Wednesday, December 31, 2014

More Monarch Butterflies Return to Mexico


A monarch butterfly perches on a branch in the Piedra Herrada sanctuary near Valle de Bravo, Mexico, last week. CHRISTIAN PALMA AP

More Monarch butterflies appear to have made the long flight from the U.S. and Canada to their winter nesting ground in western Mexico, raising hopes after their number dropped to a record low last year. But experts still fear that unusual cold temperatures will threaten the orange and black insects.

The temperate climate of the mountains west of Mexico City normally creates an ideal setting for the Monarchs. Every fall, tens of millions of the delicate creatures fly thousands of miles to their ancestral breeding grounds, creating clouds of butterflies. They clump together on trees, forming chandelier shapes of orange and black.

The sanctuaries have become tourist attractions, especially in the peak months of January and February.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Popocatepetl Volcano

From the BBC News in Pictures:

People look at the Popocatepetl volcano as it spews ash in Puebla State, Mexico. The volcano lies around 70km (40 miles) from Mexico City, and is visible from the capital on a clear day.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

South Whidbey Couple Helps Doctor Revive a Community

Two Mayan children pour clean water from a pump installed with the help of Rotary of South Whidbey, John and Marie Plakos and the Anacortes Rotary Club. — Image Credit: Contributed Image

by KATE DANIEL, South Whidbey Record Features And Education Dec 27, 2014 at 10:00AM

The Mayans call him a saint.

The doctor, Sergio Castro, has spent the past 51 years tending to the peoples’ medical, educational and basic needs.

Each day, Castro traverses the terrain of Chiapas, Mexico, to apply salves to badly burned bodies and administer medicines to patients suffering ailments ranging from diabetes to ulcers. He treats around 5,000 patients a year.

Castro’s patients have no money with which to pay him, though he would not accept it if they did. Castro says it is against his principles to profit off of the suffering of others. He has no income; his practice is funded entirely by donations from fellow humanitarians like Langley residents John and Marie Plakos, members of the Rotary of South Whidbey, who met the doctor at a fundraiser in 2011.

On Nov. 15, John Plakos, a retired cultural attache, became the first non-medical person to accompany Castro on his morning rounds. He visited seven different homes where, having been introduced as the person who funded the medicine, he was welcomed warmly and permitted to videotape the treatments.

“I felt that Sergio’s message should be known to the world,” said Plakos, who has developed a short DVD of the experience. “He’s been doing this for over 51 years with no help from the government or the hospitals.”

During Castro’s regular morning rounds, Plakos recalled meeting and observing the treatment of a woman with a severely burned upper body and a man whose diabetes had necessitated the amputation of his leg. Though some treatments were surely painful, Plakos said, Castro’s patients remained at ease, relaxed perhaps in part by the doctor’s expert bedside manner, a medley of light-heartedness and sincere compassion.

“It was a dramatic experience for me, one that I will never forget,” said Plakos. “I felt really honored.”

Plakos and his wife, Marie, have collaborated with Rotary International to donate repeatedly to Castro’s cause and have visited Chiapas on multiple occasions to provide hands-on assistance.

In addition to his daily medical rounds, Castro has built 32 elementary schools and installed a handful of clean-water wells for the Mayans with the help of donors such as the Plakos.

The modern Mayans — the indigenous people of Mexico — live in destitution amongst the ruins of their ancestors, a society of people dating back to 1800 B.C. who were revered for their advanced knowledge of astronomy and agriculture, poetry and mathematics and, perhaps most famously, calendar-making and architecture.

There is some speculation as to what caused the initial decline of the Mayan civilization; but the Spanish conquest of the 1500s abruptly vanquished what was left.

“A tragedy is that the Maya civilization was one of the world’s most advanced civilizations, only to be destroyed by Cortes in two years,” said Plakos.

Since then, the Mayan people have been relegated to the underclass, shunned and disregarded by the Mexican government.

Maya in Chiapas are largely isolated. Most are unable to find work and do not have a source of income. If a Maya seeks treatment at a hospital in Mexico, they are likely to be turned away or ignored, said Plakos.

Mayans living in Chiapas make up 4 million of the 118 million person population of Mexico. The average life expectancy in Mexico is 78 years while, for the Maya, it is 44 years. The poverty level in Mexico is 14 percent, for Maya 70 percent. About 46 percent of Maya have running water, but 90 percent or more of the water is contaminated.

