February 28, 2011

Sombrero Chic

Katy Perry and Sombrero

Rocking her sombrero, in Mexico City, is American actress, Katy Perry. She was in the country, on February 7th, as part of the promotion for the perfume range, 'Purr'. After entertaining the crowds, Ms Perry sat down to meet, greet and sign some autographs. It was then that a fan handed her the hat; and it was this photograph that ended up in all the world's media. Why? Because it placed her firmly in her location. Katy Perry is in Mexico! And she has the sombrero to prove it!

Nothing says Mexico like the sombrero. On a global scale, it's probably more recognizable than our flag, as a national icon. But why this particular hat and why did it become so famous?

'Sombrero' by Ngy Thanh

The name sombrero comes from the Spanish sombra, meaning 'shade', and therein lies the clue to its original function. Out in the fields, with the Mexican sun pounding down, the workers needed some protection. No-one is going to walk around with a parasol nor stop to erect marquees, so they had to get shelter from somewhere. Enter the wide-brimmed hat - portable, practical shade from the elements.

These workers started early in the morning, while the dawn was barely a glimmer on the horizon. They worked throughout the climbing heat, until noon made it unbearable. The sombreros allowed them to stay out in the field, hunkered down under their hats, for a siesta and a break. Then, as the afternoon waned, they were in situ for the second half of the day's labour, continuing late into the evening.

To the north-east, there were newcomers. The American pioneers, treading a trail into the Wild West, started to encounter these Mexican workers. Originating, on the whole, from colder climes, the Americans had seen neither a sombrero nor a siesta before. Thus two stereotypes were born: the 'lazy' Mexican and the 'big hat wearing' Mexican. Of course, as soon as they'd settled in and experienced a few summers in the heat themselves, the practicality of the situation was learned. The sombrero inspired the Stetson, the cowboy hat extraordinaire.

John Wayne
John Wayne

It may seem slightly incredible that those monstrously huge, brightly colored sombreros, touted in so many tourist shops, could have inspired the more subdued cowboy hats. However, a sombrero simply means 'wide-brimmed hat'. What the Americans saw on the heads of Mexican farm labourers and ranchers weren't the massive, elaborate hats, seen so often now on the heads of the Mariachis.

For a start, it would have been highly difficult to even attempt heavy manual work, while keeping one of those perched on your head. The workers' sombreros were smaller and woven from straw. The wealthier people, including landowners and overseers, lined their hats with felt. These sombreros looked much more like a Stetson.

Hats worn by Mexican ranchers and farm workers

Most people don't see the hats in the field. They see them instead in the world of entertainment: on the heads of Mariachis; at the rodeos; in the parades. These are the places where style and spectacle always win out over practicality. Thus the sombreros get bigger and wilder, more embroidered and in ever more startling colors. They were donned in homage to the hats of their audiences, in solidarity, but with a sprinkle of showbusiness glitz and glamour.

Of course, these were the shows, the style and music that got exported around the world. These were the hats that made Mexico famous or, in some case, infamous. Celebrity visitors still habitually slip on a sombrero to signal their identification with the Mexican people.

Pope John Paul II in Sombrero
Pope John Paul II, with a Mariachi sombrero, in Mexico

The average Mexican does not wear a huge sombrero. Those in the countryside, working out on the land, may still wear the smaller, more practical versions, but in the cities our crowns are bare. Nevertheless, it's a recognized gesture that a sombrero on a head means a nod to Mexico.

There are only two reasons that an urban Mexican will put on a sombrero. One is for fun and the other for national identity. Often the two go hand in hand. They are the fiestas, the parades and the great sporting events. Any time that anyone needs a visual prop to say, '¡Viva México!', then out comes the hat and voila! Instant Mexicano!

Fan supporting Mexico, in the 2010 World Cup

Fun is precisely the reason that so many tourists buy one too. Shops and mercados, all over Mexico, display their brightly colored, vastly over-sized sombreros, and visitors to our country snap them up en masse. This is great! It provides photo-opportunities at every turn and creates an array of color across our beaches. Moreover, those beaches need shade and so the story of the sombrero turns full circle, right back to the beginning. You see, there's nothing like a sombrero to keep the Mexican sun from your face.

February 25, 2011

Sergio Pérez: Formula One Comes Home to Guadalajara

Think Mexico and Formula One and a name immediately comes to mind: Sergio Pérez! The championship BMW Sauber driver is gearing up for the 2011 opening, in the Australian Grand Prix. But first he is coming home, to Guadalajara, in Jalisco, to demonstrate his skills in a city-wide race.

