Friendly Mexican myth

Yesterday morning, after completing yard chores like watering the terraza’s potted plants, brushing the terraza’s wooden shelves, sweeping the floor, wiping ceramic planters, washing the yard patio’s table and chairs, cleaning the birdbath and replacing its water, removing three huge, cold-damaged philodendron leaves and so on, I sat on a rocker in the terraza for a rest because I deserved it. My child bride was knitting inside.

I looked at the columns of rebar the neighbor has soaring about five feet above and abutting my property wall. He’s building something — a barn? — and he works on it most days, alone. It’s at the back of his and my property. I am happy about this. It mostly follows where he has a large shed roofed with laminated sheets that are badly held down. It’s for his tractor and horse. During a wind storm years ago, one of the huge sheets sailed over into our yard. It could easily have broken our large dining room window. Came close.

They are not nice people, and I debated with myself about what to do with the sheet, but I just hauled it to the street out back and left it by his entrance. I never heard a peep about it, not a “sorry about that” or a “thanks for returning it,” nada, which is what I expected.

Not a cop in sight.

Most Gringos who live in Mexico gush about the friendly people and the “lovely culture.” That sort of silliness amuses me for two reasons. Let’s start with the culture. Do they love the macho-ism? The drinking? The corruption? The narcos?

Just this week, narcos paraded in broad daylight in homemade armored vehicles down a street in another part of my state. While Mexican culture has many lovely aspects, true, it has just as many unlovely and dangerous ones.

And then there is the “friendliness.” If you want friendly, visit the American states of Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia or Texas where genuine friendliness is abundant. Friendliness in Mexico is restricted to people you actually know and like. Mexicans are not friendly to strangers, though they can appear so. It is a false friendliness.

This is where I insert the famous and accurate quote from Octavio Paz:

“A Mexican’s face is a mask, and so is his smile.”

These were some of the things I was thinking as I sat on my rocker admiring the lovely morning, anticipating the yummy roasted chicken I would be enjoying for lunch at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant just down the road a few hours later.

It’s a very friendly restaurant.

November is the best

November is the best month here by far, and this one is no exception. Yesterday, we raised the final of the three canvas curtains that enclose the upstairs terraza during the long months of the rainy season. Raising the curtains lets the loveliness in.

How about that orchid? It was a gift from Steve Cotton when he, his brother and sister-in-law stayed a spell in our Downtown Casita three or four years ago. I forget exactly when. That plant has been in bloom nonstop throughout those years. How is that possible?

The final raising of the curtains has also returned a beautiful view through the window behind my PC of the sunrise over the mountains when I’m sitting at my desk at the proper hour. During the months of the summer rains, I just have a view of brown canvas.

November mornings bring cool air and blue skies.


Return to normal?

Today at noon marks the end to my week of recuperation after my repeated nosebleed episodes. The ENT doctor at Star Medica Hospital who cauterized my schnoz Friday of last week prescribed some blood drug, some nose spray, a week of reduced physical activity and avoidance of nose-blowing. Try that last one sometime, will you? No fun.

Leaving one’s nose totally alone for a week is a challenge, but I hope it paid off.

Pray for me.

One-man show, update

The home construction directly across the street from the Hacienda — being done almost entirely by one man, the future homeowner — continues to be a source of fascination. I wish I could do that.

I should take a photo while he’s there working, but aiming a camera at him seems a bit tacky, so I’ve never done it except sneakily. He likely would not mind because he appears to be a very amiable sort, and so does his wife who’s there on occasion too.

But this is the progress as of today. I snapped the shots while walking to the little store in the next block to buy cabbage and carrots for the minestrone I’m making for lunch.

The two-story house to the left was completed three or four years ago, but no one has ever lived there. I spotted a couple, the presumed homeowners, standing on the roof once, and I waved, and they waved back. There is an automated light that snaps on every evening, and stays on most of the night to give the appearance of occupancy.

