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This is a serious birder’s paradise

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This is a serious birder’s paradise

Birding in a Mexican Nature Reserve” to learn more.

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Mexico: Public Health, Obesity & NAFTA

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Mexico: Public Health, Obesity & NAFTA

A must read on how México, like many other developing countries is going through a nutrition transition.  Here is the article, by Judy Bankman.

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Driving in Mexico: No Country for New Cars

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Driving in Mexico: No Country for New Cars

By John Scherber
An American Voice in México


The thought of driving in México strikes a deadly fear into the hearts of many Americans and Canadians alike. Of course, they purchased Méxican car insurance when they crossed the border. Yet somehow this only made them feel legal, not safe. Now here’s the reality as they ease their $46,000 BMW onto the pavement and point it south.

They have heard that there is no rhyme or reason to the driving there, and any clown can get a license. There is some documentary evidence for this belief. (See the photo) But they are tourists in the classical sense, they want to cruise from town to town and stop when the spirit moves them. Serendipity is a proven value in their lives, and they would never be caught taking a package tour, even to Antarctica. Furthermore, they hate what air travel has become.

Isn’t that the dilemma for many travelers to Latin America?

Before my wife and I moved to San Miguel de Allende in 2007, she was driving a Saab and I drove an Infiniti. We knew they couldn’t easily be serviced in this mountain town of 75,000, so we sold them and bought a Ford when we arrived. There was the choice between a car and a pickup, and we had heard that license plates were much cheaper on new pickups, but we felt because of the limited passenger capacity, we had to choose the car. After all, wouldn’t hundreds of our friends and family from the US soon be flocking down to see us? We hadn’t yet reckoned on the crusading American media, obviously.

Unfortunately, our estimate of the pickup’s passenger capacity was wildly off too. We’ve since been keeping a running count on the record for the most passengers in a pickup. It presently stands at sixteen people and a dog. This can be very handy running back and forth to the countryside with your extended family, but it occasionally results in some astounding highway accidents.

San Miguel is a great historic town, and appropriately, it has no traffic lights. Major intersections on the outskirts are handled by roundabouts, which are called glorietas here. The idea is simple, although it looks daunting to many. The center island is about a hundred feet across. In the middle is a monument to a patriotic figure, although some believe the statue represents Chaos, the god of traffic. Four streets converge at the circle.

Within, traffic moves counterclockwise. You enter after yielding to the left, and continue around to the right until you exit on the first, second or third street. Or you can go completely around when you’re doubling back. If you can keep your wits about you it works well. People are generally polite and orderly. The worst move you can make is to freeze up, come to a complete stop within the circle, and cover your face with your hands. I have seen this happen and it’s never well received.

This town has a number of stop signs, none of them in the central part. They are treated as advisory in nature, and I have never seen anyone stop for one unless the failure to do so would result in a collision. This includes me.

All other intersections are handled on an alternating basis. You go, then I go, etc. Everyone understands this and it works well unless the other car is driven by a person from México City or the northern border states. In that case you are regarded as a fool and a victim for letting him through. This attitude will be well understood by people who drive in the US.

In general there is an attitude of live and let live. I have not seen road rage here among Méxicans, only Americans. Indeed, people are tolerant of what I regard as free-style driving. A certain amount of improvisation is customary. If you see someone approaching in your lane, the natural thing to do is change lanes yourself into oncoming traffic, which will then slow down to allow your eventual return to your own lane.

The concept of speed limits is understood only by the transit authorities, and is the object of crude humor among the general population.

Flashing colored lights are appreciated for themselves, but using them to signal turns when mounted on cars is a concept that has not yet caught on in México. One exception is their use on trucks in highway settings. Say you are behind a truck signaling with the left blinker. This means either, Pass me because it’s clear ahead, or I am going to turn left now. Your life depends on how you scan the nuance of this.

