We Interrupt the Usual…

There have been all too many interruptions to this Blog in the past couple of years. Interruptions are more often BAD news flashes as opposed to good ones – sad that. This one is some of both, but decidedly sad is the pall of it.

Indeed very sad. Over the weekend we lost a friend to depression. This individual has been a worker here at the beach house almost from the beginning of our ownership. But more importantly he was a source of help, kindness, cheerfulness, information and tradition to both of us.

Never was there a time when a smile and a gentleness of spirit was not offered up upon meeting. Even when apparently life was at its lowest ebb, having met up just hours before his decision to escape the pains he saw in life.

A dictionary definition of friend is, “A person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard; a person who gives assistance; patron; supporter. Our lost friend was all these and more.

It is obvious to us that it is often difficult to know the condition of another’s head and heart. As written we exchanged smiles and conversation just hours before his impactful, final decision. We had no clue. I suppose we could say we were not that close, to be aware of such despondence. My heart says otherwise. Amigo you will be missed. We wish you a good journey for the rest of it. We can only hope you have at last found peace.

Also over the weekend Anita’s niece who I have known since she was a tiny little girl had a healthy baby boy – her first; and Anita’s brother’s first grandchild. You recall her brother that just returned to the United States after living here in Puerto for about a year and a half. Part of his decision to move was to be closer to his daughter and son-in-law who up to nine months ago had sworn they were not going to have children. Oh those hormonal swings will get you every time ;-) Her brother has yet another grandchild on the way come December – so a double reward and causation for being closer to both his children’s families.

Life is a matter of addition and subtraction. A young man who was a son’s age to me is gone before his time. A beautiful new baby boy has graced our family.

I wrote this last May when reporting the death  of my beloved younger sister. I think it has meaning here as well:

“Life is a great network of possibilities consisting of grasped opportunities and pitfalls for all the players. Every entity – every act – is part of the great manifestation.  Every living thing adds its note, its song, and its contribution through every moment of its existence. As we live our lives we leave our mark. Whatever the world may be like a hundred years and beyond from now, it will be influenced in part by what each of us has been, has said, has thought and has done. Thus the marks that [our friend], my parents, my sisters, my children, my longtime mate, Anita, and I myself have made together and separately have helped shape the world. Truly my [friend] shaped some of the framework of my life and that of others.

He will be missed of this there is no doubt.

Welcome to the world Colin Kenneth Rios


– make it a good one little amigo!  Stay Tuned!


Make the Sale No Matter What
In Mexico – No Way

Mexico has so much a different character in so many ways. Often they are subtle or not recognized unless you are a veteran expat here. A couple of examples:

We are still reeling from a conversation with an Ursulo Galvan resident (our Hood in Xico, Veracruz). While even the propane trucks include the dangers of burning plastic in their musical announcement on their trucks scouring the Hood to sell bottled gas, there are still those that start their wood fires with plastic bottles to catch the wood ablaze. The fumes from those burning plastic bottles are HIGHLY toxic.

We reminded a neighbor of this danger to not only themselves but their innocent children and grandchildren only to be told, “We Mexicans are used to dying young and do not care about the dangers of burning plastic.” Sadly fatalistic. It is a bit startling to we First World-ers to hear such flippant irrational thinking.

Then this yesterday – We have been scooter shopping with non-toxic dollars burning a hole in our pocket from having sold our Suzuki Burgman 650 a few months ago in Capitan (New Mexico). Actually we started the new scooter search in Xico even lining up possible buyers for our 2008 Cruz Azul scooter to perhaps update our ride in Xico.

But here at the beach we were decidedly wanting a scooter to run around as gas is almost $4 usd a gallon here in Mexico and no end to the rising monthly increases. The truth also is we are lifelong die hard cyclists even taking into account the added dangers of two-wheeling– I suppose not totally different than the Hood-ites logic lacking excuse for burning plastic. I have no defense for adding the danger of riding a motor scooter on the dangerous Mexican highways. I certainly don’t ride bi-wheelers with a willingness to die young (too late for me who turns 68 in a few days ;-)

ANYHOW…yesterday we were getting down to the finals. All decisions made: Honda; Suzuki; Yamaha; Italika; how many cc’s is enough; Japanese or Chinese/Korean or even Mexican motonetas; color; model etc. The winner came up Italika which is now a fully made Mexico product. Early Italika motorcycles were designed jointly with Hyosung of South Korea and assembled using parts shipped from South Korea and China.

