Mexico Proposes New Rules To Tax Highly Digitalized Businesses

Mexico Proposes New Rules To Tax Highly Digitalized Businesses

A bill was introduced to the Mexican Congress on August 21 to tax digital platforms this includes such global digital companies such as Airbnb, Uber and Netflix. Wat this means for consumers remains to be seen. But it is a clear indication that homeowners who rent their properties through such services such as Airbnb are soon to be subjected to extra scrutiny.

Background of the bill
In 2019, after the new administration was elected, there was an attempt to tax some highly digitalized businesses. This time, however, the government focused on the collection of taxes from users of some digital platforms under the argument that is merely updating the current tax legislation.
In a new effort to tax highly digitalized businesses, a bill was introduced in the Mexican Congress on August 21.
Mexico’s tax on highly digitalized businesses
Introduced in the Mexican Congress, the bill intends to equalize competition between traditional and digital commerce. The bill’s report states some multinationals operate in Mexico without being subject to taxation because they have put in place tax structures that do not create taxable presence.
The report adds that the non-taxed amounts that would otherwise be paid as income tax and VAT not only create issues for tax revenue but also could lead to tax avoidance through failure to report income or falsified invoicing.
Additionally, the report states that its purpose is to not only tax such activities, but also to integrate such actors within the current Mexico’s legal framework.

Amendments to VAT
The bill incorporates as taxpayers for VAT, those “national and foreign” companies that “provide services as intermediaries through technological platforms for electronic commerce purposes”.
The bill defines technological platforms as “intermediaries that allow the exchange of goods and services to the final user, easing the selling process while using electronic payments mostly”.
The bill adds that such intermediaries are obliged to keep its accounting records.
Amendments to the income tax laws
Further, under the bill, companies, both “national and foreign” that “provide services through a technological platform to provide goods and services” must pay income tax. For this purpose, companies must register a tax domicile in Mexico and have a legal representative in Mexican territory.
The amendment considers that such businesses will create a permanent residence for income tax purposes.

Antitrust amendments
The bill proposes that the Federal Trade Commission will create a registry to evaluate compliance with the best commercial practices and antitrust practices for highly digitalised businesses.
Impact on highly digitalized businesses
The bill mandates foreign companies to register a tax address in Mexico which will clearly subject foreign companies to Mexican taxation, whether for income tax or VAT purposes.
It must be added that the consequences of such registration will create a permanent establishment in Mexico and consequently increase liability for the central office. If foreign companies register, it will also give rise to other legal obligations, like registering in the Mexican Public Registry of Commerce or filing notices in accordance to the Mexican foreign investment law.
Another aspect of the bill is that the definition of “technological platform” is mostly aimed at including businesses that act as a liaison between suppliers and consumers. This proposal does not take in consideration the different types of business models that exist, like social media platforms, search engines, or online marketplaces.
It appears that the Mexican government has finally taken its first steps to tax highly digital businesses, and it is important to be vigilant on the process to avoid unexpected surprises in the coming weeks.
– original by Fernando Juarez Hernandez, s a tax attorney in Mexico City.

Could Mexico Cactus Solve the World’s Plastic Problem?

Could Mexico Cactus Solve the World’s Plastic Problem?


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August 8, 2019
A material developed by Atemajac Valley University researcher Sandra Pascoe is made with the juice of a prickly pear cactus, and can be turned into discardable, non-polluting packaging.

Guadalajara, Jalisco – Mexico’s prickly pear cactus, which is emblazoned on the country’s flag, could soon play a new and innovative role in the production of biodegradable plastics.

A packaging material made from the plant has been developed by a Mexican researcher and is offering a promising solution to one of the world’s biggest pollution conundrums.

“The pulp is strained to obtain a juice that I then use,” said Sandra Pascoe, who developed the product and works at the Atemajac Valley University in the western city of Guadalajara.

That substance is then mixed with non-toxic additives and stretched to produce sheets which are colored with pigments and folded to form different types of packaging.

“What we’re doing is trying to concentrate on objects that don’t have a long life,” she said, particularly “single-use” packaging.Pascoe is still conducting tests, but hopes to patent her product later this year and look for partners in early 2020, with an eye towards larger-scale production.

The cacti Pascoe uses for her experiments come from San Esteban, a small town on the outskirts of Guadalajara, where they grow by the hundreds.

San Esteban is located in Jalisco state where, starting next year, single-use non-recyclable plastic bags, straws and other disposable items will be banned.

‘Drop in the Ocean’

Mexico City and states such as Baja California have also introduced similar measures.

