Continental Drift #1
Teotihuacan, Mexico
March 18, 2007

"Vuelo con globos de helio en México"


Teotihuacan is located around 30 miles north of Mexico City. The present day city of Teotihuacan is a modest affair: old and a bit dusty, with a decidedly laissez-faire approach to building codes and sanitation.



Teotihuacan was once the site of a much larger city inhabited by a pre-Columbian people about 1300 to 2000 years ago. At the center of this city was a massive religious and ceremonial complex. Two huge pyramids dedicated to the Sun and the Moon, and a temple dedicated to the Feathered Serpent, were located along a wide central avenue. The city was eventually destroyed and abandoned, for reasons that are still unknown. The ruins of the pyramids and temple complex were eventually discovered by the Aztecs, who named this strange place the City of the Gods.



In early 2007, I received an e-mail from a woman named Mariel Merino, inviting me to do a cluster balloon flight at a balloon festival in Teotihuacan. The festival would take place in March, as part of a local celebration of the vernal equinox, and would feature flights over the City of the Gods.


Prior invitations to fly my cluster balloon outside the U.S. had all fizzled, usually due to some meltdown with the organizers, so I was doubtful about whether the invitation would really come to anything. Out of curiosity, I Googled "Mariel Merino" and "globos" (balloons) and got back references in Spanish which described her as "the Woman Commander of the Air Balloons of Mexico". I later learned that this was probably a garbled automated translation of "first woman balloon pilot in Mexico", although at the time it made me wonder if a refusal might set off an international incident of some kind.

Mariel on her Segway


Asking around with some American balloonists, I learned that more about the Merinos. Mariel's father, Javier, was one of the first balloonists in Mexico, and both Mariel and her brother (also Javier) had learned to fly balloons in the U.S. Past attendees of their balloon festival recommended it highly. Also,the elder Javier's business, Impacto Publicitario, specialized in balloons for advertising and promotional use, including helium inflatables -- a key point for me, since it indicated some familiarity with obtaining the gas. I agreed to attend, and somewhat to my surprise, all the arrangements fell into place. So, in March, I headed down to Mexico, accompanied by my crew chief Larry Vandenberg and his son Mike.


Javier Merino and Javier Merino