Sergio Pérez
Sergio Pérez

This Saturday, February 26th, Sergio Pérez will be driving last season's C29 car through the streets of Guadalajara. In a specially laid out curcuit, the action will pass by the City Hall and the Cathedral.

He told Formula1.com, "This will be a very special day for me, being at home with my family and all my friends, and running the Formula One car in the city. This will be an additional boost for my motivation before leaving for Bahrain."

As a rising star, Sergio Pérez has had a fantastic career to date. At just 20 years old, he won four races for the Barwa Addax Team, to place second in the 2010 GP2 Series. He had previously been its youngest ever driver to win a race. In 2007, Sergio was the British F3 champion. Then, in October last year, it was announced that he had been snapped up by German Formula One giants, Sauber, for the 2011 Season. He will be Kamui Kobayashi's driving partner.

Sergio Pérez
Sergio Pérez

Sergio, who celebrated his 21st birthday on January 26th, isn't the only car-racing celebrity to be born in the city. His elder brother, Antonio Pérez, is a star of the NASCAR Corona Series. He was its champion in 2008. It will be two for the price of one, on Saturday, as Antonio will also be demonstrating the stock-racing skills that made him famous. They will be bringing with them another NASCAR legend, Germán Quiroga.

Germán Quiroga and Antonio Pérez have spent the last few series head to head, in adrenaline fuelled races; each putting in their all to try and beat each other to take home the NASCAR championship title. For the past two years, it has been Quiroga who took the trophy. However, they will arrive in Guadalajara as best buddies, showing off their cars and treating the crowds to some high-speed racing.

Antonio Pérez
Antonio Pérez

Guadalajara's organizers have laid out a 1.5km (0.9m) circuit through the city's streets. It's all a far cry from the childhood of the brothers Pérez, which Sergio remembers as an eight year old, go-karting close to home, as his first foray into driving. The brothers are thrilled to be home and participating in such an event. "Mexico is hugely excited about the coming season," Sergio said. "It's great we can offer the people an event like this in the run-up to it."

So, see you in Guadalajara on Saturday then?

Edit: You can read a report about this event on Checkered Flag: Perez Receives Ecstatic Reception in Mexico.

February 24, 2011

Nelly and Kelly Rowland Film 'Gone' in Cancún

It was the smash hit of 2002. 'Dilemma' topped the charts in several countries and became the anthem of the summer and the fall. Billboard Magazine named it in their Hot 100 songs of all time; while the artists, Nelly and Kelly Rowland, won a Grammy Award for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for it. Then, in November last year, the sequel, 'Gone', appeared on Nelly's album, '5.0'. Fan-made videos for it have sprung up all over YouTube. But now the real thing has been filmed and they did it in Cancún.

Candid shots and some film stills appeared on Kelly's official site last night: New Images From "Gone" Video Shoot.

Nelly and Kelly Rowland in Gone

Nelly Tweeted: Ok headed to Cancun to shoot the ""GONE"" video wit @KELLYROWLAND!!!85 degrees and sunny dammmmmm LET'S GET IT!!!!

While Kelly Rowland replied: So excited to be in BEAUTIFUL CANCUN w/ @Nelly_Mo! I'm HUNGRY. What should me and @susanheecho eat??????

Meanwhile, US Magazine are running with Kelly's diary of the Cancún film-shoot: Exclusive: Kelly Rowland's Video Reunion Diary!

Nelly and Kelly Rowland in Gone

'Gone', like 'Dilemma', draws upon a fusion of pop, R&B and rap to create its sultry sound. Nelly warned Rap-Up that, though it's a sequel, it's not merely a mash-up of the original. "Let's be honest, we can’t do 'Dilemma' over again. That's etched in time. It is what it is; that song was for that point in time." However, the story that it told will continue with 'Gone'. "It's kinda like an extension of the story and still playfully having fun with it like we did with the first one."

The track was produced by Jim Jonsin and Rico Love. Marc Klasfeld, who directed 'Dilemma', returned to continue his work with the video for 'Gone'.

Nelly and Kelly Rowland in Gone

The video was filmed at ME Cancun Hotel and Resort, Boulevard Kukulkan, km. 12, in the Hotel Zone. One of the pools and the beach area were roped off for the day, though celebrity spotters did get to watch proceedings out of view of the cameras. This will no doubt be the venue for many fan remakes to come!

Nelly and Kelly Rowland in Gone

February 23, 2011

El Camaleón: A Greg Norman Signature Golf Course in Mayakoba

Imagine the scene. You are landscaping your location for a golf course, according to plans laid out by the legendary Greg Norman. The sun is shining; the ocean is sparkling; the day is great and the future looks even rosier. You manoeuvre your bulldozer into the earth and bam! A huge sinkhole opens up in front of you. What do you do?

