The People's Guide To Mexico

Carl's Previous Notebooks

Carl's Notebook #5

31 October 1999


Direct from Mexico! Here's the latest mixed bag of travel and retirement information, reader's letters, hot websites, must-read publications, and irresistable, off-the-wall tidbits that have caught my attention.


Day of the Dead

The tremendous popularity of Mexico's 5 de Mayo fiesta in the U.S. is now spreading to the "Days of the Dead". Will the macabre "Los Muertos" of November 2 eventually give even Halloween a fright? Links to scores of interesting Día de los Muertos websites in both English and Spanish

Letters and Emails

We've having a difficult time keeping up with all the wonderful letters, emails and information you send us. These include...

Ego Wall:Salon's "best travel books of the century"
Diarrhea for fun and profit
Assisted living and co-housing project
Oaxaca photo album
Mexican prescription drugs and U.S. law
Calls to Mexico @ 20 cents a minute
Unusual job opening in Chiapas!
Tourist card confusion
Impressive website features Mexican masks
Health insurance in Mexico?


Behind the Scenes at the People's Guide

*What's this rumor about a> People's Guide eTravel Letter? As you might know, The People's Guide to Mexico's Travel Letter is no longer being published. Will it be reincarnated via email as a free eTravel Letter? It all depends on what you think...


*Reminder: we've added a few new email addresses. Here's how to find us....


It appears that we’ve managed to move the People’s Guide website to a larger and much more flexible server without major problems. If you haven’t already updated your bookmarks, please do so now. The permanent address for The People’s Guide To Mexico website is: http://www.peoplesguide.com

Please be aware that if you bookmarked us before the 10th of October, the bookmark address is probably to our previous server (http://www.peoplesguide.com/mexico) rather than the correct, current address at http://www.peoplesguide.com.

It’s not a big change, but to avoid aimless confusion, we strongly suggest that you delete the old bookmark (which ends in “/mexico”) and re-bookmark right now with the current address. Again, that is: http://www.peoplesguide.com


Mexican Red Tape

Dear Carl & Lorena

Hi, good to hear from you. Now I'm confused again. If we pay for our tourist card at a bank in Mexico, where do we show all of our papers.  Where do I get charged on my credit card for the truck (the $15 credit card charge). (I think it's for the truck). I think I need a new rundown as to what happens where. The $15 I pay at some bank in Mexico, is that in Peso's or US? What bank.

This is all a joke right? You'r just trying to see if you can get me to panic.

Frank & Penelope.


Important changes to Mexico's Tourist Card: Visitors to the interior of Mexico must have a valid FMT -- better known as a "tourist card" (for extensive details, see The People's Guide To Mexico). In July of this year, Mexico replaced the previous free-of-charge version with a new and improved tourist card.

But is it working? (more....)


If you’ll be driving to Mexico, read this!

Mexico Proposes -- Then Delays -- New Redtape For Tourists With Vehicles

Several fruitless attempts to stop the illegal importation of foreign-licensed vehicles has driven the Mexican government to desperate measures. With as many as two million chocolates (illegally imported cars and trucks) on the road, Mexico suddenly announced that new regulations requiring cash bonds of up to $800 for tourist vehicles would be implemented on November 1, 1999.



Eco-tourism gives me hot flashes (of cynicism): Sorry, but “eco tourism” lost most of its meaning for me when multinational hotel chains and government agencies started plastering the term all over their websites and slick brochures. Before it was co-opted, the definition of eco-tourism included community-based projects, cultural awareness, personalized guiding services, and genuine efforts to protect the environment. This kind of tourism still exists, but you have to look a bit harder to find it. An excellent place to start is at EarthFoot: http://www.earthfoot.org


Internet & email

Email on the road: Cybercafes and Mom & Pop email services are opening up throughout Mexico and Central America. This is a great boon to travelers, who used to have to pay exhorbitant international phone charges in order to call home. ¡Viva email! Now we pay exhorbitant cybercafe rates to access our sluggish Hotmail accounts. When it took 45 minutes (at 45 pesos an hour) to read & delete three Hotmail spam messages at a cafe in Cuernavaca, Lorena and I knew we had to find a better way. That “better way” recently appeared when the Mexico Connect website began offering free email accounts. You get your own address, plus the option of reading your regular POP email account(s). While you’re traveling, use any web browser to access your email on the MexConnect website. Since Mexico Connect is hosted in the U.S., but is not yet as well known as Hotmail, you shouldn’t have to share the bandwidth with a few million other users. When you’re paying by the minute and hour to read email, relative obscurity can be a big plus. For details, go to: Mexico Connect, http://www.mexconnect.com


Entangle yourself in the Web: Looking for something about Mexico that isn’t found on the usual search engines and link pages? It’s a complete crap shoot, but for a change of pace go tohttp://www.webring.org and do a search for “Mexico”. Scroll past the New Mexico realty sites to Tequila Web, Hispanic Community In Cyberspace, and La Radio en Mexico.


