Monthly Archives: May 2009

The Bronzen Child

EdgarFelipe Calderon says it’s time for all of us in the tourism industry  to tighten our Teva straps. He’s unveiled a new plan, Vive Mexico (Mexico Lives), to help bring bodies back into hotel rooms. The plan involves getting big time celebrities to talk up the country like it was their favorite plastic surgeon or yoga instructor. Here’s an excerpt from the Vive Mexico press release:

“I invite everyone to let visitors from abroad know that coming to Mexico is a great experience, that Mexico is not only a beautiful country, but also a strong country, capable of dealing with and overcoming the greatest adversity and that we welcome them to our beaches, cities and towns,” he said.

The people of La Gloria, the so-called epicenter of the epidemic, were way ahead of Fe-Cal on this one. They may not have Bono or Shakira, but they have their own little gel-haired rock star, Edgar Hernandez. Locals don’t see Hernandez as “Patient Zero,” like the rest of the world paints him, but as the strong little boy who was the first to survive the virus. And you better believe them dudes was all over his notoriety like miel de maple on hotcakes. Not even a month has gone by since H1N1 mania, and the local artisans have already completed a bronze statue in his likeness.

Local authorities say the statue, which depicts Edgar holding a frog in one hand as a symbol of the biblical plague, will do wonders for attracting tourists. I concur! Not only did little Edgar survive (both the flu and the subsequent media storm), but he lived on to become his own statue! He’s an inspiration for us all. I don’t know about ya’ll, but I’m booking my tickets to La Gloria today.

*Photo from Notimex via Yahoo Mexico

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Aftershocknek

Just picture it: A little five-year-old Chilangabacha (probably wearing an outfit very similar to the ones I wear today – t-shirt,  jeans, tennies- except instead of a ponytail, really long trenzas) chillin’ in the living room in the Inland Empire with Chilangamama. Before you could even say Rancho Cucamonga, the room starts swaying enough for me to get my nose out of a coloring book. Me and moms take refuge in a doorway, but we can still watch our local news broadcasters, Christopher Nance and Chuck Shocknek, keeping it real on KCBS.

I couldn’t find specific video of the dynamic duo squealing like little girls and ducking under the news desk, but I did find something even better – old school David Letterman making fun of Nance and  “Aftershocknek.” My favorite part of the whole thing is Christopher Nance’s face. Yeah, it made me laugh, but I’m sure it’s pretty close to the grimmace I made this afternoon when we were rocked by a 5.7 earthquake. Gaaah! (Note to earthquake gods: can you please hold off until like 2010 for your next little surprise?)

I was on the other side of the country when Northridge happened, but all of my classmates talked about having slumber parties interrupted and copies of Nancy Drew flying off the shelves.

So, these last couple of temblors in DF have been somewhat new to my adult self. The little kid in me still wants to laugh and think of  good old Aftershockneck.

Thanks, David Letterman.

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Volverte a Sudar

So I overslept this morning and missed my first Zumba class. I’m going to write about it to make up for it. I’ll totally burn the same amount of calories sitting here on my ottoman drinking coffee.

Just finding a decent gym in this town is its own workout. One place had like a hundred-year-old lady chain smoking and guarding the front desk, another on the first floor of a building provides a show every Friday night for a crowd of skeevy men who line up on the curb to spy in on the bouncing booties and bosoms of Zumba class, and then there’s the yoga place located on the border of the Doctores neighborhood, not a place you’d want to be walking around wearing Lycra after dark. I went with the lesser of all gimnasio evils – a lugar directly above a taqueria where espinning, zumba and tae bo classes cost 25 pesos a pop.

The first class I tried was the aforementioned espinning (spinning). When I saw my classmates, I’ll admit I thought I would kick all their asses and totally beat them on our fake bikes. But I’m pretty sure those ladies could put even Lance Fuertebrazos in his one-balled place.  I had to keep taking breaks and one time the pedals kept going on without me and nearly arranca’d my sneaker off.

The whole time we were spurred on by house music and by the wafts of tacos al pastor that inevitably crept in through the windows. Finally, we had spun to our destination – Crunchtown. I hate me some ab workout! Alas, I soldiered on and crunched through more house music. After about a million agonizing sit-ups it was time for the cool down, which consisted of lying on the floor. I’ve been to my fair share of random aerobics classes and the cool down is always a key insight into the mind of the instructor. Just what does he or she find relaxing? Back in the states it’s usually some form of Buddha Bar New Age chime orchestra. So, what did our instructor – a sweatsuit wearing 30-something male- choose to play? Dido? Nope. Los Cranberries? Nah. How about a rock ballad from Mexican superstar Alejandra Guzman? Sure, what the hell.

