- Margot Lee Shetterly



- Margot Lee Shetterly
work OUT Ready, get set, GO!
the english speaker’s guide to living in mexico
By design
Beijing 2008 Olympic Viewers Guide > 24 // Hankering for Authentic Chinese Food? > 23
Photo by Luz Montero
How Mexico won and then kept
the 1968 Olympics > 14
This Month’s
Green Guide
Sian Ka’an
Ringside seats >10-11
Blending business with
conservation on a Caribbean beach
ricardo castillo is a veteran
bilingual journalist who has worked
for twenty years at major Mexico
City dailies Excelsior (in Spanish)
and The News (in English). A 1968
graduate of the Columbia School
of Journalism, he just finished two
years in Las Vegas as a management
consultant for the Spanish-language
weekly El Mundo.
Arts & Culture
in the DF
Rumbo a...
Watch them
roar: Los Leones
de Yucatán
play ball
way above
sea level at
the Centro
4 Inbox
IMX Letter
The thrill of competition
5 Invoices
Dan Lund
Seeing yourself as the
The Guide
exico ity
Download it at
[ ] InsideMéxico July / August 2008
6 News & Notes
Year in Review: 1968
7 Perspective
Carlos Hermosillo spots
Olympic talent young
10 InsideOut
Gold, silver, & bronze
The Official Boxing Man
14 – 20 Cover
By Design: How Mexico
won and then kept the 1968
23 Taste
Chinese food, closer than
24 – 25 Transitions
The Fixer Where to watch
the Olympics
Health Breathing deeply
The Usonian
Dream >30
José Fernández RAMOS is a
jack-of-all-trades who has found in
journalism a way to satisfy his natural
curiosity about life, especially meeting
people and seeing new places. He also
acts as part-time househusband, father of three, indie film and television
producer, and business consultant.
28 Real Estate
Market Meter:
Puerto Vallarta
30 Inside [email protected]
Bye-bye “American”
31 The Back Page
Farewell: Thorny Robinson
to an era >12
roberto salvador studied
graphic design and architecture in San
Luis Potosí and has dedicated himself
to photography since 1998. His
work has appeared in publications in
Mexico, the US, Great Britain, Japan,
Spain, Holland, South Africa, Russia,
and all over Latin America.
A Taste of the Good Life
V i n o s S a n t o T o m a s P r e s e n t s t h e 2008 Ve n d i m i a
ummer in the Santo Tomás
Valley is a wonderful time,
when the grapes we use to
make our wines are ready
for harvest. Some, like the
Tempranillo grape, ripen early; others, like the Cabernet Sauvignon, take
their time and can only be harvested at
the very end of the growing season.
This is also a time of celebration, when winemakers take the best of the harvest and proudly turn
it into excellent Mexican wines, such as our 2004
Único Bodegas de Santo Tomás, which won a silver
medal in the 2008 International Wine Competition
in Brussels.
We invite you to visit us for a personally guided
tour of the annual Vendimia festival, to witness the
craft of producing some of the world’s finest wine,
and to talk with vineyard owners and the best
enologists in the field. But the Vendemia is also
about enjoyment of all that’s good in life. Experience Baja California’s excellent seafood cuisine and
more than 50 varieties of paella; see exhibitions of
some of Mexico’s best art, and join us for live music,
theatre, and bullfighting, all in one of the most
beautiful places on Earth.
Schedule of Events
August 2
Wine and Lobster, with Art Exhibition
Rancho San Gabriel in San Antonio de las Minas
Noon-9 PM
August 9
Lunch, with Bullfight (bulls from the Cuatro Caminos ranch) and
concert by Vicente Fernández. Ticket price includes lunch
Reserva del Valle de Santo Tomás in el Rancho Los Dolores (26 km outside of
Noon-11 PM
August 16
Verbena festival with performances by 40 different artists
Av. Miramar 656 Zona Centro Ensenada—free entry
6 PM - midnight
August 17
Paellas along with presentation from the Baja California Wine
Rancho San Gabriel in San Antonio de las Minas
1 PM -10 PM
Space is limited so email us today to reserve your place.
Email: [email protected],
[email protected],
or [email protected]
Telephone: +52 (55) 9150-6448 in Mexico City
or +52 (646) 178-3333 in Ensenada.
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Everyone is watching
Aran Shetterly
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Distribuidor Exclusivo
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[ ] InsideMéxico July / August 2008
world stage
For sports buffs during the 1960s, 70s, and
80s, ABC’s Wide World of Sports was mustsee television. It featured track and field,
boxing, cycling, rodeo riding, racecar driving,
jai-alai, soccer, and even Acapulco cliff diving.
The show brought these varied competitions
into US homes, and then to Canada and Mexico. The intro is a pop culture touchstone: a
smooth-voiced announcer prepares us for “The
thrill of victory…and the agony of defeat,” as
a high-flying skier spins and crashes down
a mountain slope and through a
snow fence. We tuned in every
The voice was Jim McKay’s.
His calm, humanist spirit defined not only Wide World of
Sports but also US coverage of the
Olympics over the years. McKay,
who passed away this June 7th at
age 87, hosted the US’s Olympic
broadcasts ten times, including
the 1968 summer games in Mexico City.
Part of what made McKay’s
commentary exciting, even if you
didn’t fully understand, say, cricket or curling, was that he gave you the story behind
the athletes and their almost always improbable, obstacle-filled journey to excellence.
And, more often than not, he gently placed
these stories into larger social and political
McKay was, after all, the Usonian (see
Inside [email protected], page 30) voice of world sports
during the Cold War, a sports journalistturned-news correspondent during the
hostage crisis at the 1972 Munich Games,
N U M B E R 1 9 • july / august 2008 •
lympic competition on the
Margot Lee Shetterly
P resident
Catherine Dunn
M anaging E ditor
Ana Ma. Prado
V isual E ditor
Jonathan Jucker
C opy E ditor
and the one who had to explain raised fists,
bowed heads, and tanks on the streets during Mexico ‘68 (see pages 6 and 14).
In this July/August double issue, Inside
México takes a look at Olympics past and
present, but our focus is on the first and only
Latin American Olympics, the event that
changed Mexico’s image in the world and
the urban landscape of Mexico City. And
we’ve taken some tips from Jim McKay as we
examine the athletes, their stories, and the
elaborate world stage on which
they compete.
Catherine Dunn’s cover story
tells the dramatic tale of how Mexico City won, nearly lost, and then
put on the Olympics despite massive disorganization and a student
massacre just ten days before the
opening ceremony. In fact, as we
learn here, Mexico revolutionized
the presentation of the Olympics.
Politics and protest have always been part of the Olympics.
2008 will be no exception, as some
advocates of a Free Tibet have
called for a boycott of China’s Games. (For
some viewing tips for the ‘08 Games, go to
The Fixer, page 24.)
Yet, despite all the politics and the theater, when the race official shouts, “On your
marks!” the stands go quiet. The anticipation
of competition takes hold. We lean forward to
witness the magic and inspiration of athletic
excellence and courage.
See you in September.
Aran Shetterly
www.insidemex.com • + 5 2 5 5 5 5 7 4 4 2 8 1 • [email protected]
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Jim Johnston
Dan Lund
Sue-Ellen Mason
Michael Parker-Stainback
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Kate Hansen
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Roberto Salvador
Colin McEnearney
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Opinion of the host:
Mexicans look at the “other”
Dan Lund
Most of us look for mirrors, even if we do
not think of ourselves as particularly vain.
Reflections are sought in windows and in the
eyes of friends and strangers. How we see
ourselves and how we are seen go to the core
of our identity.
As foreigners in Mexico on extended stays
of one kind or another, we are seen as “other.” The regional social integration of North
America (which in many ways is not even
dependent on NAFTA) has provided an ongoing theme for market and policy research. It’s
also an opportunity to catch a glimpse of our
For more than a decade, the Mund Group
has asked a series of questions about the presence of foreigners in Mexico in our periodic
national surveys. The form of the question
is purposefully tilted negative, in an attempt
to flush out any resentment that might exist:
“When you see or hear about the following
kinds of foreigners are you bothered—a great
deal, some, not at all?”
Over the past half-dozen surveys, when we
ask about tourists, visiting students, researchers, businesspeople, and journalists, we have
found that less than 5 percent are bothered a
great deal, and another 7 percent are bothered
some. This year we added a new category—
“long term foreign residents”—and found the
same levels of benign response.
There are two categories that provoke a bit
more discomfort: missionaries, of all faiths,
bother 15 percent of the respondents a great
deal, and another 10 percent some. But the
winners in the negative race are foreign police
(usually DEA agents in the imagination of the
respondents). Consistent with the previous
studies, this year’s survey shows that 23 percent are bothered a great deal, and another 18
percent some. This is true even after two years
of intense media discussion about the public
security crisis.
Since most of the readers of Inside México
fall into one category or another of the least
bothersome strangers in the land, we will
explore further what Mexicans have said
about Canadian and US visitors, and long
term residents.
However, before we can understand the
guests, we need a clear picture of the host.
Our working hypothesis, developed over the
past thirty years, is that a central feature of
Mexican cultural identity is the triangle of
family, travel within Mexico to visit family,
and the enjoyment of food at the table with
Mexicans describe this triangle again and
again in qualitative studies, and it is what
many Mexicans living in the US say they miss
most about being away from their country. For
Mexicans who have participated in our focus
groups, the notion of “family” at the comida
table is not exclusive. Interviewees anticipate a
groaning board that joins old friends and new.
The table isn’t really the “mesa” unless it is a
bit crowded.
In this context, the invited guest takes on
both actual and symbolic significance. For the
past couple of years, we have asked Mexicans
to imagine particular guests coming to the
extended family table, and to describe them.
The resulting discussions reflect both a great
generosity of spirit, and some conditioned jealousies.
A composite image of the US guests (usually envisioned as a couple) runs something
like this: they arrive a little late, and are
dressed very casually. For some reason, more
often than not, people imagine them dressed
in blue. They are large people, perhaps a bit
They speak Spanish, often in a loud voice.
They carry gifts of food for the hostess, often
described as some kind of bread or beef, or
even fast food they have picked up to share.
However ambiguous these descriptions may
seem, the Mexican focus group participants
are unabashed in their delight to host the
A view of the Canadian guests (also envisioned as a couple) runs in a slightly different
direction: they arrive on time, maybe a little
early, and are dressed informally, but most
likely with a sports jacket for the man and a
dress for the woman. For reasons not always
clear, people tend to imagine them dressed in
brown. They are tall people, healthy and athletic in appearance.
They speak Spanish, but in a subdued voice.
They carry gifts of food for the hostess, most
often identified as delicacies from their country like seafood or maple syrup. The gifts are
seen as “fresh.” The descriptions seem rather
detailed, even though few of the Mexican participants have ever sat down for a meal with
We may not be like we are imagined to
be. In fact, we often are not quite how we
imagine ourselves. However, being seen as
the “other”—and in fact being the “other”—is
one of those marvelous opportunities in life to
gain perspective and see our reflection more
Dan Lund is the president of the MUND Group, a
Mexico City-based public opinion and market research firm. Their website is www.mundgroup.com.
