Saturday, February 27, 2021

the naming of things

Several years ago, Mexico provided funds to local communities to erect signs proclaiming their names.

The signs were metal and painted in bright colors with images of the individual community's icons. For blogger-photographers they were a boon. Every essay needs a hook, and nothing is more effective than an establishing shot.

Barra de Navidad was no exception. Its letters were not only colorful, but they also proclaimed how Barra saw itself. Sailfish. Dorado. Even the fallen-arms Jesus with his theological ambiguities.

And, unlike most towns and cities that placed their eponymous signs on their public squares, Barra de Navidad decided not to do that. Probably with good reason. Barra's square is not the center of activity for the town. Most of the time, it has the sad countenance of a disused parking lot.

But Barra does have a center of activity. Its malecon topping the remnants of the sand bar that provided the town's name. There is no better view -- with the laguna on one side and the bay on the other. It was the perfect place to erect that sign. And that is exactly what happened.

It was a hit. Every tourist that walked by had to shoot the sign. Usually with family members clamoring over its letters.

Maybe it was loved too much. The combination of the letter-climbing, the sea brine, and petty vandalism had its toll on the sign.

First, the accent lights were stolen or broken. Then the metal started giving way. There was no choice but to cart the sign away.

It was soon replaced by another sign that was supposed to be temporary. Its peculiar use of English was not a propitious sign for the future.

Its utility ended abruptly less than two weeks ago, being the victim of the same factors that killed the first sign. Too much love, brine, and vandalism.

I recounted most of this tale two weeks ago in a mere shadow of itself. Even though I had not solicited any solutions for a future sign, northerners, being the problem-solvers they are, posted lots of comments with numerous ways to preserve a future sign.

One of those suggestions was to cast the letters in concrete other than in metal. Someone was paying attention to that avalanche of advice.

When I walked to the malecon yesterday, I ran into a work party uncovering a stack of letters. Even before I interviewed them, I knew this was not a Sesame Street road show. The letters were for a replacement sign. This time in concrete.

Because I had other boats to sail yesterday, I decided to return this morning to see how much progress had been made. It turned out to be a lot.

The sign is not yet complete. The "Barra" portion of the sign will accompany "de Navidad" just below it. The letters will then be painted in a pied pattern.

I really liked the first sign. It not only had character, it captured the essence of this little village by the bay. I hope this third sign will re-capture that long-lost spirit.

At least, it appears its survivability has been heightened.   

Friday, February 26, 2021

suppose they gave a boat race and nobody came

We will never know the answer to that hypothetical.

At least, not in Barra de Navidad today. Because there was a sailboat race, and a lot of people came.

Every year during the northern tourist season, some diligent souls organize events to answer the question: "What do we do now in Barra?" In The Before Times, opening our local Facebook pages was like reading the day's schedule of events on a Caribbean cruise. Bingo. Specialty Dining. Boat rides.

All of those announcements are in English because that is the target audience. And most of the events are for Good Causes. Like raising funds for the local schools.

But there is another purpose, as well, and it is one that a lot of people seem to think is a bit grubby to discuss. I rack that up to too many hours sitting in front of the television pretending we are part of the Crawley family.

Barra de Navidad makes its living off of tourists. For decades, this little village by the sea has been a destination for Mexican tourists.

Since the 1990s, a large share of tourist revenue comes from winter visitors from Canada and The States -- especially Canada. In January and February, it is easy to imagine you are in a suburb of Toronto. With the exception of the absence of chilling snow drifts, of course.

The cruise-like activities are designed to encourage northern visitors to exchange a few of their hard-earned dollars in exchange for momentary joy that just might transmorph into a lasting memory. And that is exactly what appeared to be happening this afternoon.

I attended men's Bible study this morning at a restaurant that makes its winter living off of the breakfast pleasures of northerners. Ominously, we were the only customers there.

In a way, I was not surprised. When the Canadian government announced it was clamping down on Canadians from leaving the country, a large contingent of Canadian visitors here upped pegs over the past three weeks to avoid getting trapped by new restrictions. The usual dining haunts have been consistently light on customers since then. 

The sailboat race that started today at noon has been thoroughly publicized on Facebook. But if the target audience had flown the coop, I feared it would be lightly attended.

When I arrived at the malecon, I thought that was the case. Other than a construction crew that was busy at work on a project I will write about tomorrow, there were only a handful of spectators even though the bay was abloom with sailboats.

I am quite find of sailboats having picked up the habit while living in Greece and England, and then for a week every summer plying the San Juan and Gulf Islands. Nothing can cause me to smile and chuckle as much as seeing a boat in full sail -- especially when cast against the shifting shades of blue of the bay and its sky.

I needn't have worried that I was selfishly watching the sails gently gliding like a corps de ballet. There were plenty of other spectators.

I found most of the northern tourists in the series of restaurants that line the thin wisp of strand that was once a grand beach. They had sought the shade and company associated with all grand sports.

Best of all, the boats had attracted customers to Mexican businesses where a mutually-beneficial exchange of cash and mementos were under way.

Every time I write about these events, I receive mail and comments that I am abetting the gringofication of Barra. The usual line is that the little Mexican community that is here all year is somehow diminished by providing sport specifically for northerners.

I have never fully understood the argument. Barra has long been a tourist town. Admittedly, it first bent to the will of Mexican tourists. The local businesses did what they could to attract the out-of-towners to Barra and then to their specific businesses. 

Those same businesses are simply doing the same thing to accommodate northern tourists. The commonality is the free market exchange of goods.

Ironically, while some folks are complaining about the loss of Mexican authenticity on this side of the bay, business people on the other side of the bay in San Patricio Melaque are asking what they can do to the same end. Maybe they should talk to the organizers. They seem to have hot on a successful formula.

Those cruise-to-Jamaica ideas would appear to be applicable there as they are here.

And, before I wrap up this essay, let me congratulate all the crews of the boats that participated in the race. You put a smile on my face -- and I am willing to bet you did the same for a lot of other people today.      

Thursday, February 25, 2021

moving to mexico -- resources

So, you have done the hard part.

You have decided to sell your house and move permanently to Mexico. Visions of sunlit beaches and snow-capped volcanoes samba in your dreams.

Now comes the learning curve. You are not even certain what questions you need to have answered. But there are some that have started gnawing at you.

  • Should I bring my car?
  • How do I ship all of my personal belongings?
  • How do I get a visa?
  • Should I buy a house or rent?
  • What details should I consider in a purchase or rental contract? What terms need to be negotiated?
  • Where should I live?
  • What will my monthly costs be?
  • Can I bring my pet King Cobra and Bengal Tiger?

