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Posts Tagged ‘cancun’

Mexican Hotel Rejects Gay Wedding

Posted by Tony & Cheri on August 22, 2011

It is hard for us to believe, but we have just heard that a giant five-star resort here in the Riviera Maya refused to allow a wedding ceremony in their hotel because the couple is gay. We are outraged and saddened by such behavior in our adopted country. But truthfully, we’re not surprised.

Whenever someone posts on travel forums looking for gay friendly hotels, there are often responses that question why someone would require a gay friendly accommodation. It is often asked: why can’t the gay traveler be content to accept accommodations which are open to everyone?

The simple reason is that the gay traveler still finds discrimination in the travel industry everywhere in the world, even in Mexico, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and where same sex marriage is legal in Mexico City.

An example of this discrimination can be found at the five star La Amada Hotel resort here in the Riviera Maya (just north of Cancun), which specializes in wedding ceremonies and honeymoon packages for their guests. On their web page “facts sheet,” the section on “Romance” reads as follows:

“Our professional staff, superior catering options
and breathtaking backdrops invite you to experience
the Mexican honeymoon you’ve always imagined.”

It would appear however that romance at the La Amada Hotel is limited only to straight couples. Recently when a gay couple contacted the hotel to arrange for a wedding and reception, they received the following rejection letter:

“Dear [Redacted]: Thank you for you interests for La Amada Hotel.
Being a family friendly resort, we unfortunately cannot support or perform
a gay wedding. I understand you want to have a small intimate
ceremony, but we cannot proceed.”

As members of the travel industry, we are outraged at such blatant discrimination. We, the owners of the Luna Blue Hotel, support equal rights for all people regardless of religion, race or sexual preference/orientation. We believe that a hotel can be both family-friendly and supportive of gay couples.

We would ask our friends and readers of our blog to join us in condemning such behavior in the travel industry. Let the La Amada Hotel know that such discrimination is not acceptable. You can send your comments to them by emailing weddings@laamadahotel.com .

News stories regarding this outrageous behavior have properly protected the privacy of the couple involved. However, if their names become public, we ask the readers of this blog to let us know. We would love to offer the wedding couple a free stay at the Luna Blue Hotel to celebrate their love and to let them know that not all of Mexico practices discrimination. We may not be a five star resort like La Amada, but we think everyone in love should have a chance to celebrate that love.

By the way, the rainbow flag shown above is a Tibetan Buddhist prayer flag. It is hoped that as breezes flow through the flags, the sentiments expressed there (courage, joy, spirit, celebrate, community, equality and diversity) will be carried out into the world. This flag proudly hangs in the Luna Blue Bar.

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Posted in News & Politics, The Hotel & Bar | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Mexico is NOT a war zone

Posted by Tony & Cheri on September 7, 2010

By now you have probably heard the news: eight people killed this week in a fire bombing of a bar in Cancun Mexico. You probably first saw the headlines of a “Bar Bombed in the Popular Resort Town of Cancun.” Of course the immediate reaction was to imagine drug terrorists throwing bombs into a crowded hotel lobby bar as tourists in bathing suits were blown to bits. However the truth turned out to be something different.

Eventually, after the initial “Mexico is a war zone” reporting, the facts began to come out: The “bombs” were not explosives but rather gasoline filled bottles used to burn the building down. The bar was not a tourist bar. In fact it was miles from the resort zone on the outskirts of the large city of Cancun (the resort zone is on a peninsula, technically an island, separated from the larger city). The bar was owned by a figure with criminal ties, and it appears the arson was in retaliation against him. The “bar” was actually a ramshackle wooden building which housed a “full service” topless bar. The unfortunate victims were employees who succumbed to smoke inhalation.

It wasn’t an attack on tourists or anywhere near the tourist zone. Yet we have been overwhelmed with comments on the internet about how the drug war is “creeping closer” to the Riviera Maya tourist zones and, “it is just a matter of time before the drug cartels start killing tourists.” Pardon our French…but that is crap.

The facts are pretty simple:

1. The drug wars in northern central Mexico are mostly about control of the drug cartel’s smuggling routes across the joint US/Mexico border. Here in Mexico’s Caribbean coast known as the Rivera Maya (the area between Cancun and Tulum, including Playa del Carmen, Puerto Morelos, Akumal, etc.) there is no border with the US and so the drug war violence has never really extended to this part of Mexico.