You’ll Want
to Know
Help us choose
Nominate a powerbroker, a coworker,
the local sage, a rambler who tells the
best stories. Someone who inspires you.
And tell us why we should profile them.
They can be any age, live anywhere
in Mexico and be from anywhere
in the world.
Email: [email protected]
Inside México Listens In
“Some will feel you should not give the Olympic Games to a country until it lives up to a
certain standard of human rights. Others will
feel awarding the Games may help to liberalize
a country.”
IOC Vice President Thomas Bach of Germany in 2001 on
China hosting the 2008 Olympics.
The Chicago Tribune, July 12, 2001.
“The Olympics should not be called off. The
Chinese people... need to feel proud of it.
China deserves to be a host of the Olympic
His Holiness the Dalai Lama on rumors of boycotting the
2008 Olympics.
www.timesonline.co.uk, March 16, 2008.
“Now the Chinese view the Olympics from a
more sensible perspective. It is not merely a
carnival, but a symbol for peace, hope and condolences…”
From an editorial in the Chinese-language US Qiaobao.
www.chinaview.cn, June 19, 2008.
“These Mexicans are no pushovers. They have
qualified for the Olympics. We’ve met them in
Taipei and now they will train in Baguio…”
Manny Lopez, president of the Amateur Boxing Association
of the Philippines, on the Mexican Olympic boxing team
training in the Philippines with the Philippine national team.
www.manilastandardtoday.com, June 3, 2008.
www.insidemex.com [ ]
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[ ] InsideMéxico July / August 2008
By Jonathan Jucker
he 1968 Mexico City Olympics, which
the PRI government of President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz hoped would showcase
Mexico to the world, also revealed deep fissures
within Mexican society as those elements seeking change ran into resistance.
Although the Tlatelolco Massacre looms large
in the Mexican psyche, for many around the
world it barely registered, as their own countries
were being riven by the same pressures.
The old order in the United States was in the
process of being turned on its ear by the Civil
Rights movement. For some, this represented
an intolerable threat to the status quo, and in
addition to political resistance, the Civil Rights
movement was met with violence. Ironically, the
tragic assassination of Martin Luther King on
April 4th spurred President Johnson to sign the
Civil Rights Act into law just one week later.
Race wasn’t the only issue facing the US:
the war in Vietnam mobilized a generation who
objected to what they saw as an immoral foreign
intervention and a sad waste of promising young
lives. Troubling news coming from the conflict
in 1968 included reports of American soldiers
massacring civilians in the village of My Lai,
and a startling photograph showing a South
Vietnamese police chief executing a Viet Cong
guerilla at pistol point, developments which
further polarized US public opinion about this
controversial war.
Democratic presidential candidate Robert
Kennedy was seen by many as representing
new hope for the nation, but these hopes were
dashed by an assassin’s bullets on June 5th. The
Democratic Party’s national convention, held in
August in Chicago, was characterized by antiwar protests and police brutality, heightening
the turmoil in the year’s American politics.
Since January that year, Alexander Dubcek’s
government in Czechoslovakia had gradually
been loosening that country’s post-Second
World War Stalinist society. This caused grave
alarm in the Soviet Union and other Warsaw
Pact countries, and on the night of August
20th over 200,000 troops and 2,000 tanks
rolled into the country to remove Dubcek and
reinstate hardline Communist rule.
In May, France was brought to a standstill as
a series of student protests against class and
economic disparities at universities in Paris
grew into a nationwide strike. At its peak over
ten million workers, representing two-thirds of
the country’s total workforce, walked off the
job (or just as likely took over their factory).
President De Gaulle went into hiding before
finally dissolving the government and calling
elections in June.
In the United Kingdom, Catholics in Northern
Ireland were beginning to demand equal
treatment before the law, but their protests
were met by increasing violence from the Royal
Ulster Constabulary and Protestant hardliners.
Widespread rioting in 1968 eventually led to the
formation of the Provisional Irish Republican Army
and Protestant paramilitaries such as the Ulster
Volunteer Force and thirty years of
sectarian violence, known simply as “the Troubles.”
While Mexico did a good job of papering
over (and burying) its internal divisions for the
1968 Olympics, much of the worldwide unrest
was on display.
Most famous was the Black Power salute
given by black American athletes Tommie Smith
and John Carlos as they received their gold and
bronze medals (respectively) for the 200-meter
sprint. While an innocuous gesture to modern
eyes, the International Olympic Committee
(then headed by an American) forced the US
track and field team to send them home, and
they ultimately received lifetime Olympic
bans. That event’s silver medallist, Australian
Peter Norman, wore a badge supporting the
Americans and also spoke out against his own
country’s “White Australia” immigration policy,
leading to his own ostracism.
Czechoslovakian gymnast Vera Cáslavská,
who had won three gold medals and one silver
at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, was a vocal
supporter of the Prague Spring reforms, and had
been in hiding since the Soviet tanks rumbled
into the Czech capital. She reappeared to
triumph at the Mexico City Games, winning
four golds and two silvers, but provoked the
ire of the newly-installed puppet government
in Prague when she staged a silent protest by
looking away during the playing of the Soviet
anthem. She earned the affection of her hosts,
however, when she married countryman runner
Josef Odlozil at the Catedral Metropolitana in the
Zócalo, as thousands of Mexicans looked on
and wished them well.
Inside México welcomes News & Notes
submissions from around the country.
Please email contributions to Catherine
Dunn: [email protected]
Inside México talks with
Carlos Hermosillo
Going for the Gold, Taking
a New Path
Carlos Hermosillo is a national soccer
hero. Most retired players end up working for a soccer team, but as president
of the National Commission of Physical
Culture and Sports (CONADE),
Hermosillo is charged with leading the
Mexican delegation that will compete
in the Beijing Olympic Games.
Inside México: Why is Carlos Hermosillo at CONADE and not working
for a soccer team?
Carlos Hermosillo: When I first
started to focus my energy [after retiring as a player], I considered two areas
of work: one was soccer, and the other
one, all sports. I like soccer a lot and I
am passionate about it, but soccer has
two promoters who control it and these
people have affected the game a lot.
They can open the door to those they
like, and close it to those they don’t
like. I had the opportunity to get a job
during the past administration here at
CONADE. Truth be said, it was very
difficult at first because I wanted to
move forward with certain initiatives
but the legal aspect stops you.
IM: What’s the difference between running an Olympic team and a soccer
CH: In soccer you know what to do to
take advantage; here, you just don’t
know. Don’t get me wrong, I love the
institution for giving me the opportunity to do something for amateur sports.
We have to learn how to motivate, and
to get people to compromise. We have
the resources to do things but we are
talking about the entire country.
Strategies have to be completely different. I tell my wife and sons that this
past year and four months at the helm
of CONADE has been like studying
several degrees at the same time. It
has been highly productive and we have
advanced a lot in what we are doing,
not just with the Olympic competitors,
but [with] our efforts at developing athletes in rural communities with popular
sports. Maybe I will not see the results
of this, but in the not-too-distant future—perhaps. We are sowing to reap.
IM: Under what conditions did you receive the CONADE position last year?
There was friction between you and
former president Nelson Vargas.
CH: I received it on the condition that
we would present a good delegation for
the coming Olympic Games. I respect
what Nelson did a lot, but it is not
true that he left after steering Mexican sports onto a well-paved eight
lane super highway. Rather, he left us
on a dirt road plagued with potholes.
He divided sports people. Beyond the
confrontation between CONADE and
the Mexican Olympic Committee, he
was far removed from physical education teachers. That caused a lot of
problems for me at first.
IM: That was the political side of it.
What about the sports part?
CH: They were more worried about the
high yield sports… the ones in which
athletes can go to the Pan American
games and the Olympic Games. The
problem is that those competitors at
an Olympic level got there on their
own. We notice them when they are
going for a championship. What we
are doing now is starting from rock
bottom. That’s why we are investing
in public schools, and we are going
to continue on that path, seeking to
motivate a nation to sports and to be
on the search for talent. Nothing like
this has ever been done before.
IM: It sounds like a huge endeavor.
CH: After inspecting all the sports
federations in the nation, we [realized that we] have very few sports
people who can compete internationally. Instead of having two or three
per discipline we should have fifteen
or twenty. Though we have good competitors, this is a limitation we are
confronting just prior to the Olympic
Games. And performing in the Olympics is a different story.
IM: So beyond Beijing, what are your
CH: We are investing in basics now,
so we can have new competitors in the
upcoming National Youth Olympic
Games, which is for under-15 competitors. Then we have the Central
American and Pan American Games
in Jalisco in 2011, and then the Olympics again, London 2012.
IM: Will you be in charge of those delegations?
CH: Yes I will. And it will be in those
delegations that we will show what we
have done as an institution and with
teamwork. And I dare say that we are
going to have the finest results this
country has ever had.
IM: Unfortunately, not much is expected from the delegation heading to
Beijing this summer.
CH: I like to think positively and we
are a nation who always thinks negatively… it’s going to be tough but I
am convinced that confidence in oneself is essential. The change towards
positive thinking we have carried out
with the boys and girls has been extraordinary.
Those of us who have been in competitive sports know how positive development works. That leads me to
believe that we can have results. Perhaps not as good we should, because in
a nation with 105 million inhabitants
we should be much better off, but we
have possibilities in archery, diving,
canoeing, sailing, tae kwon do, and
perhaps, boxing—and other sports in
which one never knows, sports are like
that. Nothing is written and competitions are unpredictable.
Carlos Hermosillo was a striker for several Mexican soccer teams, notably
America and Cruz Azul, as well as the LA Galaxy in the US. As an international he remains
Mexico’s second-leading scorer of all time, and played in two World Cups.
Today, he is a member of President Calderon’s extended cabinet, presiding over the National
Commission of Physical Culture and Sports (CONADE), an official institution reporting to
the Secretariat of Education.
1900 year of the II
Olympiad in Paris, the first
in which Mexican athletes
52 total medals won by
Mexican Athletes in Olympic history.
9 medals won by Mexi-
cans at the 1968 games in
Mexico City.
1 position of boxing in terms
of medal wins for Mexico.
2 position of racewalking
in terms of medal wins for
Mexico (tied with diving).
1988 year Jamaica’s
men’s bobsled team first
participated in the Winter
1928 year Mexico’s
men’s bobsled team first
participated in the Winter
6 number of Winter
Olympics to which Mexico
has sent a team.
0 number of medals won
by Mexican athletes at the
Winter Olympics.
2,240 elevation, in
meters above sea level, of
Mexico City, host of the
Games of the XIX Olympiad in 1968: The highest
summer games in history.
1 number of world records
set by endurance athletes
at the 1968 games.
8 number of world records
set by sprint and jumping
athletes at the 1968 games.
55 distance in centimeters
by which American long
jumper Bob Beamon broke
the previous world record at
the 1968 Mexico City games.
23 number of years
Beamon’s record stood.
2 number of beers Swedish
pentathlete Hans-Gunnar
Liljenwall drank before the
pistol-shooting event at the
1968 games, leading to the
first-ever disqualification
for banned substances.
Sources: International Olympic Committee, Databaseolympics.com, World
Socialist Web Site, CIA World Factbook,
Helsingin Sanomat
www.insidemex.com [ ]
Photos by Catherine Dunn and Colin MxEnearney
Mexican baseball ain’t what it used to be.
