I love Easter! The chocolate bunnies. Jellybeans. Black ones. Peeps! The rustle of the cellophane Easter grass. I love it all!
The religious aspect, church, Jesus rising from the dead. I could never get my head around it, even as a kid in Catholic school.
But the Easter Bunny leaving a basket full of chocolate made in his own image? Bring it on! The Easter Bunny also hid the eggs my siblings and I so carefully colored on the Saturday before Easter. It all made sense to me the same as the Tooth Fairy and Santa. A myth we pretended to believe in -for our parents sake- long after we knew these amazing creatures were imaginary.
Well here in La Paz and all over Mexico, Easter is a big deal in a different way. The entire population is on the move. Large extended families camp out on the beaches and some bring stoves, generators and TVs. Folks from the mainland come to the beaches to enjoy their one-to-two week holiday.
The Easter Bunny is not the star of the show here. But chocolate of a dubious quality does show up in the stores.
Since I have completed a 10-day detox diet and have remained gluten, sugar, dairy and alcohol free since then, chocolate is not entering the house.
But I like to mark the holiday. and we are having 10 other folks over for hotdogs tomorrow. Six of those others are kids between the ages of 4-14.
I decided to color eggs. But not with food coloring and vinegar. Oh the colors are lovely, but the mess is not worth it.
MissMeliss mentioned a YouTube video by my protege, Martha Stewart demonstrating how to color eggs using silk ties. That sounded like fun. I watched the video, which is below. And then I asked My Beloved if I could have one or all of his ties to cut up to color eggs. He gave me ONE.
I also found two pieces of silk prints that I thought I would try.
Here are the fabrics. Note the tie and it’s dark color and animal heads.
I tried to center one tiger and one zebra on two different eggs. The Zebra seemed to work:
Here are all of the eggs from the tie. It is interesting the way the colors turned out.
The vibrant rust and cobalt blue Thai silk was a real surprise. The rust did not come through at all. In fact in the picture after the blue eggs you can see that it ran and turned the water pinkish. It is fascinating what colors came through. And how they changed.
And here they are boiling away
These last three eggs came from the beige floral silk. I was a little disappointed in them, but then I added some oil, and now they have a pearly glow.
They are lovely, yes?
I have asked friends to shop in their husband’s closets for ties. And to visit Goodwill. I have two friends that want to do this next year. We need silk ties sent to us so we can be prepared! The ties work best because their colors are intense and their prints are small. With some careful placement and a bit of luck, I think that I can transfer specific motifs to my next batch of eggs.
so tomorrow we will roast hotdogs poolside and eat these eggs!
Life in Mexico is sweet, slow, and warm. When I say warm, I refer not only to the sunny climate, but to the people. Mexicans are among the happiest people in the world. They are gracious, and welcoming. A goodly portion of the expats here have developed a laid-back and open attitude as well. And the food! Oh what a luscious delight is a taco or tostada eaten at a roadside stand. The ingredients are made fresh that day. And each stand has a different taste, depending on the family recipe. Oh yum!
Then there is the other thing… or things. Things that you cannot find.
When one wants to make a new recipe. Try a new sewing technique. Or do a little DIY. Frustration sets in. There are things that you just cannot find. Or have to go on the hung asking others if they have seen such. Or if they know the Spanish word for this.
I have a lovely, snail shaped outdoor bathroom. I hardly used my longed- for snail bathroom last summer and I have no excuse. This year I have decided to use it regularly, and to ask my pool guests to use it rather than track water through the house. I have been swimming in the early morning and then showering out there. The early morning sun is intense, the early Spring air is crisp,The sky is BLUE. It is lovely. Doing this is what I dreamed my Mexican life would be like when we finally retired. We have been here 17 years. I had a makeshift outdoor bath in my first house, a full enclosed very nice pool bath at my beach house. But now I have the dreamed-of outdoor snail bath. I never really decorated it, and made it mine. Who knows why.
I spent Saturday and Sunday cleaning it up, adding sweet yellow pots of jade plants, re-hanging the shell mirror, replacing the inefficient rain shower head with a hand held shower, and then adding Talavera soap and lotion containers. Pouring liquid soap into one was easy-peasy. Done in a flash and not a drop spilled.