El Camaleón Golf Course

For Greg Norman and the staff of the Mayakoba El Camaleón Golf Course, the answer is simple. You revise your plans to create a brand new feature - a cenote at the first hole! The result is a world-class course, which is the PGA Tour's only Mexican venue.

Tomorrow, the eyes of the world's golfing media will be on this course. Australia's Aaron Baddeley and Venezuela's Jhonattan Vegas will be taking to the field, in a televised round of the PGA Mayakoba Golf Classic. This is only days after Baddeley just pipped Vijay Singh to claim the Northern Trust Open championship title, in California.

Of course, it's not just professionals who can play here. It is open to the public too. If water hazards are your golfing thing, then the Greg Norman designed El Camaleón Golf Course is the one for you. This course is unique in the world of golfing for some of its features, which include long limestone canals, mangrove forests, dense jungle, lagoons, open beachfront and a huge cenote.

There is a lot of water on the Yucatán Peninsula, but most of it is underground. The porous limestone channels much of the surface water into subterranean caverns and natural canals. At Mayakoba, Playa del Carmen, these have been opened up the elements, with the El Camaleón Golf Course fashioned around it.

El Camaleón Golf Course

The result is a stunningly picturesque 18-hole, par 72 course. The terrain is ever-changing, meaning that even frequent visitors will discover something new. Golfers can opt to be ferried to the first hole via a canal, or they could walk across the manicured Paspalum grass. There are several tough holes to test even seasoned golfers, with the most infamous being hole 6. This narrow shot incorporates a canal and a bunker, while risking interference on the ball from ocean breezes.

El Camaleón is a championship course. In 2007, the only PGA Tour event to be held outside the USA and Canada opened here. It returned again, in February 2010, when Cameron Beckman took the Mayakoba Golf Classic trophy. Of course, it's back there right now.

El Camaleón Golf Course

There are plenty of other amenities around the course too. These include a Pro-Golf shop; equipment and apparel to rent; three restaurants; carts with GPS technology to measure distance, provide yardage information and order food and drinks; the Jim McLean Golf Academy; and, of course, the beach.

Jack Nicklaus signature golf courses are also in the area: Golfing on the Riviera Maya.

For more information about golf courses and opportunities to play upon them, it is worth visiting Best Golf in Cancun.

February 22, 2011

Tulúm: The New Hollywood Hang-Out


It was once a fortress that protected from the pirates of the Caribbean; a great port, which served merchant sailors traveling as far afield as the Philippines. But these days, its ancient walls and sublime beaches are attracting visitors of another kind. Amongst the tourists flocking to Tulúm are the celebrities, who appear to be making it the season's most fashionable holiday destination.

In the Sixties, the Hollywood stampede was towards Puerto Vallarta, lured there by the Gringo Gulch love-nest of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton (Puerto Vallarta and Hollywood Royalty). While some big names still hang out there, notably John Travolta, many others appear to have swopped coastlines, from the Pacific to the Caribbean. They are all in Tulúm.

Spotted in Tulúm, over the last couple of months, have been a host of famous faces. Amongst them were: Australia's Natalie Imbruglia; Britain's Jade Jagger, Jude Law, James Penfold, Jaime Winstone and Mel Blatt; America's Drew Barrymore, Kate Bosworth, Alexander Skarsgard, Ryan Phillippe, Amanda Seyfried, Sienna Miller, Savanna, Bridget Marquardt, Amanda Hearst, Serena Merriman and Brooke Geahan; Sweden's Mathias Bergh; and Argentina's supermodel photographer extraordinaire, Paola Kudacki.

Drew Barrymore and Justin Long
Drew Barrymore and Justin Long, on the beach at Tulúm

Even the world's press appear enamoured by the Tulúm clamour. Last month, Vogue Italia declared 'Tulum is the new Goa'; while, just yesterday, the UK's 'Telegraph' ran a travel report from the area: 'Yukatán Peninsula: the best reason for visiting Mexico'. It led on the charms of Tulúm.

So what is all the fuss about? Tulúm is 128km (80m) south of Cancún. It is busy enough to be vibrant, but, without the Cancún crowds to swarm it, it still retains that air of seclusion. It is a town built up around an 800 year old Maya fort.


The ruins themselves are impressive, with its features, like Temple of the Frescoes and the Temple of the Diving God. There is a stele, in the precinct, that was carved a thousand years ago. There are aspects of it, which can be viewed as almost mystical in their practicality. The Temple of Winds was constructed in such a fashion as to emit a loud wailing noise, when the wind, blowing through its corridors, gets too strong. No hurricane ever took the people of Tulúm by surprise.