Los Leones prowl the diamond at Parque de Béisbol Kukulcan.
The Stadium
Take a 20-minute cab ride from
the Centro Histórico to the
Parque de Béisbol Kukulcan.
On the web:
What & Where
to Eat
Have typical huevos moltuleños at Cafetería Pop: Calle 57,
between Calles 60 and 62
Order anything yucateco at Los
[ ] InsideMéxico July / August 2008
Corner of Calle 50 and Calle 57
Revel in the small, delicious
menu at artsy La Casa de Frida
Calle 61 No. 526-A, between
Calles 66 and 66-A
Order panuchos and salbutes,
two types of fried tortilla
pockets topped with shredded chicken or the area’s
famed pork, cochinita pibil.
(We munched at El Trapiche
on Calle 62, between Calles
61 and 59). Try Montejo, the
regional beer.
A trip to the Yucatán
packs heat–and baseball
B y C atherine D unn
vening clouds chase the day
away in a sweet moment of
smoky blue. The stadium
lights shine like headlights
across the vast emerald
green field, from home plate to deep center. Parque Kukulcán pumps with an
‘80s rock soundtrack straight from a Brat
Pack flick. Food vendors wend through
the aisles of tiny green seats wielding
swabs of cotton candy, bags of popcorn,
Montejo beer, kibbehs (Middle Eastern
hors-d’oeuvres), and cold-cut sandwiches.
We stand for the himno nacional and
then it’s time to play ball: Los Leones
de Yucatán, in crisp home-team whites,
versus Los Piratas de Campeche.
Los Leones (the Lions) have been
Mérida’s ball club in the Mexican League
since 1954, and were 2006 League champions. When we touched down in the
Yucatán capital, the team had just won
the first half of the season, and American pitching coach Gilberto Rondon was
feeling good about making it to the finals
again (playoffs begin in August).
In and around Mérida there’s lots to
do. You can just amble about the Centro
Histórico’s grid of flagstone streets, surrounded by the worn grandeur of colonial architecture, or pop into one of the
many galleries on 60th Street. Weekend
evenings bring musical performances
and salsa dancing to the streets. The
ruins of Uxmal and Chichén-Itzá are
spectacular and just a daytrip away.
• Catch a live trova set at Amaro:
Calle 59 No. 507, between Calles 60
and 62
• Beat the heat in style with a guayabera from Guayaberas Jack on Calle
59 No. 507, between Calles 60 and 62.
• Visit the Museo de la Ciudad for
a simple, well-done overview of
Mérida’s history, from its beginnings
as Maya capital T’oh.
Calle 65 between Calles 56 and 56A
Tues-Fri: 8 am – 8 pm
Sat-Sun: 8 am – 2 pm
Free entry
and dancing
Photo courtesy of Yucatan Turism Department
night life
What to see & do
• Check out Museo MACAY for
contemporary art
Calle 60, next to the Cathedral on the
main plaza
Sun, Mon, Wed, Thurs: 10 am – 6 pm
Fri, Sat: 10 am – 8 pm. Tues: closed
Free entry
The White City, as Mérida’s
known, still boasts a lot of color.
But the summertime feel of the place
goes well with baseball. So on game
night, we taxi-trekked from the Centro
Histórico to the 14,500-seat stadium.
Ninety pesos on a Tuesday night took
us right behind home plate, among the
players’ pretty wives and girlfriends and
adorable kids.
The crowd was thin that night;
though judging from what Coach Rondon says, it was no measure of how far
Mexican baseball has come in this soccer-crazed country. In the “old” days,
traveling umpires would have to sleep
in the clubhouse, and the Leones had to
travel fifty-five hours by bus for games
in Ciudad Juárez.
These days games are televised on
ESPN, and players make a good living
(upwards of $115,000 USD for the “top
guys”). Mexican talent has also been attracting more and more attention from
Major League scouts impressed by Mexico’s baseball academies.
“Baseball’s changed here,” says Rondon, 54, who sports a crew cut and a
tall, thick physique. “These guys are in
shape now. They go to the gym. They
work hard.”
Born in the Bronx, Rondon logged
a few seasons in the Big Leagues before the New York Yankees sold him to
Mérida in 1979. So began an international career as a journeyman pitcher
and coach. He has plied his fastball and
his know-how around the world: Taiwan, Italy, Canada, Puerto Rico, and
• For good walks, stroll Calle 60 and
the Paseo de Montejo. Hang around
the main plaza on weekends (live
music starts in the evening).
• For great city info in English,
check out Yucatan Today:
Mexico—from Tijuana to Mérida, where
his daughter was born in the backseat of
a Volkswagen.
For Rondon, Mérida is a great place
to pitch: the heat makes you sweat and
loosens up your arm, unlike the highaltitude stadiums of Mexico City or
He has the youngest pitching staff in
the sixteen-team league; he calls them
his “fourteen sons.” They include Luis
Navarro, who is deaf in one ear, and Oscar Rivera, who pitched a perfect game
last year. “I speak a different language
with each one,” he says.
For the Mérida newcomer, the gift of
the game was the pleasant cool of nightfall. Over nine innings, the porras (an
unofficial fan club) brass band blared its
support from the upper deck. Ball girls in
black spandex and bikini tops delivered
new baseballs to the home plate umpire.
The team mascot—a scrawny-looking
lion—strutted the field. And every time
the Leones scored a run, the team emptied the dugout to welcome the runner
with high-fives: the Leones eventually
beat the Pirates 6 to 1.
It’s not just Mérida that’s a baseball
town: “the whole south is,” Rondon insists. “They don’t like soccer here.”
When the game was over, fans took
over the field, seeking autographs, snapping photos, and playing their own games
around the bases. The world felt right—as
it should when the home team wins, even
when you’re just visiting. M
i x
www.insidemex.com [ ]
A Medalist’s
Photos: ww w.com.org.mx
Daniel Aceves
Villagrán preaches
B y R icardo C astillo
“My trajectory
is like that
of many sports
people. There
are defeats
and victories.”
Daniel Aceves Villagrán
[ 10 ] InsideMéxico July / August 2008
aniel Aceves Villagrán has wrestling in his blood.
He learned the sport from his father, legendary
1950s wrestler Bobby Bonales, and used all his
knowledge, skill, and experience to win silver at the
1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games.
“My trajectory is like that of many sports people. There are
defeats and victories,” he says. As he tells his story, Aceves uses
the word “perseverance” time and again. “I was a wrestler who
was not born good, but was forged by training for battle and complete dedication. Thirty years ago when I began participating in
Olympic wrestling, I inspired myself with the old Chinese proverb
that says the true value of a man lies not in never falling, but in
getting up every time he falls.”
His list of victories in international wrestling is impressive,
and includes being World Youth Champion in 1983.
Aceves, however, resists the role of “hero from the past.” Since
he retired from competition, he has worked to support Mexicans
who have competed in the Olympic Games and to pass the older
athletes’ experience on to rising stars in Mexican sports.
Three years after winning his Olympic medal, Aceves founded
the Mexican Association of Olympic Medalists. He’s still president
of that organization and also presides over the Olympic Contenders Association. Both are private, non-governmental organizations. His day job is as Director of corporate legal affairs for the
government-sponsored National Professional Technical Education
College (CONALEP).
Aceves worries that the Medalist’s Association is seen as
a historical relic where the members are on exhibit, pleasant
memories of past glories. “We don’t want to be a museum,” he
says seriously.
Counseling young Olympians is a responsibility he and Raúl
González (Los Angeles 1984, gold, 50 kilometer racewalk) assumed when they founded the Medalist’s Association in 1987.
Aceves and the other medalists in his organization, like Carlos
Mercenario (Barcelona 1992, silver, 50 kilometer racewalk) and
Soraya Jiménez (Sydney 2000, gold, weightlifting) have been
passing their experience on to the eighty-five competitors who
will represent Mexico in Beijing this summer. They help prepare the athletes for what to expect on the ultimate world stage,
telling them to endure, persevere, and hope for the best.
But some things have changed since he was cutting his teeth
as an amateur athlete in Mexico in the 70s and 80s: “We have a
better system today. There is a social consciousness about what
Olympic sports are.”
He believes, however, that other parts of the Olympic experience transcend time, and his message to the upcoming competitors is clear:
“The most important thing in the life of any athlete is to nourish his or her vocation to make it to the Olympic Games. There
are sports people who have won many glories but have not won
a medal in the Olympic Games, and their careers are somewhat
incomplete. When there is a medal, there is a vision of life, and
that is something you never lose. I believe as a fact of life that if
you are an Olympic medalist, you live and die differently”.
Polo Team,
Bronze in Berlin
Boxer Francisco Cabañas,
Silver in Los
Angeles 1932.
Boxer Fidel
Ortiz, Bronze in
Berlin 1936.
Gold in
London 1948.
Swimmer Felipe Muñoz,
Gold in Mexico City 1968.
An Amazing Ride
The story of Mexico’s
First Olympic Gold Medal
B y R icardo C astillo
General Humberto Mariles led Mexico’s equestrian
team to Olympic glory in 1948. The Mexican team defeated supposedly superior European competitors, earning two golds, a silver, and a bronze.
But the path to the Olympic medals twisted with
adventure, and the failure to follow a president’s command.
General Mariles and his riding team, members of the
Mexican Army, trained to perfection in their military
gear. In 1935, they won gold and bronze medals in the
Central American and Caribbean Games. Mariles prepared the team for the 1936 Berlin Olympics, but in the
end Mexico didn’t send them. His team won blue ribbons
in 1939 at Madison Square Garden in New York and in
several contests in South America. Their success continued through the 1940s, until it was time to get ready for
the London games.
In early January 1948, at the Club Hípico Frances in
Mexico City, Mariles met a sorrel-colored, one-eyed horse
named “Arete” (earring). From the first ride, Mariles fell
in love with the beast.
The team planned to participate in competitions all
over Europe leading up to the Games, but in February,
President Miguel Alemán summoned the general, telling him:
“You know, general, the tour is cancelled.”
“May I know why, Mister President?”
“Because you can’t win with those cart pulling horses
and that one-eyed stallion.”
“But Señor Presidente…”
“That will be all, general.”
All the travel arrangements had been made. The team
had the money to go and had been accepted to all the European competitions. In bold defiance of the Commander
in Chief, Mariles and his team traveled to Galveston,
Texas, and from there sailed to Italy.
In Rome, the Mexican ambassador met Mariles and
his riders with a warrant to arrest them for disobeying
military orders, squandering public funds, desertion,
and embezzlement. Still, Mariles refused to return to
Mexico. He warned his riders: “You too may go to jail so
let’s win.” Their future may have been saved when Pope
Pius XII accepted Mariles’ invitation to come watch the
Mexicans ride the day after they arrived. The team finished third in the Concorso Ippico Internazionale. News
of the success appeared to tame the wrath of President
At the London Olympics, the team surprised everyone
by winning bronze in the three-day “eventing” contest.
Rider Raúl Uriza grabbed silver at the Grand Prix of
Nations, and Mariles, riding the one-eyed “Arete,” took
the gold. The Mexicans also took gold in the team jumping event.
