Batten Down the Hatches

We are in our fourth year here at Casa La Punta Es in Puerto Escondido. Before that we had vacationed here several times. Up to this visit which started a month ago Sunday we had the same purr-fect weather day in and day out from October to the end of April. Sunny skies with highs in the mid 80′s and lows in the low 70′s! – spectacular and consistent weather!

In the last month we have been here we have had at least 10 – 12 inches of rain – some almost every day here. Half of that came in the last 24 hours. Now we are watching tropical storm Trudy about 75 miles off our southern shores moving slowly along heading to land here tonight – yikes!

Here is the 4 am update from the NHC

Tropical Storm Trudy

Last Updated 10/18/2014, 4:00:00 AM (Central Daylight Time (Mexico))
Location 16.2N 98.8W Movement E at 2 mph
Wind 95KPH Pressure: 999 MB

Microwave imagery and radar data from Acapulco suggest that Trudy is
intensifying. The cyclone has recently formed an inner core, and
the nascent central dense overcast (cdo) is quickly becoming better
defined. A 10 to 15 N mi eye feature within the CDO has also closed
off and become more circular within the past few hours as seen on
radar imagery. Dvorak intensity estimates are generally increasing,
and the initial intensity is raised to 50 kt, slightly above the
latest UW-CIMSS ADT CI value. Trudy is embedded in a very moist and
light-shear environment over 30 deg c waters, all of which favor
continued intensification. In fact, the SHIPS RI index indicates a
nearly 70 percent likelihood of a 30-kt increase in intensity
during the next 24 hours. The only inhibiting factor is the
cyclone’s proximity to land, which would end the current
intensification phase. Given the current trend, the NHC intensity
forecast is increased significantly over the previous one and is
much higher than all of the available intensity guidance. A major
caveat to the forecast is that the predicted intensity could be too
low should the cyclone remain offshore longer than anticipated.
Radar imagery shows that Trudy has been drifting slowly eastward,
with a rather uncertain initial motion estimate of 080/02. The
synoptic pattern suggests that Trudy should generally be steered
very slowly toward the northeast or east around the northern
periphery of a mid-level ridge located well to the southeast during
the next day or so. The NHC track forecast has been adjusted to the
east of the previous one and is farther east than the HWRF and GFS
ensemble mean on the eastern side of the guidance envelope, with
landfall predicted in roughly 12 hours.
Based on the revised track and intensity forecast, the government of
Mexico has issued a Hurricane Watch from east of Acapulco to Laguna
de chacahua.

It is Worth emphasizing that the primary threat from this system is/will be the torrential rains, which will likely produce flash flooding and mud slides in portions of southern Mexico during the next few days, especially near areas of elevated terrain.

It should be noted that there was a full blown category 2 (2.5 really) here in Puerto in June of 2012 before we arrived here that year. Our friend Charlie came by the Casa and took photos and reported on the condition of things. Now I am Skype’ing with Charlie about conditions here as he is in the U.S.

Huge forest fires, earthquakes, tropical storms and hurricanes have been part of our adult lives – throughout. So we are sort of prepared for whatever Mother Nature is about to throw at us. Boldly written, each time is still a concern, even a fear. We are buttoning things down (three bungeed down plastic tarps cover the new scooter. Our vintage palapa has some small holes and loss of fronds from previous storms – so we cover our bed and have strategically placed a bucket or two.

Downstairs on the south side of the casa we have installed plastic bags over the screens and applied a tarp over the large window there. We had all this tested in the last 24 hours as well as more than 5 inches of rain – all a precursor to Trudy.

Yesterday we cancelled plans with Ron and Roxanne to try the one Puerto Chinese Restaurant near the HSBC bank in the middle of downtown due to the weather. Good decision because it was blustery and drenching during our cancelled arrival time.

It is not daylight yet (around 7 AM) and calm. We will work on still tighter preparation for Trudy throughout the day today and keep watch on satellite displays of what is going on out there beyond the beach and out at sea.

Seldom a dull moment – but if there is one to come today the hammock awaits.  Otherwise the flashlights are readied and I have a Thoreau Reader hard copy in case the power goes off like it did last night for an hour. And the Kindle is charged and loaded with books. We will make it an interesting day in any case. Stay Tuned!



Have you been watching the HBO series “GIRLS”? We have just power-watched 2 seasons and have Season 3 waiting. Wow what an amazing show – incredible insight into the 20-somethings (Millennials) – a real wake up call on how the youth of America are doing; and quite a tie-in to where we came from and how we got here.

One profound quip I recall was the GIRLS wild child babe-ee-sitter that married the rich guy leading to a quick split (Jessa and Thomas John respectively), “I have been living this life for 25 fucking years. I am going to look 50 when I’m 30.” I believe many of those GIRL characters will get old before their time in fact.

It should be noted that I had to warm-up to GIRLS but by early second season I was enthralled and hooked.

