Juchitá, Oaxaca

Orlando Regalón & I are the INAOE “Blues Brothers” connecting our CERTE microgrid to the internet.

I’ve enjoyed spending the last work-week with Orlando Regalón, an INAOE research colleague from Cuba, at the CERTE microgrid site in Juchitán, Oaxaca.  Just getting to the this remote part of the Tehuantepec Isthmus involved an 11-hour overnight bus ride.  We stayed at the Hotel Santo Domingo, very close to the bus station, and commuted about 15 miles daily to the CERTE site near La Ventosa.

This narrow stretch of Mexico located between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans has some of the highest average wind speeds in the world.  Large wind farms have since been developed here to capture this renewable energy.  Approximately 4,500 wind turbines, most of them over 100 meters high can generate over _____ MW of power daily.

The problems with our microgrid test site include:

  • the two small wind turbines weren’t designed to withstand the strong winds of this area and are not functioning;
  • the microgrid was never connected to the CFE grid, so it’s not possible to feed power back into the central grid; and
  • the system was never connected to the internet, so researchers at INAOE & INEEL could not access research date remotely.

Orlando & I were only here to solve that internet connection problem.  More to follow when I get back to INAOE.

The wind & solar sources of renewable energy at CERTE.
A diesel generator to provide back-up power for the CERTE microgrid.
3 SMA Sunny Island Inverters.
24 deep cell batteries.
3 load simulators.
The digital internet connections.
These gas-powered 3-wheeled motorcycle taxis are everywhere in Juchitán.
At the end of every work day, I was able to swim in this pool at the Hotel Santo Domingo.

Columbus & the Americas

I learned early that Christopher Columbus first “discovered” the Americas or the New World by sailing across the Atlantic in 1492.  I later came to view any celebration of Columbus Day in October as an insult to the indigenous peoples who Columbus and other European colonizers subsequently exploited, enslaved and/or destroyed.

October 12th was celebrated today in Mexico as “Día de la Raza” or Day of the Race (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbus_Day) which has quite a varied history throughout the Americas.  It inspired me to do some additional reading about the Columbus history:

Viajes de colon en.svg

The four voyages of Columbus
Date 1492, 1493, 1498, 1502
Location The Americas


I didn’t remember that Columbus actually made four sailing trips to the New World over 11 years (1492-1502), and that his only landings were in the Caribbean Islands, Central & South America.  He never made it to anywhere in North America, including Mexico.  I also didn’t realize that he was later imprisoned for all of the havoc he imposed on natives, struggled to repay his investors, and died at 59.

Despite all the colonial carnage that followed, it’s still impressive to me that Columbus was able to envision, finance and complete his first cross-Atlantic sailing adventure into the total unknown.  Many Europeans in 1492 still believed the earth to be flat.

It’s not unlike our current challenge of exploring outer space or even dealing with climate change on earth.  I just hope that we’ve learned something from history about the need to respect other races, cultures and perspectives if we really want to survive as a species.

Peace Corps Regional Director’s Visit to INAOE

Thomas Garcia and I on either side of Greg Huger, Peace Corps Regional Director, with George Like and the PCMX staff

Meeting Presentation

(18Sept2018), 4:35-4:45 pm

Good afternoon everyone, and thanks for this opportunity to talk about my experience as a Peace Corps Response Volunteer at INAOE.  I especially want to thank our special guests who have come so far.  Because I’m in the energy business, I’d like to give a “Thanks-A-Watt” Award to both Greg & George.  That may not translate as clearly in Spanish, but I hope these energy-efficient LED light bulbs can help you both implement many “bright ideas” while you are responsible for this region of Peace Corps.

Greg and I barely missed meeting each other 50 years ago on a Peace Corps assignment in the Ivory Coast of Africa.  I understand that you served there from 1968-1970, and I imagine that experience helped launch your very successful international career.  In 1969 I was also accepted for a Peace Corps assignment in the Ivory Coast, but my draft board in North Dakota, had the power to draft me into the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.

I later completed a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) degree with a specialization in energy management.  After working over 30 years in the energy field, primarily in Tucson, Arizona, I retired in 2014.  I was especially attracted to this “Energy Market Specialist – Microgrids” job description at INAOE because it fit my background and offered a rare “do-over” opportunity to build some positive bridges between the US and Mexico.

