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Archive for mexico

A Mexican Summit

By Linda Tancs

At 18,491 feet, Pico de Orizaba is the highest summit in Mexico and the third highest in North America.  Known as Star Mountain by the Aztecs, its permanent mane of snow and ice attracts novice and professional mountaineers the world over.  Fly into Mexico City, Pueblo or Veracruz.  From there you can take a taxi, private driver or bus to Tlachachuca, a village at the base of the mountain, and begin your adventure.

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Cancun’s Underwater Museum

By Linda Tancs

The warm, white powdery sand beaches and turquoise crystal clear waters of Cancun might tempt you to just bury your head in the sand.  You’ll see much more if you dunk your head in the water instead.  Cancun’s underwater museum offers an interesting array of 400 original sculptures in depths ranging from 9 to 20 feet, offering snorkelers and scuba divers alike easy access to the collection.  The sculptures, including a cement replica of the classic Volkswagen Beetle, are all designed to become artificial reefs.

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Celebrating Mexican Heritage

By Linda Tancs

Think Cinco de Mayo (Spanish for the fifth of May) and up pop images of salsa, chips and margaritas. Like so many dates lost in a bit of kitschy commercialism, the sacrifice or courage that underlies the commemoration is long forgotten. So today a little history: after Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1810, it suffered through many wars, leaving the country in economic ruin, unable to pay its debts to other countries. When Mexico failed to pay its debt to France, France invaded. On May 5, 1862 a small regiment of Mexican soldiers bravely faced off against the French at the Battle of Puebla and prevailed–at least for a while. The bravery of that outnumbered and beleaguered militia is celebrated each year on 5 May. The biggest celebration in the world takes place in Los Angeles (though not on 5 May) at the Festival de Fiesta Broadway. Plan ahead for next year.

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Healthy Travels

By Linda Tancs

We’re all a bit jittery over the prospect of a swine flu pandemic, which has me thinking about preparedness and the need for public health information, particularly to prevent panic and misinformation. For example, you can’t catch swine flu by eating a pork chop. Period. You can catch it, though, by traveling to a country with a known outbreak, such as Mexico–which is why the U.S. has posted an advisory against nonessential travel there. Can you spot the signs of an infected passenger? Are you prepared for an outbreak? Thankfully, the Centers for Disease Control provides answers to these and other questions. Better safe than sorry.

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Baja Tourism

By Linda Tancs

With tourism reportedly halved in Tijuana due to kidnappings and other misdeeds, it might be easy to forget about the assets of the rest of the state of Baja California in northwest Mexico. Located at the northern end of the Baja California peninsula, the area is rife with activities for landlubbers and seafarers alike. Just 20 minutes south from Tijuana you’ll find the beaches of Rosarito. Or go a little farther inland for some golf at one of two resorts in Ensenada. If it’s white-knuckle action you crave, then why not take in a bullfight at Mexicali? A few hours’ drive away is the port of San Felipe, a fisherman’s delight. There may be a 120 things to do in Tijuana, but the rest of the state is a peninsular jewel in the crown.

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Equinox Approaches

By Linda Tancs

An equinox is an astronomical event at which the sun is directly above a point in the equator. Occurring twice yearly (in March and September–the vernal and autumnal equinoxes, respectively), the practical effect is equal parts day and night. The mystical effect, however, is something else entirely. For thousands of years the Mayans have celebrated the equinox with a convergence of architectural and astronomical glory at Chichén-Itzá and Dzibilchaltun. The event begins at sunrise at the ancient city of Dzibilchaltun where the rising sun aligns with the Temple of the Seven Dolls. As magnificent as it is, nothing compares with the global audience in attendance at El Castillo, the great pyramid of Chichén-Itzá . The structure, honoring the feathered snake god Quetzalcoatl, has a staircase on all four sides, the steps of which total the 365 days in a solar year. On the afternoon of the equinox, the temple is aligned perfectly so that the sun and shadows create the appearance of a giant snake going down the side of the stairwell. Snake phobics might want to sit this one out.

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The Other San Francisco

By Linda Tancs

If you left your heart in San Francisco, could there be any doubt which one? Maybe so, before Mexico’s San Francisco changed its name to San Pancho (as the locals would have you believe). Whatever you choose to call it, this little village along the Mexican Riviera about a half hour north of Puerto Vallarta delivers big. Ready to surf? You’ll find the best breaks around. You can also snatch up your dinner in the deep sea after a few hours of panga fishing. Afterwards lay on the beach and watch the celestial jitterbug. Your pueblo awaits.

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Lost Souls in Mexico

By Linda Tancs

Mexico’s Day of the Dead is decidedly undead as relatives eat, drink and get merry with the souls of the dearly departed in celebration of All Souls Day on 2 November. Spirits are guided back to the homes of their loved ones with brilliant displays of flowers and candles at gravesides. Beautiful decorated altars are also erected in their honor. Want to share in the experience? Let the natives of Oaxaca or Patzcuaro (known for their spectacular festivities) show you how.

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Passport Cards Offer Convenience for Travelers

By Linda Tancs

Marketed as a less expensive and more portable form of passport book, the passport card gives U.S. travelers returning from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean a wallet-sized form of entry at seaports and land borders to meet the requirements of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative.  The card does not, however, replace the need for a passport when traveling by air.  Like a traditional passport, the card is expected to have anti-counterfeiting features.  Each card will also have an embedded radio frequency chip linking non-personal information to a secure government database at border stations.  Applications for the card commenced on February 1, 2008 and delivery is expected in the spring.  You can apply at any passport application facility.  Find the one nearest you at http://travel.state.gov.

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What’s New in the Western Hemisphere: Part Deux

By Linda Tancs

 Attention all procrastinators:  time is up for winging it through the Western Hemisphere without official documentation.  You may recall that passport requirements were relaxed in the wake of an avalanche of applications that were filed (and very much delayed) to meet the new requirements.  Effective today, you must have passport in hand for your flights to Mexico, Canada, Bermuda and the Caribbean.  Limited exceptions (in the way of military travel, for instance) apply.  Still don’t have that passport?  Expedited service is running at about 3 weeks, they say.  Go for it.

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