Interminable municipal improvement

THE POWERS THAT be here on my mountaintop, the people who run the town, started major street and sidewalk renovations two or three years ago. I forget how long it’s been. It feels like forever.

It’s been nonstop since it started.

Previously, the cobblestone streets (some were just concrete) were in very bad condition. Same goes for some sidewalks. That’s all changing now.

The work seems interminable because it’s so labor-intensive. There are two elements involved. One is the surface of the streets and sidewalks. The other, just as important, is upgrading the underground drainage system.

Flooding was a serious problem during the daily downpours of the five-month rainy season. June to (or through) October, depending.

I’ve really enjoyed watching this work. Unlike above the border where everyone fears getting sued, so construction projects are walled off, nothing is walled off here. You can walk right up and watch, even making a nuisance of yourself.

I particularly enjoy the drainage aspects. What you see in these photos will be just manholes from the street surface, but look what’s below.

Close up.

I never spotted anything like this above the Rio Bravo. Maybe they were doing it this way, but you couldn’t get close enough to see due to lawsuit fears.

If you fall into a hole here, it’s just your tough luck.

Not so close up.

16 thoughts on “Interminable municipal improvement

  1. Felipe: Infrastructure is good. Everybody profits from it when it’s managed and done properly. Having worked in civil engineering, this stuff is familiar to me. Hand-built manholes are not common anymore though. Most are now precast, but in a country where bricks and labor are cheaper than concrete, that’s the way to go.


    1. Kris: It is the way to go, and it provides jobs. Just like Trump does above the Rio Bravo, but better jobs up there, for the most part. The sheer quantity of men doing this work the last few years is very impressive.


  2. Keeps a lot of folks busy with meaningful work that needs doing. We could use some of that NOB. My guess is that any city up here the size of your town would not be able to find the skilled manpower necessary to do the work in the ways it’s done down there. Keep it up. I need to get by there and watch.


    1. Ricardo: Do you know the size of my mountaintop pueblo? It’s roundabouts 80,000 souls. It feels smaller though.

      Mexicans are far handier than are most Americans, true. And yes, come on down and watch. It’s fun.


  3. I too have enjoyed watching projects like this back in the day when I took trips to Honduras. Brick-layers, especially (lots of arched doors and windows).

    I once offered to buy a cement mixer for some workers in a poor village. The guy I was working with pointed out how many people would be out of work if I did so. That gave me a better perspective on the economics of Central America.


    1. Ray: Inside our house there is a very nice, wide brick archway that separates the living room from the dining room/kitchen. I had an architect from the U.S. visiting many years ago, and he looked at it and said that it would be difficult to find someone in the U.S. who could do that work. It is a very nice archway.

      When the construction started on our house back in 2002, the three guys we hired surprised me by mixing the cement, water, etc., right on the ground. They continued that system throughout until the ceilings and roof had to be poured. There’s a rush aspect to that, so they rented a small cement mixer and a bunch of additional guys for that day. Just one day, however.

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      1. The roof pail gangs fascinate me. I am told most of our local guys smoke the weed or drink the beer before the operation begins to dull the pain and the monotony. And everything seems to get done without many incidents.


        1. Señor Cotton: The honcho asked me to buy beer for them after the work. I bought roasted chickens instead. The entire gang looked like they had been released from prison the previous evening.


        2. We used to watch them pour concrete roofs and posts when we lived in Belize. Impressive to watch these men, both young and older, line up to start the pour. It goes on until completed, and we seldom witnessed any of them leave the line. A few yes, but not many.


          1. Leisa: We started to build our house about 2.5 years after I landed on this side of the border. I knew squat about Latino home construction. It’s very different than what’s done above the border. I enjoyed watching them the entire 9.5 months it took them to complete the house. Quite a learning experience.


  4. It’s true that a cement mixer will put one or more people out of work mixing cement. But if your economic system can’t find something better for those people to do, then you don’t have a cement mixer problem, you have an economic system problem.


  5. Notice that the cobbles are set aside for reuse. North of the border, they would be hauled to the dump and someone’s friend, relative or political ally would have the contract for the new ones.


    1. Señor Gill: Those are not the cobblestones. That’s just rock rubble from beneath the street. What they do with the cobblestones they pull up from the street, well, I don’t know.


  6. I had a minor accident one year while visiting your pueblo. My husband and I were returning to our accommodations in the late dusky twilight. There were no street lights per se except for the one 1/4 mile up the road. As we were chatting and laughing along the way, all of a sudden Leisa dropped into a hole. Literally. The newer sidewalk met a small smelly stream bed, and the concrete evidently had never been completed in this space between the sidewalk and the small bridge that rose above the stream. My husband’s stride was such that he stepped over the open area whilst Leisa fell into it. It was a hole at least up to my waist. I escaped with nothing more than bruised knees and missing one shoe. There were no signs warning pedestrians the dangers of an open hole ahead or nearby. Years later we still laugh about our mishaps on travels, and this one is somewhat of a highlight to share with others. It taught us to always carry a small flashlight on our evenings out. Yes, in the USA an outcome such as this usually results with a lawsuit. It was just my tough luck, in Mexico.


    1. Leisa: Just your tough luck indeed. You always — day, night, twilight, whenever — have to look down while walking in this country. Anything could be there — or not. Glad you were not seriously injured. I did similar things my first year here, but quickly got accustomed to a new way of living — looking down. The problem for people who live above the border and visit here is that they are not accustomed to looking down because it’s not necessary where you come from. Everything is nice, smooth and level.

      Not so here.


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