Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Mitch Altman / Flickr Guadalajara, Mexico 12 of 16 There’s no hotter art scene right now than in Guadalajara, which has impressive museums and jaw-dropping murals. The creative crowd has been flocking to the new design-centric Casa Fayette hotel, but you’ll also spot them at the Traversia Cuatro gallery and Julia Y Renata, a fashion boutique run by two sisters.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Well I'll Be Darned

Well I'll be darned. I set down on the end of a bench in the Jardin after having a wonderful breakfast at La Vanda. I had my favorite Omelette Marguarite, which is like having Caprese in an omelette. Sitting on the other end of the bench was a woman with big strawberry blond hair. We struck up a conversation while we sat in the sun on a beautiful SMA day. She has been in SMA for sixteen years to my year and a half. She blogged. I don't know how that came up. I guess when I mentioned I was a freelance writer. Anyway, I was talking with Babs. Yes that Babs, that you see on the right on my blog roll. I have been reading her blog for many years before I ever lived in SMA, when it was just a glimmer of a hope to someday retire here.

She is a very pleasant woman, well known with 30,000 followers of her blog. While we sat and chatted many came up to chat with her. Seems like a small world sometimes here in the city. You never know who you will meet just sitting on a bench in the Jardin on a day before the Dia de Muertos, the square mobbed by people with nothing to do but enjoy the sunshine.

Babs, mucho gusto, I'm sure I'll see you around now that we've met.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The World’s Best Cities for Food

No matter where in the world you’re traveling, you’re going to eat. And if you plan to make that a very important part of your trip (which we suggest you do), consider heading to one of the world’s best cities for food.

7. San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

But this year, says Melanie Lieberman of Travel + Leisure, lesser-known destinations received accolades for their restaurants and cuisine, including the colonial city of San Miguel de Allende, in Mexico’s central highlands. Travelers will find bars serving small-batch mezcals from Oaxaca, and (believe it or not) a croissant at Cumpanio that will rival any ordered in Paris.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

An Aljibe or Underground Water Cistern

The majority of Mexico is not served by pressurized water systems, requiring some ingenuity to regulate the water pressure in your home

On our way to Zacatecas two weeks ago, one particular view from our bus gave us a view of the roofs of a housing development. I noticed on every roof was a black, round cylinder called a tinaco. You'll notice that most houses have a tinaco on the roof. I asked a number of expats how the system works. Few could tell me.

Here's how it works. The city delivers water two or three hours a day to each house. In order to have water whenever it is needed, each house has an aljibe or underground water cistern. The aljibe has a float that shuts off intake when it is full. Then a pump sends the water to the tinaco on the roof and it has a float that shuts off intake when full. The system is now pressurized and showers, sinks, water heater, and toilets can draw on the water from the roof. It is gravity fed and that's why we have pressure when we take a shower. If power fails, as it can here, we still have water from the roof.

Sometimes you will see the tinaco on stilts, to give additional force of gravity to an upstairs shower.

Every house has an aljibe. Our house on Umaran had a had a cistern in the guest bedroom. It was just a cover in the floor by the bed. Here on Huertas, our cistern is off the terrace outside the kitchen, near the BBQ.

Raise a glass to the wines of Guanajuato

I think we have become snobs when it comes to Mexican wines here in SMA. We turn up our noses at wine from here in favor of wines from Chile. It reminds me of the time in Oregon when everyone raved about California wines vs. Oregon wines. My, how the times have changed! Well now things are changing for Mexico.

By Meagan Drillinger at Travel Weekly Guadelupe on the Baja peninsula. But this is not Mexico's only wine region worth knowing. In the heart of Mexico, in the central state of Guanajuato, is another burgeoning wine country that is poised to make a name for itself.

You may know Guanajuato as the state that is home to San Miguel de Allende, Dolores Hidalgo and Comonfort, and these are all fantastic places to know and explore. But Guanajuato also has a rich wine-growing tradition that dates to the 16th century, when Spanish conquistadors brought European grapes to the region. Back then the production of wine was strictly for the use of the church; today the country is reviving its wine culture and making it a very vital part of experiencing Guanajuato. Americans may be unfamiliar with the wine tradition of the region because Guanajuato, like Switzerland, does not export any of its bottles to the U.S.

There are about 25 ranches in Guanajuato devoted to producing wine, but there are three that are must-visits. The first stop for oenophiles in Mexico is the Wine Trail, known in Spanish as the Circuito del Vino, which stretches from Dolores Hidalgo to San Miguel de Allende.The first stop on that trail is the Vega Manchon winery, which produces the much-acclaimed Cuna de Tierra label, winner of 31 medals in three years. This winery is located along the highway from Dolores Hidalgo to San Luis de la Paz. At Rancho Santa Gloria, travelers have the opportunity to make their own wine with familiar European grapes, like montepulciano, tempranillo and grenache. At the end of the circuit is Vinicola Toyan, with a wine cellar built at a depth of 82 feet. Mysticism is at play here as general manager Martha Molina marks the entrance to the wine cellar with meteorites she found, believing that they help to enhance the wine's organic properties. Wind your way down a dark ramp that is flanked with 24 strategically positioned pink and black stone monks, lit up in blue and violet.

