Things That Matter

Indigenous Leaders And Environmental Groups Have Concerns Over President AMLO’s Tourist Train In The Yucatán

Mexico’s Yucatan region is considered it’s tourist heartland. With the resorts and beaches of the Riviera Maya (from Cancun and Isla Holbox to Tulum and Playa del Carmen), the region accounts for an overwhelming amount of tourist spending in the country. So it makes sense that the community and the government would want to capitalize on that economic opportunity by providing better access to even more tourists.

However, the government’s most recent project – a high-speed tourist train through the region – is drawing criticism from Indigenous leaders, environmental organizations, and local governments.

After a controversial referendum, Mexico’s President AMLO vows to forge ahead on the Mayan train project.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Monday said his controversial Mayan Train project would move ahead after residents in the five states where the train was proposed to run through voted in favour of the proposal.

The government reported overwhelming support in the region, with 99 percent voting in favour in Campeche. The lowest level of support was in Quintana Roo with 85 percent voting in favour. Just 100,000 people of the region’s more than 11 million voted, however.

Sunday’s referendum, which was not a legal requirement, was part of Lopez Obrador’s new style of governing “with the people”. It coincided with a weekend full of open-ended consultations with indigenous groups in the area.

More than 5,000 people, representing more than 1,000 indigenous groups, met government representatives during the consultation assemblies, officials said. 

Adelfo Regino Montes, director of the National Institute of Indigenous Communities (INPI) said that the consultation meetings showed unanimous support for the construction and implementation of the Mayan Train project. But some at the assemblies expressed opposition or concerns about the plan.

Yes, you read that right: just 0.90% of eligible voters participated in the president’s referendum and the voting locations were in regions supportive of the president.

So many are crying foul when it comes to the referendum itself and disputing the president’s claim that the project has overwhelming support.

Flora Maria Estrella lives by the pre-existing stretch of line in Tenabo, Campeche, which is currently only used for freight. Recalling the advantages of the previous passenger line that used to allow her family to sell fruit and vegetables outside of their small town, Estrella said she supports the Mayan Train project. 

So what exactly is the proposed Mayan Tourist Train all about?

The proposed 1,525km (950-mile) train would connect communities and natural reserves in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. It is expected to cost between $6-8bn, but bring more than three million visitors and tourists to the region annually.

The Mayan Train represents just one part of López Obrador’s ambitious agenda to reduce poverty and integrate the rural and indigenous populations that have been left out of development in the NAFTA era.

But the project has drawn sharp criticism from environmental groups that worry about the effects of the train on the region’s vast biodiversity.

Despite the support, many also expressed concerns over the potential effects of the train on road conditions and wildlife. Questions also remain about how communities and residents would be compensated if the route ran through or affects their land or territory.

The Yucatan is a unique Mexican cultural crossroads. Many Maya here continue to farm, live and dress according to indigenous traditions developed millennia before the Spanish colonized the Americas. Travelers also come from across the globe to sunbathe along the modern, highly developed Riviera Maya. Over 16 million foreigners visited the area in 2017; three-quarters of them were American.

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This Mexican College Student Is Going Viral For Breeding the Largest Bunnies In the World

Things That Matter

This Mexican College Student Is Going Viral For Breeding the Largest Bunnies In the World

Photo via yakinkiro/Instagram

Look out Bad Bunny. There’s another breed of bunny in town that’s taking the internet by storm. A college student in Mexico recently went viral for the oddest thing. He has genetically engineered a strain of rabbits to be the largest in the world.

21-year-old Kiro Yakin has become a viral sensation after internet users have seen him with pictures of the giant bunnies he genetically engineered.

Yakin, a student at the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla on the Xicotepec campus, is studying veterinary and animal husbandry. He began his experimentation by breeding two unique rabbit types together. The Flemish Giant rabbit and other, longer-eared bunnies that Yakin happened to notice. As a result, his monster-bunny was born.

