Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Walking and Jogging in Merida

I have been an avid runner for almost my entire life. I played soccer all the way through college so it was a part of my training regimen before it became my main source of adult exercise. I have literally run thousands of miles in my lifetime so I am going to give you my personal feedback on a couple of  important variables to search out in order to continue in your exercise regimen here in Merida.

Location and Safety.  I find this to be the biggest challenge for those who move here to Merida and want to continue in their normal walking or running routines. I live in Montes De Ame and I have found a stretch of well paved undeveloped road that runs for a straight mile east and west. It sits directly between Colonia Montes de Ame and City Center Mall/Wal Mart just inside the Preferico on the northern side of town. The set up of this road is perfect for anyone because you can structure your walk or run to go various miles with no problem. It is almost like they built the street with that purpose in mind.

I can't speak for every area of the city but depending on where you move you are going to have to look for an area like I found that suits your needs. The area I am referring to is very safe. I often see dozens of people out walking after dark, including women an older couples. I don't think safety is an issue in that respect as far as crime. Safety from moving traffic is another issue altogether. When I was in college I was hit by a vehicle head on while out running one day. Fortunatley for me the vehicle had just moved from a stopped position and amazingly I was never knocked off my feet. But I will tell you that since then I have never trusted drivers when I am out jogging. You need to find an area that keeps you safely away from vehicles and other forms of transportation, especially city buses. The city bus drivers seem to drive faster than anyone. FYI. 
Estadio Salvador Alvarado

I have also noticed a few more areas of town that seem to be used quite a bit for walking/running. Estadio Salvador Alvarado is very much used by the locals for walking, running, playing basketball and other assorted activities. It is located on Calle 60 just south of Costco. I have never run there becaue of it's location and I also don't like to jog on tracks. I get bored and lose count of my mileage. But I do know that this facility is always hopping when the weather is good.

Paseo de Montejo is incredibly scenic and great for walking if you can make it accessible on a regular basis. It is more towards the center of town (Centro) so if you like to limit your driving then you probably wouldn't want to make the effort to get there for this reason. Others may feel differently. To me this stretch of road is a large component of what makes Merida so appealing. It's absolutely beautiful and historic in every way.

Paseo de Montejo
The Beach. The most enjoyable run I ever had was on the beach in Cozumel when I was 25 years old. Full on downpour of rain, cool and agressive winds, empty streets, sand, surf....It was awesome. I'll never forget it. You will see quite a few people taking walks or runs down the beach in Progresso or Chelem. It's a great place to get out and just go for it. All beaches are public domain so have at it.

Time of Day and Humidity. As I have mentioned in previous posts, my home state is Texas. I was born and raised in the northern part of the state where the climate ranges from very cold to extremely hot throughout the year. I always thought Texas had it's fair share of humidity until we moved to Merida and found out what humidity is all about. To me there is simply no way to describe it.

We did not have one good rainfall to speak of for the first five months of this year and yet it still felt humid every single day. This type of environment affects when and how much you can exercise outside, more so that in other parts of the world. I took a 3 week business trip to Texas back in July. It was over 110 degrees Fahrenheit almost every day I was there. And I still ran 4 or 5 times a week. In fact, compared to the Yucatan, the humidity felt so low to me in Texas after living in Merida for a year that I was able to tolerate the heat and run in it until at least 11AM every day.

You simply cannot do that in Merida from April to August. In fact, I find you also can't run on some days very early in the morning in those months because there is almost no wind to speak of. If you are going to walk and run in this humidity you have to have winds to offset the water loss that your body endures. I have discovered that there is a window between about 8:45 AM and 10:00 AM where the temps are lower and the winds are starting to whip up on most days. That is when you go run. Otherwise you need to wait until the cooler parts of the evenings from April through August because there is simply to much moisture in the air. 

This is also the first place I have ever lived where I carried water bottles with me while running. I freeze two water bottles the night before and I run with them in my hands. After about 2 miles they are completely melted and ready to consume. The downside to this is by the time I get home I am so soaked that I am ringing out my shirt and changing my clothes. It's simply that humid here.