I decided in 2006 that I was going to retire and live out my last few years in Mexico. And I asked myself all of those questions -- well, maybe not the one about the tiger -- and a lot more.

Because I am a traditionalist, I bought every book I could find about retiring in Oregon and pored over them every night in my hot tub. I posted a list in 2007 of the books I was reading (lamps unto my feet). Fourteen years later, I suspect the material is dated. but new editions may have been published.

The books were very helpful in covering the categories of questions I should ask, and the authors did their best to provide adequate data to answer some of the questions. But, by their very nature, the books could only provide general information. And I needed answers to questions relating to my situation.

Based on the books, I narrowed down my search to six cities in Mexico. I planned to audition each place for six months and then move on to another. (That plan fortunately soon crashed on the shoals of reality.) To prepare for those moves, I needed to find people who knew each area.

That is when I discovered Mexico blogs. Wayne on Isla Mujeres. Joanna and Teresa in Mérida
. Gary in Mexico City. Jennifer in Morelia. Felipe in Pátzcuaro. Babs in San Miguel de Allende. Nancy in Mazatlan. Andee in Chacala.

Not only could I learn about living in their portions of Mexico, I could also get a feel of the lives they chose to live by reading their past posts. It is one thing to read a book written by someone whose background you do not know. It is far more reassuring to take advice from people whose lives make contextual sense.

All of them were willing to provide advice and none was bashful when it came to opinions. And that was exactly what I needed. I wanted raw reality, not Chamber of Commerce fluff.

Of that group, Wayne has hauled his writing over to Facebook, Gary has moved back to England, Teresa has moved to California, Nancy continues her blog at Lake Chapala, and Andee died just before I could meet her. In fact, most of the blogs I relied on in making my decisions are no longer being written.

Unfortunately, it appears that Facebook has attempted to fill the gap. And it fills the gap quite inadequately.

I belong to several Facebook groups that purport to offer advice to people who are considering upgrading their lives with a move to Mexico. I suppose some of the questions are answered to the satisfaction of the posters. But I am not certain that answers to such questions as "How much does it cost to live in Mexico?" are very helpful when answered by people who live all the way from a simple home in Oaxaca to a penthouse in Mexico City.

Part of the problem is the format of Facebook. Complex questions and answers are reduced to bumper sticker slogans. And the person who asks the question has no idea of the veracity of the person who answers.

I also suspect trolls are responsible for what appear to be the most inane questions: "Can you buy prescription drugs in Mexico?" -- "Do Mexican women make good wives?" -- "Are there fruit markets where I want to live?" I have often imagined that the old KGB office in Moscow is filled with operatives peppering Mexican Facebook pages with these gems.

If I were making a decision on the details of my move to Mexico right now, I would avoid all of the Facebook advice pages unless you have always wanted to play Diogenes.

I would start looking for updated versions of the books in my list (or others) to build a proper framework of questions. I would then start reading well-written blogs from the areas you are curious about. There are also some valuable internet resources listed to the right of this essay.

If you are currently going through the decision-making process, I confess that I envy you a little. Making all of these choices was one of the best experiences of my life -- even when I was fully aware that each decision would be swept away when the tide of time swept across it.

Enjoy the move. Mexico is not paradise, and life here is not perfect. But every day in Mexico will let you appreciate simply being alive.

And that is good enough for me.       


Wednesday, February 24, 2021

keeping our eyes in our heads

One of the things I miss about flying is getting to know the person sitting next to me.

Bill Buckley reportedly said: "Ninety-nine out of a hundred people are interesting. The other one is interesting because he is different."

I have certainly found that to be true with my cabin mates. Everyone has a tale to tell, and I have learned a lot by just getting to know new people for the short hours it takes to get from airport to airport.

In 2016, I was on a flight from Portland to Los Angeles on my way home to Mexico. The youngish man sitting next to me was engrossed in a book when I sat down. I waited until he put it down and introduced myself. He responded in kind: "Nice to meet you. Ruben Navarette." He paused for a moment to see if the name meant anything to me. It didn't.

During the flight, I discovered he was a newspaper columnist. I probably had read some of his pieces, but I had no idea what his politics were.

We started talking about one of our mutual favorite topics -- immigration. I had just read a series of books and articles on the topic -- including Jorge Castañeda's Ex Mex: From Migrants to Immigrants, that had given me an entirely new set data to analyze immigration from Mexico to The States.

We had probably talked about immigration for close to an hour when he informed me, in addition to column, he also had a podcast, and  he wanted to know if I would like to be interviewed. Even though I was intrigued by the idea, I told him I had no qualifications other than regurgitating what I had recently read. He laughed. "How would that be any different than any Talking Head?" You have to like someone that sardonic.

Since then, I have read his column whenever I see it. Sometimes, I agree with his position. Most often, I do not. But he always makes me think about the topic -- often through new analytical tools. I am far more interested in the path than I am in the conclusion. THat is probably why I find George Will's writing so compelling.

This morning, I was pleased to discover Navarette's column in the morning newspaper. His subject matter was not what grabbed my attention. What looked like a throwaway line in the fourth paragraph turned out to be the hook that drew me in.

[E]ven my actual best friends and I don't agree on everything. I'm old school. Back in the day -- before social media taught us to "unfriend" those who think differently -- you didn't have to agree with someone to be their friend.
I do not know when it began, but I have noticed a rash of "total unfriending" among people I know. Tempers have become so raw over the virus, politics, and whether ketchup on hot dogs is evidence of moral degradation that long-time friends have split the proverbial sheets. 

A woman I have known here for at least a decade and I had a conversation on the topic this week. I had not seen her recently in the social circles with which I associate her. When I asked her why, she informed me she would not associate with people who had politics that differed from hers. The way she worded it, I knew there was nothing left to discuss.

I found that a bit sad. Like Navarette, I disagree with most of my best friends on a lot of topics. Some of my best conversations have been with atheists, socialists, and anti-immigrationists. Even though their views are not mine, I always learn something new. Probably because we argue interests instead of positions.

The trick, of course, is that we respect one another. And, because we do, we can focus on the intellectual joy of working through ideas and concepts. Hatred cannot get a foothold with that respect.

For the first time since I started Mexpatriate back in 2007, I have been forced to make a decision to ban a commenter. And it was a tough decision because he always had an interesting bit of information to add to discussions. Unfortunately, he also had a tendency to personalize issues in a manner that evidenced itself in personal attacks, attacks that have caused several readers to complain. Eventually, he made one too many Larry-Grey-at-the-dinner-party slurs.

