Friday, May 30, 2008

aguas con los cenotes

Akumal is a small, once-sleepy, and still beautiful seaside town with multiple bays that shape and contort the southern part of the Yucatan Pennisnula, Mexico. Akumal means “place of turtles” in the ancient Mayan language. Cleverly named as such because its beaches are the primary nesting zones for both the Caretta caretta (loggerhead sea turtles) and Chelonia mydas (green turtles), this divinely picturesque area cares for not only these cute li’l green guys scurrying around in oversized shells, but is also home to some of the most gorgeous and awe-inspiring feats of nature’s creation that these eyes have seen, to wit: an enormous and vibrant reef with all the brightly colored fishies and scuba-tourist dollars that followed (this is why you’ve heard of Cozumel), a dense and lush mangrove (this is the sub-tropical swamp version of a rainforest), and perhaps most amazingly, the cenotes. Cenotes are essentially a product of an intricate system of underground rivers. They were “discovered” in this area only less than 30 years ago, and with their various stalagmites, stalactites, and various other insane rock formations and nooks and crannies, comprise the best cave and cavern diving on the planet. Only a fraction of this 500-mile maze of cenotes has even been explored, and though they provide endless fun to adventurers willing to strap oxygen tanks to their backs, fins to their feet and lights to their heads, they actually serve an even greater and broader social purpose (that is, when we consider society to consist of more than just human life, which of course, in the modern world, we do not). The mangroves provide the water and nutrients that are carried through the cenotes out to the sea and the reef, providing for the beautiful plant and marine life the reef supports.

Almost anything that’s good on this god-forsaken planet must be usurped for profit and exploitation and thus face extinction, and this wonderfully small and peaceful beauty remains no exception to the golden-green rule of mankind. The larger culprits are all-inclusive mega-resorts, with no thoughts but of money, catering to stupid and miserable western tourists, with no thoughts but of themselves, and in bed with local governments, with very little thought to speak of (think Eichmann in Jerusalem). Specifically here, the culprit here is the Bahia Gran Principe Hotel in Akumal. Yes, they are creating an artificial beach through the use of sascab and destroying the nesting area of the sea turtles, violating Mexican federal law by building over the federally protected mangroves, dumping their sewage into the sea and into the reef, and building an ungodly and sadistically called-for 27- hole golf course by the pampered and lazy (stupid and dumb and hate-filled also work) western extravagants, but these can be all read about in more detail in the following letter. Perhaps their truer crimes are keeping a donkey on staff to chug a beer at the demand of the aforesaid pampered (and stupid) tourists (it’s not as sweet as it sounds, though it is basically my life at this point, take a guess at what happens to a donkey that’s pounding beers all day), and staining a once-beautiful beach with hundreds of obnoxious fold out lounge chairs accompanied by the even worse sight of fat Spanish pot-bellies (sometimes Italians), who do little but get brutally sunburnt, smoke non-filters, drink shitty campari, and ogle my girlfriend all day. These people are the scum of the fucking earth and they are ruining one of the last xanadus left.

Please visit to learn more about what is going on down there and how you can help. There is a multimedia section which includes many informative videos, including a volunteer picking up trash along a public beach being assaulted by Bahia Principe’s employees, a crab trapped due to the artificial beach created by the sascab, and a video of the beach itself being attacked. Here’s a little fly-over of the region and an intro into the problems.

And here’s a letter we’ve delivered to some corporate-backed US politician that details some of the major violations going on in Akumal. I urge you to take the time out of your busy days refreshing your email and visiting espn.con, pitchfork, perezhilton, and whatever else it is you do to keep the systems of oppression intact and growing strong (see, I don't know do anything, so i can say this while looking down my nose) to watch the videos and read the letter, and please think about and do something that will help either this area of the world, another, or the broader society and planet that we are live off and contribute to. We’re all in this together, people.

