Sunday, July 24, 2011

New Driving Rules In Merida

Yucatan’s legislature passed a new law in February 2011, with a set of rules that takes a mere 288 pages to describe. A brief scan of Yucatan’s new "Rules of the Road" offers definitions of cars, passengers, pedestrians, underpasses, and even fire hydrants, with additional sections on who is allowed to install topes, what you are supposed to keep in your Emergency Road Kit, approved types of cellular phone usage and another 250 or so odd pages on baby seats, helmets, insurance requirements, emissions testing and drug testing. We now have laws governing everything from "no red lights on top of your car" to the red lights required for night-time use as part of your emergency kit, and from fire extinguishers to fines based on one-hundred times the Minimum Wage.

There is even a whole section on the special officers in Bright Yellow Vests who will help guide us through the first 180 days of Yucatan’s plan for implementing the key points of the new road rules, in what looks to be a lifetime’s worth of Spanish-English translations of legalese.

Where The Rubber Meets The Road Rules

So what we all want to know is the nitty gritty, the details, where the rubber meets the road (especially this one!), where the tough get going while the meek go home, whether to run with the big dogs or stay on the porch, to be or not to be… yes, there are a lot of questions, and that is only one of them.

After reading it through, we think this is the bottom line: There are so many details in this 288-page law that it staggers the mind to imagine any single article like this one that could accurately and completely describe and condense what may be as many as 4,050 details that are catalogued here.

Frankly, there are so many requirements and miniscule details covering Peritos (the name for the special police officer that comes out to investigate auto accidents. These officers are specially trained and work for SSPPE del Gobierno del Estado de Yucatan) to peatones (pedestrians), that Yucatecan officers could study for a year to learn just one half of the rules they are supposed to enforce. Not to mention that it could take a decade to get a state full of laid-back Yucatecans to comply.

Read more here

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Merida in the News Again!

Today Yahoo ran an article listing Merida as one of the better places to live and retire abroad. In case you didn't see it you can CLICK HERE to read the article. I agree with the basic summary written on Merida, including the ability for a retired couple to live on $1,700 per month. This is especially true if you own your own home. If not, prepare to live in the city in a small to mid-size home or apartment in order to meet that budget.

Just as a side note, it doesn't surprise me that Merida made the list. Not only is Merida deserving in it's own right but I know some of the principle contributors for International Living live in Merida. Someone from IL was consulted for the article.


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Protests in Merida

Merida is very much known for it's tranquility and easy going atmosphere. With that said, we are starting to see some protesting leading to some violence over an approved public renovation project to one of the glorietas on the main road of Prolong Montejo. The proposed improvements would take the glorieta near the north of the city from this:

To This:

Apparently the city has allocated roughly $5,000,000.00 USD for this project and while I don't know whether it is a fair price, I can tell you that I don't like driving through this glorieta. It is always conjested except for 5AM in the morning. They really need to redo this thing. Apparently some residents want to see the money spent on other things like better parks and other public works. For a more detailed article on the unfolding demonstrations surrounding this CLICK HERE.


Choose Your Neighbors Carefully!

One thing you need to consider when coming down to buy or rent a home in Merida is your neighbors. Mexico can be a very loud place. For starters, people here run on a different schedule from Canadians and Americans. That means they don't get going in the day until around 8AM, they don't eat lunch until 1 or 2PM and they don't eat dinner until around 9PM. This means some people also stay up later here in Mexico on a regular basis.

Add that with the fact that everything here is made out of concrete, tile, steel and stone and you have sound waves just bouncing off of every house, fence and man-made structure of every kind. That means the guy 2 blocks over who decides to play his stereo until 2 AM can sound like he lives next door to you.

Also add all of this with the fact that alot of construction here in Centro and in most middle-class home developments have homes that connect to each other. That means your exterior walls, at times, are the exterior walls of your neighbors house, either on one side or both. I share an exterior wall with one of my next door neighbors. He is a major socialite from a wealthy family in Tabasco. Although we get along, at least on the surface, he functions on a different time clock than we do because he is self-employed and also family-funded if you know what I mean.

With all of this in mind....if you are choosing a home to rent or buy.....look at the construction and see if your potential home connects to your neighbors home. If you see that it is, and you have your heart set on a place, I would ask around and see if the neighbors are old or young, married or not married. Take a good look at the area, not just the home. If you know someone here who knows the area, take them to dinner on a Friday or Saturday night and have them take you to the home you are looking at and visit the neighborhood at night. See how loud the area is. Although this may not tell you exactly how things are, at least you can see if the area is generally tranquil or not.

My advice would be to try and find a home with either older neighbors or families around you. Even in Mexico these demographic groups tend to go to bed earlier and "keep it down" if you know what I mean. The other option is to buy something outside the Preferico where the population is less concentrated. But if peace and quiet is not important to you....well....don't worry about it. As for me and my family....we like to get our sleep. Vibrating walls is not something I particularly enjoy.