Buckley and Navarette are correct. People are interesting, and the best friends are people with whom we can disagree and from whom we can learn.

That is one of the joys of being adult. Reverting to the toxic social hierarchy of junior high does none of us any good.

Mahatma Gandhi seems to have a good contribution to almost any discussion. I suspect this is how he would sum up this "defriending" culture (even though he probably never said it): "An eye for an eye will leave the whole world blind."  
Here's looking at you. 

Monday, February 22, 2021

know yourself; know your enemy better

"Know your enemy and know yourself, find naught in fear for 100 battles."

I should have remembered my Sun Tzu when I strapped on my gear to do battle in my patio. But I made an even more basic error. I did not know who my enemy was. And that is a perfect recipe for defeat.

Since last May I have been battling an insect invasion in my cup-of-gold vines (something is bugging me). It is always questionable to rely on northern experiences to define problems in Mexico. There are simply too many variables. But I disregarded that pearl of wisdom to conclude my vines were under attack by mealybugs.

Several of you offered some kind advice last Spring on dealing with my new-found competitors -- from using a water hose to spray them off to calling in a chemical airstrike that would lift the hopes of any Dow shareholder.

Nothing worked. The infestation was so bad that most of the vines were denuded of leaves and the exudation that rained down on the heliconia leaves was thick enough to prevent photosynthesis. The landscaping was on the verge of deat.

I took what seemed to be the last resort. I cut down the vine and let it regrow. And grow it did. Without a mealybug (or whatever they were) in sight.

But, alas, the bugs returned a couple of weeks ago in larger numbers. They appear to be more resilient than the Taliban.

The same day I noticed their return, someone posted photographs on a local Facebook page asking what the insects were that were currently sucking her plants dry. I could have taken the same shot of my vines.

My friend Dan Patman posited a theory I had not considered. He suggested that they looked like cochineal, the scale insects that were the second most-valuable export (following silver) from Mexico to Europe during the Spanish colonial era. Dan first introduced the insects to me during a trip to Copper Canyon.

I had not even considered that possibility. For one very good reason. Mealy bugs were part of my personal experience. Cochineal were not.

So, I took a closer look at the invaders, did a bit of research, and applied the scientific method to my new-found database. There were two major problems with the cochineal theory.

First, even though cochineal are scale insects like mealybugs, their sole food source is cacti -- primarily nopal. As an interesting side note, cochineal are native to Peru and Mexico. Scientists now believe they were endemic to Peru and were exported to Mexico on traded food products between Peru and Mexico prior to the arrival of Columbus. The trade turned out to be a very beneficial one for Mexico.

Second, the value of the insects is that when the females are crushed, they produce a carmine dye. They were used in Europe to produce the bright carmine found in the get-up of Catholic cardinals and in the military jackets the British soldiers wore to subdue the inhabitants of its empire.

One of the methods I have used to clear the vines is crushing the insects. The color they produce is not carmine. It is more like the yellow of grasshoppers hitting a car's windshield.

Based on all that, I have eliminated cochineal from the enemies list. And that is a bit disappointing. I was hoping to farm and sell the dye-producers. It is a lucrative market. I could open the house with no name to tourists interested in crafts.

Where does that leave me? My research has verified that the bugs are scale insects. But that is a broad category.

The reassuring part of that discovery is the treatment for all scale insects is similar. The less reassuring part of that discovery is that I have tried almost all of the treatments in the past to no avail. The Jack-and-the-beanstalk method may be my only solution. Again.

After looking at the images of the various scale insects, I have reverted to the conclusion that I named (if not claimed) the correct enemy. They seem to be mealybugs.

For some reason, while leafing through my copy of Sun Tzu's The Art of War, I see nothing directly on point about battling mealybugs. Perhaps, I just need a bit more extrapolation.

There is always this. "All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near."

I just need to learn how those mealybugs think.    

Sunday, February 21, 2021

scaling the heights

This afternoon I was slogging my way through the current issue of The Economist stuffing my head with arcana about corruption in Kenya, women protesting in Mexico City over tampon restrictions, and why China is doing such an abysmal job in vaccinating its population, when I heard voices.

No. Not that type of voice. The type that urges you to burn down your neighbor's house. Just conversational voices. The type of talk working men indulge in when amidst their profession.

The source was no surprise. Whenever I hear voices that sound as if they are in my patio, I have learned to look a hundred feet in the air. And that was the source of this afternoon's voices. Men working on the communication tower that abuts my property.

Yesterday we talked about Omar's change in professional aspirations -- from dentist to accountant -- as he enters university (news on the omar front). That led to some interesting conversations about job choices. And the effects of those choices.

While I stood in my patio watching the technicians work, I thought about how exciting their work must be. To work so high in the air with the minimum of safety equipment. Especially today.

We have had some rather brisk breezes this past week. Today is no exception. The wind blowing through the tower's girders emits what might be best described as a wavering moan. The sound effect simply adds to my admiration of the work those men do.

Not too long ago I saw an article about people involved in extreme sports. The kind of guys who jump off cliffs in their "flying squirrel" outfits. Several of them said they were offended when people call them adrenalin junkies. They claimed the whole theory was wrong. They simply liked pitting their skills and succeeding at pursuits where death is highly likely, but then avoided.

Even though I am not involved in any extreme sports (as long as we exclude Facebook posts), I understand exactly what they meant. During one of my first driving lessons with Dad, he told me that every time a driver puts tires on the road, he is dead. If he returns alive, he has had a good day.

Maybe that is why I look at those tower guys with a bit of envy. Certainly I had my exciting moments in the Air Force and as a trial attorney, but the thrill of climbing a tower in high winds to work on antennas must be akin to tending sails on a eighteenth century tall ship. The stuff of tales.

For the moment, though, I sit here in the patio listening to the clang of the safety belts on the girders, I can share in a bit of the thrill of doing something beneficial while surviving danger.

It truly is a good day.


Saturday, February 20, 2021

news on the omar front

We all tend to see the world through the lens of our own experience.

Take careers as an example. When I was 12, I decided I wanted to be a veterinarian because I wanted to own a circus. The logic was tenuous. But it was a perfectly good dream for a 12-year-old boy. 

My career path took a sharp right turn when I was a freshman in high school. Politics was now going to be my chosen field. To get there, I would be a lawyer. That dream at least had the advantage of some logic.