The good news is this – me being well past the opportunity to looking 50 at 30 we were given special treatment at Mexico’s version of the Department of Motor Vehicles yesterday. On a previous visit (one of three for this effort) we finagled a discount for being over 60 – whipping out our INAPAM  “old people’s) card and receiving a 50 percent discount for the fees to obtain two distinct driver’s licenses: one for the car and one for driving a motorcycle, or scooter in our case).

You would have thought the motorcycle license was to drive one of those electric scooters that old people resign themselves to. Not just old people actually if you can believe your eyes with all the electric scooter-jockeys cruising around Walmart.

It should be told to any that face these issues in a second life in Mexico, that we did actually have to go to the mat to get the senior discount being that we were NOT Mexican citizens – that a slippery slope into prejudicial treatments. I mean step-up to the plate and demand your rights you oh so crotchety future gringos – because that can be what it takes. Remember to be pleasant through it all – angry attitudes are not effective here in Mexico.

But the good news – finally a real advantage to being older than Methuselah – we were rushed to the front of the line. Served up special treatment for the mere fact we are 60 plus years old – wow!  We were provided a champion who parted the crowd and brought us to the front telling the clerk we were to be served next – disregard all those others patiently waiting.

The statistics are: three relatively short visits to the motor vehicle department on the north end of town. One visit was useless as the ONLY individual in the office that issued driver’s licenses was ill and extremely pregnant – what will they do shortly when she is having her nino? Total costs 659 pesos (about $50 usd) for two 5-year-valid driver’s licenses (one motorcycle and one car).

I am sure you all share the terrific feeling of completing these kinds of tasks. Permanent resident card, 5 years of valid licenses and up-to-date car and moto license plates and registrations – wow – Good Feeling ;-)

We have a tropical storm/hurricane off our southern shore. This late year storm is likely to move northwest of us before landfall? But for the moment we have the Big Doors open enjoying a mild breeze and a consistent light rainfall. A good day to cozy up and watch Season 3 of GIRLS.

Our Living Room at 9 AM October 17th 2014

Currently listening to Planetary Unfolding (1981) – an album of electronic ambient music by U.S. musician Michael Stearns. It is considered a classic of ambient music and appropriate to weather conditions here at this moment. Stay Tuned!

Hire an In-Home Chef

Here in Puerto Escondido we have Diane help out a half-day once a week; occasionally a full day. She is young, pleasant and much attached to her cell phone. We think she likes the fact we have Internet access, which apparently enhances her phone’s capabilities.

Anita is pretty fussy about the way things should be done – the title home engineer immediately comes to mind – she has finely honed skills at all things relating to caring for a home. She has been working with Diane to get beyond the rapid-clean-sweep that is typical of the Mexican Maid. Diane has been slowed down and shown the finer points of cleaning. Some of the learning did not come without some questioning, even disparaging looks. Trying to get on your knees in a tight pair of jeans – well you get the picture.

Diane follows Anita down to market central – Puerto Escondido Mercado

We try and go out to eat a couple of times a week to relieve Anita of kitchen duties – but darn if she is not so much better than the commercial establishments, meaning going out helps but not so much to my liking. I came up with a solution.

It turns out that Diane is a pretty good cook – mama taught her well. I suggested we have her cook here once in a while on those days we have her work a full day.

When talking menus the ladies decided a trip to the Mercado was in order. Diane would get the ingredients she knows – and she knows just where to find them.

Diane selects smoked fish for Fish Tacos extraordinaire!

We picked her up at the bus stop not far from our casa and headed directly to the Mercado.

The Ladies discuss the finer points of vegetable selection

We slid right by one of the many carne (meat) counters

Fresh Fish sales spill out onto the street in front of the Mercado


Shopping complete we stopped at one of our favorite cocina economicas for breakfast (two meals Anita is spared from preparing this day ;-)

Entering Restaurant Economic Las Juquilenas

Las Juquilenas Menu


Cooking Area Operation – Masks but no surgical gloves

Sopes hot on the grill – yum!

During the morning Diane did a lot of chopping and preparation for promised fish tacos. This included shredding the smoked fish we had purchased at the Mercado. Also chopped cilantro, onions, tomatoes and cabbage sliced in shreds as well as preparing a tasty salsa all topped off with crumbled goat cheese. Yum good stuff!

The end result was scrumptiously delicious! The three of us enjoyed Diane’s cocina talents. She is going to make her boyfriend (soon to be fiancé apparently) a fine homemaker between Anita’s cleaning training and her mom’s cooking – lucky hombre! And for the moment – Lucky Us.

In the U.S. the Calypso Couple could not afford to hire a junior Rick Bayless or Diana Kennedy. But here in Mexico it works and is easy on the peso purse.