Based on this year in Mexico and working on this energy research project at INAOE, I can honestly say that I couldn’t have designed a better place to serve in Mexico, a better team of colleagues to work with or a better family to live with.  You’ll hear more about the Huepa Family later.  Here are just a few highlights of my last year at INAOE:

  • Working with a very talented research team of computer scientists from both INAOE & the National Institute for Electricity and Clean Energy (NEEL),
  • Facilitating a weekly “INAOE Talks” English Conversation Club with help from Luci,
  • Coordinating a US Research trip in March 2018 to the National Wind Institute (NWI) at Texas Tech University (TTU) in Lubbock, Texas and to the Tech Park at the University of Arizona (UA) in Tucson, Arizona.
  • Recruiting INAOE & TTU to join the Consortium for North American Higher Education Collaboration (CONAHEC), thanks to help from Drs. Baez, Sanchez and Altamirano.
  • Completing a pilot faculty and student exchange with TTU this summer, and
  • Contributing to 4 future funding proposals that involve collaborating with US partners.

I have since extended my PCR assignment for another 6 months to help these international research exchanges continue beyond my short service in Mexico.

Our team recently participated in the BioBiz México Workshop and Green Expo at the World Trade Center in Mexico City, so I can share the banner and a brochure from our presentation.  Drs. Sucar, Morales and Ibargüengoytia are all at a CEMIE-Redes workshop in Cuernavaca today, so I’m grateful to have Mtria. Alma Rios Flores join us.  She has graciously shared her office with me, so she may have some additional comments about our time together.

Do any of you have other questions or comments?

Greg Huger and I are “kindred spirits” who missed serving together in Peace Corps Ivory Coast (1969), but finally connected in Peace Corps México during his visit to INAOE (Sept. 18, 2018).  It’s a small world!

Presentación de la reunión

(18Sep2018), 4:35-4:45 pm

Buenas tardes a todos, y gracias por esta oportunidad de hablar sobre mi experiencia como Voluntario de Respuesta del Cuerpo de Paz en INAOE.  Quiero agradecer especialmente a nuestros invitados especiales que han venido hasta aquí.  Debido a que estoy en el negocio de la energía, me gustaría dar un premio “Thanks-A-Watt” tanto a Greg como a George.  Puede que eso no se traduzca tan claramente en español, pero espero que estos focos LED de bajo consumo puedan ayudarles a ambos a implementar muchas “ideas brillantes” mientras son responsables de esta región de los Cuerpos de Paz.

Greg y yo apenas nos perdimos la oportunidad de conocernos hace 50 años en una misión del Cuerpo de Paz en la Costa de Marfil de África.  Entiendo que usted sirvió allí de 1968 a 1970, e imagino que esa experiencia le ayudó a lanzar su exitosa carrera internacional.  En 1969 también fui aceptado para un puesto en el Cuerpo de Paz en Costa de Marfil, pero mi junta de reclutamiento en Langdon, Dakota del Norte, tenía el poder de reclutarme en el Ejército de los Estados Unidos durante la Guerra de Vietnam.

Más tarde completé una Maestría en Administración de Empresas (MBA) con especialización en administración de energía.  Después de trabajar más de 30 años en el campo de la energía, principalmente en Tucson, Arizona, me jubilé en 2014.  Me atrajo especialmente la descripción de trabajo de este “Especialista en el mercado de la energía – Microgrids” en el INAOE porque se ajustaba a mis antecedentes y ofrecía una rara oportunidad de “rehacer” la construcción de algunos puentes positivos entre los EE.UU. y México.

Basado en este año en México y trabajando en este proyecto de investigación energética en el INAOE, puedo decir honestamente que no podría haber diseñado un mejor lugar para servir en México, un mejor equipo de colegas con los que trabajar o una mejor familia con la que vivir.  Oirás más sobre la familia Huepa más tarde.  Aquí están algunos de los aspectos más destacados de mi último año en el INAOE:

  • Trabajando con un equipo de investigación muy talentoso de científicos informáticos del INAOE y del Instituto Nacional de Electricidad y Energía Limpia (NEEL),
  • Facilitación de un Club de Conversación en Inglés “INAOE Talks” semanal con la ayuda de Luci,
  • Coordinar un viaje de investigación de EE.UU. en marzo de 2018 al Instituto Nacional del Viento (NWI) de la Universidad Tecnológica de Texas (TTU) en Lubbock, Texas y al Parque Tecnológico de la Universidad de Arizona (UA) en Tucson, Arizona.
  • Reclutar al INAOE y a la TTU para que se unan al Consorcio para la Colaboración en Educación Superior en América del Norte (CONAHEC), gracias a la ayuda de los doctores Báez, Sánchez y Altamirano.
  • Completar un intercambio piloto de profesores y estudiantes con TTU este verano, y
  • Contribuir a 4 futuras propuestas de financimiento que impliquen la colaboración con socios estadounidenses.