When I was at university, I was surprised at the number of my friends who had not yet made up their minds about a career and would change their majors more often than they would change their tie-died t-shirts. It was the 60s. Even in law school, a couple of my friends were not certain they wanted to be lawyers. And, even though they graduated with a law degree, they chose other fields.

Almost four years ago, I offered to assist Omar in his goal to become a dentist. And, even though I had stuck with my dream from 1964 (with the exception of the politics part that I exorcised from my life in 1988), I gave him the same advice my dad gave me when I graduated from high school. "Never do anything you do not want to do. Your work choice is one of the most important decisions you can make. Don't let anyone tell you what you have to be."

That did not seem to be a problem with Omar. He seemed to be focused on becoming a dentist to gain escape velocity to leave his village by the sea. But I did not want him to feel pressured to be a dentist simply because that is what he told me he wanted to be.

If you have been following his post-prepa-graduate progress on these pages, you already know he has taken two university admission tests for dental school. The first test score was not high enough. The second was invalidated because some other test-takers committed fraud.

But based on those two test results, the admissions office of the University of Guadalajara has admitted him at its campus in Autlán de Navarro. But not in a dentistry course. Instead, he has decided to become an accountant. As Max Bialystock would say (and did): You're in a noble profession. The word 'count' is part of your title."

I knew that his girlfriend Yoana was going to attend the university at Autlán to become an attorney. He told me last night that not only could they attend university together, but when they graduate, they could open an office together to offer their respective services.

The decision appeared to be rational. At least, it was more logical than my circus owner-veterinarian connection.

When I asked him when the courses begin, he told me "today."  

Until the virus is brought under some semblance of control here, university classes are being conducted virtually. That means the house with no name will now be an affiliate of the University of Guadalajara while Yoana and Omar poke their noses into their computers to start their professional educations.

I wonder if I can get one of those subsidies the Biden administration is handing out to schools?

Thursday, February 18, 2021

a tale of two lines

I took a vacation to our county seat of Cihuatlán today.

Well, it was a vacation in the same way that Omar uses that word to describe my trips to Oregon on family business. Maybe he is correct. They are working vacations.

And work I did.

When I was last in Cihuatlán, I paid for my car registration for the year, but the clerk told me I needed to return in three or four weeks to pick up my documents (home is the hunter from the hill). At the time, I thought that was odd. For the last few years, the documents were printed on the spot.

Friends told me that the registrations were now ready, so, I scheduled a trip for today. I had also heard that covid-19 vaccines were available for a limited period at the IMMS Clinica 80. Because I was not certain how large the crowds would be at the clinic, I parked between the two destinations, and walked to the clinic.

I suspected that in the third or fourth day of vaccinations, there would be long lines. There were. Because the registration documents for my car were more important than getting vaccinated today, I walked over to the equivalent of a DMV -- fully expecting a long there, as well.

I was wrong. There was no line. As you can see in the photograph. Two clerks. One person being served.

Upon receiving my receipt, the clerk serving me retired to a desk in the back, hurriedly sought assistance from someone else, and returned with a plastic card. Something new.

In the past, drivers have received a decal to put in their car window (the equivalent of a license tag) and a paper card that acted as a registration form. Apparently, the new card has replaced the other two. It will sleep in my wallet.

All of that had killed about ten minutes. When I walked back to the clinic, the lines were about the same length.

Even though it initially looked as if the process were chaotic, I started paying attention to the flow. Two lines led to tables where earnest young people were filling out forms.

The form was then handed to the person in line who would walk over to a third line that led into the clinic.

I joined the flow and was impressed that this whole operation had been created out of thin air to respond to a pandemic that was not in anyone's emergency handbook. It understandably had its clunky moments, but it was getting the job done.

Last week there was anxious chatter on the local Facebook pages that the vaccine was on its way and there was an on-line process to set up an appointment for those of us sitting in God's waiting room. After looking at the signup procedures, I asked some Mexican friends what they were going to do. To a person, they said they were simply going to show up.

And that appears to be what happened in our group today. Almost all of us were drop-ins.

As is true with all of these stand-in-line events, there are people who think they have better things to do than be like the rest of us. I saw only four or five instances of bad behavior out of the two hundred or so of us who were waiting to be vaccinated. An older northern man who had one of those rolling anger fits that ended up erupting into "no one in [his country] would ever stand for this [Nixonian expletive deleted]." His wife led him away.

The process was simple. I stood in line for about 55 minutes to receive my vaccination form. THe only document I needed to produce was my permanent resident card (including my CURP number). I then stood in the get-vaccinated line for an hour and 40 minutes. The line would move at a steady pace -- and then just stop. (I soon discovered why.)

The vaccination itself took no more than a matter of seconds. A security guard directed the post-shot set to a covered area behind the clinic where we were to wait at least 30 minutes to ensure we did not end up as an anomaly in the vaccination data.

We also had to wait for a group of young women to process the paperwork for our second vaccination. Mine is tentatively set for 14 April. I will be called and notified where that will be.

Mexico has purchased a grab bag of vaccines. Pfizer. Oxford-Astrazeneca. The Russian vaccine. Two Chinese vaccines. Because the clinic did not offer a cafeteria approach, I was stuck with the vaccine on offer: Oxford-Astrazeneca. If it had been the Russian or one of the Chinese vaccines, I probably would have declined the jab. But, it wasn't, and I bared my arm, despite what we now know of the British vaccine and its limitations. After all, all medications have limitations.

The reason the vaccination line slowed to a stop was the pace of the check-out process. It was deliberative. When all of the chairs in the area filled, the vaccinations stopped.

That is not a complaint. It is merely an observation. Because, overall, I am still amazed that this type of mass operation worked as efficiently as it did.

By the time I was released, I had spent just under four hours getting my first covid-19 vaccination.

While I was standing in line, I was interviewed by a woman with a camera asking me how I felt about Mexico's generosity in vaccinating people like me -- and not just native-born Mexican citizens. I told her that I was very grateful to the taxpayers of Mexico for their generosity, and that I was one of those taxpayers. I will probably end up in some Morena political ad.

It was a long day, but a productive day. All of my first-of-year payments are complete, and I may -- or may not -- have boosted my natural defenses against the virus.

To me, that is a good day in Mexico.  

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

knocking on steve's door

Home ownership is a mixed bag of benefits and responsibilities.

None of that is news to anyone who has owned a home -- from the first Neanderthal in his cave to the British Queen with her string of palaces.

