Thursday, March 08, 2012

breaking spring

Change is in the air.

Not the political kind -- though that may also be true.  The type of change that is really in the air.

About three days ago, The Big Hand cranked up the thermostat (just a few notches) and tossed a small can of water on the sauna rocks.

The temperature and humidity will gain far more momentum in a few weeks.  Making summers on the Costa Alegre akin to spending  time in a River Kwai punishment box.

But that will come later.  The weather is pleasant enough to attract a breed of tourists we seldom see here.

White tourists we have aplenty.  At least, of the senior variety.  This week, though, a new group showed up. 

American.  Young,  Firm. Attractive.  Maybe not as much as the cavorting youth at the top of this post.  But you get the idea.

Apparently, some of them were more adventurous than their panicky elders in The States who have been warning that traveling in Egypt would be safer than setting foot in Mexico.  For the third year in a row, the Texas Department of Public Safety earns the Chicken Little award for trying to scare Texas college students into spending their Spring Break beer money in Galveston rather than Cancun.

But they are here.  And that is a better first sign of spring than the upwardly mobile thermometer.

We do not get many young Americans here.  I suspect this lot has discovered that American dollars go much further in Melaque than Cabo San Lucas.

The local news has been filled with announcements that a record 22.7 million tourists visited Mexico last year.  The last three years have been tough for Mexicans who make their pesos catering to the desires of tourists.

But the recovery reflects a new fact.  Even though fewer Americans are coming to Mexico, the rest of the world has discovered Mexico.  (I have no idea if the number of Canadian visitors are up or down.  During the winter months here, they are thick as geese on a golf course.)

And all of that reminds me of two anecdotes I have been meaning to relate.  So, pull up a chair and let Grandpa Cotton tell you some stories.

The first happened in Oregon -- during my brief stop over on my return from China.  I met a woman for the first time who suffered a Marty Feldman eye attack when she heard I lived in Mexico.

”In Mexico?  And you’re still alive?  Seven million Americans were murdered there last year.  Americans are targets.”

If you are not wide-eyed at this moment, you must have skimmed over that 7,000,000 figure.  That is over 3 times larger than the number of Americans who died in The United States from all causes.

But I quickly understood why she could believe such an incredible allegation.  She went on to tell me Mexicans were invading the country through Arizona.  She had recently visited a relative at a gated community in Scottsdale.

”And you’ll never guess what we found in the rest room by the pool.  Mexicans.  With back packs.  Some security.”

I guess she never thought of the possibility that they were the lawn care crew.

The second story is more recent.  I was standing in the long line that forms around our bank ATM (the only one in town).  I was behind a fellow who I have known for three years.  He comes south every year for about six months.

He looked at the line of aging white faces and said: “I don’t know how this place survives after all of the tourists leave in spring.”

I told him, the place survives because there are plenty of Mexican tourists who pick up part of the slack when the northern contingent leaves.

He fixed me with a stare and said: “I mean real money.  This place would dry up without the four or five months of white tourists.”  (By the way, that was his adjective.  Not mine.)

In one sense he is correct.  There are certain restaurants that would not exist without the northern tourists.  But Melaque was here before the winter crowd showed up. And it would still be here if none of them returned.

But that is not going to happen. 

Melaque has its attractions.  As the recently-arrived young Americans are proving.  And those of us who live here all year -- as well as the people who come to visit for months during the winter season -- do contribute economically.

And we get a lot in return.  Including free sauna sessions.


John Calypso said...

We don't start to feel the heat change until mid-April - then it is as you describe there. Right now it is the happiest place on earth ;-).

It is sad to read those hurtful and absurd comments - but MAN!!! those lines at the bank. After six visits and much ado about nothing we have our new Oaxacan license plates for our Jetta. Mexico loves its red tape.

Felipe Zapata said...