In May, the capital city adopted a “historic” ban on plastic bags beginning in 2020. From 2021, straws, plastic plates and cutlery, and balloons will also be banned if they’re made “entirely or partially from plastic,” according to the bill adopted by the local congress.

Sandra Pascoe says her new material would be no more than a “drop in the ocean” in the battle to preserve the environment.

Given the rampant production of industrial plastics and the time it takes to make her material, there would need to be “other recycling strategies” to make any concrete difference, she said.

Latin America and the Caribbean account for around 10 percent of worldwide waste, according to United Nations figures.

In March, UN member states committed to “significantly reduce” single-use plastics over the next decade, although green groups warned that goal fell short of tackling the Earth’s pollution crisis.

Plastic pollution has become a global concern, particularly after bans imposed by China and other countries on the import of plastic waste from overseas.

Despite widespread alarm on the environmental cost, Asia and the United States lifted world production of plastic last year while Europe saw a dip, according to numbers released by the PlasticsEurope federation in June.

Source: Yahoo News

A trip to Mazatlán changed the life of this expat from California

News
Surfer and former publisher Janet Blaser.

A trip to Mazatlán changed the life of this expat from California

Janet Blaser enjoys the Mexican lifestyle and has no plans to move back to the US

A trip to Mazatlán changed the life of a California woman who has now been living in the Sinaloa resort city for more than a decade and can’t imagine moving back to the United States.

Janet Blaser, formerly a food and restaurant writer in Santa Cruz, California, moved to Mazatlán in 2006 after she lost one journalism job and had her hours cut back at another as a result of the rise in popularity of online news.

A trip to the Pacific coast city in Mexico served as the impetus for her relocation decision.

“I fell in love, I felt this heart connection somehow — there were beautiful old buildings, cobblestone streets, plazas with wrought iron and the beautiful glittering Pacific Ocean, warm and swimmable,” Blaser told the financial information website MarketWatch.

“It just felt deeply healing, friendly and welcoming,” she added.

Another reason for Blaser’s move was that she spotted an interesting opportunity.

There were a lot of English-speaking expats and tourists in town but little information about Mazatlán’s social and cultural life and Blaser’s journalistic experience and ingenuity could fix that.

So in 2006, the writer and surfing enthusiast packed up her car and set her sights on starting a new life in northern Mexico. A plan to move to New Orleans was put on the backburner.

Blaser admitted to having doubts about the move but knew that staying in California would stretch her budget and leave her with an uncertain future.

During her first year in Mazatlán, Blaser worked part time as an online editor as she planned how to start an arts and entertainment publication that would provide information to the English-speaking residents of the city and the tourists who visit.

In 2007, she launched M! Magazine and continued to run the successful publication for nine years. In the same period, Blaser started a local organic farmers’ market.

The 63-year-old is now retired but remains busy: she has just published a book entitled Why We Left: An Anthology of American Women Expats, in which 27 essays of women living happily in Mexico are compiled.

Even though her magazine publishing days are over, Blaser is not thinking about relocating north of the border even though she says she misses her three adult children and three grandkids, all of whom live in the United States.

“I can’t imagine living in the U.S. again,” she told MarketWatch, explaining that the cheaper cost of living in Mexico – Blaser lives on about US $1,000 a month – was one but not the only reason why.

“I couldn’t afford to live in the States again” Blaser said before adding that she prefers the “easygoing Mexican lifestyle” in any case.

“It’s a very different vibe here that’s kind of hard to explain. It’s not about being retired, because I wasn’t that until a year ago. It’s just a different understanding of what’s important in life, and a more relaxed live-and-let-live attitude. If something doesn’t get done today, there’s always tomorrow, or the next day. What’s the big deal?” she said.

“. . . I’m able to actually live a more simple life and be satisfied in a way I could never before in the U.S.”

Source: MarketWatch (en)

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La Campana, Jalisco’s ‘Psychedelic Bell,’ is a jewel of natural beauty

La Campana, a bizarre little mountain.La Campana, a bizarre little mountain.

La Campana, Jalisco’s ‘Psychedelic Bell,’ is a jewel of natural beauty

As you walk up the smooth, undulating surface you come upon one strange, sweeping shape after another

Highway 70 could be called “the adventurous way” to travel from Guadalajara to Puerto Vallarta.

This road takes you past the legendary mining town of Guachinangowith its shimmering church covered with a million shards of broken porcelain plates, past Atenguillo, famed for its rustic raicilla distilleries hidden in the hills.