Desde entonces he extendido mi asignación de PCR por otros 6 meses para ayudar a que estos intercambios internacionales de investigación continúen más allá de mi breve servicio en México.

Nuestro equipo participó recientemente en el Taller de BioBiz México y en la Exposición Verde en el World Trade Center de la Ciudad de México, para que pueda compartir el banner y un folleto de nuestra presentación.  Los doctores Sucar, Morales e Ibargüengoytia están hoy en un taller de CEMIE-Redes en Cuernavaca, así que estoy agradecido de tener a Mtria. Alma Ríos Flores se une a nosotros.  Ella ha tenido la amabilidad de compartir su oficina conmigo, así que puede tener algunos comentarios adicionales sobre nuestro tiempo juntos.

¿Alguno de ustedes tiene otras preguntas o comentarios?

Huepa Family Recognition

Left to right: Thomas Garcia, Marianna Huepa Cortés, Hugo Huepa Benitez, Josh Spetter, Paula Cortés Conde, Araceli Huepa Cortés & me.

During the Peace Corps Regional Director’s visit to INOAE, I was please that Peace Corps México agreed to recognize my family with the following certificate:

“Cuerpo de Paz México reconoce al matrimonio formado por Paula Cortés Conde y Hugo Huepa Benítez por su excelente modelo como familia anfitriona internacional. Desde 2016 los Huepa Cortés han recibido en su hogar a cuatro Voluntarios del Cuerpo de Paz, haciéndolos sentir parte de esta gran familia, compartiendo con ellos las tradiciones y costumbres de México. La familia Huepa Cortés ha estado vinculada al Instituto Nacional de Astrofísica, Óptica y Electrónica (INOAE) y la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) por más de 135 años a través del trabajo de tres generaciones, demostrando un profundo compromiso con su comunidad de Santa María Tonantzintla.”


“Peace Corps Mexico recognizes the marriage formed by Paula Cortés Conde and Hugo Huepa Benítez for their excellent model as an international host family. Since 2016 the Huepa Cortés have welcomed four Peace Corps Volunteers into their home, making them feel part of this great family, sharing with them the traditions and customs of Mexico. The Huepa Cortés family has been linked to the Instituto Nacional de Astrofísica, Óptica y Electrónica (INOAE) and the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) for more than 135 years through the work of three generations, demonstrating a deep commitment to their community of Santa María Tonantzintla.”

Summer Break

I took advantage of INAOE’s 3-week summer break to visit my family in Tucson, Arizona and Fargo, North Dakota.  A few pictures:

Family gathering – Jackie & I spend a fun Carlsbad weekend with Tom & Margeaux.

IMG_0093.jpegMarge Roberts’ 94th birthday celebration at Enlivant with Jackie, one of her caregivers, plus our dear friends, Carl & Terri Kominsky.

Mom with her caregivers at Eventide in Fargo, North Dakota. I hope to be doing so well at 95+!
My brother, Dick, & his wife, Suzie, who hosted me for 2 nights at Pelican Lake in Minnesota.  I especially enjoyed a brief morning of lake sailing. It calms my spirit.
Michael Gardos Reid & his family hosted me in Minneapolis, Minnesota for 2 nights while I fit in some work-related visits before returning to Mexico. What a great trip!

US Research Trip II

On either side of a trip back to Tucson, Arizona, this summer, I was able to fit in several Peace Corps work-related visits.  Here are just a few highlights:

  • National Wind Institute (NWI) at Texas Tech University (TTU) in Lubbock, Texas to spend some time with INAOE masters student, René Parlange Chavarría, during his month-long pilot exchange program with Dr. Beibel Ren.
  • University of Arizona (UA) in Tucson, Arizona to meet with my friends at CONAHEC as well as Dr. Kelly Simmons Potter about future solar collaborations.
  • University of North Dakota (UND) in Grand Forks, North Dakota to meet with Dr. Katie Davidson, Director of the UND International Center, and later, Dr. Ronald Marsh and Dr. Emanuel S. Grant in the computer science department.
  • University of Minnesota (UM) in Minneapolis, Minnesota to meet with computer science student Reuben Gardos Reid and Dr. Barbara Kappler in the UM International Affairs Office.
  • University of Saint Thomas (UST) in Saint Paul, Minnesota to meet with staff at the UST International Affairs Office.

