The Akumalian

Akumal's Newsletter for its Extended Global Community
Quintana Roo, Mexico

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  February 2004 Issue 14


Every February, across the country, candy, flowers, and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine.  But who is this mysterious saint and why do we celebrate this holiday?

The history of Valentine's Day -- and its patron saint -- is shrouded in mystery. But we do know that February has long been a month of romance. St. Valentine's Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition.

So, who was Saint Valentine and how did he become associated with this ancient rite?  Today, the Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred.  One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome.  When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men -- his crop of potential soldiers.  Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret.  When Valentine's actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.  Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons where they were often beaten and tortured.

According to one legend, Valentine actually sent the first 'valentine' greeting himself.  While in prison, it is believed that Valentine fell in love with a young girl -- who may have been his jailor's daughter -- who visited him during his confinement.  Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter, which he signed 'From your Valentine,' an expression that is still in use today.  Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories certainly emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic, and, most importantly, romantic figure.  It's no surprise that by the Middle Ages, Valentine was one of the most popular saints in England and France.


Mexicans regard friendship very highly, considering it a precious gift of life.  Nowadays in Mexico, as in the rest of the world, we celebrate on February 14 El Dia de San Valentin, popularly named El Dia del Amor y la Amistad - the day of love and friendship.

All over town there are balloon vendors offering their colorful heart shaped declarations of love, for most of them  have written on them "Te Amo" (I love you) "Para mi amor" (for my love), or "Felicidades" (congratulations).  Delicious chocolates, as well as flowers, especially red roses, and greeting cards are also sold in every store.


According to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated one billion valentine cards are sent each year, making Valentine's Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year.  (An estimated 2.6 billion cards are sent for Christmas.)  Approximately 85 percent of all valentines are purchased by women.  In addition to the United States, Valentine's Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, and Australia.

The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt.  The greeting, which was written in 1415, is part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England.  Several years later, it is believed that King Henry V hired a writer named John Lydgate to compose a valentine note to Catherine of Valois.


Centro Ecologico Akumal (CEA) and Grupo Fenix of Nicaragua are offering a hands-on workshop in solar theory and installation in Akumal, Mexico, on March 2 - 9, 2004.  Attendees of the week-long, hands-on workshop will learn about solar energy systems, build a solar oven, a solar water heater, and a battery charger powered by a solar panel.  The group will build and install at least two solar water heaters, one on the roof of the CEA dorms and one or more on local homes.

Cosponsored by the Midwest Renewable Energy Association ( and RENEW Wisconsin (, the course will be taught in Spanish and English by Rich Komp, president of the Maine Solar Energy Association.  Students will come away enough theory and practice to build and install solar systems in your home or business, whether in Mexico, the U.S., or anywhere else in the world.  The tuition has been discounted to $555 USD, and does not include lunches or transportation to and from Cancun.  A three-day tuition to learn the principles of solar energy on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday is $300 USD.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, contact workshop organizer Ed Blume at .


On Monday, February 2, Punxsutawney Phil "saw" his shadow this chilly Groundhog Day morning, which according to tradition means six more weeks of winter.  Including Monday's prediction, the groundhog is reported to have seen his shadow 104 times since the tradition began in Punxsutawney. It is rooted in a German superstition that if a hibernating animal casts a shadow Feb. 2 - the Christian holiday of Candlemas - winter will last another six weeks. If no shadow is seen, legend says spring will come early.


            In 1723, the Delaware Indians settled Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania as a campsite halfway between the Allegheny and the Susquehanna Rivers.  The town is 90 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, at the intersection of Route 36 and Route 119.  The Delawares considered groundhogs honorable ancestors. 

The name Punxsutawney comes from the Indian name for the location, and "ponksad-uteney" means "the town of the sandflies."  The name woodchuck comes from the Indian legend of "Wojak", and the groundhog considered by them to be their ancestral grandfather.

When German settlers arrived in the 1700s, they brought a tradition known as Candlemas Day, which has an early origin in the pagan celebration of Imbolc.  It came at the mid-point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox.  Superstition held that if the weather was fair, the second half of Winter would be stormy and cold.  For the early Christians in Europe, it was the custom on Candlemas Day for clergy to bless candles and distribute them to the people in the dark of Winter.  A lighted candle was placed in each window of the home.  The day's weather continued to be important.  If the sun came out February 2, halfway between Winter and Spring, it meant six more weeks of wintry weather.