As a side note, most colonias in Merida have their own parks. Small parks are a great place to walk but not so much for running. Parks here are smaller as compared to the U.S. Also, the Altabrisa area has some longer stretches of road with good side-walks for safety between their housing developments. I have noticed that around Altabrisa mall you will see some of what I am talking about, specifically to the west and north of that area.

Hope this helps.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


I know there are exceptions to every rule. But it has been many people's experience here that Mexican Landlords don't know how to function with a proper business mindset. To be more specific, they are sometimes unreasonable, greedy and hard-headed.

I know an American who has lived here in Merida for 11 years. He has lived here the entire time in the same rented home with his wife and four sons. When they first rented the property many years ago the home had been unoccupied for a few years. It was full of bats, scorpions, spiders and even some snakes. They rented the home for $600 monthly. They cleaned it out, fumigated it, installed new windows and screens, installed their own appliances in the kitchen (including the stove), poured a concrete extension onto the drive-way so they could park two cars, installed a privacy gate on the drive-way, installed a hot water heater, installed an additional laundry area/maid's quarters, installed their own a/c units, repainted the house inside and out, re-landscaped the backyard ......the list goes on.

And after doing all of this work themselves, after paying for all repairs and upgrades themselves with the landlord's full consent, after paying rent faithfully for over ten years and never once missing a payment or being late......the landlord kept their deposit when they moved out in June because.....a door was not shutting properly inside the house. She kept a $600 deposit and used a squeaky door as an excuse, even after my friends basically remodeled the entire house.

Don Adams in his book "Head for Mexico" talks about this tendency amongst Mexican landlords. In his book he makes the statement that if you or anyone you know has ever rented in Mexico and they actually got their deposit back, write him and let him know because he swears he has never heard of it happening. And he has lived here most of his adult life.

By the way, this is a good book. If you are considering moving to Mexico I recommend you buy it.

As for my own personal experience, up to this point I have had a pretty good relationship with my landlord. The only hiccup occured about 2 weeks ago. I was in the U.S. for a business trip the last three weeks of July and my wife called me and told me that our water had stopped running. I had a pretty good idea what the problem was. Most houses have a cistern underneath that holds about 200 liters of water along with a 100 liter water tank on top of the house. Your water pressure in your home is determined by gravity. When the water tank on top of the house gets low your water pump kicks on and takes water from the cistern below your house and sends it upward. The water tank on top has a sensor in it, much like your toilet, that is connected electronically to your water pump. When it gets full it shuts off the water pump and you are good to go.

Last year this sensor went out on my water tank within a month of moving in. So my landlord fixed it. This year, when it started to malfunction she told me it was my responsibility to get a plumber to fix it along with paying for all the needed parts. In her mind she reasoned that this was routine maintenance and I contractually was responsible for all maintenance. This really is a grey area because in my mind it is part of the overall plumbing system which she agrees she is always responsible for. So she is willing to force me to handle this and pay for the whole thing and she thinks this is good for our relationship. Now I have been paying my rent on time, by the grace of God, and yet she is willing to test our relationship.

In my mind this isn't maintenance. Yet it isn't spelled out in the contract and falls within a grey area. Yet this is how "most" Mexican landlords think after they get comfortable in their relationship with you. I have owned rental property before in Texas and the one thing I have learned is that renters can pose enough problems without making them mad renters. If you make them mad then, if they had any inclination in the first place to take care of the property, then they just stop doing so and can really get rough with the house.

My advice....if you come down here and rent....know what to expect.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Electric Bills

My home state in the U.S. is Texas. Per this website (Click Here), the average electrical rate for the first 1000 Kilowatt hours used from a Texas electrical provider will cost you about $.10 cents per kilowatt hour. In Mexico the first 900 kilowatt hours for a private residence will run you about $.07 cents per KWH. Electricity is cheaper to use in Mexico as long as you keep it below 900 KWH's. This is easy to do if you don't have A/C. But it is difficult to live here without A/C if you live inland in Merida or on the cities outskirts. And A/C usage is what makes up about 75% of your electrical bill here.
  • Note to the Reader: If you live on the beach then you almost never need A/C. It is always 10 to 15 degrees cooler on the beach. The air that blows off the coastal waters are consistently brisk and carry with them lower temperatures that are always welcome.
The rate hike per KWH hours after your first 900 KWH's is what will get you on your electric bill in Mexico. After 900 KWH's the rate jumps over three times to 2.529 pesos per KWH hour. In dollars that runs about $.21 cents per KWH, over three times the amount charged for the first 900 hours. And we find that when we use our A/C's from April to September we end up using about another 1400 KWH's per billing cycle. That's an additional $150 USD per month.