Getting the hand lotion into the other dispenser
was a task that drove me crazy and was shelved ( well actually stuck in a corner of my indoor bathroom cupboard funnel and all for over a year).
I like pretty things. I like my guests to have pretty things at the ready when they need them. Like hand lotion in a lovely dispenser.
Last year I tried pumping from a bottle of lotion into the new dispenser. What a mess!
The lotion clogged up, mounded up, and rolled down the sides.
I tried a funnel. That just got more lotion piled up in the funnel and going nowhere. I mean molasses goes faster uphill in January.
I was thinking of nuking the hand lotion bottle, but since my last microwave experiment, My Beloved comes running when he hears the buttons chiming.
So I visited Google. There was a 10 -minute video on filling a lotion dispenser. Skipped that one. Then there was a video showing a cello cone that is like a disposable pastry bag. None on hand in my house, and I am positive there are none available in La Paz.
Next tutorial shows a special icing baster. Hmm, Solution Cake the cake decorating shop might have one if I would like to drive 30 minutes to town and spend another ten parking. Well actuall until after my eye surgery, if MY Beloved wants to drive 30 minutes to town and spend 10 minutes lookingfor parking. Not happening.
Who said “The third one is the charm?” They are right.
The third video said just glop some lotion base in a jar and nuke it. But don’t let it get over 120 F.
Okay, I now had a plan.
Find cooking thermometer in the gadget drawer
Fill larger Pyrex measuring cup with water
Nuke the water for two minutes. Also yell “ It’s OK honey, I am only heating water!”
Check temperature. Note: do not test the water with your finger, that’s what the thermometer is for.
Stand the lotion containers in the hot water. For a little while.
Pump the now-liquid lotion into the funnel (less mess) Voila! The dispensers are filled.
I used two almost empty lotion bottles and part of a new one.
Have a lot of old napkins or paper towels on hand, this gets messy.
Now, how to label the dispensers? I looked through my collection for two small shells, none did the trick. So, I rummage in my button box and found two nice buttons and some silver cord. I tied the cord around the necks of the dispensers, thread the silver through the buttons, and knotted it, and added some small labels with the words soap and lotion in Spanish and English.
The La Paz Farmer’s Market; Open All Year, Come Taste, Talk and Buy.
Come Saturday morning, after our years-old tradition of breakfast with friends, my Beloved and I head over to the La Paz Farmer’s Market. It is part of our Saturday thing. Not only are we loading up on wonderful fruits and vegetables, salsa, pesto, artisan Tequila, homemade breads, we buy plants, organic pest killers and fertilizer, jewelry, greeting cards, and healthy Chinese treats.
The Saturday Farmer’s Market is a social occasion and we spend time chatting with the vendors and the other buyers, meeting new people, and just being out and convivial. But the market is also open for your convenience on Tuesdays.
Have you tried any of Linda Shawyer’s Greek yogurt made from the milk of local, grass-fed cows, zesty Italian sausage, or any of her magnificent quiche? Linda always has a smile and kind word and scrumptious goodies. Her cinnamon rolls are dangerously addictive. Linda says that, “…I like to make food that makes people happy…”
Martin Loubet always has a long line at his produce table. My Beloved is dispatched to stand in for me and choose the goodies. Martin has land and a farm in Pescadero. After Odile, he showed up with what few things did not get blown away. And we bought what little fare he had, in praise of his efforts to pick up and keep going. Always smiling, and helpful, Martin and his wife and daughter walk the line at their table and ensure that everyone is served. You never know when different fruit or veggies that you have never seen before will pop up on Martin’s table.
When we first moved to La Paz, I whined a lot about not having a farmer’s market. Our not-so-little market has grown to encompass many different items, home grown and homemade. And on any given visit, there will be the mainstays of the market and newcomers. The presentation of goods is a rich, colorful motif in creativity and the bounty of Mother Nature.
And then there is Kayle, a laid-back guy from Pescadero that also has a groaning board of interesting and hard to find items, like luscious blueberries, dates, organic popcorn, shelled, fat, sweet green peas and the most wonderful selection of greens for salads and juicing. Kayle treks up to La Paz on both days of our market.