The highway then passes near Talpa with its celebrated maple forest, which has been around since the Pleistocene, through Mascota, renowned for its majestic casonas (mansions) with walls a meter thick, and on past San Sebastián del Oeste, the gorgeous mountain village “forgotten by time,” finally arriving at Puerto Vallarta, six hours distant.

There are so many picturesque towns along this route through western Jalisco that most travelers whiz right by a true jewel of natural beauty and surely the most bizarre little mountain I’ve seen anywhere in the world: La Campana (“the bell”).

The local people call it “The Bell” because that’s what it looks like when you glimpse it — for all of two seconds — as you zoom around one of a hundred curves on the ever-twisting highway approaching Mascota.

From the highway it looks like a bell.

From the highway it looks like a bell.

This spot is a two-hour drive from Guadalajara and at this point your stomach is probably growling and you can almost smell the tantalizing aromas awaiting you at the excellent Navidad restaurant in Mascota. What could I ever say to convince you to pull off the highway onto a little dirt road barely visible among the tall pine trees?

Well, if you drive down that road only 20 meters, step out of your car and gaze upward, I know you’re going to be hooked. With only a bit of imagination you might swear you were looking at a very bizarre sculpture of a giant puma battling a gargantuan hammerhead shark.

“Well, well, that definitely does look interesting,” is the reaction I have heard from every soul I have coaxed into stopping here. No matter how loudly their stomachs were growling, they would inevitably ask, “How long do I have to walk to go see it?”

When I tell them it’s only five minutes to the base of La Campana, believe it or not, curiosity always wins out over hunger, and off we go to visit what I call “The Psychedelic Bell.”

After that short walk, you suddenly step out of the forest on bare volcanic rock. As you walk up the smooth, undulating surface, you come upon one after another strange, sweeping shapes you’d swear must have been sculpted by Antonio Gaudí or Salvador Dalí. Who else would put frozen waves of rock on top of a mountain? Of course, instead of breaking waves, you may see something quite different.

Whatever the case, please watch your step. There are no guard rails or rangers here to protect you and a false step could be fatal.  It’s not a hike for small children unless you’re carrying them in your backpack.

Owner of La Campana, Tino López, is always ready to guide visitors up the mountain.

Owner of La Campana, Tino López, is always ready to guide visitors up the mountain.

After soaking up this semi-psychedelic view, feast your eyes on the panorama below stretching into the distance. No matter how you felt when you started up the mountain, by the time you reach the top, you will surely be inundated with good vibrations! The length of this walk, by the way, is only 428 meters from your car to the peak of the hill.

I first stumbled upon La Campana some 30 years ago. Seeing so many smooth, clean, sweeping, baby-pink surfaces, I couldn’t help but wonder how long they would remain in that pristine state. But every time I have returned, including very recently, I have found the mountain free of trash and the wave-like formations entirely free of graffiti.

Credit for this must surely go to the local landowner, Tino López, whom we first met years ago when we stepped out of our cars and were hailed by a friendly voice — in English, mind you:

“Welcome! Do you want to visit La Campana?”

Don Tino then showed us the short and easy route to the base of the mountain, which we continue to use today. “My house is close by,” he reminded us before leaving. “Just tell people to shout my name when they arrive, and I’ll be glad to guide them.”

Another reason why La Campana is in such good condition — and the surrounding forest free of wildfires — is because the local headquarters of Conafor, the National Forestry Commission, is located only a few meters above the spot where you parked your car and the rangers are always vigilant.

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      Another view of La Campana.
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If you are interested in camping, there’s a nice flat area — no facilities of any kind — 500  meters east of the gate (at N20.37170 W104.59058). But a high-clearance vehicle may be needed to reach the spot. In the rainy season you’ll find a small brook next to your tent.

One advantage of camping is that you could visit La Campana both early and late in the day, when the light gives it very different looks. And don’t be surprised if you scare up a deer or two as you hike from the campsite to the peak.

If you’d like to visit “The Psychedelic Bell,” ask Google Maps to take you to “La Campana, Atenguillo, Jalisco.” Upon arriving, you will see a sign saying Puerto La Campana. Continue past the sign and make a very sharp right turn onto an easy-to-miss dirt road.

A few meters from the highway you can park in front of an iron gate. Just a few meters past the gate, look for the start of a trail on your right. Walk east uphill and you will soon be on an ever-more-obvious path that takes you directly to the base of the little mountain.

If you go up there with children, be sure to keep them tightly in hand because a strong gust of wind could blow a child right over the edge.