Outside the gates of the fort is a huge mercado (market). Tourists and locals alike haggle for goods and gifts. There can be some great bargains picked up, as well as authentic souvenirs, unlike those found in more commercialized spots.

But the real jewel, for those who like to see and be seen, are the beaches. Tulúm sits on the edge of the Sian Ka'an biosphere. This is an area of coastline, protected by the government, for its biodiversity, endangered species and magnificent flora and fauna. Sea turtles nest here. There is a coral reef out at sea, as well as submerged art, which acts as a beautiful artifical reef. The sands are white and the seas are distinctly turquoise. For many, this is the true Caribbean - a tropical island, which just happens to be attached to the mainland.

Tulum & Xel-Ha All Inclusive
Tulum & Xel-Ha All Inclusive
Combine Maya history with natural beauty! Tour the Tulúm ruins, then swim in the Xel Ha natural aquarium.

February 21, 2011

Earliest American Found in Quintana Roo

Mexico often has the air of an archaelogists' adventure paradise about it. I defy anyone to visit Cobá, without feeling like they are on the set of an Indiana Jones film. But beyond the vacationers, the experts are flooding in too. So many of Mexico's treasures lie undiscovered beneath the surface of the soil. This past week has seen not one, but two highly significant finds. One of these might change what we know about the history of the Americas. Has the first trace of humanity, on this continent, just been found in Quintana Roo?


In a previously unknown cavern, 4,000ft (1,200 meters) below the surface of the Yucatán Peninsula, diving explorers found the remains of dinosaurs, alongside a human skull. They have yet to be officially dated, but the presense of many megafauna bones, including that of a mastodon, suggests that they date from the Pleistocene Period. In short, they could be over 12,000 years old.

These Mastodons once roamed the Americas.

The remains were discovered in the depths of the labyrinthine Aktun-Hu system. These are a series of subterranean caves and tunnels, beneath Quintana Roo, which were flooded during the last Ice Age. Quintana Roo (famous for being the state where Cancún is) lies upon limestone, through which groundwater easily seeps to create this vast underground world. However, caves like this one, where the discoveries were made, weren't always so far down. The human being inside could well have simply walked in there, before it was ever flooded.

If this human is as ancient as the explorers believe, then (s)he may pre-date even La Mujer de las Palmas (the Lady of the Palms). It certainly adds credence to the theory that the earliest human settlers, on the Americas, came from Europe. They would have sailed from modern-day France, following a wall of icebergs, lining the Atlantic. Until recently, the most common belief was that humans reached the Americas from the north, crossing the Bering Strait, between modern-day Russia and Alaska.

La Mujer de las Palmas
La Mujer de las Palmas - does the latest find pre-date her?

The team, who made these discoveries, had to trapse through dense jungle, carrying their heavy equipment, before even making the deep dive. More details can be read at National Geographic: Skull in Underwater Cave May Be Earliest Trace of First Americans.

Also in the spotlight this week are reports of the discovery of a 3,000 year old Olmec sculpture, in Ojo de Agua, in the state of Chiapas. Standing at 3ft (0.9 meters) tall, it is made of carved, volcanic rock. It depicts a figure, with his hand held up to the Heavens, though no-one knows precisely who he is. The best guesses are Corn God, Tribal Chief, Tribal God or Priest.

Olmec Sculpture
Olmec Sculpture found in Chiapas

It was a chance discovery, uncovered by locals, in 2009. Fortunately there was an archaelogist in the area, who was able to quickly reach the site and document precisely how and where it lay. John Hodgson, an anthropology doctorial candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA, immediately sealed off the area, into a 250 hectare archaeological zone. This allowed experts to thoroughly chronicle the site.

The intervening years have shown that Ojo de Agua was once a thriving Olmec settlement. Raised platforms and formal pyramids can be discerned around central plazas. It was abandoned around 2,000 years ago.

February 18, 2011

Nichupté Lagoon, Cancún

No-one can miss the Nichupté Lagoon, in Cancún. It is that crystal clear body of water, that the seven-shape of the Hotel Zone encloses, between itself and the mainland. During the day, it throngs with boats, kayaks, skiers and divers. At sunset, the whole scene softens, serene, golden and beautiful. At night, there are merely the lights and the music; and the romance of the dinner cruises. This is the lagoon that so many call paradise on Earth.

