What’s Going On In This Country?

BY: SANTIAGO VERDUGO

Santiago.jpgWell, I didn’t get any fan mail this week but I didn’t get any hate mail, either. My column must have been pretty boring, so I will try to spice it up and piss off some people so I hear from you.

My birthday is coming up, maybe I could get a card or two? I would like a picture of Mickey Mouse I could pin up in my room, if you’re feeling generous enough to send a present.

Or a good cat dictionary. There must be other things I can say besides meow.

Catnip is always appropriate, especially as I am off the wagon - again. I would like a nice 12 year old aged in an old sock, hand selected, single stalk, smooth, with a nice nose, and just a little bit of a bite to it.

I don’t need another damn ball of string, you can be more imaginative than that, and anyway I’m not the athletic type, I’m more cerebral.

One more suggestion on my birthday list would be a pizza with extra anchovies. I live with a pizza hound and she’ll toss me the anchovies, because she doesn’t eat those. She can barely bring herself to touch them to toss them to me.

My gifts don’t need to be extravagant, I’m happy with some longish ribbons and some crinkly wrapping paper.

My email in case you misplaced it, is santiago@gringogazette.com.

And now, without further ado, I bring you my column for this issue.

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Two killed in off-road race. One young spectator and one driver were killed in two separate accidents at the Coyote 300 off-road race held near La Paz. A 16-year-old spectator was killed by a truck whose driver lost control on a soft sand area. The kid was on the side of the road, too close to the course, filming the race.

A 19-year-old driver in the ATV category was killed when he lost control of his vehicle. There have been several accidents in the past few years at off-road races, mostly because people get too close to the course and there’s no security to keep them away. There’s a reason these races are held in Mexico, where you can’t sue for getting yourself killed.

Who hires whom? U.S. owned multinational companies employed 1,106,700 people in Mexico in 2012. That’s the latest year on record. But Mexican owned companies employed only 68,800 hands in the United States that year. Is anyone surprised? No.

U.S. companies employed 16 times as many people in Mexico as Mexican companies employed in the United States. 48 percent of the jobs in Mexico were in manufacturing. And, of course, the jobs in the U.S, were in picking beans and in wiping down cars in car washes. Can we say it one more time? Mexico’s biggest challenge is education.  It creates an even bigger problem than corruption does, but then the reason for the crappy education here is corruption in the ranks of the teachers union.

We take the prize. As the largest consumers of bottled drinking water in the world. A screwed up water distribution system, extra taxes on sugared drinks, and a strong media campaign for healthy lifestyle got us to this point.

And the trend is only going to continue, according to analysts, who say Mexicans spent US $7.8 billion on bottled water in 2014, up 56% from the $5 billion spent in 2009. By 2019, the figure is forecast to be 15% higher, reaching $9.4 billion.

“It is clear that people reduced their consumption of soft drinks because of the new tax. A study shows  soft drink sales have dropped 10%, while bottled water is on the rise,” said Alejandro Calvillo, director of El Poder del Consumidor, a consumer advocacy group. “Historically, bottled water consumption in Mexico has been always high. We consider this is due to low consumer confidence in the quality of tap water, coupled with (water’s) scarcity in some regions.”

According to business intelligence company Euromonitor International, the bottled water market in Mexico is controlled by three companies: Danone’s Bonafont brand represents 47%, Coca Cola’s Ciel 19.4% and Pepsico’s Epura 7.1%.

Volaris looking iffy. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) accused Mexican discount airline Volaris of safety violations, and has proposed a civil penalty of $735,000 USD. Before fixing the problems found during an inspection in March, the airline returned one of its U.S. registered Airbus A319-100 planes to service, flying 121 passenger flights after failing the inspection. Non-compliance issues included replacement of an emergency slide, verification of the plane’s weight and balance calculations, and rigging on part of the wings (yikes!). Volaris has 30 days to respond to the FAA. Well, there’s always Alaska Airlines.

Send more tourists. No matter how they get here, our tourism stats are making positive leaps for the first quarter of this year. According to figures released by the Bank of Mexico, foreign tourism jumped by 10.8 percent in January to April of this year.. Overall, that’s 10.5 million people, compared to 9.5 million in the same period last year.

To no one’s surprise, air travel is the primary way international visitors get here.  No wonder they can’t keep toilet paper in the airport bathrooms. Planes brought us 5.4 million tourists in the first quarter of 2015, an increase of 8.6 percent. Here are some more:

Border crossings ­– 13.8 percent increase over 2014’s first quarter, or 4.4 million people compared to 3.9 last year. The 3.7 million tourists who crossed the border by car represent a 17.3 percent jump.

Cruises –A 9.8 percent increase, from 2.4 million in 2014 to 2.6 million in the current year.

Not only are we getting more people, they are spending a little more, too. The bank’s analysis reports an average expenditure of tourists traveling by air at $956.90, a 2.3 percent increase.

Given the challenges of recovery from Odile, we all ought to pat ourselves on the back for taking care of all these people.

New IHOP and Applebee’s planned for Mexico. American icon IHOP, (International House of Pancakes) plans to open new franchise restaurants in Mexico, in Chihuahua and Baja. Daniel del Olmo, president of international for DineEquity, Inc. the parent company for both IHOP and Abblebee’s Grill, indicated that expansion in Mexico is part of the corporation’s five-year strategy for international growth and global expansion. Cool! Waffles and pancakes, bring em on, and don’t forget the Aunt Jamima syrup.

The new restaurants will reflect a revamp of their image that includes a change in the IHOP logo announced this month with a sappy “smiley face” look. Sigh. The rebranding, which includes new uniforms, plates and other service items, is getting started in Guadalajara and Mexico City, with an investment of  $50,000 USD.

“In absolute terms, over the course of the next 20 years, international will be leading the agenda simply because there are only 225 restaurants overseas today,” Del Olmo said. Last year he led the company in record international openings, with 25 new global locations.

Graffiti. Officials in Loreto are fed up with graffiti  all over the place. Maybe they should ban spray paint? They are also concerned that purified water is not clean. Thus, the state commission for protection against health risks (COEPRIS) has intensified supervision of water purification companies in Loreto. Inspectors are to take water samples of what’s being sold to the general public, and send them to laboratories of the Ministry of Health in the state capital. Here comes just another opportunity for extortion as part of the government’s full employment program. For his friends and family.

New Loreto golf course. Construction of the 18 hole Danzante Bay golf course at the Villa del Palmar Resort 26 miles south of Loreto continues. Designed by Rees Jones, the 7,400 yard course will give players magnificent views of Danzante Bay and the Sea of Cortez to the East, as well as the Sierra de la Giganta mountain range to the West.

Owen Perry, chairman of the Villa Group, said that by the end of 2015, nine holes would be ready, with 11 holes available for play by the beginning of 2016. The company plans to invest $25 million in the golf course and surrounding community of 150 half acre residential lots over the next three years. That’s all fine pr talk, but where’s the water coming from?

This timeshare resort was built in the middle of Bumfuck Egypt as an overflow for their property in Cabo San Lucas, which has been sold out for years. Well, sold out if you believe that in Mexico there are only 52 weeks in a year. Owners who can’t get into their Cabo property give the Loreto place a try, and some like it and some don’t. Those looking for seclusion like it, those looking for Cabo style action go nuts sitting around at night. Also on the positive side, it’s too far out to attract any pesky beach sales people. It has a spa so nice that townies even drive down for it. The pool gets so fancy with a turtle motif, it’s unswimable, but it looks cool from the rooms.