debido a la erupción del volcán Paricutín en 1943, hasta los enormes cenotes y cavernas submarinas localizados en la península de Yucatán.

Cenote Mexicano

Un cenote, de los cientos que se encuentran abiertos al público en la península de Yucatán. (Fuente: Hengist Decius @ Flickr.com)

Para aquellos que puedan tomarse el puente de Día de Muertos de la próxima semana y tengan la oportunidad de viajar, les recomiendo visitar alguno de estos lugares que son simplemente, extraordinarios.