But a real gem of a winery in Guanajuato is the Caminos D'Vinos, the highest vineyard in Mexico at 7,200 feet above sea level. The winery spreads out around a gorgeous, historical hacienda, Sangre de Cristo, that also serves as a boutique hotel. Also on site are a spa and a restaurant, El Tronco.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Billy Collins in San Miguel

One of my favorite poets will be a keynote speaker at the San Miguel Writer's Conference in February 2017.
February 15–19, 2017
Hotel Real de Minas

Keynote Address: The Rain In Portugal: A Reading and Partial Explanation

The Rain in Portugal by Billy Collins
My talk will include a reading of poems, many from my latest book, along with commentary on what triggered the poems and by what process they came to be written. I hope my talk will remove any mistaken bits of mystery while leaving the real mystery intact.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Book Review: The Jericho Journals By John Scherber

The sixteenth in the Paul Zacher series set in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico is just out. This is the finest book yet. John Scherber, who just signed a contract to make his “20 Centavos” into a TV series, has concocted a mystery that is filled with twists and turns, yet is introspective as well.

Edward Jericho, is known for his unannounced absences, but this time he has disappeared for 14 months. When Paul, Maya and Cody attend the auction of his personal effects, some things don’t square. There are the brushes left uncleaned and shoes in the closet, but for Cody there are the keys in the garage that indicate foul play. What do you do as an artist if you are excellent at what you do, as long as you copy others, but are short creativity? Scherber leads us down that path until we reach the surprising conclusion.

I can’t wait to see who plays the main characters in the TV show,

Book Review: The Lizard’s Tale By Kurt Kamm

176 pages
Publisher: MCM Publishing (June 21, 2016)
Publication Date: June 21, 2016

The Lizard’s Tale is the first book I’ve read by Kurt Kamm and it is a good one. It starts with a rare Motagua Lizard from a small valley in Guatamala that is transported through the country to Mexico and on to California for the benefit of a cartel boss. We see inside the cartel, the DEA, and firefighters.

It is interesting how fate and the curse of the Motagua Lizard intertwine. Kamm’s descriptions of the lizard, the countryside of Guatamala and Mexico made me feel I was right there.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Take Action to Control Mosquitoes and Chikungunya in Sayulita

Yes I know we are San Miguel not Sayulita. This information applies to us as well.

 By: Trudy Rilling-Collins - The Mosquito Lady Jun 24, 2016

If you are ready to take action to control mosquitoes around your home, here are a few useful tips to help you. It really isn't that difficult to find and eliminate mosquito breeding sources around your home and protect yourself and your family from Chikungunya in Sayulita!

Here are 10 tips to guide you in your mosquito hunting! It can be quite fun and exciting and a great education for your children!

HAPPY HUNTING! *Mosquitoes always breed in standing water, look for the wigglers there!

1. Check to make sure fish are in all the water features around your garden. If not, put 10 small mosquito eating fish in every water feature.

2. Don’t store any containers that can trap water outside. Either discard containers or move to covered storage out of the rain.

3. Check for mosquito breeding in the three terrible T’s, TIRES, TANKS and TARPS

4. Look for coconuts that are collecting water and breeding mosquitoes. If found, cut into quarters and stack the pieces so that they can’t collect water. If you have large piles you may want to consider removing them.

5. Check water storage tanks to make sure there are no entry points for mosquitoes. Use heavy duty tape, pipe fitting, silicon caulking and netting to seal any holes or gaps!

6. Check to make sure the vent pipe on every septic tank (junction box) is screened, and that junctions are completely sealed at the ground surface with concrete grout, without any cracks or holes that allow mosquitoes to come and go from the tank.

7. Check for mosquito breeding in wells, rain gutters, cut bamboo poles and vases.

8. Change the water in pet enclosures daily! Scrub pet water dishes daily to kill mosquito eggs on the sides of the dishes.

9. Avoid rooting plant cuttings in water over long periods of time and check greenhouse and nursery areas for water filled containers.

10. Share what you know about controlling mosquitoes with your neighbors to create a larger “Zone of Safety”! Organize a neighborhood clean-up to get rid of trash and containers that hold water that could be breeding mosquitoes.


Saturday, May 7, 2016

MX Remains No. 1 in Silver Production

Fresnillo's Saucito mine in Zacatecas. MINERÍA EN LÍNEA

Mexico led the world in silver production in 2015 for the sixth year in a row.

Mexican mines produced 189.5 million ounces, up 2% over 2014, far ahead of the second-biggest producer, Peru, with 135.9 million ounces, according to the World Silver Institute.

Overall, however, world silver production was down 2% to 886.7 million ounces due to declines in Canada, Australia and China.

