Monday, February 05, 2007

Great News!!!!!

New Mexican president Felipe Calderon announced the end of the ban last Friday from Uruapan, Michoacan, home to btoh the president and over 80% of Mexicos avocado crop.
Speaking from first-hand experience, I can say this is great news for avocado lovers here in the US. I served in Uruapan for four months and visited on several other occasions. Avocados were abundant there like nowhere else. We were served avocados with EVERY meal, even in the poorest homes. After we would finish a lunch of say fish soup or milanesa with avocados & lime, we would settle in for another after-lunch avocado for desert, eating it straight from the shell with a spoon. I had never before (or since) seen avocados as big, tender and sweet as those we enjoyed in the little ramshackle homes of Uruapan.
The article also mentions the impact this may have on immigration. I've long said this same thing myself. As local economies develop, the need to immigrate to the US declines. Strong local economies throughout Mexico are good for the country, good for the church and good for families.
Peter Hightower

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Monday, January 08, 2007

We're Moving!!!!!

That's right. We have a new address in the lovely border city of Eagle Pass, Texas:

2149 Del Rio Blvd #102
Eagle Pass, Texas 78852

This new address is where we will now receive all packages headed for Missionaries in Mexico. You may begin using the new address immediately. Starting on Monday January 15th, we will begin making daily trips across the border with your packages. However, each mission will only depart once per week. The departure schedule will be as follows:

Monday: Merida, Oaxaca, Puebla, Tuxtla Gutierrez, Veracruz

Tuesday: All Mexico City Missions and Cuernavaca

Wednesday: Culiacan, Guadalajara North and South, Leon

Thursday: Chihuahua, Hermosillo, Tijuana

Friday: Monterrey East and West, Tampico, Torreon

In order to be included on your departure day, the package must arrive by the end of business on the day before departure. In other words, if your package is going to Puebla, your departure day is Monday. In order to make this shipment, your package must arrive by the end of business on the previous Friday.

We will now also offer Same Day Departure service. For an extra fee, you can request that your package depart for the mission office on the same day it is received at Care Package Express. The cut-off time for this service is 2:00pm. Any packages arriving before 2:00pm that have requested Same Day Departure and paid the corresponding fee will be taken across the border that same day regardless of when the rest of the packages destined to that mission will be shipped. It will ship by itself and will not be cartonized with any other boxes going to that mission.

Please keep in mind that we try very hard to keep our service as reasonably priced as possible and the only way we are able to do this is by cartonizing all packages going to the same mission. This new format will allow us to continue to do that but still offer a reasonably quick departure for each mission. We will also be able to handle much greater volume than ever before without effecting operations.

Please call or e-mail with any questions. Thanks,


Operation: Dear Elder ***Update***

127 total packages donated by you! That's 127 elders and sisters who were blessed by your generosity and good faith. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Here is a response from the Culiacan Mission:

Dear Peter y Christy Hightower

On behalf of the Mexico Culiacan Mission i want to thank you for your great generosity, and love towards the missionaries that are laboring in this great work. Truly you will be blessed by
the lord for your efforts in helping the missionaries feel the warmth of this Christmas season. The missionaries here are working diligently as they establish Gods church in Mexico. Once again we want to thank you for all that you do , and may God greatly bless you and your family this Christmas season.

Sincerely, President Juan Manuel Vazquez Mata

I surely could not express it any better. I hope that many of you will receive letters of thanks from the mission field. Please feel free to share these with us if you choose. Thanks again!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Mexican Congressional Melee

Monday, November 27, 2006

Oaxaca Update Nov. 27, 2006

Governor Ruiz claims that the situation is almost under control. However, his claim is contradicted by the reality of events over the weekend.

Protesters hurling petrol bombs clashed with police in Oaxaca at the weekend in
the latest flare-up of a conflict that has engulfed the graceful colonial city in southern Mexico for more than six months. Buildings, including the supreme court of Oaxaca state, shops and restaurants, were set ablaze, and several streets were blocked by burning vehicles.