As the medalists celebrated at the Preston Manor
hotel, someone rushed up to Mariles.
“Go to the phone, quick, el Señor Presidente wants to
talk to you.” M
i x
With information from the 1990 edition of Mexican Olympic
Medalists, authored by Ramón Márquez and Armando Satow.
J o s é S u l ai m á n
Gentle Knock-Out
by Ricardo Castillo /photo by Luz Montero
Despite the fact that he’s a Mexican celebrity and
has spent thirty-three years as president of the
World Boxing Council, where he’s sanctioned
over one thousand world championship fights,
José Sulaimán still cracks a fresh, simple smile at
the slightest provocation.
His memories would fill several volumes, but
he is not writing them down. He prefers to live
one day at a time as head of an organization that
boasts 164 member nations.
How did a gentle person—and gentleman—like
Sulaimán become involved with pugilism’s largest
and most influential sanctioning body? Since he
was a child, he says he has loved boxing. He even
became an amateur puncher in his native city of
Valles, Tamaulipas, but when he got his nose and
jaw busted in a couple of bouts, he retired
Sulaimán comes from a notable family of
Lebanese descent. Not surprisingly, his parents
opposed his ambitions in the ring, so instead
he became a boxing judge at age sixteen. He
moved to Mexico City where he immediately got
involved with the bustling boxing scene. In 1963,
he helped found the World Boxing Council, a
body created by eleven nations fed up with “the
absolute monopoly” of the US National Boxing
Association, which at the time controlled the
sanctioning of world championship matches.
In 1975, Sulaimán, who makes his living manufacturing electronic gauges for labs and hospitals,
became the WBC’s fifth president. The first was
a Brit who resigned within a week, followed by
famous Mexican novelist Luis Spota. Spota, says
Sulaimán, liked boxing but did not know much
about organization. Justiniano Montano from
the Philippines came next. After him, Sulaimán´s
mentor and teacher Ramón Velázquez assumed
the post. When Velázquez passed away, Sulaimán
took over and that is really the beginning of the
“Velázquez was a great Mexican boxing man:
most of what I know in boxing I learned from Mr.
Velázquez, ” says Sulaiman.
The relevance of the WBC lies in its impressive
history of championship fights, beginning with
its glory days when it sanctioned the two controversial bouts between Cassius Clay (who would
become Mohammed Ali) and Sonny Liston, up to
the marquee matchups between Oscar de la Hoya
and Floyd Mayweather.
Between these extravaganzas, there have been
fights in all divisions all over the world. For the
record, Sulaimán always sits ringside. In Mexico
City last June 17 he attended the Edgar SosaTakaishi Kunishige mini-flyweight world championship fight, which Sosa won in eight rounds.
But at his advanced age, which Don José won’t
reveal but must be way over seventy, the question is whether he’s ready to throw in the towel.
“Well, maybe,” he says.
There will be another convention of the World
Boxing Council next November when Sulaimán
may or may not be re-elected.
“I have until then to think about it.”
www.insidemex.com [ 11 ]
The Ruta de la
Amistad (Route of
Friendship) was part
of the concurrent
Cultural Olympics,
displaying the work
19 sculptors from
16 countries along
Perférico Sur.
P hotos by
R oberto S alvador
Pista Olímpica de Remo y Canotaje Virgilio Uribe, Cuemanco Xochimilco
[ 12 ] InsideMéxico July / August 2008
he Summer
Games of the XIX
Olympiad were
held Oct. 12 – 27, 1968 in
Mexico City. While many
existing venues were
adapted to accommodate
the events, the capital
ramped up with a huge
public construction
effort, building stadia, a
pool, canals, and housing
for the visiting athletes
and press. Today these
structure form part of
the city’s everyday urban
Alberca Olímpica Francisco Marquez, Avenida Divisón
del Norte 2333, Col. General Anaya. Here, swimmer Felipe
Muñoz won a gold medal for Mexico in the 200-meter
Get all the alternatives that MBE has for you.
01 800 681 6236
Estadio Olímpico
Universitario, on
the Ciudad Universitaria campus of
the UNAM. The
stadium, adorned by
a Diego Rivera mural,
was inaugurated in
• e-box • usps • internet • bubblewrap • printing • shipping • boxes • etc.
www.insidemex.com [ 13 ]
Back covers of the Olympic Bulletin.
[ 14 ] InsideMéxico July / August 2008
Behind the Scenes at Mexico’s
Debut on the Olympic Stage
B y C atherine D unn
P hotos by L uz M ontero
here was no choice but to fly to Tehran.
Beatrice Trueblood left Mexico City on
April 25, 1967 with a suitcase full of
copies of the Boletín, the magazine published by the Mexico Olympic Committee. Inside, reports on the construction
of sports arenas, an article on Mexican
Christmas traditions, and an overview of the Spanish
conquest were aimed at one purpose: convincing the
International Olympic Committee—and the world—that
Mexico should still host the 1968 games.
“That was the deciding point,” Trueblood, now 70,
recalls. “Mexico was going to lose the Olympics.”
Though Mexico had beaten out Detroit, Buenos Aires,
and Lyon, France in 1963, four years later the country’s
capital was scrambling to hang on to the prize of hosting
the Games. Former President Adolfo López Mateos had
been appointed head of the Olympic Committee by his
successor, President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz. But as López
Mateos suffered from cerebral aneurysms, the preparations for the Games fell far behind schedule. In April
1967, with only seventeen months left until the October
opening ceremonies, the International Olympic Committee was deciding Mexico’s fate. Would it still be the first
Latin American country, the first developing nation, to
host the modern Olympics?
Pedro Ramírez Vázquez, a genius at organizing colossal projects, was named the new President of the Mexico
Olympic Committee in July 1966. The architect had
masterminded the construction of 35,000 public schools
as well as the Museo Nacional de Antropología, the
country’s vast repository of pre-Hispanic treasures. He
went to Iran for the IOC decision, armed with beautiful
Mexican singer María de Lourdes, a mariachi band, and
a talent for political maneuvering.
The hot-off-the-presses Boletín was the last piece
he needed. Beatrice Trueblood, the 29-year-old head of
publications for the Mexico Olympic Committee, waited
behind for it to be printed. The stylish, cosmopolitan
daughter of a Latvian diplomat, she packed light for the
trip so she could stuff dozens of copies into her luggage.
Then, as the IOC debated behind closed doors, she wandered anxiously around Tehran’s market.
The IOC’s final decision was unanimous: “Yes” to
Mexico’s delegation threw a gala party, celebrating
long into the night. Iranian royals, socialites, and diplomats mingled as Ramírez Vázquez’s doe-eyed Mexican
diva sang and an Iranian orchestra played. Trueblood
recalls the IOC members walking around, Boletín in
hand, showing off the logos and imagery that were to
cement the identity of Mexico68. “The back cover was
radiating throughout this International Committee
meeting in Tehran,” she remembers. “For me, it was
like, wow! We did it.”
They had less than a year and a half to pull it off.
All graphic materials courtesy Beatrice Trueblood.
www.insidemex.com [ 15 ]
‘For Mexico’s Prestige’
Cities usually stage PR battles to host the Olympic
Games, but never has an anointed host city had to fight
to keep the Games as Mexico City did in the mid-1960s.
A New York Times headline in 1965 read “Detroit ready
if needed”; three years later, just before the opening
ceremonies, the paper declared that there was only one
word to describe Mexico’s preparation for the Olympics:
It fell to Pedro Ramírez Vázquez to get the country up
to speed, to create and oversee the massive directory of
services and administration necessary to accommodate
hundreds of thousands of tourists, an international
press corps, and 5,516 athletes from 112 countries.
He knew Mexico would be scrutinized as a developing
country, and many were already worried that Mexico
City’s 2,240-meter altitude would compromise athletes’
“The challenge was to demonstrate that we could do
it,” Ramírez Vázquez, now 89, says. He occupies the
same office today as he did then, in the posh neighborhood of Jardines del Pedregal. “For me, the medal
that I sought was that of Mexico’s prestige, of Mexico’s
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the International
Olympic Committee was “helping countries use [the
Olympics] as a coming-out party,” says writer David
Wallechinsky, vice-president of the International Society
of Olympic Historians. In 1964 Tokyo was the first city
to host the Games in Asia, and it was meant “to show
that…they weren’t the old Japan.”
Ramírez Vázquez wanted a stellar debut for his nation. The soft-spoken but unyielding architect decided
that simply putting on the Games wasn’t enough to
reinvent Mexico for the world. He revived the ancient
Greek tradition of a Cultural Olympics that would run
parallel to the sports events, and organized the Olympic
Identity Program to enhance Mexico’s image, project a
sense of progress and preparedness, and show the world
that Mexico was a country rich in culture.
“The records fade away, but the image of a country
does not,” Ramírez Vázquez told the magazine Eye, put
out by the International Review of Graphic Design, in
a 2001 interview.
Ramírez Vázquez had first brought Trueblood to
Mexico in 1965. At the time, she was working in the art
books section of Viking Press and living in Greenwich
Village. A charity ball blind date led to a close friendship with Ramírez Vázquez protégé Eduardo Terrazas,
the resident architect at Mexico’s pavilion for the 1964
World’s Fair in New York. When Ramírez Vázquez
wanted a first-class art book, produced in five languages,
about the new Museo de Antropología, Terrazas introduced him to Trueblood.
Trueblood had hardly set down her bags in New York
after finishing the Antropología book when Ramírez
Vázquez’s telegram arrived calling her back to run
the publications department of the Olympic Identity
Forty years later, Mexico’s graphics are still considered some of the best Olympic designs ever. An exposition called Diseñando México 68: una identidad olímpica,
billed as “an exposition on the largest and most effective
graphic and publicity campaign that has been done in
Mexico,” opens at the Museo de Arte Moderno on July
25 of this year. Eduardo Terrazas once again plays a key
role, this time as curator of the exhibit, but declined to
be interviewed prior to its opening.
[ 16 ] InsideMéxico May 2008
Concentric Circles Workers painting the plaza at the
Estadio Olímpico.
Giant “Ju
The Mexico 68 statue at the Estadio Olímpico
Welcome The Centro Histórico radiated with the Olympic theme.
Globos Balloons heralded competition from
the air.
Information booths Symbols and colors moved visitors
around the foreign city.
Small office, big ideas
Photos courtesy Beatrice Trueblood.
udas” figures marked event
Flags adorned
the fencing
As stadia and Olympic villages sprang up throughout
the city, Terrazas and Trueblood began work on the
Identity Program from two small offices on the roof of
Ramírez Vázquez’s architecture despacho in the south
of Mexico City. After construction, they had the largest
budget in the Committee. The first order of business
was to come up with a logo and a system of colors and
symbols that would unify the Olympic image.
The Identity Program, essentially a branding and PR
office rolled into one, “had to [first] convince you that
we can do the Olympics,” Trueblood says, and that mission, along with energy and “lots of good intentions …
infiltrated our team.”
To achieve a modern design, they had to look beyond
Mexico. As a profession, graphic design barely existed
in Mexico in 1966. There was only one design school in
the country and it had five students, Ramírez Vázquez
says. He gave the Identity Program leeway to hire an
international team.