Enjoy the good vibrations!

The writer has lived near Guadalajara, Jalisco, for more than 30 years and is the author of A Guide to West Mexico’s Guachimontones and Surrounding Area and co-author of Outdoors in Western Mexico. More of his writing can be found on his website.

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Attention All Animal Lovers in Puerto Vallarta: Beware!

Attention All Animal Lovers in Puerto Vallarta: Beware!


August 5, 2019
When we moved from Canada we brought our one dog, Toby, with us. We had committed to being a one dog family (having had multiple animals in the past, and now having kids, we thought this the sane thing to do).

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico – One of the risks of living in Puerto Vallarta is that if you are an animal lover you are at high risk of increasing the size of your pack! The large number of street animals and the Facebook posts of those needing help all make you think that maybe there’s room for just one more family member.

And so it was with our family.

When we moved from Canada we brought our one dog, Toby, with us. We had committed to being a one dog family (having had multiple animals in the past, and now having kids, we thought this the sane thing to do). We got Toby when Justin was 4 and Tianna was 3.As it turned out Toby and Justin bonded and Toby soon became “Justin’s dog.” After a short while in Puerto Vallarta Tianna let us know that she would like to have a dog of her own to care for. As all good and not so rational parents eventually do, and after months of negotiation, we gave in.

I called our friend Lynette, who works with many of the animal organizations here in Puerto Vallarta, and started the process. Our requests were pretty specific and we expected the process to take awhile. It turned out that we were very naive. The following morning Lynette called to tell us that the Colina Spay and Neuter clinic had an abandoned and abused little poodle mix in need of a home. We picked up Estrella that day and with time and love she has become a great, albeit pampered, part of our family.

Fast forward 2 years … as we returned one evening from taking Toby and Estrella for a walk we came across an abandoned puppy at the door of our condo building. Clearly cold and scared we couldn’t leave him there for the night and took him in until we could find someone to adopt him. This may not have been the best plan, as the kids (okay and me), quickly became attached to Mikey (naming him was the kiss of death).And so Mikey, nicknamed ‘Diablo’ (lovingly, and for good reason) by those who knew him, became part of our family. We all convinced ourselves that this was it. No more animals. If only there was a procedure or drug that would make it so you can’t or don’t even think of taking more animals into your home.

Unfortunately when we recently found Bruno (or more accurately, when he found us), a neglected and sick dog eating out of the garbage on the street, we knew we couldn’t leave him there. We would just take him in, clean him up, feed him and take him to the vet. Then we would find him a good home. Well, and I know this is a shocker, Bruno is now part of our family.

And so you don’t think that I am the only one that has gone loco, I have friends in Puerto Vallarta with many more animal family members than us – some as many as 13 or 14.

So a warning to those animal lovers out there: It is almost impossible to not grow your family here!

Maybe we need to start an Animal Lovers Anonymous chapter, or maybe we just need to get over it and love our animal friends unconditionally as they do us, and realize that we wouldn’t have it any other way.

If you are interested in adopting a pet in Puerto Vallarta, or supporting the local organizations that do such great work here, these are just a few of the many:

• Colina Spay and Neuter Clinic
SPCA PV
Mex Pup
PuRR Project


Warren Brander is an expert real estate agent working with Remax in Puerto Vallarta. He can be reached at 322-200-2253, or by email at warren(at)remaxinpv.com. You can also check out his website for a great selection of Puerto Vallarta condos and homes for sale at WarrenBrander.com.To learn more about Warren Brander Real Estate, click HERE.

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Frolicking in the mud at Los Negritos, a natural wonder in Michoacán

Mexico Life
Locals say there are about 15 pools of boiling mud at Los Negritos.Locals say there are about 15 pools of boiling mud at Los Negritos.

Frolicking in the mud at Los Negritos, a natural wonder in Michoacán

Restorative mud pots and ‘fools’ fire’ at Los Negritos Lake near Lake Chapala

Anywhere else, Los Negritos Lake would have been turned into a recreational area and its curative and beautifying mud pots into an expensive spa.

But in El Platanal, Michoacán, the local people seem content to keep their natural wonders as they are rather than “developing” them.

If you happen to live anywhere near Lake Chapala, you should note that Los Negritos is practically in your back yard. If you love nature, you’ll be fascinated by the strange shapes and noises of its boiling mud pots and, if you suffer from arthritis, you may find an inexpensive — albeit dirty — possible solution to your problem.

I first heard about Los Negritos from José Luis Zavala, a biologist studying the fish in the area. He explained that this lagoon is unique because it contains all the aquatic creatures that used to be found in Lake Chapala.

