Grass-roots glass crushing reduces impact of recycled bottles in Baja Sur

Claire Donahue, the “glass lady,Claire Donahue, the “glass lady,” spearheaded a glass-crushing initiative.

Grass-roots glass crushing reduces impact of recycled bottles in Baja Sur

Citizens step in to deal with waste management problems

Like many Mexican communities, the twin towns of La Ventana and El Sargento in Baja California Sur suffer from serious waste management problems. The community’s single garbage truck breaks down regularly and its inadequate landfill is reaching capacity.

The two contiguous towns sit at the apex of pristine La Ventana Bay on the Gulf of California. They are blessed with scenic beauty, good weather and El Norte, the steady wind blowing across the Bay in winter that makes for perfect kiteboarding and windsurfing.

In fact, La Ventana Bay is regularly listed as either the No. 1 or No. 2 destination in the world for practitioners of these sports.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that the area is suffering from rapid growth. Its infrastructure, including waste management, simply isn’t up to dealing with the increasing population and business activity.

Five years ago, this led a group of residents to found the non-profit No Más Basura (NMB), or No More Garbage, to develop a program to remove recyclables from the waste stream. Not only does it offer a popular weekly recycling event for the community, it’s actively engaged in educational programs K-12 to help raise a new generation of recyclers and to train local businesses in recycling methods. The group also organizes several annual community-wide clean-up days.

glass crusher quickly reduces a weekly bottle collection to crushed glass.

Though quiet as a kitchen blender, the crusher quickly reduces a weekly bottle collection to crushed glass.

One major focus is minimizing the impact of Easter Week on local beaches as some 5,000 people, many from nearby La Paz, gather to party for three or four days. In addition to organizing trash removal and recycling, NMB fields ambassadors from local schools who patrol the beaches to ask campers to take home as much of their trash as possible and to dispose properly of the rest in provided receptacles.

NMB is confronting the two major problems that dog virtually all recycling efforts — raising money to fund the operation and what to do with the recyclables once collected. Recyclers might think: “Good for me. I’ve gotten rid of that stuff in the right way.” But it’s doubtful that too much thought is given to where “that stuff” is going and how.

Most recyclable material is of little, if any, value. So, creative ways must often be found to make use of it. Fortunately, plastics, aluminum and metals are marketable. NMB gives all the plastic to the local schools for them to sell in La Paz. The aluminum and mixed metals are sold to a recycler and the proceeds help buy gas for transportation.

Cardboard is another matter. Since the Chinese banned imports of waste cardboard, the market has collapsed. Prices are so low in La Paz that it’s not worth the gas to take it there. However, NMB is looking into ways to get the commodity to the recycler without making a special trip. Another solution is providing cardboard to Rancho Cacachilas, a local sustainable resort, where it is used as mulch for its extensive organic gardening.

Styrofoam is another significant problem for recyclers. NMB does not accept Styrofoam items such as plates, cups and food containers, but a significant amount in the form of packing materials is provided to a local manufacturer of “eco blocks,” some 80% of which are polystyrene. Eco blocks are used in construction, replacing standard concrete blocks.

Unique to this area, because of unusually high kiteboarding and windsurfing activity, is the presence of discarded sails made of virtually indestructible ripstop polyester. To take sails out of the waste stream, NMB offers them to a local seamstress who manufactures colorful, strong, reusable shopping bags and purses. This also helps keep plastic bags out of the landfill.

Samples of crushed glass.

Samples of crushed glass.

But one the biggest headaches facing recyclers is what to do with glass bottles. Each week NMB collects as many as 3,000 bottles — primarily beer, wine and liquor. There is, however, no market for the commodity.

Recycling processors are increasingly reluctant to crush glass for reuse by bottle manufacturers because so much of the glass they receive is contaminated. The cost for removing labels, eliminating contaminates and cleaning glass prior to crushing is prohibitive.

Enter the NMB “glass lady.”

Claire Donahue, a diminutive seasonal resident of La Ventana and NMB member, met with program manager Javier Ponce about two years ago to discuss the glass issue. Claire had some experience in creating art glass and was intrigued by the challenge of dealing with the huge weekly bottle collection. She and Javier decided NMB should crush its own bottles and find local uses for the product.