Trueblood and Terrazas recruited from around the
world, and especially New York. Lance Wyman, one of
several New York City graphic designers who traveled
to Mexico for the project, worked with Terrazas to create
the principal logo for the games: “Mexico68” in black-andwhite, overlaid with the five Olympic rings in full color,
ensconced in a swirl of continuous lines and radiating
circles. The design drew from the geometric “Op art” style
that was in vogue at the time, as well as the artistic traditions of the Huichol Indians (an ethnic group located in
western central Mexico).
Eventually the logo adorned everything from the back
covers of publications to balloons, official Olympic cars, and
even dresses and bikinis. The radiating circles from the
“68” were painted on the plazas at the Estadio Azteca and
the Estadio Olímpico. Terrazas designed statues of the
logo to decorate the stadia and Olympic villages where the
athletes and journalists lived, and in 1967 he even turned
the logo into a three-dimensional labyrinthine room for the
design summit at the Milan Triennial.
Other symbols were created to represent each sport,
cultural event, and corresponding venue, forming a
language of images that would be understood by visitors
from all over the world. The Department of Urban Design mapped the city and marked routes to direct traffic
and pedestrians to event sites throughout the capital.
Over the course of two years, the Department of Publications would publish over 16 million copies of 854 works
covering every aspect of the games. They reported on hotels, restaurants, ancient Olmec sports, pre-Olympic
postage stamps, native corn and vanilla, the
history of the Catedral Metropolitana,
and of course the progress of construction on the Palacio de los
Deportes, the Olympic Village,
and the Olympic pool.
While the Olympic publications didn’t reveal all the behind-the-scenes antics, the department was responsible for
publicizing the “making of” storyline. In that sense, says Huberto
Batis, the Spanish-language editor, “we invented the Olympics”
in Mexico.
“As this builds up,” says Trueblood, “you begin to believe that
Mexico is important.”
Where it all started. Working out of the rooftop office in
south Mexico City.
Editor Huberto Batis.
Team Leaders. Beatrice Trueblood,
Pedro Ramírez Vázquez, president
of the Mexico Olympic Committee,
and Eduardo Terrazas.
Eduardo Terrazas
drawing the Mexco 68
Brainstorming Production chief
Ricardo Verdoni, Trueblood and Terrazas.
Photographers Leonard Soned and
Francisco Uribe (head of photography).
www.insidemex.com [ 17 ]
Beatrice Trueblood, pictured with her dog Maximilian, moved to Mexico in 1966 to head the Department of
Publications for the Olympic Identity Program. Afterwards, she ran her own editorial and produced art books.
She now serves as the Honorary Consul of Latvia, and is writing novels about Lativia.
The Cultural Olympics
cultural olympics programs
[ 18 ] InsideMéxico May 2008
The Identity Program grew quickly and was constantly
adding staff: motorcycle messengers, illustrators, photographers, writers, editors and translators, typesetters,
paste-up boys, and architects. Terrazas and Trueblood
continued to scout talent from beyond Mexico.
Eventually the office staff ballooned to about 250 people
working in shifts to comply with the demanding production schedule. The international team pulled all-nighters
to produce the publications in the three required languages. The shared mission was a bond, helping a diverse
group cope with all the ensuing drama: foreigners who
couldn’t speak Spanish, Mexicans who hated the foreigners, hot-shot egos from New York, fist fights, and “more
affairs than you could imagine,” Trueblood recounts.
Political shakeups in the Rector’s office at UNAM (the
National Autonomous University of Mexico) resulted
in a boon of talent for Publications. In the early 1960s,
the group of young writers producing the university’s
magazine were part of the country’s cultural vanguard,
but Gastón García Cantú, the right-hand man to the
new University president, resented the magazine’s
international focus. He slandered one of the writers for
being homosexual and advocated a more nationalistic
and conservative editorial agenda. The leaders of the
university’s publications resigned and migrated to the
Olympic Committee’s Publications Department.
The Mexico68 exposition at the 1967 Milan Triennial.
Trueblood made Huberto Batis, the former head of UNAM
publications, the editor-in-chief for Spanish language texts.
“Ramírez Vázquez needed people to do the work,” Batis
recalls, “and he didn’t care where we came from.”
The new crop of writers was not made up of sports
junkies. They were meant to cover what Trueblood calls
“Ramírez Vázquez’s finest idea”, the Cultural Olympics.
Poetry readings, art expositions, an international film
festival, and folk dancing filled the agenda. African and
Russian ballets, Arthur Miller’s plays, and Duke Ellington all took the stage at Bellas Artes.
The Cultural Olympics began in January, ten months
before the Games. Ricardo Verdoni, a Mexican who had
been working at Time-Life in New York, arrived to be the
Production Chief. He made it all run on time—whether that
meant sleeping in his car at the printers, organizing the
staff to work around the clock in shifts, or just exuding serenity around writers looking for inspiration on deadline.
To get promotional materials done on time, the staff
had to “kidnap” performers at the Mexico City airport
and whisk them away for a photo shoot before they were
carried away by the Olympic pandemonium.
After their arrival, it was learned that it was customary for the Senegalese ballet to perform topless. The
uproar that preceded the show led the dancers to suggest a compromise: they agreed to not dance topless if
Mexico’s prima ballerina Amalia Hernández would dance
bare-chested when she performed with them. The matter was quickly dropped, and the show went on with the
Senegalese in the buff.
As the Games drew near, Mexico City was draped in
Olympic colors. Streets and highways were decorated
with flags. Inspired by the Mexican Easter tradition of
papier maché Judas effigies, gigantic figures were posed
at the arenas representing the athletes of each particular
sport. Huge balloons honoring the beloved Mexican globo
hung from window displays along Paseo de la Reforma,
festooned the press centers, and eventually flew over
each sports venue.
As opening day drew nearer, the Department of Urban
Design handed out paint to the people who lived near
the airport so they could brighten up the facades of their
houses in order to make a good first impression on arriving visitors.
All the billboards in the city were on loan to the Olympic Committee; the Olympic dove was everywhere, as
was one of the Games’ official slogans: “Todo es posible
con la paz.”
Everything is possible with peace.
Protests and Tlaltelolco
A few months before the Opening Ceremonies, the
Identity Program staff moved from the rooftop offices in
Jardines de Pedregal to a building on Avenida Universidad, near the wooded Viveros de Coyoacán park. The
new office was just up the road from UNAM’s Ciudad
Universitaria campus, home to the Olympic Stadium
and the fountainhead of the student protest marches
that began to flood the streets in July.
1968 was a year of global unrest and violence. In
Mexico, as the Opening Ceremonies drew closer, tensions surrounding the Student Movement were reaching
a boiling point. Fights between students and the police
reflected wider discontent with the country’s autocratic
PRI government, and led students to demand more
freedom to protest.
Violent clashes between students and the police began
on July 22. The army surrounded the campus of the
National Polytechnic Institute. On August 1, UNAM’s
president led a march from university grounds, northbound on Insurgentes.
Huberto Batis was usually glued to his desk, scouring
texts through dark-rimmed glasses, but on this day he
was drawn to the window where he watched the phalanx
of diverted protesters heading south on Avenida Universidad, back towards campus. The students had been
headed north on Insurgentes when they were forced to
turn around by a wall of tanks at Parque Hundido.
For the next two months, student demonstrations filled
Reforma, the Zócalo, and the Plaza de las tres culturas
at Tlatelolco. Some of Batis’s writers were leaders of the
Student Movement, among them José Revueltas, who was
considered a leader of the movement.
Student workers in the Olympic Committee building
on Reforma would leave to protest and come back to work,
says Ramírez Vázquez.
Even as protests and violence swirled through the city,
many members of the Identity Program staff operated in
a virtual vacuum of production deadlines and pre-Olympics coverage. They became aware of what was happening
outside only when it interfered with their work. Production chief Verdoni recalls José Revueltas being taken from
the office by the police, never to return.
Looking back, Verdoni doesn’t remember much else
about the unrest: “Sometimes I think about it and I
think, well, where were we?”
For Beatrice Trueblood, the answer to that question
is simple: “We were busy working.”
www.insidemex.com [ 19 ]
When members of her staff first asked Trueblood for
permission to join the marches, she thought they were
resigning and wondered how she would cope with losing
her personnel at the eleventh hour. No, they assured
her, we just want a few hours off to protest, and then
we’ll be back at work. In the interest of keeping the
peace, and pace of production, she agreed, wondering
to herself, “How could they be receiving a government
paycheck and be protesting the government?”
Then, on October 2, police shot into a crowd of demonstrators in the plaza at Tlatelolco, just northeast of
the Centro Histórico. It was reported internationally,
though the full scope of what happened has only come to
light over time. Contemporary accounts reported a mere
handful of deaths; now casualty estimates range from
three hundred into the thousands, and the event is seen
as a symbol of government autocracy and repression.
Luis Echeverria, who would later become president, was
Minister of the Interior at the time: he’s currently under
house arrest for his involvement in the shootings.
Forty years later, says Batis, “we still don’t know
everything that happened October 2.”
“When you look at Mexico’s history from the point of
view of 4,000 years of culture and human experience,
any one moment cannot overshadow the whole of it,”
Trueblood says, explaining her team’s continued focus
on preparing for the Olympics.
The games went on. On October 12, the world clicked
on their television sets to watch the first color broadcast
of the Olympics. Viewers saw the “Mexico68” iconography painted in red and white over the entire Olympic
Stadium esplanade. Mexican track star Enriqueta Basilio de Sotelo ran the stadium steps, becoming the first
woman to light the Olympic torch.
The Estadio Olímpico
at Ciudad Universitaria
showcased the Opening
and Closing Ceremonies.
The plaza was painted in
concentric rings, a fundamental design element
in the Identity Program,
as was the Estadio Azteca, which displayed
a statue by Alexander
Calder. (left)
The End Game
By the time of the closing ceremonies, Publications had
produced every rulebook, sports program, and poster
for each event. Hundreds of thousands of tourists had
navigated the city following the flags and maps and
painted street posts that served as colorful compasses.
Mexico took home nine medals, and more importantly
the country had put on a good show.
At the Closing Ceremonies, Trueblood remembers
there was fear that someone might damage the power
supply to the stadium. The lights were dimmed and then
went up, creating a dramatic effect.
The flame was taken down. The speeches were done
and the crowd poured onto the field as mariachis in the
upper reaches of the stadium serenaded the success.
“…It was totally spontaneous. It became an incredible
fiesta,” Trueblood says. “It was an outbreak of sheer joy,
and triumph and pleasure of being together in Mexico.”
[ 20 ] InsideMéxico July / August 2008
The Mexico68 Poster
was displayed at the
Museum of Modern
Art in New York. The
logo became ubiquitous
during the presentation of the Games
– appearing on everything from balloons to dresses to official vehicles
(above left).
www.insidemex.com [ 21 ]
At more than 200 points
around the country!