Initially, Plakos said, Castro was inspired to begin serving the Mayans when he was helping farmers install irrigation systems and was approached by a man whose son had been badly burned. “He did what he could,” said Plakos. “He started using the medicines that the Mayans had used for thousands of years, and from that point on it just sort of snowballed. Word circulated.”

Believing that anyone who is ill or hurt should receive help, and knowing the hospitals and government would not provide it, Plakos began his work.

Patricia Ferrer, a registered nurse from Arizona, has donated at least two weeks a year for the past nine years to assist Don Sergio with treating patients.

“I don’t know how he has been able to continue with such a heavy load,” she once confided to Plakos.

Donations for the doctor’s medical practice, wells and schools can be made to the Rotary Club of South Whidbey Island.

Is the U.S. Burning? Well Is It?

Over two years ago I asked if the U.S. is Burning? Here's another reason Mexico is calling. In this piece from the latest Gartman newsletter, Dennis cites historians, Will and Ariel Durant, on the decline of the Roman Empire.

Rome had its socialist interlude under Diocletian. Faced with increasing poverty and restlessness among the masses, and with the imminent danger of barbarian invasion, he issued in A.D. 3 an edictum de pretiis, which denounced monopolists for keeping goods from the market to raise prices, and set maximum prices and wages for all important articles and services. Extensive public works were undertaken to put the unemployed to work, and food was distributed gratis, or at reduced prices, to the poor. The government – which already owned most mines, quarries, and salt deposits – brought nearly all major industries and guilds under detailed control. “In every large town,” we are told, “the state became a powerful employer, standing head and shoulders above the private industrialists, who were in any case crushed by taxation.” When businessmen predicted ruin, Diocletian explained that the barbarians were at the gate, and that individual liberty had to be shelved until collective liberty could be made secure. The socialism of Diocletian was a war economy, made possible by fear of foreign attack. Other factors equal, internal liberty varies inversely with external danger.

The task of controlling men in economic detail proved too much for Diocletian's expanding, expensive, and corrupt bureaucracy. To support this officialdom – the army, the courts, public works, and the dole – taxation rose to such heights that people lost the incentive to work or earn, and an erosive contest began between lawyers finding devices to evade taxes and lawyers formulating laws to prevent evasion. Thousands of Romans, to escape the tax gatherer, fled over the frontiers to seek refuge among the barbarians. Seeking to check this elusive mobility and to facilitate regulation and taxation, the government issued decrees binding the peasant to his field and the worker to his shop until all their debts and taxes had been paid. In this and other ways medieval serfdom began.

Sound familiar? The U.S. is following the same path and the outcome will be the same as Rome's. I think a prudent man would take his family out of harm's way.

We are farther down the path. We are just waiting for an excuse: "...the barbarians were at the gate, and that individual liberty had to be shelved until collective liberty could be made secure."

Then there is the Princeton Study: A new study from Princeton spells bad news for American democracy—namely, that it no longer exists.

Asking "[w]ho really rules?" researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page argue that over the past few decades America's political system has slowly transformed from a democracy into an oligarchy, where wealthy elites wield most power.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Popocatepetl Volcano Has Small Eruption

The sun sets as a plume of gas, ash and steam rises from the crater of the Popocatepetl volcano, seen from the town 

Authorities say the Popocatepetl volcano located just southeast of Mexico City has registered an explosion that spewed a mix of steam, gas and ashes about 3.5 kilometers (2.1 miles) into the air.

Mexico's National Center for Disaster Prevention says that the flare up occurred on Friday afternoon and that the amount of ash mix released was "moderate."

Popocatepetl is an active volcano, and the second tallest volcano in the country. It is located 72 kilometers (nearly 45 miles) from the capital, and close to Morelos, Puebla and Mexico states.

Friday, December 26, 2014

A Walk on Mexico’s Wild Side

BY PAM LOUWAGIE Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

                                                         Huatulco is a walk on Mexico’s wild side

The river rippled calmly in front of us, but we could hear the thunder of the rapids ahead. “Everybody dowwwn!” our guide bellowed in his thick accent, a command to pull our paddles from the water and crouch onto the floor of our rubber raft.

No way we would stay upright on these rapids, I feared, thankful for the helmet strapped to my head. When I could finally see the swirling current, tumbling and slamming into boulders just ahead, I took a deep breath. Waves of warm water washed over us. Our boat spun and ricocheted, sending us twirling between the tall pines and lush mountain jungle.

I couldn’t help but blurt out a squeal.

This was my kind of Mexico vacation.