After doing the necessary research, she located and purchased a glass crusher for NMB to use. It sits in a palapa on her beachfront property where she crushes bottles from each weekly collection.

“Meanwhile, we are moving ahead with plans to build a bodega for the glass crusher on 1.65 hectares on the outskirts of town.”

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La Ventana/El Sargento

Label removal was the first hurdle. Claire discovered that labels from most beverage companies are not easily removed. Many are virtually impossible. These “dirty” bottles are crushed to be used by local builders and homeowners for drainage fields or construction footers as a partial replacement for the sand or gravel.

But even if this dirty crushed glass goes to the landfill, it’s still a win since it takes significantly less space than uncrushed glass.

Claire has discovered about a dozen manufacturer’s bottles whose labels are easily removed after soaking. They are washed and turned into clean glass for use in concrete countertops, floors and walls. For countertops, for example, various combinations of colored glass are added to the concrete and ground smooth. Local builder Édgar Ramírez is offering this alternative to customers and experimenting with other uses.

Clean crushed glass is also suitable for decorating pavers, benches, water features and other landscaping applications including mulch. The commodity may also be used as a filler in concrete and road paving.

From an environmental perspective, Claire notes that glass bottles, despite being overtaken by plastic containers, are a better choice. It takes twice as much fossil fuel to make a plastic bottle than a comparable glass container and, in the process, plastic bottle manufacturing releases five times the greenhouse gases and requires 17 times as much water compared with plastic. And they help decrease the plague of plastic going into the oceans.

As soon as practical, she would like to turn the operation over to a third party, either a local entrepreneur or an educator interested in creating an internship program for local high school kids.

Interns would provide part of the labor and proceeds from the sale of the glass and products they’d create could go to a charity of their choosing, a scholarship fund or even back into the program. The internship would also teach many general skills important to anyone entering the workforce.

“There is a lot of excitement about the potential for raw crushed glass as well as the products that can be made locally with it. We hope that a successful project will inspire others in their creative treatment of ‘waste’ for the betterment of our community.

“A community like La Ventana/El Sargento is a great place to be involved in a project of this sort since you really feel like you can make a difference.”

The writer is a newspaper and magazine journalist, photojournalist and the author of two books.

If tequila is king, raicilla is the queen: a visit to a rustic distillery in Jalisco

Making raicilla at Rancho NuevoMaking raicilla at Rancho Nuevo: after heating the oven, the fire is extinguished and the piñas are thrown inside.

If tequila is king, raicilla is the queen: a visit to a rustic distillery in Jalisco

Dry-baked agave gives this mezcal a distinctive flavor

“Have you ever seen how they make raicilla, John?” asked my friend JP Mercado. Well, I had been told that raicilla was a kind of moonshine made in the mountains, but beyond that I knew nothing, so when JP offered to take me to a taberna (rustic distillery) where they make it, I signed up on the spot.

“And where is that taberna located?” I asked my friend.

“In a place called Rancho Nuevo, which is 70 kilometers east of Puerto Vallarta,” Mercado replied, but when he sent me the coordinates, I stared at my map of Jalisco in disbelief. Rancho Nuevo appeared to be situated right smack in the middle of a huge empty space — with no roads visible — identified only as Sierra Jolapa, a mountain range I had never heard of.

“Well, well,” I thought, “this already sounds interesting.”

Before heading for the taberna in the hills, I tried to learn what I could about raicilla.

JP Mercado with the Maximiliana agave.

JP Mercado with the Maximiliana agave.

I found out that the mezcal industry — according researchers Zizumbo and Colunga — was probably born in 1612 in the state of Colima when the conquistadores cut down all the coconut palms on the coast in an effort to eliminate the production of a distilled spirit called tuba or vino de cocos.

The thirsty population then turned to agaves. When the Spaniards eventually got around to taxing these spirits, local people came up with a tale to tell the tax collector: “We aren’t making our drink from the piña or agave heart (which was taxable) but from its root (raicilla)” — which, of course, is the very same thing.

Finally came the day for me to visit the raicilla taberna. Early one morning JP and his wife Ana picked me up. As we drove, Ana, who had grown up in that mysterious Sierra Jolapa, told me that while traveling around Mexico and the world, she would present new friends with a gift of raicilla, knowing they would surely never have heard of it.

“But everyone who tried it was pleasantly surprised at how good it tasted and would want more.”