But I know better, and now so do you.

I’m guessing it’s a retirement home, and the couple has yet to retire. Maybe they live in the United States or in a big city elsewhere in Mexico. Lord knows.

I sure as shootin’ would not have knowingly built a retirement home directly abutting railroad tracks, which that house does. Trains rumble through most nights. Well, all nights except when the teacher union or troublesome teacher “students” are not blocking the tracks somewhere. That is not uncommon, alas.

Credit cards & corruption

Just back from the exercise walk today on a lovely morning.

When I arrived on the south side of the Rio Bravo these many years ago, I came with two credit cards, one from Wells Fargo, the other from a bank I now forget. I used the latter in 2003 to make monthly payments automatically for a Sky TV service. Sky almost immediately started to hose me, overcharging the card.

Oddly, the bank would not let me block future charges, so I had to cancel the card, leaving me with just one, the Wells Fargo. A year or two later, when I received a renewal card in the mail from up north, the fraud department wanted me to jump through so many hoops to activate it that I canceled it too. So, no credit card.

I started using a debit card online, which is a dreadful idea. I had two banks at that point, a Mexican account at Banamex, and a U.S. account at Banamex USA in Los Angeles. I finally obtained a Visa card from the Banamex account. It had a very low limit, the peso equivalent of about $150 U.S, so rule out a European splurge.

It was the same sort of starter card they offer campesinos.

My credit card history above the border was stellar, but credit history does not travel across the Rio Bravo. Down here, you start from scratch. Mexico has a credit bureau.

In 2014, due to the nincompoop FATCA legislation from the Obama Administration, Banamex USA closed my account with little warning, leaving me just the Mexican bank account with its almost useless credit card.

I was mad at Banamex in general, so I opened another Mexican account at HSBC only to learn it would not give me a credit card, in part due to my age. You read that right. HSBC is a nightmare bank. Avoid it. And I had canceled the Banamex account.

I then opened an account at BBVA Bancomer to have a fallback. After a wait of about three months, they gave me a Visa credit card with a free additional with my wife’s name on it. I have since requested a second one which also came with a free spouse card, plus the two have digital cards connected. So, all told, I have six Mexican credit cards.

BBVA Bancomer is an excellent bank. It has dropped the Bancomer name, and is just BBVA now. I have also tried out and found wanting accounts at Banco Santander and Banco Azteca. I investigated opening an account once at Banorte, but the woman with whom I was dealing briefly was so surly, I decided against it.

And I dumped the HSBC account. BBVA now serves all my needs nicely.

I have the BBVA app on my Motorola cell, and I check it daily. On two or three occasions, I found fraudulent charges. Since the cards never leave home, I wonder how that’s done. I suspect it’s bank employees. No matter, a phone call to the bank gets the matter resolved, the card in question cancelled, and a replacement rapidly arrives at my door.

Fraudulent charges, quite a lot, appeared on one of my cards just last week. Someone was having a field day purchasing goodies from Mercado Libre. A replacement card is en route. I’m a big fan of BBVA even though I do think it’s bank employees who occasionally buy stuff with my card. Let’s just call them bad apples.

From what I see on internet forums, lots, probably most, Gringos who move to Mexico live here for years without Mexican bank accounts and without Mexican credit cards, relying totally on their accounts up north. This often gets them into binds.

If you’re gonna live in Mexico, you need a Mexican bank and credit cards.


Now let’s turn to politics, always fun.

Have you heard about last week’s revelations in the New York Post that Hunter Biden, in cahoots with his creepy dad, aka The Big Guy, were selling access to the White House when Sleepy Joe was vice president?

Have you read about Facebook and Twitter censoring mentions of the scandal? And how that censoring is blowing up in their partisan faces? If you know little or nothing about these things, that means you get your “news” from The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, the Houston Chronicle and others of their ilk in the mainstream media.

All for now, amigos. Vote for Trump.