2. Yes there is crime here, just as there is crime everywhere. The murders and arson of this Cancun bar are perfect examples. However murders related to drug gang activity take place in the US in almost every state of the union. In the past 30 days the Department of Justice news clearinghouse shows gang-related murders and criminal activity in California, Missouri, New York, Illinois, Florida, Tennessee, New Jersey, Utah, Oregon…the list goes on and on. Drug gang crime is on the rise in the US, too, not just in Mexico.

3. The reality is that Cancun has a crime rate less than the entire state of Montana…and Playa del Carmen has a crime rate less than that of Cancun. In a modern world any urban area has criminal activity…but our part of the world certainly has less than most and is undeserving of the label of “dangerous.”

However the facts don’t seem to matter anymore. Without a doubt any major crime in this part of Mexico will be broadcast through the US and Canada as a proof positive that Mexico is dangerous, that the drug war has spread across this country and that you are risking your life by coming here. It isn’t true of course but it serves a purpose. It sensationalizes the news, and that helps sell newspapers and makes people turn on the TV. More importantly it fosters the fear of “others.” It tells people to be safe, stay home and distrust anybody not like “us.” And that is working. Click on any major newspaper or TV news station website that reports on Mexico. Now read the comments left by the public…hateful, racist, angry, bitter comments about a country and a people of which few of these posters have any first hand knowledge. It disgusts us.

People have every right to be concerned and to ask questions. People should investigate to ensure they really are going to be safe if they venture across the border. But people shouldn’t fall back on easy answers, fearful conjecture or racism. Mexico is being used as a media scapegoat and as an appeal to the worst attitudes of many people in the US. And that’s simply unfair to the wonderful people of this beautiful country.

We don’t know what to do about this, other than to keep on doing what we have been doing…telling the truth. The Caribbean coastline of Mexico offers no more danger than your own hometown. It is beautiful and safe. Now wouldn’t it be nice if someone would make that into a breaking news headline!

BTW, to hear about the reality and safety of life in Mexico in words much better than we could ever put together, click here for an article by the wondrous Linda Ellerbee.

Read our most current blog entry about safety:
Safety in Playa del Carmen Mexico ~ 2012

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Posted in News & Politics, Safety in Mexico | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Playa del Carmen: Is it Safe??

Posted by Tony & Cheri on March 1, 2009

Read our most current blog entry about safety:
Safety & Crime in Playa del Carmen Mexico 2011: The Truth

The headlines are full of stories about Mexico guaranteed to make the blood run cold: murders, beheadings, drug lords and crooked cops. It’s scary stuff, and some people planning a trip down here to Mexico’s Mayan Riviera (Cancun-Playa Del Carmen-Tulum) are frightened. We have received several e-mails in the past couple of weeks and seen questions on various internet travel forums asking, “How dangerous is it”? In our opinion, the truthful answer is: not very dangerous at all.

Now some folks will read this and say, “They own a hotel down there, of course they will tell people it’s safe.” And that’s true, we do own a business, and we do want people to come here. But the people who come here aren’t just guests. They are our family and our friends…people we would never place in danger. And of course we wouldn’t stay in business long if our guests were the victims of crimes every time they came on vacation. Most importantly, we wouldn’t live here ourselves if we thought it was dangerous.

The truth is that there is a drug war going on in Mexico. Drug lords are battling the police and each other for the lucrative shipping routes by which drugs are taken into the US and guns are smuggled back. It is dangerous and sad and has become a cause for great concern in Mexico. However this concern must be put in perspective. If you are questioning whether or not you should visit Mexico’s beautiful Caribbean, look at the facts about what is happening here.

The “drug war” of Mexico is primarily about smuggling routes which lead into the US. It is in northern central Mexico where the US and Mexico share a common border that this crime wave is currently going on. There is also an increase in crime in some large Mexican cities where organized crime is active, i.e. Mexico City. However this criminal activity is NOT centered on the Caribbean side of Mexico.

The latest US State Department advisory warning tourists about crime specifically names those cities “near the US border,” such as the towns of Tijuana, Nogales, Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros and most especially Ciudad Juarez as being possibly dangerous. These cities are thousands of miles from the beaches of Cancun and Playa Del Carmen. The ONLY reference in the State Department’s travel advisory which mentions the Yucatan, Cancun, Playa Del Carmen or the Mayan Riviera is a reference to another State Department posting warning against drinking too much and driving mopeds.