Eventually the owners of bars and hotels also began to ask the Mercados about this “vino del cerro” and they began to look into the question of permits and regulations that might allow the raicilla of Rancho Nuevo to be marketed commercially, as is tequila.

“Wait a minute!” I interjected. “Exactly what is the difference between raicilla and tequila?”

The distillery is nestled in the hills of the Sierra Jolapa.

The distillery is nestled in the hills of the Sierra Jolapa.

JP told me I might as well add sotol, bacanora, tepemete and bingarrote to my list. All of these beverages, I found out, are distilled spirits made from the juice of a cooked agave, so all of them are mezcales (actually, this is incorrect. Sotol is made from a member of the asparagus family).

Tequila is made only from the blue agave, while raicilla can be made from any one of five agaves, and so on down the list.

To complicate things, territory comes into play here. The word tequila can only be used for blue agave spirits produced in Jalisco or parts of four other states. “The denomination of origin for raicilla was unclear up to very recently,” JP told me, “but now the product is protected and can only be made in Jalisco.

“Meanwhile, we have obtained federal, state and local permits to produce our own brand of raicilla, which is called La Reina, made only in Rancho Nuevo where we are now headed.”

From Guadalajara we drove west and then north, through ever higher hills covered with oaks and feathery pine trees, perhaps Lumholtz’s pine. Following steep, narrow dirt roads we skirted the edge of a deep valley bordered on the other side by gorgeous red cliffs.

At the end of a three-hour drive, we reached La Taberna de la Reina, situated alongside a brook bubbling with clear, clean, drinkable water.

Raicilla La Reina, “queen of mezcales.”

Raicilla La Reina, “queen of mezcales.”

Here we were welcomed by the maestro of the taberna, Don Julio Topete Becerra, who carries on a tradition passed from father to son. Right from the spot where we stood, we could see every stage in the raicilla-making process.

The hillside above us was covered with Maximiliana agaves, which have very broad leaves. To my surprise and delight, I learned that these agaves come from seeds, not clones (as do tequila agaves), so the flowers are fertilized by bats, suggesting that every bottle of raicilla deserves a “bat-friendly” sticker.

After six to eight years, the agave is mature. Its pencas are removed (often with an axe) and the root is broken into several pieces. The next stage is cooking, which turned out a bit different from what I had seen at tequila distilleries.

The oven is made of adobe with walls half a meter thick. A hot fire is started inside the oven and allowed to burn for six hours. Once the oven walls are hot, the coals are pulled out with a long-handled rake and the chunks of piña are thrown inside. Immediately, the two openings of the oven are closed with big blocks of adobe and sealed tightly with clay.

So the agave root is not steamed or smoked, but dry-baked, giving raicilla its own distinctive taste.

The most unusual procedure in making raicilla is the one that comes next. The sweet, juicy mezcal is not run through a crusher or under a stone wheel. Instead, it is placed in a long, hollowed-out tree trunk (oak) and mashed by hand using heavy wooden pounders with long handles.

This is back-breaking work and if you visit the place, they will dare you to try doing it for just five minutes.

Once the canoe-shaped trough is filled with juice, the gooey, fibrous mixture is removed using buckets and poured into wooden barrels for fermentation.

The next stage, as in tequila-making, is distillation. This is easy to understand at La Reina, where you can see the final product dripping from the end of a long copper tube, most of which is coiled inside a barrel filled with water.

The final stage of production is aging. Don Julio dipped into a barrel and I got my first taste of properly made raicilla. What a surprise!

“This is really good!” I exclaimed. “It can hold its own against any tequila, in my book.”

“Now you can see why Ana’s friends were always pestering her for more,” said JP. “In these hills, they say, if tequila is king, raicilla is the queen.”

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      Ana Mercado tastes raicilla flavored with cuastecomate gourds.
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If you would like to know more, or to visit the taberna in Rancho Nuevo, just leave a message at Raicilla La Reina. You’ll discover that both JP Mercado and his wife Ana speak excellent English.

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.

Michoacán plant’s nopal biogas will power half of municipality’s vehicles

Nopalimex plant in Michoacán.Nopalimex plant in Michoacán.

