Saturday, November 03, 2007

Preserving Treasures of Mexico

What a find I have brought you tonite! Thanks to Rollybrook's Blog (a very comprehensive website with lots of good info about Mexico...previously reviewed), I have stumbled across this labor of love, all about the textiles of Mexico. I cannot say that this is the most beautiful website I've seen, nor the most organized or well-written. But it is a gem when it comes to unique information and photos about a very specific subject: the disappearing textile traditions of Mexico.

The gentleman who writes and researches this website, Bob Freund, obviously travels a lot, seeking out the smallest villages and the oldest women in an effort to take photos of and purchase examples of the many different types of textiles used as clothing by the indigenous peoples of Mexico. In many places, these textile traditions are dying, and he is documenting the last people to wear certain types of clothing.

Are you looking for a unique Christmas gift but don't have time to travel to the mountains of Veracruz or Guerrero? Bob has an eBay store (linked from his website) where he sells some of the indigenous textiles that he buys in his travels, using the proceeds to pay for more travel and documentation of these traditions. The store offers placemats, wall hangings, blouses and bedspreads. The textiles are all hand-made and hand-woven and are one of a kind. And I'm sure I don't need to mention they are beautiful.

One of the best things about this site is the wealth of photos of the women of these little towns throughout Mexico. All too often, Bob finds the last woman in a town who wears the traditional costume. He visits and photographs her, and we get to enjoy and share the experience through his website. His travels take him to some very remote places that most of us will never get to (unfortunately!).

As he says many times, so many of these textile traditions are being lost as these women die. I would encourage anyone who appreciates these to buy from this eBay store so that Bob can continue to buy from the women who make them. What a great place to get a unique Christmas present and to do good at the same time. And to let Mr. Freund now that his work in documenting these textiles is appreciated.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

What do YOU do all day?

Here's a homey, intimate blog written by a woman who has retired to Merida recently. I've been getting out more a bit lately (the "season" is starting here, now that the weather has cooled down) and I've noticed a lot of new faces. There definitely seems to be more extranjeros in Merida than there were, say, last year. And this woman, Theresa, is apparently one of them. Unlike a lot of them, she is writing about it.

Why do people move here? There are a million reasons, but one of them has surely got to be because they can afford to. They can retire a little early (she and her husband are in their fifties, apparently) and can live a relaxed but culture-filled life in a city not so far away from family and friends. Housing is still affordable here. Where else can you find a liveable home for under $100K USD? And be somewhere with a symphony orchestra, museums, archaeological sites, Walmart, Costco, good hospitals and the Caribbean just three hours away? In a nutshell, that explains why more and more people like Theresa and her husband are retiring here. In mine and a lot of other people's opinions, its just the beginning.

Theresa hasn't been posting for very long, so our window onto her world is still a tiny one. She seems comfortable here, even though she hasn't been here long. She posts about everything from shopping (all those people who want to know what it costs to live here? Stay tuned... unlike me, she actually seems to remember what she paid for tomatoes...) to how to bargain with the vendors that come to the door. In fact, that bargaining lesson post was particularly charming... and useful too. Bargaining is not something I'm very good at, but I learned a few things I'm going to practice later.

For a slice of a life in Mexico, this blog shows some real promise. Theresa writes well and includes the kind of little details that are both interesting and useful to someone thinking of following in her footsteps.

Andale, Theresa!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Black Mexico

What a find is this website!

A labor of love, written with insight, intelligence and as a result of much research... this is a website all about Mexicans of African descent.

Here in the Yucatan, we see a black Mexican about once a month... the black culture is not well represented in this part of the world. And the blacks we see are usually from Cuba. But on the other side of the country, in what is called the Costa Chica region, blacks have a definite presence, though still small. (The other area of Mexico with a significant black presence, according to the website, is the state of Veracruz)

The website is written by a cultural anthropologist named Bobby Vaughn, who boasts impressive degrees from places like Lafayette and Stanford. A former Fulbright scholar, he has researched the black population and its history within Mexico and shares the benefit of that research on this website.

For instance, did you know that there were six blacks who participated in the conquest of Mexico with the conquistadors? They were probably the personal slaves of their Spanish masters, brought over with them from Spain and that they were probably Spanish-speaking by the time they got here. Sometime after 1519, the New World started receiving slaves brought in directly from Africa, who were not christianized beforehand (not were they taught Spanish). According to the website, these slaves were called bozales. Probably the most fascinating fact is that black slaves from Africa outnumbered Spaniards from the Old Country from about 1553 until 1810 when the Spaniards started feeling more secure about their place here. Think about it!