Cathy Smith, the Gardening Guru, also hails from Pescadero. Cathy’s products are certified by the Baja California Sur state government as 100% ORGANIC. This is not an easy designation to come by. If one could bank Cathy’s enthusiasm and know-how, they would be rich as Midus. Cathy has an array of organic pest killers, mosquito repellants, fertilizers, and is happy to advise and consult.
Not all the vendors mentioned here are out on the street. There are one or two shop owners that are important threads of this wonderful tapestry of food, plants, and crafts. The market has provided the traffic and interest in things other than the commercial and homogeneous. These shops are a wonderful addition to your Farmer’s Market visit and to the town on any day.
Got Baja? Enrique Sanchez #2 and his wife, Cecelia, certainly do. They are the owners, and creators of the gift shop, “Got Baja” and the espresso café, “Doce Cuarenta” (1240 Madero), named for their street address. This wonderful little shop, café, and garden is the center of the Farmer’s Market. My Beloved is hooked on their Ruben sandwich and I will never get tired of their signature salad, Doce Cuarenta. All things La Paz and Baja, from stunning mounted large photographs of Baja scenes, feed sack throw pillows that say “Cuddle with this pillow if you miss La Paz too much”, to t-shirts and mugs. Whether you want a rich pastry, a light lunch, hot or cold-brewed espresso, this is an important part of your Farmer’s Market experience.
Lolita Pie Boutique on March 14th, my number one daughter sent me an email saying it was Pie Day and had dispatched her Beloved to find a luscious pie. March 14 is 3.14…get it? Well, you do not need to wait for next March to experience decadent, delicious, warm-from-the-oven pies. Just step around the corner onto Constitucion near the Aramburo parking lot and visit Lolita’s Pie Boutique.
Karuna Tea House is also just around the corner on Constitucion, a charming and welcoming place to rest and enjoy. Husband and wife team Ines Garcia and Hector Jaime Felix offer private tea tastings and a few tables for you to enjoy a cup of one of their specialty teas. Ines also has a table at the market and offers refreshing iced tea and some cakes. Stop in and sip a cuppa and meet these lovely young people.
Talking on the phone to precious daughter, the other day she said she was running low on her Baja salt collection and hoped there was still someone selling flavored salts at the market. I told her not to worry.
La Parcela Productos Gourmet. Visit their booth or their shop. It is a treat for the senses. Shop owner Christian, displays his aderezos and especias (herbs and spices) beautifully and is knowledgeable about his products. He carries everything from cacao, vanilla, various salts, and Himalayan salt tabs. Visit him at the market or at his store on Allende between Revolucion and Serdan.
El Jardincito. Owned by Enrique Sanchez #1 (the other guy’s father) is the place to buy healthy, organically grown plants, herbs, and a few gifts like blown glass hummingbird feeders and some handmade fiber pots. Want a ready-made herb garden? Enrique has them. Looking for a particular plant? Enrique will try to find it for you. This spring, he had the most gorgeous, vibrant, and long-lived tulips. Enrique has two passions in life: running and raising organic plants. In fact, he came in first in his age group in the half marathon and first again in the triathalon in Cabo San Lucas.
Queen Bees owner Juana Agudo sells honey, honey drops, and lollipops (better than a cough drop). Always ready with a smile, Juana is happy to offer a sample. Her products are diverse and well-priced. Not just a pretty face, Juana is a bee expert. She came to my house, suited up in a beekeeper’s rig (scared my chihuahua) and very calmly and professionally removed a hive of wild bees.
Dora Burgoin of Organicos Cabo Natura comes from Cabo San Lucas twice a week with her wonderful, colorful, purple and yellow cauliflower, flor de calabasa (squash flowers), heirloom tomatoes, and greens. You cannot miss her in her Mexican gauze dresses, colorful scarves, and straw hat. Her produce is beautiful and tasty.
Bella. When I was a kid, my Italian mother always called me Bella. Beautiful. Well, French food at the level that Bella makes it, lives up to her name! I have heard that her gluten-free Tarte Provencal requires that you sign a release form in case you become addicted. Oh, and her lemon squares have an equal reputation. Provecho!
It is a good thing there is not the most convenient parking at the market. Hoofing it a little bit will help to burn off the calories from all of the food you have tasted. I mean, I do not want to be rude, if someone offers, I taste!
