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Tuesday, December 6, 2022

2021, a hectic year, in review

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
A year of hope and setbacks. Photo: Courtesy

It has been one doozy of a year. From the ever-evolving situation with the COVID-19 pandemic to the decline and bouncing back of the tourism industry, to wacky news stories that for some reason or another caught traction in 2021.

So as the year comes to an end we have decided to present 10 of the stories that most caught our attention and imagination, from the tragic to the frivolous to the outright silly.

Tourist arrested after climbing pyramid in Chichén Itzá (January)

Thinking about climbing the Pyramid of Kukulcán? Sorry, you are over a decade too late. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

A tourist from Tijuana raised the ire of security personnel in Chichén Itzá when she ascended the famous Pyramid of Kukulkán. According to security at the archaeological site, the woman showed signs of intoxication.

Among boos and jeers from other tourists, the woman descended the pyramid and was quickly detained by security. She was then taken to Pisté where she faced local authorities. 

The woman explained that she had climbed the pyramid as part of a promise to her deceased husband, whose ashes she claimed to be carrying. According to unverified sources on social media, the woman managed to sprinkle his remains atop the pyramid.

Mérida officially launches its city-wide bicycle lane network (February)

New bike lanes in Mérida have confused motorists who are accustomed to dropping off passengers or idling for quick errands. Photo: Lee Steele

When city officials first announced the creation of a network of dedicated bicycle lanes, Yucatecos were extremely polarized on the issue. Cycling advocates heralded the beginning of a new era, and naysayers said it would decimate businesses and create unprecedented chaos. Both seem to have exaggerated just a bit. 

But it certainly is true that at the beginning, a lack of clarity regarding the rules of the road, and a lack of large-scale cycling culture in the city caused more than a few headaches

It would appear that almost a year after the bike lanes were introduced, Méridanos have finally gotten used to them, though there are still those who are adamant that the whole idea was ill-conceived. 

COVID-19 vaccines begin to arrive in Yucatán (March)

Mexican military planes have now delivered millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Yucatán. Photo: Courtesy

In March COVID-19 vaccines started to be offered to residents in Yucatán, though the rollout was initially quite slow and focused on small municipalities. By May teachers became eligible to be vaccinated with the Chinese-made CanSino vaccine

With the arrival of larger shipments, vaccination began to roll out in Mérida for senior citizens and was eventually opened up to all adults — and in some cases to children as young as 15. Currently, booster shots are being offered to people 65 and over. It is expected that the rollout will continue in the new year for the rest of the population — though this fact has not been confirmed. 

Mexico City subway tragedy (May)

Subway cars dangle Tuesday after an elevated section of the metro in Mexico City collapsed. Photo: AP

The L12 subway line in Mexico City collapsed on the morning of May 4, killing 24 and injuring dozens. The infrastructure project was built during the administration of Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard, who is widely considered the likely successor to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

The fact that one of the major contractors responsible for the construction of the subway line also happens to be working on the Mayan Train has raised serious concerns regarding the safety of the project. 

One of the issues which may have contributed to the accident is a lack of consistency in construction standards. These discrepancies were apparently caused because some of the systems were built to American specifications, while others followed European standards.

New images of the Mayan Train spark imagination (June)

Plans for the Mayan Train and its avant-garde stations are ambitious, but it is yet to be seen if they can be finished on time and on budget. Photo: Fonatur

Computer-generated images of the Mayan Train and its stations present cutting-edge designs that have galvanized public opinion across the country. The images were presented by Mexico’s federal tourism development agency, Fonatur.

However, critics of the project point out that these designs are only that, tentative ideas, far from becoming a reality. When it comes to the construction of the Mayan Train, setbacks appear to be the norm

Of the 158 kilometers the rail network is supposed to cover in Yucatán, only 12 have been completed, according to the project’s state representative, Aarón Rosado Castillo.

The first cruise of the COVID-19 era arrives in Progreso (July)

The Carnival Breeze was welcomed to Progreso by government officials, including Yucatán Gov. Mauricio Vila Dosal. Photo: Courtesy

Progreso received its first cruise ship since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Carnival Breeze arrived in Progreso at 7 a.m. on July 26th and remained in the port city until 4 p.m.

Though the cruise was operating nowhere near-maximum capacity, after a few more weeks, greater numbers of cruisegoers began to arrive on Yucatán’s shores — to the delight of restauranteurs and merchants alike. Also making returns have been several flights both to Mérida and Cancún, the most recent of which is WestJet’s weekly flight to Mérida from Toronto

Yucatán’s legislature passes marriage-equality bill (August)

Advocates of Yucatán’s marriage equality bill celebrate their victory. Photo: Courtesy

On Aug. 25, Yucatán’s legislature passed a new bill making same-sex marriage the law of the land.

The new law now defines marriage as being between two people, no longer a man and a woman. The vote passed with 20 votes in favor and five against. 

Attempts to pass a measure to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry previously failed twice, most recently in 2019. 

In 2015 Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to prevent people of the same gender from marrying. However, a handful of jurisdictions have refused to ratify the decision.

Mexico bans Maunchan instant noodles, but not really (October)

Instant soups are a favorite in convenience stores around the country. Photo: Courtesy

In October, Profeco announced that instant soups will be withdrawn from the market because they are considered harmful to consumers’ health.

This fairly small story quickly caught fire and became one of our most-read stories of the year. Lots of people must really love instant noodles!

The problem ultimately came down to what the government considered to be inaccurate nutritional information on the soup’s packaging. The issue was resolved, and Manuchans can once again be found across Mexico’s grocery and convenience stores — thank goodness.

Mérida hosts Tianguis Turistico Mexico (November)

Mérida’s Ballet Folklorico de la Ciudad performs in Santa Ana Park during Tianguis Turistico celebrations. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Last November, Mérida hosted Mexico’s Tianguis Turístico for the first time, the country’s largest tourism industry trade show. 

Along with official activities held in Mérida’s convention centers, a series of events for the public were held in several city parks, especially Santa Ana, where vendors and entertainers attracted large amounts of people.

The trade show was also a breath of fresh air for Mérida’s hotels that have been struggling to make ends meet since the COVID-19 pandemic all but halted tourism to Yucatán’s capital city. 

The Tianguis Turístico Mexico was originally slated to be hosted in late March 2020, but given the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, was pushed back to the fall, and then March, before it was postponed again until November 2021.

Tensions rise as growing numbers of migrants cross Mexico’s southern borders (December)

Unscrupulous intermediaries often offer to expedite visas or border crossings in exchange for money, but this is almost always a scam. Photo: Courtesy

In 2021, Mexico saw a growing amount of migrants cross its southern border illegally, many of which are currently asking for asylum. The migrants have been made up mostly of nationals of Central American nations, but also Haitians and Venezuelans. 

Several groups of migrants have set up tents outside of immigration offices in cities such as Tijuana and Chetumal while they wait for resident permits which may never be issued. 

But many others have been lured to the US border by unscrupulous brokers who have assured them legal access to the American dream. 

“These are good people and they deserve the right to stable, secure lives. Our enemy here is not the people but rather the instability which is forcing them to take such drastic measures,” said Marcelo Ebrad, Mexico’s secretary of foreign affairs, during a press conference in Mérida. 

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