Michoacán plant’s nopal biogas will power half of municipality’s vehicles

Nopalimex’s product is 40% cheaper than gasoline

A new chapter in a decade-long history of a Michoacán business commenced yesterday in Zitácuaro when the first industrial plant in Mexico dedicated to obtaining biogas and generating electricity from nopal, or prickly pear cactus, began operations.

The Nopalimex plant is expected to produce three million liters of biogas every year, enough to meet 50% of the fuel needs of the vehicle fleet operated by the municipality of Zitácuaro.

The company says that a cubic meter of the biogas it produces is equivalent to a liter of gasoline, but is 40% cheaper.

While the main focus of the new plant will be to obtain biogas and electricity, some byproducts will include ethanol, nopal for human consumption, humus and nitrogen-rich water that can be used as a fertilizer.

Governor Silvano Aureoles Conejo said at the plant’s opening ceremony that more municipalities and producers will be encouraged to participate in the innovative energy production initiative.

“I have been promoting this great idea, that we can create a green park from Cuitzeo Lake to Lázaro Cárdenas where we can grow nopal and install several biogas plants along the Siglo XXI highway, boosting the use of this resource,” he said.

The governor’s intention is to have all public transportation vehicles in the state convert to biogas engines, a process that costs between 25,000 and 30,000 pesos (US $1,300 and 1,500) per vehicle.

Source: El Financiero (sp)

AMLO celebrates Senate vote to abolish the fuero

'No more protection for corrupt politicians,' reads the sign of a supporter of eliminating the fuero.‘No more protection for corrupt politicians,’ reads the sign of a supporter of eliminating the fuero.

AMLO celebrates Senate vote to abolish the fuero

Eliminating protection from prosecution for politicians moves a step closer

President López Obrador expressed satisfaction this morning with the Senate’s approval of two constitutional amendments that end immunity from prosecution for the president, senators and deputies by eliminating what is known as the fuero,

Yesterday, a nearly unanimous vote by 111 senators approved the amendments, under which the president and members of Congress can be held accountable for treason, corruption, election fraud and other serious crimes such as homicide, rape, kidnapping, involvement with organized crime and human trafficking.

Only one senator voted against the initiative.

The president called the decision, which he first proposed to Congress in December, a landmark.

“This has not appeared [in the law] since the constitution of 1824. With these amendments, after being ratified by the House of Deputies and state congresses, it will be possible to bring criminal charges against a president.”

The president urged lawmakers in the lower house to seize the opportunity to expand accountability even further.

“Since this reform is going on to the Chamber of Deputies, I hope they will add [a clause] so that state governors can be held accountable in this way, too, so that we can put an end to corruption and impunity.”

After a vote by deputies the amendments will need approval by a simple majority of the states, or 17 of the 32, before becoming law.

Source: El Financiero (sp), Excélsior (sp)

More and more Baby Boomers are moving to Mexico for retirement

More and more Baby Boomers are moving to Mexico for retirement

(Photo: Google)

Morgan Hill, California – A new “Expats In Mexico” online survey of people who are considering moving to Mexico found that 81 percent of Baby Boomer respondents said they will retire in Mexico, nearly 52 percent within two years.

“It’s not surprising that so many Baby Boomers, primarily from the U.S. and Canada, are considering retiring in Mexico,” said Robert Nelson, Expats In Mexico co-founder and author of Boomers in Paradise – Living in Puerto Vallarta. “I discovered this trend 11 years ago while researching my book and it has just continued to pick up steam.”

The Mexican government reported over 1.2 million expats were living in Mexico through 2017, the latest figure available. The 2000 Mexican census data showed just under 540,000 expats in Mexico. Americans represented over 80 percent of all expats living in Mexico two years ago, nearly 900,000.

Retirement is the main reason why Boomers and all respondents want to move to Mexico. Both groups also rated cost of living and better climate as top reasons to move.

“Mexico as a retirement destination for Baby Boomers makes sense,” Nelson said. “According to a recent report by the Stanford Center on Longevity, U.S. Baby Boomers hold less wealth, are deeper in debt and will face higher expenses than retirees a decade older than them. Why not live better in a nicer climate?”

But all is not perfect south of the border. About 45 percent of all respondents and Boomers say security issues in Mexico might be a concern for them. Lack of Spanish language skills and quality of healthcare were less important considerations.

Both Baby Boomers and all respondents selected Puerto Vallarta as their destination of choice, followed by the Lake Chapala area and Los Cabos. About 38 percent of all respondents and Boomers chose a wide variety of other locations in Mexico.