When I moved to Mexico from Oregon, I swore I would never again own a house. I wanted to be free enough to pick up my bed and drive whenever the urge hit me. My rule was simple, I would not acquire any possessions that I could not load into my Escape on one hour's notice.

That plan worked well until I bought the house with no name in Barra de Navidad. The ink was barely dry on my fideicomiso with Bancomer when I started filling the house with art, books, and all kinds of kitchen gadgetry. All of that, of course, at the cost of my liberty and moral accountability.

I would vow to keep my life simple. Then I would turn around and accumulate some new stuff.

One of the most effective gadgets I bought was an electronic opener for my garage doors that was recommended by a fellow blogger in Pátzcuaro. I had seen a similar setup at his condominium where I have stayed a few times.

Prior to installing it, my SUV was dented when the wind would swing the doors into my fenders while I was driving into the garage. The electronic doors helped solve that annoyance back in 2016 (knocking on heaven's door).

Our coastal weather with its high temperatures and humidity accompanied by clouds of brine is not conducive to the well-being of electronics. When I lived on the beach, my computer died within four months. But the electronic doors have proved to be more resilient. Until this month.

A week ago, one of my twin garage doors decided to go on strike. One door would open, but the other was just as unresponsive as any golden retriever puppy I have owned.

The sole electronic method to open the doors is with a remote. One button opens one door. The other button opens both doors. No matter which button I pushed, only one door would open.

Using my Sherlockian reasoning, I concluded the motor that opened the east door had burned out. Occasionally, the synchronization of the doors goes amiss, and the doors close in opposite order. I thought that mishap could have been hard on the motor.

So, I steeled myself for a hefty repair bill.

Hugo, the owner of the company that installed the openers lives just one village over. He was at the house within an hour of calling him.

Hugo took the remote and tried one button. Only one door opened. He tried the other button -- and as is the way of these repair tales -- both doors opened. I would have felt embarrassed if I had not tried both buttons myself.

He laughed when I told him I had tried both buttons because, as he explained, the problem was not in the remote or the motor, but in the synchronization between the doors. So, he pulled out his screwdriver and ladder and spent the next two hours attempting to customize the synchronization of the closure.

Admittedly, Hugo, Ozzy (my friend who was helping me with the project), and I spent a healthy portion of the two hours talking about a stream of topics that would have made up an afternoon's news coverage on local television.

When Hugo was done, his requested fee was 200 pesos -- or about 10 US dollars. For two hours work. I padded it a bit with a tip. Our conversation was worth the total price.

Once again, I can easily move my car in and out of the house. 

Doors, for some reason, have always reminded me of the line between life and death. And how easily it is to step over the threshold of one into the other -- though I suspect the process only goes one way. Maybe that is why keeping my doors in operating order is an investment in my future.

It couldn't hurt.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

feliz el día del amor y la amistad

Today is 14 February.

For northerners, it is Valentine's Day. One of those days of the year when people in romantic relationships try to live out the ideal they wish the rest of the year would be.

For Mexicans, today is El Día del Amor y la Amistad. Same idea, but the broader concept of friendship is roped into the day.

So, no matter where you are, this is a little reminder that you still have time to do the right thing.

Oh, yes, and from me to all of you -- I hope you have both a pleasant Valentine's day and an even happier El Día del Amor y la Amistad.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

a mere shadow of itself

Speaking of signs --

Well, we were yesterday. And how the pentimento effect reflects a bit of local Mexican history (letting the hidden lamp shine through).

Since I returned from Oregon last month, I have been primarily camped out in my house with very few excursions into the surrounding world. Not because I am cosetting myself in a covid cocoon, but because I have not been feeling well enough to resume my walking regimen. A visit to my doctor has eventually set all of that right. Or, at least, better.

I felt well enough last evening to walk through central Barra de Navidad to see what effect the latest northern tourist evacuation has had on the town. It turns out that very little was changed. Most of the restaurants I encountered were partially filled -- if not completely filled. I had to wait for 45 minutes for a take-out order because I was number 21 on the list.

Even though the restaurants were doing a good business, there were very few people on the malecon watching the sunset. I suspect that was because we have been having some rather windy afternoons this week, and last evening was no exception. The sea was a flock of lambs' tails.

One sight, though, caused me to pause. A couple of years ago, Barra de Navidad installed an eponymous sign on the malecon to reflect local civic pride. Each of the letters was adorned with a painting of some object associated with Barra de Navidad.

It was colorful. It was imaginative. 
It was lit-up at night. It was loved.

Maybe loved a bit too much. Tourists insisted on climbing it to have their photographs taken while riding astride its giant letters.

The first blow was the vandalization of the lights. Then the heft of tourists and the continual brine bath had their effects on the letters. They began rusting and then disintegrating.

The inevitable soon happened. The sign was carted off to die with dignity in some dingey warehouse.

For months, the old base stood empty reminding us of more care-free days. Then, in the summer of 2019, the sign was replaced with a poor understudy (sign of our times -- and town). It was a bit like buying a ticket to hear Placido Domingo sing and discovering he had been replaced with Harpo Marx. That is the temporary sign at the top of the essay.

We were assured by the People Who Eternally Offer Assurance that if enough money could be shaken loose from contributors, the old sign would be repaired and returned.

Not surprisingly, the old sign has never been repaired. Instead, the temporary sign that was installed almost two years ago appears to be past its pull date. The familiar combination of climbers and brine have caused the heart to collapse.

If I were a sentimental sort or one of those writers enamored of symbolism, I would probably interpret the failing heart as a reflection of what is happening in these villages by the sea during The Days of The Plague. But that would simply be 

Even though I was sorry to see another sign give way to the inevitable fate we all face, I was on the malecon enjoying the setting sun, sea, and the reaassuring pleasure of just being alive in such a pleasant place.

That is what matters in the end. When the sign is eventually removed* (and it will be), Barra will still have all of the aspects that made me choose this place as my permanent home.

And sign or no sign, that is going to be good enough for me.

* -- I have one request for the people who may want to replace the sign. If you do, bring back the original sign. That English "I" in the temporary still jars me every time I see it, and I know I am not alone. Several Mexican friends have asked me why a Spanish sign is not on the malecon. If the heart sign is to be rehabilitated, simply replacing the "I" with a "Me" (for "Me encanta Barra") would be a simple and elegant solution.

Friday, February 12, 2021

letting the hidden lamp shine through

"Why can't things stay the same here? Every time I come down here, businesses have moved or closed."

I suspect those words are part of the national anthem of Seniorlandia. Old age and change are not natural dance partners.