Most people were optimistic the situation woudl be under control by December 1st, the date schduled for transfer of power to incoming President-elect Felipe Calderon. That now seems unlikely with the inauguration only four days away.

In related news, self-proclaimed "legitimate President" Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has begun drawing his due salary of 50,000 pesos per month, the equivalent of around US $4,500. I'm just curious to know where it's coming from.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Las Posadas in Mexico

Christmas time in Mexico, like all Latin American countries is steeped in religious tradition. There are a lot of traditional activities that are centered around Christ much more than is seen in the United States. The foremost tradition is known as La Posada. Posada really translates to mean, the Inn, and is in keeping with the story of Joseph and Mary’s arrival into Bethlehem and finding no room in the Inn.
The tradition states that Joseph and Mary left on the 100 mile journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem on the 16th of December and it took them 8 days and nights to arrive. Thus, the tradition of La Posada begins on the 16th of December every year.
The tradition is carried out in neighborhoods and most of the families participate. Each night one family is chosen to be the final Inn and two others are chosen to reject the couple. Thus begins a parade of usually children and a few teenagers going through the streets of the neighborhood, carrying with them statues of Mary and Joseph with Mary sitting on a Donkey and Joseph leading the way, and in other towns, people are used to represent Joseph and Mary.
The procession goes down the street until they come to the first “Inn” on their list. The next portion is done in song between the procession on the outside desiring to get in, and the “Innkeeper family” on the inside saying that there is no room. At the first two stops of the night, the following versus are sung.

Click here for full text

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Oaxaca Update

The past week had been uneventful until just yesterday. Federal police and APPO supporters once again clashed in the city center for over four hours. Tear gas was used and the APPO reported 14 injuries, none appeared to be very serious. What is obvious is that the stand-off will continue for the foreseable future.

Last week, Oaxaca mission president Ortiz and his office staff returned to their normal routine in the city. None of the proselyting elders have returned yet. It appears the church is taking steps to reduce the number of missionaries in Oaxaca to acceptable levels for the areas they are currently in. Some of these steps that we have been notified of are 1) All missionaries (American and Mexican) scheduled to begin service between now and February have been re-assigned to different missions in Mexico. 2) All missionaries currently in Oaxaca scheduled to return home before February will be going home on November 22.

Some parents mistakenly interpreted these moves to mean that they area closing the Oaxaca Mission. This is not true. The mission office will remain open even though there will be no missionaries in the city. The mission covers a very large area, the majority of which is very safe and unaffected by recent events. The church in Oaxaca City is very strong with four stakes and even a temple that has continued in operation throughout this entire ordeal. I suspect that teh church in Oaxaca will emerge even stronger when everything calms down and the missionaries are able to return and resume their work.

In other news, presidential runner-up Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador held a "swearing-in" ceremony yesterday in Mexico City's main Zocalo Plaza. He has even gone as far as to apoint a cabinet. Complete story here: Unelected Mexican Leftist Claims Office

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Presidential Showdown in the Making?

This is something we're going to be keeping a close eye on. Presidential politics in Mexico are never a sport for the faint of heart. This cycle has been the worst on record with the election results very close and emphatically disputed by the losers. President-elect Felipe Calderon from the PAN party is scheduled to take office on December 1st. The PRD candidate, Manuel Lopez Obrador, is vehemently alleging voter fraud despite any credible evidence. He insists that he is the rightful president and is mobilizing his political allies to disrupt the inauguration ceremony on December 1st "by any measures and actions deemed necessary".

The ceremony is still three weeks away and the weeks leading up to it will undoubdtedly bring more threats and posturing from both sides. To what lenghts is Lopez Obrador willing to go to disrupt the transfer of power? I don't think anybody knows at this point and that is perhaps the scariest aspect of the situation. Like I said, we will be keeping a close eye on this as it unfolds.


Operation: Dear Elder ***Update***

We're up to 48!
After barely one week since we kicked off, you've already placed 27 orders. Those plus 21 from Christy & me brings our current total to 48. Not bad for one week. We've got just over 3 more weeks to go. We will accept donation orders up until Thursday December 8th.