Map of MexicoThe increase in drug related crimes and organized criminal activity is very far from the shores of the Caribbean. For example, Ciudad Juarez, which is an area of major concern for crime, is approximately 2200 miles from Cancun. This is roughly the same distance as from San Francisco to New York City. Would you refuse to vacation in northern California because of a crime wave in New York City? Hopefully not.

There is no major crime wave or drug war in Mexico’s Mayan Riviera.

This is not to say that there is no crime in this part of Mexico. Cancun, being a major city, has had its problems with attacks on police officers and those involved in organized crime, much as many cities in the US have experienced in the past. But again it is important to realize that these incidents have NOT involved tourists or happened in the well-defined resort and hotel areas.

And of course any tourist zone anywhere in the world will have crime. Vacationers always will attract pickpockets, thieves and con men. And that is true of Mexico as well. However here in Playa we have a special Tourist Police force designed to help with exactly those types of crimes and to assist visitors. The tourist who uses common sense, avoids drugs, sticks to well-known tourist areas and doesn’t behave foolishly (i.e. getting extremely drunk, flashing large amounts of cash, etc.) should be as safe in Playa Del Carmen as in their own home town.

We can’t guarantee that you will not be the victim of a crime on vacation whether you are here in Playa Del Carmen or on the streets of Orlando. What we can say with certainty is that the drug war crimes which have frightened so many people are not a concern or an issue for tourists in the Yucatan. And we can guarantee that thousands upon thousands of visitors are still coming here each day to enjoy our white sand beaches and swim in our blue sea without incident. Join us.
On the ferry between Playa del Carmen and Cozumel, on a typical gorgeous day

Read our most current blog entry about safety:
Safety in Playa del Carmen Mexico ~ 2012

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Posted in News & Politics, Safety in Mexico, The Love of Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 56 Comments »

It’s a Great Time to Come to Mexico

Posted by Tony & Cheri on November 3, 2008

The Caribbean Sea in Tulum, MexicoDespite the economic issues around the world, right now is the best time to plan a trip to Mexico that we’ve seen in years. Why, you might ask???

First off, all of the major airlines are having sales at the moment, although they don’t appear to be too well publicized. We’ve seen one way fares from San Francisco to Cancun on American Airlines for $94 and $99 fares (each way) on USA3000 to Cancun from Baltimore, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and St. Louis. Other airlines are having similar sales. These are some of the best rates we’ve seen in years!!

Secondly, the rate of exchange between the US dollar and the peso is higher now than it has been in a very, very long time (as long as we can remember). Right now one US dollar equals anywhere between 11.5 and 14 pesos! That’s a HUGE increase over the “normal” rate of about 10.5 that has been in existence for several years. That means a savings of about 20% to 40% on everything in Mexico. And if you’re planning an upcoming trip and want to take advantage of these good rates (in case they fall back down again, which we’re guessing is going to happen), check with your local bank and ask if they can exchange some dollars for pesos and at what rate. Buy them now & sock them away for your next trip. You can’t lose.

Mamita's Beach Club in Playa del Carmen, MexicoThird, this is low season here in Playa. Hotel rates are very good across the board from now until right before Christmas, when the extra high holiday rates kick in for a few weeks before we settle into the high season months of January through April. November and early December are excellent times to come to this part of Mexico. The weather is not as scorching hot as the summer months, and temperatures are generally in the 80s during the day & the 70s at night (with occasional cool nights, like we’re having now, which are heavenly, in our opinion!).

And except for the busy time around the Thanksgiving holiday, it’s generally not hard to find hotel rooms at this time of year. Our own Luna Blue Hotel still has quite a bit of availability during the next week or so and then again in early to mid December.

Even if you plan on making a trip to Playa del Carmen or the Mayan Riviera during the holiday or high season, now’s the time to make those plans. The gorgeous blue Caribbean awaits.

Posted in Recommendations, The Hotel & Bar, The Love of Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A Mexican Tradition

Posted by Tony & Cheri on June 10, 2008

Last Saturday night Tony and a few friends went to Cancun to see one of the world’s great matadors in a special bullfighting event. As a number of people, both in person and on the internet have expressed to us an interest in the traditions and practice of bullfighting, we decided to post Tony’s review of the evening.

We know that many people are strongly opposed to bullfighting. We respect those views and ask that you skip this blog entry if you feel it will upset you. It’s not our intention to offend but simply to inform those who are curious about this tradition.