I had always been tempted to try the popular seaside destinations that Minnesotans escape to each winter. Every time Facebook friends posted a palm-tree-laden photo on a subzero day in Minneapolis, I buried my jealousy under a down blanket.

But I remembered how I get bored lying on a beach for more than a few hours, and I recoiled at the thought of crowded, commercialized waterfronts. I imagined feeling trapped at a noisy all-inclusive resort. Then along came Huatulco. Never heard of it? That’s probably because Huatulco (pronounced wah-TOOL-ko) is a somewhat new, less-developed tourist spot along Mexico’s southern Pacific Coast, in the state of Oaxaca. Most of its visitors are Mexicans, but the government’s tourism arm is working to draw international travelers. Huatulco is made up of nine bays tucked between dramatic cliffs that drop into the sea. Along its 22 miles of coastline, the foothills of the Sierra Madre loom in the background. Before the government began promoting it for tourism in the 1980s, the area was populated only with fishing villages. Now it is marketing Huatulco as an eco-friendly destination and has vowed to preserve much of the rugged coastline, arid landscapes and green mountainsides.

Minnesota-based Sun Country Vacations started offering nonstop flights and packages there a couple of winters ago. On a subzero January morning, I was happy to board a plane with its nose pointed south, beach boredom be damned.


Checking in at the open-air front desk of the Las Brisas resort a 4{-hour flight later, my husband and I quickly learned why Huatulco is a good-weather bet: Every sun-filled day hovered in the 90s during our stay. The coast sees only about 40 days of rain a year. “We call it rainy season because we have to call it something,” one guide joked.

Still, I cringed as a front-desk clerk strapped a bright blue, all-inclusive band onto my wrist. It would be my ticket to endless drinks and food, but it also felt like I was being tagged in a herd of livestock. That worry receded after we headed out of our sleek room to see what the resort had to offer.

There were four different beaches, including a sports beach where we could use kayaks, stand-up paddle boards and catamarans as much as we wanted. “Hey!” I smiled as I said to my husband, “We can do this every day.” Two beaches over, we could use resort snorkeling equipment to explore a reef just a few yards from shore. A rocky and secluded “secret beach” was tucked around a corner.

None of the beach views were obscured by high rises or billboards or neon lights. Huatulco was far less crowded and commercialized than I had expected.

And there were plenty of opportunities to get away from the resort. In the lobby, tour operators set up tables hawking day trips: White-water rafting, bicycling, scuba diving, fishing, ATV riding and bird-watching along with tours of coffee plantations, ancient ruins and a butterfly sanctuary. Adventures were everywhere in Huatulco. In the seven days before our Sun Country flight would hurl us back to snow, we wouldn’t have enough time to do it all.


Huatulco’s nine dramatic ocean bays – its biggest draw – do not disappoint. For a fee, guided tours took tourists to remote bays, accessible only by boat, for snorkeling, diving or just watching the sunset. Even on the busiest bays, activity on the water was light. Iguanas sunned themselves on seaside rocks as we launched a double kayak into ocean swells in Tangolunda Bay, among the most developed with resorts and some private homes.

Almost immediately, we felt immersed in nature: The shell of a large sea turtle bobbed in the distance. A pelican divebombed a fish in front of us. We circled small rock islands with waves crashing against them. Nearer to shore, I tried riding the bay on a stand-up paddleboard. Swamped by a large wave, I splashed into refreshing water. Later, we set sail on a small catamaran, learning to pull the sails as we zigzagged across the surface.

Walking over to the snorkeling beach on the resort’s curving sidewalk, we passed one of the outdoor bars. We took a break for margaritas. Maybe an all-inclusive resort wasn’t so bad.

MOUNTAINS As much as the blue waters and beige sand beckoned, I couldn’t help but look at the mountain foothills behind us.

Our guided rafting trip took us a couple of hours up the mountains to the Copalita River. Floating down, we gazed at dense wilderness between bouts of jitters, brought on by Class 4 rapids. The rafting trip only whetted my appetite for more mountain fun.

The brochure in our room touted hiking trips, but when I asked about them, the tour operators looked at me quizzically, as though I were the first to ever inquire about the offering. “Alejandro on the beach,” one operator suggested, “he’s hyper. Maybe he’d take you.”

I searched the Web myself instead, and wound up contacting a Florida transplant who created the website:

George Hurchalla, a 47-year-old travel guide writer, met us at the Las Brisas lobby before dawn to take us on a mountain hike.