I will answer this before it comes up: I do not relieve Anita of kitchen duties on occasion because I am NOT allowed in the kitchen. Let’s just leave that at that. ;-) I can bring a pizza home and just recently learned of a Chinese restaurant right in downtown Puerto – perhaps Chinese takeout is in our future – Stay Tuned for that review.

The Calypsos Go to the Movies

A movie review that also fits our general topic here about life in Mexico – wow! Frontera is a formula film about the wife of a former Arizona sheriff who is killed while riding on their ranch property situated along the Arizona side border. It appears a Mexican man illegally crossing into the US is at fault. As the former and the current sheriff search for answers, “lives are changed forever”.

The film stars Ed Harris. His real life wife Amy Madigan plays his movie wife. It also stars  Eva Longoria as well as a pro group of lesser known actors.

The movie actually gives the Mexican side of the equation a fair shake – even a twist in their favor but we will save that to not spoil the suspense.

Ed Harris is a consummate actor as is Amy Madigan. Eva Longoria was a pleasant surprise not having been a Desperate Housewives viewer. In the beginning I thought Longoria was a little old for her character (she is currently 39), yet she pulled it off.

All in all it is a good movie, more or less predictable yet entertaining. Borders are a common subject here in Mexico. As a libertarian I am not a fan while understanding some controls are required.  We won’t argue that now – see the movie. Stay Tuned!

Predatory Loan Policies – Mexico Style

Our scooter purchased from Elektra here in Puerto arrived a couple days late due to the transport truck breaking down. We were in no particular hurry. Here is the actual scooter at home and a visual riding tip.


No Name Yet for Our New Ride

Not Recommended Footwear


In a recent Blog entry I reported the fact that Elektra  charges very high interest on their loan ‘opportunities’. Let us take a closer look. In a recent advertisement Elektra offered a 17,499 peso ($1346.00 USD) GS150 scooter for 16,624.00 pesos on sale (a 5 % discount).

They offer an about two-year or an exact 102 payments loan at $293 pesos (about $22.54 USD) paid weekly for 102 months or a grand total of $29,886.00 pesos or about $2,300 USD in total payments for the original 16,624 peso or $1280.00 USD scooter. Doing the math this comes out to an annualized interest rate of 62 percent!

From a Business Week magazine article on Mexican loan policies:

When Azteca [Elektra] loans go bad, the results can be bruising for borrowers. Porfirio Soriano Pérez and his son Zalatiel bought a $1,435 Chinese-made motorcycle last year on an 18-month plan that required $29 weekly payments. They intended to use the bike to scout out customers for the parsley they grow on several acres just outside San Martín Texmelucan. The Sorianos knew the 68% financing would boost the motorcycle’s total cost to $2,289, but they lacked cash to pay up front.

In February, disaster hit. A hailstorm wiped out their crop and with it their $350 monthly income. “Suddenly,” says Porfirio, “we had nothing to sell, and no money.” They fell behind on payments. Soon a collection agent began showing up at the extended Soriano family’s unpainted home. In October, Azteca delivered written warning of legal action. “The problem is that people go into the store and buy out of pure emotion,” says Morales, chief of Azteca’s local legal department.

The Sorianos already had paid $1,560 on the motorcycle—more than the original sticker price—and owed about $700 more, but ended up returning the purchase. That erased the debt in Porfirio’s name. The company will resell the bike and recover the money it’s owed. The Sorianos, meanwhile, have nothing left to plant a new crop.”

This is less robbery than payday loan outlets in Amerika – but really HIGH interest rate for a vehicle loan and an absurd process having to appear once a week. Of course one could pay ahead which begs the question as to whether there are early payoff penalties/fees?  It is a fact that (This from the aforementioned Business Week article,

“Freed of disclosure requirements, Azteca continues stressing weekly payments rather than long-term interest rates. When pressed for its average annual rate, Azteca asserts that it is about 55%. But Chuck Waterfield, a consultant based in Lancaster, Pa., who specializes in financial modeling for micro-lenders, points out that if Azteca’s average rate is translated to make it comparable with APRs in the U.S., it comes to 110%. That’s because Azteca charges interest on the full amount borrowed throughout the life of the loan, even as the principal declines—not on the declining balance, as is common in the U.S.” (Bold emphasis mine).

There is no mailing in the weekly payments. You must bring them to an Electra store and wait in a long maze like turn styled designed lines (think Mexican bank office). So you have to make a weekly visit to Elektra. Should you not pay on time your payment(s) in our example above move increase to $345 pesos or about an 18% additional late penalty charge added on to your annualized 62% weekly payment.

There are those that will quickly point out the U.S. payday loans and the world-wide micro loan business which even Ebay has joined in on that usury concept. But merely looking at the works of Puerto Escondido’s local Elecktra store, one can see that there is quite simply a predatory soul beneath the bright yellow sign with all its shinny products and neatly attired sales force. Let the buyer beware.

We paid cash pesos not Elektra’s favorite payment method I am sure.

Stay Tuned!

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!