Wes Bentley shows his love for Mexico

Universal Pictures International Mexico will premiere the film Hidden Moon on November 23. One of its stars, BAFTA nominee Wes Bentley, is eager to discuss how he loved the opportunity to film in Mexico. 

Wes, 34, has appeared in a wide variety of films. You may recognize him from the 1999 movie American Beauty, where he played the artistic next-door-neighbor Ricky Fitts. Or perhaps, you saw him in this past year’s blockbuster hit The Hunger Games, in his role as the game-maker Seneca Crane. Now, get ready to see him as a man deeply in love with an unavailable woman in this international feature film about the beauty of love, and the complications of life. 

“I love Mexico,” said Wes in an interview with Mexico Today.  “I love the people, and the food, and it’s a beautiful country.”

Originally from Arkansas but now residing in California, Wes truly enjoyed his time in Mexico. The director of “Hidden Moon,” Jose Pepe Bojorquez, said that Wes loved filming there so much that he insisted on extending his stay. Instead of taking the quick flight back to Los Angeles, Wes drove back from Veracruz, and visited every town in Mexico along the way. 

“The drive from Veracruz through Mexico was one of the best drives I’ve ever taken,” Wes said. 

Hidden Moon was filmed in Guanajuato, Mexico City and Veracruz. Parts were also filmed in Beverly Hills and Los Angeles, but Wes’s time in Mexico was unique and extraordinary. 

“Come to Mexico to shoot,” Wes encourages producers. “I love Mexico!” 

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Bruno Ferrari Speaking at G20 in Mexico

Within the framework of its 2012 G-20 presidency, Mexico will host the first G-20 Trade & Investment Promotion Summit in Mexico City November 5 - 6, 2012.  The series of meetings will bring together high level representatives of trade promotion organizations and investment promotion agencies as well as business leaders from G-20 member countries to share perspectives and recommendations aimed at facilitating trade and investment throughout the global economy.  The event will be held in a roundtable format, with sessions focusing on topics such as global value chains, synergies between trade and investment and maximizing the value of government services, among others.  Particular attention will be paid to the role of small and medium enterprises (SMEs).  The summit will be opened by Mexican Economy Minister Bruno Ferrari and will feature participation by leading global players such as International Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Stefano Bertasi, World Trade Organization Chief of Staff Arancha González Laya and OECD Secretary General José Angel Gurría.

The G-20 is an organization composed of 20 leading developed and emerging economies, including that of the European Union.  The group was launched in 1999 as a forum for consultation and cooperation by finance and banking officials on policy matters affecting international economic stability.  The presidency or chair of the G-20 rotates annually. Mexico, as chair for 2012, hosted the G-20 Summit in June of this year at the Pacific coast resort of Los Cabos.  The meeting was attended by heads of government and other top officials from the organization’s member economies, such as U.S. President Barack Obama, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and Chinese President Hu Jintao, in addition to host Mexican President Felipe Calderón.

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On November 5-6, the G20 Trade and Investment Promotion Summit will take place in Mexico City where global leaders on trade and investment will convene. The Summit’s objective is to continue an ongoing dialogue between the trade and promotion agencies of the G20 countries in order to build synergies and foster cooperation. Organized by ProMexico, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United Nations’ Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and the International Trade Centre (ITC), and event’s goal is to have a common call to action on trade and investment promotion which all parties can work upon over the course of the coming year, and present the results within the framework of the G20 Summit in Saint Petersburg, Russia in 2013.

Presidents, CEOs, director generals or undersecretaries of the trade promotion organizations or investment promotion agencies of the G20 member states and invited guests will be attending this exclusive event. Keynote speakers include: ICC’s executive director of policy and business practices Stefano Bertasi, World Trade Organization’s chief of staff Arancha Gonzalez Laya, UNCTAD’s director of investment and enterprise division James Zhan, the Australian Trade Commision’s executive director for education and corporation operations Peter Yulie, OECD’s secretary general Dr. Jose Angel Gurria, the Spanish Trade Institute’s delegate counselor Maria del Coriseo Gonzalez, among many others.

The G20 Trade and Investment Promotion Summit represents a follow up on the recommendations made by the B20 Taskforce on Trade and Investment in Los Cabos in June 2012, including the importance of promoting increasing flows of both commerce and foreign direct investment as key elements to remedy the current global economic situation and foster development. The three priority recommendations include:

•    The G20 should push for rapid progress on specific, prioritized items on the WTO negotiating agenda, in order to promote the long-term interests of both developing and developed economies.•    The G20 should lead by example in rejecting measures that restrict trade and investment and in promoting measures that enhance them.•    The G20 should reiterate its support for open, cross-border investment as an essential contributor to growth, development, and job creation and take concrete steps to advance an international investment agenda.