Streets are generally constructed from the two most common compounds on earth: dirt, and stones about the size of a large grapefruit. The stones are simply set in a matrix of dirt. Over time, the dirt is pounded into a fine dry powder that floats upward and seeks the interior of your electronic equipment, where it settles once again in the tiny connections between wires. Over time the cobblestones loosen and have to be repacked in more dirt. Driving over this rugged surface, charmingly suggestive of medieval London or Paris, gradually loosens all the nuts and bolts in your car until your new BMW sounds like a 1960s jug band as it lurches down the street.

Both tires and shock absorbers have the life expectancy of a butterfly in a hurricane. What the streets do not do to your car, the sun and weather will.

By now I hope I have established that what at first appears to be random and senseless is really a functioning system that can be understood by most visitors with a knack for improvisation and a broad sense of humor. I should point out that I have written mainly about driving in San Miguel. Regional differences exist.

A final word about parking. Someone once asked me how my detective character always finds a parking place in San Miguel. That, I replied, is why it’s called fiction.

Posted in Guanajuato, Personal ExperiencesComments Off on Driving in Mexico: No Country for New Cars

Travel Writer Paul Theroux Spends a Few Days in Nogales, Sonora

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Travel Writer Paul Theroux Spends a Few Days in Nogales, Sonora

Paul Theroux Nogales

Walk across the border from Nogales, Arizona to Nogales, Sonora one day.  Paul Theroux, one of our favorite travel writers, did  just that – and I knew he would write an interesting and informative article. The New York Times published his piece The Country Just Over The Fence today, and we hope you enjoy it as much as we did.  I also saw the article here if you have hit the NYT paywall.

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Citizens Take Action – The Right Way

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Citizens Take Action – The Right Way

This Big City reported recently on a citizen action project in México City.  You’ll want to read how this group managed to create 5 kilometers of bike lanes in less than 8 hours for about $1,000.

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Fantastic Mexican Huichol Art Car

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Fantastic Mexican Huichol Art Car

If you like native Mexican handcrafts, you probably know of the beautiful pieces made with beads or yarn pressed into beeswax and pine resin made by the Huichol people of western central Mexico. The intricacy and beauty of these pieces is stunning, truly. But a car? A beaded car? How amazing and fantastic!

You owe it to yourself to look at the photos and read about the Huichol Volkswagen Bug here at El Vochol: Making Mexican Folk Art Pop.

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Mexico is magic

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Mexico is magic

Blogger Ann has lived in México for years, most recently in Zihuatanejo and Puerto Escondido on Mexico’s Pacific Coast. Like many people who live in a country with violence in some areas, a recent blog post explored her thoughts on life here. What she has to say might surprise you… but only if you don’t live here. If you do, I bet you feel the same. Thanks for writing, Ann!

Here is her blog post Mexico, For Better or Worse.

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Starting a Business in Mexico

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Starting a Business in Mexico

We not only moved to Mexico, but we started a business in Mexico. While many of the steps to working legally in Mexico are easy to find on most forums, we thought it would be helpful for us to explain what we did – and why.

There are two ways to legally work in Mexico. You can get a work visa if a company (Mexican or foreign) proves to immigration that they need your expertise. They take care of the paperwork and costs. Perhaps this might happen in your case, but it isn’t that likely.

The second, and most common method, is to own a business. You could have a Mexican partner who handles the paperwork and we were told there are advantages to this as far as paying taxes. But, there are potential pitfalls, not least of which is that you have a partner.

If things go badly with your partner, do you (as a foreigner) really want to have a legal dispute with a Mexican national, or have to sue a Mexican national? We didn’t. If decide to set up your business with a partner, have an attorney that you trust draw up a bilingual contract to protect your investment.

We decided to start our own corporation. This will require filing legal papers in Spanish. They will be created by a notario, who has more power and responsibilities than a notary in the U.S. The best advice we received was to hire a good attorney who had experience with this type of legal work and who is fluent in English (since we are not fluent in Spanish).

Our attorney came highly recommended and we liked her immediately. She had experience setting up corporations and helping people apply for working FM3 visas. First you create the corporation. Once that is completed, you then apply to immigration for the right to work for your corporation. She also advised us to create an Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) (in Mexico S. de R.L. de C.V.) since it is less expensive to create and the tax liabilities are not as great.

