Monday 31 July 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Monday. 31/7/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Christopher Lord

Cream of the crop

If, like me, you enjoy an occasional quesadilla then let me ask you a question. What was the colour of the last tortilla that you ate? Was it the common white variety or perhaps a more exotic shade of deep red, pink or blue? It matters because the crops behind them are at the centre of a rather shady cross-border debate between the US and Mexico.

Brightly-hued heirloom varieties of corn have been grown in Mexico for thousands of years. Not long ago, however, it looked as though they might disappear forever as a result of cheaper and more widely available yellow and white corn crops from the US. Luckily, an uptick in the popularity of Mexican food means that the market for milled masa flour is once again growing like a stalk in the sun.

I recently interviewed Mexican chef Enrique Olvera in the courtyard of Atla Venice, which is set to open soon in Los Angeles. While he is best known for Pujol in Mexico City, which brought fine-dining flair to his country’s folk recipes, the chef also supports small Mexican farms that grow a rainbow of rare corn strains. “Every time that we lose a variety of corn, we not only lose a flavour but also the techniques and recipes,” says Olvera. “That is something we feel that we should safeguard.”

Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador is looking to take advantage of the renewed interest in his country’s crops and has already imposed a ban on the use of genetically modified corn for making tortillas. But US farmers (and the politicians who represent them) will not let billions of dollars of potential trade go lightly. There’s certainly a bit of populism on both sides of the border in this corn spat. But while the US has long been used to getting its way in trade negotiations, one thing’s clear: Mexico seems less than willing to play it by ear.

Christopher Lord is Monocle’s US editor based in Los Angeles. For more on this debate, tune in to ‘The Globalist’ at 07.00 London time. And don’t forget to subscribe to Monocle today.

Image: Reuters

Trade / Pakistan & Saudi Arabia

Port of call

Pakistan’s four leading oil companies and Saudi Arabia’s state-owned Aramco are set to sign an agreement for a Saudi-backed $10bn (€9.05bn) oil refinery at Pakistan’s Gwadar Port (pictured). Based on a key route in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the project will involve building an integrated petrochemical complex to process at least 300,000 barrels of crude oil per day.

Officials from both countries will meet and sign the agreement – which was initially inked during Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to Islamabad in 2019 – at the World Mineral Conference, an event that will offer investment opportunities in Pakistan’s mineral sector. While Saudi Arabia mostly exports its oil from western ports, the Gwadar refinery will pave the way for eastern trade. For Pakistan, the joint investment will boost its national economy and also strengthen ties between the two nations.

Image: Shutterstock

Aviation / Colombia

Plane sailing

Colombia’s state-owned airline Satena has announced that it plans to invest $80m (€72.6m) in the expansion and modernisation of its fleet. Priority will be given to the purchase of small and medium-sized aircraft, which are able to land at airports that are not usually accessible to larger models. According to air force general Oscar Zuluaga, who runs Satena, the move will improve mobility across the South American continent and “bring hope to the most remote regions.”

Plans for more international routes to places such as Brazil, Peru and Ecuador are also on the horizon. After generating a loss of 2 billion pesos (€460,000) last year, the company hopes that these changes will help it break even. But, as the region’s aviation sector continues to struggle, it might take more than a significant investment to help Satena’s plan take off.

Image: Getty Images

Transport / USA

Slow-moving traffic

After consistently being ranked among the most dangerous cities in the US for pedestrians and cyclists, Tampa has announced a new 30-year plan to improve its mobility infrastructure. The Tampa Moves policy will direct $2bn (€1.8bn) towards alleviating traffic congestion and creating a more equitable transport system. The policy stands for mobility for all, opportunity, vision, equity and (public) safety – all of which are drastically lacking in the current infrastructure.

The project will run in conjunction with Vision Zero, another city-led initiative that seeks to eliminate serious collisions. The much-needed injection of investment will bring new cycle paths, improved pavements, more road crossings and congestion relief. But while the city is projected to welcome 150,000 new residents over the next two decades and Tampa locals already spend an average of two days sitting in traffic every year, 30 years might be a long time to wait for improvement.

Image: Shutterstock

Art / France & South Korea

Branching out

The Parisian contemporary art hub, Centre Pompidou, has finalised a deal with Seoul’s Hanwha Culture Foundation to establish a new outpost in its HQ (pictured) in South Korea by 2025. The French art centre already has several established outposts, including in Shanghai, Brussels and Málaga, and has future plans to expand into Saudi Arabia. The new site – dubbed the Centre Pompidou Hanwha Seoul – will host biannual exhibitions that feature works by 20th and 21st-century contemporary creatives from Paris’s collections.

In an effort to boost South Korea’s engagement with arts and culture, Hanwha had been trying to establish a Pompidou branch in Seoul since 2018 but experienced setbacks as a result of the pandemic. According to Hyun Woo Shin, chairperson of the Hanwha Culture Foundation, the collaboration will strengthen the ties between the two countries and help foster creativity and innovation within the South Korean art community.

Monocle Radio / The Entrepreneurs

Maeving & Beaumier

Seb Inglis-Jones is the co-founder of Maeving, an electric motorbike manufacturer proudly based in Coventry, the traditional home of British motorcycle innovation. Seb explains how he and his team have created Britain’s best-selling electric motorcycle by combining classic engineering with future-focused technology. Plus: Éric Dardé, president and CEO of Beaumier hotel group, stops by to discuss the importance of authenticity in hospitality and how the brand is employing simple fixes to redefine luxury.

Monocle Films / Urbanism

Meet Europe’s first chief heat officer

Athens is the hottest capital city in mainland Europe and temperatures continue to rise. That’s why Eleni Myrivili was appointed as the city’s – and continent’s – first chief heat officer in 2021. We meet her on Philoppapou hill to hear about how urban design can help to build resilience against rising temperatures.


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