I received the following question from Dixie Finlayson today... "Can I put together what I would like to donate? My son has traded almost all of his ties to the Mexican Elders so that they can have nice ties. I would like to donate ties, socks, maybe even shirts for those missionaries, along with the toothbrushes and a little candy. In other words, I would like to give them things they can really use instead of just treats. Can I just donate the things I want to, or do I have to use your stockings?"

Answer: Yes, absolutely! If you want to send a package of your own creation, you can do that as well and we will add it to our total count. We will discount your shipping fees by $10 if you donate a package of your own. If you want to order one of our Operation: Dear Elder stocking packages and then send items to us to add to it, you will only pay the 20% for import taxes but will not pay any additional shipping charges for the extra weight.

Please call or e-mail me if you have any questions.

Peter Hightower

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Unhappy Times for Outgoing Presidente Fox

Mexican president Vicente Fox was heralded five years ago as a visionary come to restore true democracy to Mexico after eighty years of one-party rule. It's been an unfortunate year for the president who's come under much criticism during his fnial year in office. This past week has been oen of the worst yet. While this won't directly impact your missionary, this story is a great snapshot of the environment he's working in right now.

Read full story on The UK News

On a related subject, Mexicans are great at telling self-depracating jokes. I found the following nugget while researching for this post. Translated into English, it reads:

One day, God, being particularly fed up with humanity and it's sins decided to put an end to the world. He called all the world's leaders to tell them of his decision. "I've called you all here to inform you that in 24 hours I will put an end to humanity." "But Lord...." "No. No buts. Your time has ended. Go back to your peoples and let them know so they will be ready."

Bush arrived at the white house a short time later and announces on a nation-wide broadcast, "Citizens of the United States, I must tell you some good news and some bad news. First, the good news is that God does exist just like we thought. The bad news is that within 24 hours this great American nation, our beautiful dream will cease to exist."

Later, Fidel Castro arrives in Havana and addresses his nation. "Comrades and Cuban citizens, I have two peices of bad news. The first is that God does indeed exist. The second is that within 24 hours this magnificent revolution for which we have long fought and struggled will cease to exist."

Vicente Fox arrives at Los Pinos a short time later and addresses his country: "Mexicanos and Mexicanas! People of Mexico! Today, today, today... I have good news and more good news! The first is that I am sent of God, yes, even a messenger for I have seen Him and I have spoken personally with Him! The second is that according to my campaign promises, in 24 hours, listen well, there will be an end to all unemployment! There will be no more illiteracy! No more drug trafficking, crime, water shortages, highway congestion or poverty! And best of all I am rescinding the Federal Sales Tax on ALL products effective immidiately and there will be no more hunger or misery! The PAN delivers on it's promises!!!!!!!

Ok, I laughed out loud when I read that one just imagining Fox's deep booming voice. Hope you like it. My personal feelings are that Fox has done a good job in a difficult environment and has avoided the scandal-plagued term of every Mexican president since the beginning of time. He had a large mountain to climb and did his best to get as far as he could. Regardless of what criticisms the press holds, he's been good for Mexico and generally well-liked by his people. For what it's worth, I wish him the best in whatever he endeavors after leaving office.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

New President for Guadalajara North

On Thursday, November 2nd, the missionaries of the Guadalajara North Mission welcomed their new mission president to his new assignment. President Robert Watkins and his wife Pamela had been serving as assistants to the South America South Area Presidency for the past year when the phone call asking them to accept the reassignment came in. President and Sister Watkins are from San Diego, California. We want to be the first to welcome them to their new assignment and wish them the best of luck and success during their tenure in Mexico.

President Heaton and his wife were released from their assignment due to health concerns after serving a year and a half. We join with his missionaries and the members in Guadalajara in wishing him a speedy recovery and the best of health going forward.

Peter & Christy Hightower

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Operation: Dear Elder

Today, we kick off "Operation: Dear Elder 2006". Last year YOU sent over 70 donation stockings to native missionaries from all over Mexico. There are at least four times that many who are in need, but we're setting our goal at 100 again this year. Christy & I are sending the first 21 packages. That's one for each mission.