The self-selected online survey was completed by 337 respondents in January and February 2019. Respondents were primarily Americans and Canadians.

You can find more survey results at ExpatsInMexico.com, an online magazine designed for both expats currently living in Mexico and aspiring expats considering moving to Mexico.

Source: ExpatsInMexico.com

Mexico overtakes Canada, moves into 12th place among top exporters

Mexico's export growth placed it ahead of Canada last year.Mexico’s export growth placed it ahead of Canada last year. EL ECONOMISTA

Mexico overtakes Canada, moves into 12th place among top exporters

It is the first time that Mexico’s exports have exceeded those of Canada

The value of exports from Mexico increased by 10.1% in 2018 to US $450.92 billion, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Inegi), while its Canadian counterpart, Statistics Canada, said that Canadian exports totaled US $449.85 billion, an increase of 6.9% compared to 2017.

It marks the first time that the value of Mexican exports has exceeded that of Canada.

With total exports of just under US $2.5 trillion, China was easily the world’s biggest exporter last year, according to World Trade Organization (WTO) data.

The United States and Germany were the second and third biggest exporters, with total foreign sales of US $1.66 trillion and $1.55 trillion respectively.

Japan, the Netherlands, South Korea, Hong Kong, France, Italy, the United Kingdom and Belgium took out positions 4th to 11th.

The biggest contributors to Mexico’s export earnings were cars, petroleum, computers, auto parts, trucks, electrical conductors and televisions.

Mexico achieved strong export growth in 2018 even as tough negotiations to reach a new North American trade agreement continued to take place, creating uncertainty about the future of its relationship with its largest trading partner, the United States.

The leaders of Mexico, the United States and Canada finally signed a new trade pact on November 30 but it won’t take effect until it has been ratified by the legislatures of the three countries.

Both Mexico and Canada are pushing for the removal of the United States’ tariffs on steel and aluminum before moving to ratify the agreement.

Source: El Economista (sp) 

The town of Tequila’s best-kept secret: the elusive Blue Falls

The pool at the foot of the second waterfall at Blue Falls.The pool at the foot of the second waterfall at Blue Falls.

The town of Tequila’s best-kept secret: the elusive Blue Falls

It was a waterfall you’d expect to find in the Garden of Eden, wide and wispy, with a sunlit blue-green pool at its foot

Besides being the home of Mexico’s most famous drink, the town of Tequila was added to the list of the country’s Pueblos Mágicos, or magical towns, in 2003.

Although Tequila’s streets are not exactly quaint, it is surrounded by extraordinary natural beauty. On one side of town you have the massive Volcán de Tequila rising to 2,920 meters (9,580 feet) above sea level, while directly on the other side of the city lie the sheer walls of a great canyon 600 meters deep.

While cold — if not icy — winds blow at the top of the volcano, exuberant tropical vegetation flourishes on the hot and humid floor of Barranca La Toma.

Many years ago I managed to climb to the top of the far wall of La Toma canyon. Dripping with sweat and covered with dust, I gazed across the lush valley filled with the kind of jungle you’d only expect on the shores of the Amazon, and there on the opposite side, directly below the town of Tequila, I could just barely make out a tall, wispy waterfall.

“Wouldn’t it be nice to be standing at the bottom of that!” I told my friends, and thus began my 20-year search for that distant, beckoning cascade.

The trail to the falls, through fields of blue agaves.

The trail to the falls through fields of blue agaves.

We soon learned that we what we were looking for was called Los Azules, the Blue Falls, but nobody seemed to know exactly how to get to them.

Fifteen years later, we got a clue. “You know that waterfall you’re always talking about — Los Azules? Well, I heard that the people down at Santo Toribio know how to reach it.”

I talked my wife into joining me and off we went down a very steep road to a tiny settlement at the bottom of Barranca La Toma, which boasts a grandiose church in the middle of the jungle. This is the shrine of Santo Toribio, a martyr killed in the Cristeros War.

After visiting the saint’s spartan lodgings, we mentioned Los Azules to some local children. Their eyes lit up. “We know the way — vámonos!” they said, practically dragging us on to a narrow path through an exotic landscape. Well, the path got steeper and steeper, the humidity got higher and higher, the mud got slipperier and slipperier and all of a sudden we were overlooking a chocolate-colored roaring river.

