Photo of the day – Flying Mariachi band

photo of the day
Last week, Virgin America launched new flights from San Francisco to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. What better way to get into the espíritu than with a Mariachi band? Frommers editor and Flickr user DavityDave was on board to get this shot and taste some Mexican goodies. We wonder if the band had to purchase an additional seat for their guitars or if they could just fit them in the overhead bin. Did they perform the safety demo too?

Have you ever flown on an inaugural flight? Seen anything else fun on a plane? Add your best shots to the Gadling Flickr pool and we may use it for a future Photo of the Day.

Hotel owner makes Latino employees change their names

Taos, New Mexico, is home to a large Spanish-speaking population. There are a lot of Latino people living and working in the town. So it follows that many people there have traditionally Latino names. You would think a guy from Texas (another state close to Mexico and home to many Hispanic people) would understand that. But not Larry Whitten.

When Whitten came into town to take over as the manager of a run-down hotel, he told his Latino staff that they needed to change their names to more Anglicized versions. As CBS News puts it, “No more Martin (Mahr-TEEN). It was plain old Martin. No more Marcos, now it would be Mark.” Of course, the staff and many of the town’s residents were not happy. Nor were they pleased when Whitten fired several Hispanic employees and forbade those remaining from speaking any language but English around him, because he feared they were talking about him in Spanish.

After referring to the locals as “mountain folk” in an interview and then being picketed by fired employees and their families, Whitten later apologized for the “misunderstanding” and said he was not against any culture.

Whitten denied that his actions were racist and said that he asked the staff to change their names for the “satisfaction” of guests who may not be familiar with Spanish names. One fired employee disagreed. “I don’t have to change my name and language or heritage,” he said. “I am professional the way I am.”

AeroMexico plane hijacking resolved peacefully

Shortly after taking off from Cancun on Wednesday, the pilots of AeroMexico flight 737 radioed the control tower to say the plane had been hijacked. The hijacker had showed off a bomb (later found to be fake) and demanded to speak to Mexican President Felipe Calderon. He threatened to blow up the plane, which was carrying over 100 people, and said he needed to warn the President of an impending earthquake.

The hijacker was unable to get into the cockpit, and the plane landed safely in Mexico City, its intended destination. After the plane landed and taxied to a part of the runway designated for emergencies, passengers deplaned, and security forces boarded. They quickly apprehended who they thought were the nine hijackers, but it later became clear that there was only one, Bolivian-born Jose Flores, 44, who told police he was a Protestant Minister and that “it was a divine revelation that made him carry out his actions.” The other suspects, innocent passengers caught up in the confusion, were released.

Most of the passengers had no idea that the hijacking was even taking place until it was over, and no one was injured in the incident. This was Mexico‘s first major hijacking situation since 1972.

[via Washington Post]

Undiscovered New York: Sunset Park

You don’t just stumble upon Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood by casually walking around New York City. It takes effort. And you’re also not going to find any world famous buildings or iconic parks while you’re there – those are elsewhere. But for all the things Sunset Park lacks (like tourists), it still manages to have plenty to offer. This little neighborhood-that-could has been surprising visitors and residents alike with its outstanding city views, rich immigrant communities and unique architecture.

Sunset Park was first founded as a shipping port, set conveniently along New York Harbor in the far Southwestern edge of Brooklyn. By World War II, the area was shipping out more than 80% of all American supplies and equipment destined for the fronts overseas. It was also a neighborhood of surprising diversity, housing one of New York’s largest communities of Scandinavian immigrants. As the shipping industry began to decline after the War, the area began to house a new wave of residents, today composed of a rich swath of Latino communities and one of New York’s three different Chinatowns.

The effects of Sunset Park’s distinct geography, history and immigration have combined to give the area a unique mixture of off-the-beaten path attractions. Want to have some of New York’s most authentic tacos and Chinese food on the same day? What about a visit to a park that might have one of the city’s best views? And why in the world did Elvis make this tiny neighborhood his only visit to New York City? Get ready to step off the beaten path as Undiscovered New York investigates Brooklyn’s Sunset Park. Click below for more.
New York’s best view?

In addition to its location along the Brooklyn waterfront, Sunset Park is blessed with some pleasant green space at the neighborhood’s namesake park. As luck would have it, Sunset Park is also among the highest points in all of Brooklyn – meaning on most days you can see the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, the Empire State Building, Staten Island and New Jersey. They don’t call it “Sunset” Park for nothing – make sure to stop by one evening at dusk for a truly outstanding view. Aside from the heart-stopping vistas, Sunset Park also boasts a swimming pool, volleyball court and plenty of walking paths.

Melting pot of authentic food
Manhattan’s Chinatown might have the best soup dumplings. And Roosevelt Avenue in Queens might have some of the best Latin American food. But Sunset Park has them both beat. It is, after all, hard to compete with a ‘hood where within a few blocks you can eat so well, for so cheap from such diverse immigrant cuisines. Start your trip with one of Sunset Park’s many taco trucks along Fourth and Fifth Avenues. Not full yet? Head a few blocks over to Eighth Avenue, where you’ll find one of New York’s three Chinatown districts. Take a walk past buckets of still squirming fish at the seafood market, have some freshly made noodles, or bite down on a fresh Banh Mi sandwich.

Iconic buildings
As we mentioned earlier, Sunset Park played a pivotal role as a key shipping port during World War II, providing thousands of jobs for the area’s residents. Though not much remains of Sunset Park’s illustrious maritime history, there is one hugely obvious reminder at the Brooklyn Army Terminal. This massive 95 acre complex, located between 53rd and 66th Streets, once served as a staging center for goods and men on their way to battlegrounds in Europe. It is also, through a strange twist of fate, the only place legendary rocker Elvis ever set foot in New York. The King swaggered through Brooklyn Army Terminal in 1958 on his way to his military service in Germany.

Mexican resort beach shut down, accused of stealing sand

Visitors to a Cancun beach found themselves restricted by yellow crime-scene tape yesterday, when Mexican police cordoned off the beach under accusations that the sand was stolen.

According to the AP release, after Hurricane Wilma washed away much of the resort area’s beach in 2005, Mexico spent $19 million replacing it with sand pumped from the sea floor. That sand has been slowly eroding, prompting some resorts to build breakwaters, which keep their beaches nice and sandy, but result in more sand loss for the surrounding beach areas.

The Mexican police are claiming that the resorts who’ve built these breakwaters are, in effect, stealing the beach from others. They’ve also detained five people they believe were using pumps to bring up more sand from the ocean floor. Mexico’s Attorney General for environmental protection said the beach at the Gran Caribe Real Hotel was made of “ill-gotten, illegally accumulated sand” and decided to shut it down.

Many tourists and hotel guests gathered around the “stolen” beach area and complained about the closure. There was no indication of when the beach would reopen and at the time of writing, the resort’s webcam was not active on its website.