Here is part of a letter we received from one of last year's recipients:

"Dear Peter & Christy, I just want to tell you thank you, thank you, thank
you for the care package! I was very surprised when I got it because I don't know anybody in the U.S. At first I thought you had made a mistake because I'm not American so I was a little confused. But I want to thank very much for thinking of me. I didn't think I would get any gifts this Christmas but yours was the best! I don't know you but I feel like I do now. Thanks for the service you gave as missionaries, it really is the best time of one's life. With love, Elder Gonzalez Jasso."
There are hundreds of missionaries like Elder Jasso from all over Mexico. We'd like to help them all, but we can't do it alone. Please help out if you can. It's a simple gesture but it really makes a huge difference for a missionary. Thank you!!!!

How Can I Help?

Last Call for Thanksgiving Packages


This really is an awesome package that your missionary will love. We're taking orders up until November 16th. Put your order in today.

Oaxaca Update

This past week has been as bad as could be imagined for the situation in Oaxaca. The optimism of just ten days ago has been shattered and it seems like the protestors' side is digging in deeper for the fight. First, this from church spokeswoman Kim Farah

"Missionary safety is of the upmost concern to the Church. The mission
president, his wife and all the missionaries in Oaxaca, Mexico were moved to
safe areas several days ago." Kim Farah - LDS Church Spokesman 11/2/2006

It appears church authorities were notified by Mexican officials in advance of the actions of federal police last Sunday and were able to remove all missionaries from the area before they were placed in harms way.

Since last Sunday, tensions have been high on both sides of this dispute.
On Friday, October 27, American reporter Brad Will was caught in a crossfire and killed by two bullets to the abdomen. Will the U.S. finally take notice of what's happening?
Sunday November 5, Thousands of protestors march in Oaxaca streets (Reuters Article) No surprise here.
Monday November 6, Protestors simultaneously bomb three targets in Oaxaca City, Governor Ruiz's party headquarters, an electoral court and a federal bank.
Tuesday November 7, Twenty thousand pro-Ruiz supporters march in Oaxaca to shore up support for the governor. (Reuters Article)

Unfortunately, the situation seems to be getting worse not better at the moment. This excerpt from the first linked article sums up most people's fears:

His opponents, a loose coalition of teachers, Indian groups
and leftists, also vow not to give in and enjoy the support of a large part of
the mostly poor population of rural Oaxaca. ... "Many different leftist currents
are converging here, from the center-left of Lopez Obrador to the most radical,"
said Isaac Torres, a member of a human rights group affiliated with the
Zapatista guerillas.

There is already a feeling of disenfranchisement from many of the leftist groups throughout Southern Mexico stemming from the hotly contested presidential election of July 2 this year. The Leftist candidate, Manuel Lopez Obrador has bitterly refused to concede defeat and he continues to stir the pot of discontent among his followers. To date, the two movements are separate and distinct even though they share ideology. Many have feared these groups and others could eventually coalesce into a larger more far-reaching movement. Thankfully this has not happened yet, but the observer quoted above seems to feel it is finally happening. If this still hasn't been resolved by Felipe Calderon's Inauguration on December 2nd, there will be fireworks.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Over 1 Million Americans in Mexico

As Mexicans cross the border in search of a better life, Americans are doing the same – except they are going in the opposite direction. State Department figures have confirmed that the number of Americans living in Mexico has topped 1 million, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Of course the SF Chronicle draws much different conclusions from this milestone than I do but it is nevertheless an important milestone. Ten years ago there were only 200,000 American ex-patriates living in Mexico. I beleive that in Guadalajara there are now at least two fully English speaking wards. There may be others popping up around the country as English speaking populations increase.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Happy Halloween!!!!

We at Care Package Express want to wish everybody a safe and fun Halloween wherever you are. Thanks to all who ordered Halloween packages for your missionaries. Most were sent with plenty of time to be delivered before the holiday. Just call or e-mail us if you need tracking information for your package.

Ragedy Ann & Andy are really my twin neice & nephew, Jade & Alex Gates, from Nashville, TN. As you can see, we grew up in a house that loved Halloween.