Dear Senator Schumer,

I am writing to you about a matter of serious environmental concern. The Quintana Roo coastline of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico is currently experiencing an ecological crisis that threatens to permanently destroy its unique habitat and animal life. Though these activities are governed by Mexican Law, I hope that you, an influential US Senator with an impressive environmental record and a history of progressive advocacy, can help consolidate the support necessary to pressure the Mexican government to enforce its own laws and protect this land.

The chain of Gran Bahia Principe Hotels in Mexico is a prime culprit in this ongoing environmental destruction. Specifically, the Gran Bahia Principe Hotel in Akumal, Mexico has repeatedly engaged in acts violative of Mexican Federal Law, and continues to do so unabated. “Akumal” translates to “place of turtles” in Mayan Akumal’s beaches are the primary nesting zones of the Caretta caretta (loggerhead sea turtles) and Chelonia mydas (green turtles) – both are protected as endangered species under Mexican Federal law (NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2001). However, the Gran Bahia Principe is breaching this law by using a limestone-based material, sascab, to create artificial beaches on its nearby public shore. This material alters the habitat in a manner that prevents the sea turtles from nesting. The sascab kills coral and marine vegetation by impeding natural light through water. The US’s own National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has clearly stated that the loss and degradation of nesting areas caused by erosion, devouring, modification and artificial light is a serious problem attacking sea turtles and their hatchlings.

The Gran Bahia’s abuse of the land extends into the mangroves that are the lifeblood of one of the areas most spectacular physical attractions, the extensive coral reef. The mangroves in the area feed the reef through an intricate system of underground rivers, known as cenotes. These mangroves are protected by Mexican Federal Law, however, the Gran Bahia Principe has simply built over much of them. At various times, the hotel has dumped sewage into adjacent mangroves, killing the diverse plant and animal life. The hotel has also dumped sewage into the sea from its property, as well as placed geotubes in the ocean to break up waves and create an artificial beach. At least one of their geotubes has ruptured and was found entangled in and covering the coral reef.

Perhaps even more threatening to the area’s land is the Gran Bahia Principe’s current project to build a large 27-hole golf course above the Aktun Chen System. Aktun Chen is an intricate 500-mile system of underground, water-filled caves and caverns. These cenotes comprise some of the world’s best cave and cavern scuba diving, and only a fraction of these cenotes have been fully explored. Moreover, these underground rivers transport the food to the coral reef allowing it to thrive, and they provide the area with much of the local fresh water supply. However, the chemicals necessary to sustain the golf course, over five tons per year, will undoubtedly seep into the this river system and have potentially devastating and irreparable consequences for the cenotes, the reef, and the diverse plant and animal life that they support.

I understand that it is not the US Senate’s job to protect the land or laws of other sovereign nations. However, Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, from Cancun to Playa del Carmen and Tulum, is a haven for American tourists and American investment. The Gran Bahia Principe Hotels advertise specifically to Americans. The demand and motivation for the golf-course’s construction in no small part comes from American, and consequently the Gran Bahia Principe Hotels feel the need to break a variety of Mexican laws. The flipside is that many future American tourists will not be able to enjoy the stunning natural beauty of the region if these activities continue. We are writing to you, Senator, for your support in our cause to save the Mayan Riviera. We ask that you put pressure on the President Felipe Calderon and the Mexican Government to enforce its own laws and protect its environment. You can learn more about our organization at You can find more information about what we are trying to do to save this beautiful land, as well as photographic and video evidence of all of the various illegal actions committed by the Gran Bahia Principe Hotel discussed in this letter.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

the battle between good and evil

Canada and Russia will assume the roles of the Nationalists and Republicans, respectively, with the venue this time being the Quebec City Colisee in the gold-medal game of the 2008 world ice hockey championships, rather than the battlefields of Guipozcoa, Segovia, and Ebro of the Spanish Civil War. Though the world championships have always played second chair to the NHL playoffs in North America, this year's event has taken on special meaning due to the IIHF's celebration of 100 years and, more importantly, its hosting, for the first time ever, on Canadian soil. Competitions between national teams are particularly interesting because you get to see specific identities and styles emerge as players from a shared background and with a more consistent hockey aesthetic come together to form a team. The short duration of the tournament also gives coaches less time to mold their teams, and thus players have to rely more on their own instincts and abilities than a coach's direction. This can, though not necessarily, result in more interesting hockey than at the end of a long club season when basically every team plays the same way and the players can at times look like robots following direct orders from above.