As his dusty Subaru climbed curvy roads, he couldn’t help but brag about the corner of paradise he called home: white-water rivers, amazing coral reefs, world-class surf breaks, great deep-sea fishing, a wide range of flora and fauna.

“I finally got friends to come visit, and they said, ‘Why didn’t you tell us it was like this?’ “ Hurchalla recalled them marveling. “I did. I tried. You just can’t understand it until you see it.”

Hurchalla turned his car onto a muddy, bumpy dirt road and stopped at a narrow walking path. The air was a crisp contrast to the heat of the coast. Hurchalla, who stands a thin 6 feet 7 inches tall, stretched out his long arms. “That’s the coolest breeze I’ve felt in a long time,” he said. The temperature almost begged for long sleeves. We stopped to soak in the unusual mixture of nature: tall pine trees, shade coffee plants, citrus.

There really is a mix of elements that allow the adventurer to soak in the atmosphere.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

How to Buy a Retirement Home in Mexico

From US News and  Dec. 23, 2014 | 9:15 a.m. EST

The largest number of Americans living outside the United States is in Mexico. The U.S. Embassy in Mexico City estimates that more than 1 million Americans live in the country either full or part time.

The U.S. Census Bureau forecasts a doubling of the nation's 65-and-older population, which will grow from 43.1 million in 2012 to an expected 83.7 million by 2050. It is reasonable to expect that many of these retirees will also be attracted to Mexico, for the same reasons the million Americans already in Mexico made that choice. Mexico offers a warm climate, proximity to the United States and an affordable cost of living.

On the list of destinations in Mexico that get American retiree attention, San Miguel de Allende, with its colonial charm, great weather and international flavor, is near the top. The expat community in this colonial city is more than 15 percent of the total population, and, like the expat retiree population of the country as a whole, is likely to increase substantially over the coming decade.

San Miguel also enjoys a lot of attention from within Mexico. This country’s economy has grown at a consistent pace over the past few years, making it possible for more Mexicans to afford second homes. President Enrique Peña Nieto has been successful at implementing political and economic reforms, instilling confidence that more good times lie ahead.

San Miguel is located in the "cradle of independence" in the state of Guanajuato, a part of the country where many Mexicans feel strong cultural and historical ties. Also, many Mexicans who have spent their career living and working in the United States are returning to their native Mexico for their retirement years.

In the years leading up to 2008, real estate activity in San Miguel was frenetic and property values were on a tear. However, prices and sales fell with the post-2008 disappearance of North American buyers.

Today, the real estate market has stabilized, and values are again beginning to move up, due to the influx of Mexican buyers, increased purchasing by Canadians and the return of U.S. buyers, thanks to the improved U.S. economy.

For all these reasons, the property market in San Miguel de Allende is among the most interesting worldwide. However, it is not among the world’s most affordable places. This market qualifies more as luxury than bargain, with many properties priced over the $500,000 mark. Two and three decades ago, 300-year-old homes in the Centro neighborhood were plentiful and cheap. Today these properties are priced in the millions. The best deals are the fixer-uppers. These come at below-market value, and, if remodeled well, can see big jumps in value.

For example, on the market right now is a two-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath home in the heart of the downtown Centro neighborhood. The asking price is $495,000, due to the location. If you were to invest $60,000 to $75,000 in a remodel of this property, adding a master suite, for example, it could become worth $1 million.

San Miguel de Allende’s rental market is active, and you have good options for property management. Both snowbirds and income investors can buy with the intention of renting out their properties either short or long term to enjoy steady rental income. One good location for this kind of purchase is the popular San Antonio neighborhood. This is a walkable, friendly neighborhood with bakeries, shops, restaurants and cafes. Values in this neighborhood are well below those in Centro. You could buy a one-bedroom, one-bath condo in this part of the city, only three blocks from the main square, for less than $200,000.

Most real estate transactions in San Miguel are cash purchases. While it is possible for a foreign buyer to finance a purchase through a Mexican bank, the terms are very different from those American buyers are accustomed to.

It can be difficult to get reliable information on the property purchase process in this country. Foreigners can legally own property in Mexico. However, you have different options for how to take title to property you buy in this country depending on the location (within a certain distance from the coast, for example), intended use and whether financing is involved.

A foreigner purchasing in San Miguel de Allende can hold fee-simple title in his or her own name, or you could take title through a Mexican trust. This can be advisable when financing is involved or when purchasing through an individual retirement account or 401(k).

