What’s Going On In This Country?

October 5, 2015
BY: SANTIAGO VERDUGO

My birthday is coming up and just to juice the gift train I thought I would show you one of my baby pictures. Yeah, I came from a shelter background, you got a problem with that? It was a convenience, and I made the best of it.

santi in cage.jpgI  worked it, baby. I shined up every day and sparkled. Every time someone walked down my asile I showed my best self  and it paid off big time, because I snagged a richy rich Gringa, (aren’t all Gringos rich? Yes, I’m pretty sure about that.) I wasn’t interested in a home I had to share with a dog, or even with another cat, as I need a lot of love and attention. That’s just the way it is: I have needs.

So anyhoo, as I said, my birthday is coming up next week and gifts are always appropriate. Pretty much anything will do, as my favorite part will no doubt be the box it came in anyway. And don’t forget the ribbon: Ribbons are like frosting on the cake. Hold the cake, but a can of Fancy Feast would not be turned away.

And if you’re thinking didn’t I just have a birthday, well, remember I’m a cat! How do you think we get nine lives if we don’t have nine birthdays? Duh!

Lastly, I hope you appreciate my column this week, as I had to cut back on my naps a little to get it done on time. Can you believe I get four cents a word for this gig?

Yup, good thing I was looking mighty fine the day my new mom walked into the shelter. Lucky day for both of us.

 

Pesos from heaven. That’s what it seems like these days for folks with family members sending dollars from the U.S. With the peso so low—as of right now the dollar is trading at around 17 pesos—Mexican immigrants in the U.S. are shipping bigger chunks of their salaries back home to stretch the purchasing power of their hard earned dollars. The peso has lost around 20% of its value versus the dollar over the past 12 months, dragged down by lower oil prices and a rush to invest in the U.S. amid global uncertainty and prospects of a Fed rate hike.

As Mexico’s currency slides, remittances have been rising. The $200 that would have translated into less than 2,700 pesos last September now buys about 3,400 pesos.

“Historically, when you have depreciation, remittances pick up,” said Jesus Cañas, an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. “You take that opportunity to send a little more than your monthly average.” And for now, the weakening of the peso has not fueled any major price hikes for goods, meaning that remittance recipients will be able to make the most of their extra cash. In August, inflation in Mexico fell to 2.6%, an historic low.

The money coming from abroad can make a big difference in Mexico—last year, remittances reached some $23.7 billion, surpassing the $22.6 billion in foreign direct investment the country received during the same period.

 This gripes my furry butt. Eight Mexican tourists were tragically killed by mistake in an Egyptian air raid as they were picnicking in the desert. Ok, boo boos happen and this was one mother of a boo boo.

But when Claudia Ruiz Massieu, secretary of foreign relations for Mexico, flew over to Egypt quicker than Nancy Grace could arrive at a juicy murder scene with her TV cameras, and demanded reparations, explanations, and apologies all around, all the while directing the international TV cameras, that was a little too much hypocrisy for me.

Just imagine how the Mexican government would have handled the accidental killing of eight Americans here. You bet they would have tried their damndest to hush it up, even trotting out their old whine about reporting the incident being a vast conspiracy against tourism in Mexico.

Egypt is going through some tough times right now. Their vital tourist industry is practically dead, and they don’t need a grand standing Mexican bureaucrat to pound the last nail in that coffin. How about a little empathy, tourist country to tourist country, Claudia?

What are we, chopped liver again? The tourist destination of Puerto Vallarta is the most expensive city in Mexico for buying a house, says the online real estate portal Lamudi. Oaxaca was next, followed by Acapulco, Cancún and Mexico City. And where are we mentioned? Nowhere. And what’s this about Oaxaca? That’s a very nice pueblo, but it’s hardly top tier real estate wise. In fact, it’s quite poor.

With an average price per square foot of $118, Puerto Vallarta is a distant second to us. In the case of Puerto Vallarta, 47% of listings are priced in dollars, while the national average is 8.7%.

And Acapulco? Despite a murder rate of 107 per 100,000 inhabitants, Acapulco is the third most expensive city for buying a house, followed by Cancún in fourth place. Prices per square foot in those cities were about $100 U.S. per square foot. Again, way behind the average Gringo home in Cabo. Maybe that’s the hitch: This survey is counting all the homes, not just the foreign owned homes. Or is it that the writers on this Internet blog don’t get out much? They certainly don’t get over to our little corner of the country.

We are loved. According to Hotel-Online, the hotel industry in Cabo is operating at nearly 100%, attributing the quick recovery from the hurricane to effective coordination between government agencies. Well, we did get a lot of help from the feds.

60 of the hotel association’s 66 properties are back in operation, with the other six due to open in the coming months. It hasn’t hurt us that Los Cabos also has new airline capacity and with more coming. New services are set to begin from Orange County, California; Houston, Texas; New York City; and Toronto.

As far as investors are concerned, hurricanes are not a serious threat to tourism’s viability. During the next three years our accommodation capacity will increase by 4,000 rooms as hotels such as Auberge, Montage, JW Marriott, Encanto, AM Resorts, Starwood and others open new properties.

There’s always Google translate. For the last 10 years the federal government has launched two formal initiatives for teaching English to students from kindergarten, elementary and junior high school; however, a recent study showed that 97% of students do not reach the minimum level of proficiency expected by the Mexican Education Ministry.

The problem is the teachers. Of the 50,000 teachers in Mexican schools, more than half can not speak English themselves, and half of the remaining half are kidding themselves that they can speak it. “Where is the bathroom” and “I would like another Budweiser” do not cut it.

The Prez brags. The President of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, announced in his third annual State of the Republic address that Mexico is one of the major tourism powers in the world.

The President said that last year 29.3 million international washed up on our shores. Among the countries that visit us: Colombians, Peruvians and Chileans. Oh, and 7 million of those wash-ups were North Americans.

Did you see that awesome moon! Last week the moon was 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than a full moon at its farthest point from Earth. A supermoon combined with a total lunar eclipse.  Yeah, we should have warned you, the boss tried to send out a Twit on it but screwed it up. Sigh. She’s just learning Twitter. Gawd, even a cat could do a better job of it.

Our guy does NY. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto gave a speech at the United Nations’ 70th General Assembly last week, pledging to train soldiers to participate in United Nations peacekeeping missions around the globe. He was criticized at home out of fears that it goes against the country’s age-old policy of no intervention and looks dangerously close to the way the United States’ meddles in other countries’ internal affairs.

Peña Nieto told the General Assembly that Mexico will for the first time have a training center to produce combat ready Mexican international peacekeepers.

He said that plan had been designed by Mexico’s armed forces in coordination with the United Nations, and that by 2018 the training camp will be up and ready.

The president also announced that toward the end of this year, the Mexican army would participate in a U.N. mission in Western Sahara’s referendum, in Haiti’s U.N. stabilization mission and in Lebanon.