I don't want to spoil the rest for you... check out the website yourself. There is a brief history, a little bit about the author, a photo gallery and a reading list. It seems that the website hasn't been updated for awhile, but the content is no less interesting for that.

As one who always loves to learn more about Mexico, I was happy to find this website. Hope you enjoy it too!

Friday, September 14, 2007

San Felipe Mexico

On the other side of the country from where I live is San Felipe. But thanks to the Internet and a dedicated woman who goes by the name of Kat, I can find out all about it from the comfort of my own home at midnite in bed! Ah, the wonders of the 21st Century!

I've never been to San Felipe, but it's not far from my original home of California and it seems like a place I'd like to know more about... because, as you all know, I'm interested in just about anything having to do with Mexico. This website, which bills itself as the official town website, has a lot of good information on this small but growing town on the edge of the Sea of Cortez.

The website has the usual suspects of departments: Weather, News, a Photo Gallery... It has an entire page about Fishing, which gives you a clue about the nature of the place. If you click on "About San Felipe", you'll find a good concise synopsis about the place, and you'll find out that San Felipe is humid in the summertime, is a big fishing village and was founded as a commercial fishing port in 1916. As Mexican cities go, it isn't very old.

So you don't go to San Felipe for charming Mexican architecture and indigenous culture. What do you go for then? Well, sea views, apparently. Dry warm climate in the wintertime. And did we mention fishing? According to this website, about 250,000 Americans and Canadians come to San Felipe in the wintertime for the warm weather (and the fishing...). That is a very large community for a small town with only 25,000 year-round residents. Apparently, there is a lot of RV activity there, as it is only 125 miles south of the US border.

I learned something else that was interesting. Unlike many seaside communities, San Felipe does not discharge its wastewater into the sea, recognizing that its livelihood comes from tourism and yes, fishing. They have a water treatment plant in the desert and individual septic systems for those houses outside of the city limits. Sounds intelligent and thoughtful to me... I like the place already.

For the personal touch and a personal view of the town, click on the tab labeled "Kat's Korner" and get the inside scoop. Right now, Kat is out of town waiting for her daughter to deliver her first grandchild. That's pretty personal, but that's the kind of writing that makes this website a good resource. Even if you don't like to fish!!


Sunday, July 01, 2007

Laying Mexico Bare

Jeremy Schwartz moved to Mexico City with his wife less than a year ago. He is Cox Newspapers man with his ear to the ground in Mexico City. His blog is published on the Austin newspaper website,

I like Jeremy's writing style... it is spare and to the point. He doesn't romanticize or poeticize (is that a word?). He's all about facts, insights and the kinds of things you hear over coffee or a drink. He gives you an idea what is being talked about on the streets of Mexico City.

He also communicates, though seldom overtly, what it is like being a young professional expat in Mexico City.

Today's short blurb was a brief look at a few of the slew of books coming out this week about last year's Presidential election in Mexico. Over the last few months he has covered the President of Mexico's activities, the experience of shopping for shoes in Mexico, rich and poor at the movie theatres and Mexico City rainstorms. And everything in between.

He doesn't write every day, and when he writes something, its interesting and not too long and complicated. A nugget of information for busy minds in a busy world.

About Mexico.

In English.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Lighting the World through Bliss

I was reading a new (to me) blog this morning, written by a woman who lives alternately on a boat and in San Carlos, Mexico (a lovely seaside town at the edge of the desert in Northern Mexico). It's a great blog, well-written and insightful. The writer seems full of life and love for the life she lives in Mexico.

But what caught my eye this morning was a brief mention of the BoGolight. And because the BoGolight seems like such a fabulous idea, I wanted to spread the word (and credit my source).

The BoGoLight company was started by a man who was a diplomat for 20 years. It is his mission to improve the lives of the less fortunate through eco-friendly technology. His first project is the BoGo Light. It's a solar-powered flashlight that last up to 20 years, charges in 8 hours and provides 4-5 hours of light. The rechargeable batteries last for 2 years and replacements are available worldwide. For us, it is a great camping or emergency flashlight.

But the best part is that very time you buy a BoGo light, the company sends one to an organization to help someone less fortunate. Mostly, they seem to be focused on Africa, but I notice they are also sending them to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Why is light so important? You can read on the website how providing families in Africa with a cheap and reliable source of light saves them up to one-third of their income that is usually spent on kerosene, their usual source of light. Having light allows the women to cook without kerosene fumes and allows the children to study after working in the fields all day.

