Things That Matter

Don’t Throw Away Those Tamale Husks – They Make The Perfect Eco-Friendly Plate Or Service Dish

There is no secret that our planet is experiencing an ecological crisis. From flash flooding in Indonesia to a three-year drought that led to unprecedented and lethal bushfires in Australia, the first three weeks of 2020 have reminded us that as a species us humans have basically sucked at achieving a balance with other animal species and with the natural world in general. We are at the brink of either going into a deep well from which we might not come back, or hitting the PAUSE button and making some significant changes. 

Here’s a success story about creative ways of using free and inexpensive materials to curb our consumption of single-use plastic products. 

Our dependence on single-use plastic plates and containers is not only harmful to the environment, but frankly stupid.

Credit: Greenpeace

Think about the amount of plastic you use in a single day. From the coffee lid that you throw away after finishing your latte to the plastic cutlery at the fast food court, plastic bags at the supermarket and plastic toothpicks, to water bottles and a long list of products that frankly make no sense… all of those contribute to increased levels of pollution. Just think about how silly it all is: that lid that you threw away or that Starbucks cup will exist way after your body has turned into ash or compost. Yes, it might sound dramatic, but it really is how illogical the use of plastic is. 

So in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, corn husks have become the perfect alternative after Styrofoam was banned in the municipality.

The town of San Miguel de Allende, a traditional town and gringo-retiree central, has banned Styrofoam. Instead of complaining like many chilangos (Mexico City natives) did when plastic bags were banned, vendors in the picturesque San Miguel have resorted to a much more friendly and overall cooler alternative: corn husks.

This is a great idea not only because otherwise they get thrown away or turn into compost, but also because it is a resistant material and can even give some extra flavor to some traditional dishes. Such is the case of esquites, a scintillating concoction of corn, mayo, lemon and chili… food for the gods.

As reported by Mexico News Daily, San Miguel’s mayor, Luis Alberto Villareal, is proud of the initiative of banning harmful materials: “We’ve been working all year, but the truth is that the society of San Miguel is very participatory, it’s a committed society, it’s a progressive society, and [getting participation] hasn’t been too complicated.” Good for them! 

Mexico City also banned single-use plastic bags.

Credit: Pixabay

From January 1 the user of single-use plastic bags was banned in Mexico City. Given that this is one of the world’s biggest megalopolis the move will certainly have a measurable impact. Many complained (of course they did!), but most embraced the initiative.

Of course, plastic bag producers spoke out against the law, as CE Noticias Financieras reports: “Plastic bag producers, distributors and traders marched and demonstrated in Mexico City on Wednesday against a series of bans to make the Mexican capital free of plastic objects that are only used once in the next months.”

Multinational supermarket chains have also responded to the initiative by offering their customers reusable bags. As NFINCE reports: “Walmart of Mexico, Latin America’s largest self-service chain, began with the free delivery of half a million reusable bags to its customers, as part of the one-time plastic and plastic bag disposal agreement, signed with the Government of Mexico City.”

 Eco traditional practices are coming back

Credit: Mercado Libre Mexico

Even though hipster, gentrified zones of Mexico City have adopted the use of eco bags and all sorts of products that are often overpriced, Mexico City tradition has a long history of uses of bolsas de mercado, bags in which people store their groceries while shopping. This practice is mostly followed by the lower socioeconomic classes, but we are sure they will expand. Using a reusable bag is tradition and hopefully it will make a comeback. We also hope that bags that are usually less that $3 USD don’t end up being a $50 USD hipster commodity! 

Natural, compostable plates and containers are used throughout the Global South and it is a long and rich tradition.

All throughout Asia people use sticks or toothpicks and fresh banana leaves to make bowls and plates in which dishes such as coconut rice or amok (Cambodian curried fish) is served. Oftentimes the practices of the Global North are seen as the panacea of progress but there is much to be learned from developing nations and from indigenous communities in places such as Australia, the United States, Mexico and Canada. 

This Is What Mexico Looks Like As It Reopens During A Global Pandemic

Things That Matter

This Is What Mexico Looks Like As It Reopens During A Global Pandemic

Hector Vivas / Getty Images

Step outside into Mexico’s capital (home to more than 20 million people) and you’d be forgiven for not realizing we’re still in the midst of a global pandemic that’s killed more than half a million people.