Bullfighting is part of Mexico’s heritage and culture, and in many ways says much about the country. We hope this little essay may add to your understanding of this wonderful place we call home.

Wearing his brilliant suit of lights, Joselito strode into a half filled arena in Cancun last Saturday night accompanied by cheers and the occasional female scream. The thirty-eight year old matador is as well known in his home country of Spain for his rock star looks and attitude as he is for fighting bulls, and a number of young ladies in the audience voiced their approval at his appearance. Slight of build and sporting a Euro-hip spiky hair style above the traditional matador’s “pig tail,” Joselito exuded confidence as he led his entourage of assistants, bandilleros and picadors into the ring.

Cancun is not part of the regular bullfighting circuit in Mexico, and the appearance of a world class matador is a special event. Unfortunately this event had been twice rescheduled due to illness of the matador. The lack of public announcement of the changing dates (no money for additional advertising was likely) may have accounted for the small turnout. Yet, the experienced bullfighter played to the crowd from the start, acting as if he were in the packed Plaza in Madrid instead of Cancun’s small ring. He waved, smiled, and flirted with the crowd as he accepted their applause.

Instead of the traditional corrida of three matadors fighting two bulls each, the evening belonged only to Joselito who would fight four bulls in succession. He quickly acknowledged the judges and moved into the center of the ring with two assistants as the first bull was released. The bull was good sized and aggressive. Unlike many matadors in Mexico Joselito took the major role in the initial running of the bull through the ring. When the bull chased the capes of the assistant matadors, he watched intently. When the bull came towards him he would proceed to a number of dramatic veronicas, passing the bull through the large cape he held with a flourish that had the crowd screaming ‘Ole” with each pass. He would follow this pattern throughout the evening.

After satisfying himself that he was familiar with the bull’s movements, he called for the lance carrying, horse back mounted Picador to enter the ring. The bull charged, striking the heavy padding which surrounds horse and rider. The Picador placed the tip of his lance into the heavy neck muscle of the bull, which showing his strength, refused to back away but instead lifted the horse almost throwing it and the Picador to the ground until distracted by the Matadors assistants. Generally the Picador will invite more charges with resulting strikes from the lance to weaken the bull’s neck muscles and lessen the danger to the Matador. Often a second Picador will be called in to meet the bull. However this evening after the one well placed lance, Joselito waived the Picador out. The crowd loudly showed their appreciation of his bravery. Then the Picador rode out of the ring to great whistling (boos). The Picador is always they object of derision in a bullfight as he fights from horseback covered in padding. He is the cowardly clown as opposed to the heroic matador.

Next came the placing of Bandarillas, or two foot long barbed sticks. The bandarillas must be placed in the “hump” of the bulls neck muscle and must be thrown by reaching over the horns of the charging bull before leaping and twisting out of the way! Many matadors employ specialists in this art known Bandarilleros to place the darts. However some Matadors do it themselves as Joselito did in this fight. His smaller stature was a disadvantage in reaching up and over the horns but he did it beautifully twice, each time barely escaping the oncoming animal.

Now came the final of the three parts of a bullfight (Picadors, bandarillaros, and the matador) called the tercio de muerte. Joselito took the small red cape know as the muleta and the ceremonial sword used to spread and hold the cape and faced the bull. He proceeded through a number of dramatic passes and movements to show his control of the animal. The matador stood his ground, and unlike some bullfighters I have seen, showed his expertise and bravery by refusing to shuffle his feet and change his position to adjust to the bull’s charge.

Joselito made the same commitment to the meeting between man and animal that he asked of the bull. Once placed in motion neither deviated from the path or place they chose. As a result the bull came dangerously close to the man several times and brought the crowd to its feet again and again.

After showing his mastery, Joselito took the curved killing sword and faced his opponent. The killing of the bull is extremely dangerous for the matador. He must charge directly at the bull, delivering the sword thrust between the horns and down into the neck where it will sever the aorta. In order to do this he must lower the muleta as he charges so that the bull, following the cape with its eyes, lowers its head. If this is not timed perfectly, or if the bull instead charges with the head up, the matador is running into the oncoming horns.

Joselito performed the kill perfectly with a single stroke. As the bull swayed in its death throes, Joselito waived his assistants away and stood alone close to the bull honoring it as it collapsed in death. The crowd rose to its feet.