• Bistrot Mosaico
• American Benevolent
• Brassica Restaurant
• Antonella
• Un Lugar de la Mancha
• Restaurant And Bakery
• Libros, Libros, Libros
• Café La Selva
• Café Emir
• La Buena Tierra
• La Lorena
Reforma Corredor
• Mani e Pedi
• Fonart
• The Yoga Center
• Hotel Melia
• Fussion Estilistas
• Hotel Embassy
• Hotel Sheraton,
• Centro Educativo
Multidisciplinario UNAM
• Entrevinos
• Hotel Fiesta Americana
• Hotel Casa González
• Villa María
Coyoacan, San
Angel, Sur
• Tori Tori
• Artemis
• Cafeteria La Selva
• MP Café Bistro
• Bazaar del Sábado
• Isote
• Riedel Wine Bar
• Hotel Nikko
• Alliant International
• Hotel Presidente
• Casa Lamm
• Hotel J. W Marriott
• Café de Carlo
• Hotel W
• La Truffe
• Hotel Residencia Polanco
• El Café de Nuestra Tierra
• Hotel Fiesta Americana •
• Tierra de Vinos
Gran Chapultepec
• Hotel Camino Real
• City Market
• Restaurant Via Tasso
• Casa del Libro
• Thai Gardens
• La Leyenda de la Cueva
• Casa Castelar
• Cumaná
• American Legion
• Hotel Camino Real
• Universidad La Salle
• Librería Rosario
• Castellanos
• Aeropuerto
• Italian Coffee Aeropuerto
Cd. de México
• Cafébrería El Pendulo
• Gran Hotel Cd. de Mexico
• Conejoblanco
• Hotel Holiday Inn Zocalo
• Condesa D.F.
• Museo de Arte Popular
• Orquídeas
• Hotel Sheraton Centro
• The Village Café
• Barracuda Dinner
• La Buena Tierra
• Hotel Fiesta Inn Centro
• Café La Gloria
• Museo de San Carlos
• Black Horse
• Bistro Mosaico
Napoles, Del Valle,
Insurgentes Sur
• Malafama
• Hotel Holiday Inn Trade
• Artefacto
• Flo-Productos Orgánicos
• Suites Batia
• Rojo Bistrol
• Italian Coffee Company
• Frutos Prohibidos
• Italian Coffee Plaza Inn
y otros Placeres
free copy
• Maria Isabel
• Hotel Four Seasons
• Italian Coffee Polanco
to pick up
• Hotel Gran Marquis
• Cafébrería El Pendulo
• Restaurante Spuntino
• Italian Coffee Xola
Santa Fe
Tlalpan Pedregal Sur
• The Anglo
• El Colegio de México
• Hotel Camino Real Santa Fe
• Cafébrería El Pendulo
• Hotel Camino Real
• Sheraton Suites Santa Fe
• Café la Selva
Or download your digital copy
at www.insidemex.com
[ 22 ] InsideMéxico July / August 2008
MBE Aguascalientes
Baja California Sur
Av. Independencia Local 1860-A. Jardines
de la Concepcion
MBE Cabo San Lucas Blvd. de la Marina No. 17, Plaza Bonita
Local 44-E. Zona Centro
MBE San José del Cabo Carr. Transpeninsular Km. 31 cc.
Plaza las Palmas
MBE Cd. del Carmen
Calle 56 No. 199 Esq. x 33 A Local 1.
MBE Plaza Las Palmas
Colima MBE Manzanillo
Plaza Comercial Las Palmas Periférico de la
Juventud No. 6101 Local 9. Hdas. del Valle
MBE Interlomas
Av. Jesús del Monte No. 35 Local 17. Jesús del Monte, Huixquilucan
MBE Celaya MBE Campestre
MBE San Miguel Blvd. Adolfo López Mateos Pte. 521 Pta. Baja. Centro, Celaya
Blvd. Campestre No. 402 – 2. Jardines del
Moral, León
Relox No. 26 A. Centro. Sn Miguel de Allende Chihuahua
Estado de México
Blvd. Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado Km. 13 Local 2, Crucero de las Hadas. Salahua
MBE Pachuca Mega
MBE Italia Providencia
MBE Unión-Vallarta
MBE Chapala
MEB Plaza Caracol
Av. López Mateos Nte. No. 891.
Italia Providencia
Av. Unión No. 71. Americana
Av. Periférico Sur No.8300 A06. El Mante
Carretera Chapala-Jocotepec No. 144.
San Antonio Tlayacapan
Blv. Fco. Medina Ascencio No. 2180 Loc. 7.
Zona Hotelera Norte
MBE Lomas Virreyes
MBE Palmas
MBE Duraznos
Pedregal No.17-B. Lomas de Chapultepec
Av. Las Palmas No. 320 PB Local.
Lomas de Chapultepec
Bosque de Duraznos No. 67.
México D.F.
Blvd. Luís Donaldo Colosio No. 2003.
Ex-Hacienda Coscotitlán
MBE Condesa
MBE Pantalón Bosques
MBE Florencia
MBE San Ángel
MBE Sta. Fe Zéntrika MBE Lomas de Sta. Fe
MBE Torre Mayor
MBE Homero
MBE Polanco
Zona Hotelera
Nuevo León No. 250. Hipódromo de la Condesa
Bosques de Radiatas No. 22 PB.
Bosques de las Lomas
Florencia No. 65 PB Local A. Juárez
Miguel Ángel de Quevedo No. 24 PB.
Lateral de la Autopista México-Toluca No. 1235 Local 21. Santa Fe Cuajimalpa
Antonio Dovali Jaime No. 75 Local 4-A.
Lomas de Santa Fe
Av. Paseo de la Reforma No. 505 segundo piso local 2P 8. Cuauhtémoc
Homero No. 1507 Local C. Palmas Polanco
MBE Gómez Morín
MBE Monterrey Valle
MBE Citadel
Gómez Morín No. 1101 L. 106. Carrizalejo
San Pedro
Local A-4 Calzada del Valle No. 401. Del Valle
Av. Rómulo Garza No. 410 Int. 106. La Fe.
San Nicolás de los Garza.
MBE Oaxaca
Av. Universidad No. 200-B. Fracc. Nuestra Sra.
MBE Tehuacán MBE Puebla Calzada Adolfo López Mateos No. 2408 Locales 5 y 6 B. Zona Alta
Calzada Zavaleta No. 130 Loc. 9 Plaza Altavista.
Sta. Cruz Buenavista
MBE Arboledas
Blvd. Bernardo Quintana No. 514- D. Arboledas
MBE Cancún
Plaza Hollywood Lote 1 Mz 1, Locales 9 y 10. Súper Manzana 35
MBE San Luís Potosí
Himno Nacional No.1813 A. Burócrata
MBE Tabasco 2000
Av. Paseo Tabasco No. 1406, Plaza Atenas, Local 3. Tabasco 2000. Villa Hermosa
MBE Veracruz
Habaneras No. 271-101. Fracc. Jard. Virginia
MBE Mérida Calle 60 No. 325 A locales 6 y 7 por Av. Colón. Centro
Nuevo León
Quintana Roo
San Luís Potosí
Galileo No. 8- B. Chapultepec Polanco
FIND your nearest MBE center. visit: www.mx.mbelatam.com,
or call us at 01800 681 6236.
hinese Food
In Search of the Real Thing
B y N icholas G ilman
and J im J ohnston
Ka Won Seng
Photo by Julio Cesar Gonzalez
hen asked what we miss about the USA,
we usually answer “family, friends, and
good Chinese food.” Although thousands
of Chinese workers came to Mexico in the
19th century to build the railroads, leaving
their heritage of cafés chinos (equivalent to American coffee
shops, nowadays serving mostly Mexican fare), it’s hard to
find authentic Chinese food in Mexico City. Anyone who has
slogged through a meal in the DF’s so-called “Chinatown”
(Calle Dolores in the Centro Histórico); eaten “chao mein”
that tasted like mole in Roma; or paid through the nose for
pseudo-Szechwan in Polanco will be happy to know that
there is at least one “real” Chinese restaurant in Mexico
City, with Chinese people in the kitchen and dining room.
Chilango explorer and author David Lida led us to Ka
Won Seng, which he learned about from a taxi driver with
a Chinese sister-in-law. The hand-scrawled note by the front
door raised our hopes: “No hay comida Mexicana, café, ni
pan dulce,” and small signs with Chinese lettering (daily
specials?) confirmed them. There is little décor beyond two
large television sets—the attraction here is the food.
Dry-roasted peanuts and pickled vegetables (cucumber,
jicama, and carrots) were served along with Chinese tea
as we sat down. The menu is extensive, containing many
dishes not found elsewhere in Mexico. To start, get the dim
sum (not on the menu, and not always available), steamed or
fried dumplings filled with pork or shrimp. Cold beef flavored
with star anise is an aromatic and refreshing appetizer, as
is gallina fina (cold steamed chicken served with dipping
sauces). The soup selection includes an unusual hot-and-sour
seafood version. Main courses include the usual meat (lots of
viscera for the adventurous) and a superb pato rostizado estilo
Guangdong (duck braised in a gingery brown sauce, showered
with scallions). Pollo con nuez de la India—diced chicken,
celery, jicama, and baby corn—was a mild dish where individual flavors stood out. Whole steamed fish with ginger and
scallions is a specialty, fresh and perfectly done. A bubbling
cazuela of berenjena con jarabe de pescado sounded odd, but
purely chinese Don’t come here looking for tortillas.
was a perfect combination of sweet eggplant strips and mild
seafood sauce. Salt and pepper shrimp deep-fried in their
edible shells were crispy, salty, sweet, and juicy. Vegetarian
choices include tofu frío bathed in chili sauce and smothered
with sesame seeds and scallions. Verdura china (bok choy)
appears in many guises (perfect with chorizo chino), as do
mustard greens and other seasonal vegetables like estropajo
(loofa)—best to ask what’s fresh. Try agua de sandia (watermelon) or a refreshingly tart limonada if you don’t want beer
or tea with your meal.
We recommend going with a group and sharing the ample
dishes—round tables accommodate 8 to 10 people.
Albino García 362, at
the corner of Av. Santa
Anita in Colonia Viaducto
Open 7 days a week until
midnight. Telephone 5538
Cost: $100-150 per person.
Getting there
• If driving, take Viaducto
to Eje 1 Oriente, head
south on Calle Andrés
Molina Enriquez to Santa
Anita, and turn right—Albino García is seven
blocks ahead (you’ll pass
“Café Paisaje Chino,”
don’t confuse the two).
• You can also walk from
Metro Viaducto.
Nicholas Gilman is author of Good Food in Mexico City: A
Guide to Food Stalls, Fondas and Fine Dining. His website is
Jim Johnston is author of Mexico City: An Opinionated Guide for
the Curious Traveler. His blog is www.mexicocitydf.blogspot.com
The authors live in Mexico City.
Their books are available at all major online booksellers.
Some say “we are
what we eat”…
Guided visits through Mexico City’s most emblematic
sites, museums, restaurants and markets with a
special focus on art and culinary history.
Strictly private, full-service tours include:
✓ Specialized, fully-bilingual guide service
✓ Shuttle in private vehicle
✓ All entrance fees
✓ Tastings of Mexican fruits, vegetables, spices
and delicacies.
www.moremexico.com.mx • [email protected]
+52 (55) 52112923
www.insidemex.com [ 23 ]
Where (and when)
to watch:
Olympics preview
Who, When and Where to Watch
B y J onathan J ucker
exico’s first Olympic appearance was at the
1900 Games in Paris. After taking a break
to resolve some domestic issues, they participated again in 1924 and haven’t missed a summer
Olympiad since, ignoring boycotts in Moscow ’80 and
Los Angeles ’84.