Nichupte Lagoon

The lagoon is naturally formed, though it originally lapped against mere sandbanks, encasing it from Cancún Bay and the Caribbean Sea. Now those sandbanks, in the distinctive figure 7, have been built up to house Cancún's impressive hotels. Nichupté does encounter the ocean though, with two different narrow channels at each end. These are the Nizuc Canal, at the southern end, and the Sigfrido Canal in the north.

Nichupté Lagoon is the collective name for eight lagoons, all interlocking to form one large one. Individually, they are: Laguna Bojórquez, North Basin, Central Basin, South River, Río Inglés, Del Amor, Lagoon and the Mediterranean. Stretching 12km x 5km (7m x 3m), this is an area of outstanding natural beauty, edged with dense jungle mangroves. So many memories have been formed here, from the sunbathers at its shores; to the adrenaline junkies driving powerboats and jet-skis across its center; to the marriage proposals whispered over candlelit suppers, sailing upon its depths.

Nichupte Lagoon

Nichupté is also home to a bewildering variety of marine life. Most notable of all are the Mexican crocodiles.Also called Morelet's Crocodile, this is an endangered species. They grow to around 3 metres (9.8 ft), feeding on birds, fish, insects and small wildlife.

They used to be plentiful here, but increased tourism has pushed them back into the more remote, quieter areas. Nichupte Lagoon Nevertheless, they are still out there, which is why swimming in the outer lagoon is discouraged. It still happens, especially amongst the daredevil locals!

Not that anyone is missing much by not taking a dip there. Many sections of the lagoon are enclosed, to protect humans from the crocodiles. Meanwhile the hotels, lining its shores, all have several pools; while the Caribbean Sea is a short walk away.

In the lagoon itself, there are red crabs, blue crabs and a huge diversity of fish. The heron, ibis, pelican and cormorant soar overhead. Snakes and raccoons forage in the jungle foliage around it.

The snakes actually named the area. The Mayan 'Kaankún' translates as 'nest of snakes', referring to those living in the mangroves around Nichupté Lagoon. The snakes slithered away into less populated areas, Kaankún was Anglocized into Cancún and the rest is history.

View Larger Map

The northern and eastern shores of the lagoon are where most of the visitors to Cancún converge. It is here that the grand hotels, huge shopping malls, entertainment venues, nightclubs and marinas can be found. If you fancy venturing out onto the lagoon, many trips and excursions can be booked from vendors in the Hotel Zone, including, of course, Endless Tours.

Jungle Tour
Jungle Tour
Drive your own speedboat, across Nichupté Lagoon, through the mangroves, and out into the Caribbean Sea.

February 17, 2011

Spring Break in Cancun

It's coming up to that time of year again. Students across the USA are cramming for exams and burning the midnight oil, in order to get that assignment in on time. But the scent of spring break is in the air and, for an even higher number of people than ever, that means Mexico! Orbitz has reported that Cancun, San Jose del Cabo and Puerto Vallarta are all in the top five Spring Break destinations this year. Bring on the party!

Spring Break

Resort towns, like Cancun, are crowded at the best of times, but Spring Break is when the atmosphere really starts buzzing. Flash parties, organized parties, activities and trips, anything can and will happen, with perfect strangers grinning solidarity in the streets. Everyone is here for a fun time and the excitement is palpable in the air.

If you are one of the thousands who make the pilgrimage here every year, then you know what to expect. Party on! This is a blog aimed at those venturing out for the first time. Oh! You are going to have such a treat! However, for many of you, this is a foreign country, so let's see how we can prepare you for a great vacation.

Endless Tours's Top Ten Tips for a
Perfect Cancun Spring Break.

Spring Break

Tip Number One: Pack Well

Cancun is hot, in every sense of the word! You will be basking beneath a tropical sun, with a beach-life booming and the nightclubs beckoning. If you are unfamiliar with such temperatures and lifestyle, then you'll need to know what to pack.

We blogged about that here: Packing for your Cancún Vacation.

Tip Number Two: Exchange Your Money

Cancun is a tourist destination and, as such, the majority of places accept US dollars. It's convenient for those on vacation. But is it necessarily the best deal for you?

Enter the debate and know your currency here: Dollars versus Pesos in Cancún.

Spring Break

Tip Number Three: Educate Yourself About Timeshare

As soon as you step off the 'plane, you will be approached by Timeshare representatives. They will offer fantastic deals, including free trips or entrance passes into attractions. They will offer the world on a plate. It is your prerogative to decide whether to accept or walk away. However, you can't really do that unless you know precisely what Timeshare is!

Learn all about it in this blog: Timeshare.

Tip Number Four: Arrive Quickly and Safely at your Hotel.