“Laguna Los Negritos is actually hydraulically connected to Chapala,” said Zavala, “but it hasn’t been polluted. It’s a perfect laboratory for studying what Lake Chapala must have been like years ago.”

Four friends having fun in the mud.

Four friends having fun in the mud.

The lake is rumored to be 700 meters deep, but Zavala calls this a myth.

Tall shade trees and several roofed kiosks make the laguna shore an ideal picnic spot and the mud pots are located only 400 meters northwest of the lake, easy to reach on foot over perfectly flat ground.

The mud is black as black can be and the boiling pots are mostly less than a meter in diameter. So “Los Negritos” (The Little Black Ones) is a fitting name for the place. We came upon at least a dozen boiling, hissing, plopping mud pots interspersed with small bogs and occasional wallowing holes filled with cool mud that would bring joy to the heart of any hedonistic porker.

So much moisture, of course, has brought lots of birds to this area and you can see vermillion flycatchers, golden-fronted woodpeckers, house finches, egrets and if you’re lucky you may even spot a white owl.

“Lots of people have drowned in the lake,” a local rancher told us, apparently because it drops straight down from the shoreline with no shallow spots for waders. He said a few people have drowned in some of the cool mud pools whose rims look far more solid than they really are.

However, he assured us that there are great benefits from getting up to your neck in mud, particularly if you suffer from arthritis. One must, however, be careful not to confuse the cool mud with the hot sort.

Los Negritos Lake is connected to Lake Chapala, but is said to be clean.

Los Negritos Lake is connected to Lake Chapala, but is said to be clean.

“One of my horses sank into what seemed to be cool mud and the heat was so intense, the poor horse lost two of its hooves,” explained the ranchero.

Our informant also told us that geysers sometimes shoot several meters into the air, but when and where this might occur is impossible to predict. Finally, our rancher friend said it may be worth staying overnight among the mud pots because occasionally they produce “big green flames.”

We imagined this must refer to the legendary will o’ the wisp or ignis fatuus (fool’s fire), a ghostly light said to hover over bogs, supposedly leading one either to rich treasures or perdition. Science tells us the phenomenon is the result of gases released by decaying organic matter, an explanation that’s not nearly as much fun.

When my friend Mario Guerrero told me he was going camping at Lake Negritos, I asked him to check out those green flames. A few days later, he sent me the following message. I think it nicely captures the flavor of many weekend excursions in Mexico. Tongue in cheek, he described his trip as “nothing special or unusual.”

“You asked me how our trip to Los Negritos went and I can report that it was todo sin novedad (nothing special).

“We started out fine in the morning in two vehicles, but when we stopped to pick up our compañeros, one of the cars refused to start. However, by pushing it, we finally got it going.

The thick black mud is said to cure all sorts of ailments, especially arthritis.

The thick black mud is said to cure all sorts of ailments, especially arthritis.

“A few hours later, about half a kilometer from Villamar — the closest town to Los Negritos — my own car suddenly died. It was the gas pump — totally shot. So, we had to tow it to Villamar using my friend’s car which, unfortunately, again refused to start.

“However, we push-started it . . . and got to Villamar where we found only one mechanic and he was hopelessly drunk. However, he staggered over to my car, looked at the pump, said he could fix it, but declared that there was no way to get a new one the same day because the spare parts store was closed.

“So, we left my car . . . and told him he should fix it as soon as he sobered up. ‘Just leave me money for the pump,’ he replied, ‘and a bottle of tequila.’

“Then all six of us piled into the other car. It was pretty crowded . . . .

“Finally, we arrived at Los Negritos at 10:00pm It was so dark we couldn’t see a thing, not even the lake. All we wanted to do by then was hit the sack. We went to the first kiosk, but what did we find in the middle of it but a big coral snake about two meters long.

“. . . we chased it away, but nobody in the group wanted to sleep in that particular kiosk anymore, so we went off in the dark looking for another one. Like I said, nothing ‘unusual’ about this trip.

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      Testing out the beautifying powers of the black mud of Los Negritos.
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“. . . we set up our tents inside the next kiosk and now it was about midnight. Then I remembered I promised to check out those mud pots for you. Well, I had the GPS coordinates, so we had no choice but to traipse off into the darkness looking for them.

“Since we couldn’t see where we were going, we ended up walking through mud so thick and sticky it soon looked like we had cannonballs at the ends of our legs. Finally, we found the mud pots, turned off our lights and discovered absolutely nothing: no green flames, no mysteries, no ghosts. In fact, once again nothing unusual.