Despite the controversies surrounding the 1968 Olympics, Mexican Olympians collected nine medals (three
each of gold, silver, and bronze) on their home turf, a
figure that remains the top mark for the nation.
The Beijing Games coincide with a rebuilding period
for the country’s Olympic program as new Mexican Olympic Committee chief Carlos Hermosillo puts his stamp on
the organization (see Perspective, page 7). Officials are
soft-pedaling expectations; sports delegation leader Carlos
Who to watch:
Tania Elias
The great-granddaughter of 1920s
and 30s Jefe Máximo Plutarco Elías
Calles, currently
the third-ranked
female individual
sailor in the world,
is hoping to score
Mexico’s first ever
medal in sailing
(Laser class).
Current world
and Pan American
champion in Taekwondo (women’s
under 72kg category), Espinoza
is one of Mexico’s
top prospects and
should be considered a favorite
to bring home the
At the 2004 Olympics in Athens, diver
Espinosa made the
finals of every event
she competed in,
placing fifth in the
three- and tenmeter synchronized
diving contests.
In the 2007 Pan
American Games in
Rio de Janeiro she
took gold in both
three- and tenmeter individual
diving and another
in the three-meter synchro event,
making her an
important Mexican
medal hopeful.
[ 24 ] InsideMéxico July/ August 2008
Padilla told China’s Xinhua news agency: “We
calculate seven or nine finals, and like I have
said, anything can happen in a final.”
One reason for this less-than-sanguine
outlook is the failure of Mexico’s soccer teams—normally the hope of the nation—to book a berth at the
games. The men’s team drew with Canada and lost to
Guatemala, and Canada was also responsible for knocking the women’s squad out of contention.
Mexico’s baseball hopes were crushed as well: the national team lost to the US, to Nicaragua, and took a 17-4
thumping at the hands of Panama (the mercy rule
was invoked). This means that Mexico won’t be
represented in what may be the last Olympic
baseball tournament: the sport (and softball)
has been dropped from the 2012 London
Games and may not be reinstated.
Óscar Valdez
Eder Sánchez
This seventeenyear-old boxer
took the 2008
Mexican bantamweight title after
beating the reigning Pan American champion,
offsetting concerns
about his inexperience.
One of the world’s
top competitors in
the oft-mocked but
heavily competitive
sport of racewalking,
Sánchez has won
two major events so
far this year, in Chihuahua and Krakow,
Poland, and should
be considered a
favorite in the men’s
20km event.
Judoka Zambotti
earned a gold medal
at the 2007 Pan
American Games
in the over 78kg
class, and won
three medals at the
Olympic qualifying
tournament earlier
this year in Miami.
Expect her to
grapple and flip her
way to the podium
in Beijing.
Beijing is thirteen hours ahead of Central Standard Time, meaning that during
prime time in Mexico we will be able
to watch live events held the following
morning in China.
•TV Azteca holds the Mexican
broadcast rights for the 2008 games.
Check listings for Channel 7 (Channel 107 on Sky and Cablevision).
•Those with satellite dishes can
watch English-language coverage
on NBC or CBC. NBC subsidiary
Telemundo will also be broadcasting events in Spanish.
Sports bars:
Most every bar and restaurant in the
city has a television, and chances are
many will be tuned to Olympic broadcasts, especially when Mexican athletes
are competing. Bars listed below have a
big expat clientele and may show more
events involving other national teams.
The Black Horse
•A Condesa expat institution and
always a good spot to watch the big
Mexicali 85, Condesa, 5211 8740
King’s Pub
•This chain of authentically fake
Brit-pubs offers a relaxed, comfy
atmosphere to watch the games
over a pint.
Check website for locations.
Irish Winds
•A good selection of beers and a
cozy atmosphere make this spot
popular with the British and US
Embassy crowd.
Río Tíber 71, Cuauhtémoc, 5208 0513
The Beer Factory
• Microbrews and mega-screens, conveniently located at a mall near you.
Check website for locations.
•If you like your Olympic viewing
to come with a little action on the
side (and not much in the way of
ambience), head to this sports
betting and slot palace. Numerous
locations and cheap drinks make it
the first choice for serious prognosticators.
01 800 027 3354
Check website for locations.
Taking sports to a higher level
competitor who works out at altitude are
strength and endurance. It’s not easy to
efore the 1968 Olympic Games in
get used to the altitude but after a couple
Mexico City, one of the biggest conof weeks you can see the results in the athcerns for trainers and athletes from
lete’s performance. The Centro Ceremonial
around the world was the altitude (2,240
Otomí is great for this kind of training. It
meters above sea level). Adapting to the
is located at 3,300 meters above the ocean,
oxygen-deprived air would
and if you go to the top of
be difficult for many enthe mountain you’ll be at
durance athletes.
around 3,800 meters.”
Once the Games were
But why is it good
over, however, the high
for athletes?
The Centro Ceremonial
“When you are at a
altitude was credited with
Otomí is located fortycontributing to several
higher altitude there
five minutes from Toluca
world records in sprints
is less oxygen. This
and an hour and a half
and jumps.
means you get less air
from the DF.
Since then, trainers
to breathe, and you conVisitors are welcome
and athletes have learned
sume smaller amounts
Tuesday to Sunday, from
that exercising at high
of oxygen which makes
9 am to 5 pm.
altitude provides great
your heart get bigger.
After training at high
For athletic facilities you
In 1980, amid a pine
altitude, when you go to
can visit www.imcufide.
and oak forest northeast of
a lower altitude you’re
Toluca, the Centro Ceremoquicker and stronger,
nial Otomí was built as a
and the recovery time
Location: Km. 10 on the
tribute to the local Otomí
for your heartbeat is
highway from Temoaya
culture. Now, the park is
faster. Training at alto the Centro Ceremonial
also a high-performance
titude also stimulates
Otomí, San Pedro Arriba,
training center for world
the production of red
Municipio de Temoaya,
class athletes, managed
blood cells [a process
Estado de México.
by INCUFIDE (Mexico’s
called erythropoiesis],”
Tel: 01 (722) 167-5446
State Institute for Physical
explains Garcia.
Culture and Sports).
Are there any disTiburcio Garcia, the
advantages to altitude
internationally recognized trainer of
boxers José Luis “El Temible” Castillo
“I don’t think there are any. I’ve seen
and Jorge “El Travieso” Arce—both have
only positive results. But you should be
been world champions—explains the
in shape before you get here, and it’s albenefits of training at high altitude.
ways going to be better if you are guided
“The most important benefits for a
by a professional trainer.” M
i x
B y A na M aria P rado
Multidisciplinary experts treat every patient at the ABC Neurological
ABC Takes New
Approach to Treating
Get high!
Photo by Ana Ma. Prado
Centro Ceremonial Otomí
ith a quality of
care that meets
the highest international standards, ABC
Medical’s Neurological Center takes an integrated approach to the prevention,
diagnosis and treatment
of neurological disorders.
Patients in the unit are
treated by an interdisciplinary group of healthcare professionals, who have years
of experience not only in
hands-on treatment, but
also in education and cutting-edge research.
Located within ABC’s
Santa Fe Campus, the center
is organized along the principle of “Service Lines”, which
means that our medical team
is able to give personal and
individualized attention to
each patient. The services
offered range from diagnosis
to treatment and rehabilitation, according to the needs
of each individual.
Treatment in ABC’s
Neurological Center is broken down by specialty and
subspecialty, giving our patients the best chance for a
timely, accurate diagnosis,
and thus a favorable outcome from their program of
care. Our multidisciplinary
approach helps us to treat
the cause of the disorder
as well as the symptoms,
and we are committed to
handling the entire patient
with the best technology
and knowledge that medicine has to offer, along with
the nurturing, attentive
environment that is necessary to foster the process of
Santa Fe Campus Phone
1103-1600 ext. 4101
The ABC Medical Center in the continued pursuit of excellence in service, offers it’s international communities and
patients Medicasa Department, which is another way we
bring excellence in medical care to our patients. Our staff
visits patients at their home or office, air and land transfers
and we provide the equipment and therapies they need to
follow their treatment on an outpatient basis. The Medicasa
Department upholds the same quality that we demand in
our inpatient facilities.
• Observatorio Campus Phone: 5230-8000 Ext. 8200
• Santa Fe Campus Phone: 1103-1600 Ext.1700
www.insidemex.com [ 25 ]
Where the sky meets
the sea
B y C atherine D unn
The Centro Ecológico Sian Ka’an overlooks the Caribbean Sea south of Tulum.
[ 26 ] InsideMéxico July/ August 2008
ameron Boyd was on vacation ten years
ago when he discovered the 405-meter
stretch of white beach. At the time, the
oceanfront property was home to the
ruins of an abandoned hotel and some
chital palms. It sat just south of the Tulum archaeological site in the state of Quintana Roo, inside the
Sian Ka’an Biosphere.
Boyd bought it and turned the land into what is
now the Centro Ecológico Sian Ka’an (CESIAK), a
collection of fifteen tent-cabins on stilts, a restaurant, and the launch point for tours of the Biosphere’s
mangrove-filled lagoon, once part of a trade route in
the Mayan empire. The business’s revenues maintain
a staff of thirty-four and pay for environmental educational programs for schoolchildren in Tulum, beach
cleanups, and staff to monitor the four turtle species
that nest here beginning each May.
The founding principle of the project was to combine ecological and economic sustainability. He was
interested, he says, in “a way to combine some income-generating activity with conservation work.”
As a commercial venture inside the Biosphere,
CESIAK has to abide by a lengthy list of strict rules.
“We’re very much regulated in everything we do—
which I think is a positive thing,” Boyd says.
For example, CESIAK’s structures can cover only 1 to
2 percent of the total surface area of the property. All of
their equipment, down to the kayaks, is documented,
registered, and insured. Voluntarily, CESIAK captures
rain water, runs mostly on wind and solar power, and
employs composting and special waste treatment
systems—all while catering to about 500 people per
month who sign-up for kayaking, boating, bird-watching, and fishing tours.
“I think the answer is ‘Yes, it can work’,” says
Boyd, 34, who wrote a college thesis on protected
lands in Africa before becoming an environmental
sciences teacher. In addition to CESIAK, he now
owns a similar ecological center in Belize.
“Certainly no one’s getting rich off of it,” he adds,
“[but] it is self-funding.”
Sian Ka’an, which means “where the sky begins,”
encompasses about 657,000 hectares that include
the coral reef in the turquoise Caribbean Sea off
the coast, the powdery beaches, and the lagoon on
the other side of a narrow dirt-packed road. The
area became a UNESCO biosphere in 1986, and is
regulated by the Mexican government according
to the United Nations’ “Man and the Biosphere”
guidelines. A core zone—“where no activity can
take place whatsoever,” Boyd explains—is surrounded by a buffer zone of palm-dotted land,
lagoon, beaches, and coral reefs.