All current models, however, are of Mexican design and origin. So yes we went with the homegrown machine (Mexican flag proudly waved here!). Italika maintains a motorcycle factory and parts warehouse in Toluca, Mexico, near Mexico City and commands nearly seventy percent of the entire motorcycle market here in Mexico.

We want the slightly upscale version of our Chinese Cruz Azul which came to us as a 150cc Zenetti scooter. The new Italika will have better lights, sturdier wheels etc. And oh the lovely rich Rojo color will be easy to see and perhaps add just a little bit of an added visibility safety factor.

A Shiny New Italika GS150

We had narrowed the source of our new ride down to two retailers. There is a total Italika store a few blocks up from Chedraui supermarket. Then there is the infamous Elektra super store. We had visited both. Mexico having no restrictions on price fixing or any fair trade laws to speak of enables Italika to demand fixed prices on their vehicles – meaning you will be quoted the same price everywhere.

Kind of like Pemex gas which is the same price throughout Mexico we noted the same retail price and basically the same Sales in all Italika sales outlets. That just left deciding who we liked better as a company and perhaps some individual salesperson that caught our liking.

It should be noted there was a three day ten percent discount sale going on this particular weekend; no doubt end of the model year ‘blowout”. But it did make time of the essence now that we knew exactly what we wanted.

We liked the visibility of Elektra with its many outlets (Coatepec, Veracruz and Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca included). “Grupo Elektra is Latin America‘s leading specialty retailer and financial services company, serving the mass market by providing consumer credit.” A HUGE company. And we had hooked up with Herman the local salesman who was a very nice and helpful fellow.

But alas we had a bit of a “Walmart” like beef with Elektra in that they GOUGE the proletariat with HUGE interest rates. All day long people are lined up like cattle going to slaughter at their bank-teller-window like area in all their stores. This to pay their weekly payments that usually doubles the cost of a new refrigerator, stove, computer, television or motorcycle etc. This does not set well with us –

So off we went to the Italica store to buy our scooter.

A Still better deal this Weekend! 10% OFF RETAIL! $15,749 Pesos

Two days before the exact model was on the showroom floor there at Italica. But no more. The preceding day someone bought it while we were still ‘thinking’.   O.K. we will order one – the details and price having all been agreed upon. It should be noted that while unit and price being equal another advantage of the Italika store was an added included full face helmet – we have helmets but currently are moving them between Veracruz and Oaxaca – so a new helmet was an added enticement. This was not offered in our negotiations with Elektra.

A problem arose. The manager at Italika (called in during negotiations) refused to place an order. He explained it is not workable in their system. They needed a VIN number to write up a sale – huh? “You are refusing our placing an order! We are here with cash…right now. We will pay full price and gladly wait until you get our scooter in house.”

“No, we cannot alter the policy”

We were incredulous. You are honestly turning away our business because of this detail?  You could not write this up and leave the VIN number line open until our scooter arrives or even get a number of the one you will receive?” Nothing doing. Even after a real threat of marching over to Elektra and placing an order. Elektra also were sold out of our desired model, but had no problem ordering. We had established this with Herman only the day before.

So we left in a huff and drove a mile up the road to Elektra across from the Mercado. We waited while Herman closed a deal on a buy on time Toshiba laptop. Herman had advised us that he is there 12 hours a day six days a week! Unconscionable interest contracts and slave driver labor policies – grrrr.

We explained the ‘free’ helmet addition over at the Italika store. Herman fussed around on a computer at the sales table and came up with the same deal – “Write it up amigo!”

We could not believe the casual refusal to make a sale over at the Italika store. We have often encountered this attitude here in Mexico. Take it or leave it is so different than the sale-at-all-costs NOB sales approach.

Deal done! We will show off our new scooter when it arrives early next week (Happy Birthday to me!). Stay Tuned for more Amerika/Mexican differences reported right here.

El Equinoccio De Otono

We decided to head to Puerto Escondido early this year. Honestly we were tired of the rain. We left Sunday morning arriving here exactly 12 hours later – a quick drive by Mexican standards – even included a stop for lunch.

