Yucatan News: Avocados and Calesas
Uber versus Taxis
There has been a lot of drama in Merida over the last few days between the taxi drivers and their unions and the new drivers for Uber. Uber arrived in Merida (https://www.uber.com/cities/merida/) about a month ago, and since then people have been warming up to the idea of being able to call a car to their location using a cel phone app. At first, the taxi union tried to fight fire with fire, so to speak, by setting up their own apps, such as MiTaxiYucatan (http://www.mitaxiyuc.com/) or Ryde and Go (http://www.ryde.mx/index.html). When that did not seem to stem the tide, the taxi drivers apparently decided to turn to violence. Videos of taxi drivers attacking Uber drivers at the Merida airport have been circulating around the internet. Now, the state of Yucatan has been meeting with other officials to incorporate a new tax on Uber-type activities of 10 percent. Along with this, Uber-type drivers would be required to register annually and that the tax revenues and record keeping would be used to provide added security to the additional drivers and passengers. This is an unfolding story and we will let you know what happens next.
The Future of Calesas in Merida
Animal lovers will be happy to know that the Department of Tourism and Economic Development in Merida is taking the development and maintenance of the calesa tourist attraction in Merida very seriously, and that includes the very important work of keeping the horses happy and healthy. According to Carolina Cardenas Sosa, the head of the agency, many different steps are being taken to ensure that this aspect of Merida tourism is both professional and enjoyable for all participants. Caleseros (the drivers of the calesas) are taking English classes, and they are also being schooled on the history and architectural monuments of Merida. The department is encouraging businesses to sponsor calesas, the money for which goes to keeping the equipment in good condition. In addition, the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at UADY in Merida provides free medical consulation to the horses, seeing an average of five horses each week for the last year. The calesas started running in Izamal, Motul and Merida in 1913. In 1943, the drivers created the union, la Liga Central de Conductores de Carruajes. It is good to know that the drivers commit to "adequately feed their horses, keep medical (vet) appointments, paint and reupholster their buggies, carry the mark of a sponsor and participate in training courses."
Bring on the Avocados, Ambassador!
Apparently, the USA just cannot get enough of Mexico's Haas avocados. Apparently, there had been a ban on importing avocados from certain states in Mexico. In fact, avocados could only be imported from the state of Michoacan. But last week, the US Embassy in Mexico made the important announcement that the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is in the process of amending the rules so that Mexico can export Haas avocados from anywhere within the country, provided that they adhered to certain guidelines. The state of Jalisco already is cleared to start sending avocados, and certainly the other states that grow them cannot be far behind. Perhaps this move is linked to the fact that the USA's new ambassador to Mexico, Roberta Jacobson, has finally arrived and begun her work within Mexico, after a long battle to be approved by the US Senate. Upon arriving, Ms. Jacobson was quoted as saying ""I have the intention to travel far and wide in Mexico to get to know the unique attributes of each region and to be able to listen to Mexicans in person." We do not blame her... traveling through Mexico is one of life's true pleasures!
Type 2 Diabetes in Yucatan
The incidence of Type 2 Diabetes rose slightly in Yucatan over the last year. Type 2 Diabetes, formerly known as adult-onset diabetes, occurs when a person's body is no longer able to process the insulin being released. The body, which may have a genetic predisposition to this condition, actually becomes "insulin-resistant", but the condition is also related to obesity. Last year, 1766 new cases of diabetes of this type were reported. This year, that number has increased to 1948.... in one week!! These numbers compare the same week from last year and this year. There is an organization, La Organización para la Cooperación y el Desarrollo Económicos (OCDE), that works to educate and fight this problem in citizens between the ages of 20 and 79... and it seems they have their work cut out for them in Yucatan. In fact, of the 37 countries in the OCDE, Mexico is sadly Number One in incidents of diabetes in their populations.
Awhile back, we heard about a dengue vaccine and everyone was pretty excited about the prospect. It seems that while the vaccine is not yet available to the general public, it is being vigorously tested here in Yucatan. According to a report in medicalxpress.com/, the incidence of dengue worldwide has consistently increased over the last five decades. A group from the University of Florida in Gainesville, USA has been studying dengue and a possible vaccine in Yucatan because there is a steady stream of people being infected with the disease, and there is a documented history of the disease incidence. The researchers are studying what the possible effects of a vaccine might be on the population of Yucatan, and if vaccine boosters would be required. Dengue is a difficult disease to conquer, as it has four subtypes, people can be infected multiple times, and re-infection increases the risks. The vaccine itself is assumed to have a 60 percent efficacy, but it does apparently wear off over time, leaving those vaccinated even more vulnerable to the disease. In the end, the study does seem to show that a vaccine would decrease the incidence of dengue, but that a booster program would be required. Stay tuned to the latest information about the dengue vaccine here.
Chicxulub Drilling Finished
The latest drilling into the Chicxulub crater from an offshore location has finished and has been declared a success. For seven weeks, scientists from the United States and the United Kingdom drilled into the crater created 65 million years ago by an asteroid. The scientists are pleased that they were able to drill deeper than they had anticipated and are extremely pleased with their core samples, according to an article in the BBC. The scientists will now return to Bremen, Germany with their various refrigerated rock core samples, where 33 people will begin analyzing the data hidden within the rocks. With the results, they hope to be answering questions such as how fast life was able to return to the completely sterilized impact zone.
The Night Sky in Merida
Have you ever been outside on a beautiful tropical night in or outside of Merida and wondered exactly what stars you were looking at? Have you wondered what planet that particularly bright star might be? You might have an app for that, or you could go to this astronomy website, which will show you what planets are in the night sky of Merida on any particular date. Enjoy!
Flying Into Merida
It was recently announced that this past year, airlines provided approximately 19 million airline passenger seats into the Merida airport. Citing the importance of the growth of airline seats for entrepreneurs and businesses within the Yucatan, the minister of tourism, Saul Salazar Ancona, said that direct flights are now coming into Merida from Toronto, Milan, Belize, Rome and Dallas... all new in the last year. In 2012, the number of airline seats was counted at 13 million and this year Ancona expects to see over 21 million passenger seats. As people who travel back and forth to and from Merida frequently, we applaud these new numbers and hope the list of new destinations will continue to grow!
It took some convincing but Sergio Perez Sanchez of Merida wanted a different experience and he convinced his parents to let him spend time in the United States. While this is a common adventure for higher income Yucatecan teenagers (a year abroad, usually in the United States so they can learn English), Sergio Perez Sanchez seems to have accomplished more than was expected. Sergio ended up in Wyomissing High School in Pennsylvania, where the tennis team had one five out of the last state titles. Since Sergio had been one of Yucatan's best tennis players between the ages of 12-14, this seemed like a match made in heaven. All told, Perez "reached the semifinals of the BCIAA flight one singles tournament, won flight one doubles with Dan Trifoi, finished third in District 3 Class AA singles and qualified for the PIAA Tournament, where he reached the quarterfinals." He accomplished all this while still learning a new language, discovering a new culture and making new friends. Along the way, he apparently went from thinking "sauerkraut" was disgusting, to ranking it as one of his favorite foods and he educated his new friends about what a "real Mexican" is like. You can read the full story about Sergio here.