What’s Going On In This Country?

April 4, 2016 Edition
BY: SANTIAGO VERDUGO

U.S. Cops now checking registration.  Many foreigners here in Baja bitch about how the Mexican police ticket them for driving a U.S. plated car with expired registration. They either don’t want to pay the cost of annual registration back home or don’t want to take the car back to get the smog inspection. But now the town of Patagonia Arizona is ticketing Mexicans driving Mexican cars with expired Mexican plates.

But the mayor wants it stopped. He said the practice hurts the reputation among Mexican nationals of Santa Cruz County as a place to visit. They come over the border to buy stuff.

More tourists. Tourism accounts for about 9% of Mexico’s GNI and provides almost 4 million direct jobs. In 2015, Mexico welcomed a record 32.1 million international tourists, making it the 10th most popular international destination in the world. They spent a combined $17.5 billion in the country. Almost 50% of these overseas visitors arrived by air; they accounted for 80% of total foreign tourist expenditures.

This year, tourism officials are predicting that 35 million international foreign visitors will holiday in Mexico, spending a total of 19 billion dollars. Officials believe, maybe optimistically, that Mexico can attract 40 million tourists in 2018 and maybe 50 million by 2030. They stress the need for policies that will result in more hotels, additional air routes, new attractions, and packages designed for niche markets including health, religion, and seniors-based tourism.

 Did they not see the news over Easter that played in the U.S. in an endless loop? It was about the shooting in a girly bar in Acapulco. Maybe they should be putting their marketing dollars in cleaning up their resort towns. If it’s judged safe here, the people will automatically come, because Mexico is so nice it sells itself.

Cancún International Airport has opened a new terminal. The airport is the nation’s busiest for international traffic and second only to Mexico City for national traffic. The airport served more than 19 million passengers in 2015, 11% more than the previous year. According to federal officials, airport investments in the first three years of the current administration have exceeded $1.8 billion dollars. This has triggered the addition of 260 national and 186 international air routes. Passenger movements in the past three years have risen 33% (to 73 million), while air freight has grown 17%.

The new 60 million dollar, state of the art Terminal 3 is exclusively for international passengers, and increases operating capacity by 4 million passenger movements a year. An additional terminal is scheduled to open in 2017. And we can’t even get a reliable supply of toilet paper at our airport. Sigh.

You Cant’s Make This Stuff Up. About 30 farmers turned up outside the Altiplano prison to protest against the treatment of drug lord El Chapo. But they were only there for the tacos.

One of the drug lord’s lawyers bribed the 30 hungry men with 25 pounds of 10 kilograms of BBQ, tortillas, salsa and soft drinks. After the tasty lunch the farmers spent 10 minutes milling about with picket signs they were given that protested bad treatment given Shorty. The signs read, “I Love You Chapo” and “Free Chapo.” Chapo means Shorty in English.

When asked, one of the farmers said he had no idea who had taken them to the prison, nor who had provided such tasty tacos.

No homeless here. Starter homes have taken on a whole new meaning in the capital of Nayarit, where the municipality has built 14 new dwellings for desperate people. They measure just 177 square feet. For this reason the municipality of Tepic is now embroiled in a public relations scandal over the possibly well-intentioned but ill-devised housing development for a group of Wixáritari and Cora indigenous peoples who had been squatting in a park since 2012.

Of the 34 families, 20 owned land so they were given the materials necessary to build homes. For the remaining 14, municipal authorities purchased a $33,500 plot of land. This would be $2400 for the land for each home. Even for starter homes, they are small by any measure. They consist of one room 12 feet by 9 feet and an outside bathroom of 3 feet by 3.5 feet. The Tepic government invested a total of about $1,000 per home, half the total cost of $7,600 each, and claims they were built in accordance with standards set by Sedatu, the Secretariat of Agrarian Development and Urban Planning, which paid the other half. Although the 14 houses lack electrical power and sewage treatment, three families have already moved in, and all are thankful for having a shelter from the elements. The formal handing over of the rest of the houses is still pending.

The Tepic Mayor has said to back off, Bucko, the houses were built as an emergency measure in response to the poor conditions the indigenous people were living in, and it’s the best they can expect for free.  But the state representative for Sedatu says the buildings “can’t be called homes” and the project is the result of a planning error. Planning error? As in reading the tape measure wrong and building them too small, or as in the money walked away before it could be spent on the poor people?

“At the beginning of President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration, it was established that starter homes (pie de casa) should at least have two rooms, a multiple use room, kitchen and bathroom facilities. The flooring should be concrete slab and the surrounding terrain at least flattened. It’s a mistake to call them homes,” said Gerardo Aguirre. Under federal regulations they should be a minimum of 475 square feet.

The families had been squatting in the Plaza del Músico, a square within the larger Mololoa Park in the historic center of Tepic. Their makeshift homes, made out of wood and cardboard, also served as a location for selling their handicrafts.

Meanwhile, the mayor is reported to be building a new home worth 30 million pesos (US $1.7 million) in the Lindavista neighborhood of the city.

What are we, chopped liver? A large influx of Mexicans arrived from the mainland by ferry and airplane for Easter week and our city government was prepared. It’s not a legal holiday but many people get it off, as schools are closed, and Mexicans love to go to the beach. Who doesn’t?

To prepare, our city deployed life guards at 16 beaches, and smoothed rutted dirt roads to 40 beaches. Officials also cut barb wire fences that are illegally preventing  access to public beaches. (All Mexican beaches are public). This work is going on from La Ribera on the East Cape, down around the Cape, and up the Pacific side.

Thousands of Mexicans camped on the beaches, as most of them are on a budget and unlikely to check into the Hyatt Regency at $400 a night. Porta potties were set up on some beaches, and trash cans as well.

Large rubber barrels of water were trucked to the beaches and left there, while officials walked beaches asking if sun bathers were comfy. Hey, those people are gone now, but we’re all still here spending money at the beach. Is anybody asking after our comfort? No, sigh.