This is the dream match-up everyone was hoping for and these are clearly the two best teams of the tournament. As in any one game series, goaltending will be huge: if either Ward or Nabokov woke up feeling funny and has a stinker, their team will probably lose. Canada is essentially a one line team; the trio of Heatley, Getzlaf, and Nash has been dominant. Russia, of course, will have no special plans to defend them, will not match-up any specific line of defensive pair against them, and will essentially appear as if being coached by a solipsistic infant who has wandered into a hockey arena for the first time. Their possible saving grace is that Russia has displayed a hugely successful puck possession game and regardless of what 5-man unit is out there they will likely force the Big Canadians to spend a fair amount of time and energy running around their own zone, which could seriously limit their effectiveness. As for the good guys, the "Capital Punishment" line of Ovechkin, Fedorov, and Semin have been the main suppliers of offense thus far, and I expect Canada to pay special attention to stopping them (i.e. stapling Jovanovski and Bouwmeester to that line). This could open the door up for the ZZM (Zaripov, Zinovjev, and Morozov) troika to have a big day (and hopefully show Canada and Canadian fans especially that the NHL no longer has a monopoly on the hockey talent in the world).

It will be absolutely imperative that the Ruskies stay out of the penalty box as the hosers from up north have a deadly power play. My thought, hope at least, is that the prairie boys aren't fast enough to play with Russia 5 on 5, but they can do some damage with the man advantage. Lamentably, the refs will play a huge role in the outcome of the game: if they decide to whistle everything that moves, I think it favors the bad guys. If they let the players decide the game and call only those infractions that impede and prevent possession or scoring chances, I like the former Soviets' chances. A Russian victory won't undo the all the damage the Republicans' defeat did to freedom and liberty around the world, but it would be a start.

1st period update: Russia gets off to an awesome early start off a goal by Semin. Then, quick and decisive responses by the major actors involved: 10 straight minor penalty minutes to Russia handed out by the refs, 3 straight goals from Canada, and continued asinine coaching and bench management by Russian coach Slava Bykov. The biggest mistake he makes is continuing to play 8 defensemen. NHL teams use 6 defensemen in a game, and of those 6, 1 will often play sparingly. Bykov uses all 8 roughly equally, despite some being obviously not as good as others. This specifically includes Vitaly Proshkin, a Russian league defender who was on the ice for the first two Canada goals, and took a 4 minute highsticking penalty that led to Russia being down two men and led to Canada's third goal. A Canadian coach wouldn't even dress Proshkin for the game, yet now he will be a major reason why Russia will lose. Canada's second goal was the result of another Russian league player; Maxim Sushinsky coughed up the puck at center ice, then ran into, guess who, Vitaly Proshkin, which allowed Chris Kunitz to coast in and beat Nabokov up high. Bykov will continue to roll out Sushinsky, who is super skilled and a good player, but who is not used to playing at speeds this high against very big and aggressive Canadian players. Against a team like Switzerland, Sushinsky could be Russia's best player, but he will exploited by team Canada and will make it that harder for Russia's difference makers, Ovechkin, Fedorov, Semin to keep Russia in the game. Yet, Bykov will continue to roll all the lines out equally, a kind of unthinking socialism that is being applied to hockey in a way unimaginable to the Canadian players, coaches, and fans. Coaching again will cost Russia a chance to effectively compete at the level it should.

2nd period update: much better period. Bykov actually makes an attempt to have his better players on the ice more often than his worse players. It appears to be too little too late. Everyone will go home happy and expectations will have been met. I hate hockey.

final update: good beats evil 5-4 in OT. Maybe there is hope for all of us after all.