Making summers on the Costa Alegre akin to spending  time in a River Kwai punishment box. And yet you chose to move there. Amazing.
While the woman was wrong about the 7 million butchered Americans down here, she was correct that my paisanos are invading the U.S. through Arizona. However, fewer are doing so these days thanks to Gov. Jan Brewer. And no thanks to your president.

Why do you go all squishy and apologetic about the guy in the ATM line referring to white people? He's correct, isn't he?

Did you know the racial makeup of Mexicans is about 10 percent white, 30 percent indigenous and 60 percent  Mestizo? The latter two categories are brown, and whether you are indigenous or not sometimes is just a matter of your saying you are. Interesting.

But there are not too many white (Caucasian, whatever) Mexicans. Lots of white folks in Spain, however.

Irene said...

The lady in Oregon needs to stop watching FOX News.

Andean said...

I also heard such comments when people here heard I was visiting Mexico and get the same eye popping, neck contorting reactions. I almost expect it because of all the media. One of my favorite questions they ask is, "Do you read the news?" News to me is worldwide and includes the USA and since presently living here I usually enlighten them with the recent shootings in nearby states. With that said, being cautious, street smart, is never a bad thing. NYC being my neighbor I am there often. And have you heard THAt news...

Felipe Zapata said...

The bad-mouthing of Mexico is not restricted to Fox News. Most media have jumped on that bandwagon.

HeavySweater said...

Is it practical to cool a house with air conditioning where you live?  How expensive is electricity?  Just curious...

Steve Cotton said...

 Good news on the license plates.

Fear and entitlement seems to be the driving motives behind the people in my two anecdotes.

Steve Cotton said...

 Most of the year, the weather here is delightful.  But the summers are punishing. 

It is true that northern tourists' dollars are a good portion of the tourist money around here.  My concern was not the truth of the assertion, but the sense of entitlement that seemed to generate it.  And you know the attitude.  You see it yourself in your town.

Steve Cotton said...

 Felipe nailed this one.  She claimed to have heard it on CBS.  I am not certain what she heard, but it certainly wasn't that.

Steve Cotton said...

I fear that this security-mindedness is going to cause some people to completely miss out on the joys that life offers.  But I have no desire to build windows into their souls.

Steve Cotton said...

Electricity is included in my rent. So, I am not certain about exact figures. But e;ectricity is relatively expensive here. I have heard that conditioning one room costs about $100-$200 USD a month. I know of very few people here who have air conditioning.

Andean said...

So looking forward to the heat. It means the ocean water is warm, like it that way, a huge jacuzzi...
But air conditioning is essential in sauna weather for a good nights sleep, every place I have stayed in that region provided at the least a bedroom unit.

Steve Cotton said...

The hotels have air conditioning units. But most of my expatriate acquaintances who live here all year do not. I can only think of one who does.

Andean said...


HeavySweater said...

If electricity is included in your rent, why not pop in a  window a/c unit or two?

Steve Cotton said...

Probably three reasons. First, air conditioning, in my opinion, makes going outdoors that much more unbearable in the summer. The second is economic. If I started using that much electricity, my rent would probably double. And third, there is no good way to efficiently air condition Mexican houses. I would have to block up ventilation holes and install new windows. For very little benefit.

Kim G said...

 People don't know history, and they also don't do the math. Seven million Americans dead in Mexico doesn't even add up.  LOL

And frankly, I worry more about your proximity to the crocodiles than your proximity to the drug cartels.


Kim G
Boston, MA
Where our own murder rate (according to the OECD) is higher than that of Mexico City.

Steve Cotton said...

The problem may simply be irrational fear. It drives out our other skills.

Of course, I could always make myself some nice-fitting crocodile shoes.

Andean said...

I will not even walk on the andador because of the proximity of the crocs, have seen them strutting their stuff! A bag, shoes or belt is close enough.

Steve Cotton said...

Not seeing the crocs in Villa Obregon is like visting Egypt and not seeing the pyramids.

Andean said...

You can't miss seeing the crocs when you're by the laguna, standing on its banks is too close for comfort.