Oaxaca Update

This was supposed to be the week the striking teachers returned to classrooms throughout the state. The optimism may have been premature. Events of the last three days seem to indicate a downward spiral of violence instead of progression toward final resolution as most had hoped.

On Friday, three people were shot and killed. Two were protestors and one was an American journalist. Witnesses allege that they were shot by state police officers dressed in civilian clothing. The state goverment of Ulises Ruiz has not claimed responsibility for these acts and maintains that his police are not patroling in civilian clothing.

Sunday, in response to the escalating tensions and fears that the situation will not be resolved by the time he transfers power to incoming president-elect Felipe Calderon, current president Vicente Fox ordered federal troops to seize control of key areas of the city occupied by protesters since May. President Fox has promised to resolve the crisis before handing power to Calderon on December 1st. The Mexican Government has assured Church leaders that it is working towards a quick resolution of this crisis so that the city can return to normal activities.

Care Package Express has also learned that Oaxaca mission president Jesus Ortiz has temporarily relocated to a safer location outside of the city. They opted for this move due to the proximity of his residence to that of a prominent government official even though he does not reside near the effected areas.

All American Elders were transfered to remote areas of the mission back in July. Since that time, there had been 70 missionaries still working in the capitol city, all Mexican nationals. Last week, all proselyting missionaries were transfered out of the city. Most were moved to the remote areas of the mission, however, due to overcrowding in those areas, 22 Mexican elders were temporarily stationed in the nearby Puebla Mission. They did not receive a mission transfer and they will return to the Oaxaca Mission as soon as the situation in the Capitol City calms down. If the crisis drags out longer than is expected, another group of elders may be transfered to Acapulco, Guerrero. The church is NOT considering any mission transfers at this time other than the temporary re-assignments due to overcrowding.

The church has a very strong presence in Oaxaca City with four stakes, a temple and the mission offices. The new temple president and matron, Limhi & Ruth Ontiveros have just arrived in Mexico City and will be taking over duties at the Oaxaca Temple starting today or tomorrow. The temple is not in an area effected by the crisis and is still operating as usual.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Myth Alert! Use of Religious Stickers

MYTH - Your package is safer if you put religious stickers on it.

I'm sure many of you have heard this. I know this because many of you do exactly that. You put religious stickers on your packages. The theory says that by doing this the Mexican Postal workers will recognize the package contains religious goods and won't steal anything from it. There are a couple problems with this that you should know about though.

1) This is simply a myth and doesn't work. Any worker who is dishonest enough to steal a package in the first place is not going to be deterred by a sticker regardless of what is on it.

2) The practice is offensive to the postal workers it is intended to deter. They know why the stickers are on the package and they don't appreciate what it says about their character.

3) The packages you send through Care Package Express are not handled by the Mexican Postal System. They are delivered by a Mexican Commercial Carrier who provides tracking, (limited) insurance and delivery confirmation. Most packages shipped through Care Package Express are placed inside of a larger outer carton and are never seen by the workers. Just like the postal employees, any worker dishonest enough to break into one of these cartons intending to steal the contents will not be deterred by a sticker either.

4) Some of the mission presidents (possibly yours) are Mexican nationals and are very offended by this practice. At least one mission president has recently issued a plea to parents NOT to do this.

Thanks for your cooperation in this.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

Bush Signs Bill Ordering Fence on Mexican Border

One of the first rules of missionary work is that all politics are off limits for discussion. Even so, this is going to be a huge deal all over Mexico. The issue has already effected business owners around the country and will continue to do so until full-immigration reform has been acheived. Your missionary will be asked about his opinion on this issue.

The practicality of building a border fence is debatable and it's effects can't fully be known until they play out. However, I do see a couple of potential benefits. First, Mexican fathers will be more inclined to stay with their families instead of abandoning them for months at a time or even longer. The cumulative effects of an entire population of missing fathers cannot be overstated. By encouraging them to stay home, families will be strengthened, church wards and branches will be strengthened and entire cummunities will be strengthened. They would also be forced to find suitable employment near their home towns. A surplus of qualified labor would hopefully benefit local economies throughout Mexico.