September Puerto Escondido Sunset

We arrived to more activity than was expected this time of year. There is a lot of building going on – some BIG hotels and an upgrade to Chedraui, our local grocery store (large chain type).

Due to good planning and closing down policies our beach casa was in good shape and easy to open. We do have a problem with the gardener – but that for another time. We went and enjoyed breakfast at the Bungalows on the Zicatela strip. There we can watch the waves roll in as we enjoy our first Puerto meal of the season.

Judy (actual name Yuridia, but pronounced JU.DEE) our favorite waitress is always smiles and appears to be happy to see us. Many faces we see greet us as if we had never been away – that is cool.

Anita asks Judy if she knew anyone we might hire to help clean off the dust, dirt and palapa shreddings acquired at the beach casa while we were absent. I talked with Joe about scooters; always have admired his little 100cc Honda. Joe informs me that the newest version of his has been upped to 110 cc and costs a couple thousand pesos less than when he bought his 6 years ago.

But alas I am hesitant to get a scooter with 10” wheels and less power than our Zenetti 150 from China – stored away in Xico. We brought our helmets, which was no small task with all the stuff we brought down this time (includes FOUR guitars, an amplifier and a large-ish JBL powered subwoofer as well as a step ladder, large box fan and the Dyson vacuum).

I am pretty sure a new motor scooter is in our future here this time. Stay Tuned for that and more from sunny Puerto where yesterday was the day of El Equinoccio De Otoño.  Our Sun crossed the celestial Ecuador: autumn begins in the northern spring in the south. A phenomenon celebrated by many cultures. Goodbye to summer: The Northern Hemisphere’s autumnal equinox—the first partial day of fall—occurred Monday evening, September 22. Today is the first full day of Autumn.

Viva Mexico

Last night at 11 PM local time we in Mexico enjoyed the GRITO celebration of Mexican Independence. The Grito de Dolores (“Cry of Dolores”), was the pronunciamiento (pronouncement) made from the small town of Dolores, near Guanajuato, on September 16, 1810. It marked the beginning of the Mexican War of Independence. Miguel Hidalgo a Roman Catholic priest made the call. Since October 1825, the anniversary of the event is celebrated as Mexican Independence Day.

The First Grito!

The Siege of Guanajuato, the first major engagement of the insurgency, occurred 4 days later. Mexico’s independence would not be officially declared from Spain in the Declaration of Independence of the Mexican Empire until September 28, 1821, after a decade of war.

It can be likened to the United States July 4th celebration. Leave it to the Mexicans to celebrate the beginning of a war rather than the victory ten years later.

Headed up by Mexico’s First Family, we watched the pomp and circumstance in all its regalia on television in our little casita in Xico, Veracruz.

The First Family is combined families consisting of our Mexican President, his famous novella actress wife and his (3) and hers (3) children. As governor in 2008 the widower Peña Nieto hired major Mexican television network soap opera actress Angélica Rivera to publicize his government work. Pope Benedict XVI gave the couple his blessing and Peña Nieto and Rivera eventually married in November 2011.

Last night the Family was center stage, arguably the loveliest first family ever. I mean they are an amazingly handsome couple with gorgeous children.

Mexico’s First Family

The President is a former Governor of Mexico City. Small in stature yet a very colorful guy.  While running for the presidency he was criticized as being out of touch when he was quoted as not knowing how much tortillas cost. Peña Nieto insisted that he was not “the woman of the household” and thus would not know the price. In another interview, he admitted to have cheated on his past wife with another woman and fathered two children out of wedlock. Yikes with that stuff out he surely would have had a tough time getting elected in Amerika. But these are barely noticeable little sins here in Mexico.

Peña Nieto can be characterized politically as a tax and spend liberal having doubled the tax base in six years while governor but making some vast inroads in health care and alleged major crime reduction. As expats we do not get involved in political issues here in Mexico as demanded of us by the Mexican Constitution – so as to any of the aforementioned we have no opinion.

We Have NO Opinion!

I will say generally that the yanking of the liberty bell and the passing of the flag from a military color guard of five or so to the President which was subsequently waved over the crowd (the zocalo looked to be filled to capacity) was pretty corny to my eyes. But the fireworks were great to watch from this distance, the ensuing smoke that fell on the entire area was happily avoided by watching in our warm little casita in Xico. We were treated to a simulcast of actual bombs bursting in air here locally and the visual treat of the fireworks in high definition free air television coming from Mexico City (rain free for a change).