If you are at all interested, check out the BoGo Light website to learn more. And then buy one! Everybody wins!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Luis Barragan

You may have noticed that my postings have slowed down lately. This is partly due to being tremendously busy, but also partly due to running out of good websites to talk about.

So I'm starting a new series. I'll still be highlighting websites about Mexico that are written in English, but I am going to be focusing on famous Mexican people, either living or dead. Just people that I find interesting that call Mexico their home.

I'm starting with Luis Barragan, one of the first Mexicans that I became aware of, strangely. I fell in love with photos of his homes... there was something about a hot pink wall next to an orange wall that just blew my entire conception of space. I loved his willingness to break the boundaries of convention with color. Only later would I realize what a patently Mexican trait that really is.

The main website about this famous architect is offered by his foundation and is available in German, English and Spanish. It features a biography, where I learned that he was born in Guadalajara in 1902 and realized his first project in 1927. He traveled to Europe and the US during his life, but spent most of it in Mexico City. He was awarded the very prestigious Pritzker Prize for architecture in 1980 and he died in 1988.

He is known for his very original style, which is both modernistic and distinctly Mexican. He is without a doubt the father of Mexican modern architecture, and is known around the world. He was one of the first architects to use color in his work.

If you are interested in his work, you will enjoy the Foundation's website. One of the best features is in the Visitor's Guide section, where they map out all of his works in Mexico City and Guadalajara.

Another good website for information about this gifted architect is the Pritzker Prize website, which has a comprehensive photo gallery of some of his work, as well as the text of his acceptance speech.

Do you have any famous Mexicans that you are interested in? Let me know... or just visit here regularly to learn more!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Some Like It Hot and Spicy

This is a website that will singe your eyebrows if you get too close to the monitor. Any real student of Mexico owes it to themselves at some point to go beyond the trivial and the travel, and explore Mexico with an edge to it. Mexico and the Mexican gestalt is about things that can make your eyes tear up and your nose run.

Mexico's a big country, an even bigger culture and the Mexican heart and soul encompasses many things. This particular blog is called The Unapologetic Mexican (although it doesn't have capital letters...) and it lives somewhere out on the periphery of the gestalt. It's written by one who doesn't feel the need to apologize, and who does his unapologetic writing and ranting with a sense of humour. And good graphics.

And the guy is funny and witty. He writes with passion and pathos. His style is intimate and intelligent. Oh, Blogger, I think I'm in love!! OK, it's only a blog. But with insight about the Latina culture... from the best kind of person to teach it: someone who has needed to learn.

Because this Mexican unapologetically grew up with a white mother and didn't get inculcated into his raza until later in life. Don't forget to read the "Mi Familia" section... that's where I found the pathos part. And his bit about some words he coined in "Nezua Brings Palabra". And I'm still in the middle of the story called "The Grand American Dream and el Barco de la Ilusion"....delicious! Root around in the corners of his blog and you'll find many tasty bits... writing about his grandmother, book reviews, comments on the news.

Some of the writing about current events might make this blog feel a bit like biting into a nice crunchy fresh habanero. You know it might hurt a bit... but the rush is SO worth it.


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The MEX Files

Yep, I love this blog. It has something for everyone eventually. If you are interested in Mexico, that is.

Spend a little time with Richard and Lyn-2, the writers, and you'll be treated to diatribes on everything from politics to perros, WalMart to Starbucks, Oaxaca Creighton (look it up!). Sometimes there are great articles from Spanish-language newspapers translated into English for your reading pleasure (Richard is a translator for a living). Sometimes, a history lesson. Sometimes, a rant. You just never know what you are going to get with the Mex Files!

What you do know is that you are going to get it from a writer who obviously knows a lot about Mexico. And so you'll probably learn something new.

And THAT is what makes this a great website!! Bookmark it...

Friday, March 02, 2007

Uno, dos, tres, quatro!

Nancy and Paul, who currently live in Washington State, are moving to Mexico... and because of blog technology and Nancy's prolific and expressive writing, you can share the journey. Regular readers of this blog have been following Nancy and Paul as they traveled throughout Mexico to decide where they were going to move to when Paul retires. Recently, they have decided to move to Mazatlan, and now the real countdown begins as they experience the process of moving to another country.