If buying for business or commercial use, you could establish a Mexican corporation, and then purchase your property through that corporation. However, this option is not allowed when purchasing property for use as a personal residence.

Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group.

Monday, December 22, 2014

12 of the Best Places to Spend Christmas

CNN presents us with a list of the 12 Best Places to spend Christmas and the list includes 

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

Piñatas, posadas and ponche sum up the festivities in this colorful Mexican city, where Christmas is both a solemn and celebratory affair. Leading up to December 24, you're likely to stumble upon Mary and Joseph strolling the streets, as locals make pilgrimages from home to home, singing to "ask for posada" or "beg for shelter" as they reenact the journey to Bethlehem.

Pinatas and ponche (a mulled fruit drink) cap a long evening of peregrinations around this cobblestoned city, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its wealth of grand churches, well-preserved architecture and grand zocalos.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

José Cuervo Express Train Coming to Puerto Vallarta

WRITTEN BY: VALLARTA DAILY José Cuervo Express October 13, 2014

The José Cuervo Express train from Guadalajara to the town of Tequila is preparing to extend further to include train service in Puerto Vallarta and San Miguel de Allende.

Through the Foundation Fundación Mundo Cuervo, the José Cuervo Company will invest $300 million over the next 10 years in the construction of the project that will increase tourism in Tequila, Jalisco.

Juan Beckmann, President of Administration for José Cuervo, announced the plan to build a new train route connecting Tequila with Puerto Vallarta, Guadalajara and San Miguel de Allende in Guanajuato.

The project planning began three years ago and will move into phase one, the building of new hotels, shops, an event center covering three acres, including a theater.

The Fundación Mundo Cuervo is dedicated to improving the life of the people who live in the community where José Cuervo operates. The foundation assists the community through many programs including those for women and children, and addiction recovery.

José Cuervo currently manages the José Cuervo Express train between Guadalajara and the town of Tequila.

Casa Wabi

From The Brooklyn Rail, committed to providing an independent forum for arts, culture, and politics throughout New York City and beyond comes this article by Lucìa Hinojosa and Diego Gerard.

"The Mexican landscape is—physically, socially, and culturally—a challenging arena for any cultural or artistic project with utopian visions. Mexican artist Bosco Sodi as founder, and contemporary art curator Patricia Martín as director, have embarked on a fascinating project with hopeful ambitions: Casa Wabi, an architectural gem sunk in the rural coast of Southeast Mexico, built by Japanese master architect Tadao Ando.

Casa Wabi (Front Facade). Photo by Lucía Hinojosa. 

"Located on the outskirts of Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Casa Wabi is a non-profit organization offering residencies and opportunities for long-term projects for international and local artists. A fundamental goal of the organization is the collaborative involvement of artists and the local residents. This important social commitment might be the catalyst that will allow fresh ideas to develop, creating a dynamic process in which aesthetic and educational practices meet. The aim of Casa Wabi is to merge different realities to create a nurturing entity, in which art is used as a vehicle for the advancement of local communities through educational stimulation. Artists in residence are encouraged to develop projects that welcome locals to take part in workshops spanning several art genres—an approach that is intended to nurture both the communities’ interests as well as the artists’ approach to elements foreign to their practice. The educational aspect of the projects also serves as an alternative means of learning within the serious educational crisis faced by students throughout Mexico."

Continue reading at The Brooklyn Rail...

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Mexican Moment: The Rise of Architecture’s Latest Design Capital

On a recent trip abroad, architect and urban planner José Castillo was struck by a conversation with Mexico’s tourism attaché in Asia. Mexican tourism, the attaché remarked, has changed; it was the ancient pyramids and sandy beaches of the country that once drew visitors to it. Today however, architecture and design—and food—prevail.

The issue of food may be of little wonder. Mexican cuisine has indeed become more popular than ever in both the high and low ends of the culinary spectrum, and food in general is not only what one eats for dinner but also a hobby and an obsessive conversation topic. Yet for local design to come to the same level of acclaim and reputation is, at any rate, quite astonishing. It may be, though, that food and architecture are not so far apart. These are both highly creative and productive professions, as well as ones with a rich history, a theory, and many layers of tradition.

Read more at Arch Daily

Moving to Mexico

From the Expat Blog comes this advice:
When it comes to moving large volumes or covering long distances, in Mexico it is recommended to leave it up to the expertise of professional movers who will take charge of the removal process.