The last thing that you want is any delay in getting to the party. Once out of the airport, you will be met with a bewildering array of people offering to drive you to your accommodation. Many of these will be Timeshare operatives; while some are unlicensed drivers out to make a quick buck. Hey! It happens everywhere! But you don't have to fall for any of it.

The trick is to book your shuttle transfer in advance. Naturally, we'll want to highlight the Endless Tours service here. Alternatively, Cancun Airport has licensed the internationally reknowned Taxi by Hertz.

Spring Break

Tip Number Five: Find the Party.

To be fair, it would be harder to not find any parties. Cancun is one big party during Spring Break. They even happen on the bus. True story.

Read about some of the bigger Cancun nightclubs here: Party Night in Cancún.

Tip Number Six: Party Legally!

Nothing puts a dampener on a vacation like being arrested and thrown in jail. (Though granted, for some, no vacation is complete without it.) Please do remember that you are in a foreign country now, so the laws may be totally different to those back home. If you commit a crime in Mexico, then you will be subject to Mexican law. No exceptions.

Familiarize yourself with the most important ones (ie those covering sex, drugs and rock'n'roll) here: Is it Legal?

Spring Break

Tip Number Seven: Look After Yourself

You might feel invincible, out there having the time of your life, but your body can have other ideas. The Mexican sun can be hot, hot, hot! If you are not used to the heat, then it's worth swotting up on how to avoid common pitfalls.

We have a couple of blog entries concerning that: Coping With the Mexican Heat: Body Temperature and Over-Heating and Coping With the Mexican Heat: Keeping Cool. A new Sombrero anyone?

There's also the fact that a sudden change in drinking water or food can upset a delicate constitution. When this happens in Mexico, then it's called Montezuma's Revenge.

Tip Number Eight: Learn to Haggle Like a True Bargain Hunter

Cancun is an amazing location for shopping. There are several large malls (and a loads of smaller ones too), but there are also the mercados. These should be approached with the spirit of a hunter. You can bag yourself some serious bargains here, but only if you know how to haggle.

A user-guide to these markets can be found here: How to Haggle for Goods at the Mercado

Chichén Itzá

Tip Number Nine: Venture Out on Some Trips

You could spend your entire vacation around the hotel and beach. There would be enough to keep you entertained right there. But you wouldn't be seeing the true Mexico there. Broaden your horizons with a trip away from the resort, as there are some absolutely awesome sights very close to Cancun. This includes one of the Seven New Wonders of the World, Chichén Itzá.

You can peruse some of them over on the Endless Tours website.

Tip Number Ten: Enjoy Yourself!

This is your big vacation. Let all the stresses go and just kick back. You will have the time of your life and, undoubtedly, we'll see you again next year.

Spring Break

Viva Mexico! And viva Spring Break!

February 15, 2011

Bésame Mucho

'Bésame Mucho' is the Mexican love song that took over the world. After being recorded by some of Mexico's greatest stars, including Pedro Infante and Jose Jose, it went global.

The song has been translated into 20 languages. Lucho Gatica serenaded with it, Chilean Bolero style. Elvis Presley recorded a version. Josephine Baker sang it, as a morale booster, for the troops in World War Two. Frank Sinatra crooned it. The Beatles used it in their audition tapes for Decca and EMI, as well as featuring it in the 'Let It Be' film. It has appeared on the original soundtrack of countless films. Yet how many know that it was written by a fifteen year old girl, who thought that kissing was a sin?

Consuelo Velázquez had been playing piano since she was four years old. Consuelo VelázquezEleven years later, she was a young teenager, installed at Mexico City's National Conservatory and the Palace of Fine Arts, dreaming of love.

'Bésame Mucho' literally translates as 'Kiss Me Much', but it's often rendered in English as 'Kiss Me A Lot' or 'Kiss Me Again'. Naturally, many people over the years have asked Consuelo who she was thinking about, as she sat at her piano and composed her classic tune. She claims that it was no-one in particular. Just her imagination and the longing for romance.

Consuelo was born, on August 29th, 1916, in Ciudad Guzmán, Jalisco. Her family, all strict Roman Catholics, moved to Guadalajara, while she was just a baby. She spent her formative years there, before moving to Mexico City to train as a concert pianist. At fifteen years old, with those hormones raging, she day-dreamed about finding love. But she had been raised as a good girl. No kissing, cuddling, flirting, romancing or any of that before marriage; and certainly nothing that would disgrace herself and her family.

She was both a virtuous girl and a virtuosa. Her dreams went no further than her fingers on the piano keys; and her mind soaring with creating the greatest Mexican love song of all time. Here she is, in adult life, playing it again:

Those lyrics are:

Bésame, bésame mucho,
Como si fuera esta noche la última vez.
Bésame, bésame mucho,
Que tengo miedo perderte,
Perderte otra vez.