Your corporation will need an accountant to set up your account and file your taxes with the Mexican tax authorities (Hacienda). We didn’t select an accountant quite as easily as our attorney.

The first two we interviewed probably weren’t crooks, but we heard different stories about procedures from each. One told us we would be required to transfer anything we earned to a U.S. account (with him getting a % each time), then access our money by using an ATM. This was bogus and we walked quickly from his office.

Finally, as usually happens in Mexico, we interviewed a good friend’s nephew and he was the real deal and spoke clearly about our obligations and procedures.

After our corporation was approved and our papers were issued (about 4 – 6 weeks depending on when and where you file), we applied with immigration for “working” FM3 visas. These took about six weeks. Our attorney prepared the applications, we had to present copies of our corporate papers, our college diplomas and letters of reference or recommendations. Since we are photographers, we even included a book that I had photographed for National Geographic with our application.

We started our process in mid-November, which might be one of the worst times of the year to begin. In our case, the process was interrupted by the Christmas and New Year holidays. Government offices shut down for 2 -3 weeks and we practiced the art of patience.

Our attorney also accompanied us to the immigration offices for our interviews.

Total costs for getting all of this completed break down like this:

Attorney fees, notario fees, government filing fees for Limited liability corporation: $2,200 usd

Attorney fees, immigration fees for two Working FM3s: $1,200 usd

Accountant fees for setting up paperwork with SAT for taxes: $875 usd


We know one American on the island who has had several visits from immigration in the past couple of years, because jealous competitors complain to immigration that she is working without a permit. Of course, she isn’t, but that’s just an example of the risks you run working illegally. You don’t want to get caught without the proper paperwork!

Has anyone dealt with these problems? Please add your experiences or correct any of my errors.

Posted by Michael and Jennifer Lewis, Cozumel Photographers and bloggers on Latin

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Moving to Mexico, Pt. 2

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Moving to Mexico, Pt. 2

After more than twenty-five years of dancing around the idea of being an expat, a year ago I became one.

In the previous post, we mentioned several things that we love about Mexico after living here for one year.

It occurred to me that I should tell you why. Why did we move? Why do we love it?

Flash back to 2008. My 16-year marriage had just ended and the photography world was changing faster than I was. I sat alone in a new apartment, in a new town for three months and tried to figure out where my life was headed.

I’ve had quite a life: traveled to more than 45 countries, lived in Paris, hiked the Himalayas, criss-crossed India by train, skied expert runs in Colorado, and indulged myself with good food and wine at every opportunity. I have made a comfortable living as a photographer since 1981. I have traveled into the Sahara, been swarmed by bugs in the Cameroon rain forest and boated down the Niger River for National Geographic; shot assignments for books and magazines; and have always been grateful for my photography career.

But, here I was, single and middle-aged (hell, late 50s is middle-aged if you are going to live past 100!). The thought of dating in my 50s was about as much fun as being nibbled to death by ducks. The economy at that time didn’t add to my overall mood.

Jennifer and I had met in a small mountain town in Colorado a few years before we started dating. She was leaving as I was arriving, making changes to her life at the time. Jennifer had worked for several years as a massage therapist and owned a day spa. She wanted to pursue her dreams of travel and photography and was leaving Creede for Brooks Institute in California.

Three years later, I spotted her, loaded down with camera gear, working a 4th of July parade. I asked her out on a date, she said yes, and we have been together since the summer of 2009. Business partners, life partners, best friends.

After a couple of months of dating, we talked about living in a Spanish-speaking country. The U.S. was feeling less like home and we both wanted something new, someplace we would be passionate about, a place to start a new life and a new business. A three-month road trip (rental cars, buses and trains) through Peru, Bolivia and Argentina gave us wonderful experiences and a decent library of photos to submit to National Geographic, but no great prospects for a new home.

