Jan 28, 2010

Catemaco Muertos

I think I am am dying of smoke inhalation caused by my Popoluca, in beautiful downtown Catemaco..

For the past few days I have been  inundated with smoke from a comal, burning sticks of wood which waft throughout the house. Apparently there is a  "muerto" present, who needs to be chased away.

A "muerto"apparently is a dead person who is bored and wants to collect a few friends, and his appearance is generally only seen by dogs, brujos and crazy people. My Popoluca attributes her conviction to the recent crazy behavior of our dogs and her favorite gringo.

I, of course, think that this smoke stuff stems from my mention of seeing a giant blue butterfly on my Milpa. My caretaker had carefully explained to me that this beautiful  insect is a harbinger of a nearby death, and unfortunately I repeated that information to my Popoluca.

So, of course, our maturing puppy got sick to the tune of 500 pesos from the veterinary, and I  fortunately survived an extreme chronic bronchitis attack.

I live in the house of an old friend  who died after being abandoned by his local family. He alledgedly continued to rattle the security bars of his windows to be let out, even after his death.

Before moving in, I enjoyed a few days of  candle burning, prayers and wafting of green twigs throughout the house. And, of course, my Popoluca forced me to spent a small fortune replacing all windows and doors.

A few months later, the windows rattled. So, I promply went to my old amigo´s favorite raunchy bar  "El Infierno" and bought the house a drink.

Since then I heard no more rattling.

So, I wonder, who is this latest "muerto" who is dying for a drink.

Jan 27, 2010

Catemaco Taxis

Beautiful downtown Catemaco is blessed with a cornucopia of cheap taxis. Most trips around town cost 15 pesos, and you can catch one within a minute on almost any street.

Until last year the county of Catemaco had 80 taxis registered, 64 of which were stationed in Catemaco City.
Starting late last year the wonderful Veracruz government issued another 44 taxi licenses for Catemaco.

Most of the drivers of taxis do not own them, because they cannot afford the licenses. Instead, the licenses are owned by well off people and political hacks. By example, the area representative in the Veracruz legislature allegedly owns 20 taxi licenses in Los Tuxtlas.

A license costs approximately 40 thousand pesos. In addition, bribes and tips averaging maybe 150 thousand pesos are collected by the bureaucrats involved.

Apparently all of the state received new taxi licenses, with Veracruz City receiving more than 1000. I would estimate that statewide 10,000 licenses were issued.

Now here is the math:
10 thousand times 150 thousand  pesos (average bribes) equals 150,000,000 pesos, that is 12 million US.

The local taxi drivers who used to earn 150 to 200 pesos for a shift are now lucky to make 100 pesos. And they are very sympathetic with the bureaucrats involved who support the current Veracruz governor who will need zillions of pesos for his upcoming presidential campaign.

So, park your car! Take a taxi! Support Veracruz democracy!

Jan 15, 2010

Catemaco Construction

How much does it cost to build there? has been a popular question since I became an internet "savant". The answer is as open ended here as well as in the States or anywhere else, and depends on location, type of construction, quality, design, currency fluctuation and personal whims. In another life, 30 years ago, I built homes in Florida for 20 bucks a foot, including wall to wall carpeting and a 2 car garage. Here I have about 3 million pesos of  construction experience ranging from roads, walls and remodeling to ground up construction.

This week I began to trim out an unfinished 1 bedroom apartment inside a future 5 level home on a hillside, on and, overlooking the Laguna outside of beautiful downtown Catemaco. Mexico is concrete happy and I go along. Walls will be cement stucco and kitchen counters will be poured concrete, supported by concrete blocks.

Come back next week for some material and labor costs.

Answer to a question: The back walls are retaining walls built of solid rock because the house is build on a sloping hill. That is also why the columns are so big, and also, because there are wide spans above the mother in law apartment.

Jan 9, 2010

Snow in Catemaco

I wish.

My beautiful downtown Catemaco temperature gauge registered 51 degrees F. this early morning. That is the lowest temperature I have seen here in more than 7 years. Add a little windchill, and it feels like 10 below 0 to someone acclimated with southern blood.

It is so "cold", that the governor of Veracruz closed all public schools. That is understandable because I believe the only space heater is probably on a shelf in an appliance store, because certainly there is no public building nor private home, that I know of in Catemaco, with an integral heating system. Even fire places are  only available on a wish list.

The coldest temperature recorded in Catemaco was 40 degrees F. in February 1979. But there are historical references that the nearby volcano San Martin Tuxtla on occasion has shown a snowy top.

On an emergency basis, the owners of the Casa de los Tesoros have promised me to start stocking heated underwear, and bring me back a stove/chimney from Oaxaca on their next buying trip. Meanwhile I'll have to make do with shots of their Mezcal in my coffee.

Update: Surprise! Just visited the new Aurrera, and it is heated, but out of bolillos.

Jan 5, 2010

Catemaco Prestanombre

That sounds like something religious. But it is not. Here in beautiful downtown Catemaco and elsewhere in Mexico, a "prestanombre" is the name of a person used to buy property in favor of someone else.

Primarily a prestanombre is used by politicians or similars to hide their ownership, but it is also used by gringos to buy properties in the 50 kilometer restricted zone of the Mexican coast.

My Popoluca is my prestanombre. Unfortunately today I met a 10 year local resident gringo who also used a prestanombre. She recently kicked him out and he is now living in a grass shack nearby.

Obviously he has no recourse because his property is in the name of a prestanombre.

So I went out and bought a box of her favorite cookies for my Popoluca.

Jan 4, 2010

Felicidades catemaco.info

We just clicked on our 2 and a half million page hits, which interprets to about 550,000 individual visitors to the catemaco.info pages, of whom more than 65.000 returned more than once, which is more than double the city population..

The general page count remains more or less one third Gringo and two third Español. The most popular pages remain those related to brujos, followed by hotels and articles about Los Tuxtlas.

The curious statistic is that if there are 22,000 returning gringo readers (one third), why are there only maybe 1000 gringos passing through the area?

I am thinking of hiring one of those disposable income workers in Catemaco and count RV's and cars with obvious gringos as they leave and enter by the only two entrances to Catemaco.

Either I am wrong or there are a hell of a lot of beautiful downtown Catemaco internet wannnabes.

Jan 3, 2010

New restaurant in Catemaco

Beautiful downtown Catemaco was recently graced with the opening of a "fancy" Spanish restaurant, actually a conversion of the old, staid Catemaco Hotel restaurant.
The food is good.