It’s hot here. Coming from Arizona we thought we would quickly adapt but damn, it’s a WET heat! And in reality, most of the day we were working in an environmentally-controlled environment. Consequently we’ve had to adopt some new behaviors in order to survive summer here. For example, I keep these things in a bag to take whenever I venture further than the marina office.
- A two-layer sun-blocking umbrella – I’ve learned that I’m not really a hat person. Many Mexican women carry an umbrella for shade while walking, and I’ve become just another Mexican housewife.
- A blue micro-fiber cloth – a.k.a. my sweat-wiper – another local custom. It’s not unusual to see people with one on their shoulder or around their neck. While sunscreen is a daily habit, it’s so humid here that it’s sweated or wiped off in about 20 minutes. But at least when he asks, I can tell my doctor that Yes, I use sunscreen every day.
- A dorky tourist fan.
- Sunglasses – that song “Blinded by the Light”? I think it was written by someone visiting Mexico in summer.
I call it my “Summer Survival Kit” – throw in a bottle of water and I’m as ready as can be.
Other new activities / behaviors to survive our summer:
- Saturday nights are pool volleyball nights – the water is warm but it’s cooler than the air!
- Eating out – ok not a new behavior for us, but it beats cooking. And this time of year, although a lot of restaurants are closed for the slow season, the ones that are open are not crowded and we’ve been able to get to know some of the waiters on a more personal level.
- Grilling and cold sides – when we do cook, we mostly grill and often have cold side dishes (carrot or cabbage slaw, cucumber salads, etc.).
- Drinking cold beer – ok again not new but we just like to remind you that we can, any time we want to.
But whenever I think of how “hard” we have it here in summer, I have to kick myself. Yes, it’s hot. Yes, it can be uncomfortable. But realistically, our lives are essentially the same as they were a few months ago. Such is not the case for many others in this tourist area.
“September” in Spanish is “septiembre” (sep-tee-aim-bray). “Hambre” (ahm-bray) means “hunger”. Around here, last month is often called “septi-hambre”. Kids have gone back to school with all the associated costs, and many people have reduced incomes. For example, there are several men who work for boaters around the marina. When a new sailboat comes to dock, it’s important to them to be the first to talk to the skipper offering services to wax the boat, polish the stainless, or clean the bottom. Because chances are you will need more than one service, some you will need again and you’ll use the same guy.
But right now there are many fewer boats here, so there is less boat-related work as well as many fewer customers for the non-boat related services like restaurants, massages, hair dressers.
Several restaurants and businesses closed in June or July and we won’t see them in full swing until November. Some closed for just September. Others remain open but have reduced hours or reduced staff. All have fewer customers. It’s very difficult to make a living in the tourist industry when the tourists aren’t here.
On the other hand, several locations take advantage of the slow time to make changes, so the remodeling guys seem to be having a banner season.
And while we have been enjoying the slow season – no waiting, more interaction with staff, lots of great deals, a chance to cement friendships around the marina – there are signs of the hardships on the locals. We are hearing more about petty thievery – things missing from yards, for example. A friend lost her wallet to a thief at the grocery store and another friend lost a bag with cell phone from a public area.
(As an aside, the wallet thief turned out to be a gringo – one of the stores where the person used a credit card reviewed the video and made that determination).
So we are all being very vigilant – just as y’all should be when you are out and about in the good ol’ US of A. We’re told these kinds of activities go up here this time of year because people who don’t have much to start with have even less, and desperation is high.
How little do they have to begin with? Check out this link to get a sense of salaries in Mexico.
Here’s a local example – posted in La Cruz looking for security guards for another tourist town up the road – 7,000 pesos per month. At current exchange rates (I used 19.1 pesos to the dollar) that works out to about $366 US or $2.29/hr for a 40 hour workweek. Note the poster says “salary UP TO 7,000” – implying that many are making less.
The kicker? Workweeks are six days. The guards at the marina are on the job 12 hours. So using a conservative 60 hours per week, that’s more like $1.53/hr.
Last November I posted that minimum wage was 3,000 pesos/month – which for a 24-day work month would be 125 pesos. That now seems generous since I’ve learned that minimum wage for a general salary is 73.04 pesos ($3.82 US) – a day (click here for the information source). As a friend points out, the cost for the average Mexican style lunch is 50 pesos. So just having a simple lunch out will be 3/4ths of your daily pay. You work 12 hours and you can afford lunch and one coke and then take home about 75 cents. Interestingly, there are different minimum wages for different professions – check out this link for a .pdf listing more.
As little as all this works out to be, it still beats zero which some of the service related people may be seeing now. And it helps to explain why locals think we’re all rich gringos.
So as “hard” as John and I might think summer has been and as much as we are looking forward to November and the return of our friends, the social activities and cooler weather – we got nothing on the locals both in terms of hardship and rejoicing the return of high season.