To learn more, read the MexicoToday article on the B20 Summit and G20 Summit, and click here for additional information on the G20 Trade and Investment Promotion Summit.

For a series of interviews to the B20 chair Alejandro Ramirez in Los Cabos and other key public and private global leaders, check out our MexicoToday videos playlist.

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MexicoToday presented the Day of the Dead Festival organized by the Embassy of Mexico in the UK and the Mexican restaurant in London, Wahaca. Mexico's vibrant Day of the Dead celebrations took place in London as part of a four-day festival (31st October to 3rd November) of music, food, art and film hosted at The Old Vic Tunnels by Waterloo Station.

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Check out MexicoToday's latest articles on Day of the Dead!

Simply Sweet Apps recently released an iPhone app for Día de los Muertos

Tim Burton's Newly Released Animation Film Inspired by Día de los Muertos

Tzintzuntzán Celebrates Day of the Dead

Monarch Butterfly Migration passes through Day of the Dead celebrations

The Vibrant State of Oaxaca Celebrates Day of the Dead

Smithsonian Latino Center to Mark Day of the Dead with Virtual Museum Exhibit

Day of the Dead: Food and Recipes

San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas Celebrates Día de los Muertos

Día de los Muertos, also known as “Day of the Dead,” is a holiday celebrated in Mexico from November 1- 2. The first day celebrates the children that passed away and is often referred to as Día de los Angelitos, meaning “Day of the Little Angels” or All Saints Day. The second day which celebrates the adults is known as All Souls Day. On this holiday, families remember and celebrate their loved ones that have passed away. Although it is associated with the dead, it is not a morbid occasion but rather a happy and festive one. Families prepare for this annual holiday weeks in advance to ensure that the departed have everything they could possibly want and need.

Skeletons, skulls and marigolds are the main symbols of Day of the Dead. Marigolds are the official flower and are known as the “flower of the dead” because they only bloom for a few weeks in October. The gorgeous orange color and sweet smell of the flower is said to attract the souls of the dead. Skeletons and skulls of various sizes can be seen in windows, dancing in the streets, and as sugar sculptures.

Each year, the families build a special and private altar for the deceased that will include elements that symbolize earth, wind, water, and fire. How each element is displayed depends on the individual, but each altar always includes a container of water for the souls who traveled a long distance to be with their living relatives. Earth is represented by food because it is believed that the souls are fed by the aroma, wind is represented by a moving object such as tissue paper and fire is represented with a vast amount of candles. In addition, the altars include a mirror so that evil spirits won’t eat the food, a picture of the deceased at the highest point of the altar, and offerings that include favorite foods, pillows and blankets, toys for the children and alcohol for the adults.

Food is an important component of Día de los Muertos. “Pan de muerto”, moles, tamales, candied pumpkin and sugar skulls are just a few of the delicious items that are prepared. The delectable pan de muerto or “bread of the dead” is a soft sweet bread that is often made in the shape of a bun and decorated with pieces in the shape of bones. Food items such as moles and tamales are extremely popular because they are typically only made on special occasions. Sugar skulls, better known as “calaveras de azúcar,” are inscribed with name of the departed on the forehead and are decorated with icing to enhance the features of the skull. Calaveras are one of the main symbols because they represent the past ancestors of Mexico and are thought to be the source of energy.

Although different regions of Mexico celebrate Día de los Muertos in various ways, the underlying theme remains the same. Some families choose to celebrate by cleaning and decorating the gravesites, bringing picnic items, and socialize with others. Other families choose to build a private altar in their homes. Some families do both. This holiday is a spectacular two-day event full of history and meaning.

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faces painted and ready celebrate day of the dead

Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is an especially important holiday in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas because it is a colorful city that really comes alive for the two-day event.  It all begins on October 31, where the families of the deceased clean the graves and make them look fresh by putting recently dug up dirt piled up with pine needles and chrysanthemum petals.  The final touch to make the graves complete is topping them with planks of wood that represent doors.  The official party begins on November 1.  Families lay out their offerings that they have prepared in the ofrenda and items that are always included are favorite foods, drinks, and any personal effects that belonged to the deceased.  All of the offerings are to make the souls happy for when they arrive from their long journey.

