Wednesday, May 22, 2024

The Time Has Drawn Near - Not To Mention The Heat

We started off on Sunday with the March for Democracy also called the Pink Tide (Marea Rosa).  Thousands showed up in major cities (110) around Mexico and the world to take down the dictatorial government we are now facing.  

Monterrey in front of the governor's palace.

In Mexico City, it is estimated that 500,000 people showed up for the event.  Teachers from the CNTE union had taken over the zocalo for a strike but were willing to move for the event.  The president ordered the enormous Mexican flag that flies in the center to be taken down.  The protests were so great the military showed up and raised the flag again.

The elections are on June 2nd and the dirt is coming out from under the rug.  Things are tense and I won't be surprised if the vote is contested by either side.  

185,000 murders in this presidential term, 50,000 people missing and never found, cartels are now charging churches up to $1200 US per month to keep their doors open not to mention all the small businesses that are paying.  Oh, they distributed Ivermectin during the pandemic and sent people home.  600,000 died.  Many were sent home with this medication that is meant for lice and scabies.  We will never be able to prove what killed them as they died at home without an autopsy.  Criminal.  We still don't have medicines especially cancer drugs for children.  The hospitals are empty.  The money was used for his pharaonic projects one that destroyed 1500 km of the Yucatan jungle including the underground cenotes.  If you've had the chance to swim in one consider yourself lucky.  Future generations may not as they are filled with 8000 pillars and cement.

We're in a severe heat wave that won't let up.  This is week three and as you can see it will continue.  We would normally go to San Miguel de Allende but it's just as bad.  Summer is still a month away.  SMA hasn't see these temperatures for a prolonged period since I don't know when.  Most people don't have A/C and the gringo population is older.  People are suffering.    

We are thinking of going to Ensenada for a week to get out of this mess.  They should finish the interior painting on Friday.  I've found several Airbnb on the beach where the weather is much nicer.  

Saturday, May 11, 2024

Day Trip To Cholula With A Stop In Atlixco

We returned to Monterrey on Sunday.  It was an early flight but not at 6 a.m. like when we went to Puebla.  8:30 is a good time, I called for an Uber and it arrived at 6:30 and we were at the airport at 7:15.  Perfect timing although we had a short 40-minute flight delay.  No big deal and we arrived before 10 a.m., the shuttle to the parking was waiting for us and we were home by 11:30.  It's over 60 km from the airport to the quinta.  Sunday was a down day.

After we found out that Harvest Host was leaving Mexico, I posted on a Facebook rv group that we would still receive guests requesting via Messenger or email.  We had a couple come on Tuesday and they stayed two nights.  Worst night ever because of the extreme heat.  We hit 42C, then 44C, and today (Friday) 45C.  We are waiting for a short rain in the next hours.  

A nice couple from Canada who are retired and own a home in Melaque.  They winter there and now have a small travel trailer.  They asked for posada and we are always glad to have guests.  They have a wonderful dog named Chile, and we would take her any time.  She is so sweet and gentle and loves to play.

Now to our trip to Cholula.  An interesting tour and I'm glad we didn't attempt to take buses.  It was very reasonable, 350 pesos per person.  It was a nice air-conditioned van and a group of 12 people.  I mentioned in the last post we had a person from Bulgaria and I translated for the guide. 

Our first stop was Atlixco.  It was kind of a back-and-forth versus a round trip.  Puebla is a huge city; most people see the colonial side of town and the centro historico.  The modern side of the city is skyscrapers and new home developments.  Many people from Mexico City have moved to Puebla because of the earthquake.  6 million people live there so it's another Monterrey.

Atlixco sits at the foot of the Popocotipetl volcano and is a town that produces flowers of all kinds.  I would call it the flower industry of the south with Ensenada and the Valle de Guadalupe being the northern center of production.  

San Francisco de Acatepec is a church covered in talavera and clay tiles.  You can see some of the columns are inverted triangles.  Those represent human beings and distinguish the difference between the statues of the saints that adorn the facade of the church.  This church is not part of a diocese which is very uncommon in the world.  It makes its own rules and does not receive funding from the diocese or the Vatican.  BTW, talavera gets its name from the town of Talavera in the province of Toledo in Spain.

La Merced Church was built in the 1700s.  The town was founded in 1579.  I have been reading about the world population in the last few weeks.  Imagine, the world didn't hit 1 billion people until around 1800.  The other 7 billion has taken place in the last 225 years.  So when the conquest of Mexico took place the world had less than 450 million people.  How did all of the exploration and movement take place, especially without technology? Things are pretty much the same except for electricity, clean water, and technology.  Houses are still built the same, the Romans had running water and sewage.  Just saying.

Flowers are everywhere representing the town's main economic source.  

We had each gone our own way with an hour to sightsee, grab a bite, or have a coffee.  I opted for coffee and Juan an ice cream bar.  After regrouping, we loaded up and off we went for Cholula.