That out of our systems this morning it is pouring rain. Life returns to normal.

Stay Tuned!

Half Price Sale

Waiting for the rest of the story…

Last time you were left at “Stay Tuned for the rest of the story.” This part of the story ties in with the topic of square meters and square feet as a measuring stick for the value of property, be it vacant land, rental property or a house. For example $110 or so a square foot is the average and $85 a square foot a bargain in Las Vegas right now. Then there is Boston where $585 a square foot is an average priced house – wow! This is computed by dividing the asking price by the total square footage of the house. That figure lumps in the value of the land and any other improvements. Thus an average 1600 square foot house in Las Vegas will set you back about $176,000.00 USD and an average pad that size in Boston is a whopping $936,000.00 USD.

When I buy or sell a property, and I have done much of both, I evaluate vacant land value, add costs before swinging a hammer like architectural fees, building permit fees, service connection fees, perhaps drilling a well or installing septic, accessing power etc. Then add building per square foot cost. Add up all other improvements like walls, sheds, patios etc. And finally adjust for depreciation. All that a more detailed version of a cost per square foot lumped into the size of the dwelling as described above. Whew!

My advice is to never pay more than replacement value less depreciation – kind of leaves Boston off my playlist. Well a million dollars actually scratches Boston.

Some of the differences between Mexico and the United States include there are usually less pre-hammer-swinging fees. Also the finished product is usually less refined. Mexicans are famous for their lack of attention to detail like light bulbs mounted in sockets hanging by wires from the ceiling.  Truly I have seen this in otherwise very fancy hotels. Flimsy quality plumbing because most water pressure is gravity fed etc. There is a laundry list of quality issues.

Of course there are bargains to be had everywhere – but it often takes some hard looking. I could write a book on our purchase experiences on the three properties we own in Mexico – perhaps I will.

Getting back to our square meter or square feet example. My custom is to multiply square meters by 10.8 to come up with a close square feet answer. So for example 80 square meters would be about 864 square feet. That worked out in my head. Using a calculator the actual answer is 861.113 square feet – using more decimal places – but yes 10.8 times the square meters is a close approximation. After a while you may just perceive size in square meters – but that takes time for those that started with square feet and inches/feet tape measures.

You can convert pesos to dollars and divide that number by the number of square feet to give you an idea about the cost of a place – is it a better deal than replacement value less depreciation? You get the idea. The greater attention to detail (and decimal places) will give you a more accurate picture of real value.

OK all that said here is how this ties in to my story. Our beach house was prominently listed by a number of realtors (seldom are there exclusive listings here in Mexico). The description in all cases was depicted as a 700-800 square foot house – decidedly small but proportional to the smallish asking price (which recently had been reduced $20,000 USD after being on the market 3 months without so much as a looker).

Because Senora Calypso and I tend to look at a wide variety of houses and prices in our exploration stage, even though the description led us to believe the place was probably too small – we decided to have a look (maybe build –on or ???).

Our Beach Casa before we owned it November 2010

When we viewed the beach house in person, I remarked to Anita that the casita just seemed much larger than the advertised square footage. I went back to the hotel and did the numbers.  It appeared as if the size of the house was described by using the measurements of the footprint rather than doubling it accounting for two stories – or whatever! The bottom line was I suspicioned it was near twice the advertised size – hmm.

We contacted the real estate folks inquiring sheepishly about the size of the casa – again it was described as it was in the sales literature. We made an appointment to look again – this time with metric tape measure in hand. After perimeter measuring the casa was in fact twice as large as advertised. We kept our mouths shut, eventually buying the place while from the start through the completed sale those grossly inaccurate figures went along for the ride.

It should be noted that the actual sellers had inherited the property from afar. They made one visit; Mexico not being on their list of places wanting to be. So truly an oversight that was not to be caught by the new owners/sellers.

We have bought enough property to know there are arguments that state ‘What you see is what you get – forget what the papers say.’ Or ‘What is in writing are the facts. Seeing can be deceiving.’  Take your pick – and they often do – pick to fit.