In this case, they were part of a lunch conversation with an acquaintance who was about to depart on the Second Great Canadian Exodus. He was bemoaning the fact that so many of his favorite watering holes had closed or moved since he was here last year.

I thought the complaint was odd. Most of the places I regularly visit (Hawaii, Rooster's, Dra. Rubio) have been in the same place for as long as I have been here -- or nearly as long. But there are a lot of businesses that were in one location in 2009 and are now conducting trade somewhere else. For some, it has been several somewhere elses.

And then there are the numerous businesses that once were -- and now are no more. Just like many of the tourists who once came here, but who have permanently hung up their passports.

I was on my way to Men's Bible study this morning at Esmeralda's restaurant when I ran into the image jogger at the top of this essay. When I moved here, that wall formed part of the boundary of Ava's restaurant. It then became Esmeralda's restaurant before she moved a block away. It is now essentially a hole in the world of commerce.

The wall is the living embodiment of the intriguing phenomenon known in art as "pentimento." My university art history text defines it as "the presence or emergence of earlier images, forms, or strokes that have been changed and painted over."

"Pimiento" played an integral part in Season 3 of "The Crown" when the Queen used the term to subtly refer to Anthony Blunt, her Surveyor of the Queen's Paintings, who she had just discovered had been a communist spy while working at Buckingham Palace. "Well, I think I speak for everyone here 
when I say none of us will be able to trust or look at anything in the same way ever again."

There is something bittersweet about the way time has cut through the surface paint to restore messages from long-gone business operators to entice customers to enter and sample proffered wares.

And it is a reminder that no matter how we create an image of how we would like the world to see us, the person we truly are is always with us waiting for time to do its ultimate reveal.

The words the scriptwriter put in the Queen's mouth are a bit more blunt than mine: "Two different versions of the same person. 
Which might as well be two different people. The idealized version of themselves they want to be seen, and the less desirable person they really are, hidden away."

I am not certain the scriptwriter has it correct for most of us. The version of ourselves we hide may only be a less desirable version of their self in their own eyes. I suspect if we were just a bit more brave in allowing what we hide to be seen, we would discover that person may be far more interesting than the person we regularly trot out for public show.

Well, that is, of course, unless what is being hidden is a combination of Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Lizzie Borden. Some things are wisely left behind the curtain.

For most of us, though, adding a little bit of pentimento in our lives may be a good thing. Maybe, as interesting as that weathered wall on the corner.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

getting my travel on

I am David Niven. Or I would like to be.

Not the David Niven of Corporal Miller in The Guns of Navaronne or Major Pollock in Separate Tables. The David Niven I want to be is his role as Phileas Fogg in Around the World in Eighty Days.*

Very few things in life make me happier than traveling. I like waking up in a new place each day looking for things I have not yet done. The more exotic the better.

I have long considered taking a round-the-world cruise that would rival the adventure Jules Verne wrote for Phileas Fogg. There are plenty of cruises to choose from. One that interests me is a 104-night cruise on Cunard's Queen Mary 2 that is a less-than-around-the-world tour because it skips the Americas. I assume out of viral caution.

But I have never booked one of those cruises for two reasons. The first is cost. For a mid-level cabin on the Queen Mary 2, I would shell out almost $50,000 -- per person -- for those 104 nights.

Assuming that the cost factor could be overcome, there are the last two words of the prior sentence to deal with. "104 nights." That is a long time to be cooped up on a ship even if that ship is daily sailing to new exotic locations.

One of the side-effects of the various lockdowns that have been imposed upon us by ourselves or our governments is the erosion of critical thinking. That is a nice way of saying I think our isolation from human contact has driven a good portion of us howl-at-the-mood mad. And what has happened to my travel obsession is Exhibit A of virus-induced lunacy.

I have a friend in Morelia who shares my love of travel. A couple of months ago, she sent me an email during the height of our viral incarceration to let me know there are still travel joys to be had. The attached brochure was from TCS World Travel whose high- level tours I have drooled over in the past.

Like most travel addicts, I enjoy reading brochures of offered journeys. When I lived in England, I would pick up a handful of glossy folders at the travel agency on base and then spend a weekend looking at places I wanted to visit. One of the most tantalizing were the Silk Road tours that I could not take at the time because the countries involved were captives of communist Russia.

The specific TCS offer that my Morelia friend forwarded to me was a round-the-world trip leaving Fort Lauderdale this October. A mere eight months away. With nine stops on five continents (leaving out Europe and Antarctica). And here is the best part. Rather than 104 days on the Queen Mary 2, this trip would take only 24 days. A little more than three weeks.

Obviously, this trip is not on a cruise ship. But the concept is not far from it. Instead of a ship, the passengers are flown from place to place on a Boeing 757. And even though a 757 is built for 200 passengers, the TCS 757 carries only 48.

Each passenger has a fully-reclining seat, but that is primarily for resting. At each stop, the passengers stay in local hotels in Fort Lauderdale, Cusco, Machu Picchu, Easter Island, Fiji, the Great Barrier Reef, Angor Wat, the Taj Mahal, the Serengeti, Tanzania, Petra, and Marrakech.

If you are starting to see dollar signs rolling up on the tally board, you have been sucked into the current of my subtext. That is what happened to me.

Each time I would say, "This sounds great," my Scottish-Canadian self would respond: "What does it cost?" I would then say, "I have to take this trip," and I would hear the same brogue-heavy voice remonstrating, "Let's see the full price."

So, I made a deal with my dueling selves. I would scroll to the price page and take the trip if it did not cost more than -- well, the figure is not important, but it was far more than I had ever paid for any trip. Luxury or not.

Having my "buy figure" in mind, I opened the tab with the basic price. And here it is. $99,950. In US dollars. But that is not the full cost. Because I travel alone, a single supplement is tacked on. That would be another $9,995. Plus the cost of the tours at each stop.

The gap between the real price and what I was willing to pay would have bought me about 18 cruises. It made the Queen Mary 2 look like a bargain.

Not to be outdone, last week my Morelia friend sent me another email informing me she had the perfect trip for me. Once again it was from TCS. But this time, it included a tour of some of the Silk Road countries I have wanted to visit since the 1970s.

"Legends and Empires" includes visits to Vienna, Tirana, Bucharest, Tblisi, Oman, Athens, but most importantly Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. I could almost smell cinnamon in the markets and hear the communist Chinese belt and road initiative tightening around the necks of the folks in Tashkent.

