IT’S ALL IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER

27 Oct

So how are things going with you? Hopefully you’re working or maybe collecting U.I.?  Maybe your benefits are just about at an end and the prospects of collecting Welfare are starting to loom large. Ever since the recession hit, things have been pretty rough and if you watch American T.V. you’ve certainly come to realize that things are way worse in the States than they are in Canada. Europe is constantly in the news, as Greece slides into financial chaos soon perhaps to be followed by other countries that have been unable to control their financial messes.

A cardinal comes to sample our oranges in the early morning

Through it all, how much have you heard about Mexico? Probably the only things you’ve heard about have been the drug wars and innocents being murdered by the drug Cartels, or perhaps the media ranting about how unsafe it is because some tourist has been mugged or killed. I’d be willing to bet you haven’t heard a word about how the Recession has impacted down here have you?

Things are very bad, very bad indeed. First let me explain a little about Mexican Employment Law. Once you have been hired, unless you do something so egregious that you could be arrested for it, you can’t be laid off or fired. The only way you leave a job is to retire, quit or die. Our social services such as Welfare and Unemployment insurance either don’t exist here or are offered only sporadically depending on which State you live in and Baja Sur has neither. Now I exaggerate, but not much, you can be laid off but it requires a large severance package to be paid.

So imagine what happens to cities and states that have all these employees, but no money to pay them. Not only do they not have money to pay the employees, they have no money to run the basic infrastructures that keep cities functioning. Since they have no money to pay in wages, they certainly don’t have any to pay out in severance packages to laid off employees, so they stay on the payroll.

Trying his luck, fishing at dawn

Let me give you a little background here, so you’ll have a little understanding. Mexico is a third world country that has lots of petro dollars and like every other similar country; it also has lots of corruption, from the local city cops right up to federal government ministers. It also has very wealthy drug cartels.

Now this is going to sound a bit strange but when there wasn’t this huge crackdown on the Cartels, things worked better. The Cartels held areas of the country, mostly along the border and in a few other states such as Sinaloa and Chihuahua. In these places the Cartels ran everything, including the schools, hospitals and charities. They made sure that the people were looked after. Sure the elections were rigged and only those politicians who were being paid by the Cartels were elected, and if you crossed them your life wasn’t worth a plug nickel, but things worked, maybe only in a warped way, but they worked. Money trickled down eventually to everyone.

That is no longer the case.

Who watches the watcher?

First came the American war on drugs and the billions of dollars offered to the Mexican Government to do away with the Cartels. Now, I’m not saying that was a bad thing, since at the same time Calderon was also getting rid of those in his government from Customs Officers to Federal Ministers who were corrupt and replacing them with honest people who would work for the betterment of the country as a whole. In the minds of right thinking people this was a wonderful idea and full of good intentions. The problem is we all know what the road to Hell is paved with.

Calderon was using the American money to try and break the Cartels and was siphoning other monies to the cause from various Government agencies, when the recession hit. Now the Cartels are no longer looking after the people in their areas, they are using it to fight a war against the government and the Government no longer has excess money to spend on anything. The people are suffering.

A school of fish paying me no attention.

Down here in Baja, the city has employees, but no money to pay them and hasn’t for 2 years, there is also a drought that’s in it’s 2nd year and the fishing is getting worse every year. Unemployment is rampant and even those with jobs are only holding on in hopes that eventually some money will appear and they will get some back wages. The Rancher’s animals are dying because they can’t afford to feed them and there is nothing left to eat in the desert. The fishermen, generally the poorest of the poor are bringing in less and less all the time and no one has any money to buy their catch anyways. Even the big tourist developments have stopped work because the tourists are not buying anymore and they certainly are not coming in the numbers they used to. Things are very bad.

Now, try to predict what happens in places like this when every 6 months, there is a large influx of what look like rich tourists who come to stay for 3 to 6 months at a time. Do you think you’d look upon these folks as fonts of money? Bingo!

When we arrived a few years ago, the economy was booming, condos, golf courses and hotels were being built at breakneck speed and all the beaches that were accessible were free to all. That changed in 2009, with the introduction of a rental fee for the right to stay on the beach and call the space you occupied yours for the season. Now we are talking a million dollar view for a pittance. The rate was 1940 pesos per month, that’s about $160.00 Canadian.

This little fellow was just as curious as I was.

You can imagine the hue and cry that ensued, with some flat out refusing to pay and actually being escorted away by the local constabulary. I mean let’s face it, none of us, regardless as to where we come from, could find anywhere at home for that price, probably not even a rat infested flophouse.  So most of us coughed up the money, knowing that we were is some small way helping the locals.

The price stayed the same all of last year, but and it’s a big but, no one was quite aware as to what the local Mayor was up to. It seems after the election in Loreto last February, it become obvious that the previous Mayor was a big time crook and he took the city for ever last cent they had, then buggered off. The city is absolutely, flat out broke and there is no money to be had from the State of Baja, since they can’t get any from the Federal Government. What’s the new administration to do? Why, raise the beach rates of course.

The fellow who has always collected the monies came last week and told us that the new Comptroller wanted to raise the fee to 3600 pesos a month, (about $300.00 Can). Since we are all rich tourists we could afford it they thought. Wrong!

Heading back to his home.

Off we all went to see this gentleman and to try and disabuse him of that impression. Most of us who spend 6 months of our lives every winter in this beautiful place do so because we can’t afford to live in our own counties full time. We are the poor (but not impoverished) of Canada and the United States, who have to travel to a poorer country in order to survive on our limited pensions and incomes.

We made a new friend that day and we all came away with a new understanding as to the struggles we are all facing in this new age of financial uncertainty. He understood that we could afford a small increase and that all of us try very hard to spend as much money as we can afford to support the local businesses. We were made aware of just how bad things are down here and how far they need to go to get back to where they were just a few years ago.

So rent has gone up to 2400 pesos a month, (about $200.00 Can) bringing in some badly needed funds into the cities coffers and helping to pay city workers that haven’t had a pay cheque in months, we got an offer of garbage pick-up, better security, a little work on the road coming in here and maybe, somehow they’ll bring in water. We’ll see, sometimes money in hand down here means we won’t see anyone again until next months rent time, but since we now have a better understanding as to what poor means down here, none of us mind. We pay our rent and this beautiful spot is ours for the winter and if we can help the locals make it through the bad times, so much the better.

We may not have much but for those who have nothing, we are rich beyond compare. They see us arriving with our cars, motorhomes, campers and boats and see wealth. We see old cars, motorhomes and campers that are past their prime and boats that need TLC to keep them afloat and constant tinkering to keep the motors running.

I guess everything really is relative and people judge things based on the only reality that exists for them. We all see our selves as poor or just getting by, yet we all seem to feel ourselves lucky to be here at this place and in this time. Even the locals who are suffering, will tell you that they know folks who are in worse shape than they are and that though things are not great, they could certainly be much, much worse.

Life truly is seen simply through the eye of the beholder, isn’t it?

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One Response to “IT’S ALL IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER”

  1. Michelle November 6, 2011 at 1:01 pm #

    Thanks Alexis, for helping some of us remember to be thankful for what we have and appreciate the small blessings in life!

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