Perched on the summit of a dormant volcano in the Mexican state of Puebla, the Large Millimeter Telescope (LMT) watches how stars, galaxies, and planets form. The result of a binational collaboration between the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and Mexico’s National Institute of Astrophysics, Optics, and Electronics (INAOE), the LMT saw first light in 2011 and is about to begin its first scientific observation season. ScienceInsider chatted with LMT Director David Hughes about millimeter-wavelength telescopes, Mexico’s growing astronomy community, and his plans for the LMT’s future. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
The auto industry’s love affair with Mexico seems to know no bounds these days. Just days after Japan’s Honda announced the creation of a $470m transmission plant in the country, it was the turn of Audi to laid the foundation stone for a $1.3bn assembly plant in Mexico over the weekend. Aimed at challenging BMW’s global leadership of the international luxury SUV market, the new factory is expected to come on stream in 2016, building 150,000 Q5 SUVs a year. In addition, Rupert Stadler, Audi’s chief executive, said the company is mulling a Q6 version that would double the plant’s capacity.
The plant is being build at San José Chiapa between the city of Puebla and the port of Veracruz, handily located for shipment of vehicles to the US eastern seaboard and Europe. While many of the new investment in Mexico’s export-led auto industry has been heading to the nation’s Colonial heartland and further north, Puebla is a home-from-home for German carmaker Volkswagen, the parent company of Audi.
Volkswagen (VW) plans to open a new factory in Puebla and is currently processing authorization forms that are needed to begin its operations. According to a trusted source, it will be located near the Audi plant built in the municipality of San Jose Chiapa, Puebla.
The official announcement will be released in the second half of this year.
If you’ve ever been to Mexico City, chances are you’ve sat in an old Volkswagen Bug taxi, painted in muted red and gold, stuck in Mexico City’s notorious traffic. “Here we call them ‘Donkeys,’” says Victoriano Luna, a taxi driver who has been driving a Bug for 32 years. “A horse can run fast, but it doesn’t endure. A donkey does endure, just like this car.”
Volkswagen first came to Mexico in 1967, when it opened a plant in Puebla, a few hours drive from Mexico City. For decades, the Bug was the biggest-selling car in the country. Today, the Peubla plant has expanded to become the largest auto factory in North America, employing 18,000 people. It’s a state-of-the-art facility full of industrial robots and blinking computer equipment. The plant has the capacity to produce 2,500 cars a day, in popular models such as the Jetta and Golf.
Volkswagen AG (VOW), Europe’s biggest carmaker, plans to build its best-selling Golf hatchback in Mexico in a push for market share in North America, where it trails competitors. The preferred shares hit a 20-year high.
“With its existing infrastructure, competitive cost structures and free-trade agreements, Mexico is the ideal location to produce the Golf for the American market,” Hubert Waltl, the head of production at VW’s passenger car brand, said in a statement dated today and obtained by Bloomberg News.
Financial Times, 9/4/12
A company press release on Tuesday said that Audi looked at a dozen locations but ended up going with the Puebla site because of its good logistics, infrastructure, quality living and skilled labour. Rupert Stadler, Chairman of the Board of Management of Audi AG, said, “The chosen location is an ideal base from which to supply international markets from Mexico”.
All of this speaks volumes about Mexico’s emergence as a global car manufacturer. Over the past five years or so, practically all of the biggest names in vehicles have poured billions of dollars into Mexico for its potential as a global centre for manufacturing and exporting cars.
El Universal, 7/24/12
According to Attorney General Marisela Morales, micro-trafficking is a major source of violence in Mexico as groups fight over local drug trafficking corners. She said this while inaugurating the new Strategic Operation Center [COE por sus siglas en Español] in Puebla. The Center will fight local trafficking and drug addiction, and its creation was accomplished through coordination between the federal and local government.
Foreign Policy, 11/17/2010
My hotel on the outskirts of Puebla, a city of 1.3 million in central Mexico, looks out over a rolling golf course lined with palm trees and beyond that a busy highway flanked by Mazda and Mercedes car dealerships. The historic downtown has colonial Spanish architecture. Newer areas of the city boast gated subdivisions, Home Depot outlets, and strip malls. I came to attend a technology conference, “Ciudad de las Ideas,” now in its third year and featuring such international luminaries as Malcolm Gladwell and Chris Anderson as speakers. This is first-world Mexico, as swanky and cosmopolitan as anywhere in the United States or Europe. The slice of elite Mexican society at the conference sports iPhones and Chanel bags, sips Starbucks coffee, and, upon hearing that I’m American, waxes on about vacations in Miami and San Diego.
In other words, I’m not in newspaper Mexico: the Mexico that has been so obviously ravaged by the country’s brutal drug wars over the past half decade. Mexico’s chattering classes are removed not just geographically but, it would seem, psychologically, from the more grisly images we’ve seen on the news this year.
Yet, these two Mexicos — the privileged and the desperate — are not so far apart as it may seem. Drug violence doesn’t often come to Puebla, but drug cartel leaders — like other successful Mexican businessmen — do.
The New York Times, 10/16/2010
Incidences of drug-related violence in Mexico and on the border continue to make news. We tend to hear about the crimes that touch American lives — like the reported killing of a man riding a Jet Ski on the Rio Grande. What we don’t hear as much about is how drugs and violence shape the everyday lives of Mexicans. So here are dispatches from four writers on how drug trafficking has changed their parts of the country. They were translated by Kristina Cordero from the Spanish.
The drug lords like this city for the same reason I do: it’s safe.
Drug-related violence has driven away the tourists, but now locals are reclaiming their city.
In the state where Mexico’s drug trade started, narcotics have seeped into the social D.N.A.
Volkswagen AG, Europe’s largest carmaker, will build a $550 million engine plant in Mexico as the automaker expands in North America, said Otto Lindner, president of the company’s operations in the country. The plant in Silao will produce 330,000 engines a year for cars built in Puebla, Mexico, and Chattanooga, Tennessee, Lindner told reporters at an event in Mexico City. Construction will begin next month, and the factory will begin operations in 2013.
The plant will be Wolfsburg, Germany-based Volkswagen’s first in Mexico outside of its Puebla complex, where the company has operated for 40 years and assembles the Jetta, Golf and New Beetle models.
“Now we are making the decision to establish a second productive unit in Mexico, a necessary step to continue with our growth strategy in the region,” Lindner said in a Spanish- language statement.