Culture

A Geographer Just Created A Digital Map Of Mexico Highlighting Taco Shops And It’s A Thing Of Beauty

One of the biggest changes that the so called digital revolution has brought to our lives is the capacity that today’s computer systems have to process huge amounts of data. Processors today are able to run algorithms that bring together millions of data entries to find trends, cluster groups of similar objects and generate visualizations that can help us understand even the most complex aspects of science and culture. This is known popularly as “big data” and has changed the ways in which governments and companies understand reality and make decisions. For example, before high speed processing mathematicians took literally years to make sense of census data and find correlations between factors such as socioeconomic status, ethnicity, age and literacy levels.

Guess what? This can be done today with a few clicks as computers bring together millions upon millions of data entries and make sense of it all. It all sounds very geeky, but big data is defining how we live our lives, from how traffic lights coordinate to how much tax you gotta pay each year.

So all this geeky, nerdy stuff should be put to good use, o no?

Enter Mexican geographer Baruch Sangines, a true wizard when it comes to generating great data visualizations.

Credit: @datavizero / Twitter

This young scientist is the Chief Data Scientist at a company called Jetty, and he does some pretty groundbreaking research on pressing social issues such as housing and poverty.

His LinkedIn profile is pretty impressive: “Experience in public and private sector with skills to analyze and visualize data related to: commuting, transit, housing, tourism, migration, security, and urban environment. Expert in territorial analysis and passionate about the cartography and the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to visualize small and big data”. Wow. hold your horses, Einstein! He is a proud graduate of Mexico’s National University and has Master’s Degree on Demographics and Statistics. 

So why did he go viral on Mexican social media in the past few days? We mean, science is sexy but not viral sexy (sadly!). All because of this map:

Credit: @datavizero / Twitter

No, it is not a visualization of WiFi points in Mexico. No, it is not a rendition of cartel activity. No, it is not a highlight of the areas in which development runs at a faster pace. It is about something much, much more relevant to everyday life in Mexico lindo y querido. Any guesses?

Nothing is more important than a delicious taco when you most need it! 

Credit: The Splendid Table

Just look at that tortilla, a bit crispy, a bit soft… and that perfectly marinated meat… 

Well, Baruch created a visualization of taco stands in Mexico and nos ponemos de pie ante tal maravilla! 

Baruch called this visualization Taco Universe, and it showcases all the registered taco stands and shops in the country. We can clearly see that there is a high concentration of taco shrines in the capital Mexico City, and that hotspots like Cancun and Cabo are also highlighted, perhaps thanks to gringo tourism craving fish tacos. The scientists used the database Directorio Estadístico Nacional de Unidades Económicas (Denue) (Statistical National Directory of Economic Units) from the federal census agency INEGI. The map highlights how taco culture is primarily based in the center of the country, with local varieties such as Puebla’s tacos arabes (a shawarma like type) increasing the traffic in that area. 

But it is important to note that many taco stands are not accounted for (and that is not this scientist’s fault).

Thousands of Mexicans subsist in an informal economy with businesses that are not registered and pay no taxes. Among these businesses, mobile taco stands reign supreme. There are hundreds of taco stands all around the country that are set up informally. Sometimes you can find the most delicious tacos there! You can also find informal vendors selling tacos de canasta, a variety that is literally carried in a basket. This map does not take these informal enterprises into account, even though they are key to Mexico’s taco culinary tradition. 

So you are curious about tacos de canasta now, aren’t you? 

Well, just look at these crispy, sweaty, fat-rich babes. Tacos de canasta are filled with guisados or stews, or with refried beans. We are almost sure that Baruch did not include them in his map, but we can forgive him for making us crave unos taquitos (we bet you are calling your comadres or compas right now to hit the taco stand) and showing us how Mexico is a country that despite its many challenges still finds time to live up to the old adage: barriga llena, corazon contento. 

Mexican Couple Hailed As Heroes For Saving 10 Dogs From Flooding Caused By Hurricane Hanna

Culture

Mexican Couple Hailed As Heroes For Saving 10 Dogs From Flooding Caused By Hurricane Hanna

Betty Vaquera Escandón / Facebook

Hurricane Hanna slammed into Texas and Mexico on July 26 as a Category 1 hurricane. Yet, the most resilient story to come from Mexico is that of a couple who rescued some sweet puppies. Their ingenuity is something that will make every Mexican proud.

This is one of the most touching moments from Hurrican Hanna.

Mis papás perdieron todo… pero lograron sacar sus bebés 😭

Posted by Betty Vaquera Escandón on Sunday, July 26, 2020

That’s right. Those sweet puppies owe it all to the loving couple who took them into their bucket and rescued them. We have seen so many heartbreaking images over the years of animals abandoned to die when places flood during hurricanes.

The videos, posted by the couple’s daughter, is being accepted with so much love and excitement.

This is a fact. These people are some of the most compassionate people by saving these puppies. Who wouldn’t want to take the time to make sure that their furbabies are okay?

She posted a follow up live video when the flooding subsided to show just how damaging it was.

Posted by Betty Vaquera Escandón on Monday, July 27, 2020

The storm dropped 18 inches of rain on southern Texas and northern Mexico. The video shows damage throughout the couple’s home and the daughter was there to document it all for them. It is clear from the level of the water that there was nothing else that could have bee done to protect these little puppies.

They did another follow up just to thank everyone.

Posted by Betty Vaquera Escandón on Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Just like any good Latino couple, they thanked everyone who has reached out to them. It is truly such a sweet and wonderful story. We will forever keep this couple in our hearts because of everything they did.