A series of discussions and inquiries led to a drive through Mexico, with the intention of living on the island of Cozumel for six weeks, working, shopping and test driving the town, island and country. My travels over the years have taken me to Oaxaca, Michoacan, Chiapas, much of the Yucatan, Zacatecas, Guanajuato, Cabo, D.F. (Mexico City) and numerous trips to Cozumel for diving. I already had a serious love affair going with the country. It was Jennifer’s first visit. Luckily, she fell in love, too.

What We Love and Why

We love the architecture and setting of San Miguel de Allende. Our first meal was posole and chile rellenos at the rooftop terrace at La Posadita. The quality of the food and the setting across from the Parroquia has made this our obligatory stop when we are there.

Posole at La Posadita, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato

We have been to Chiapas twice together. Hands down, it is our favorite place away from the ocean. The small, charming, cosmopolitan city of San Cristobal is a visual and edible feast. It has Argentine, Italian and Mexican restaurants; wine bars with good wine, bocaditos and fair prices (don’t get me started on a rant about inflated wine prices at restaurants) and great coffee bars. Surrounded by mountains and permeated by a rich, indigenous culture, there is something about the place that keeps pulling us back. We hope to be there soon. If there was Caribbean water within a couple of hours, we would probably live there and not here. (see December 2010 posts)

Real de Guadalupe, San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas

But, we are here – in or on (I’m never sure which is right) the island of Cozumel. Why?

It’s the water: warm, calm and clear with stunning coral reefs on the leeward side; wild and treacherous on the unspoiled, windward side. We like looking at it, being in it, being on top of it and being underneath it. There is not enough money in the world to get me to live in a humid climate (reared in Missouri, college in Florida) if there is not an ocean and ocean breezes to moderate that climate.

North lagoon, Cozumel

Artificial reef, Dzul ha, Cozumel

There are interesting people here, too. Not just the usual tropical, hard-living beach bums, but people who are artists, creative cooks/chefs, and entrepreneurs. The relaxed pace of life seems a world away from the hustle of Cancun and Playa del Carmen.

The free salsa music in the plaza on weekends, the astounding quality of the costuming and dancing at the Carnaval parties and parades, and the feeling that the island is large enough to be diverse, but small enough to feel intimate are a few more reasons why we live here.

We followed our dream. We took some chances.

In the summer of 2009, neither of us imagined that two years later we would be living on an island in the Caribbean. Many times, I have imagined I would live in an apartment in Paris or a villa in Italy, or on an island in the Caribbean, but I never believed I would.

We started a Mexican corporation and have been busy promoting our photography business. We are shooting destination weddings, family portraits, advertising jobs for resorts and restaurants, and we still contribute images to National Geographic. We have never been happier.

Family portrait session, Cozumel

So, here come the cliches: follow your dream, take risks, open your heart to love, don’t fear failure, work and play hard, and live every day as if it is your last. I used to place a saying at the bottom of my emails, but I stopped because I think everyone had seen it.

“Work like you don’t need the money, love like you’ve never been hurt and dance like nobody is watching.”

That is how we try to live everyday and it works for us.

Posted in Mexico in General, Personal Experiences, Quintana RooComments Off on Moving to Mexico, Pt. 2

How about 250 great startups in México per year?

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How about 250 great startups in México per year?

TWW (The Next Web) recently profiled Jorge Madrigal, a Mexican man with a mission to foster the local startup ecosystem with a series of initiatives. He even has target numbers in mind as he wants his home country to create “250 interesting startups a year, instead of around 30.” This is an inspiring article and has lots of links you’ll want to follow. Read the article about Jorge Madrigal on TWW here.

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One Year in Mexico

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One Year in Mexico


One year ago, Jennifer and I left the United States with a fully-loaded Toyota 4Runner and moved to Mexico.

Our first year as expats was eventful and full of surprises. Looking back, we have wonderful memories, several new friends and an enthusiasm for the future.