Lyrics to Volverte a Amar (Loving You Again):

Porque siempre caigo rendida cuando tu me llamas/ Porque siempre a cada minuto te vuelvo a extrañar/Eres para mi desde que te vi/ No te dejo de pensar. /Y es que tengo tanto miedo de volverte a amar.

Because I always grow weak when you call me/Because every moment I go back to missing you/ You’re a part of me since I first saw you/ I won’t stop thinking about you/ The thing is I’m very scared to love you again.

Uh, that song about taking your lover back didn’t make me wanna cool down. It  reminded me of my feelings for the greasy tacos calling me from the floor below. Osea, I’m scared to love them again.

uhh

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Get off my flu-y beach

Symptoms of the H1N1 virus may include: vacant hotel rooms, out of work taxistas and lonely dolphins.

Dolphins swimming all alone.

Dolphins swimming all alone.

When the H1N1 virus sprayed down like a giant estornuda over Mexico, I expected my Skype to go on overload with messages from friends and family begging me to come to the states. Well… not so much. Instead I got an inbox full of emails from every random person I’ve ever kind of met – long lost high school lab partners, a friend of a friend of my third cousin, my neighbor’s eyebrow waxer – either telling me they were cancelling the all-expense paid trip to Cancun they won on Wheel of Fortune, or asking me if they were going to die if they breathed Mexican air, even if it was a breeze from the turquoise waters of the Caribbean coast.

My answer to these inquiries: Ownt Know (shoulder shrug)

As luck would have it, I just so happened to have a research trip planned to the Riviera Maya last week and I wasn’t about to cancel it. So what was it like on the ground?

Freaking awesome for me. Pretty crappy for anyone involved in the tourism industry – which in this corner of the world, means just about everyone.

While I was enjoying a $30-a-week (plus tax and insurance) rental car, crowd-free beaches and 50% off just about everything, hoteliers were shutting down their properties indefinitely, taxi drivers waited at the airport for passengers who would never arrive and celebrity chefs at the fancy resorts in Cancún’s Zona Hotelera got unexpected vacations.

So, what’s my conclusion? Should you cancel your vacation? I might be a little bit biased, but I’m gonna have to go with a big fat “No.” Any time you make a journey from your safe haven of home, you’re putting yourself at risk. When you go on a cruise you risk gaining 10 pounds from the unending food, the Eiffel Tower could collapse on your Parisian getaway, or you could get your hair braided in the Bahamas and get laughed off the airplane.

These risks are what define adventure and all great travel includes a few bumps in the road.

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Armchair Epidemiologist

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Last Thursday I went out reporting with a videographer who had read that many of the flu cases had come from the Gustavo Madero neighborhood in the northern part of Mexico City.  In addition to being home to the Basilica de Guadelupe, the most important Catholic site in the Western Hemisphere, the neighborhood is also home to several ciudades perdidas or squatter settlements where entire extended families set up houses made of scrap material.

We talked to some of the residents of the ciudades perdidas, many of whom rely on the hundreds of thousands of visitors to the nearby shrine for their livelihood. Without pilgrims to buy trinkets or candy, many residents are left with barely enough money to buy food, let alone extra liters of purified water. With a water supply that only runs from 6 am to 3 pm, this makes the simple-yet-effective act of hand washing a challenge.

As we returned to our car, a woman named Chayo approached us and asked if we could please bring her some vaccines for her 11 grandchildren. We told her that since this is a new strain of virus, the new vaccines wouldn’t be ready for some time and that her energy would be better spent procuring supplies like face masks and soap.

The public health issues of water conservation and overpopulation are not unique to Mexico City. Virtually all of the world’s mega cities face similar challenges. The outbreak of the H1N1 virus should serve as a reminder that, as world citizens, these are issues we must continue to address.

Chayo and her extended family aren’t the only ones affected by H1N1. With the Basilica closed to worshipers, the local priests adapted by holding hourly outdoor masses. Here is a video of a priest explaining the new procedure for the rite of communion.

“We will not be giving communion in the mouth. You’ll have to extend your left hand to recieve it, put it in your right hand and then into your mouth.”

The outdoor mass is only one of the ways Chilangos have so far adapted to their new circumstances. As I write this, cleaning crews are scouring the nooks and crannies of DF’s underground. It will be interesting to see what other new measures will be taken in the coming weeks and months.

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