La Lei. Lei Tam, chef and Asian food genius, has caught me hook, line, and Pad Thai! I have tried most of her offerings. Her Chow Mein made with wide brown noodles and an array of vegetables is as pleasing to the eye as it is to the palate. Oh! And those Vietnamese Summer Rolls… Well, they are a mainstay at our house. Lei makes all of her own noodles and sauces. She can even make the Chow Mein and Pad Thai vegetarian and gluten free. Lei, with advance notice, will make dishes for you to pick up at the market. Or she will be the private chef at your next party. But, please invite the Press!
Dear readers: Many of you may remember the trendy Café Milano on Izquierda Street. Lei was the chef. Her husband Michel, the bread maker, helped her. We watched their beautiful daughter Asia (“Ahs si ya”) grow up. Lei says “Italian design, Chinese built!”
Grateful Bread, Michel Milano, artesanal bread maker, arrives on a Vespa. Sets up his breads, round and long loaves. Crusty on the outside, white and delicious on the inside. He tempts me every week. I have to resist, once on the lips, and boom it’s on the hips! But others give in and I see his wares flying off the table.
They started calling it “Eat Street” because so many restaurants have made their homes on Madero Street. But on Tuesdays and Saturdays, it is Meet, Greet, and Eat Street. La Paz, this Farmer’s Market is yours. These are your friends and neighbors. They are cooking, baking, stirring, and harvesting to bring wonderful foods to you. Please continue to support them. The market is open all year.
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Structure Your New Life: Five Ways to Perfect Your Transition to Paradise
One of the most stressful events in anyone’s life is moving, even if the move involves giving up your workaday life and relocating to live the life of your dreams in a beachfront home in sunny La Paz. The vision you had of yourself and your spouse sipping frosty margaritas while surrounded by a group of charming new friends probably did not happen in your first weeks. Instead, you were likely feeling overwhelmed by the hard work you did in order to set up your phone and electricity, and hire a good gardener, maid, and pool service.
For most expats, life eventually smoothes out, they make friends, and they relax and start living on Mexican time, but if you want to get to “eventually,” a little bit sooner, here are five things you can do to make your transition more pleasant.
Learn some Spanish. Enroll in a class at one of the Spanish schools in La Paz. Not only will you improve your knowledge of the local culture, you’ll also meet people much like yourself. (Se Habla La Paz Spanish immersion school (tel: 612 122 7763, email: email@example.com, web: sehablalapaz.com) and El Nopal (tel: 612 188 0577, web: www.elnopalspanish.com)
Go Local: Take to the streets and use what you’ve learned, even if it means carrying a dictionary (there is an app for that) wherever you go. Whether you’re in the bank, the grocery store, or your favorite café, greet people with a smile and a friendly “Buenas dias.” Look people in the eye, learn their names, and tell them yours. Shop in local stores, or just spend a Sunday evening strolling along the Malecon. Paceanos are a friendly bunch and will respond in kind.
Volunteer: There are all kinds of groups that have mixed Mexican and foreign members. Volunteer to serve breakfast to kids from the barrios with FANLAP (tel: 612 121 2166, web: www.lapazninos.org). Walk or foster a shelter dog .
Start a Group: You came down here to have the time to pursue your interests, and many others did, as well. Tell people you want to start an organic garden, a tango club, or a gourmet club. Form a film club and trade reviews of the latest movies. People bond more easily over shared interests, and soon, you’ll be surrounded by friends. Sign up on the La Paz Gringos forum: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/lapazgringos/
Celebrate! Holidays and rituals are an important part of every culture, and taking part in local traditions is crucial to becoming part of a community. Head to the Governor’s Mansion on the evening September 15th to hear El Grito (the scream) – the annual recreation of the call for independence. Visit the Teatro de la Ciudad on November 1st and experience an authentic Day of the Dead festival. Love a parade? You can see one every day during the annual pre-Lenten festival Carnival (shoes optional, shirts required.)
These are just a few of the ways you can ease your transition from turista to ciudana (citizen). Wondering why this is on a real estate page? It’s simple: when you buy a new home, you’re not just purchasing a structure, you’re structuring a new lifestyle.
Chiles en Nogada, A Patriotic Dish Traditionally Served in September.