“Now what?” we asked our little guides.

“We have two choices,” they replied. “We can swim or we can try to cross the bridge.”

Canyoneer Luis Medina checks out the view atop fall No. 2.

Canyoneer Luis Medina checks out the view atop fall No. 2.

Well, the “bridge” was a precariously balanced tree trunk spanning the river which, by the way, smelled anything but inviting. Admitting that our adventurous spirit was was not quite up to the standards of those little country kids, we gave up.

That 20-year search for an easy way to reach Los Azules ended quite by accident when I bumped into canyoneering guide Luis Medina.

“John, that waterfall you’ve been calling ‘elusive’ is only a half-hour walk from Tequila — and, guess what, it’s not one waterfall but three — and all of them very impressive. I’ll show you the trail this coming Friday.”

A few days later, Luis picked me up and off we drove to Tequila. We parked only one kilometer from the highway and began walking through gorgeous fields of blue-green agaves, along a road dotted with chunks of high-quality black obsidian.

At the end of the road we had been following we started down a narrow, steep trail surrounded by jungly growth. Suddenly we came to a clearing and there, far below us in all its splendor, lay the huge valley of La Toma, framed by high, red canyon walls.

“Welcome to the Machu Pichu of Tequila,” announced Luis.

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    Taking a shower at the foot of fall No. 3, 70 meters high.
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Fifteen minutes later, we arrived at the kind of waterfall I would expect to find in the Garden of Eden. It was 40 meters tall, wide and wispy, with a sunlit blue-green pool at its foot that beckoned us to jump right in for a swim — which, of course, we wasted no time in doing. The water, by the way, comes from springs near the top of the canyon and is perfectly clean.

To our surprise, the pool temperature was neither hot nor cold, but pleasantly cool. As we swam and played in the water, dozens of blue and red dragonflies danced in the air above us, exactly like the birds and butterflies in a Walt Disney movie.

In fact, the whole scene was more like a dream than reality and to top it off, we had this paradise all to ourselves the whole time we were there, which was most of the day.

“Luis,” I said, “this is heaven! In the U.S.A. this would be a national park with no-swimming signs and hundreds of tourists filing by just to get a glimpse of paradise.”

“You know,” replied Luis, “that’s just what my clients tell me when I bring them here — these falls are even more enticing when you’re rappelling down them.”

Luis mentioned that the flow of water in Los Azules is more or less the same all year round and also during storms. This means you don’t have to worry about flash floods in this canyon, as you must in many others.

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I have been describing waterfall No. 2, which is very attractive and relatively easy to reach. There are, of course, a grand total of three, which explains why the name of the place is Los Azules and not El Azul.

The first fall is around 60 meters high but only operates right after a storm while the third is 70 meters tall and, like the second, runs all year round.

My Los Azules Falls trail aims to get you to the bottom of the second waterfall, but GPS coverage is poor in this part of La Toma canyon and you might end up at any one of the three falls. Don’t worry: each of them is an adventure!

If you’d like to have Los Azules all to yourself, visit this site on a workday, not on the weekend (especially Sunday), when a lot of people from Tequila hike down to take a dip. Whatever you do, don’t forget your swimsuit and a camera!

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.

Salud! National Tequila Day is coming up on Saturday

Next Saturday is National Tequila Day.Next Saturday is National Tequila Day.

Salud! National Tequila Day is coming up on Saturday

The celebration begins today in Guadalajara with Tequila Cocktail Week

Restaurants and tequila producers in Guadalajara, Jalisco, are preparing to say “Salud!” and celebrate the first-ever Tequila Cocktail Week.

Following the approval last year by the federal Congress to celebrate National Tequila Day on the third Saturday of March, 25 “iconic” restaurants and 15 tequila producers have joined together to celebrate for an entire week, starting today and concluding on Saturday.

The president of the National Chamber of the Tequila Industry (CNIT) said that special tequila-based cocktails will be prepared in the restaurants with 40 different brands provided by producers.

Twenty-four amateur mixologists from around the country will also get the chance to show their prowess in a cocktail contest.

Visitors to the capital of Jalisco will have the opportunity to visit the Tequila Route and the Altos de Jalisco, the two main tequila-producing regions in the state.

