The past week I had the opportunity to attend the fifth annual convention of the Comunidad Acuariofila Regiomontana in the Mexican city of Monterrey. The CAR, as it is referred by its members (of which I am proudly one of them), was created six years ago by a bunch of aquarium aficionados from Monterrey and its surrounding areas. The small group started to organize monthly gatherings alternating the homes of the small membership, which quickly grew in number. Monterrey is known for their inhabitants taste for BBQs. Once visiting Norway I as told that Norwegians are born with skiis, well, if this is so then we can say Regiomontanos (as the people from Monterrey are referred) are born with a BBQ case with their name carved. Meetings turn into big parties where BBQ delicacies from the north of México, beer and fish talks are not in shortage. There has been some confusion as to if the main goal of the club was that of fish or culinary studies, as one of the members once suggested.
Each monthly meeting is highlighted with a lecture by one of the members, in topics of their specialty; I must say the level of the conferences is very high with real experts in every field treated, as the CAR is a general aquarium club. Excellent talks on diving, fish photography, fishroom setup, travel logs and many other topics started to fill each monthly meeting.
After its creation, the CAR was prompt to start organizing field trips to surrounding aquatic habitats, to better get to know the extensive native aquatic fauna and flora of north eastern México.
I was honored to be invited as their first annual convention speaker in March 2007, and the organization and development of the event quite surprised me, having a very high standard. After five conventions, they have fine tuned the organization and the event, in my opinion can be considered world class. The guest speakers that have participated in the annual events include Ad Konings (2008), Patrick de Rham (2009), Rainer Stawikowski (2010) and this year it was Anton Lamboj with two fantastic talks about West African fishes. There has also been a second speaker in the past two conventions, focusing on aquatic plants, they have been the experts Ghazanfar Ghori and Tom Barr, in 2009 and 2010 respectively, covering the plant topics.
The 2011 fifth year convention started as usual with a Mexican dinner the night before the event, to welcome the guest speakers. The camaraderie among the CAR members is very high and quickly makes you feel at home in Monterrey. Late hours it was difficult to leave the place but convention day would be long.
Saturday morning, March 12, was convention day, a field trip was offered to guest speakers by Melo Salazar, an expert on the local flora and fauna of Nuevo Leon state. He chose to show us one of the breathtaking sceneries of the state at Potrero Chico, a small valley surrounded by astonishing high mountains with huge cliffs, a very popular area for cliff hangers. This valley is also home of some extremely rare cactus which Melo was kind enough to show us to photograph. After this visit, we went back to Monterrey, had a lunch of Mexican tacos and there we go rushing to the event, which took place in a popular down town hotel it Monterrey. The opening and presentation was made by Marco Arroyo, one of CAR harder working members and coordinator of the event. Anton made his two simultaneously translated presentations and in the middle was Tom’s, all three presentations captivated the audience, me included, for their quality and amount of knowledge contained. After the talks I decided I want to work some day with those wonderful Chromidotilapiines! And better yet go to Gabon or Cameroon to get them!
Dinner followed the second talk and after the third talk the auction took place. Wonderful fish at incredible low prices. Some of those fish you never get to see in aquarium stores in México. Well, I guess so, I must confess I rarely visit one store but I have never seen them in one.
Sunday was the field trip to the Bustamante canyon north of Monterrey, home of Herichthys cyanoguttatus in an affluent of Rio Grande, the Rio Salado. Luis Garza was our host and organized the event. After our arrival, Anton and me quickly jumped into the water to take pictures of the Texas cichlid breeding pairs in the creek. Other fish we saw were Dionda melanops, Poecilia mexicana, P. formosa, Astyanax mexicanus and Ictalurus punctatus. Then of course, another BBQ and later on back to town for a beer. Quite a wonderful trip. I unfortunately could not join them in the days after the weekend, but Anton and Tom were taken to Cuatro Ciénegas and other nice habitats in northern México, before they left the country.
All in all, quite a successful event for quite a successful group. Next year is the guest speaker will be Oliver Lucanus, and I can’t wait for that!
Members of the Comunidad Acuariófila Regiomontana have worked very hard to forge this association, an exception for Mexican societies I am aware of, in terms of their unity, camaraderie and substantial achievements. It commonly happens that one person or two inevitably decide things have to be done their way and search all the credit of the association achievements for themselves. This has not been the case with the CAR. My deepest congratulations to all members, and if you are not far from Monterrey, consider joining! Visit CAR homepage.
See you next month!