Mexico’s production increase came as a result of higher output at the Saucito and Saucito II mines operated by Fresnillo and the El Cubo mine belonging to the Canadian mining firm, Endeavour Silver.

The institute pointed out that Mexico’s silver production has risen steadily since 2010, when production totaled 141.8 million ounces.

GFMS analyst Erica Rannestad said one reason for higher output in Mexico was a reduction in costs brought on by the peso’s decline in value against the U.S. dollar, providing an impetus for greater production.

She said expansion of the San José mine, owned by another Canadian company, Fortuna Silver Mines, could propel Mexican production to yet another increase in 2016.

Worldwide demand for silver rose from 1.13 billion ounces in 2014 to 1.17 billion last year but the price dropped from US $19.08 per ounce to $15.68.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Huge Bet on Gold

El Limón-Guajes mine, inaugurated this week. MILENIO/JESÚS QUINTANAR 

A Canadian-owned mine in the Guerrero Gold Belt is the biggest single investment ever seen in the state, said the governor this week at the official inauguration of the El Limón-Guajes mine.

Construction of the US $800-million gold mine, located on 630 hectares of land 43 kilometers south of Cocula, began in 2013.

With annual production capacity of 358,000 ounces of gold, it will be one of the largest and lowest-cost gold mines in the world, according to Toronto-based Torex Gold Resources Inc.

Torex CEO Fred Stanford said the mine has generated 5,000 jobs in the area, both in direct employment by the company and through contractors. He also said an important feature of the project is the environmental monitoring and a collaboration agreement with the Autonomous University of Guerrero to ensure adherence to environmental protection standards.

This week’s event also saw Agrarian Development Secretary Rosario Robles present the keys to the owners of 169 homes built by the mining firm as part of its obligations to help in the development of local communities.

Torex invested $42 million in the construction of the 500-square-meter houses.

Governor Héctor Astudillo spoke at this week’s event, saying there had never been an investment — “neither a hotel nor a highway” — that matched that of the new mine.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Damn, Dancy!

5.0 out of 5 stars Damn, Dancy!, April 23, 2016 By Mike D. Landfair

This review is from: For Your Damned Love (A Doc Hardesty Adventure) by Linton Robinson

“For Your Damned Love” is the story of Dancy, a beautiful, demanding woman from the States, whose husband comes to Mexico to make a high-level drug deal with Armando, a local drug-lord. While here, he makes a deal with Armando to kidnap Dancy, enjoy for eight months and kill her. Doc Hardesty, a semi-retired mercenary, is hired by Dancy’s father to find his daughter and bring her back. Doc succeeds, but not until Dancy has taken over Armando’s gang starting with a gripping erotic scene in a hidden jungle pool near Puerto Vallarta.

The scene of her kidnapping is unlike anything most of us could imagine. In the nude, she fights two brawlers with only a tennis racket and does some real damage before they make off with her.

Dancy is luscious, but so is the writing of Linton Robinson, for example:

Writing about Memo and his son Marco Tulio, trumpet players: the kid had perfect pitch and timing, a feather touch, and all the chops in the world. Memo was better yet, with a brash, slapdash slide off true pitch that was always perfect, always strong and male, always a sad sort of swagger. And he could use sour notes like a chef uses sour cream. The kid had a more delicate, classical style; a Spanish sound of flamenco bodegas. You could close your eyes and see the bulls tossing their horns. Together the two would slip behind the violins, then romp out front like a swirl of skirts and lassos. 

“You’ve done well with him, Memo.”

 “Me? I’ve just tried to stay out of his way. Sometimes he scares me. You know, he never cried as a baby, He was saving it up for a horn.”

 I believe “For Your Damned Love” is his eleventh novel. Robinson lives in Mexico close to the border. Next up for me is “Mary of Angels.”

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Celebrating One Year in San Miguel

April first, April Fools Day, marked the our one year anniversary of moving to San Miguel. We spent February of 2015 here, and signed a rental lease beginning April One. We flew home filled the Clampett Mobile with as much of our personal belongings as we could, put the rest in storage and drove 3,300 miles to San Miguel de Allende. Dave and Cheryl Leland loaned us their casita for a few days until we could take possession of Umaran #66. The Clampett mobile is a 2001 Mazda Tribute. It has battle scars, but it has only 87,000 miles and runs at 90 mph, hour after hour, across Texas with not a whimper or hesitation.

Because the owner of the Umaran house has the house up for sale, we wanted to make sure we had a house to live in should the new owner want us out, we signed a lease on a new place to live. This time we will be at Huertas #9 and our furniture arrived on March 23rd. This house has a big yard, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a huge kitchen with a Dutch door to the outside and a living room and dining room with ceilings over sixteen feet tall. We awake to the birds singing and Doves that seem to ask, "What, what's with you?" We have a gardner that comes twice a week to water, prune the bushes and mow the lawn. He is paid 100 pesos a month - $6! Huertas is on the east side of the Jardin and close to La Parada, where we love to dine, and Parque Juarez, a beautiful large park where Bev takes Tai Chi.