As of this week, several Mexican states have entered the initial phase of reopening and Mexicans are taking full advantage of the newly found sense of ‘freedom’ – visiting restaurants, cafés and shops in droves. However, experts warn that Mexico will likely follow the dangerous path of the United States – which opened prematurely and is now having to shut down businesses once again as cases reach record levels.

Here’s an inside look into the daily reality of Chilangos (as residents of Mexico City are called) and what the future holds for the country amid Coronavirus.

Mexico City – along with 17 other states – have entered the first phase of a gradual reopening.

Despite being home to the largest number of active cases across Mexico, the capital joined 17 other states in a phased reopening this week. Mexico City lowered its contagion risk from a level red (the most extreme) to level orange, which permits some businesses to reopen.

However, Mexico City – on the day of the reopening – saw a record 5,432 new cases and 638 confirmed deaths. Mayor Sheinbaum said that the switch to orange was possible because hospital occupancy levels are at 59% and trending downwards. But to many, the government is prioritizing the economy over public safety and health. Several government officials insisted that it was safe to proceed to the reduced warning level but health experts disagreed.

The mayor stressed that if hospital occupancy levels go above 65% again, red light restrictions will be reinstated. She urged residents to continue to take precautions to reduce the risk of infection. People should continue to stay at home as much as possible and the use of face masks in public places remains mandatory.

Along with Mexico City, 17 other states moved into the orange phase of reopening – including tourist hotspots of Jalisco, Veracruz, Quintana Roo, and Yucatan.

The federal government instituted a traffic light system to simplify the risk management of Covid-19

Credit: omgitsjustintime/ Instagram

Shortly after the Coronavirus outbreak began, the federal government instituted a color-coded risk management system to simplify its messaging. With red being the highest risk level and green being the lowest, every state until June 15th was still in the red level.

As of July 1, 18 states are now in the orange level. This means that restaurants, cafés, and shops can begin to reopen with reduced capacity. Hotels and markets will also be allowed to resume service, meaning that tourism will likely begin to pick up again very soon.

President AMLO has been eager to get the economy reopened after it was reported that at least one million formal jobs have been lost and the country’s economy is expected to shrink by 8.8% this year.

On the first day of reopening, shops in Mexico City’s historic center were jammed full of shoppers.

Credit: Raul Hidalgo / Getty Images

The city’s historical center is a hub of economic activity. You can literally find pretty much anything you could ever want in these cobblestones streets. The district is home to more than 27,000 businesses and as of this week they’re now permitted to open once again. And resident wasted no time in hitting the shops.

Long lines formed outside shops with few people wearing masks and most stores not truly enforcing social distancing requirements. Some offered antibacterial gel and took people’s temperatures before allowing them to enter.

Officially, shops and businesses with an odd street number are permitted to open three days a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, whereas even-numbered shops can open Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

In order to prevent crowds from accumulating and promote social distancing, 31 streets were converted into pedestrian-only zones.

Restaurants, cafés, and shopping centers are all open for business – with some protective measurements in place.

Credit: omgitsjustintime/ Instagram

Even before the official change to semáforo naranja, several restaurants and cafés were already offering dine-in service. But now restaurants are officially allowed to operate at limited capacity, while staff are required to wear masks and shields, and restaurants are’s allowed to play music or issue reusable menus.

Street markets, known as tianguis, will also be allowed to restart which will help many of the city’s informal workers. And the following week, department stores and shopping malls will also be allowed to reopen at 30% capacity and with limited hours.

Mexico is hardly finished with the Coronavirus threat – in fact, cases have been reaching record levels.

Credit: Covid.gob.mx

Although not yet at the levels seen in the U.S. or Brazil, Mexico has been struggling with its response to the Coronavirus pandemic. As of July 1, the country has had more than 225,000 confirmed cases and almost 28,000 deaths, with Mexico City being the epicenter of the nation’s outbreak.

And the worst doesn’t appear to be over. In a Covid-19 situation report published Monday, the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security noted that Mexico had reported a decreasing daily incidence for three consecutive days.

“However, Mexico does not yet appear to have reached its peak,” the report said. “Based on recent trends, we expect Mexico to report increasing daily incidence over the coming days. Mexico is currently No. 6 globally in terms of daily incidence,” it added.

Mexico’s AMLO And Trump Plan To Meet In July And Everyone Wants To Know What They’ll Be Discussing

Things That Matter

Mexico’s AMLO And Trump Plan To Meet In July And Everyone Wants To Know What They’ll Be Discussing

Hector Vivas / Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Trump has a long history of treating Mexico as a political punching bag. He literally launched his campaign for president by demonizing Mexicans. BUt despite this, Mexico’s Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) has said the U.S. president has always treated him with respect. After threatening Mexico with tariffs last year, AMLO deployed troops to deter migration by Central Americans across Mexico to the U.S. – in a move many saw as an act of obedience to Trump.