Cholula has a church built on the top of a pyramid.  Because it has been designated as a national historic site and so it cannot be excavated.  The pyramid is the largest at its base of 450 meters, bigger than Giza en Egypt.  However, it was made of dirt and very fragile.  Over the centuries bases were placed on top of each other one by one.  A wall would be built and then filled in with dirt.  A partial mock-up of what they believe the pyramid would look like sits at the base of the "pyramid".  The church itself is not spectacular in any way.  It is a climb of 500 meters from the base to the steps of the church and it is not an easy climb although it is concrete steps and walkways.  

View looking down on the town of Cholula.  

We made it back to the Centro Historico around 5 p.m. pretty much tuckered out.  We headed back to the apartment and fixed dinner, watched a movie and then off to bed.

Thursday, May 2, 2024

Walking Puebla and The Turibus Rides

We really got in our steps yesterday.  We fixed a croissant for breakfast and headed out towards the Centro Historico.  As soon as we stepped out on the street we heard drums.  Up the street, they were forming a desfile (parade).  On May 1st we celebrate Labor Day.  The streets were filled with marchers, bands, cheerleaders, and good followers of the system.   One parade had loudspeakers playing a laboral song from Cuba (an indication of where we might be headed).  

I like marching bands, especially those with wind instruments and you have to have at least one tuba.

I believe we were walking down Avenida Juarez, a wide avenue with many old but well-maintained mansions.  It is so nice to see the conservation of these homes from the past.  It must have been a great time to live in Mexico for the middle and upper classes.  People seem to forget that those people provide hundreds of thousands of jobs well-paid or not.  I've never had a problem with the so-called 1%.  Off track here, Bezos and Gates have donated billions of dollars, Gates alone 60 billion.  That's a lot of money to give away.

A clock tower donated by the French 100 years ago celebrating Mexican Independence.

A textile owner from the 19th century donated funds to build the Casa de la Maternidad.  The story says he had seen a woman giving birth in a ditch alongside the road and from then on it was history in the making.  The hospital is now part of the UPAEP, University of Puebla and also Christus Mugerza.  

I don't know who this woman was, but she refused to move.  We were on the Turibus and had only ten minutes to get off and take pictures.  Well worth the 100 pesos.  The tours change a bit each time.  The good thing is that they give you a bracelet.  With the bracelet, you can ride as many times as you want.  It was hot and sunny so we sat down below but in the evening we took the Turibus again and sat upstairs.  What a difference between night and day!

Also, the tour is very informative.  A lot of things we knew about but many were new details to us.  Waiting for the bus to depart you could see the mass of people in the zocalo or main plaza.

This is a new place for us that we will visit on Friday.  It is the Mercado del Alto and is filled with small food stands representing all the delights of Mexico.  It is similar to the Mercado San Miguel in Madrid that we visited and had some real treats.  By the way, good food is very inexpensive here in Puebla.  The further south you travel the prices drop.  We had a quick lunch yesterday, sopa Azteca, and Juan had a plate of three types of chicken con mole with drinks and tortillas, it was 140 pesos.  I'm looking forward to this one.  Nearby is the Templo de San Francisco and the first chapel in Puebla that had a Catholic mass.

On the evening bus tour we drove up to the convention center which is on top of a hill.  I gave several conferences there over the years.  Good memories.  The sun was setting and we were given a treat of seeing Popcatepetl, the famous volcano that continues to erupt.  The national advisor system works extremely well and people are accustomed to evacuating.  

The cathedral in the zocalo lit up at night.  What a beautiful sight.  

A quick history lesson on Mexico's Monte de Piedad.  The national system is a chain of pawn shops.  The history goes back to Italy in the XI century.   A Franciscan monk by the name of Bernabé de Terní to combat the tax system from robbing the poor who had needed to pawn something.  They were being charged extremely high interest rates.   In Mexico there are 300 shops and 2000 employees.  You can find just about anything there.  Once in Morelia we forgot our camera and we picked up a cheap digital.  Worked for the trip.

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Puebla City Of Churches - UNESCO World Heritage Site

It was early in the morning.  We woke up at 3 a.m., showered, and headed for the airport.  I made a reservation over the weekend for parking.  Long-term parking with a reservation has a pretty good discount.  Airport parking has gone through the roof as taxis have become so expensive and Uber is not allowed in the airport, either to or from.  Uber drivers attempting to enter the airport area will be towed and pay a 50,000 peso fine.  

We arrived a bit too early.  Viva Aerobus used to be very strict but has changed their rules making them more passenger-friendly.   Before, you had to be there two hours before the flight.  Now, if you only have carry-on you can be there an hour before.  We didn't buy seats so we again were hoping to get two together.  We had all three seats and the last row.   Very happy with that.  