Looking back on the year what have we learned?

  • We learned that our decision to move here was the right one. We love the sunshine, the warmth of the people here, both Mexicans and expats, the violent thunderstorms and rain that fall in the June through August period that last an hour or so, the restaurants, the sunsets, and the walking.
  • We shake our head at the cost of living. Property taxes that are less than one tenth of what we were paying in Portland. Car insurance less than a quarter of Portland-$383 for a year. Dental care, a third or more of the states. I had a root canal and a new crown for about $500. Transportation by taxi 40 to 50 pesos. One hundred pesos is right now about $6. Bus transportation to the grocery store five pesos! Last night the Scherbers and the Landfairs dined at a new restaurant to us named Pork Belly. John and I had BBQed ribs and Kristine and Bev had chicken and Salmon. It not only looked delicious, but didn;t disappoint in the taste department. With tip the bill came to 1,300 pesos or about $76. The amount included a bottle of wine, lemonade and  one carrot cake.
  • A short forty-five minute drive to Celaya and we have Home Depot, Sams, and Costco. We may be in Mexico, but at Costco we can get HP printer ink for 145 pesos, sharp cheddar cheese, and the same great Costco hot dogs and strawberry sundae. However, if you love Cheetos, they are not available without bacon flavoring.
  • We learned that living on Umaran is a great location, close to the Jardin and my favorite ice cream store,  the barbershop, the chicken man, restaurants, the Saturday market where they have great cinnamon rolls, BUT it is noisy with motorcycles and cars and taxis. It reconfirmed to us that when you first move here, renting is our recommendation. It just takes a while to get a feel for the different Colonias.
  • We've learned that friends are easy to make here. Our friends are expats. They seem to be adventurous and eager to impart advice to make the transition easier. Every week I learn something new.
  • We've learned that this is not the U.S. You need to be flexible and accepting. Those who aren't like a river, have trouble here and tend to complain. Why can't these people,yada, yada, yada.
  • I learned that if you want to reinvent yourself, Mexico is the place. I want to be a writer, not just a freelance writer, but a teller of stories either as a novelist or a short story writer. I joined a writer's group. There are six of us. Each is trying to be a better craftsman and each of us trust the feedback we get about our weekly submissions. 

Do we miss the United States?

My first answer is no. Then I think of our friends, my family and Bev's family and we do miss them, but not much about the U.S. do we miss. Someone asked me, "Don't you miss the freedoms in the U.S.?" I thought does he think we don't have freedoms down here? I don't miss the feeling that the U.S. is a big target for all the loonies around the world. Someone said that envy is a big reason for the target on the U.S. I think it's also that the U.S. meddles in the affairs of every country on the planet. I don't miss the feeling of being a target.

There seems to be groups of expats. There are the expats involved in writing or painting or some form of creative arts. Then there are the golfers, the drinkers, the snowbirds who spend a month to six months here every year, the permanent residents divided into the renters and owners.Women seem to outnumber men about eight to one. They complain that all the good men are taken. 

Sometimes the little things get frustrating. If you get a parking ticket the police take your license plate. In order to get in back, you can;t just send a check, you must go into the police station. We made an appointment to have cable installed in the new house. They said they would be here after 12:00, but Monday was a holiday. So they came on Tuesday close to 5:30.

I find myself saying no entiendo, I don't understand, a lot to Mexicans. Try to explain to a Mexican woman who doesn't speak English that you are there to pick up the cable box and she's trying to explain you don't need one. You just reconfigure your TV. It's frustrating to be sitting in a dental chair hearing the dentist and assistant converse with no idea what they are saying. It's isolating. I learn a little each day, but I only catch a word or two. If I lived in another city with fewer expats, I would need to learn Spanish faster to lose that isolated feeling.

The common question we get when we've visited the U.S. is, "What do you do all day." We say the same things we did when we were living in the U.S. Except we are warm. We don't lay on the beach all day because we are six to eight hours away from the beach cities. For me I spend a lot of time writing, trolling the internet, emailing, and reading. We walk almost everywhere and that means one to two miles a day walking. For Bev that means three to five miles walking a day.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Book Review: Walking Tours of Queretaro of Santiago By William J. Conaway

Book Review:
Four Stars Walking Tours of Queretaro of Santiago
By William J. Conaway
Print Length: 39 pages
Publisher: Publicaciones Papelandia; 1 edition (January 1, 2008)
Kindle Price $5.99
Publication Date: January 1, 2008 ASIN: B008I51A2Q

I chose to buy Conaway’s book for several reasons. He came to Mexico in June of 1961 and published a series of short books about walking tours of various cities of Mexico including Guanajuato, Puebla, San Luis Potosi, Taxco, Morelia, etc. He also shares information about driving tours, Mexican food and history for Gringos.