Our Beach Casa March 2014 

However that descriptor error came about, it remained in place and presented a unique value. The story has not even been told until this day. We put it all on black and came up winners. We started all this by suggesting you go and learn about the metric system. Now you have read an example of just how valuable that lesson can be. Stay Tuned!

What are Your Measurements

So you want to live in Mexico – start boning-up on the metric system because it is the standard in Mexico. The truth is once you get the hang of it you will realize why most of the world is on metric. The stubborn U.S.A., go figure.

Let’s get practical: using metric to describe the size of an apartment, a lot, a house is much the same as square footage in the United States. What person looking for any of the aforementioned options has not used square feet as a measure of value and space?

The basic building block in Mexico is 16 meters square or 4 meters by 4 meters. Usually any construction size is divisible by 4 meters. In U.S. terms a 4 X 4 meter space is 172 square feet. This is about 13’2” or a bit larger than the typical 12 X 12 (144 square feet) room in the U.S. (a common sized bedroom). So your average sized room in Mexico is slightly larger than the U.S. equivalent – but that is pretty much the only typical size that is larger in Mexico than the U.S.

In the U.S. the average American home grew from 983 square feet in 1950 to 2,349 square feet in 2004 — a 140% increase. Yet the American household shrank by 18% between 1970 and 2003, from 3.14 people to 2.57, on average. I am sure the average Mexican home is nowhere near 2400 square feet or (223 square meters). I am guessing the average Mexican home is nearer the 1950’s 1000 square foot U.S. figure.

As Example: Our Beach House Specifications

So how much space does a retired couple require in Mexico (or anywhere for that matter)? We have three houses in Mexico. Before we say anything more we are probably not your typical renter/buyer. We are ‘green’ people and would not ever consider more or even equal to 2000 square feet (185 square meters). And that is 400 square feet less than the U.S. average – yikes. What do you people do with all that room?

In any case metric is a winner to my way of thinking. Take for example in the grocery store. Obviously manufacturers make best effort to confuse the buying public by way of volume and weight in packaging.

Using the metric system one can compute (in the head) per liter or per gram making comparisons far easier than ounces and pounds. While they still try and bamboozle the consumer, it is more difficult to confuse. Not that they do not try.

Here in Mexico they do have the advantage of doing their best to NOT educate the public. Do not even get me started on the educational system here – or I just did get started – O.K. I will stop. Learn the metric system if you are coming South – you too will appreciate it. Being able to understand and share your measurements will make your Mexico experience a good fit. There is an interesting story to buying property by the square foot or meter – Stay Tuned for the rest of the story.

Talking Trash

In our last Blog we reported the passing of our neighbor. The Mexicans have quite a ritual for the dead. A traditional Hispanic Funeral will consist of 3-4 days of services and vigils to honor and pray for the departed soul.

Our neighbor’s body was discovered on Sunday after 13 days missing. His daughter informed us this will not be an open casket event – too much time had passed.

Upon discovery the family and friends sprang into action immediately. I think part of the process of busying the principals (wives and children host the saddened friends) reduces the immediate pain or at least distracts it?

The Calypso Casita property fronts the roadway that leads to the neighbor’s casa. Theirs is a very narrow piece of land down along the river’s edge (southern end) of our contiguous lots. Literally hundreds of folks have come to pay their respects. Space is very limited in their little casita and outside beyond.

Many hombres crowd around on the roadway. They talk amongst themselves in little groups, often sharing an alcoholic beverage.

It seems the drink of choice is aguardiente. Essentially a Latin compound word for fire water – and it is that! Some very high percentage of grain alcohol and cane sugar liquor. Often it is mixed with Coke in a 32 ounce bottle. This is passed amongst the grieving throng – all hombres. And they spend hours drinking and chatting while the ladies sit quietly in a room with many chairs and a folding table displaying flowers, lit candles and the framed photo of Emilio.  Emilio’s mother, sisters, wife and children are seated sitting in shifts accepting condolences near the table. If you are there you will be offered tea.

It is as if it was all suddenly choregraphed, which I suppose is fact. Yesterday it started before daylight and finally became quiet around 2 AM. A few short hours later it started all over.

Before 8 AM I caught a glimpse of the casket passing by our house – This hand carried by a group of pallbearers. Groups of people started heading down the road on the way to the cemetery in Xico (about 4 miles away).