The judges who “grade” the bullfight awarded only one trophy, an ear. They could have awarded both ears or ears and the tail (for a perfect fight) or no trophy at all. The fight deserved an award of two ears at least. However the local judges may have wished to show they were not dazzled by the celebrity of their visitor from Spain and attempted to act nonchalantly in the first fight of the evening. The ear was cut and presented to Joselito who took the traditional promenade around the ring while the bull was taken away by a team of horses.

The next fight proceeded immediately. Again Joselito passed the bull with a series of beautiful veronicas. Again he limited a single Picador to one thrust of the lance, and again he placed the Bandarillas himself. Unfortunately, as sometimes happens the bull was not the equal of the matador. The animal in this fight tired quickly and was not aggressive, Such an animal is the true test of a bullfighter’s skill. Joselito met that challenge by slowly working the bull with the muleta to allow the animal to recover some strength and to build its confidence. He worked closer and closer to the horns to provoke the bull to charge.

Sadly, some of the small crowd in Cancun did not appreciate such work and continually rained whistling boos down upon Joselito. The spectators failed to understand that the quiet moments like the ones provided by this fight can require the greatest skills and be the most dangerous for the matador. They would be shown why before the evening was finished.

After a suitable time with the cape, Joselito again dispatched the bull with the killing sword. No trophies were awarded despite the excellent effort by Joselito with a substandard bull.

The third fight proceeded as the others. The bull was large and full of fight. Strangely its horns did not point forward as those of most fighting bulls but curved upwards. This slight difference in breeding may have saved Joselito’s life.

In this fight the Picador badly placed the lance, driving it too deeply into the bull causing severe bleeding. By the time Joselito began to work the bull with the cape it became obvious the bull was badly injured. The bull moved slowly and did not charge or respond to the cape. Since the bull sees movement (not the color red as is popularly believed), Joselito stepped closer and closer to the bull to allow it to focus on the moving cape. Suddenly without warning, the injured bull charged not the cape, but the matador.

The bull lifted Joselito upon its horns and tossed him into the air, catching him and tossing him again. The slight man fell to the ground at the bull’s feet and the animal attempted to drive the horns into the figure beneath him. However the strange upward curve of the horns kept the points from hitting home. The bull then stomped the earth about Joselito trying to strike him with its hooves.

As Joselito rolled into a ball and tried to cover his head, the assistant matadors surrounded the bull and tried to get it to move away. One even bravely, perhaps stupidly grabbed the bull’s tail and pulled as if he could physically drag the 1500 pounds or more of the wild animal away from prone bullfighter. As the bull circled above him Joselito managed to roll from beneath the bull and escape.

Joselito was obviously hurt. He attempted to pick up his sword but dropped it. When he finally was able to hold it he walked to the center of the ring with a limp on his right side. He was covered in dirt and the blood of the bull from head to toe. He refused medical attention but instead proceeded to finish the fight. He attempted to kill the bull but was unable to place the sword in two tries. Each time the weight of the charging bull pulled the sword from his hand and sent it into the air. It was obvious he was having difficulty with his right hand. The crowd began to boo loudly despite the injury.

On the third attempt he was able to drive the sword into the bull’s neck but not fatally killing it. The animal collapsed but did not die. Usually in this situation a special member of the Bullring comes forward with a sharp instrument which is then used to severe the spinal chord, quickly ending the bull’s life. However Joselito himself took the new blade, and killed the animal himself. It was an act of humility before the crowd and the bull that had nearly killed him.

The final fight of the evening was a repeat of the first one. The magnificent bull was full of energy, possibly more energy than Joselito at this point. The matador was obviously injured by the previous bull. He limped and was favoring his right arm. He did not place the Bandarillos himself, and rested on a chair until it was time for him to face the last bull. However despite his exhaustion and injury he held nothing back. He and the bull danced through an incredible series of passes and movements. At one point he literally had the bull circling him so closely that their bodies were touching as the bull passed continuously around him. It was a virtuoso performance. When it came time, he killed the bull quickly and skillfully. He was awarded two ears by the judges.

By the time Joselito was carried on the shoulders of his friends around the ring for his final promenade the crowd had sadly thinned out. Those aficionados and fans who remained cheered wildly. Men tossed hats and women threw bouquets of roses. I heard an elderly white haired gentleman sitting behind me sum up Joselito’s evening quite well. “Muy Elegante,” he said softly as the matador passed beneath us and out of the ring.” Muy Elegante.”

Posted in Activities, Events & Happenings, Trip Report | Tagged: , , , | 7 Comments »