Jennifer had more experience with the expat life than me. She had lived in Germany and London for four years during high school, but attended international schools and never quite became an expat. My summer in a Paris apartment hardly qualified me as an expat, but I did get a taste of it and wanted more.

We have been content to rent a house on the island of Cozumel while we went about the business of setting up our photography business. We interviewed lawyers and accountants and started the process of creating a Mexican corporation, which would allow us to work here legally. While the paper work was making its way through the system, we attended language classes in Chiapas, saw some of Mexico and made new friends. One month after arriving on the island we got married. So, a big year.

Here are a few of the high points and things we have learned in the last year:

1) We loved driving here, have done it three times, and highly recommend driving as the best way to see this beautiful country. Get a Guia Roji, the best road map for Mexico, a Mexican chip for a Garmin GPS (sometimes helpful, sometimes woefully inaccurate) and plan your trip carefully. We were coming from New Mexico, so we could essentially cross the border at a number of places. We crossed early on a Sunday morning at Laredo. A quick pass through customs, then immigration, then getting our car permit and we were on the road by 8:30am, arriving in San Miguel de Allende before dinner. More than 80% of our route was on four lane roads, many of them cuotas (toll roads). A bit more expensive, but you make good time. Our second night in Fortin de las Flores, third night in Palenque (if the road to Villahermosa isn’t flooded – it was last year at this time, see the blog post of Oct. 1, 2010) and we catch the 6:00pm ferry to Cozumel on the fourth day.

We NEVER drive at night. We don’t know the roads, there might be a few vehicles on the road without lights, there are pedestrians (sometimes inebriated), animals and hundreds of topes. Plus, eight hours a day should be enough. Slow down, the journey can be as enjoyable as the destination.

You don’t want to see the room!

If, for some unseen circumstance, you don’t end up in the town where you planned to stop and it is getting dark, look for a “Love Motel”. You’ll recognize them by the fence that obscures the entire motel and the curtain or garage door that covers the parking area for each room. Created for couples who want privacy, the rooms are available for four hours or for the entire night. The secure parking for an auto full of your stuff is invaluable.

2) We lived here as locals for a six-week test run before moving. Being here as a local, going about your work, shopping at the markets and stores, arranging for cable tv, a cell phone, etc. will help you to decide if you will like living in the place where you had only previously vacationed. We made the decision to rent until our business will support us. The island is loaded with houses and condos for sale by people who bought while on vacation and then decided that the expat life was not for them.

3) When setting up a corporation, ask other expats who they have used, then interview a couple of attorneys and accountants. You will need both. If you don’t speak Spanish well, make sure your accountant and attorney are fluent in English. You don’t want miscommunications when setting up your company. Our entire process was smooth and we now shoot destination weddings, advertising photos and contribute travel photos to the National Geographic Image Collection.

Mark & Miranda on the east side of Cozumel after their wedding.

4) Learn the language!!!!! Take classes, read the newspapers, keep a dictionary close by, watch television in something other than English. Change the language settings on DVD movies and watch it in the language you are learning while using English sub-titles.

5) Travel and discover the amazing country of Mexico. Long coastlines, rugged mountain ranges, vast deserts, mysterious jungles, lush rain forests, bustling modern cities and beautiful colonial cities, are only a few of the reasons to leave your comfortable home and see Mexico. I am constantly amazed at the number of expats on my island who don’t try to speak Spanish or who have never seen any of the country.

Descending into Fortin de las Flores on the road from Puebla

6) We love: the island of Cozumel with its relaxed atmosphere, colorful Carnaval celebrations and clear Caribbean waters; small, lesser known Mayan ruins like Ek Balam and Calakmul; the architecture and sophistication of San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato; the vast number of Reservas de las Biosferas; everything about Chiapas; tacos al pastor, Bohemia beer, Centenario tequila, sopes for breakfast, jamaica, pork any way it is cooked, Campeche camarones, warm handshakes and cheek kisses when we greet our friends; the love shown to children; salsa music; and the general love of life that permeates the country.

