Sunday, May 28, 2006

Mexicans and Americans

Type of website: Nonprofit organizational website
Excellent source of...: News and information about the intersecting culture and issues between Mexico and the United States.

If you are reading this blog, this website will probably be of at least passing interest. It seems that some people with an interest in both countries have decided to be proactive in looking for solutions that plague the relationship between them. It claims to be not supported by any political party or interest, but by "bicultural people with family in both countries".

The website doesn't suggest any solutions, but it gives us, its readers, the chance to talk about their views and suggest their ideas. There are online polls and discussion forums.

Every month, the website plans to present three different aspects of the relationship to be discussed and debated. This month, for instance, the three issues are:

-Advertisers wooing the Hispanic market. Is it encouraging immigration from Mexico to the US?
-Walls and their effectiveness throughout history
-The Minutemen: should they have the right to watch the border?

For each issue, there is an explanation of the different questions around the issue, with some facts and figures. There is a poll to get a feel for how the readers feel about the issue. And there is a discussion forum on each subject where registered readers can weigh in with more detailed views.

A unique feature, that I hope will be used and contributed to, is a place to "Tell Your Story". To quote the website: "Real people with heart-wrenching tales of struggle and hope are the spirit of ongoing immigration between our two countries. Those inspiring experiences continue to touch many lives everyday but still remain largely unheard. Until now. Where does your inspiration come from? Share 'Your Story' and inspire others to do the same."

I am really interested to read these. Awhile back, we read about a guy who was interviewed at the border about why he was risking his life and spending his money to get into the United States. He was a young man of working age from a town called Izamal, which is about 30 miles outside of Merida. He said he was a construction worker and that he couldn't find work here. This made us laugh (and think) as there is so much construction going on in and around Merida right now, the gringos are having a hard time finding people to work. On top of that, last year's hurricane season created such a wealth of construction opportunity on the Mayan Riviera that workers were streaming in from all over Mexico to work there. So why does this guy feel like he has to travel thousands of miles for an opportunity to work? We suspect that the whole story is not told. We suspect that people are still going to the United States based a lot on tradition and stories, and not on reality on the ground.

I look forward to participating in the discussions on this website and hope that some of the readers of this blog will join in as well.

I also want to acknowledge that this is a new website. It doesn't have a track record yet, and as we all know, many good ideas get neglected or never get off the ground. I have great hopes for vamos a ver!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Portal San Miguel

Title: Portal San Miguel
Type of website: Online guide to San Miguel de Allende
Excellent source of...: Events, maps, reference information, and advertising of businesses in San Miguel de Allende.

This website shows you just how gringo-ized San Miguel de Allende has become, and what a large gringo population lives in this small Mexican town.

If you are traveling to San Miguel, you would probably want to use this website as a reference tool. Not only is there a map showing you where San Miguel is in relationship to the rest of Mexico, but there are easy-to-read themed maps of the downtown area. Choose from Hotels, Restaurants, Shopping, Art, Tourism, Real Estate, Schools and Services or Health and Beauty. Of course, these maps are all designed as advertising mediums, with ads from local businesses pointed out on each map, but they are still useful for visitors or new residents.

One of the most useful features on the site is a White Pages listing of phone numbers, the San Miguel on-line phone book, which appears to be mostly gringos (but not all). Of course, this is probably most useful to people living there, while the rest of the site is more geared towards tourists.

There is an extensive and exhaustive activities calendar which includes everything from Bridge games to Nightlife. There is also a Lifestyle section, which is mostly listings of local businesses with a little bit of information on visas and moving to Mexico. Better information on that subject can be found on other websites. There are Obituaries, Classified Ads and even a listing of books written by gringos about San Miguel de Allende.

The people who run this website are selling the advertising, as well as their services doing web design and hosting. I think it's important to keep in mind that the businesses featured on the website are their advertisers. That doesn't mean it isn't a useful site... just that it probably only represents a portion of what is available in San Miguel.

(Editors Note: This website seems to have disappeared since I wrote this review. If you have any idea where it went, please let me know!)

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Jon's Mexico Page

Title: Jon's Mexico Page
Type of website: A personal webpage with stories and photos galore
Excellent source of...: Well-written stories and quality photos about different areas of Mexico.