Some tips to prepare your move: 

Start your moving preparation 3 months in advance
You may have to obtain visas, work permits, vaccination, or cancel services which require a notice period.

Make a list of all you need to do. 
Being well-organized will help the move go more smoothly.

Sort through your belongings 
Choose which goods you would like to bring along to Mexico and which ones you prefer to leave behind either with a friend or in a storage unit.

Seek advice: 
it might cost less to buy goods in Mexico instead of bringing over your belongings.

Choose the right moving company 
Finding a good moving company is essential to any expatriation project. Independent regulatory bodies like FIDI will help you find reliable moving companies. Internal quality processes, specialized packing materials and a large network will guarantee high standard of quality and service.

Prevent the risk of breakage
Since zero risk does not exist, material damage insurance is highly recommended.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Mexico’s to be No. 1 Vehicle Exporter

General Motors Co. said Thursday it will invest $5 billion in Mexico over six years, dating from 2013 through 2018, and will add 5,600 new jobs in the region.

The Detroit based automaker said the investment includes $1.4 billion announced or implemented in the past two years and $3.6 billion will come over the next four years.

“These investments will fund plant improvements to modernize and expand our manufacturing facilities at our four major complexes in Mexico,” GM spokesman Bill Grotz said.

GM, in a news release, said the investments will help “GM produce new vehicles for the local and foreign market, which will help establish GM as Mexico’s No. 1 vehicle exporter.”

Friday, December 12, 2014

Oil Fall Pressures Currencies

Zero Hedge writes today: Despite numerous interventions by Mexico, Russia, and Nigeria, the free-fall continues in their currencies. The Russian Ruble is the poster-child (down 40% since June alone - testing 58/USD today) but the crash in Mexico and Brazil is accelerating in the last week. Default risks are surging for all of the Oil-Producing nations with Russia topping 450bps (5Y CDS) .

The Mexican Peso this morning is 14.77 to 1 USD. Crude oil is now under $60: $57.60! (see chart)

UPDATE: Mexico vows to sell dollars to halt peso's slide

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Sold the House. Now What?

Sold the house. So we have a few questions:

1. Did you ship furniture and possessions to SMA?
2. How about mail service?
3. We will be getting iPhone 6s soon. What do we need to do to avoid roaming?
4. After we get back to PDX, we will drive to SMA. Where would you enter Mexico and how long will it take to drive? I assume you don't drive at night.
5. We will be looking for place to live near Centro. What area do you like and can we find a cool two bedroom for $1,000 per month or so?

Monday, December 8, 2014

Packing To Move

We have completed all the tasks necessary for the photo people to come today and take pictures inside for the advertising. Then tomorrow the realtors do their walk through. Just two weeks and two days before Christmas. Will they like the house enough? Will buyers show up?

Mexico is calling! Moving there is exciting, but still a lot of work to do to move out after the sale.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

World in a Box

John Rubino on December 7, 2014 wrote an article for warns that " an unlimited monetary printing press to a government or group of banks is guaranteed to produce a dystopia of ever-greater debt and more centralized control, until the only remaining choice is between deflationary collapse or runaway inflation.

We are told, "Increasingly, emerging market contagion is enveloping Latin America. The Mexican peso was hit for 1.6% Friday, boosting this EM darling’s loss for the week to a notable 3.0%. This week saw the Colombian peso hit for 4.3%, the Peruvian new sol 1.1%, the Brazilian real 0.9% and the Chilean peso 0.6%. Venezuela CDS (Credit default swaps) surged 425 bps to a record 2,717 bps. Brazilian stocks were slammed for 5% this week and Mexican equities fell 2.2%…"

The US Dollar now buys 14.36 Pesos. This is the highest in ten years since 15.566 to the dollar in March, 2009. (see chart)

Friday, December 5, 2014

Sayulita Drone Video

Over the summer, worked with a professional drone flyer and video producer. The quick movie below features some of Sayulita's most awesome views, beaches, rentals, and businesses. Enjoy.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Closest Beaches to San Miguel de Allende

From David member of Life-in-Mexico a Yahoo group:

The closest beaches to San Miguel de Allende are in Michoacan and ride times from SMA to the Pacific is getting shorter. With the completion a few years ago of the Salamanca/Morelia cuota, driving times have been drastically cut. The new Morelia by-pass will be completed sometime after the first of the year. Starting near Lake Cuitzio, the bypass circumvents Morelia, ending as a continuation of the cuota to Uruapan, Lazaro Cardenas, and the Pacific beaches. 