According to Yakin, his experimental bunnies grow up to 22 pounds  Flemish Giant, while the average Flemish giant weighs 15 pounds. But make no mistake, Yakin’s bunny experiment was no accident. “It takes an average of 3 to 4 years to reproduce this giant species,” he told Sintesis.

Yakin’s ultimate goal is to breed a rabbit that can grow up to 30 pounds. “I am currently studying genetics to see how to grow this breed of giant rabbits more,” he said.

Yakin, who has had a soft spot for rabbits since he was a child (pun intended), now cares for a whopping fifty giant rabbits out of his parents’ home.

Luckily, his parents are supportive enough of his dream that they support their son (and his bunnies) financially. “I have the financial support and support of my parents to buy food a week for all 50 giant rabbits,” Yakin told Sintesis.

But he also admitted his project has a long way to go. “So far I have not set aside the time or budget that is required to start the project more seriously,” he said.

The only thing that’s preventing Yakin from committing all his time and energy to creating even bigger bunnies is–what else?–money.

Photo via yakinkiro/Instagram

Although he already submitted a proposal to his university to try and expand his research, as of now, he is self-financed. However, Yakin makes a bit of extra cash by selling the giant bunnies to private customers.

His ultimate goal though, is to open up a large, professional farm where he can breed and cross-breed his bunnies to his heart’s content.

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Mexicans Travel To U.S. For ‘Vaccine Tourism’ Say It’s A Matter Of Survival

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Mexicans Travel To U.S. For ‘Vaccine Tourism’ Say It’s A Matter Of Survival

The United States is one of the world’s most successful countries when it comes to rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine program. So far, more than 200 million vaccines have been administered across the U.S. and as of this week anyone over the age of 16 is now eligible.

Meanwhile, in many countries around the world – including Mexico – the vaccine roll out is still highly restricted. For many, who can afford to travel, they see the best option at a shot in the arm to take a trip to the U.S. where many locations are reporting a surplus in vaccines.

Wealthy Latin Americans travel to U.S. to get COVID vaccines.

People of means from Latin America are chartering planes, booking commercial flights, buying bus tickets and renting cars to get the vaccine in the United States due to lack of supply back in their home countries. Some of those making the trip include politicians, TV personalities, business executives and a soccer team.

There is an old Mexican joke: God tells a Mexican he has only a week left to live but can ask for one final wish, no matter how outrageous. So the Mexican asks for a ticket to Houston—for a second opinion.

Virginia Gónzalez and her husband flew from Mexico to Texas and then boarded a bus to a vaccination site. They made the trip again for a second dose. The couple from Monterrey, Mexico, acted on the advice of the doctor treating the husband for prostate cancer. In all, they logged 1,400 miles for two round trips.

“It’s a matter of survival,” Gónzalez told NBC News, of getting a COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. “In Mexico, officials didn’t buy enough vaccines. It’s like they don’t care about their citizens.”

Mexico has a vaccine rollout plan but it’s been too slow in many people’s opinions.

With a population of nearly 130 million people, Mexico has secured more vaccines than many Latin American nations — about 18 million doses as of Monday from the U.S., China, Russia and India. Most of those have been given to health care workers, people over 60 and some teachers, who so far are the only ones eligible. Most other Latin American countries, except for Chile, are in the same situation or worse.

So vaccine seekers who can afford to travel are coming to the United States to avoid the long wait, including people from as far as Paraguay. Those who make the trip must obtain a tourist visa and have enough money to pay for required coronavirus tests, plane tickets, hotel rooms, rental cars and other expenses.

There is little that is fair about the global race for the COVID-19 vaccine, despite international attempts to avoid the current disparities. In Israel, a country of 9 million people, half of the population has received at least one dose, while plenty of countries have yet to receive any. While the U.S. could vaccinate 70 percent of its population by September 2021 at the current rollout rate, it could take Mexico until approximately the year 2024 to achieve the same results.

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