Wednesday, November 9, 2011

10 Things That Surprised Me About Mexico
By Michael

    This was the price of avocados at a local market
    after prices started to come down. Note
    the recent decrease here from 65 to 64 pesos
    (about $5.50 USD at the then exchange rate)
    per kilo. They were at 79 pesos when we
    arrived and today they sell for 16!
  1. Vegetarian-friendly taco stands
    At one time or another, every Mexico cruiser’s blog waxes poetic about the ubiquitous Mexican taco stand. They write about the best tasting fish tacos, ever. They rate their favorite carne asada taco stands. They talk about chicken street tacos so good, they return over and over again even after suffering bouts of stomach and intestinal distress that can be absolutely traced back to said stand. With only these references, a vegetarian is likely to conclude that taco stands offer nothing for them but an empty tortilla. Nobody talks about the glorious bean or cheese tacos that can often be had at the same stands. Glorious tacos they are, stuffed to the gills with fresh cilantro, salsa Mexicana, finely shredded cabbage, pink pickled onions, and a slab of queso blanco—for about 8 pesos (65 cents).

  2. Few cruising catamarans
    Been to the big boat shows on the east or west coast of the U.S. lately? Read any of the mainstream sailing magazines over the past few years? Maybe you are under the impression, like me, that the cruising monohull is nearly dead, displaced (pardon the pun) by seas and ports brimming with non-heeling, big-windowed catamarans. This ain’t the case in Banderas Bay. I have seen only a handful of multihulls since we arrived, and none occupied. Anecdotally, among the cruising families whose blogs are linked on this site, the mono-to-multi ratio is 11-7.

  3. Few boat parts available
    I knew coming that boat parts are expensive in Mexico, but I wasn’t prepared for how scarce they are. Those white rail clamps used to mount solar panels and such? I can’t find them anywhere. Non-silicone-based caulks are in short supply and very difficult to find. There are stores that sell Ancor wire, but common sizes are out-of-stock and replenishment can take weeks. Need 12-2 cable in the next couple of weeks? Make due with 14-2 or 10-2. Same story with 1/2-inch reinforced hose. It may be that inventories are kept low during the off-season.

  4. Oxxo is everywhere
    When a Starbucks opens its doors across the block from another Starbucks, people mock the coffee empire. These same folks have not seen an Oxxo convenience store in Mexico. In fact, nobody has ever seen a single Oxxo store in Mexico because if you are standing in sight of one, you can’t help but see another, or several others. These stores resemble U.S. 7-11 stores and are owned by the richest man on earth, Carlos Slim.

  5. Here an Oxxo, there an Oxxo, everywhere an Oxxo.
  6. Guns are everywhere
    I’ve travelled Mexico since the 1980s and am used to seeing young Mexican men in military uniforms carrying M-16s. But this is usually at airports and other points of entry. Walking the streets of a Mexican town, these sightings were rare. This time, about a dozen years since my last visit, big automatic guns are everywhere. They’re carried by the Federales as well as local police and private security. Here at the marina, my girls regularly walk by men carrying Uzis. I think the change is related to the internal war on narcotics-related violence. Television commercials and billboards selling the effectiveness of the government’s efforts to keep the people safe, are prevalent.

  7. No lime juice
    Limes are cheap and plentiful. Every small store sells 14 types of manual juicers. But it will take a day of shopping and some luck to come across a bottle of plain lime juice. Of course, this anomaly is actually a lesson: if I’m so desperate for a margarita, I need to let go of my expedience-trumps-all U.S. mentality and squeeze some limes—it’ll make a better margarita anyway.

  8. Avocados can be expensive
    This one was a shock. When we arrived, avocados could not be had anyplace for less than about 79 pesos per kilo. At the then exchange rate, this was more expensive than the avocados we could buy at Trader Joes in D.C….and those were imported from Mexico. They’ve steadily decreased in price since we arrived and everyone says it is a normal seasonal price fluctuation, go figure. (Note: just bought some yesterday for 16 pesos per kilo, prices have dropped dramatically.) Also, the BBC has another take.

  9. Left turns on the roadway
    In the U.S., we are trained to watch for oncoming traffic as we make left turns across their path. In Mexico, the stakes are doubled because left turns are made from a far right lane, so you’re crossing traffic moving in the same direction as well as oncoming traffic. Accordingly, left turns are made only at intersections and only with a green arrow. In addition to this being disconcerting, it also means doing a lot of backtracking. To visit a store on the opposite side of the highway, you have to know where it is in advance so that you can get in a far right lane (separated by a median from the center lanes) and at the first intersection past the store, make a u-turn and head back the other direction.

  10. Pico de gallo ain't pico de gallo
    What we are all trained to refer to in the U.S. as pico de gallo (the fresh mix of chopped tomato, onion, cilantro, and chile) is here called salsa Mexicana. Here, pico de gallo is a mix of fruits, including mango, with chile powder on them. Once this was explained to me, I understood why in every supermarket, I was always directed to a collection of plastic containers on ice, all filled only with chopped fruit. Though I've heard this may be a regional thing, that maybe outside the states of Jalisco and Nayarit, pico de gallo really means pico de gallo.

  11. A strong Mexican middle class
    This fact really challenges perceptions and images of Mexico many of us are exposed to in the U.S. Having watched Mexican films and knowing Mexicans, I was consciously aware there is a Mexican middle class, but most of my time in-country prior to this was spent in the smaller towns of Baja, another world altogether. So I don't think my subconscious had reconciled what I knew with what I'd mostly seen. As a result, I was surprised by it when we arrived. I wrote all about it in this post.

It is difficult to see, but there are two thru hull valves in this picture and 28 below-
the-waterline hose clamps. The large thru hull valve (white handle) controls the head discharge
(2 hose clamps). The smaller thru hull valve (sliver of yellow handle visible in center of the
picture) was used for head sink dischage, head intake, and head sump pump discharge
(26 hose clamps). I re-plumbed all of this. By re-routing the sump discharge to an above-
the-waterline thru hull and attaching a bronze T fitting directly to the valve,
I reduced to four the number of hose clamps on hoses coming from the smaller valve .

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