Dance competitions during Cozumel’s Colorful Carneval

Uxmal, Yucatan – Palacio del Gobernador

Mexico’s Bicentenario in San Miguel de Allende

Downtown San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas

Las Gemelas Antojitos in Cordoba – open 24 hours

7) If you are an animal lover, adopt a pet. Although don’t be surprised if one adopts you first. While more and more Mexicans have pets and are responsible pet owners, there is an overpopulation problem, due to the lack of a spay and neuter program in most places. You can practice your Spanish on the dog or cat who shows up on your doorstep.

Squirt, the bilingual cat

8) Don’t be in a hurry to get things done (mañana doesn’t mean tomorrow, it just means “not today”), don’t compare habits, rituals, government, service providers or drivers to the country you have left. Prepare yourself for a change in thinking to go with your change in address.

Fiesta of the Virgin of Guadalupe in San Cristobal, Chiapas

Let us know if you have any questions about living in Mexico!

“This guest post was written by Michael & Jennifer Lewis, Cozumel, Mexico travel and wedding photographers. Their travel blog, Latin Journeys, is mostly about their life in Mexico.”


Posted in Mexico in General, Personal Experiences, Quintana RooComments (4)

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Christian Science Monitor

The CSM’s reporter for Latin America, Sara Llanes, visited Merida a few weeks ago to find out if what she suspected was true… that expats who live and work in Merida Yucatan feel a lot safer here than most media is reporting. Sure enough, she found a lot of us who felt that way. And it wasn’t just the two of us who escorted her around to show her the sights. We stopped to talk to some expats who were renovating a home on Calle 53. This was unplanned and unannounced. Sara talked to the two of them, and to a Yucatecan couple who just happened to be walking down the street. Her planned meetings with Dan and Martha went expectedly well too. And, as a result of her weekend here, which she and her husband (who both live in Mexico City) thoroughly enjoyed, we have this article: American Expats Feel Safe South of the Border

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Maybe It Wasn’t Mexico’s Fault

In today’s New York Times, the reporter says there is evidence it didn’t start in Mexico at all. So just forget everything you’ve read over the last few months…

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Drug Trafficking Key Component in “Failed State” Headlines

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Drug Trafficking Key Component in “Failed State” Headlines

Every day, recently, the USA media herd echo chamber carries reports that Mexico is falling apart into an “an epidemic of drug-related violence“, as in this McClatchey piece. This ABC story, citing a “a confidential federal law enforcement assessment obtained by ABC News,” even goes so absurdly far as to ask, in its headline, “Mexico: The Next Iraq or Afghanistan?

The reports are largely nonsense, but the ABC comparison of Mexico to Iraq or Afghanistan is just utter silliness, the suggestion of Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair’s that drug gangs have taken control of portions of Mexico notwithstanding. Enrique Krauze explains in his NYT commentary just how silly the comparison to Iraq or Afghanistan is.

“AMERICA’S distorted views can have costly consequences, especially for us in Latin America. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s trip to Mexico this week is a good time to examine the misconception that Mexico is, or is on the point of becoming, a ‘failed state.’

This notion appears to be increasingly widespread. The Joint Forces Command recently issued a study saying that Mexico — along with Pakistan — could be in danger of a rapid and sudden collapse. President Obama is considering sending National Guard troops to the Mexican border to stop the flow of drugs and violence into the United States. The opinion that Mexico is breaking down seems to be shared by much of the American news media, not to mention the Americans I meet by chance and who, at the first opportunity, ask me whether Mexico will ‘fall apart.’

It most assuredly will not. First, let’s take a quick inventory of the problems that we don’t have. Mexico is a tolerant and secular state, without the religious tensions of Pakistan or Iraq. It is an inclusive society, without the racial hatreds of the Balkans. It has no serious prospects of regional secession or disputed territories, unlike the Middle East. Guerrilla movements have never been a real threat to the state, in stark contrast to Colombia.

Most important, Mexico is a young democracy that eliminated an essentially one-party political system, controlled by the Institutional Revolutionary Party, that lasted more than 70 years. And with all its defects, the domination of the party, known as the P.R.I., never even approached the same level of virtually absolute dictatorship as that of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, or even of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez.