When most of us think of Michoacan, we think about life at an altitude of 7,200 feet around Lake Patzcuaro. We don’t visualize Michoacan at sea level or the Michoacan coast, but we should. The cool, winter months are the best time to make a splash on the Michoacan beaches.

Beaches of Michoacan

The coastline of Michoacan is 155 miles of the most beautiful areas of Mexico. Dozens of Michoacan beaches are untouched, with vast, amber-colored coastlines. A handful of beaches are hidden by bird estuaries, with some secluded between cliffs and coves. Other beaches are at the mouths of calm rivers, suitable for swimming and sunbathing.

Several beaches require a surfboard. Other beaches require a hammock, while a few only require an appetite. There’s no requirement to be dead at Playa de Los Muertos, but ignore the warnings and you will be from the deadly undertows and ferocious waves.

Highway 200 follows the coastline for easy driving. Buses will drop-off or pick-up passengers anywhere. There are places to spend the day and spend the night.

The closest beach is Playa Azul, outside Lazaro Cardenas. It is the southern edge and the beginning of the coast of Michoacan, with some of the most unspoiled beaches in Mexico. When you go to Playa Azul, don't miss the boat trip on Laguna Pichi, a freshwater Lake about a mile and a half, east of town. The Lake is surrounded by a mangrove forest with Palm trees, and plenty of seafood enramadas.

Some travelers prefer the beaches to the north of Playa Azul, about 30 miles further up the coast to Caleta de Campos. Friends stayed in Hotel Yuritzi in Caleta and thoroughly enjoyed it. Be sure to ask for a room on the second floor. Another friend reported that “Caleta is an unpolluted and unspoiled little town. Sea food is wonderful and inexpensive.”

Playa Maruata is considered the most beautiful beach in Michoacan. This place is so rustic, it is camping, palapas or cabanas, with no hotels. Centro Ecoturistico Maruata has very nice cabanas over-looking the beach.

Please understand we are not talking about Ixtapa or other touristy resorts. We are talking about the beaches of Michoacan, which are primitive, rustic, secluded, unspoiled, golden, deserted and delicious, for those who eat.

Come-on over to the other side of the colonial highlands and drop down from the mountains to an unspoiled, coastal paradise. Enjoy the coast of Michoacan, the closest beaches to San Miguel. If that fits your definition of a beach… …go coastal!

Feliz viaje, David

Do People Buy Houses This Close to Christmas?

Do people buy houses this close to Christmas? We are about to find out. We have been told, "Yes they do!" Some people love to shop in December for a major purchase. That’s why you see TV car ads showing big red Christmas bows on expensive autos bought by romantic husbands hoping to surprise their wives with the best Christmas present ever. There’s no need to wait until after New Years or even spring if you are not in need to sell quickly.

Here are some things you can do to make your home more appealing during December and get that house sold by Christmas. These are some of the things we are doing:

1.    Be agile! You want to be ready at the drop of a hat to show your home to potential buyers. That means any holiday parties may be out so you don’t have to worry about post-party cleanup. Just say to friends and family that you are trying to sell your house. “Why not celebrate at your house?”
2.    Put up your decorations, if you want, but stay on the conservative side. You don’t want so many lights that the house can be seen from space. Potential buyers will experience a warm feeling with some decorations. You want them to get excited about spending holidays in their house. A huge Christmas tree could be wrong if it makes your house to appear small.
3.    Get the price right, maybe just a little under the market. The last thing you want is the house to sit on the market which could lead to a price reduction.
4.    Make sure to hire a knowledgeable agent who knows the area your house is in. Buyers like to know what the schools are like and how close; how close is shopping, parks and access to the freeway, etc.
5.    If you are looking to sell your home quickly and are not sure you have the time to look for an agent and prepare your home to be ready to show buyers you may want to consider an all cash offer. A reputable cash home buyer will offer you an all cash offer for your home as is. You can have your home sold before Christmas and close shortly after in some cases you may even be able to close before Christmas.

Our house goes on the market Monday for $449,000. Patsy McKelligon of (W)here Inc. is our realtor. Next stop Mexico!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Obama Watch: FATCA on Tour

By Donald GroveContributing Editor, The Casey Report 

Implementation of the infamous Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) got underway in earnest on July 1, 2014. A cacophony of protests and warnings could be heard as that date approached, and it has only grown louder as more and more people realize how startlingly draconian and wrongheaded this legislation is.

