A better Mexico

MY CHILD BRIDE spent six months in Spain in the late 1990s doing postgraduate studies.

She often got her panties in a twist due to European attitudes toward Mexico, that it was a backward nation where most roads were still made of dirt.

When I arrived below the border about four years later, most of the roads were not dirt, but the highway system certainly needed some improvement.

That has happened in spades. Many of our highways now are better than what one finds above the Rio Bravo.

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Nice chains

We have lots of great stores from above the border. Sears, Costco, Walmart, Sam’s Club. And chain restaurants. Chili’s, McDonald’s, Dairy Queen, IHOP, Sirloin Steak House.

Plus many more.

Recently, Bed, Bath & Beyond opened in the nearby state capital. It’s indistinguishable from its stores in Houston or Atlanta. I love that place.

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Checks and water

Years ago I wrote hereabouts that there were no public water fountains in Mexico. At least, I had never seen one.

I was quickly corrected by a reader who said he had spotted one way over in The Yucatan.

Just this week, I saw water fountains in two stores. One was Costco and the other was a supermarket here on the mountaintop. I was surprised.

But I would not use one. I have formed habits.

Another surprise occurred last week. Our local Bancomer branch was totally renovated, and new ATMS were included. They accept both cash and check deposits!

While I recall such things in the United States, I’d never seen an ATM here that did anything more than dispense cash.

(By the way, if you’re going to open an account in a Mexican bank, I highly recommend Bancomer.)

I recently read a report that about 80 percent of Americans feel that Mexico is a dangerous place to visit. Most Gringos have never set foot here and base their opinions on hysterical reports from the media and State Department.

Fact is you can visit here quite safely. You can go to Walmart, Costco  or Dairy Queen with confidence, and you won’t be mugged or murdered in the parking lot either.

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Bonus material

While on the Hacienda roof a couple of days ago to photograph the water tank for the post Agua! Agua! Agua! I snapped a few other shots just for fun.

stairs

Looking down the circular stairs on the upstairs terraza.

back

Street out back to the right.

street

The same street to the left.

And thanks for joining me here today.

Souvenirs of Mérida

Merida

WALKING PAST the living room this morning, I noticed how sunshine through the big windows fell on these little framed prints that we purchased last January in Mérida.

They were about the only souvenirs we brought back from the Yucatán, not being big souvenir people. And they were not purchased so much as souvenirs as they were purchased because I liked the three little prints.

One is an old woman just sitting. Another is a woman washing clothes in a big pot over a fire. The third is an old couple sitting on a concrete love seat. We spotted those concrete love seats in many parts of Mérida, in parks and plazas. I have never seen them anywhere else.

One evening we were walking the nice, dark streets near the Casa Alvarez, the downtown guesthouse where we stayed in a penthouse room, very nice place to stay if you’re ever in Mérida, by the way, and we happened upon a bunch of shops and restaurants abutting a plaza.

That was where I found these three prints, which I bought immediately. They were cards really. Perhaps there was a place for an address and stamp on the back. I don’t recall. But if you put most anything in a frame, it rises to any occasion with a new-found elegance.

They are hanging now next to the stone fireplace in the living room.

It was my first — and last — extended stay in Mérida, but it was not my real first. That happened back around 1975 when I was working on the San Juan Star  in Puerto Rico. The newspaper’s union, run by a pack of pinche communists, went on strike, and it looked to be a lengthy one.

The devil, I said to myself, so I packed my bags and got on a plane to Haiti. After a few days in Haiti, I got on another plane to Mexico City. That flight first landed in Mérida, and everybody on the plane was hustled off to get shots against any Haitian cooties we might be carrying into Mexico.

I never got out of the Mérida airport that day, but it did count as a visit to the Yucatán, I think.

Mérida is an okay place, a nice Colonial city that looks pretty much like all Colonial cities in Mexico, something I wrote about shortly after returning home from that trip. It’s quite touristy and very popular among Gringos who are smart enough to move across the Rio Bravo.

I could never live there due to the climate. I have sweated enough in my life. And there are no mountains. Living without mountains is like eating a pizza without anchovies. It’s no pizza, a sham, a joke.

It’s midday now, and the three framed pieces have moved into the near-constant, cool dimness of the living room where they will not be very noticeable until tomorrow morning, assuming it’s not overcast.

Amazing how three postcards can inspire this many words.