Further, reports that Moody’s investor’s Services has declared that “Mexico’s investment-grade credit rating is safe….”, saying in its report.

“Despite heightened anxiety about the escalation of violence and organized crime activity, Mexico does not fit the general profile of countries identified as failed states,” Moody’s said in a report released today. “The general foundations of its investment-grade rating remain solid.”

Look, Mexico is a nation of 111 million folks, the eleventh most populous nation in the world. Likewise, Mexico represents the eleventh largest economy in the world. Mexico has a literacy rate of 91% amongst those over fifteen years of age and 95% of the population enjoys electrical service. Mexico has a political system that every six years results in an orderly election for president and an orderly transition from one administration to the next. Mexico is a modern nation.

Every breathless news report of Mexico’s dire straights will tell you that there have been “7,000 drug-related murders in Mexico since January 2008”. There is no doubt that the drug gang killings of competitors and of police officials hunting them is a serious affront to both Mexican and USA domestic tranquility which must be addressed. But the murder in Mexico statistic must be taken in perspective, in terms of both its magnitude and its causes.

The aggregate murder rate in Mexico, as of 2006, was almost 11 per 100,000 population. For comparison purposes the murder rate in Chicago during the alcohol prohibition years of 1920-1933 was 10.5 per 100,000 in 1920; 14.6 per 100,000 in 1930; and by 1940, seven years after the end of prohibition, the rate dropped to 7.1 per 100,000.

What must be remembered when reading USA media reports of violence in Mexico is that it is largely confined to those working in the black market, trafficking in drugs and/or Cubans hoping to place a “dry foot” on USA territory so they may stay. Most, by far, of those 7,000 Mexican murders occurred in cities abutting, or adjacent to, the USA border; and, to a much lesser extent, in the Yucatan peninsula where the Mexican branch of the Cuban mafia is headquartered.

Black marketeers, prohibition era bootleggers, modern day Mexico drug gangs, and the Cuban mafia human/drug traffickers for instance, are not nearly so reluctant to eliminate their commercial competition with “extreme prejudice” as are their legitimate counterparts.

What also must be remembered is that the Mexican drug gangs are armed primarily with weapons obtained in the USA. The gangs run drugs North and bring cash and guns South, a fact I was pleased to see Obama acknowledge during his press conference yesterday. Secretary of State Clinton also acknowledged such in a statement upon her arrival in Mexico City today.

“Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade. Our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm these criminals causes the death of police officers, soldiers and civilians,” Clinton told reporters during her flight to Mexico City.

“I feel very strongly we have a co-responsibility.”

The USA market demand for drugs is of immense value, valued in the tens of billions of dollars per year. Market forces can not be resisted, a demand will be supplied whether legally or otherwise, as was amply demonstrated during the days of USA alcohol prohibition. All prohibition really accomplishes is to raise the value of the prohibited product to a level so as to enable black marketeers. That is, the value of the prohibited product becomes so great that to some folks the attraction of lucrative returns out weighs the risk of the legal consequences.

So what can be done? It’s pretty simple, really. Scrap the wet foot, dry foot policy and accept Cuban immigrants upon the same conditions required of the residents of every other nation on earth. And, since, reportedly, 60% of the Mexican drug gangs’ revenue derives from smuggling marijuana to to the USA, the USA must legalize the personal production and use of marijuana. USA marijuana users with green thumbs may grow enough in the backyard to supply their personal needs and the less intrepid may buy their personal stash the same place they now buy their alcoholic libations.

USA legalization would almost immediately reduce the price of marijuana so as to put the black marketeers out of the marijuana trafficking business, as it would no longer be a profitable enterprise. The reduction in the gangs’ revenues would reduce the numbers of weapons purchased in and smuggled from the USA.

Then, adopt the Swiss model and provide for government distribution of pharmaceutical heroin and cocaine at cost to users.