Because I am just like Charlie Brown with the many Lucies in my life holding the football, I had great hope that this trip would be less expensive -- if only because there were only 7 stops in 18 days. But I am also silly enough to believe that the federal government will one day balance its budget.

As I say quite frequently: I was wrong, This trip was even more expensive. $119,950. With a $11,995 single supplement.

But the exercise was not without benefits. I did get to adjust my mind to what the future is going to offer. That there will be adventures to be hand. And, if I am going to dream, why not dream big?

In the not-too-distant future, all of us journey-starved travelers will be lined up like those settlers racing to claim land in Oklahoma. When the starter fires his pistol, we will be on our way to places exotic.

Until then, there are plenty of places here in Mexico that I can visit on day-trips. One of them is the fascinating archaeological site of Guachimontes with its circular "pyramids." 

I will certainly not need a Boeing 757 to get there. And it will not cost twice as much as the first house I bought in Oregon.

I suspect you will find the report on it more interesting than a trip to the Taj Mahal. Even though the Silk Road still calls to me. 

* -- I would be satisfied to play the Cantiflas role. 



Tuesday, February 09, 2021

where everyone knows your name

Running a restaurant is always a risky business.

Running a restaurant that caters to northerners during a viral infection is even riskier.

Before I moved to Barra de Navidad, I lived in Villa Obregon for six years. When I lived on the other side of the bay, I ate most of my meals in restaurants. Because I was new in town, I wanted to meet as many people as I could in a short period of time. Restaurants seemed to be a good place to start.

So, I frequented The Red Lobster, Froy's, La Rana, Scooby's, Rooster's, and El Patio on a regular basis. My first criteria in choosing places to eat was not the food. I could cook for myself. What I was looking for were proprietors and staff who were open to conversation and who were willing to share their perspectives with me. 

I suppose what I was looking for was a living version of the attitude embedded in the "Cheers" theme song. You know:

Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name
And they're always glad you came
One of my go-to guys back back then was Aaron. Even though he was young, he was a fellow Oregonian. That gave us a basis to start conversations. He also had a parade of interesting tales to share.

In the summer of 2009, he was running a bar-restaurant above a pharmacy on the plaza in San Patricio -- where the Santa Rosa disco is now located. But he had big plans of opening his own place. Complete with a brick oven to bake wood fire pizzas.

The pizza idea soon fell off of the plans, but he did open his own place -- and a business compound complete with bungalows. He and his newly-acquired wife Juliana named the restaurant side of the business La Oficina.

It soon became one of my regular stops. Juliana prepared pleasant pub food dishes (both sandwiches and full meals) and they both played charismatic hosts to their primarily northern patrons. Live music was an additional draw -- for other customers.

When I moved to Barra de Navidad, I stepped out of the restaurant circuit for two reasons. The first was health-related. I wanted to start eating better. A constant barrage of restaurant dining was having obvious effects on my Alfred Hitchcock shadow.

The second reason was the architect-designed kitchen in my new house. The kitchen was supposed to be hers -- and it had that look. Both attractive and efficient. It was a far more pleasant place to spend time than in a restaurant dining room.

As most of you already know, the vast majority of northern visitors to Navidad Bay are Canadian. Last year, at the request of their government, a large portion of them left early. That left businesses who depend on their custom short of revenue.

This year, far fewer tourists returned to the area because of the virus. Once again, the Canadian government has urged its citizens home with some rather draconian measures if they do not return soon. A lot have. Once again, businesses reliant on northern trade are feeling the pinch.

I decided to visit Aaron and Juliana last week to get a feel for what is happening with their business. (I had already talked with three other restaurant owners who have seen a drastic drop-off in revenue -- even those restaurants who have successfully attracted Mexican tourists. Mexican tourism is down, as well.) It was obvious that La Oficina was feeling the same pinch. I was the sole customer the afternoon I visited.

The food was as good as it always is. Better yet, my conversations with Aaron and Juliana picked up as if we had seen one another the day before. In an attempt to diversify, Juliana has developed a series of condiments and dressings customers can take home to use in their kitchens.

I suppose the virus is at the crux of the empty restaurant syndrome. There are still quite a few northerners in town who have decided they would prefer to ride out the virus here rather in their home countries. But "riding out the virus" tends to keep a person housebound.

Here is my suggestion, and it is worth every centavo you have paid for it. By nature, I would prefer staying home whether or not there is a virus riding herd on our immunity. It is my way.

But, I have forced myself to get up and out of the house to meet new people and to talk with people I have known for years. That means visiting restaurants I have not been to for some time. I intend to do that. And to spend generously.

If you are not inclined to eat at your favorite dining spots, most restaurants are now providing take-out service. That may be a better option for you. Personally, I prefer dining out. I would rather cook than eat take-out.

My point is that there are plenty of good eating places in the area. If you have enjoyed those restaurants, either pay a visit or, if you wish to avoid contact with other people, order a meal to take home or to eat at the beach. You will enjoy it -- and the owners will appreciate your business.

And, I suspect, wherever you go, everybody will know your name.

Monday, February 08, 2021

meet tomás

Let's call him Tom.

Or, better yet, considering where he lives, let's call him Tomás.

One of the joys of living in Mexico is being awakened in the morning, not by city noises, but by the trumpeting of fighting cocks, honking geese, and gossiping hens from the lot across the street. A couple of months ago, a new voice was heard in the land.

Initially, I thought the neighbors had captured a chachalaca. But the call was not quite right. It sounded more like a turkey's gobble. For good reason. It was.

He was not the first turkey I have seen gracing a farmyard in Mexico. Even though they are not in every yard (like chickens), they are not rare. What is rare, at least, in this part of Mexico, is whole turkeys on sale at the many village butcher shops here. Not even, turkey parts. There are plenty of chickens,, but no turkeys on offer.

There is a bit of irony in that -- considering the history of domesticated turkeys. A lot of our foods were developed by the pre-Columbian tribes in Mexico. They were the first to develop the big three -- corn, tomatoes, and long chilies. Turkeys were also one of their accomplishments.

When the Spanish arrived, they stole and took home a lot of silver and gold. But they also took all of those exotic foods to Europe. It took time for corn and tomatoes to catch on, but turkeys were an immediate hit -- probably because the Europeans were already familiar with eating game birds.