By Susan Fogel
Okay, so you aren’t going to go to the Palacio to take part in El Grito, and maybe you even decided against finding a place to watch the fireworks. There is one thing you can do the week of September 16th, and that is enjoy a truly wonderful dish called Chiles en Nogada. No worries we are not going to print a recipe here. These babies take a lot of work. And when anyone talks about this gorgeous, rich, sumptuous dish, they all say: “Oh I love Nogada, but they are too much work to make myself!”
Where is grandma when you need her anyway?
If you have ever made green chile soup, arroz verde or chiles relleno, you know what hard work is when it comes to cooking with these wonderful, beefy poblano chiles.
Here is how Wikipedia describes Chiles en Nogada:
“…Chiles en nogada is a poblano chile stuffed with ground beef, fruit, herbs, and spices, then covered in a creamy walnut sauce. The final garnish is pomegranate seeds. The three colors of the Mexican flag are represented here, green for the chiles, the walnut sauce is white, and the pomegranate seeds are red, so this is a very traditional dish eaten during the month of September in Mexico…”
Here is how I describe it: Rich, sweet, succulent with a little bite from the poblano chiles, scrumptious. One September, I ate it every day at different restaurant. I just could not get enough.
The wonderful thing about holiday specialties is that they are only served during their special holiday. They do not become commonplace.
Chiles en Nogada are not cheap as an entrée, but my friends you will not be disappointed.
My mouth is watering as I write this!
Grab your partner, a friend, or someone off the street just say “Want to go have Nogada?” and complete strangers will follow you anywhere.
At press time several of the other, better restaurants in town were not serving nogada, or were undecided .
So head to one of these wonderful, La Paz restaurants and enjoy the crowd and festive atmosphere.
LasTres Virgenes on Madero Street a few doors from Aramburo, Jesse Chavez, owner and head food designer says Nogada have been on the menu for a week already. It is always best to make reservations 123 2226 Café El Corazon on Revolucion and 5 de Mayo: starting this Friday until the end of the month for reservations:
128 8985 El Rincon Gourmet will be serving Nogada all month. Theyare on Bravo near TELMEX.
Viva Mexico! Viva Mexico! Viva Mexico!
By Susan Fogel
“ Listen my children and you shall hear of the midnight ride of Paul Revere” Those are the opening words of Longfellow’s poem published almost 100 years after the American Revolution. And school children all over the nation learned the words to the poem and the story it told. As the story goes, some friends of Paul Revere were to light lanterns in the tower of Old North Church in Boston to tell him if the British were coming by land or sea(“… One if by land, two if by sea…”) He would then ride through the towns alerting the people. The story has been embroidered and embellished and Paul Revere has become a hero and super patriot, but he did not ride alone. In fact there were many back up riders that spread the word that the British were coming.
And so Mexico has an Independence Day legend reenacted in towns and villages and from the nation’s capital in Mexico City. Like the Independence Day celebrations in the US, it is a national holiday. The day is marked with pomp, parties and patriotism. And legends of epic proportions.
On September 15, 1810 Miguel Hidalgo y Castillo called the people from the steps of his church in Dolores Hidalgo in Guanajuato. He commanded his brother and others to march on the jail and demand the release of 80 or more political prisoners. Two of those that went to the sheriff with their demands were Ignacio Allende and Mariano Abasolo.
Those are two names that everyone reading this should recognize. Just as most larger towns in the US have streets named after Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy, so are streets named for these heroes in towns all across the republic of Mexico. Here in La Paz, Calle Abasolo becomes our Malecon ( beach front promenade). And we do also have a Calle Ignacio Allende.
When we first arrived in La Paz and embarked on pool construction, I said to my Beloved; “ Beloved, there will be no workers at the house tomorrow.” “How do you know?”; he asked. And my response was that the next day would be the 16th of September, and there was a BIG street named for that day.
Clue about holidays here: if there is a street named with a date, there will be a holiday.
So at around sunrise on September 16, 1810, Hidalgo ordered the church bells rung, and exhorted his parishioners to revolt against the “bad government” also known as the Spanish.
This exhortation to revolution became known as El Grito de Dolores or the Cry of Dolores.
The first battle fought in the war for independence occurred on September 20th in Guanajuato. Mexico would not win her independence from Spain for ten more years. The Declaration of Independence of the Mexican Empire was made on September 27, 1821.