            Kudos go out to David and Laura for hosting a fantabulously super Super Bowl XXXVIII party on Sunday February 1 at the Lol Ha Beach Bar, where the place was transformed into a Sports Bar, with 5 TVs, surround sound, and a wireless mike for the hostess, Charlene.  The bar was absolutely packed with Patriots and Panther fans, who cheered their teams on through one of the most exciting Super Bowl games ever, and the New England Patriots proved their mettle with a fantabulous 32 - 29 victory eked out with 4 seconds to play by Adam Vinatieri's field goal.


            It is absolutely imperative that each and every US citizen gets out and votes in this election year, regardless of where you are.  The right to vote is fundamental in a democratic society.  Living here in "paradise" is no reason or excuse to shirk your duties to the United States and the world.  Even Absentee Ballots count - not too many comments about the system in Florida.

            The following information is about ABSENTEE VOTING IN MASSACHUSETTS, and it probably is very similar in other states and territories.  Go to the Internet and check out the requirements for your state of last residence.

You may vote absentee if:

* You will be absent from your city or town on Election Day

* You have a physical disability preventing you from voting at the polling place

* Your religious beliefs prevent you from voting on Election Day.

 Registered and unregistered residents of Massachusetts who are outside the state may request an absentee ballot from the city or town in which they legally resided (or where they last legally resided before leaving the U.S.).

 How do I apply for an absentee ballot?  You must apply in writing to the city or town clerk or election commission, either in a letter or by filling out an application form. Application forms are available at your local election office, or you may download the form from the state election's division.

If you write a letter requesting an absentee ballot, it should include:

* Your name

* Address as registered

* Ward or precinct if you know it

Address where you want the absentee ballot sent

* Which party ballot you want if the election is a primary (you must be registered to vote in the party you request or you must be unenrolled in any party)

Your signature

Can someone else apply for me for an absentee ballot?  A family member of a person who is registered to vote in Massachusetts may apply to the city or town where that person is registered for an absentee ballot for that voter.

What are the deadlines for voting absentee?  The deadline for applying for an absentee ballot is noon on the day before an election, if you are both applying and voting in person.  Absentee ballots are generally available three weeks before an election.  If you are planning to vote in the clerk's office, you may be able to apply for an absentee ballot and vote in the same visit.

If you will be sending your ballot through the mail, allow enough time for your application to get to your city or town clerk, for the ballot to come to you by mail (at the address you have specified) and for you to return it to the local election office before the close of the polls on Election Day.  The ballot must be received in the clerk's office before the close of the polls on Election Day.


Effective February 1, 2004, Paul Sanchez-Navarro assumes the duties and responsibilities as Director of CEA.  Born in the United States, Paul comes to CEA from 10 years with the World Wildlife Fund.  Paul has deep family and cultural ties to Mexico. He worked at the Mexican environmental group, Pronatura, the magazine Mexico Desconocido, and with World Wildlife Fund in Mexico City, before moving to WWF world headquarters in Geneva, where he developed programs in sustainable development policy for third world countries.  He speaks Spanish and English fluently and he will be a fine liaison within the multi-cultured Akumal community.

Change is always bittersweet and one might ask how do you say good-bye to someone who has been a vital part of CEA since 1993?  In CEA's case, they are very pleased to announce that Paul's predecessor, Charles Shaw, Ph.D., will remain at CEA and focus on his passion and utilize his expertise as director of the CEA Science Program.


The Star-Spangled Banner could barely be heard above all the jeers from the vociferous crowd of 60,000 at Estadio Jalisco.  Nor will the national anthem be heard during the Athens Olympics this August for the U.S. under-23 men's soccer team.  On Tuesday, the United States failed to qualify for the Athens Olympics with its 4-0 loss to Mexico.  Mexico eliminated the USA from the men's competition by winning 4-0, making it the first time the U.S. men have missed qualifying since 1976.

Because the rivalry is so bitter and because of fan unruliness in past games, city officials doubled the number of police at the game to prevent violence.  Eight members of the police force dressed in riot gear guarded the USA behind the team bench when the players entered the field.  Obscene signs and chants filled the stadium and, in the 25th minute, the first taunting chants of "Osama! Osama!" in reference to al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden began.