I was promoting the possibility of collaborating with us at INAOE on future research projects, student/faculty exchanges, and possible CONAHEC membership.  It was all a bit rushed, but I’m pleased to report that 5 future research funding proposals with international collaboration have already grown out of these two US Research Trips.  Stay tuned for more to come.

Here are also a few pictures:

Me with Dr. José Martinez-Carranza and René Parlange Chavarría and one of the INAOE drones. We all participated in the pilot exchange program with TTU.
René with his fellow masters and doctorate students in Dr. Ren’s Mechanical Engineering Lab at TTU.
A trip to Lubbock, Texas isn’t complete without a supper at the Triple J Chophouse & Brew Co. with Angela Sudderth and her extended family.
And a trip to Tucson, Arizona isn’t complete without lunch at the Hotel Congress’ Cup Restaurant with dear friends (& solar cooperative entrepreneurs) Nicole & Kevin Koch.


MX Election Results

I’m also including this thoughtful analysis from Denise Dresser in both Spanish & English.


A vigilarte

Denise Dresser (02-07-2018)

Sr. Presidente:

Te escribo estas líneas, sentada en mi escritorio, con el pulgar manchado de tinta indeleble, con sentimientos encontrados. Esperanza y zozobra. Alegría y temor. Gozo por lo que decidimos dejar atrás e inquietud ante lo que vendrá. Sé por qué ganaste; sé por qué el voto se volcó en tu favor. Como nadie recorriste el País y entendiste su enojo. Como nadie capturaste el sentir de los indignados, los enfurecidos, los enojados. Años de democracia diluida, transición trastocada, igualdad creciente, pobreza lacerante. Años de sacar al PRI de Los Pinos para verlo regresar, más corrupto, más rapaz, más desalmado. Años de instituciones puestas al servicio del poder y no del ciudadano. Y tú, el insurgente, ofreciste lo que tantos querían oír. La refundación. La transformación. El rompimiento con el viejo régimen. Invitaste al País a hacer historia contigo. Y la mayoría te acompañó; algunos con entusiasmo, otros con ambivalencia, muchos para darle un puntapié al priismo.

Había que castigar al PRI por su patrimonialismo y al PAN por mimetizarlo. Había que sacudir al sistema y darle un puñetazo al statu quo. Era imperativo retomar el camino de una transición que se truncó por una partidocracia rapaz, unas autoridades electorales que fueron perdiendo credibilidad e imparcialidad, un sistema de justicia para la protección de los privilegiados, un pacto de impunidad que permitió la supervivencia política de la podredumbre.

Fuimos saboteando la consolidación democrática, sexenio tras sexenio. Permitimos que el “neoliberalismo a la mexicana” concentrara la riqueza y perpetuara la pobreza. Ignoramos la violencia que fue convirtiendo pedazos del País en tierra de nadie, disputados por los cárteles, sembradíos de cadáveres y de fosas. Contemplamos cómo la guerra contra las drogas se convirtió en una guerra contra los mexicanos, liderada por Fuerzas Armadas que no saben estar en las calles, llenándolas de “daños colaterales”. 240 mil muertos, 34 mil desaparecidos; las cifras de la barbarie. Las cifras del México roto.

Y tú fuiste de plaza en plaza, de pueblo en pueblo, dándole voz al horror. Atizando los agravios y reconociéndolos. Triunfaste porque tu diagnóstico es el correcto. México ha sido expoliado por sus élites y exprimido por sus intereses enquistados y victimizado por su vetocracia sindical y empresarial. El péndulo de la historia se corrió de la acumulación a la redistribución; de la derecha a la izquierda como Albert Hirschman lo explicara. Todo eso lo entiendo, lo reconozco. Pero aun así, no soy de las jubilosas que quiere abrazarte, izarte en hombros. Porque no sé cómo gobernarás, a quiénes escucharás, a cuáles miembros de la “mafia en el poder” perdonarás, qué modelo económico instrumentarás, qué sistema de justicia edificarás, si serás el líder aplaudible de una izquierda progresista o el líder cuestionable de un lopezobradorismo conservador. Ante nosotros se vislumbra una Terra Incognita.