Auto Insurance

Like many other veteran travelers, Lorena and I buy auto insurance for Mexico before we even leave home. U.S. agencies representing large Mexican insurance companies are easily reached by toll free phone, fax, and email. Be sure to compare prices -- the better-known companies such as Sanborn’s and AAA don’t necessarily give the best rates. Here’s a few that have been recommended by experienced travelers.

Mexico Insurance Professionals, Flagstaff, AZ: (888)-ins-4-mex.

Point South Tours: (888)-421-1394

Lewis and Lewis, Beverly Hills, CA : (800) 966-6830 or (310) 657-1112; http://www.mexicanautoinsurance.com/


Hot off the press

Recent excerpts and headlines from the Mexican press.

After all this papaleo (red tape), we need a joke. Here's one from Caton, a daily columnist with Mexico City's Reforma.

In the United States they ask: "It's 11:00 p.m. Do you know where your children are?"

In France they ask: "It's 11:00 p.m. Do you know where your wife is?"

In Mexico they ask:"It's 11:00 p.m. Do you know where your car is?"

In Argentina they ask:"It's 11:00 p.m. Do you know where I am?"


On a much more lofty note, on October 23 a group of exiled Tibetan monks inaugurated The Instituto Loseling, a center dedicated to spiritual study, practice, and teaching. The center is located at 235 Avendia de las Palmas, 3rd floor, in Mexico City. Their temporary cell phone is:044 (0173) 28- 82-05


¡OJO! especially for Spanish teachers and language students: Back in the dark ages, when I was studying Spanish in high school, it was virtually impossible to get your hands on a copy of a real Mexican newspaper or popular magazine. Thanks to the internet, we now have free and easy access to an amazing number of online Spanish publications.

Among my personal favorites (both online and the daily print version) are the newspapers: Reforma, El Mural, and El Norte. If you'd like to keep in touch with current events in Mexico, generous excerpts from all of these papers can now be read online. Some of the principal pages can even be downloaded as PDF files and printed out.

In addition, Reforma's online magazine -- Info-click -- offers links to a very interesting assortment of webpages both in and beyond Mexico. I found links to soccer teams, music, recipes, and even a Mexican tattoo gallery. If you enjoy reading and practising "living" Spanish, Info-click is definitely worth a look. http://www.info-click.com/reforma/





In 1950 over 98% of Mexicans declared themselves to be Catholics. This figure declined to 96% in 1970, and to less than 90% by 1990. If the decline continues, less than half of Mexico will be Catholic by the year 2035.


A Million Friends for the Girls and Boys of Jalisco”: In a newspaper article, UNICEF and the state of Jalisco ask us not to give money to children who beg. “People think that giving limosna on the street is helping, when it actually makes our job more difficult. If (child) street performers and children successfully beg for money we won’t be able to do our work.” You can donate money to programs for Jalisco’s children by calling UNICEF at 01 900 849 31 31. You’ll donate (be billed) 10 pesos for every minute you remain on the line.


Baja brouhaha: The major Mexican newspapers don’t give much ink to the controversy surrounding foreign landowner evictions in Baja. We’re following it on the internet and through a steady stream of U.S. clippings sent to us by Marion Mayfield, Lorena’s mother. If you can stand the heat, this is a very hot topic on the General Forum at Mexico Connect:http://www.mexconnect.com


Don't sweat the calories! The Mexican state of Michoacán claims to be the world’s principal source of avocados. With an annual production of almost 900 million tons, I won’t argue. Certainly no one who has eaten guacamole doubts that the avocado was invented in Mexico. There are now over 400 varieties, but the most popular aguacate -- Hass, was created in California in 1935.


A “legendary” 1947 recording of Mexican composer Silvestre Revueltas’ orchestral masterpiece, “Sensemayá” will be released on a double CD by RCA Victor. “One of the most complex musical constructiones of the Twentieth Century”.

From the musical sublime to “Supernatural”: this latest album from legendary Mexican rockero Carlos Santana is topping the Billboard charts in the U.S. The album includes a song with Maná, a well-known (in Mexico anyway) rockero group.


Speaking of culture, well over a thousand young people were arrested or detained during the International Cervantino Festival in Guanajuato this month. It seems that exposure to such a rich diet of ballet, theatre, poetry, and classical music is driving these kids to serious drink and all-night carousing.


Pestering Pemex: more than 400,000 liters of gasoline spilled onto the ground in Huichapan, Hidalgo, after “delinquents” clumsily tapped into a major gas line. Pilfering Pemex pipes has become a big headache, as the current laws on illegal “milking” are apparently very soft.


Please pass the tortillas: A survey of Mexico City residents revealed that 72% eat tortillas every day, 8% don’t eat tortillas at all, and fully 1% don’t know if they eat tortillas or not. At least 6% never eat meat, 3% avoid chicken and 31% don’t eat fish. The statistic I find difficult to swallow, given Mexico’s huge national sweet tooth, is that 40% claim not to eat sweets or desserts.


Hunger “fractures” Mexico: The National Institute of Nutrition reports that slightly more than half of Mexico’s municipios (counties) include people who suffer from malnutrition. Sixty percent of Mexicans are malnourished and over five million suffer “physical deterioration” to a very serious degree.


©1972-2002 by Carl Franz & Lorena Havens