The food on board is manufactured and you order from a menu.  We opted to have a homemade torta; chorizo, egg, potato, and some cheese on fresh bread we made the night before.  Delicious!  The guy across the aisle was eyeing it!

We arrived safe and sound.  It was a short one-hour flight.   I was about to admonish the flight crew who were sitting in the kitchen behind us for their use of foul language, four guys and one girl. 

The airport is named after the Serdan brothers.  Four brothers had met Madero before the revolution and were determined to end the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz.  Too bad they aren't here now, we're going to need them.

It's not a big airport.  Puebla has a population of over 6 million so you would think there would be several terminals.  Many folks fly to AICM and take a bus to Puebla.  This airport is the same design as the one in Leon, Guanajuato.  Only one restaurant and a small snack bar.  You wouldn't want to have to spend too much time waiting here. 

I found this fascinating.  It is a self-serve luggage purchase machine.  It has three sizes and many designs and colors.  It's all on the touchscreen pad.  The prices are just about the same as in a retail store.  One less grouchy person to have to deal with.  These jobs need to disappear and humans need to find more important things to do.  JMHO

I checked Uber which can enter the airport here.  430 to 510 pesos.  Yikes!  I checked the airport taxi and it was 430 pesos to the Centro Historic.  It's a long trip, 32 km, and takes about 45 minutes.  We asked about a bus from one of the security guards and he said it passed right in front of the airport.  A 200-meter walk from the terminal, we boarded the Altiplanos bus to centro.  A real roller coaster ride but it was fun.  Cost - 18 pesos per person.   

Considering we arrived at 8:30 a.m., the bus was packed with commuters heading to work.  At one point, the bus was so full that you couldn't move.  15 minutes later the bus stopped in front of a huge tech factory and the bus unloaded.  Well worth the 18 pesos.  

Our neighbor on the bus was kind enough to tell us where to get off and how to walk to the centro.  Our Airbnb wouldn't be ready until afternoon so we were going to walk around and take pictures.  Sure enough, we got off and walked to the calle Reforma.  There a woman selling tamales said to go straight to the building with the "picos" (spiked towers) and turn left.  We did that and in front of this building it said "Secretaria de Turismo".  Hmm, a tourism office?  We went in and we found the main guy and he said it is really an admin office but found us some maps and brochures.  The main spot for tourism information is the kiosk located in front of the cathedral in the main plaza.

Fascinated by the architecture, I asked the head of tourism what the building was previously used for.  It was a prison for a couple hundred years.  Many men died there and he says no one wants to work there at night because strange things happen.

The facade above is now one side of the prison that is dedicated as an Air Force museum.  I want to go there this week.

The pictures below were taken in the first four blocks of our walk from tourism to the centro historic.  Amazing how all these buildings are preserved.  Many are used as banks, schools, even department stores but retain their original construction.  

This is my favorite.  It was built in the late 40s and is now used as an Elektra department store.  

We did quite a bit of walking, 16,000 steps and we will continue today.  We are planning to go to Cholula and to the palace in Cautla.  Those will be bus trips.  

Our Airbnb is great!  Just five blocks from the start of the Centro Historico.  I'll pòst pics tomorrow.  

Friday, April 26, 2024

Dropped Like A Hot Potato - Harvest Host

I received this note from Harvest Host on Monday.

Dear Chris​,

Your Harvest Hosts listing and complimentary membership have been deactivated as we are no longer operating the Harvest Hosts Hosting Program in Mexico. We appreciate your hospitality to our Members and wish you only the best- Thank you!


Unique RV Camping

I replied to the email and I am waiting for a response.  We really enjoy hosting and have met many wonderful and interesting rvers over the years.  I am posting on FB groups letting them know we will continue to offer a spot although it is limited to size; Class B and TTs under 21ft.

On another note, we will fly to Puebla next week for a six-day adventure.  We hope to visit the famous Hacienda Chautla, a castle built on a lake, and also a day trip or two, one trip including Cholula.  

Dementia takes its toll and affects many of us.  My oldest sibling lost her husband yesterday after a long battle with the disease.  Interestingly enough, he in some way let people know he was ready.  He refused to eat yesterday and wouldn't take his medications.  Hours later he passed away.  A sad situation and one I wouldn't wish on my enemies. It consumes a lot of energy and money.  At $7000 a month it quickly drains a bank account and many lose their patrimony.  

Friday, April 19, 2024

Gringo Backlash In Mexico

Over the last two weeks, there has been a backlash caused by major hotel chains in Mexican beach resorts.  Mazatlan has had the most complaints from musicians who play "banda" music along the beaches, bars, and streets.  One major hotel owner has taken to social media.  He claims that the music is causing tremendous damage to the city.  The mayor backs the musicians and their music.  They may have come to a compromise.  