From the early 1500s, the Spanish king decreed that a minimum number of turkeys would be required for import in each ship that sailed from Mexico to the Old World, and with the help of the imperial Portuguese, turkeys, chilies, and tomatoes soon became common on each of the world's continents.
Mexican tribes had been domesticating and eating the two species of wild turkeys indigenous to Mexico since at least 800 BC. Most of the tribes consumed what is commonly known as the North American wild turkey. But the Maya domesticated the far more colorful ocellated turkey found only in the areas that were once part of their city-state "empire:" the Yucatán Peninsula, Belize, and Guatemala. 
Tomás's head betrays an ocellated background. 

Both the Aztec and the Maya prized turkeys, not only for their meat, but for their feathers. When the Spanish saw toms in full strut, they named the turkey for the only other bird that had a similar look: the peacock. Pavo is still the most common word used for the bird -- even though it is not uncommon to hear Mexicans refer to the birds as guajolote, the Spanish transliteration of the Nahuatl word used by the Aztec.

Those imported turkeys quickly made their way to England where they became common enough that a flock of them were thrown into the hold of the Mayflower 1n 1620 on its voyage to Massachusetts -- only 100 years after the first turkey set foot in Spain. Not only had the pilgrims ended up in a land where they had not intended to land, they also had not planned well on their choice of fowl provisions. 

In comparison with the flocks of hefty wild turkeys that were there for the shooting, the European breed was a rather weedy lot. But the domesticated turkeys were retained just in case. Some of them were the forbearers of the domesticated turkeys that eventually became common as celebratory birds on American holiday tables in the 19th century.

That brings us back to poor Tomás. He has no turkey hens of his own. His only companions are chickens and ducks. That may explain why he is constantly puffed up.

But he does have a role. If any of you have ever encountered a tom wild turkey, you will know they are quite aggressive and will chase and attack any person silly enough to ruin from them.

My neighbors have funneled that aggression into a role for Tomás. He is the watchdog of the flock. Whenever, I get near his charges, he fluffs himself up like an angry cat to let me know that he is not a mere feather duster; he is cock of the walk.

He is wise enough to know that his ancestors were gobbling around the Mexican landscape while my relatives were still coming out of Africa, and I need to recall my place in his social hierarchy.

I do not know what his eventual fate will be. I should ask my neighbors if he is destined to be dinner some fine Easter -- or if he will simply live out his days as The Shepherd of Chickens and Exotic Alarm Clock.          

Friday, February 05, 2021

second statutory holiday of the year

OK, class. Put your books under your chairs, take out a pencil and a piece of paper, and get ready for your morning quiz.

Ready? Today is one of Mexico's statutory holidays. What is the holiday? And why is it not being celebrated today?

If you answered Constitution Day, you are correct. It was celebrated last Monday. We will get to that in a moment.

For all of its civic holidays and religious fiestas, Mexico has only seven federal statutory holidays (eight in a presidential election year). Constitution Day (Día de la Constitución) is one of the Lofty Seven.*

And even though it does not have the cachet of the big holidays like Independence Day and Revolution Day, it is a very important historical day. It is the day Mexicans celebrate the Constitution of 1917.

Until 2006, It was celebrated on the anniversary of the day the Constitutional Convention approved the Constitution on 5 February 1917. Since 2006, the day is celebrated on the first Monday of February -- guaranteeing workers a paid holiday. And something the current president wants to change (
strike three).

The Constitution of 1917 is the document that enshrined the political and social accomplishments of the Mexican Revolution, and was the first national constitution that stated the positive rights that the government must provide its citizens rather than negative rights protecting the citizens from the actions of the government.

As an example, Article 26 provides: "
The State will encourage the development of democracy which will support economic growth." That is classified as a positive right.

In contrast, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution limits governmental action. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." 
It is classified as a negative right.

The revolution itself was the most important event in Mexico's history. It finally answered the question what type of country Mexico was and what being a Mexican meant. The 1917 Constitution provides some answers.

As is true of all revolutions, there were winners and losers at the 1917 constitutional convention in Santiago de Querétaro. (The photograph at the top of this essay is of the delegates swearing their allegiance to the new constitution with that somewhat unnerving Roman salute. The same photograph also appears on the reverse side of the 100-peso note commemorating the centennial of the constitution.)

The big losers at the convention were 1) the Mexican Catholic Church that lost almost all of its power and property that had not yet been seized by the government during President Juarez's reforms, 2) the owners of large estates who saw the land taken for land reform -- or to enhance the wealth of revolutionary generals, and 3) the foreigners (British, Canadians, and Americans, primarily) who owned most of Mexico's mines and infrastructure.

The Constitution discarded the earlier concept espoused by liberals like President Benito Juárez that government should take only a limited, passive role. The new national government now had an obligation to take the lead in promoting the social, economic, and cultural well-being of its citizens. 

The Constitution was so admired by both the Weimar Republic and revolutionary Russia that both nations used the Mexican Constitution of 1917 as a model for their own. Of course, neither of those documents or governments turned out to be very successful.

These provisions may give you an idea what its framers intended for Mexico's future.

  • Restricted participation in political affairs to citizens of the Republic

  • Provided that "National benefit" would be a limitation on private contracts and property

  • Established a system of free, mandatory, and secular education -- restricting another traditional role performed by the Catholic church

  • Set up the foundations for land reform through the ejido system

  • Declared all mineral resources in the subsoil belonged to the state

  • Provided for labor rights -- minimum wages, right to strike, and freedom to join a union

  • Placed ownership of all property in the hands of the state and restricted foreign ownership of property near borders or on the coast ("Private property is a privilege created by the nation")

  • Increased the restrictions on the Catholic church beyond those of Juarez's constitution -- including the seizure of church buildings

  • Empowered the government to expropriate property -- from the hacienda owners, and particularly property owned by foreigners

  • Prohibited the reelection of any official -- especially, the president

  • Guaranteed the right of persons to own firearms in their homes

  • Established social security, public health, and welfare systems 

The Constitution has been amended almost 150 times since it was enacted -- one of the most recent removed the prohibition of officials to seek reelection. The only elected official in Mexico who cannot seek reelection now is the president. That makes sense because the issue of presidential reelection was one of the primary triggering events of the revolution.

So, that is why there were so many tourists in town last weekend -- though not as many as usual. Most were celebrating this major step in the development of the Mexican state just as Americans celebrate the Fourth of July or Canadians celebrate Canada Day -- by lugging the family to the beach for good food and a lot of sand.

And I suspect there may be some traditionalists who will do the same thing today -- on the anniversary of the day when the constitution of 1917 was actually approved. 

Feliz cumpleaños, señor Constitución.

* -- The others are New Year's Day, Benito Juárez's Birthday, Labor Day, Independence Day, Revolution Day, and Christmas Day.