No one has the exact words Hidalgo used to exhort his people to insurrection and the famous speech of Cry of Dolores is not recorded and many other people are attributed with parts of the oration.
And everyone has an opinion of what was said, and who said it. But today Miguel Hidalgo, a Catholic priest is anointed with the responsibility of calling the people to rise up against their oppressors.
In October 1825, the Cry of Dolores had an official name change to the El Grito de La Independencia, or the Cry of Independencia. And on September 15th, the president of Mexico rings the bells at the National Palace in Mexico City around eleven p.m. He then reads the following poem and the crowd responds with the last lines “ Via Mexico, Viva Mexico, Viva Mexico! The president waves the national flag during the shouting, then at the end rings the bell again.
Long live the heroes that gave us the Fatherland!
Long live Hidalgo!
Long live Morelos!
Long live Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez!
Long live Allende!
Long live Aldama and Matamoros!
Long live National Independence!
Long Live Mexico! Long Live Mexico! Long Live Mexico!
The crowds in the Zocalo in Mexico City are enormous and tourists as well as Mexicans come from near and far to be part of El Grito.
It is customary for Mexican presidents to visit the church in Dolores Hidalgo on the last Independence Day of their term. President Calderon broke with tradition and visited the church of Dolores Hidalgo on September 15th, 2010 as part of the bi-centennial celebrations.
Have you noticed the foil bunting and the red, green and white décor festooning the governor’s palace on Isabel La Catolica near Allende? It is dressed and ready for El Grito coming up in a few short weeks. Red, green and white streamers are stretched across the Malecon, and street vendors have been out for weeks selling flags, sombreros and anything remotely connected to Independence Day.
There will be a huge crowd, the shout and fireworks! If you don’t mind crowds, and also hoofing it from a parking spot somewhere blocks away, it is an energetic and enthusiastic crowd, and you will be stirred to take part in the grito. Viva Mexico!
The restaurants will be starting to serve Chiles en Nogada a traditional dish served at this time of year. Look for my upcoming post about this.
My Beloved and I will watch the fireworks from our terrace on the hill across the bay from La Paz.
A picture is worth a thousand words. And this picture says it all!
In years past right about now, we would be packing, and preparing for our annual visit to the frozen north, well Dallas or Thousand Oaks to spend Christmas with one or both of our kids. For us the temperatures in Texas and California are chilly to downright frigid.
We soldier through the torture of multiple airports, and plane changes, and arrive dragged out and hungry. But the ride from the airport is alwaysa nice re-entry. Christmas lights are everywhere, and we love turning into Miss Meliss’ neighborhood and circling the park that is ablaze with lights.
Once we get past the exuberant welcome from the million, well three dogs, and sometimes a foster dog, the delicious aroma of slow cooking food enters our consciousness.The house is beautifully decorated and the tree is lit waiting for its ornaments. Decorating the tree is something Miss Meliss and I do together.
We take our coffee and dessert to the living room and sit by the fire and plan our days.
We always have a shopping list, things like underwear and shoes top the list. For me visiting fabric stores is an absolute.
We talk about who will be dropping in, and who will be staying for dinner.
Then it is up to bed where we bury ourselves in the quilts Melissa has laid out for us.
“It’s not cold!” she says. And we grumble back that we are freezing!
One year we had snow on Christmas Eve, it was romantic and the house looked gorgeous with the lights shining on the snow and the decorated tree in the window. Earlier in the day we drove around in the snow to finish up some shopping, I was nervous. Not that my Beloved could not handle snow, he grew up in Chicago, snow he knows. And we were driving a Subaru with its famous all-wheel drive. It is all the other drivers that have no clue how to handle the snow that made me nervous.
This year? Events conspired against us. We are not going north and no one is coming south for the holiday.
We are all disappointed of course. BUT! As we watched Dallas become a frozen snow globe, and saw travelers stranded in airports across the nation, we felt relief that we are not going to be part of THAT.
Just last week I was swimming in my pool, and drying off in the sun. I sat in the sun to do some hand sewing, and had coffee outside. We have had some stiff breezes, well, okay, wind, so I have not been in the pool or done much outside. But, the winds will lie down, and the sun will shine and I will count my blessings…and have several Facetime moments with Miss Meliss.
