My first trip to Mexico was in the early 1980s and I admit there were a few things I noticed back then that still bring a smile today. Why would someone do that? How did that ever slip by? Life would be so much easier if they just did…
Sick and Unwanted Animals: The first thing I remember from my early trips were the mange- and parasite-infested animals. It all starts with unwanted animals simply producing more unwanted animals. A Puerto Vallarta vet reminded us many years later, that in Mexico, an animal is considered old at 5-6 years. That was not very heartwarming as he was holding our 20 year old Siamese cat. As flea and tick medications were expensive, very few animals were treated, and the animals are forced to live outside anyhow, so no harm. Today, with the JBAR Spay and Neuter Clinics underway, our patients enjoy a month or so without parasites. We have even heard local restaurant owners comment that fewer stray animals show up begging these days.
Cobblestone Streets, Topes and Vibradores: The toll taken on vehicles by this perpetual shaking is seen on a few gems you encounter on the roads and highways. Of course, maintenance costs rise for such abuse, at the same time repairs can get expensive and costs might not be within the family budget. The existence of these shakers is justified as the only way to slow traffic. They might also be a great place for locals to sell their wares as drivers slow for them. For first-timers driving into Mexico, I explain a 60 kmh zone does not mean you will drive through the area at 60 kmh. As you are scanning for bicycles, horses, pedestrians, other drivers and other hazards, your eyes also must be focused downward. Some of the topes will launch you while hitting them at even 5 km/h. And you just added to more maintenance to your vehicle. You now see more Transito police officers with radar guns, however we regularly see drivers passing through Jaltemba Bay doing well over the posted limits. As many drivers simply call it mordida, there is an attitude it was simply the police officers fault you got caught. An easy fix to this problem? As a foreigner, a stamp or mark on our temporary import document could mean a fine must be paid before surrendering the document. Local drivers with a stamp/mark on their documents would mean the plate is invalid until the fine was paid at next renewal. The same could go for parking violations.
Sidewalk Obstacles: I know broken sidewalks can be expensive to fix, so I’m not going to wave that flag. I truly feel sorry for those with disabilities negotiating these hazards. With the Mexican focus on families, I can only say older people are not speaking loud enough. With many years of public attention to accessibility up-north, these hazards seem out of place here. The more obvious obstacles are the shops and homes that have displays or personal items scattered on the sidewalk and onto the street for everyone else to pass. It seems the sidewalk is not public space.
Garbage: Now that Semana Santa is over, you can tell where this is going. With the Pitch-In campaigns we experienced up-north many years ago, it almost seems strange to watch young and old simply throw garbage on the street. Beaches are no exception to this rule. I wonder what the same people would say as they returned next year to their favourite beach to wade through theirs and others garbage thrown in the same spot last year? For homeowners, simply throwing the garbage out to the street, and having the same dogs tear the bags open again, leads to even more garbage circling their home (not to mention attracting rats or other problems). The idea of a corner garbage dumpster, rather than home pickup seems to be lost in the discussion on cost control. The affordability of one family member staying home all day just to present the garbage truck crew with a few coins, definitely bites into the family income. The walk to the corner to drop off that plastic container at the plastic recycle bin might even burn a few calories. A scheduled garbage clean-up day for an afternoon, with each school adopting a neighbourhood, might help. The students and their parents might even remember dropping that soda bottle or other garbage on the street, leading to a change in attitude. As government offices fund street improvements in town, you often notice how soon the locals take some pride in this effort by cleaning their street.
Nails on the Streets: As I spend a lot of my free time on the streets and roads either on foot or bike, I can’t help but notice the number of nails on the streets, awaiting the next tire to roll by. This in a country that doesn’t build with wood, and nails are only used to run straight string lines. While building, my crew talked about dumping building scraps in the closest pothole. As I had a significant rock wall to back fill, it wasn’t an issue for me. In the same breath, those crew members with vehicles say they routinely swerve around these scrap piles as they know there will be nails in them. A bit of effort by the building crews would save a lot of drivers some expensive tire repairs.
Noise: Can you imagine a business plan up-north that allowed you to drive around town with a police siren or alarm screaming, simply to sell your wares? I appreciate the fact you can shop for a new mattress, get rid of your cans and scrap metal, buy a ticket to the next Fiesta in town, or buy a bag of shrimp without leaving your home. And we used to think buying online would hinder sales for those paying rent on their retail storefront?
The boombox or street band at a restaurant truly changes the idea of a peaceful dining atmosphere. This must be a throwback to the jukeboxes of the 1960s. Throw in a passing truck selling GAZ or veggies, and it can only be called noise pollution.
I know this sounds like a rant, though learning from experiences of others can save a lot of mistakes for Mexico.
by Rob Erickson
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