What’s Going On In This Country?

December 28, 2015 Edition

Every year it’s the same thing, I’m supposed to look oh so cute in a stupid Christmas getup. Well, I’m already killer cute in my everyday suit, a nice gray number with white accents, thank you very much.

But I got a nice haul this year so I guess I can be gracious about humoring my mom by posing sweetly in this crummy Santa hat.

So here I am posing sweetly and graciously in this year’s Santa hat. Well, maybe not so graciously.

Please, come back.  That’s the message former President Fox had for the 11 million Mexicans living in the United States. “We are building opportunities in Mexico. We work hard to make jobs for them. We want them back. We need them back,” said Fox during an appearance on  American TV show Inside Texas Politics. This, from a country that just raised their minimum wage to a whopping $4.50 U.S. per day. You’re going to have to offer better than that to get your people back, Vinnie.  Fox served as president of Mexico from 2000 to 2006.

More flights! We could use more of those. And cheaper, let’s not forget cheaper. Restrictions on air transportation between Mexico and the United States were lifted last week, which leaves airlines from both countries free to fly the routes they choose. Discussions on this began back in 2012, and it’s expected to generate more tourism and trade.

The pact also facilitates the establishment of alliances between airlines of each country. The famous “code sharing”.

“The new agreement will benefit U.S. and Mexican airlines, travelers, businesses, airports and destinations by allowing increased market access for passenger and cargo airlines to fly between any city in Mexico and any city in the United States,” officials representing both countries said in a joint statement.

Mexico’s carriers have a fleet of 300 planes. U.S. carriers have 7,500

More peddler grief. We’re not the only ones to endure the onslaught of too many pesky peddlers of all things trinket. One of the New Seven Wonders of the World since 2007, Chichén Itzá, the complex of Mayan ruins on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, is at risk of losing that distinction due to the number of vendors who harass tourists.

The iconic step-pyramid, Temple of Kukulcán, lies at the center of the Chichen Itzá archaeological site in Yucatán, and has become a popular symbol for all thing Maya and indigenous in Mexico and abroad. It is that status that granted the Maya archaeological site the recognition as one of the New Seven Wonders, chosen from a list of 200 monuments through a worldwide vote that drew millions of people.

Sergio González said that the New7Wonders Foundation has already warned the government of Yucatán that if the peddling issue isn’t resolved, Chichén Itzá could be removed from the list.

“The situation is worrisome for us, as 70% of the 2 million tourists who visit Chichén Itzá do so through the travel agencies in Cancún and the Maya Riviera that I represent,” said González. He charged that vendors have assaulted travel agency staff on-site and have also imposed extra charges to allow tourist buses to enter the archaeological zone.

The state Culture and Tourist Board has granted permits for 600 vendors in that zone, but it acknowledges that the actual number of peddlers plying their trade has exceeded that for several years, and currently more than 1,000 vendors share the grounds with tourists. Seems like we’ve got that many peddlers just on Medano Beach alone.

Damn mosquitoes. Mexico will be the first country in the world to have a vaccine available for dengue fever when it begins shipping early next year following approvalby Mexican authorities. But the new vaccine, developed by the French, has produced the best results among people with previous exposure to the virus. Guillaume Leroy, leader of the dengue team at Sanofi Pasteur, the company’s vaccines division, said the vaccine acted best as an immunity booster for such people.

Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne disease seen by the World Health Organization as a threat to about half the world’s population. Some 400 million people are believed to be infected annually. The vaccine has only been approved in Mexico for patients aged nine to 45 who live in areas where the disease is endemic, barring its use for younger children — considered to be more at risk — and tourists. Additional data will be needed before considering whether the vaccine may be of use to travelers.

In Mexico, 7,136 cases of dengue were reported between January and July, with 11 deaths. We have had dozens of cases right here in Baja.

Minimum wage is minimal.  The minimum wage is set to go up 4.2% on January 1. The National Minimum Wage Commission decided this week on an increase of 2.94 pesos. Slightly more than 1 million full time wage earners are estimated to be among those who are paid the minimum wage, which will total 73.04 pesos in 2016. That’s about $4.50 U.S. per day. This increase earned scorn from people interviewed in Mexico City, who labeled it as “a mockery” and “reprehensible.” Minimum Wage Commission president Basilio González Núñez defended the amount by saying “the truly poor people are those who have no jobs.”  Mexico has the lowest minimum wage of any member country of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and is destined to carry on with that distinction.

Lots of infrastructure. Despite President Pena Nieto’s poll numbers resting in the cellar, he’s pushing on with programs for us. Requests for bids have been let for more than 700 contracts to modernize and maintain highway infrastructure. The budget for all of next year is more than U.S. $3.5 billion, and we have been assured that it will be spent with full transparency.

During the current administration, which concludes in 2018, at least 80 highways and 52 freeways will have been completed, helping drive national development. Port facilities will also be upgraded. The operating capacity of Mexico’s ports will be nearly doubled, from 280 million tons annually to 520 million.

Bible banging tourists? As millions of pilgrims were flocking to the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City on December 12, tourism officials were suggesting that Mexico could become a world leader in religious tourism with some investment in infrastructure.

Representatives of business organizations told a press conference this week that religious tourism is growing between 5 and 7% annually, and that Mexico now captures about 10% of the world market. The World Tourism Organization estimates that some 300 million people travel every year for religious reasons, and that Mexico receives 35 million of them.

 Annual visits to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the north of Mexico City, total about 20 million, and 7 million of those arrive in early December, leading up to the feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe, December 12. But infrastructure is urgently needed for further development of the religious tourism sector, said a vice-president at Concanaco, the Confederation of Chambers of Commerce, Services and Tourism. Churches have been abandoned, visitors must buy tours from street vendors, shrines lack washroom facilities, transportation is terrible, and in places such as the Basilica of Guadalupe there isn’t sufficient parking. This year is the 484th anniversary of several apparitions of the Virgin of Guadalupe before Juan Diego, a native Mexican, who was asked by the Virgin that a church be built there in her honor.

All we get here in northern Baja along those lines are sun worshipers, do they count as religious tourism? No, we didn’t think so.

Did you come to Mexico for a baby?  Might as well go home now, because a Mexican state legislature has voted to close the door to foreign couples and gay men looking to have a child by surrogacy.

Mexico has become a low-cost alternative to the United States, where surrogacy can cost $150,000 or more. But the surrogacy boom in Mexico brings tales of missing money and stolen eggs. The Gulf coast state of Tabasco is currently the only Mexican state that allows surrogacy, supposedly on a non-commercial basis. It has attracted many foreign couples looking to have children, but the Tabasco state legislature has voted 21-9  to restrict the option to Mexicans only.