San Cristóbal de las Casas is a great city for tourists because of the monuments, food, and nightlife.  The city offers “iPod tours” where tourists use the GPS system on an iPod and wander around the city and read and listen about the areas.  The GPS component is used to identify where the tourists are located at all times and provide information about their whereabouts.  One of the very popular and unique sites is the Maya Medicine Museum because it has healers on site that cure illnesses. Another popular attraction is the Mayan villages.  It has been said that they best way to see the city is to take one of the day tours. 

After touring the city, shopping and food should be next on the list of things to do.  The market in San Cristóbal is where everyone shops and an array of products from leather goods to handmade crafts is sold.  The last things on the to-do list go hand-in-hand; food and nightlife.  The main square is where most of the restaurants are located.  The state of Chiapas is known for its tamales, sopa de pan, coffee, and pozol and all of these items can be found in the main square.

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calaveras for day of the dead

One of the most important components of Day of the Dead is the food.  As families prepare the delicious dishes, it is easy to imagine what everyone’s kitchen will smell like; fresh herbs and produce, bread baking in the oven and sweet pumpkin.  Families spend a lot of time making sure that everything is ready for when the souls of their loved ones arrive and that their favorite foods are included in the offerings.

Although different regions in Mexico vary in what foods are prepared, there are a few staples that are uniform in every household; sugar skulls (calaveras), pan de muerto, candied pumpkin, and atole. 

If interested in learning how to make any of these delectable items, click on the links below for the recipes:

•    Sugar skulls (calaveras) are made of granulated sugar and are decorated with icing to enhance the features of the skull.•    Pan de muerto is a sweet soft bread that is shaped like a bun and decorated with bone-like shapes.•    Candied pumpkin is a favorite among families and consists of sliced pumpkin cooked in a piloncillo glaze.•    Atole is a thick drink made with masa and often topped with fresh fruit.

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man in day of the dead costume

The Smithsonian Latino Center will celebrate the Day of the Dead with a three-day online event. The festival will be held October 31 to November 2 in the Latino Virtual Museum in Second Life. This year’s Día de los Muertos festival will feature ofrendas to late Mexican singer Chavela Vargas, actress Lupe Ontiveros and artist Carlos Alonzo. 

The online commemoration of Día de los Muertos will also be enhanced with social media. Visitors will have the opportunity to tweet messages and offerings during the ceremony, which will be delivered in the Nahuatl language. 

“This year’s festival allows visitors to create a virtual presence with their avatars and to engage in the spirit of this culturally significant celebration by sharing their offerings with a global audience via Twitter,” said Melissa Carrillo, Latino Center director of New Media and Technology. “This celebration continues to grow in popularity, which is evidenced by more than 11,000 visits to our online festival last year.” 

The Smithsonian Latino Center ensures Latino contributions to arts, sciences and the humanities are highlighted, understood and advanced through the development and support of public programs, scholarly research, museum collections and educational opportunities at the Smithsonian Institution and its affiliated organizations across the United States.

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people gather to celebrate day of the dead

Oaxaca, one of Mexico’s most vibrant states, is located in southwestern Mexico and is best known for its indigenous cultures. The Central Valley of Oaxaca is well known for its archaeological sites, culture and fine crafts.  Oaxaca also contains a vast diversity of wildlife including plants, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals.

Whether one is interested in shopping, sightseeing or eating great food; Oaxaca has something to offer everyone.  The angelic state has unique architecture, top-notch museums, and its own delicious version of Mexican food.  Some great places for shopping are the Atzompa community market which is famous for its handmade green-glazed pottery and Mercado de Abastos, the largest outdoor market in Mexico.  A few places for sightseeing are the Monte Albán archaeological site, the mezcal plantation, the Mitla archaeological site, and the Museum of Contemporary Art of Oaxaca.  Known for its fabulous regional cuisine, many people visit Oaxaca just for the food. Mole negro, cocido, and tlayudas with quesillo are just a handful of the dishes that you will find here.  Some of the crowd-pleasing restaurants are Los Danzantes, Los Pacos and Catedral.  When looking for something sweet, look no further because Oaxaca is famous for its chocolate.

In the state capital, the celebration of Day of the Dead begins a week before November 1 with the commencement of the “Plaza de los Muertos.”  Located in the city market, natives will find everything they need for the holiday including mole negro, marigolds, Oaxacan chocolate and pan de muertos.  Although Day of the Dead is celebrated all of over Mexico, the state of Oaxaca has become famous for its elaborate celebrations.  Families typically build the ofrendas (altars) on a table and then wrap it with a tablecloth or white sheet and use sugarcane to make an arch above the altar.  After the ofrenda is built, families will start placing the offerings that consist of corn jelly, pumpkin with black sugar, and chocolate ground by stone.  In addition, there is an abundance of fresh regional fruit, nuts, and cooked chayote.  Families not only visit the gravesites and make altars; they also enjoy and participate in theatrical performances that represent the returning of the deceased.