CESIAK leads its tours in this buffer zone. My
cousin and I were signed up for one on a windwhipped day. We looked to the skies and questioned
whether we should be venturing into the Sian Ka’an
biosphere reserve by boat. But no matter: our guide
Jorge, an ornithologist who has been working as a
researcher in the biosphere for ten years, picked us up
at our hotel in Tulum, and the van bumped down the
road from Sian Ka’an’s northern entrance.
Over the next several hours we explored seven
ecosystems on foot, by boat, and floating in life
jackets through the mangroves. Starting with our
backs to the roiling sea, we picked our way along
the spongy, damp floor of the chital forest, where
blue crabs scurried sideways and termite nests
clung to tree trunks. We came out from the chital and found ourselves among the gray-button,
white, and black mangroves before boarding a small
motorboat that took us into the labyrinthine channels of mangrove and savanna islands. We spotted
orchids, cormorants, herons, and stopped at a little
Mayan temple. The Mayans traded fruits and cacao
along these waters, from the Yucatán peninsula to
El Salvador, Guatemala, and Belize.
By the time we circled back to CESIAK for lunch,
we were thoroughly soaked—not just from our
swim through the mangroves, but from Tropical
Storm Arthur, which broke while we were on our
In fact, hurricanes pose the biggest threat to
CESIAK’s business. Tourist traffic drops after
one strikes, and there are high rebuilding costs.
If a hurricane were to destroy part of the center,
they could rebuild, but unlike the proprietors of
hotels and bungalows just a few kilometers away
on Tulum’s tourist strip, they would have to pass
through a rigorous review and permit process all
over again.
Boyd says it certainly would have been easier to
set up a straight tourism venture outside the biosphere. And there are times when the financial risk
can seem “scary.” But the business is standing on
its own legs, the turtles are nesting, and hundreds
of school kids are learning about their neighboring
ecosystem. Boyd thinks he’s stayed true to the vision he had a decade ago.
“I’m pretty proud of that,” he says. M
i x
Centro Ecológico
Sian Ka’an
Federal Road (307) Cancun-Tulum,
#68. Tulum, Quintana Roo
Telephone: (52) 984-871-2499
Web: www.cesiak.org
Email: [email protected]
www.insidemex.com [ 27 ]
Inside México talks with
Darryl Bowie
Puerto Vallarta
all prices in US dollars
Inside México: What percentage of
your clients are Americans? Canadians? Mexicans? D arryl B owie : Mexicans and
Americans are about 40 percent
each; 20 percent are Canadian.
IM: Are they buying second homes, or
primary residence?
DB: The majority are looking at second homes. Those looking for retirement are seeing more products and
we expect higher numbers in the
future. One thing to remember is the
“Dream”—a place in the sun where
family and friends can reunite and
rejuvenate, and this dream is not
going away; it is simply on hold.
IM: What price range are they looking in?
DB: Those wanting it all under
$250,000 find prices are much higher.
The market under $400,000 is
strong. The soft range is $500,000-$1
million: choices are fantastic but a
‘wait-and-see’ mentality is affecting
this sector. This is where the best
deals can be made. After $1 million
[ 28 ] InsideMéxico July/ August 2008
we see sophisticated investors looking long-term.
IM: What kind of amenities are they
DB: Condo buyers want it all: concierge services, spa, business center,
restaurant, water sports, children’s area, and more. Properties are branding
themselves in unique ways. ICON Vallarta has the brand power of Philippe
Starck. San Pancho bills itself as a
cultural center, while Tahemia and
Sensara, with on-site medical concierge, target active retirees. Luma is
adults-only. Home buyers want colonial architecture; high-end condos are
going modular, with separate living,
sleeping, and entertaining areas.
IM: What distinguishes the area from
other coastal communities in Mexico?
DB: People are friendly, helpful, and
happy. Arts and music are a vibrant
part of the community; the variety
of dining is world-class. The climate
is consistently pleasant. The annual
whale migration is a major tourist
attraction. All the golf gurus are
building here; Nicklaus, Weiskopf,
Norman. It is accessible from every major airport in North America
within a four-hour flight time.
IM: Do your clients feel like they’re
moving to a foreign country?
DB: This is a foreign country and
you feel it, you like it, you want to
understand it, yet there are enough
English-speaking nationals to make
yourself understood. Folks here are
very accommodating.
IM: Is access to medical care a consideration?
DB: Puerto Vallarta has some of the
best [care] in Mexico. There is the
San Javier Marine Hospital and a
new AmeriMed hospital under construction, and a new oncology facility. North Americans come for dental
work and elective surgery: it’s faster,
better, and costs less. Not to mention
a very nice place to recover
IM: What other major lifestyle considerations do your clients take into
DB: Activities: [residents can] golf,
hike, fish, surf, sail, dive, and more.
The other question is ‘How can I contribute to the community?’ Expats are
very active in the community with
volunteer work and philanthropy.
IM: Has the market been affected by
the real estate turmoil in the US?
DB: [Buyers] are more cautious,
shopping for the perfect property
and in some categories we are seeing
prices drop, but it is not a wholesale
reaction to the US situation, and
Canadians are buying.
IM: What is your forecast for home
prices in Puerto Vallarta for the rest
of 2008?
DB: [Prices] remained mostly flat
for the past six months and are now
trending downward. Once another
winter hits the North and the election has been decided, we believe the
market will tick upwards slightly in
the first quarter [of 2009].
IM: Which area do you think represents a “bargain” for buyers from
the US?
DB: New condo construction that
has recently come to market, with
an owner/speculator leveraged in the
$500,000-$700,000 range. The other
area is single-family homes in good
neighborhoods in the low- to mid$400,000 range. Anything oceanfront
around $1.5 million is primed for
price reduction. These areas are Conchas Chinas/Amapas, Old Town, Las
Glorias, and Nuevo Vallarta. M
i x
Darryl K. Bowie is the assistant general
manager of Coldwell Banker, La Costa
Realty: www.cblacosta.com.
of the world, unite!
It’s time to get our terms right
B y J osé F ernández R amos
’m going to tell all of you folks from
the United States who call yourselves
“Americans” something that’s going to
hurt: you are wrong, especially if you call
your neighbors Canadians, Cubans, and
Mexicans. We are all Americans, just like
our friends in Brazil, Venezuela, Chile, and
Bolivia. So let’s start calling things by their
right name.
If that didn’t hurt enough, here is the
next blow: you are Usonians. Like it or
not that’s what you are, so you’d better get
used to it.
The term, short for United States of
North America, was in fact coined by the
talented Usonian architect Frank Lloyd
Wright. Wright was a true believer in the
Usonian dream, who hoped to provide every Usonian with an affordable home during the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Wright’s term was later picked up by
the gifted writer and proud Usonian John
Dos Passos, in his classic USA Trilogy,
which describes the United States during
the first three decades of the twentieth
Today, Wright is recognized as the
“greatest Usonian architect of all time” by
the Usonian Institute of Architects, unfortunately misnamed the American Institute
of Architects (www.aia.org).
Many of Wright’s concepts still play an
important role in modern architecture, and
he was an early innovator in industrial building techniques. Because he incorporated materials from the surrounding environment in
his construction projects, he is considered the
father of “organic architecture.”
Wright’s series of ranch-style “Usonian
Houses,” uniquely suited to the Usonian
landscape, do not look dated all these years
later, and were pioneering environmentally-friendly projects. Many of these homes
survive in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park,
Illinois as monuments to this Usonian
Wright’s contribution to linguistics, however, has been deliberately neglected for
[ 30 ] InsideMéxico May 2008
decades in culture, education, and politics.
It is time that we give this great hero of
a great nation the recognition he deserves
by officially adopting his term with pride.
So, people of the United States, make
your choice: you can either be proud Usonians or gullible gringos fooled into thinking you are the only Americans.
When I raise this point with my Usonian
friends they tend to get defensive and say,
for example, “Wait a second, I’m a New
Yorker”, or “I am an Iowan.” Well, let me
tell you, there’s no escape this time. Come
on people, accept what you are! You’re Usonians. No more. No less. Be proud!
Regardless of whether you back Obama
or McCain, you will be casting a ballot for
a Usonian president, who speaks Usonian
English. The whole event is followed by the
Usonian media, and most of you probably
work for, or use the services of, a Usonian
Many of my friends think I’m nuts to
push for this language reform. They say
the idea is even crazier than trying to
break the narco’s lucrative business by
legalizing drugs. In response, I always
paraphrase a brilliant speech by another
great Usonian, Martin Luther King, Jr.,
and reply: I have a dream, I have a vision
that one day when I land in JFK or LAX I
will see a big banner from the plane window: “Welcome to Usonia!.”
If you like the idea, tell your friends
and collect signatures. If you do, I promise
to take a plane to meet with the Usonian
Congress and have them amend the Usonian Constitution to please all Americans,
from the Arctic to Tierra del Fuego. If you
disagree let me know by email. If I get
more hate mail than support letters I’ll
quit and let you know. However, I’m pretty
sure I will be speaking to the Usonian government very soon. M
i x
Editor’s note: The views expressed in this
article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Inside México. Feel free
to send comments, praise, or insults to José
Fernández Ramos. [email protected]
the tip is a free weekly email newsletter by
. It’s your inside track on how to
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Email [email protected] and tell us you’d like to receive the tip!
is gone
© 2008
BY: Stan Gotlieb
e grieve the loss
of Thornton Robinson, fifteenyear resident of Oaxaca
and good friend, who was
snatched from us in an
auto accident in Toluca
in mid-May. Our hearts
go out to his wife Jane,
and their children Jean,
Chris, and Amanda. Their
loss, while incomparable,
is nonetheless shared by
scores of close friends;
the staff of Casa Colonial,
their bed and breakfast;
the dozens of artisans
whose works he and Jane
promoted; the Oaxaca
Lending Library which
they strongly supported;
the many charitable and
cultural organizations in
which they have been involved; and the entire expatriate community of his
adopted city.
I could take the time
(and space) to list his accomplishments, and all the
wonderful things he did for
so many people, but—while
pleased by having done
them—it would probably
make Thorny uncomfortable. He didn’t do things
to get his name on plaques
or to build the “right” im-
Thorny Robinson made Oaxaca his home for fifteen years.
age, but rather because
they seemed to him to
be the right things to do.
“Do”. That’s the key word.
Thorny was not a talker
(though he was a scholar),
but rather a doer.
Right now, I can’t recall
a single story about Thorny
from our friendship, which
spanned more than a decade, but I can tell you how
it felt. It felt like being at
home. In spite of our occasional (and sometimes
heated) political disagreements, we were good to
each other, and I never
heard him utter a pejorative remark about anyone—except maybe George
W. Bush.
I know that it is said
that people are prone to
forget the bad things about
those who have died, and
idealize their memories.
I can only tell you I have
done my best not to do that.
Still, the overwhelming
truth about Thorny Robinson is that he was a gentle,
generous, caring person,
the like of which we see all
too rarely. Oaxaca will be
poorer for his loss.
According to his wishes, Thorny is buried in the
Panteón Generál, Oaxaca’s
large municipal cemetery.
Condolences can be sent to
his family at [email protected] M
i x
www.insidemex.com [ 31 ]

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