But Trump’s own rhetoric has also changed. During a visit to Arizona last week, he said that it was Mexico who has helped drive down border crossings.

“If you look at so many of the different crimes that come through the border, they’re stopped. We’ve implemented groundbreaking agreements with Mexico,” Trump said during a round table on border security. “I want to thank the President of Mexico. He’s really a great guy. I think he’ll be coming into Washington pretty soon.”

So the two leaders seem to be on good terms. But a meeting with Trump could backfire.

President Trump and Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador are planning their first personal meeting for July.

In what would be their first head-to-head meeting, Mexican President AMLO and Trump are likely to meet in the beginning half of July, according to officials. It’s a politically risky move for Mexico’s AMLO, who is already being attacked from across the political spectrum for appearing to appease Donald Trump.

AMLO said that in his meeting with Trump he intends to promote their new trade deal (the USMCA), as well as to thank him for sending medical ventilators to Mexico to help with the growing Coronavirus pandemic in the country. The date of the visit though is still not set in stone, since the pair would also want to meet with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – since his country is also a signatory to the trade deal.

“It is very important for us participate in the beginning of this historical agreement, which is very timely because it will help us in the recovery of our economy and the creation of jobs,” Lopez Obrador said during his daily press conference.

Mexico’s economy has been battererd by the Coroanvirus and AMLO is betting its recovery is tied to the U.S., since both countries are facing their deepest recessions since the Great Depression.

Many are speculating about the what the meeting could focus on – with there being so many hard pressing issues between the two countries.

Credit: Evan Vucci / Getty Images

AMLO has made it clear that his stated goal of the visit would be to promote the renegotiated trade deal known as the USMCA, formerly NAFTA. However, the Coronavirus pandemic is still raging across the two countries and it’s likely it will be play a major part in discussions as well.

Apart from these two timely topics, both countries are speculating as to what else the two leaders could discuss – especially since Trump has so often spoken poorly of Mexico and issued sweeping demands in the past.

Will the pair discuss immigration, asylum and the border wall?

For AMLO, this would be his first trip out of Mexico since assuming the presidency in 2018.

Credit: Hector Vivas / Getty Images

AMLO assumed the presidency in December 2018, and since then he hasn’t left the country once. He has sent surrogates to attend globally important meetings, including to the U.N. Security Council election and several major economic forums. Instead, AMLO has preferred to stay in Mexico, traveling from state to state promoting his domestic agenda.

Even though AMLO’s critics have encouraged him to take international trips in the interest of Mexico, this is one that most experts agree is a mistake. They’re skeptical that the meeting will be beneficial at all to Mexico.

In a tweet, the former Mexican ambassador to the United States, Arturo Sarukhán, called the potential visit “a big blunder and a mistake,” saying that Trump would only use the Mexican president as an electoral prop. He also called such a visit “suicidal for Mexico’s long-term and strategic relationship with the United States.”

Former foreign minister Jorge Castañeda told Reuters he thought a visit was “a dumb idea” considering it is an election year in the United States.

Complicating matters, AMLO will fly to the U.S. on commercial flights amid a global pandemic.

Credit: Alfredo Estrella / Getty Images

AMLO is well-known as being frugal. He turned the palatial Los Pinos (the formal home of the Mexican President) into a cultural center and instead lives in his own apartment. He drives his own Volkswagen Jetta. And he always flies commercial, wherever he goes. And, apparently, that’s still the plan for his trip to Washington despite a global health crisis.

“I am going to travel on a commercial aircraft,” López Obrador told reporters during his morning news conference. “There is no direct trip from Mexico City to Washington, but you can make a stop. I will arrive a day before the meeting that we will have.”

And for Trump, the meeting would be high stakes given the concessions his supporters will want from Mexico.

Trump literally launched his presidential campaign by demonizing Mexicans. Since then, he’s made several swipes at the country and its people and has pursued inhumane immigration policies that have broken families and likely resulted in the deaths of many. Yet to his supporters, he hasn’t done nearly enough on immigration.

Therefore, it’s widely accepted that Trump will use the meeting as a way to advance his political standing with his core supporters and talk up his ‘achievements’ on border security.