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Monarchs represent the souls of returned loved ones

As the monarch butterflies’ annual migration brings them closer and closer to Mexico, one of Mexico’s best-known holidays is approaching. The beginning of November marks Día de los Muertos, or “Day of the Dead.” This holiday celebrates and honors deceased loved ones, and coincidently occurs simultaneously with the monarch arrival in Mexico. Monarch butterflies travel thousands of miles from the United States and Canada to their winter nesting grounds in central Mexico.

The native Purépecha Indians believe that encapsulated within each butterfly is the soul of a returned loved one. In the Mexican state of Michoacán, monarchs drift through the cemeteries. As the butterflies dance across graves, these souls are greeted by locals celebrating the holiday.

The orange-winged beauties add a vibrant touch to the celebrations. As 300 million butterflies complete their 3,000-mile journey, the living rejoice in their annual visit from the returning souls. 

In the new movie Flight of the Butterflies, the observance of Día de los Muertos plays a key role in the plot of the movie. Among the citizen scientists search for the monarch butterflies were Ken Brugger and his wife, Catalina Aguado. As Catalina and Ken visit a local cemetery during Día de los Muertos, they see monarch butterflies heading towards a nearby mountain. This mountain is later discovered to be the winter nesting place of millions of monarch butterflies.

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Traditional day of dead costumes

Located in the north of Michoacán and 53km from the capital of Morelia, the beautiful city of Tzintzuntzán is a place everyone should visit.  Tzintzuntzán, meaning “place of the hummingbirds,” is known for its festivals, including Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and Festival of Señor del Rascate.  Moreover, this extraordinary city has many unique and interesting monuments and attractions, making it well worth the travel.

Every year, people from all over the region celebrate Día de los Muertos in Tzintzuntzán.  This holiday has been observed for centuries and was a major celebration for the indigenous people, the Purépecha.  As October comes to an end, the festivities begin.  Families start building private altars, picking marigolds, and preparing food for their departed loved ones.

Aside from the holiday, Tzintzuntzán has a number of tourist attractions.  A few of the things that should be on everyone’s to-do list are Yácatas, the former monastery complex of San Francisco, the Ex Convent of Santa Ana, and the outdoor market.  Yácatas is an archaeological site that consists of five pyramids and has a breath-taking view of Lake Pátzcuaro.  The former monastery complex of San Francisco is the main attraction of the town and contains two chapels, a large atrium that has a 500 year old olive grove, the Church of San Francisco, and the Church of La Soledad.  Located near the olive grove, the Ex Convent of Santa Ana is a historical monument that has been restored where religious art and murals can be viewed there.  One of the jewels of the town is the outdoor market.  Known for its handcrafts, the town is most vibrant on the weekends where vendors sell woven tule, high-end ceramics, rustic wood furniture, and items woven from straw.

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black and white photo Tim Burton Frankenweenie

Iconic film Director, Tim Burton’s newly released film ‘Frankenweenie’ was inspired by Mexico’s holiday, Día de los Muertos. Burton, who is known for his dark themed movies, has captured the essence of what Día de los Muertos is all about; celebrating the dead. Frankenweenie is a remake of Burton’s short film and a parody to the film Frankenstein.

The black and white, stop-motion animation film is about a little boy, Victor Frankenstein, who lives with his parents and dog in New Holland. During a baseball game, Victor hits a home run and his dog Sparky chases after the ball and gets killed by a car. Feeling depressed about the loss of his dog, Victor decides to try to resurrect his beloved pet by making a laboratory in his attic. Fortunately, Victor is successful and brings Sparky back to life with lightning.

When asked about the film, Burton said “Of all the cultures I’ve visited and been to, I find the Mexican way of dealing with death the most positive.” Every year on November 1-2, people from Mexico celebrate Día de los Muertos, also known as Day of the Dead, by decorating their homes and leaving offerings.

Since the release of the film, it has been a huge success and seems to be another slam dunk for the talented director. Fans went crazy when Burton visited Mexico. Many felt that Burton really understood their culture and how they celebrated death instead of being depressed about it. With the Día de los Muertos approaching and families getting ready to celebrate, the movie couldn’t have been released at a better time.