With the victory, Mexico avenged the loss to the USA that eliminated it from the 2002 World Cup.  Mexico and Costa Rica, which defeated Honduras 2-0 in the other Olympic qualifying semifinal, won the North/Central American and Caribbean region's bids to the Athens Games.  Australia, Argentina, Paraguay and host Greece also have qualified.

Men's soccer became the second prominent U.S. team eliminated from Athens, following the U.S. baseball team's elimination in November - also by Mexico.


            At this time of the year, there are just so many owners, guests, and friends visiting Akumal that it is extremely difficult to keep up with the traffic.  Where do we begin?  Who will be accidentally overlooked?

            First of all, Ryan Fredette, Steve & Ingrid's 10-year old grandson, is once again visiting Akumal with his mother, Stefanie, and Father, Bob.  It just so happens that Ryan is the Akumalian Air Hockey champion, and he is here to challenge all comers (and that means you too, Denny).

            Betty McElhatten is also back again at Las Villas Akumal, and with her is her new grandson, Dylan Morgan, and his parents, David and Francesca.

            Richard and Arlene have also been in the neighborhood for three weeks, and they celebrated their 44th anniversary at Serena in Puerto Aventuras.  Richard was so enamored (of the water in the pool) that he decided to entertain the other guests with an impromptu frolic in the pool.

            Roger & Denise Burton were here for their February visit, and Roger used the opportunity for a number of concerts with Denny Mahan.  Thanks for a wonderful time.

            Hollis Hines & George are also here, and they hosted one of the concerts at Los Primos in South Akumal.  Nice setting for these informal concerts.

            Tom & Judy Baxter are also in town and playing a fair amount of golf at Puerto Aventuras.

            Mary Henderson has finally made the retirement move to Akumal.  She bought a school bus, loaded it with personal belongings, drove it to Miami with Didier, and had it shipped to Puerto Morales.  The latest word is that she can get the personal belongings out of customs, but THE BUS IS TOO HEAVY FOR THE ROADS IN MEXICO!!!!

            Mike & Linda Mulgrew flew into town for the announcement of the new CEA Director, and were gone in just a few days.

            Mary Lou Mulgrew is also in town for an extended stay at her place at Las Casitas.

            El Moreland is a social butterfly around the community during a month long stay to prolong the Moreland roller-coaster ride concerning his property in South Akumal. " I'm gonna': build a casita up front; a 2-bedroom house; a casita on the beach; sell the damm thing; build a 2-bedroom casita; build a tree house; sell the damm thing; not do anything; sling a hammock between two palm trees; bring down a trailer; etc., etc., etc…"

            Rhett Schober was here checking out the Property Management opportunities, and the last word here is that he is coming down to do it.

            Paul & Gayle Rasmussen are here as well.

            Adrian is back, and he had his mother, Betty from North Attelboro, Massachusetts, down for a short visit.

            Leroy & Margaret are back for their usual January/February visit before heading off to the South Pacific, and tomorrow they depart for Fiji and New Zealand.


            On February 8 Steve Clouther shot a 45/45 beating the field with his best game ever.  Three days later, Denny Mahan bounced back with own 41/40.


            Whether watching TV, listening to the radio, or reading the newspaper, the "Bad" news always seems to outweigh the Good news, and in this issue of The Akumalian, that trend continues.


            It has been reported that there was a daylight (between 4:30pm and 5:30pm) robbery of a Panasonic AG-DVX 100 video camera and accessories from a vehicle parked outside Cueva de Pescador on Monday, February 2.  John & Amy, the owners, report that the front passenger side rear window was broken, and the thieves took the blue camera bag full of John's professional video camera and accessories.  John & Amy, in the area, with the intention of producing a video about the beauty and options in and around Akumal, are offering a $5,000 pesos reward for the equipment.  Telephone Scott at 984-875-9233 with any information.

             MISSING "L"

            We all know that "Akumal" means "place of the turtles" in Maya, but a new take-off on that has been created with "Akuma", which means "the place of the super rich gringos."  At the highway entrance to Akumal, the "L" has been missing (stolen?) from the AKUMAL sign for several weeks now, and if this continues,. . . . . .


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