Spotlight

Beach Bummin' it in the Yucatecan Sun: Extreme Sports and Water Fun ​

Yucatecan summers are the best. People here really know how to take time to enjoy their surroundings. The beautiful gulf beaches are a mere 20-minute drive from Merida, and there are countless cenotes, caves, hidden lagoons, mangroves, wildlife; it truly is one of Mother Nature’s treasures. We are also lucky to live in the land of basically perpetual summer. Right smack-dab in the middle of the tropics, we complain about the heat; however, almost every day is gloriously golden in the light of the sweltry sun. When I go to the beach, I usually head to the beaches east of Progreso such as San Benito, San Bruno or San Crisanto. The water is blue-green and pure; I find it quiet and calming. I head to a beachfront palapa restaurant, order fish and octopus ceviche and a beer and utterly chill. For me, there are two speeds at the playa: slow and stop. My lazy beach days aside, I recently met an energetic beachgoer who has opened my eyes to a world of exciting beach activities—both extreme sports and not so extreme—which I have come to find out are quite popular here in Yucatan. The ultimate go-to guy for all things outdoorsy is Alex Camara (featured in the photo above kiteboarding). He’s a local who spends as much of his free time as he can outside discovering Yucatan, his home. Right off the coast of Progreso, he spends a lot of time in the water doing sports ranging from kiteboarding to competitive sailing. I asked him to give me some tips of cool and popular activities that are relatively accessible for the amateur, such as myself, and he suggested kiteboarding, paddleboarding, windSUP, and kayaking as fun alternatives to just taking a morning swim. Paddleboarding and KayakingPaddleboarding and kayaking along any of the beaches or through the mangroves is a great way to get your body moving and explore the wonders of the gulf waters. These two also seem like the easiest of the four hobbies mentioned, although that is not to say they don’t have their challenges. They take less training and you can basically rent equipment and go. It is recommended that the best time for paddle boarding is from morning until around 12-2pm because at that time weather conditions are usually optimal: low to no wind. He says kayaking can be done all day as long as there are low winds and some nice place to explore the mangroves are Chuburna Puerto, Chabihau (east of San Crisanto) and the Telchac area. 

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My serendipitous encounter with Mega Mexican Pop Star​

Sitting patiently in the wait area watching people line-up to board my flight from Mexico City to LA, I eat my dulce de cajeta and think to myself: “why in the world do people stand in a long line to get on the airplane when everyone with a ticket is going to get on?” As the line gets shorter to maybe ten people or so, I gather my things and head over. I get to the gate and the check-in agent says: “where is your immigration slip to leave the country?”. I promptly replied that I am a permanent resident and don’t need one. He looked at me with a miffed look on his face and proceeded to tell me that I needed to go to immigration and get my permission to leave. I tried arguing my way out of it telling him it made no sense  since now I am a permanent resident and my mom was scheduled to have an operation the next day and I had to get on the flight,  but to no avail. I was struck with a sense of panic and asked him if the plane would wait. He nonchalantly says: “No, I suggest you run.” ¿¿Cómo?? I took off running like a crazy woman through that CDMX airport shouting “¡¡con permiso, a su izquierda, favor de dejarme pasar se me va el avion!!” I am positive I looked like a gringa who was completely out of her mind, hair flying, bumping into women and children, gripping desperately to all her belongings, probably leaving a trail of dulce de cajeta in her wake. Finally I arrived at immigration flustered and the officer looked at me with the same indifference as the check-in agent. I felt like I was in the movie Zootopia in the scene where the rabbit and fox go to the department of mammal vehicles and the clerk agents are sloths! The officer says to me: “Lo siento señora, pero no es mi culpa”. I didn’t even have time to be offended he called me “señora” and just said: “Yo sé, yo se...pero POR FAVOR que se apure”. I got my slip and raced back to the gate absolutely sure I had missed my flight. To my utter surprise, they were still boarding! A huge feeling of relief came over me and the same check-in agent smirked as I handed him my boarding pass and my immigration paper, which I am sure will be put in some irrelevant pile never to be seen again. Crisis averted and panting heavily, I head towards my seat in economy class. As I am passing by business class, I look to the left and lock eyes with a man sitting in the fourth row. To not be rude or suggestive, I look away, but then I kept sneaking a look back to him and he looked right back at me. I recognized him. I looked away again and then looked back. He finally asked me if I was sitting in the seat next to him. Pensively I just shook my head and said, “no”. The line continued on and I get to my seat, quite happy to have made it. I ask the man next to me if he had seen a Mexican rock star in first class. He said he hadn't seen anyone. So, I shrugged it off and as we took off I went to sleep. We landed in LA and after disembarking the plane, I headed over to the luggage claim. Again, standing right next to me was the man, the rock star. I knew who he was, but I had that annoying familiar doubt that comes over me sometimes when everything inside tells me I am right but I still question.  Again I gazed at him nonchalantly and he glanced back at me. I am sure he was thinking “¿Que le pasa a esta mujer? ¿Porque me mira?” Finally, I said to myself what`s the worst that would happen if I approach him? So I turned to him and shyly uttered: ¿Discupla, pero tu eres musico? He smiled: Si soy musico. Como te llamas? I sheepishly asked. He replied: Alexs Syntek. In one moment I was filled with excitement and total emotion.​

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MID City Beat Editor Interviewed by Emmy Award Winning Journalist Peter Greenberg​