Now electric bills are paid here every 2 months, not every month. So you only get 6 bills per year. But your bill can run you $500 USD or more, depending on your electric usage, for a span of 2 months.

Now here is another kicker. Every bill that you receive from CFE has a government discount that runs about 25% of your bill on average. That is a good thing. You get this discount as long as you use less than 850 KWH's per month for the past 12 months. That means that if on your electric bill you averaged less than 1700 KWH's per bill (remember you are billed every two months), then you get this roughly 25% discount from the government. However, if you start to average more than 1700 KWH's of usage for the past 12 months then you lose this discount on your next bi-monthly bill. And you will continue to miss out on this discount on all future bills until you cut back on your consumption to get your previous 12 month rolling average back below 1700 KWH's of usage per bill.

Does that make sense? In other words, make sure you average less than 1700 KWH's per every 2 months for the last 6 bills you received. From October to March this is not a problem. But from April to September it gets very hot and humid. And if you live inland and you are home alot it is difficult to enjoy your day when you are sweating all the time.

On our last bill we went over the 1700 KWH average for the year and hit an average of 1735 KWH per billing cycle. When we got the bill it was for roughly $700 USD. The highest bill we had every paid was for April/May of this year for $525 USD. When we saw the June/July bill we were hitting the brakes trying to figure out what was happening. In response to this I have since found that some Mexican families actually sleep in the same room during the hotter months so they can run only one A/C to offset these expenses.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Mexican Economy

Financially speaking, Mexico is still very much a two tier system of the rich and poor. Don't believe it when you hear about emerging markets in Mexico, Central and South America. You can't have emerging markets when the people are overtaxed, poorly paid and only the rich can afford manufactured goods made in plants both domestically and abroad.

Here are some basic facts about the Mexican Economy:
  • Minimum Wage is roughly $.80 cents USD per hour.
  • There are no overtime laws regulating how much you can work an employee.
  • Sales Tax for all over the counter retail purchases is 16% (IVA).
  • Income Tax is set at a flat rate of 30% of all net profits that a business earns. There are no itemized deductions per what I have been told.
  • Most goods and services offered at major retailers cost anywhere from 20% to 300% more than they do in the states. A bicycle with 26 inch wheels that sells at Wal Mart in the U.S for $100 USD costs at least $200 to $300 USD in Mexico. Hardware items, clothing, baby items, domestics, electronics, auto name it and it almost always costs more to buy in Mexico versus the U.S. Shocking isn't it?
  • It is estimated that roughly 80% of all goods manufactured in Mexico are shipped to the U.S. to be sold. So what happens if the U.S. currency continues to lose value and more jobs outsourced my U.S. based multinational corporations?
Some of this lack of income is offset in Mexican homes by family members who immigrate to the U.S. and work. I read a report recently which stated that in 2007 alone, Mexican citizens received wire transfers totalling $25 Billion USD from Mexican family members living in the United States and abroad. That is alot of  money that is being expatriated back into the Mexican financial system. This financial supplementation coming from up north won't last forever.

You can't grow an economy when you don't pay it's citizenry to do it's work. If you don't pay people then they simply don't have money to spend. And if people don't have money to spend they look for other ways to survive like committing crimes or immigrating illegally to countries with more job opportunities.

To compensate for the lack of money to drive discretionary spending, large retailers like Costco, Sam's/Wal Mart and Home Depot make credit very easy to attain here. Otherwise they wouldn't be able to sell much of what they do. Sound Familiar? That's what has been happening the the U.S. for the past 20+ years. Somewhere it is written that "the worker is worth his wage." When wages are poor then you severely limit the emergence of a middle class. That has been my observation at least.


Mexico has no plans to allow a middle class to emerge. If they did they would lose control over the people