The second reason I bought the book: four of us headed out at noon for Queretaro from San Miguel de Allende. I had a doctor’s appointment at 5:30. I figured that we would have plenty of time to see a little of the city and have lunch before my appointment. However, I got lost on the way, I chose to go to Celaya then to Queretaro. Getting lost and wading our way through long construction lines took over four hours, so we didn’t get to see much at all.

I want to go back and do it right.

Conaway spends the first 40% of the 39 pages telling us the history of the people who lived in the area and gives us a list of 25 places to see on the two walking tours. They can be accomplished on one day, but with so much to see, it sounds like one should spend two days. The history is very interesting as are the places to see.

I would give the book five stars for the writing and the history except for lack of maps and several errors that should be corrected. My downloaded copy has two opening pages and two bios. In addition the author’s picture comes out muddled.

I would like to see more photos of the sights to see on the tour and arrange the photos so they can be seen on one page instead of being split over two pages.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Mexico as a Major Power


Mexico has the 11th-highest GDP in the world based on purchasing power parity, according to the International Monetary Fund. As Europe weakens, it will be in the top 10 in the not-too-distant future. Yet, this country is regarded by many Americans as a Third World nation, dominated by drug cartels and impoverished people desperate to get into the United States.

While it is true that organized crime exists in Mexico and that many Mexicans want to immigrate to the US, a roughly equal number are leaving the US and returning to Mexico… drawn by economic opportunities in their home country. The largest auto plant in the Western Hemisphere is in Mexico, and Bombardier builds major components for aircraft there. Mexico has many problems, of course, but so does the U.K. (the 10th-largest economy) and Italy (12th).

No one would be surprised by the U.K. or Italy rankings, but many people would be stunned to find that Mexico is ranked right up with them. Obviously, Mexico is not as developed as Britain is. Like most nations transitioning from underdevelopment to greater development, Mexico suffers from substantial class and regional inequality, and the emergence of a dominant middle class is still unfolding.

At the same time, Italy also has substantial regional inequality. Mexico can't aspire to British standards, but Italy is a reasonable model. Inequality diminishes the significance of being 11th in some ways, but it doesn't change the basic reality of Mexico’s relative strength.

Mexico is commonly perceived, far too simplistically, as a Third World country with a general breakdown of law and a population seeking to flee north. That perception is also common among many Mexicans, who seem to have internalized the contempt in which they are held.

Mexicans know that their country’s economy grew 2.5 percent last year and is forecast to grow between 2 percent and 3 percent in 2016—roughly equal to the growth projection for the US economy. But, oddly, they tend to discount the significance of Mexico’s competitive growth numbers in a sluggish global economy.

Here, therefore, we have an interesting phenomenon. Mexico is, in fact, one of the leading economies of the world, yet most people don’t recognize it as such and tend to dismiss its importance.

This week, I spoke at the annual meeting of the Mexican Association of Banks in Acapulco. It was a major event, with the Mexican president and the head of the central Bank speaking, along with Americans such as Larry Fink, chairman of BlackRock. The contrast between what Fink and I had to say about Mexico, and what the Mexicans had to say, is interesting. The Mexicans were cautious, frequently dwelling on the challenges facing Mexico and not focusing very much on the country’s achievements.

Fink and I were effusive about Mexico. Given the condition of the rest of the world, we argued, North America is an island of tranquility and opportunity—with Mexico as the most promising region economically. The contrast between our views, the views of many Mexicans, and the views of most Americans is so vast that it feels as if we dwell on different planets. I know of few places on earth that are viewed so differently by different observers.

Let me summarize the argument I made. First, the Eastern Hemisphere (Eurasia in particular) is moving toward systemic failure. The EU is struggling to manage a host of problems. Russia is contending with strategic and economic challenges, particularly the collapse in oil prices. China is trying to find a stable new normal and maintain social stability. As for the Middle East, no summary will suffice. The rest of the Eastern Hemisphere is experiencing what I might call “normal instability.”

Compared to other parts of the world, North America is not only remarkably stable but is also doing well economically. One of the main views of the Geopolitical Futures model is that, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, there was no longer any European global power. The center of gravity of the international system had shifted away from Europe, to North America. This argument rests heavily on the inherent military and economic power of the United States. The US Navy controls the oceans, and the United States produces 22% of the world’s GDP. Just as important, the United States is an inefficient exporter, a factor that cushions the US from the Eastern Hemisphere’s crisis.

While roughly 30% of GDP comes from exports in Russia, 46% in Germany, and 23% in China, US exports account for only 13% of GDP with over a third of that total sold to Canada and Mexico. Thus, while Eastern Hemisphere powers teeter on the edge of an economic volcano or tumble in, the United States finds itself relatively insulated from declines in global import demand, and the US insulates the countries on its northern and southern borders to a great extent.