“…One door opens and another closes…” How many times have we heard that cliché?
In October 2008, I lost my job as theDirector of Closings for a cross-border mortgagecompany. For days, I was stunned, sad, and worried.
By the end of that same week I was on a new high. The editor of the premier magazine aimed at ex-pats, International Living contacted me and asked me to write the cover story for their December issue .
Take THAT, mortgage industry and economic crisis, I was now following my dream to be a writer. And on the cover of a major magazine!
Shortly after the article ran, I received an email from someone at International Living, in it was a message from a Julia Sheehan.
She was asking if she could contact the author (me) directly to talk about life in La Paz. There was no email address for Ms. Sheehan in the message. But she had mentioned that she had studied Spanish at the Spanish immersion school. So I sent a message to Julie Goff , thedirector of Se Habla La Paz theSpanish immersion school, asking if she knew Julie Sheehan, and if she did, then would she connect us.
It isn’t often one receives fan mail. I wanted to be sure to meet this new Julie.
Once we connected in email, we decided to meet. My Beloved and I invited Julie to our house. She pulled up in a fiery red PT Cruiser with painted red flames licking the sides. Not exactly the Little Old Lady from Pasadena! In fact, Julie had the flames painted on after she bought the car! What an amazing woman!In her late sixties at the time, she drove the red roadster from North Carolina across the US and down the Baja Peninsula all the way to La Paz by herself.
We had a lovely chat and learned about Julie’s life and what led her to La Paz. Knowing she had come from that island of liberalism in a red state, Chapel Hill, we figured she would have our political proclivities, and she did. Lucky for us, or this may have been our one and only meeting.
We liked Julie at once, and asked her to join us as we made our Christmas visits to friends in Todos
Santos. She volunteered to drive the red rage, and off we went.
It was a lot of fun to introduce her like this: “This is my friend Julie, she is my fan.”
As time passed we learned more about Julie, and grew closer. She has been a guest at our table numerous times. She is a true and loyal friend.
She holds true to her quirky belief about extra terrestrials and UFOs. She is open minded, a seeker of knowledge and loves dogs. Guitar music fills her soul, and if you ever want a capsule review of almost any move of any era, just ask Julie.
It’s hard to believe that Julie is 72, or even much past 60.
At a time when I was flagging in hope, along came Julie…
If we were communicating today by drums, the air around La Paz would be vibrating with the coconut telegraph sounding the word, about the impending doom of the fideicomiso. Gringos are all abuzz thinking that they will be able to shed the annoying fideicomiso that is the instrument that allowed them to buy their little piece of paradise. And perhaps they will, but not this week or this month.
The Mexican government changed their constitution in 1997 to make it possible for foreigners to own property in the restricted zones of Mexico. Those zones are 50 km from the coast and 100 km froma foreign border. The fideicomiso ( a trust-like contract) was amended and adapted so that foreigners could safely and legally own propertyon the beach.
The original logic behind creating restricted zones was to keep foreigners from aiding invading navies or armies. It is highly unlikely today, that Belize or Guatemala or even Uncle Samwill invade by land or sea, or invade at all.
Foreigners owning homes in Mexico complain about the recurring administration fees for their fideicomisos. The fiduciary banks do nothing really, and yet they get their $450-600 dollars every year.
For years we have been hearing that any minute now the federal government was going to do away with the fideicomiso. Well the time seems to have come. A bill was presented to the federal congress to eliminate the fideicomiso.
It is now awaiting discussion in the Senate. Once the Senate approves the bill it goes to the president forsignature.
But wait! Even after the presidential signature It is not law yet! The signed document must be published in the Diario Nacional (like the Congressional Record in the US).
So, don’t gorunning to the bank and demand that they close your fideicomiso.
It isn’t going to be all that easy.
First the Senate and others need to decide how the Calvo clause will work ifforeigners will now have escrituras ( Mexican fee simple titles). The Calvo Clauseis used the world over , in Mexico it is part of the fideicomiso and when you sign your new fideicomiso, you agree to act as a Mexican national and will not try to invoke the laws of your native country when it comes to issue surrounding your property.