A Typical Mexican Cemetery – Colorful and Compacted

An hour and a half later a 4-wheeler ATV came up the road pulling a small trailer loaded with folded metal frames and plywood tops – components to be assembled as tables for the food to be served when the folks return from the cemetery.

It will be another long day of activity just beyond my office/bedroom window.

Earlier I went out and policed the area picking up many Styrofoam cups and beer bottles as well as food wrappers. Anita and I agreed leaving a garbage can out front might reduce the amount of trash just deposited where one is standing – we shall see.

Mexican people in the country-side handle trash differently than in the U.S. They quite simply throw their trash in the roadway with no thought for who or how it will be picked up from there. It is just the way it is.

It seems over the years this condition has lessened, but it is far from cured – far from it – especially a bunch of hombres drinking along the road for hours on end.

I suppose the thought of trash has diverted my own thinking regarding the loss of our neighbor – my friend. We will send up a few prayers for a successful journey from here to there. Rest in peace Emilio.

Stay Tuned!

Our Missing Neighbor Found

Sad to report that our neighbor was found dead. His body was discovered in the local river a ways down from here. Needless to say it is a very somber time here in the Hood. We will go to Coatepec and have a large print made and framed of the photo we took of him a while back and take it to the family.

Emilio will be missed.

Our Missing Neighbor

Xico, Veracuz, Mexico: Here in the Hood we are saddened that our neighbor Emilio Cortes is missing. We have lived next-door to one another for 9 years. We watched his daughter grow up.



Emilio has always been pleasant and a gentle man. He always greets me with Don John como esta? As he says this he extends his hand. We shake the gentle Mexican shake (Mexican men do not try and out squeeze the hand of the greeter like U.S. men – perhaps they are more secure in their strength?)

Thirteen days ago Emilio told his family he was going out for a little while. He has not returned. He has no history of this kind of behavior.

It should be noted Emilio has had a drinking problem over the years. It is possible he laid down somewhere and or was very inebriated to the point of having a memory problem?

Of course the family has checked with police, hospitals, dry-out hospices and known places he might frequent.

We want Emilio back home with his family.  PLEASE if you have any information contact us here or see the phone numbers on the flier enclosed.

A better photo of Emilio –

Emilio in 2012


  Stay Tuned!

A Visit to the U.S. by Enrique Peña Nieto

Disclaimer Right Up Front: I am a libertarian or one believing in a political philosophy that upholds liberty and freedom as its principal objective. My public religious stand parallels this statement by the Dalai Lama, “My religion is kindness”.

The President of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, was just in Los Angeles, California politicking for better immigration policies that might improve migratory reform in the United States. His speeches included the declaration that the position of Mexico is very clear:  “We want to be a factor of cohesion, not of division, with full respect for the sovereignty of the United States.”

He stated there are those that believe and support exclusion, discrimination or opposition to diversity, “The future will show them their ethical error, time will show us right.”

We agree.

The objective typically of those wanting to migrate to the U.S. is quite different than those wanting to migrate to Mexico. In each case the advantages are quite different: move to the U.S. and get a better paying job; move to Mexico and get more bang for your retirement bucks. Mexico sees an influx of dollars (pesos or USD) from the expat invasion into Mexico.

The United States see dollars being paid out to foreigners that leave the country as well as jobs robbed and a lot of burden of support via social welfare programs, something Mexico pretty much disallows and any opportunity in that regard is minimal.

Mexico seems more bent on sovereignty in that unlike the U.S. it is not a country of diverse ethnicities. The U.S. has no restrictions on foreigners owning land for example. They are not worried that their melting pot society should be protected and preserved from foreign invasion; that is its foundation.

So some big difference in motivations and policies. I do not mean to oversimplify this very complex relationship of neighbors, but the principals have less meaning than the practical realities from my perspective.

Obama (I am NOT a fan) has just announced he may have to delay any immigration reform ”….at a news conference on Thursday, Obama was circumspect about the timing of his announcement, which will be controversial ahead of November midterm elections where Democratic control of the U.S. Senate is at stake.” Continuing his do nothing about anything policies.

Personally my next encounter with all the Mexican red tape will be connected to my becoming a citizen of Mexico. In the mean time we hope for better relations between these distant neighbors.  Stay Tuned!