Sunday, July 3, 2011

Some Demographics of the Yucatan

Sociology is defined as the study of a society. Demographics refers to the specific characteristics of that society. With that understood, the sociological makeup and the characteristics of the Yucatan are fairly easy to break down. As I have seen it over the past year, based on personal experience and many conversations with a variety of people, the following three groups can be found in the Yucatan:

Yucatecos. These are people who are born and raised in the state of Yucatan. When they speak Spanish they do so with their own accent. They also infuse some Mayan vocabulary into their Spanish. Their food tastes different from the rest of Mexico with many distinct flavor profiles. In public they are not overly expressive. They can be quiet and reserved in their social manners. Overall, they are a distinct, unique people. They are very proud....sometimes too proud. Most of the time they do not consider themselves Mexicans. They are Yucatecos first, Mexicans second (maybe). They are very close knit....a very tight community of people.

Yucatecos can be further broken down into two ethnic groups: Mayans and Spaniards (Whites.) Mayans are of deep, rich Mayan heritage. They look different and in many rural areas still speak the Mayan language. Sometimes they look almost Asian in appearance. The whites, as it has been explained to me, are those Yucatecos that are more of Spanish (Spain) heritage. They can at times have very fair skin and could pass for being either Europeans or Americans. I have stood at the park while my kids were playing  and listened to Mayan children tell non-Mayan Yucatecos the following words: Somos Mayos. (Translation:We are Mayans.) Where did those Mayan kids get that mindset from? Obviously someone at home is reinforcing that paradigm with them. I am not saying all of them are like that. I am saying it is out there.

And as it applies to our family.....the Yucatecos here have treated us well. I am not saying people haven't had bad experiences here. I am saying that we have had alot of Grace in our relational dealings with them and we are grateful to God for that.

Mexicans (Non-Yucatecos). Many Mexicans from outside the Yucatan are seeking to move here because of the relative tranquility and perceived stability of the state as compared to the rest of Mexico and Latin America. My wife and I have heard many times from Mexicans that have moved here that it takes a long time for them to be accepted by the Yucatecos, if at all. Many of our close friends here are from Mexico City. Most say the same thing: It took a long time for them to be accepted by a few and they are still rejected by many. I find many of the Mexicans from Tabasco, Mexico City, Veracruz and other areas to be extremely easy to get along with. Many of them speak English. Many of them have lived in the United States for periods of time.

Expats. I guess you can put just about anyone not in the previous two groups in this category. It appears to me that about 98 or 99% of all expats here are either from Canada or the United States. Expats have the stigma of being wealthy, even if you are not. If you move here as an expat then every Mexican and Yucateco you meet will think your rich just because you are from North of the Border....even if you tell them you are not.

On another note I find that Expats are more accepted by the Yucatecos than non-Yucateco Mexicans. Even the Mexicans will tell you that. A Yucateco will, more often than not, befriend an American before a Mexican from another part of Mexico. However, we are also seeing that the younger generations are more accepting of those from the outside than their parents were. Some of this Yucateco stubbornness towards others is starting to wear down. It seems that way to me. Many of the Spanish Yucatecos are raising their kids to speak English. There are alot of private-education, bilingual schools in Merida. Therefore they have to encourage their children to be more accepting of English speaking people.

And as for expats......I'm an American and yet I find that most of the Canadians, at times, are easier to talk to than some of the Americans. Canadians seemed to be better informed about the ills of Socialist Government. Most Canadians that I have met are extremely well educated and have a better grasp of the current failings of the American financial and political system than many Americans do. Not to say many Americans here don't. We have American friends here who do. It's just that Canadians seem to have a grasp of things more consistently for some reason. I have enjoyed meeting and spending time with many of them.

The number of expats in the Yucatan runs around 5,000 people or so. Most are retired and over 50 years of age. Many live either in Centro or up at the beach in and around Progresso, Chelem or Chixclub. Some are scattered around the Northern colonias of the city. Few if any live in the south. Most are retired. Many are wealthy. Some move here and get involved with the culture. Some do not. Some choose to learn Spanish. Some do not and instead stay secluded.

That's my take after a year. I don't know everything and am seeking to understand more. But after hearing the same things come out of the mouths of so many people you kind of start to get a feel for trends. You start connecting the dots. Again, I don't like to make blanket judgments and I try to deal with each person on an individual basis. These are just general observations that don't always apply to every Yucateco, non-Yucateco Mexican or Expat.


Friday, July 1, 2011

Our First Year Here

Yesterday, June 30th, marked our one-year anniversary for living in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico. I hope you are finding many of the posts useful. In many ways, as I keep blogging about our lives here, I am trying to let the dust settle in my mind so I can understand the overall culture of Mexico and specifically the Yucatan and it's people. You see both similarities and variations between the country of Mexico and the overall culture of the U.S. in the following areas:
  • Psychologically
  • Sociologically
  • Education
  • Economic
  • Government and Law
  • Health Care and Medicine
  • Public Works and Utilities
  • Food, Arts and Entertainment
  • Expats and Immigration
  • Religion
  • Geography and Weather
  • The Future
I believe many of my perceived similarities and variations will apply equally at times to the Canadian culture, European culture and many other countries and their respective cultures around the world. I am an American by birth so I am limited in scope and vision on some of these things. Therefore, if you find my viewpoints limited please do not take offense. In upcoming posts I am going to try and write a little bit about  each one of these areas according to what we as a family have seen since we have been here. Stay tuned. I hope you enjoy them.