In early of May of this year, I woke up on a Wednesday morning and decided to check my email, which I had not checked in a few days because every time I do I find myself weeding through innumerous amounts of junk mail, and then forgetting what I was doing in the first place. Nevertheless, that morning I opened my mail ready to delete all 400 messages I had let accumulate over the last week or so, when I saw at the top of my inbox three that peaked my interest. One had been sent on Monday, one on Tuesday and another one on that same Wednesday. They were from CBS journalist Peter Greenberg’s team. The subject box read: Peter Greenberg Worldwide Radio Show Interview. Of course, I just sat in my chair staring at the email feeling a bit dumbfounded. As I read more carefully, the email was asking me to go to Playa Del Carmen that same evening where Peter Greenberg of CBS wanted to interview me for his radio show. They had found me through my articles in The Yucatan Times and wanted me to confirm my availability for the interview. As I sat there staring at the computer screen only half-way through my first cup of coffee, it dawned on me that I needed to stop everything, get dressed and go to the bus station to buy my ticket to Playa Del Carmen. And that is exactly what I did.   Peter Greenberg is a multiple Emmy award winning journalist and Travel Editor for CBS news. He is America’s travel guru and has made a career interviewing heads of states and people living outside of the US as well as covering international breaking news. In May, he was in Quintana Roo to host his radio show Peter Greenberg Worldwide which airs on more than 350 radio stations in the US. For this show, he talks to Americans living abroad and asks about their experiences and tries to get an inside view of an expat’s life. I arrived in Playa Del Carmen around 6pm, hopped in a cab and went straight to Paradisus Playa Del Carmen La Perla hotel and resort. I went to the reception desk, and they took me straight to a suite where Greenberg had set up his recording studio. I walked up to the room and there were two guards at the door. They asked me my name and told me to wait in the hall. I do have to admit, I started to wonder and I asked myself: Is this for real? Maybe I was lured into some shady underground human trafficking situation and I would disappear from my family and friends forever. However, curiosity and excitement got the better of me; I took pictures of my surroundings, sent them to my sister and best friend. I figured investigators would know where to start in case I vanished. I was invited into the suite where to my relief, I saw Peter with his team set up and interviewing a fellow expat. There were a couple people in the waiting area and I saw a full spread of tantalizing appetizers, sweets and fruits. I was asked if I wanted anything to drink and to sit down and wait. I would be the next one to be interviewed. When Peter called me to his table he explained to me the process. He asked about who I am and how long I have been living in the area. I was one out of 8 people interviewed. He started the recording by doing a brief introduction and then continued to ask about my life in Yucatan. We talked about my experiences living as an American woman, mother, writer, budding journalist and teacher. He inquired about my new project MID CityBeat a Facebook, Instagram, and soon-to-be website. I told him that it is dedicated to what is happening in the city as well as exposing the great entrepreneurial and artistic talents in Mexico and especially in Merida, Yucatan. He asked me where I take my loved ones when they come to visit and what surprises me most about living here. The conversation was very natural, and I felt as if with the first question he gently lifted me off the ground, took me on a ferris wheel ride looking at my life in Yucatan and then calmly set me back down on land. It felt incredible. It was an honor to be called in to talk with such a veteran journalist and I felt truly humbled in his presence. As I left the hotel heading straight back to the bus station at 8pm that same Wednesday night, I thought to myself,  “Every once in a while, life really does surprise you. When unexpected doors open for you, all you have to do is be able to see the opportunity and not be too frightened to walk through.” 

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Are we really safe in Yucatan?

Merida: designated capital de la cultura, ranked 4th in the Lonely Planet's Top Cities of the World to travel described on LP website as a “dizzying array of live music, art shows and dance performances, and the booming culinary scene is hotter than a Habanero pepper.” It is the relocation destination of countless foreigners as well as Mexicans from all parts of the Republic. It has an alluring charm and many get caught in the Merida spell and never want to leave.  So what is the deal with Merida? Cause I`ll tell you one thing, it sure ain`t the sweltering heat. Looking at any website, magazine, or overhearing the gossip at any local gringo party, one understands that people come here for many reasons. It is a growing metropolitan city where you can find almost anything you need to live very comfortably.  It has an astonishingly rich colonial culture. It is 20 minutes from beautiful beaches and a bustling beach life. Yet, among those great positive sides to this city, I would say that one of the top reasons Merida is so darn popular is it is an incredibly safe city in which to live. Most of our family members back home have a terrified look on their faces when we tell them we are moving to Mexico, they assume we are moving to a town where there is a toque de queda (curfew) and dead bodies lying around in the streets as we go for our morning walk to Café Punta de Cielo to get coffee. They think that we will be kidnapped or violently attacked. Our usual reaction is to look at them like they are crazy, laugh and think: we are going to Merida. Nothing happens in Merida. Or does there? Are we really that safe in Yucatan? Two weeks ago, I went to a talk by Alejandro Legorreta. This time the topic was on safety in Yucatan and what the citizens can do to keep Yucatan safe. It was a community reach-out, coordinated by those who are part of a movement of concerned citizens of Yucatan, comprometidos con el futuro del estado de Yucatán (committed to the future of Yucatan). They are conducting research as well as educating and encouraging citizens to get involved in the present and future of Yucatan. Those who attended the talk were mostly university students, government officials and concerned citizens all of whom felt that Yucatan is feeling less safe. They informed us that Yucatan has the lowest murder rate in the country, comparable to Belgium and Canada. Also most of the crimes committed stem from conflicts between people who know each other and usually involve drugs or alcohol. For a city of a million people, this still sounds ultra safe to me. A more pressing concern seems to be a growing problem with youth gangs whose members are marginalized, poor and make their money by stealing from homes or stores. According to the panel, this is a budding problem and if prevention and youth outreach programs are put into play, many of these street kids might have a chance to turn their life around. All in all what I left the talk with was a feeling that we are still undeniably safe here. 

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