If significant numbers of folks insist upon upon using heroin or cocaine, whether prohibited or not, (the Harrison Act has had little effect upon the rate of heroin use) shouldn’t we see that they are provided in a manner that ensures the users’ safety, greatly reduces the need for users to steal to support their habits, reduces disease transmission, and which doesn’t involve criminal gang distribution networks ?

The economic meltdown once again has illustrated that there are folks who will do anything in their pursuit of self enrichment, bring the world economy to its knees or murder and behead a drug or human trafficking competitor. It is time to remove the drug trafficking profit incentive. Once the drug gangs are out of business we may turn our attention to reigning in the pirates of Wall Street.

Note: This article originally appeared in Expatriate Ruminations, and is reprinted here with permission.

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On The Subject of Safety…

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On The Subject of Safety…

Mexico Cross Border TruckingWhile we’re on the subject of safety, let’s talk about trucking. Yes, trucking… as in those big 18 wheelers, those beautiful horrible monsters of the highway. According to NAFTA, there was supposed to be free-wheeling between Mexico and the United States for ten years already. So why isn’t this happening? If you operate from your gut feeling about this, from what you “know” because you’ve been hearing and reading about it all your life, you’re probably thinking “Well, of course. We have such stringent safety laws in the United States. We can’t allow Mexican trucks in the U.S. because they don’t live up to our standards.”

According to, you would be so very wrong.

Apparently the FY09 Omnibus Appropriations Bill that will be funding our government through September 2009, and was admittedly full of earmarks and pork (the last one, we hope!), carried with it a hidden poison pill for relations between Mexico and the United States. The bill pulled the funding for the Mexican Cross Border Demonstration Program, ending a very successful 18 month program. A program that saw no accidents, no violations and increased profitability for both the US and Mexican trucking companies that participated.

And, as a recent Department of Transportation report warned, pulling the funding ‘will likely result in retaliation from Mexico’.

After reading up on the issue, our only reaction was “Who could blame them?”. Since NAFTA was approved, powers that be within the United States have been finding every reason in the world to block the provision that allows truckers to pass over the border between Mexico and the United States to deliver the goods “freed up” by the NAFTA accord. Mexico has patiently met every objection, jumped through every hoop and continued to play the game even when the United States kept moving the goalposts.

But this time, Mexico said Ya basta! (loose translation: Enough already!)

Mexico will be imposing tariffs of 10% to 20% on many of the goods shipped into Mexico in retaliation. At first we thought that these tariffs would mean that we are going to be paying more for certain goods that we like that are shipped here from the United States. Things like Christmas trees, dates, almonds, pears, cherries, peanuts, onions, juices, soups, mineral water, wine, artists supplies, aftershave, plasticware, blank books, books, yarn, carpets, glassware… the list goes on. The list mostly consists of things that can be purchased from other countries, especially India and China, both trading partners of Mexico.

Mexico is the third largest trading partner of the United States, by the way, behind China and Canada.

So what is this going to mean, besides a higher price for dental floss? It’s going to mean lower sales for companies in the United States… companies already hurting from the economic situation we all find ourselves in today.

There are, of course, many sides to this issue. There is a lot of history here, too. We encourage you to read up on the subject on, whose writer, Porter Corn, is thoroughly educated and informed on this subject matter.

One thing we have taken away from our research and reading on this subject that we would like you to also understand. Remember that Mexican Cross Border Demonstration Program? The Mexican participants were every bit as safety conscious and had just as good a record as their American counterparts. And statistics prove that this is not an exception. Since 1982 when over 350 Mexican carriers were ‘grandfathered’ into an agreement that allowed them to operate in the United States, Mexican carriers have had a better safety record than American carriers.

So you have to ask, “Who is really being served here?”. We encourage you to read the following articles to find your own answers to that question.

Congress Doesn’t Respect NAFTA

Mexican Trucking Cross Border Program Ends, For Now

Trade Wars Are Stupid…

The List of Items with Retaliatory Tariffs (downloadable PDF)

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