“. . . two hours later we finally crawled into our tents — when all hell broke loose.

“A hurricane-like wind hit us and suddenly the surface of the lake was churning with monster waves. We had to jump on top of our tents to hold them down. I swear that wind was blowing over 200 kilometers per hour, but it finally weakened a bit and at last we were getting ready to go to bed when — it started to rain.

“Well, the wind was still blowing pretty hard and, therefore, we had rain coming at us horizontally. The roof of the kiosk wasn’t doing us any good at all and in a few minutes all of us and our gear were soaking wet . . . We didn’t get to sleep until 3:00am. It was just another one of those nights — nothing special at all.

“The next day we found the mechanic as drunk as ever, but the new gas pump was installed perfectly.

Mud pots at Lago Los Negritos

“On our way home we stopped at a taco stand under a canopy and what happened? While we were eating, another sudden downpour hits us — more horizontal rain — and we walked out of the ‘restaurant’ soaked again.

“Finally, at 11:00pm we arrived home after a rather long weekend but, gracias a Dios, a weekend sin novedad, with nothing special to report.”

To visit Los Negritos — if my friend’s report doesn’t dissuade you — ask Google Maps for directions to “Lago Los Negritos, Michoacán.” The mud pots are located at N20.06285 W102.61573 and yes, you can input these coordinates into Google Maps.

If you prefer old-fashioned directions, see Volume One of Outdoors in Western Mexico. Driving time from the town of Ajijic on Lake Chapala is just over two hours.

The writer has lived near Guadalajara, Jalisco, for more than 30 years and is the author of A Guide to West Mexico’s Guachimontones and Surrounding Area and co-author of Outdoors in Western Mexico. More of his writing can be found on his website.

Charming Guachinango: shimmering beauty, mining legends in Sierra Occidental

Mexico Life
Guachinango’s plaza speaks of peace and prosperity.Guachinango’s plaza speaks of peace and prosperity.

Charming Guachinango: shimmering beauty, mining legends in Sierra Occidental

Forget the Taj Mahal, see this Jalisco town’s sparkling church instead

The little town of Guachinango lies hidden in the hills of the Sierra Occidental, 100 kilometers west of Guadalajara.

Mention Guachinango to most Mexicans and they will say, “Oh, yes, that delicious fish, huachinango.” Actually, the word Guachinango means “place surrounded by trees,” although today “place surrounded by mines,” might suit it better.

The rumors that occasionally reached me about this little town, however, did not refer to its mines, but to its quiet beauty. “Guachinango has the prettiest plaza in all Mexico,” I heard. And even: “Forget the Taj Mahal, you should see Guachinango’s sparkling church.”

So, one not-so-fine day during the rainy season, my wife and I drove off to see the little town, which is less than a two-hour drive from Guadalajara. We were truly impressed by the incredible beauty of that church, which is covered with hundreds of thousands of pieces of broken porcelain plates and saucers, and we were utterly charmed by the quiet beauty of the plaza.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t take pictures that day because the sky was filled with roiling black clouds and we couldn’t visit the local museum because it was a Sunday.

Detail of the porcelain-covered church.

Detail of the porcelain-covered church.

So, we decided to come back on a weekday in December in the morning when the sun lights up the dazzling façade of the church and takes your breath away. After enjoying the overall view, we examined the church wall up close. The shards of plates, cups and knickknacks have their own stories to tell — in Spanish, English and even Chinese!

When you step inside the church, you come upon the first clue as to how such a small community could afford such a magnificent church. The altar is covered with gold and it’s the real thing, the product of the many mines in the hills just outside town.

For a fine view of those hills, you can ascend an extremely narrow, one-person-at-a-time circular staircase — built in the 1800s — which takes you up to the bell tower where you can wander about the roof, if you dare.

As for the plaza, the flower gardens, benches and kiosks are laid out in a picture-perfect way. I’m surprised film crews are not at work in this town every day; you couldn’t ask for a better movie set.

Next we visited La Casa de Cultura, which has a large, modern museum on the upper floor. Here we discovered that the original town of Guachinango — located a few kilometers from the present site — was a well-organized indigenous community long before the Spaniards arrived. They grew corn, calabash, beans and chiles, spoke Náhuatl, had their own distinctive style of ceramics and buried their dead in deep shaft tombs.

The Spaniards arrived in 1525, but the “modern” history of Guachinango actually began in 1545 when Juan Fernández de Hijar “found a very good silver mine” in what is now the center of town and a new community gradually formed around it.