The contrast between the European Union and NAFTA is critical. There are institutional differences between the attempt by the EU to integrate heterogeneous countries and NAFTA’s limits on integration. But the most important difference is that Germany, the foundation of the European system, is a massive exporter, while the United States is a net importer. Given the vastness of the US economic base, the net negative flow has little impact. However, it has an important twist in terms of Mexico. Exports, more than 80% of which go to the United States, constitute 32% of Mexico’s GDP. Thus Mexican exports to the United States amount to about a quarter of Mexico’s economy.

US GDP is about $17 trillion, and imports from Mexico’s are about 0.2 percent of the US economy, so they have very limited impact. But their impact is further mitigated because Mexican-manufactured exports contain a substantial quantity of components made in the United States. For example, Mexico is one of the top exporters of automobiles to the United States. These cars are not sold under a Mexican label, since Mexico manufactures them for foreign companies. But unlike Japanese or Chinese exports to the United States, cars manufactured in Mexico contain about 40% of their parts purchased from the United States. This means that US manufacturers contribute to the total value of Mexican exports.

Synergies have driven Mexico into dependence on the United States. The US has had the option of shifting its imports away from China and sourcing from Mexico instead. This shift has had a huge impact on Mexico’s growth. It is also one of the reasons why the Mexicans are less than positive about their economic position.

There is much history between Mexico and the United States, with the pivotal event being the American conquest of northern Mexico—from present-day California to Texas—in the 1830s and 1840s. This conquest created a complex view of the United States, informed by both anger and envy. The tragedy of Mexico, from its point of view, is that it is still so tied to the United States.

NAFTA, much debated in the US, had an even greater effect on Mexico. Access to the American market reshaped the Mexican economy, strengthening it immeasurably. It also created an enormous imbalance—economically in Mexico’s favor, politically in the United States’ favor. When you send 80% of your exports to one country, that country has tremendous power over you. This is not only a political fact, in the sense that some politician could try to shut down trade, it is also distinctly macroeconomic: If the American economy catches a cold, Mexico catches pneumonia. As other exporting countries have discovered, their well-being is in the hands of their customers. So long as the US–Mexico imbalance is there, the Mexicans will and ought to feel uneasy.

The American conquest of Northern Mexico implanted an image in American minds. The Mexicans ought to have defeated the Texans. The Mexicans had the larger army, better equipment, and, in many ways, better commanders. But the Mexicans also had the defect of a class-ridden society. The army General Santa Anna brought north into Texas had well-trained French generals and good artillery, but it was an army drawn from Chiapas, composed of indigenous people without shoes or training. It was a Napoleonic army of the impoverished led by the nobility, fighting as a mass rather than with individual skill.

When Santa Anna crossed the northern deserts, his army found itself facing the coldest winter in years, with ice and even snow. The soldiers suffered terribly, and by the time they reached the Alamo, they were exhausted. Their commanders didn’t care about the troops and made their way east to San Jacinto… where the Texans defeated them.

It is important to understand the vast chasm that existed between the officers and soldiers in Mexico's army. There are always such differences, and they sometimes run very deep. But the chasm in the Mexican army resembled the divide in the British army so apparent at Waterloo, when the commander, Wellington, called his men “scum.” The Mexicans adopted the European model, in which the soldiers were induced by money or simply pressed into service. This was the lot of Mexican soldiers; it was their lives. But when they confronted the Americans, where the gap between enlisted men and officers was substantially smaller, an army that was inert (unless pressed) confronted an army that encouraged initiative at all levels. The latter army won.

The model of European colonialism defined the Mexican forces… but not the Americans. And for the next century and a half, the Mexican legacy of colonialism continued to define the difference between the two countries’ armies.

The experience of the Mexican-American War also defined American perceptions, and perceptions turn into habits, and habits become truths. The Mexican soldiers were seen as typical Mexicans and held in contempt, while the generals were seen as fools.

Further, the border that was created shielded Americans from a real understanding of Mexico. The border was arid and mountainous—hard to penetrate. As in many borderlands, it was a brutal place of criminals and desperate men. Certain commodities are always worth more on one side of the border than on the other. Sometimes it is cattle; sometimes it is drugs. Sometimes the goods are rightfully owned, and sometimes they are stolen.

The area north of the US–Mexico border is not like the rest of the United States, and the area south of the border is not like the rest of Mexico. But the borderland is a shield, and the shield is all that most people on either side tend to see.

The American view of Mexico was formed at San Jacinto and confirmed by endless images of Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa raiding US border towns. He was depicted as ignorant, brutal, and dangerous. Today, Mexico is seen as a land of drug dealers, the descendants of Villa, far more dangerous than he was to American security. This perception is like viewing the United States today as if it were Chicago in the 1920s and 1930s and as if Al Capone were the typical American.

The Mexican fear of the United States is not unreasonable. Nor is the American fear of Mexico. It is easy to construct a tale of Mexico that is heavy on cartels and illegal aliens seeking to plunder and terrify the country. There is a deep history between our nations, a history that regenerates in different ways at different times.