On Facebook groups in Mexico such as the New Civil List for San Miguel de Allende, some Mexican members have posted saying how unfair it is and that gringos should go somewhere else.  

I mention this because we have seen a change in attitudes of local sanmiguelenses.  It's not just with ex-pats but with tourists in general.  Housing prices continue to rise thanks to the influx of foreigners, chilangos, and queratanos.  Although change is good and it helps the economy grow, it isn't helping locals.  Tourist cities are like that.  San Antonio, Tx is a good example.  

At one time San Antonio had five military bases.  Military personnel would retire at 48 and then move into management positions in the few major companies in town.  This would reduce salaries and it still does.  The same hold true for the tourist industry.  Most jobs are minimum wage.  California has raised minimum wage to $20 an hour for restaurants with more than 60 locations within the state.  Many are closes because they can no longer compete yet I can't imagine living in California even on $20 an hour.  Impossible.  I left the state in 1984 asking for a transfer to San Antonio.  I couldn't buy a house in California but six months later I was a happy homeowner in Texas.

Sunset in SMA from the mirador!

We didn't buy the Durango I posted.  There were some irregularities.  The inspection revealed that the 8 cylinders had compression ratings from 140 to 190.  No one could explain how that would affect towing.  The company that did the inspection is very reliable.  The owners were once students of ours.  The head mechanic said that he would buy it and that it was in very good condition.  Not sure if anyone out there has any comments about the difference in compression on the cylinders.

Back home in Monterrey we said goodbye to all our Canadian friends who headed home after spending time in Mexico.  It was a great winter and it was fun meeting up on several occasions with all of them.  

Friday, March 29, 2024

A Great Time In Vegas - Heading Home

It was a fun week and a quick getaway!  We did just about everything from free shows to a lot of walking, picture taking, and my favorite, people-watching.

Free shows:

Volcano at Mirage
Fall of Atlantis at Caesar's Palace
Egyptian Exhibition at Luxor
Fremont Street 
The Fountains at Bellagio

We took in two shows.  We wanted to see Michael Jackson and Cirque du Soliel but not at $200 per ticket.  The Vegas Show is a history of Las Vegas through entertainment and casinos.  It was great recounting the Rat Pack, the build-up of casinos, and then the implosions one by one.  Singers, actors, and dancers.  We really enjoyed it.  It was at the V theater which is due for a makeover but the place was packed and we had a good time.  The other show, The Ultimate, had some good acts but not what we expected.

We did some touring and took a bus out to the sign next to the airport.  Everyone is trying to make a buck.  They had a line in front of the sign and a guy offered to take your picture with your phone or camera for a donation.  You can still do it on your own but good luck getting in front of the sign.  Every counter, every store, every every has a tip jar.  

Transportation isn't cheap.  Ubers are expensive although they are always minutes away.  The Deuce buses run along the Strip but they charge $4 for a single ride and $6 for a two hour pass.  We used RTC city buses that don't run on the strip.  A 24 hour pass is $5 but the secret is that the pass is good on the Deuce buses on the Strip as well.  It worked out well.   The Uber we took back to the airport was on $12.43 which was a bargain.

After Juan made his first post on Facebook, he received a message from our friend Clara.  She is an events manager for a major Mexican insurance company based in Monterrey.  They were a customer of our for many years when we still had the school.  She was at a hotel just two blocks from us.  We were able to have a long lunch together.  

We took the Deuce bus to Fairmont Street which is downtown by the Stratesphere Hotel.  That was a bit depressing.  Most of the area we saw on the bus (double decker) was rundown, abandoned with many homeless people.  I 've been watching a guy on YouTube, Nikc Johnson.  He has been traveling around the U.S. and documenting the depressed state of the country.  This looked just like one of his videos.  

These girls came up to me and started flirting.  I know what their job is but they were almost insistent on taking a picture with me.  The "full" dancer is from Uruguay.  She speaks perfect English and has little accent.  She was very nice and she and I made ourselves understood.  It was a nice conversation anyway.

As we walked down the mall area, a man came up to me and said, "interested in a hooker?".  I told him no thanks.  As I turned around to look back, there was a very tall and thin woman, dressed so very well with her hair coiffed, she looked like an actress from the early sixties.  She was waiting on the sideline.  Everyone is a hustler with something to sell.

We also took the bus to a Von's supermarket.  Wow!  Talk about expensive prices for food.  No wonder everyone is complaining.  A package of flour tortillas (10) for $4.99, avocados $1.50 each, half pound package of ground pork was $5.80.  We spent around $40 and that covered our meals for the week with the exception of one breakfast, a lunch and a dinner.  Not bad overall.  We found a good price on vodka and we had to leave some behind.  The maid I'm sure was happy to find that.   

Our trip home was uneventful.  Overall, we like to see the shows, the lights, and the people but I think if we were to go back it would be with the RV in tow.  I wouldn't want to stay there more than two days.