Altar plated with gold from the town’s nearby mines.

Altar plated with gold from the town’s nearby mines.

This must have been a very large mine because no sooner was it in operation than “300 indigenas and nine negroes rebelled and ran off into the hills to hide,” apparently none too happy about being enslaved. The Spaniards, of course, squelched the miners’ futile grasp at freedom and dignity.

By 1550 the Province of Guachinango had a grand total of 215 mines, including El Barqueño, which local officials say “is thought to have had the most important gold reserves in all Mexico.”

Naturally, we were now curious about Guachinango’s mines and, when we asked about them in the town hall, a young man named Nacho immediately offered to show us a few. He then recruited a friend, who in turn commandeered a truck and off we went. The first place we visited were the ruins of a big mill only five minutes from town where ore was ground into powder. These ruins are just off the highway and very easy to reach. Just follow the instructions below.

From the mill, we walked along an old track shaded by thick pines and oaks until we came to a deep, dark tunnel which disappeared into the hillside. We poked around the entrance, hoping to find a piece of gold-bearing ore, but refrained from entering the shaft as old mines are infamous for falling beams and unseen deep pits.

After that I thought we’d be heading back to town, but our enthusiastic guides said, “Oh, there’s another mine just up ahead.” That one, of course, was not far from yet another and we soon traversed half of Cerro La Catarina until at last we came to El Aguacero Mine, the site of a famous incident.

Here, in 1952, Don Salomé Hernández was working deep inside the mine, 50 meters from the entrance, when the tunnel collapsed, trapping him. During the following days, rescuers could hear him banging rocks together to indicate he was alive. After seven days, he was rescued, but emerged in very weak condition.

View of the town from Cerro la Catarina.

View of the town from Cerro la Catarina.

Legend has it that he had managed to survive all that time by eating the new leather straps he had recently attached to his huaraches. As for water, they say he had none during his entire ordeal.

On his way to the hospital in Guadalajara, according to our guides, he opened his eyes and said, “I had horrible visions there in the darkness, but I’ve been reborn . . . thank God!”

After visiting the mines, our guides drove us to the very top of Cerro La Catarina from which we could enjoy a magnificent view of Guachinango and the Sierra Occidental.

Upon our return to town, we followed our guides’ advice and went shopping first for the very tasty local bread and then for bolitas, a chewy candy made from guavas, but infinitely tastier than any other we’ve come upon — the makers say their formula is a family secret. Bolitas are available from just about any grocery store in town.

Guachinango is a bit remote, but the roads leading to it are in great shape and you’ll have no problem getting there in any sort of vehicle. Try to go in the morning to get the best view of the sparkling church facade.

To reach the center of Guachinango, ask Google Maps to take you to “Kiosco De La Plaza Civica, Guachinango.”

If you would like to visit the old mill, drive back out of Guachinango the way you came in and turn right (south) onto a dirt road two kilometers from the plaza. Follow this 330 meters and park in front of the home of Sebastián and Jesús, two old gambusinos (prospectors).

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Ask them if you can visit the ruins of the Molino (mill), which lie 250 meters south of their house.

Guachinango is picturesque and historic Mexico at its best.

The writer has lived near Guadalajara, Jalisco, for more than 30 years and is the author of A Guide to West Mexico’s Guachimontones and Surrounding Area and co-author of Outdoors in Western Mexico. More of his writing can be found on his website.

8 reefs discovered off coast of Veracruz, Mexico

University of Veracruz researcher Ortiz.University of Veracruz researcher Ortiz.

8 reefs discovered off coast of Veracruz

Six of the reefs are coral, said a University of Veracruz researcher

Researchers from the University of Veracruz and the Boca del Río Institute of Technology, supported by environmentalists and local fishermen, have discovered eight reefs with over 100 previously unknown reef structures off the coast of Veracruz.

University researcher Leonardo Ortiz Lozano said the reefs cover a surface area of 1,100 hectares from the municipality of Tamiahua to the Tecolutla river, and from the municipality of Alvarado to the mouth of the Papaloapan river.

He added that the biggest, dubbed Corazones Reef by its discoverers, is close to five kilometers long and 700 meters wide, making it the longest and northernmost reef in Mexico discovered to date.

The Los Gallos Reef and the Camaronera Reef also stand out for their ecosystems, which contain marine sponges, algae and some invertebrates. The scientist said that of the eight reefs, six are coral while two others are non-coral, which for the most part are not as diverse as other reefs.