The bankers I met at the conference in Mexico were cautious. They have been disappointed many times before by their own country. The Americans were enthusiastic. Americans tend to forego history in favor of the future… especially where money is concerned. But everyone there knew what Donald Trump has been saying during his campaign and resented the way he preys on American fears. There is no denying these fears, and there is no denying that Trump understands them. There is also no denying that, like most fears, there is some truth to them. There are cartels, and there are illegal immigrants, if fewer than before. But it is the distance between the Mexico that these fears conjure and the reality of what Mexico has become that is startling. The Mexicans themselves don’t trust the transformation of their country that has happened. They expect success to be snatched from them—probably by the United States.

But the fact is that Mexico is the 11th-largest economy in the world, with free access to the largest economy in the world and vast amounts of American investment pouring in. It may still have to contend with the challenges of sharing a border with Central America, but with China in decline, even the poor of the south might be mobilized by the low-level industries that made China successful and that now seek a new home.

The borderland and the smugglers who live there do not represent Mexico. Mexico will be one of the top 10 economies in the world shortly, and since North America is now what Europe once was, the prospect of two great powers on one continent is worrisome.

Of course, most of us cannot imagine Mexico as a great power. Nor could most people have foreseen the emergence of China or the resurrection of Japan—or even the United States itself—as a great power. This is a failure of imagination masquerading as common sense. I always doubt the ability of humanity to manage its future. The inevitable rolls over us. But here is a moment when an understanding of what Mexico has become might just have some real value, if only for our grandchildren.

There is an old Mexican saying: “Poor Mexico. So far from God, so close to the United States.” I don’t know about Mexico’s proximity to God, but it is clear to me that Mexico is no longer paying a price for its closeness to the United States, and neither is the United States. But now Mexico, as the junior partner, must manage this relationship.

George Friedman

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Condé Nast Traveler magazine's top 10 cities for Americans to retire to

By Gary Peterson,

1. Coronado, Panama: "Pacific Coast beaches and perfect sunsets"

2. Penang, Malaysia: "Historic architecture, a thriving art scene"

3. Cascais, Portugal: "10 major golf courses, a castle, miles of cobblestone streets"

4. San Miguel de Allende, Mexico: "Art scene, colonial charm, and affordable living"

5. Killarney, Ireland: "Ranked high for safety, cleanliness, and overall charm"

6. Corozal, Belize: "A gateway to world-class snorkeling and scuba diving"

7. Concord, CA: "Excellent health care facilities, and free community activities throughout the year"

8. Grand Haven, MI: "A lakefront star with a boardwalk, 90,000-gallon musical fountain"

9. Santa Fe, NM: "A friendly community of all ages, and warm days with low humidity"

10. Louisville KY: "Appealing for retirees for its pace of life, climate, and culture"

Friday, February 26, 2016

Emergency Number in Mexico

911 will be new emergency number starting next year. 

I experienced a little chest pain last night. It could have come from the bad diet I brought back from our trip from NOB: Cheetos which I can only get here with bacon added, and those little candy hearts with sayings like "CRAZY 4U", "LOVE YOU", and "MISS YOU", all in delicious pastels.

As I tried to get comfortable, back, side, and other side, I thought about emergency numbers to call. Does 9-1-1 work in San Miguel?

Mexico News Daily cleared things up for me.

"The number for a new national emergency phone line will be 911, the Federal Telecommunications Institute (IFT) announced this week.

Last April the federal Chamber of Deputies approved legislation to make 066 the official number.calls was announced last November by President Enrique Peña Nieto as one of a series of measures in response to the Iguala-Ayotzinapa events of September 26 and 27. At the time it was to be 911.

Now 911 is back, and existing emergency numbers will be required to migrate to it. Those include 060 for local police, 061 for state and Federal District judicial police, 065 for the Red Cross, 066 for the national system for citizen emergencies, 068 for fire emergencies and 080 for security and emergency calls.

The new number, for both fixed line and mobile telephones, is to begin operating early ( in 2016).

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Puebla’s Tunnels Will Open Soon to Public

From Mexico News Daily, "Five months after the discovery of ancient tunnels beneath the city of Puebla, the centuries-old passageways are being opened as part of the Secretos de Puebla, or Secrets of Puebla, project.

Believed to be as many as 500 years old, the tunnels were originally constructed within the foundations of the city, possibly to provide underground passage between monasteries, or to function as a drainage system.

The tunnels are also rumored to have aided Mexican soldiers in their celebrated fight against French troops, which they won on May 5, 1862.

Located in Puebla’s historical center as well as on the fringe of the area known as Las Fuertes, the tunnels reach seven meters in height and 3.5 meters in width and extend for an estimated total of 10 kilometers in length.

The president of the State School of Civil Engineers, Ricardo Olea Ayala, believes that the tunnels were used as secret passageways between a network of monasteries, including Santo Domingo, San Agustín, La Merced and San Javier.