That doesn't mean there won't be consequences of this action though. Some are already portending grave labor shortages in the agricultural industry while others fret over strained trade relations with our southern neighbor. This isn't a political blog, but this is of great interest to me as I hope it is for you. Feel free to sound off.


NY Times coverage of the bill signing

Response from The US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

Labor shortage article from The Seattle Times

We'll see how this plays out when and if they get around to building the fence.

Update 10/27/06 12:40pm:

I think I called this one. US-Mexico Relations Take a Turn for the Worse Yesterday . It will be interesting to see how this effects missionary work. If anybody hears first hand accounts, please pass them on.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Next Departure - Friday November 3, 2006

Remember, all packages must be received on or before Thursday, November 2 in order to make this cut-off.

Residents Evacuated From Resort Town of Cabo San Lucas

More than 1,000 evacuated from Mexico's Los Cabos ahead of tropical storm

October 25, 2006

This is probably a non-story since the storm is slowing down quite a bit. I don't think there are any missionaries stationed in Los Cabos since they're mostly resort towns, but I'm still trying to reach the Tijuana Mission Office to confirm that. I think the real story will be the flooding in Sinaloa once the storm makes landfall.

SAN JOSE DEL CABO, Mexico – More than 1,000 residents of the twin resorts of Los
Cabos were being evacuated to shelters ahead of Tropical Storm Paul, which was
weakening as it headed toward the tip of Mexico's Baja California peninsula.
The storm was expected to slip just south of Los Cabos early Wednesday
before plunging into mainland Mexico around the state of Sinaloa early Thursday,
unleashing rain that could cause dangerous flooding. Victims of the storm
included a Baja California fisherman who died after slipping off sea-battered
rocks and an American who was swept out to sea and feared drowned.
Even though it's weakening, they're still evacuating the resorts and low-lying areas. The storm is currently rated a Cat 1 and has potential to drop up to 10 inches of rain. President Vazquez of the Culiacan, Sinaloa Mission and his AP's have been in contact with all missionaries in their mission and advised them to take necessary precautions. These include: stocking up on food and water ahead of the storm, remaining inside their apartments during the storm, locating the nearest higher ground and safest escape routes. All missionaries are instructed to communicate with the mission office immediatelly if there is any apparent flooding in their area.

The storm is scheduled to make landfall today around 5:00pm. Care Package Express will be in contact with the mission office throughout the day today and tomorrow and will report with any updates.

Peter Hightower

***Update 10/25/06 2:30 pm
I just discovered that Los Cabos is actually in the Culiacan Mission, NOT the Tijuana Mission. There are apparently elders stationed there but I have not been able to confirm if they were evacuated. I suspect not else it would have been easier to confirm.

***Update 10/26/06 10:30am
Just spoke with Elder Hamilton from the mission office who confirmed that everything went as well as could be expected during the storm. All missionaries are safe and accounted for. There was no major flooding to be reported and all services are available.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Mexico Breaks Record for Simultaneous Chess Games

Read Full Story

"Mexico set a new record for simultaneous chess games on Sunday when 13,446 players faced off at the same time in a vast Spanish colonial square at the heart of the former Aztec empire, Mexico City officials said."

Americans find it hard to beleive how popular chess is in Mexico, mostly since we don't enjoy the same affinty for the game. For any chess enthusiast, this really would have been a sight to behold. If your missionary is into chess, or even if he only wants to learn, we have a great board that you can send to him from our website. (pictured below) click to order (item is listed under "Other Items")

Monday, October 23, 2006

MexPress News Wiki

Ok, I'm not sure what the potential of this site is, but I was hoping it could be a repository of information from missionaries all over Mexico. Ideally to be used by parents whose kids are now serving in that area to get a better idea of what conditions are like there. Not sure if it will go anywhere, but here's hoping anyway. Here's the site if you want to check out at least the FAQ's:

First Post - My Picture

Here I am. Just starting this blog. I think it's time we started having some fun.