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Day of the Dead Me iPhone App

Simply Sweet Apps have created an iPhone/iPad app in honor of Day of the Dead, a traditional family oriented holiday.

The Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos, is a two-day celebration that takes place on November 1 through November 2. The holiday, which celebrates the lives of loved ones who have passed, is deeply rooted in the Mexican culture.

Many celebrate this holiday of remembrance by dressing up in costumes and makeup inspired by La Calavera Catrina (or ‘The Elegant Skull’); the DAY of the DEAD ME app gives you the opportunity to decorate an image with traditional festive makeup and flowers.

Day of the Dead Me app allows you to place a variety of traditional images, such a painted eyes and facial decorations, onto any photo and digital face paint in the style of sugar skull makeup. You can personalize photos of yourself and loved ones, or even pictures of your favorite celebrities. The app is user-friendly, age-friendly, and is less than a dollar.

Day of the Dead Me app includes resizable image templates: Roses, facial scrolls, skull nose, hats, moustaches, painted eyes & chins, and much more! There are additional face-decorating features and flowers options available for purchase in art packs.

Learn more about the DAY of the DEAD ME app (and see before and after pics) on their Twitter and Facebook pages. You can also watch a tutorial of the app in use on YouTube, and finally, get the app for your iPhone and iPad at iTunes.

While you are looking into the Day of the Dead Me app, be sure to check out and decorate your iPhone 4 with this wonderful vast variety of Day of the Dead cases.

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Mexico Among the World’s Top 50 Destinations for “Doing Business” According to T

Mexico is ranked among the world’s top fifty economies for ease of doing business, and shows improvement for the fourth consecutive year, according to a report just released by The World Bank’s “Doing Business 2013: Smarter Regulations for Small and Medium-Size Enterprises” report. 

The World Bank’s “Doing Business” report joins other internationally well-recognized sources, such as the World Economic Forum and the IMD, that demonstrate how Mexico is advancing in global competitiveness. As MexicoToday reported in recent months:

•  Mexico has improved 13 positions in the past two years, as reported by The World Economic Forum (watch video here)

•  Mexico has improved 10 positions in the past two years, as reported by the IMD  

•  Mexico has improved six positions in the past two years, as reported by The World Bank’s Doing Business report 

The “Doing Business” report assesses regulations affecting domestic firms in 185 economies, including Mexico, and ranks the economies measured by ten areas of business regulation, including: starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, getting credit, protecting investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts, and resolving insolvency.

Key highlights of the “Doing Business” report:

 • Mexico continues improving its ranking for the fourth consecutive year, rising by five positions compared to last year’s report

• Mexico is ranked 48 under the overall “ease of doing business” category, far surpassing all the BRIC countries, namely Brazil (130), Russia (112), India (132), and China (91)

• Under the “starting a business” ranking, Mexico showed a significant improvement to 36 from 75 compared to last year. According to the Mexican Economy Ministry, this improvement is largely due to the elimination of the minimum capital required to start a business, which used to be approximately US$5,000 for a corporation and US$300 for a Limited Liability Company.

• Under the “paying taxes” area, Mexico showed an improvement by two positions compared to last year’s report, to 107. As indicated by the report, Mexico has reduced by 78% the average number of times that taxes are paid in a year, from 27x in 2007 to only 6x in 2012. During this same five-year period, the time spent in paying taxes per year has reduced from 549 hours to 337 hours, representing a 39 percent improvement on time and resources for businesses.

On its tenth edition, the "Doing Business" report data cover regulations measured from June 2011 through May 2012.

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Mexico Branded Car Ricardo Triviño PS3 World Rally Championship Game

MexicoToday’s Brand Ambassador and rally racer Ricardo Triviño, together with co-pilot Alex Haro, are part of the latest video game “WRC3” released by Italian leading video game developer Milestone. The “WRC3” game is the official video game of the 2012 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC).

Released on October 12, Europeans can now enjoy the WRC 3 game which shows off high-speed game play -- and users can enjoy scenes from the Guanajuato Rally in Mexico while racing on the Mexico branded car.

Ricardo Triviño is the first and only Mexican in the WRC competing against Europeans and rally racers from around the world. For the sixth time this year, Triviño was recently crowned as champion for the FIA-NACAM Region comprised of North, Central, and northern South America and Caribbean.

The “WRC 3” game is available for the PS3, PS Vita, Xbox 360 and PC platforms, so be sure to check out Ricardo and his Mexico branded car here!

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