Sergio Vergara Bermejo, manager of the Historical and Heritage Center of Puebla, remarked that the discovery of Puebla’s tunnel network was the confirmation of a popular urban legend. He said, “We talked of the tunnels of Puebla, but nobody had seen them.”

Specialists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History will assist in the recovery of the remaining tunnels, but on February 17 the first recovered sections will be opened to the public. Secretos de Puebla will introduce about 2.5 kilometers of uncovered tunnels in addition to its other catalogued historical sites, including the Puente Bubos.

They are calling on visitors to create videos to recount their personal experience with the tunnels, stories of which have been passed down through generations.

Total restoration of the subterranean passageways, whose existence was confirmed last September, is expected to take 10 years.

Sources: El Economista (sp), Puebla Capital (sp), Union Puebla (sp)

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Peso Hits New Low of 18.8 Against Dollar

Mexico News Daily | Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Mexican peso dropped to a new record low against the dollar yesterday and did the same again today.

The peso slid to 18.8 to the dollar today after dropping to 18.71 yesterday.

Some banks were selling the U.S. currency for more than 19 pesos today.

The peso has lost nearly 8% in the past three weeks. Last year it dropped by nearly 17% against the dollar.

Finance Secretary Luis Videgaray told El Financiero during an interview today that the peso is “clearly undervalued” and that its decline in value is the result of overreaction by the market.

But when markets calm down, he said, the peso will regain strength.

Ongoing dollar auctions to support the currency will continue, said the Finance Secretary, who is attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, but there will be no further budget cuts.

He said there was “definitely” no risk of a financial crisis.

Source: El Financiero (sp)

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Medical & Dental Care

I am impressed with the Medical & Dental care here in San Miguel. Women here can have face lifts done by the revered Dr. Barrera and his beautiful doctor assistant for $6600. Included is a pick up and delivery to and from the hospital, four day stay in the hospital, personal home visit by the doctor to remove stitches, and all sorts of hand holding before and after. Compare that to the U.S. at three or four times the price and a one day stay in the hospital.

For me, I had a tooth that was bothering me. Turns out I had developed a cavity under the crown. The dentist examined me, took an x-ray, and sat down with me in his office. I will have to have a root canal and a new crown, he said It would cost me 8,500  pesos. That's about $480 to $500. I would imagine the same thing in the states to be as much as $3,000.

Did I hear medical tourism?

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Impossible Trinity

What is the Impossible Trinity?

It’s a theory that says a country cannot have all three of the following at once: an open capital account, a pegged exchange rate, and an independent monetary policy. That’s all there is to it.

You can have one or two of those three conditions, but not all three at once. If you try, you’ll fail. It’s those impending failures that make the Impossible Trinity so useful for predictive analytics.

Jim Rickards, Editor, Currency Wars Alert, says Mexico is experiencing the Impossible Trinity now and predicts a coming devaluation of the Peso.

What can Mexico do to escape the Impossible Trinity?

It has three choices: close the capital account, give up its monetary independence, or devalue the peso. There are no other ways out for Mexico.

It is almost inconceivable that Mexico will close its capital account. Mexico is dependent on U.S. trade and an IMF backstop lending facility. Both the U.S. and the IMF would strongly oppose closing the capital account. Mexico is highly unlikely to move in opposition to its two largest sources of financial support.

As a short-run expedient, Mexico has abandoned its independent monetary policy. The chart below shows how Mexico raised interest rates 0.25% two weeks ago, exactly one day after the Fed raised rates by 0.25%.

If Mexico had not raised its interest rate, capital would have flowed from Mexico to the U.S. in search of higher yields. These capital outflows would have drained Mexican reserves. This rate hike illustrates the constraints imposed by the Impossible Trinity.

Outsourcing its monetary policy to the Fed bought a little time for Mexico, but it’s not a long-term solution. The Fed will likely raise rates next March, and again in June. The Mexican economy is already slowing down because of declining growth in its major trading partners, China and the U.S. Raising interest rates only make the Mexican slowdown worse.

If Mexico will not close its capital account, and cannot raise interest rates to follow the Fed, there’s only one thing left for Mexico to do — devalue the peso. Not only can we see this coming with our IMPACT system, but we have a good sense of the timing.

The Mexican Currency Commission (the official body that sets the Mexican exchange rate to the dollar) will meet later this month to decide on whether to extend the peso support program. The Fed is unlikely to back off its rate hike rhetoric before then, so that’s an opportune time to devalue the peso.

All of this analysis is probabilistic, but none of it is certain. Still, our analytic tools, including the Impossible Trinity and my IMPACT trading system, give us fairly good visibility on a coming peso devaluation. U.S. dollar investors in Mexican stocks will suffer when the peso value of those stocks declines.

The ideal way for investors to play this is to short a major Mexican company with dollar-based securities and weak fundamentals. That way, an investor can be positioned to win on a declining stock and a declining currency.