“The celebration of this date makes the industry and the whole country proud; our beverage is found in over 120 countries, and at least 70,000 people are involved in its production, a sign of its importance in the cultural and economic development of our country,” said Rodolfo González González.

National tequila production last year was 300 million liters, 222 million of which were exported. It has been predicted that tequila will be the second fastest growing alcoholic beverage in terms of sales growth internationally by 2021, behind whisky.

Source: El Economista (sp)

Exploring the Río Verde canyon: high cliffs and hot showers

Mexico Life
Río Verde: chocolate-colored in the rainy season.The forgotten Río Verde is chocolate-colored in the rainy season.

Exploring the Río Verde canyon: high cliffs and hot showers

Isolated Jalisco river offers wonderful hot springs and a spectacular canyon

The Río Verde could be considered western Mexico’s “forgotten river,” principally because it runs along the bottom of a long canyon 300 to 500 meters deep, accessible only via a few steep, rough, dirt roads.

It is so forgotten that I couldn’t find its length anywhere, so I made my own measurements and, “according to Pint,” it is 173 kilometers long, starting deep in the Jalisco highlands and ending at Guadalajara.

Thanks to its isolation the river is relatively unpolluted, and all along its length are wonderful hot springs. Add these two factors to the astounding beauty of the steep canyon walls overhanging the river and you have a great outdoor site well worth a visit.

My first trip to the Green River was rather bizarre. I received a phone call from botanist Miguel Cházaro asking me if I wouldn’t like to visit “a hot waterfall called La Bolsa. It’s a natural shower, at perfect bathing temperature and it’s located at the edge of a huge orchard where ripe mangoes drop right into your hands and, by the way, just above the orchard there’s an archaeological site with a big pyramid and . . . .”

Of course, I was hooked and so were a lot of other hiker friends when I told them Cházaro’s story. The result was a big turnout for a hike to La Bolsa.

Frothing river in Tamara canyon.

Frothing river in Tamara canyon.

“How far away is this place?” people asked me.

“Miguel says it’s just half an hour from town.”

“What should we bring?”

“I guess lunch and a swim suit is all you need.”

Well, the “half-hour trip” took two hours, which did not surprise me too much, but instead of arriving at the hot waterfall, we found ourselves on the edge of a tremendous canyon, at the bottom of which we could barely make out a narrow ribbon of brown: the Río Verde, normally green, but chocolate-colored during the rainy season.

“Just follow me,” said Miguel, and over the edge we went, slipping and sliding on muddy trails that zigzagged through thick maleza which slowly turned into a full-blown jungle as we descended. All of us figured the waterfall must be “a half-hour” down the hill, but it soon became clear we were heading for the very bottom of the canyon.

Yes, sometimes the Río Verde does look green!

Yes, sometimes the Río Verde does look green!

One hour later, we came to a wide, flat, open area dominated by a conspicuous, high, lozenge-shaped mound where we learned about the history of the area.

“The Aztecs,” we were told, “arrived at Acatic in the year 1200 and almost decided to make it their capital because they saw an eagle land there. However, the eagle took off again and so did the Aztecs, wandering away to what is now Mexico City, where they finally saw the omen they were seeking: an eagle devouring a snake while perched on a nopal [prickly pear cactus].”

We continued down the hill and finally, four hours after leaving Guadalajara, we reached our long-awaited hot waterfall. Ah, but for most of the group it was quite a disappointment.

“The bathing spot looked great,” stated one exhausted hiker, “but to get to it you had to grab on to the branch of a tree overhanging the roaring, frothing Rio Verde. I was not quite prepared to do that.”

As a result, only three out of the crowd of 20 actually got a chance to stretch out under the marvelous hot waterfall they had striven so hard to reach. I was one of those lucky three and as I lay beneath the falls with jets of deliciously hot water pummeling my back in a soothing massage, I asked myself, “Was it worth it?”

For me, the reply was a resounding “Claro que sí!” but for those others, who now faced the prospect of climbing back up the canyon’s muddy trails in the pouring rain, the answer may have been quite the opposite, especially for one exhausted soul who looked up at the top of the canyon far above us, threw himself down on the ground, arms outstretched, and declared, “I’d rather just die right here, if you don’t mind!”

Canyon walls reflected in the clean, cool waters of Río Verde.