Quiero tenerte muy
Cerca, mirarme en tus
Ojos, verte junto a mí,
Piensa que tal vez
Mañana yo ya estaré
Lejos, muy lejos de ti.

Bésame, bésame mucho,
Como si fuera esta noche la última vez.
Bésame mucho,
Que tengo miedo perderte,
Perderte después.
Kiss me, Kiss me a lot,
As if tonight were the last time.
Kiss me, kiss me a lot,
Because I'm afraid of losing you,
To lose you again.

I want to have you very close
To see myself in your eyes,
To see you next to me,
Think that perhaps tomorrow
I already will be far,
very far from you.

Kiss me, Kiss me a lot,
As if tonight were the last time.
Kiss me, a lot,
because I'm afraid of losing you,
To lose you later.

'Bésame Mucho' wasn't an immediate hit. After graduating from the National Conservatory and the Palace of Fine Arts, Consuelo took a job at a radio company, XEQ. She also continued to write songs, while performing concerts as a pianist. Then, in 1941, the song was picked up and recorded by Emilio Tuero and Chela Campos. It soon became popular with the big bands and, through them, was showcased to troops, stationed across the world, during the Second World War. By March 4th, 1944, it was at the top of the US Billboard Charts, where it stayed for 12 weeks.

Since then, its global success has been unstoppable. Throughout the decades, it has continued to resurface, often performed by the biggest names of the day. As late as 2007, a contestant on 'American Idol', Sanjaya Malakar, chose to sing it to woo the nation during 'Latin Nation'. Even Simon Cowell couldn't fault him.

A year later, Russia's celebrated baritone, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, and South Korea's coloratura soprano, Sumi Jo, included it in their set, at a star-studded gala in St Petersburg:

While the Italian 'X-Factor' saw contestant, Guisy Ferreri, perform it. She ultimately came second in the whole show:

'Bésame Mucho' has travelled the world, being translated into many different languages. As music styles change, this song changes with them. Each artist comes to it with a different spin and a new way of presenting it. Here is a unique version, the fusion between Danny Aiello and rap artist, Hasan:

Finally here is the chilled, groove remix of the tune, released by Worldwide Groove Corporation:

It might have originally been the song of a teenage Mexican girl, yearning for love, but now it's the sound of romance everywhere. Who knows what the future may bring!

February 14, 2011

Getting Married in Cancun

Happy Valentine's Day, beautiful people! On this day of flowers and chocolates, it's not unusual for the big question to be popped. Down on one knee; eyes shining, full of hope; the ring proffered in a trembling hand; and a smile around the words, "Will you marry me?" And if the answer is a resounding, "Yes!", then beyond the hugs, kisses and excited calls to everyone you know, another big thought looms. Where should we get married?

Cancun Wedding

Over the past decade, the Riviera Maya has grown in reputation as a dream wedding location. As the costs of traditional weddings soar, it's often a simple task of mathematics to realise that it would be cheaper to get married in paradise. Legally binding, but against a backdrop of white sands, a turquoise sea and palm trees. Does it get more sublime and romantic than that?

So many people choose to marry here that wedding packages, planners, stores and all of the other associated services have become big business. There will be no shortage of professional people ready to help you arrange your big day. In Cancun, especially, there are hundreds of locations licensed to hold weddings. You can download a PDF on the Cancun Travel Information site, which shows you a selection of them.

Cancun Wedding

But first the boring stuff - the legalities! First check that a marriage in Mexico will be recognized in your own country. For heterosexual couples, this isn't usually a problem. For homosexual couples, you may find that your own government will not consider your union to be valid. There have been reports that the Australian authorities will even withhold travel permits, for those citizens who are planning a same sex wedding abroad. Either way, a legal wedding in Mexico will result in a marriage certificate, verified by the Registrar's Office.

Cancun Wedding

If all is good, then you will need to bring certain documents:

Documents Required for Civil Office

  • Home address and occupations (bride & groom)
  • Birth certificates (Original or certified copy of each one)
  • Valid passports (Although passports are not required for US citizens for entry into Mexico, they are mandatory for weddings)
  • Original blood test (to determine blood type, HIV and STD). Tests must be taken at the resort and results are ready within 24 hours (Fee of approximately $50.00 per person applies)
  • Original or certified copy of former spouse's death certificate (if applicable)
  • Original divorce decree (if applicable)
  • Legal documentation of adoption or name change (if applicable)
  • Tourist ID (provided by customs upon your arrival at Cancun International Airport)
  • Name, age, nationality, home address, occupation, driver’s licence or passport and tourist ID of 4 witnesses. Witnesses must arrive two (2) days prior to ceremony. If witnesses are not available, we will provide them.
  • Bride and Groom must arrive to Cancun at least 3 working days prior to the wedding ceremony to meet with the wedding coordinator and submit all documents. Ceremony will not be performed unless all documents are in order. (no exceptions)
** Do Not Send Documents by Mail **
-Reservations should be made in advance to guarantee preferred wedding date. -Mexican registry office is only open from Monday through Saturday
-Dress code: Formal or Semi-formal, no shorts or bathing suits
Source: Cancun Mexico Weddings