“We are talking about reefs that are 18, 30 and 40 meters deep, which means that they are not as diverse as the reefs we are familiar with, such as the Sacrificios Reef and the Isla Verde Reef, all of those. But at the same time, they have a lot of sediment. They have a low diversity of coral and fishing prevents them from having a larger diversity of commercially important fish.”

The discovery of the reefs could also have major implications for the area’s commercial development. Ortiz Lozano explained that since the newly-discovered reefs have not yet been recognized by Mexican authorities, they are not protected and are at risk of being destroyed by oil and gas drilling and related activities in the Gulf of Mexico.

“The southern Texas-Tuxpan pipeline passes right over the most important reef we discovered, which is the Corazones Reef.”

Ximena Ramos Pedrueza, Gulf area director of the environmental organization Cemda, said the organization is pushing for the reefs to be recognized by the Commission for Natural Protected Areas (Conanp) by including them on maps of protected areas, which would grant the reefs some protection from major industry.

Source: Milenio (sp), Al Calor Político.com (sp), La Jornada (sp)

WALMART IN MEXICO LAUNCHES GROCERY ORDERS VIA WHATSAPP

WALMART IN MEXICO LAUNCHES GROCERY ORDERS VIA WHATSAPP

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WhatsApp, the free text-messaging service owned by social media platform Facebook, is ubiquitous throughout Mexico. Superama shoppers can text an order to a WhatsApp number run by Walmart, known in Mexico as Walmart de Mexico.

A Reuters reporter tried the service on Monday, sending a photo of a handwritten grocery list. A company

representative responded immediately, punctuating responses with smiley-face and winky-face emojis.

The representative said Superama charges 49 pesos ($2.55) for delivery within 90 minutes, or 39 pesos ($2.03) for a later delivery time, and would accept payment in cash or by card upon delivery.

Superama represents about 92 of Walmart’s 2,459 stores in Mexico, which is the U.S. retailer’s largest overseas market by store count. Superama already takes orders via its website and a Superama app, as well as through Cornershop, a third-party delivery app that sells goods for a variety of other stores.

Walmart’s plan to buy Cornershop, which operates in Mexico and Chile, for $225 million, was blocked earlier this month by Mexico’s competition regulator, which said that Walmart could not guarantee an even playing field for rivals also using the app.

($1 = 19.1885 Mexican pesos)

Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Leslie Adler

30,000 homes will use electricity generated by new solar plant

The inauguration of new solar plant in Progreso, Yucatán.The inauguration of new solar plant in Progreso, Yucatán.

30,000 homes will use electricity generated by new solar plant

Yucatán predicted to be self-sufficient in renewable energy in 3-4 years

A new solar plant in Yucatán has the capacity to produce up to 18 megawatts of electricity and serve up to 5.3% of the state’s households.

The San Ignacio solar plant, which covers 66 hectares in the municipality of Progreso, was inaugurated Friday by Governor Mauricio Vila Dosal. The Chinese company Jinko Solar invested US $30 million to build the plant.

Energy generated by the plant will be consumed in Progreso and the state capital, Mérida.

Speaking at the inauguration, Governor Vila said he hopes Yucatán will continue to invest in renewable energy infrastructure.

“With this kind of action, we’re putting Yucatán on the map as a destination for investment,” he said. “We’re going to keep promoting our state in Mexico and around the world, and above all, we’re going to keep making renewable energy projects a priority.”

Vila added that in addition to the San Ignacio plant, 24 other renewable energy projects are under way in Yucatán, representing investment of as much as $4.5 billion.

“Yucatán consumes 900 megawatts, and I calculate that in three or four years, we will be generating 3,400 megawatts of clean energy,” he said. “We would be the only state in the country to be self-sufficient, and generating more renewable energy than we consume.”

Manuel Mendizábal Quemada, head of Jinko Solar in Mexico, told the newspaper Diario de Yucatán that the company has plans for another plant in state.

“We’re about to start construction on another plant, in Valladolid, which will be bigger,” he said. “We’re investing $100 million in it, and it will generate 79 megawatts of renewable energy. Those are all the plans we have at the moment, but we could build even more plants in the future.”

Mendizábal explained that the San Ignacio plant uses “tracker” technology, which allows its 71,000 panels to follow the light of the sun and absorb more energy.

Founded in 2006, Jinko Solar is the biggest solar panel company in the world. Mexico is Jinko’s second-largest export market, representing over 10% of the company’s total revenue.

Source: El Universal (sp), El Diario de Yucatán (sp), Milenio (sp)