Back in the early 1990s, Henri, a French friend, visited me in Salem.
The one thing I remember most about his visit was his amazement at the number of "For Sale" signs in front of houses. He asked me if there had been some terrible financial collapse. Back home in Paris, seeing a house for sale was a rarity. The French are (or, at least, were) a people of place. Where else could Martin Guerre's obsession with land make sense?*
Not so, Americans. They move an average of 11.7 times during their lifetime. Almost 10% of the population moves each year. When my French friend was in Salem, almost 20% of Americans moved each year.
I do not know how many times an average Mexican pulls up stakes and moves. I do know that there are plenty of "For Sale" signs in the area where I live, though. And some of them are quite creative.
There is a house in San Patricio on the closest street that parallels the beach. It is surrounded primarily by hotels and restaurants. I suspect it is the beach house for a family who does not live locally. People are occasionally there, but not often.
Yesterday, I noticed a "For Sale" sign on the fence. And it is not your run-of-the-mill sign.
A lot of businesses here print up signs on canvas that are filled with colorful images. They probably come from the same printer who publishes the maps and charts for my History of Mexico lecture series.
The sign on the fence is particularly imaginative. It contains the usual information of lot size. 25 meters by 25 meters, in this case. But it also includes someone's dream of how the property might be used -- as a four-story hotel complete with an Oxxo on the ground level. That seems a bit ambitious for a 25 X 25 lot.
But the lot next door may also be available. Until recently, the house on that lot was the home of Dora -- the woman who helps me clean my house. I knew that she had been forced to move to allow the lot owners to bulldoze the house and scrape the property clean.
I have not heard what may be placed on that property. But, because it is next door to the Oxxo-in-my-dreams lot, someone may have grand plans for both.
Maybe I should contact Henri to see if he wants to set down his French roots by owning a Mexican hotel?
* -- Working on the land that we're born to live for
Loving for the land, it is where we're blessed
Dying for the land, it is where we rest
Land to last, as it's passed, man to son
When it's done as planned, then we'll pray it will stay as good Catholic land