Even if one believes that the real objective behind FATCA is, as professed, to snag wealthy overseas tax cheats, it isn’t hard to see that the collateral damage far exceeds any conceivable benefit. Any additional tax revenue will be dwarfed by compliance costs, lost foreign investment, overseas financial institutions refusing to do business with Americans, and the alarming specter of more and more Americans renouncing their citizenship.

Road Trip

Jim Bopp, a serially successful Supreme Court litigator, and Mike Lee, Republican Senator from Utah, have taken their battle against FATCA on the road. Mike Lee is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee who stepped onto the national stage with his rebuttal to President Obama’s State of the Union address in January this year. Senator Lee will explain how FATCA can be attacked legislatively.

As I write, they are in Paris addressing attendees of an event sponsored by the Association of Americans Resident Overseas (AARO) and Republicans Overseas. Additional stops are planned for London, Frankfort, Geneva, and Luxembourg. The tour may even extend to Asia.

Jim Bopp is preparing to challenge the constitutionality of FATCA in the Supreme Court and will be lining up plaintiffs for that court case during this tour. The AARO told its members that the pair will discuss the court challenge and explain why FATCA is “an invasion of privacy, an overstepping of authority on the part of the Treasury Department, and a tool for ‘cruel and unusual punishment.’” Their tour will build support for FATCA reform among 7.6 million Americans who live and work overseas but mostly do not vote in US elections. Organizers hope to register and get ballots to this huge block of voters—equivalent to the 13th-largest state.

Unwilling Participants

It’s easy to understand why foreign banks are closing Americans’ accounts and refusing to open new ones: FATCA basically turns them into snitches for the IRS. Overseas Americans are treated like tax evaders—guilty until proven innocent. Foreign financial institutions (FFIs) are required to perform “due diligence” on “suspicious” customers, including flagging those who open accounts using foreign passports but are US citizens or permanent residents of the US. Banks that are not sufficiently attentive or fail to report suspicious customers risk being deemed “negligent” by the IRS and may be sanctioned.

The US Treasury Department seems quite proud of the fact that foreign banks are complying with FATCA. That compliance is not willing, however. The banks really have no choice. US correspondent banks in New York have been told not to provide correspondent services to foreign banks that don’t comply with FATCA. To tighten the noose, US banks have also been told not to do business with any foreign banks that assist banks that are not compliant. Thus, a compliant FFI that assists a noncompliant FFI is shunned by US correspondent banks on which it relies to process its own payments.

Closing the Gates

The poor, if they want to slip away from the clutches of the US before becoming wealthy, have a relatively easy time of it. It is not as easy for the wealthy to escape. The IRS imposes a tax on unrealized capital gains of both citizens renouncing their citizenship and of noncitizen green card holders who have been allowed to live and work in the US. Under Internal Revenue Code § 877A, the property of “covered expatriates” is taxed at 15% on a mark-to-market basis on the day before expatriation.

Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Bob Casey Jr. (D-PA) have more than once tried to enact the Ex-PATRIOT Act (Expatriation Prevention by Abolishing Tax-Related Incentives for Offshore Tenancy). Their bill would have doubled the tax on Americans leaving the US for tax reasons to 30%. These efforts to keep money from leaving our shores are reminiscent of exit taxes imposed on Jews leaving Nazi Germany in the 1930s and by Rhodesia in the 1970s. Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, suggested that Schumer “probably just plagiarized it and translated it from the original German.”

Since 1996 American citizens who renounced their citizenship to avoid taxes could be denied a visa to return to the US. The Ex-PATRIOT Act would have replaced that 1996 Reed Amendment with its own provision denying admission to “specified expatriates” and shifting jurisdiction from the Attorney General to Treasury and Homeland Security.

In 2012, in response to Facebook cofounder Eduardo Saverin renouncing his citizenship, Senator Casey warned that: “We simply cannot allow the ultra-wealthy to write their own rules.” Today many of those renouncing their citizenship aren’t the ultra-wealthy evading taxes. Many are overseas Americans who find that they can’t do business with FFIs, are not free to make their preferred investments, are hopelessly overburdened by trying to comply with incomprehensible and complex regulations, and are genuinely afraid of the severe consequences if they make a compliance mistake. Yet Bruce Ash, chairman of Republican Overseas Action Inc., concluded that the Obama administration “is building a virtual Berlin Wall to keep overseas Americans from renouncing their citizenship.”

The Obama administration’s response has been to increase the fee imposed by the State Department on those renouncing citizenship by 422% from $450 to $2,350.