What I love about this blog is the intimate picture of what so many of us who live here have gone through. We maybe have not all gone through it with the joy, peace and luxurious timeframe that Nancy enjoys, but we have all taken the steps that these two are taking. Deciding where to live, deciding whether to buy or rent, what to do with the car, the "stuff"... there are so many big and little decisions involved in moving. Those decisions are multiplied in significance and emotional impact when you are moving away from friends and family to a new country.

As Nancy's writing conveys, moving to Mexico is both about leaving things you love behind and moving towards adventure, mystery and a new way of life.

If you have moved to Mexico already, I think you'll enjoy watching these two go through the process, which allows you to revisit your own process and see how much you have learned since you moved. If you are moving yourself or thinking of making this move, you will probably learn a few things as well as gain a comfortable feeling of not being alone in your venture.

I know I am enjoying following the real-life story of two people making the big move to Mexico... I invite you to join me. Altogether now: uno, dos, tres...

Monday, January 29, 2007

Doing Business in Mexico

I love this blog. Why? Because this information is hard to find and it is good, useful information for anyone living in and/or working in Mexico.

Lee Iwan works in Corporate Mexico in Leon, Guanajuato. Leon is one of Mexico's thriving manufacturing centers, is the leather tanning and shoe manufacturing capital of Mexico (who knew?) and is located in Mexico's heartland. Lee doesn't mention who he works for, but says in his profile that he has worked in retail, wholesale, service, manufacturing and agricultural industries internationally. He certainly seems to have an international perspective and a good handle on business life in Mexico.

His blog, entitled Business South of the Border, treats a different subject with each post. Recent subjects have included the way employee Christmas bonuses are paid in Mexico, new low-cost airlines that are flying to Mexico and "what every business person should know about Mexican politics".

One of my favorite posts, from October 2006, is about the value of Patience and Chaos in doing business in Mexico. It is, in my opinion, an absolutely brilliant and spot-on observation and I reprint it here as an example of the valuable information you can find on this website, both for your working and your personal life if you live in Mexico or deal regularly with Mexicans...



Mexicans are patient people. The have great tolerance for human error. They run on a schedule that is influenced by work concerns, family concerns, their own mental health, and takes into consideration outside factors and influences that might interfere with their plans.

This is not to say that Mexicans are never in a hurry, or are willing to accept poor quality, or like to move slowly.

What it means is that they are not overly disturbed and motivated to emotional outbursts and threats if something gets in their way, or does not go as planned. They patiently seek a solution, and if no solution is present, they accept the reality of the situation.


Chaos is part of Mexican culture and society. Lack of long term planning is quite common (at government, business, personal levels), and everything gets done at the last minute. The curious part is that everything DOES get done.

This chaos and disorganization draws strong criticism from individuals used to order, control, planning and expected outcomes in their own countries. Remember that it is a characteristic of Mexico, not good, not bad, just different.

Living in a chaotic environment allows the Mexicans to rapidly adapt to any situation, take advantages of opportunities quickly, and survive quite well in a very changing world.

There is spontaneity in Mexico. Social engagements are arranged at a moments notice, or simply just happen, unplanned and casually. Things just happen. Expect last minute changes in plans, events, and agendas. “Expect the unexpected” is great advice.

Not surprisingly, Mexico is a country where social relationships and social networks are extremely important. These personal bonds and relationships, which are reinforced constantly, help to create order and get things done.

As is the case of all stereotypes, these observations are broad based and may, or may not, have any validity.

The emphasis in bold letters is mine. And I especially love the last sentence, italicized by the author. Because it should be put at the end of any article written about Mexico or Mexicans. You can try to generalize about something here, but you will be immediately proven wrong at the next possible moment. It has something to do with the inherent chaos of life down here. And it is what allows the magic to shine through.

Anyway, whether or not you do business in Mexico, I encourage you to spend time on this blog if you want to learn about the Mexican way of doing things. No matter how much you think you know about Mexico and Mexicans, I can almost guarantee you will learn something.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Prensa Latina

For my first recommendation in the Year of the Dolphin, 2007, I am happy to report this very useful site, Prensa Latina, the Latin American News Agency.

What makes this site so valuable is that it is up-to-the minute reporting of issues affecting the Latino World... in English. I was led to this website tonite by searching on "Yucatan" (the state where I live) on a new search engine called Swamii (also not a bad site to know about). The news items I read were recent (today's news) and were things I had not read about by doing the same search in Google News. There was a news story about AMLO traveling in the Yucatan this weekend and another one with details about recent locust swarms in the Yucatan. Both news stories filed today which I probably could have read about in the local Spanish-language paper. But now I have this resource too.

Try it... you just might bookmark it!