No temo que México se vuelva Venezuela. Temo que México siga siendo el mismo México. Un país clientelar alimentado por un Estado dadivoso que crea recipientes en vez de participantes. Un país que mantiene el capitalismo de cuates, solo que con otros cuates, los tuyos. Un sistema de partido hegemónico renovado con pocos contrapesos. Un andamiaje institucional corroído cuyas falencias sean suplidas por el presidencialismo resucitado. Me anima tu incorruptibilidad personal, el perfil de ciertas personas que te rodean, el espíritu de renovación que te acompaña. Me preocupa que ataques a la prensa, desdeñes al Congreso, denuestes a la Suprema Corte, descalifiques a la sociedad civil, dividas a la población entre los “buenos” que te apoyan incondicionalmente y los “malos” que lo son sólo por cuestionarte. Y es cierto que muchas de las organizaciones y las instituciones que señalas son indefendibles. Pero habrá que remodelarlas, no saltar por encima de ellas.

Hoy, el día después, estaré haciendo la tarea que me toca: vigilarte, exigirte, recordarte el imperativo de reconciliarnos. De gobernar en nombre de todos y no solo de quienes votaron por ti. De reconocer el pluralismo y promover la tolerancia. De combatir privilegios y corrupción pero también en tu propio partido. Y decirte: México no es el país de AMLO o Morena o sus Gobernadores o sus Diputados. Es el País de uno. El País nuestro. En 2018 y siempre.


To keep an eye on you

Denise Dresser (02-07-2018)

Mr President:

I write these lines to you, sitting at my desk, my thumb stained with indelible ink, with mixed feelings. Hope and sorrow. Joy and fear. I rejoice at what we decide to leave behind and worry about what is to come. I know why you won; I know why the vote went in your favor. Like no one else in the country understood his anger. Like no one else you captured the feelings of the outraged, the angry, the angry. Years of diluted democracy, disrupted transition, growing equality, grinding poverty. Years of taking the PRI out of Los Pinos to see it return, more corrupt, more rapacious, more soulless. Years of institutions placed at the service of power and not of the citizen. And you, the insurgent, offered what so many wanted to hear. The refounding. The transformation. The break with the old regime. You invited the country to make history with you. And most of them came with you; some with enthusiasm, others with ambivalence, many to kick the PRI.

The PRI had to be punished for its patrimonialism and the PAN for mimicking it. The system had to be shaken and the status quo had to be punched. It was imperative to resume the path of a transition that was cut short by a predatory party, electoral authorities that were losing credibility and impartiality, a justice system for the protection of the privileged, a pact of impunity that allowed the political survival of the rot.

We were sabotaging democratic consolidation, six years after six years. We allowed “Mexican-style neoliberalism” to concentrate wealth and perpetuate poverty. We ignore the violence that was turning pieces of the country into a no-man’s-land, disputed by the cartels, sown with corpses and pits. We watched as the war on drugs turned into a war against Mexicans, led by armed forces that do not know how to be on the streets, filling them with “collateral damage”. 240,000 dead, 34,000 missing; the figures of barbarism. The broken Mexico figures.

And you went from square to square, from village to village, giving voice to the horror. By stirring up grievances and acknowledging them. You triumphed because your diagnosis is right. Mexico has been plundered by its elites and squeezed by its entrenched interests and victimized by its trade union and business veto. The pendulum of history shifted from accumulation to redistribution; from right to left as Albert Hirschman explained it. I understand  all that, I admit it. But still, I’m not one of those jubilant women who wants to hug you, hoist you on her shoulders. Because I don’t know how you will rule, who you will listen to, which members of the “mafia in power” you will forgive, what economic model you will implement, what justice system you will build, whether you will be the applaudable leader of a progressive left or the questionable leader of a conservative lopezobradorismo. A Terra Incognita can be seen before us.

I’m not afraid that Mexico will become Venezuela. I fear that Mexico is still the same Mexico. A client country fed by a gifted state that creates recipients instead of participants. A country that maintains peer capitalism, only with other peers, yours. A renewed hegemonic party system with few counterweights. A corroded institutional scaffolding whose shortcomings are made up for by the resurrected presidentialism. I am encouraged by your personal incorruptibility, the profile of certain people around you, the spirit of renewal that accompanies you. I am concerned that attacks on the press, disdain of Congress, denigration of the Supreme Court, disqualification of civil society, division of the population between the “good guys” who support you unconditionally and the “bad guys” who are just for questioning you. And it is true that many of the organizations and institutions you point to are indefensible. But they’ll have to be remodeled, not jumped over.

Today, the day after, I will be doing my task: to watch over you, to demand of you, to remind you of the imperative of reconciliation. To rule on behalf of everyone and not just those who voted for you. To recognize pluralism and promote tolerance. To fight privileges and corruption but also in your own party. And tell you: Mexico is not the country of AMLO or Morena or their governors or their deputies. It’s your country. Our country. In 2018 and always.