Cancun Wedding

Once the legalities are dealt with, then there is a wealth of details to determine. Will you marry in a hotel, on the beach, in a Maya village, on a golf course, in a sacred place or maybe at Chichén Itzá itself? The list is endless! Though a religious ceremony may require extra documentation and a minister.

Requirements for a Catholic marriage in Cancun are:
  • Certificates of baptism
  • Certificates of confirmation
  • Permission of the selected church
  • Two witnesses
  • A passport-size photo of both the bride and groom
  • Prenuptial counseling attended by both the bride and groom
Source: Cancun Travel

For all other religious marriages, it is better to check with the local representatives. The Cancun places of worship are listed here.

Of course, some people like to have more than one ceremony; and why not? It's their big day!

Cancun Wedding

This photograph was taken from the roll of Nina and Anesh. They opted to have both a traditional Maya ceremony and a Hindu wedding, though on different days!

Cancun Wedding

With documentation ready and location chosen, your next step is to organize your wedding. For those traveling miles to marry in paradise, it might be worth hiring a local wedding planner. A simple search on the internet will provide you with pages of links to them. Alternatively, if you wished to arrange matters yourself, the same search will provide everything from florists to satellite link video producers, who ensure that those back home share in the day.

Cancun Wedding

Cancun Wedding

Tempting, isn't it? Happy Valentine's Day all!

February 11, 2011

Catemaco: City of Witches

When the volcano became dormant, after blowing itself apart, it left a crater. In the crater formed a lake. Fish-eating baboons populated the jungle around the lake. A city grew upon the shore; its people drawn by the plentiful fishing.


Cattle ranches and farmland ate into the jungle, but not too much. The lush foliage still spreads, wide and dense, upon the remaining volcanic peaks. Mel Gibson chose it as a filming location for some of the scenes in 'Apocalypto'; Sean Connery used it as a backdrop for 'Medicine Man'. The Mexican government protect it, as part of the Los Tuxtlas Biosphere Reserve. UNESCO declared it a world heritage site. Out on the lake, there are islands where the macaque monkeys roam free; survivors of research labs. This is Catemaco and the city belongs to the witches.

Catemaco brujo

There are always brujos in Catemaco. The High Council of Witches and Wizards resides there. Pilgrims, primarily from Mexico but increasingly from around the world, come here for healing, workshops or magical protection. The city has charms, in every sense of the word. Then, during the first Thursday and Friday in March, the city fills with magical practitioners of every hue. This is the Congreso Internacional de Brujos (International Gathering of Witches) and, during this festival, the sleepy city truly comes alive.

The fiesta erupts in parades, music and dancing. Healers, psychics, therapists and Pagan vendors line the shore. Everywhere the fine food, for which Catemaco is nationally famous, is on offer in abundance. The streets are filled with priests and priestesses in their finery. Olmec head-dresses rise, in full plumage, above the throng. This is a celebration, as much as a get-together.

The Annual Gathering of Witches is a light-hearted affair. You don't have to be a witch to be there. In fact, ordinary tourists are the ones filling the hotels and guesthouses, drawn by the party atmosphere and the wonderful sights on offer. A tarot reading here, an amulet there and participation in a cleansing ceremony are usually as far as the average visitor tends to go. For the real Pagans though, this is an opportunity to meet up with like-minded people, sharing knowledge and joining together for rituals. On the whole, it's both fun and empowering.

Catemaco brujo

Catemaco has always been steeped in the mystical. It was once the stronghold of the Olmec people. Local legend has it that Catemaco was once the sacred center for the Olmec, hence its Pagan credentials start there. The festivals and practises now are simply a continuation of ways that have been here for 3,000 years. Colossal Stone Heads have been found in nearby San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán.

The area is also home to several tribes of Hungaros/Rromaní (gypsies). These people will be in Catemaco for the gathering, plying their traditional wares and services.

Mexican Gypsies

For more information about the witches of Catemaco, plus photographs, film and stories, please visit Catemaco Brujos.
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