Oooh, this is a great find for all you Mexico-philes out there! Jon Clark originally moved to Mexico to teach English, but after two years of that, decided to stay and try his hand at journalism. He wrote for an English-language newspaper, The Miami Herald, covering Mexico for over a year while living in Mexico City. Then he moved to Arizona and now he covers the border towns.

He's a good writer. When he was writing for the Herald, he was ranging all over Mexico topically. There are stories about everything from Mexican Coca Cola and why it is so popular to Carlos Gotari Salinas and why he isn't so popular. There are stories about baseball in Mexico, Mel Gibson in Mexico and the Mormon Church in Mexico. As someone who lives here, I enjoyed reading some details and background about some of these issues. Jon's a paid reporter, so his stories, while not personal like a lot of blogs, are well researched and in depth.

Now he's a little more focused on the border town issues... but there is a lot going on there, and its a subject I'm not that familiar with, living in the Yucatan. He is living in and writing about a place that deals with the immigration and integration issues of Mexico and the US on a daily basis, and I predict the stories may get even more interesting in the coming months.

And though I've barely mentioned the photos, Jon is a good photographer and the photos are well worth the time it takes to look at them.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Blogging Cancun

Title: The Cancun Blog
Type of website: A personal blog
Excellent source of...: Personal observations about businesses and goings on in Cancun. If you want to join their club, it's also a source of discounts at various Cancun merchants.

I set out to find a really good website or blog that's all about Cancun. I can't say I've found it yet (but I'm welcoming your suggestions...). There is the wonderful blog about Hurricane Wilma recovery, But most of the websites that you can find on Cancun are all about booking your reservations for hotels and tours. They remind me of a classroom full of eager fifth graders (pick me! pick me!) and I find them annoying, to say the least.

For one thing, when I go looking for information on Cancun, I'm usually NOT looking to book a hotel. I'm looking for real, honest-to-goddess information. And it seems to me that information about what's really on the ground in Cancun is surprisingly hard to find.

Of course, Cancun isn't a normal place. There's the Zona Hotelera, the coastal zone where all the big hotels are lined up along the sand. 8 MILLION people (and growing!) come to Cancun and the rest of the Mayan Riviera every year. The majority of them seem hellbent on partying, drinking and generally carrying on. Even on this website, a lot of the people asking questions want to know the best hotel to stay in, where the girls are, that sort of thing.

Then there's downtown Cancun, which seems to service all the people that actually live in Cancun, and there are a growing number of those. Downtown Cancun is adjacent to the low-rent residential areas of Cancun which stretch for miles and really easy to get lost in. Some of those residential districts don't have running water or paved streets, so needless to say, there is quite a huge disparity in the way people live in Cancun.

But I wonder... what kind of life is in Cancun? What is it like to live there? Are there cultural events? Fiestas? Operas? Concerts? I live three hours west of Cancun by car. Occasionally I hear about a corrida there with a famous Spaniard, or a musical concert by a Mexican crooner. But the cultural life of Cancun seems pretty sparse.

Last time we were there, we were forced to stay in a hotel downtown because there were no rooms under $380 a night in the hotel zone... and we are far too Yucatecan now to pay those prices. The little hotel we stayed in was quite adequate, in a charming early 60's-era sort of way. We ate across the street at a sushi restaurant that has been there for 13 years (I didn't think Cancun was that old...) and we ate the best sushi we've had in years. Maybe ever. It was fantastic.

So there are things to be discovered in Cancun.

But I haven't discovered a decent Cancun website yet. I found this blog, which is the best I've seen so far. As blogs go, this one isn't great. Yet. It bounces back and forth between being really personal to being shamelessly commercial, plugging local businesses. The blog was just started after Hurricane Wilma, and its run by two people: Tim who lives in the US and visits a lot, and Susan, who lives in Cancun. So the blog has two perspectives, the visitor and the resident. I like that about it. So far, it's unevenly written and doesn't seem to have found a rhythm yet. (It always takes me about five tries to spell that word correctly)

But at least the blog is personal and it's not asking me to make a hotel reservation.

Do you know of a good Cancun website or blog written in English? Diganme!