Tbh, it would be so hard not to protect these angels.

Mi antidepresivo 🐶🐶🥰💕 #Elmilaneso

Posted by Betty Vaquera Escandón on Friday, July 10, 2020

We can only hope to be as selfless and important as this couple.

READ: Hurricane Hanna Battered Texas But Did It Actually Knock Over Part Of Trump’s Border Wall?

The Coronavirus Is Starting To Hit Mexico’s Poorest Communities And The Results Could Be Devastating

Things That Matter

The Coronavirus Is Starting To Hit Mexico’s Poorest Communities And The Results Could Be Devastating

Hector Vivas / Getty Images

Mexico has been ravaged by the Coronavirus pandemic. That’s a fact. It now ranks fourth globally in terms of deaths related to the virus, with nearly 50,000 dead. However, many of those cases and deaths have largely been centered on the country’s large cities – including Ciudad de México, Guadalajara and Tijuana.

That appears to be changing as many of Mexico’s most remote and poorest pueblos – most inhabited by Indigenous communities – have started to see the virus appear on their doorsteps. With many rural pueblitos lacking access to healthcare and many having extreme rates of poverty, this could spell disaster for Mexico’s most vulnerable communities.

Mexico’s poorest village has its first case of Coronavirus and this could be devastating for locals.

Mexico’s rural pueblitos, largely home to Indigenous communities, had mostly escaped the worst of the Coronavirus pandemic. For months, as the virus raged across the country, Mexico’s Indigenous communities enacted their own checkpoints and lockdowns and roadblocks that helped contain the virus’ spread. However, that strategy seems to have reached a dead end as new reports of Covid-19 emerge from Mexico’s poorest and most rural communities.

In Oaxaca, the village of Santos Reyes Yucuná – which is Mexico’s poorest, reported its first case of the virus on July 17, four months after the pandemic reached Mexico. The virus took longer to find its way to this remote, Mixtec community located 140 miles from the state’s capital due to its lack of infrastructure, especially roads.

Santos Reyes Yucuná is especially vulnerable to virus. The government’s social development agency (CONEVAL) estimates that 99.9% of the 1,380 residents live in extreme poverty. The region has no hospital and most residents do not have health insurance or the means to travel to a hospital in another area. Another town in Oaxaca’s Mixteca region, Coicoyán de las Flores, is in a similar situation with similar levels of poverty. One case of the Coronavirus was reported last month and the patient, a 25-year-old woman, died. 

Last weekend, 23 new cases of Covid-19 were registered in the Mixteca region, for a total of 482 positive cases and at least 48 reported deaths. The area’s municipal seat, Huajuapan, has the highest number of cases at 30, with three people hospitalized. 

Many rural communities had been labeled ‘Communities of Hope’ and were allowed to reopen early to avoid severe economic costs.

As the Coronavirus first arrived to Mexico, many leaders of rural pueblitos were quick to enact strict preventive measures, closing food markets and installing health checkpoints and roadblocks. But as the economic effects began to be felt, the government launched a program known as the “Municipalities of Hope.”

The program included 324 towns that the government decided were eligible to reopen early. The plan allowed places with no Covid-19 cases – and with no cases in surrounding areas – to start lifting restrictions, in an attempt to mitigate the shutdown’s devastating economic impact.

But just a couple of months later, that list has dwindled to just a few dozen villages. One town – Ometepec, Guerrero, lasted less than 14 days on the list. “In just a few weeks, we went from zero to 47 confirmed cases and six dead,” said Ulises Moreno Tabarez, a postdoctoral researcher who lives in the town.

According to Dr Carlos Magis Rodríguez, a professor of medicine and a public health researcher at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, a lack of serious lockdown measures doomed the strategy from the beginning. “If there were strict control of entrances and exits, a quarantine upon arrival, it could have worked,” Magis Rodríguez told Reforma. “The places this has worked are practically islands.”

But less than two months later, Mexico has become one of the worst-affected countries in the world.

Credit: Toya Sarno Jordan / Getty Images

As of July 29, Mexico has more than 400,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 44,876 people have died from the virus. Mexico now ranks 6th globally in number of cases and 4th in number of deaths. And these numbers are widely seen as under reporting the severity of the crisis. Mexico has one of the lowest testing rates in the world, at approximately 2.5 tests per confirmed case, compared with the U.S. rate of 12.52, the UK’s 22.57 – and New Zealand’s rate of 359.2.

Meanwhile, Mexico’s weak healthcare system is underfunded; hospitals attribute a large number of coronavirus deaths to faulty equipment and a lack of resources rather than the virus itself. The country is in no way equipped to provide unemployment benefits or stimulus checks to almost half of the population that lives in poverty. Furthermore, many informal workers lack health insurance. The country has very little in the way of a safety net, so many are forced to decide risking their health or risk going hungry.

Mexicans are not alone as countries across Latin America have failed to support their citizens.

Credit: Hector Vivas / Getty Images

Across Latin America, poor families have faced an impossible choice – between obeying quarantine measures and starving, or venturing out to work despite the danger of infection.

But unlike other leaders, Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has not introduced stimulus measures to help the most vulnerable communities, instead his government has pushed through a string of severe austerity measures – even as he emphasized the need for the economy to stay open.

The president has also downplayed the pandemic – claiming in April that Mexico had “tamed” the virus – and repeatedly emphasized the need for the economy to stay open, striking a notably more relaxed tone than warnings from the country’s Covid-19 tsar, Hugo López-Gatell.