Then there is the Investment clause. And this clause states that if you have land larger than 2,000 square meters you must develop it within 24 months and spend at least $250,000 on the improvements. And that investment figure goes up as the size of the property goes up.
Oh and then there is theSecretary of Foreign Relationsknown asthe SRE here in Mexico. When I closed transactions for buyers inGuadalajara and San Miguel de Allende, even though there was no fideicomisos, there was still a permit issued by the SRE. These take time and cost money.
Escrituras are titles that Mexican citizens get when they buy land. There is no SRE permit, no Calvo or Investment Clause in the existing escritura. So how will this work for foreigners? Someone has to figure this out.
My sources say the Senatemay very well pass this law, and the president will sign it IF:
·If the US doesn’t do something objectionable that affects Mexicans
·If the banks don’t somehow throw a monkey wrench into the works
·If the bill does not have too many additions or deletions that the president cannot abide
This is wonderful news for new buyers, for foreign owners, and for real estate attorneys and notarios.
Closing costs may be significantly lower for new buyers.
Existing property owners can drop the fideicomiso and save $400-600 a year, that’s a lot of tequila.
Real estate attorneys and notarios will make more money. And houses can sell and transactions can close more quickly
BUT! Already one buyer has wondered why they should buy now and pay for a fideicomiso that may beno longer necessary in 6 months or a year. The excitement and the spreading of misinformation may affect the decisions of buyers.
Could we have a moment of silence while everyone reads this blog post and shares it?
I am as happy as everyone else to wish the fideicomiso farewell, but I can see the issues that have to be ironed out.
We have at least six months, and more likely a year before anything changes.
This is the first in a series of missives about trying to function for the next EIGHT weeks in a cast. This one is long, it sets the scen.
Here is where I will be sitting with my laptop at my side:
Aaaah, La Paz! There are good days and there are bad days.
On the good days, the sun is shining, the air is cool and tastes of salt, the sea sparkles and the espresso comes to the table hot, with the foamed milk just right, and maybe there is even a flower drawn in the milk.
After 12 years in La Paz, my blood has thinned, I have acclimated. What was once “sweater weather “ in California, and may feel downright balmy to those of you from northern climes, it is bone chilling for me.
But last Saturday, the sun was shining and the sea was sparkling, we had just finished breakfast at Maria California , where they always draw a flower in the foamed milk of my double decaf, extra hot macchiato.
We decided to take our precious Chihuahua Coco-Nut Ibrahim Garcia for a walk on the Malecon ( ocean front promenade)
And then it happened.
After our usual Saturday breakfast with friends we braved the cold to take Coco-Nut for a walk on the Malecon. I tripped on a step fell and broke my ankle. That was six days ago. I will be in a cast for 6-8 weeks.
At first the pain was so excruciating, I was writhing on the ground screaming in pain.
It slowly subsided. I could wiggle my toes, and my foot was numb.
“ I think I broke something.” I wailed to my Beloved.
“Well maybe not”, he said, “since you can wiggle your toes.”
I sat and considered my options for a moment. The car was parked nearby, like a bright yellow beacon it sparkled in the January sun. It was little more than the length of a crosswalk away.
My Beloved held me and we hobbled to the car. By the time we got home I could not put any weight on my foot.
Luckily Salvador, our gardener was there and he helped my Beloved, Ira walk me inside. I took some Tylenol, Ira wrapped my ankle and iced it with some frozen peas. ( still in the bag)
Salvador finished his work, I took a nap in my pink chair. Ira napped in the bedroom.
Then Salvador came flying in our front door yelling for Ira.
The same weird man that tried to get in my house last week was sitting on the chairs in front of the casita taking off his clothes! Salvador was driving past when he saw him. And he knew it was not our present guests because he makes a point of meeting all of our guests ( they all are charmed by him).
The guy walked off and down the street. And there ensued one of our famous neighborhood mobilizations. But he always disappears into the wind. We have called the police, but they did not get it, that this guy is a nuisance and needs to go to a mental hospital. When I called the police they thought I said that Ira needed to go to the mental hospital!
So when the clamor died down we decided I should go to ER. .
Ira looked up the word for wheelchair so that when we got to the ER he could tell them what he needed.
Tomorrow, I will amaze you with the prompt, personal and inexpensive medical care, at a private hospital.