Canyon walls reflected in the clean, cool waters of Río Verde.

Fortunately, he and everyone else eventually made it to the top, although a few only reached it at sunset.

Some time later, a local historian told me about another way into the same canyon where I would be able to appreciate “three magnificent waterfalls, one of them 70 meters high.”

This place is known as La Leonera and I assumed it would present a daunting challenge equal to that of La Bolsa, but I was wrong.

We drove to La Leonera from the little down of Acatic and only a few steps from the parking spot parked we stood next to a mirador, or lookout point, offering us a truly magnificent and dramatic view of the Río Verde canyon. From here you walk along a wide, smooth path, again with a stupendous view.

We strolled along for an hour, finally coming to a little stream. Here we could just hear the purr of a waterfall in the distance. We walked upstream for 100 meters and gaped at la Cascada Velo de la Novia (Bridal Veil), a pretty and appropriately named waterfall about 60 meters high.

Below it was a pool of cold, clean water, a great place for a swim, but note that there is only water here during the rainy season.

At this point some may wish to head back to their car, but the more adventurous can continue along the trail to two more waterfalls.

Eventually I learned about yet another beautiful section of this canyon which is known as La Barranca de Tamara.

Here you can find a steep, but well-maintained road that actually lets you drive right down to the bank of the Río Verde where you can swim in delicious pools fed by cascades of hot water and, if you wish, spend the night there in a nice cabin.

Once again you go through the town of Acatic and follow a well-signposted dirt road to Rancho el Venado (Deer Ranch).

Upon paying the entrance fee, you get a waterproof paper bracelet on your wrist and then begins a twisting, but wonderfully scenic drive down to the very bottom of the canyon. Along the way you come to a fenced-in area containing the tiny deer which give the ranch its name.

The road leads ever downward through gently rolling hills and several dramatic waterfalls (in the rainy season) to two roomy wooden cabins, each of which has drinking and washing water, electricity, a kitchen, a fridge, a fireplace and two bedrooms, each with two double beds — plus a very lovable (and speedy) mouse, which raced back and forth across the ceiling and was far more entertaining than a TV could ever be.

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    Canyon walls reflected in the clean, cool waters of El Río Verde.
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A five-minute walk from the cabin takes you to the south bank of the Green River, next to which two swimming pools have been built beneath a network of small, natural hot waterfalls whose temperature is 37 C (98.6 F, body temperature).

Soaking in one of these pools while gazing up at the towering red cliffs and watching the river flow is a unique experience and without a doubt from that moment on you, like me, will consider the Río Verde “one river I could never forget.”

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.

MEXICO CONSUMER CONFIDENCE REACHES HIGHEST LEVEL ON RECORD

Mexican consumer confidence rose in February for a third consecutive month, hitting its highest level on record, data from the national statistics agency showed on Tuesday.

Adjusted for seasonal swings, Mexico’s consumer confidence index rose to 119.9 in February from 113.2 in January, continuing the upward trajectory it has taken since President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador took office in December.

The data offers some respite for the leftist Lopez Obrador after a spate of recent warnings from analysts and economists over the outlook for Latin America’s no. 2 economy.

Lopez Obrador has vowed to tackle poverty, reduce inequality and improve wages for the bulk of Mexican society.

His election in July also triggered a significant jump in the consumer confidence index.

In December, the country’s wage commission agreed to raise the daily minimum wage of just over $4 by 16 percent, the biggest percentage raise since 1996.

Still, Goldman Sachs economist Alberto Ramos noted the bright optimism among consumers was not shared by companies.

“Business sentiment has been more subdued as producers have been apprehensive with regards to policy direction and overall sector-level policies,” Ramos said in a note to clients.

Responding to warnings by ratings agencies that Mexico was running the risk of a downgrade to its credit rating, Lopez Obrador on Tuesday said the agencies were punishing the country for the “neo-liberal” policies of previous administrations, a favorite rhetorical target of the president.

The previous peak for the adjusted consumer confidence index was 116.1 in August 2001, a few months after data for the index began being registered by the statistics agency.

World Bank data shows that Mexico suffered a mild recession that year after the end of the dot-com boom.

The non-adjusted confidence index rose in February by nearly five points from the previous month to 116.8. That took the unadjusted index to its highest level since August 2001.

Reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Bill Berkrot