Back from the chaotic capital

WE RETURNED Wednesday via bus from Mexico City.

After spending four nights in our condo.

There is good news, ecstatic news for me. We rented the place to a nephew who started this week at the Instituto Politécnico Nacional, a prestigious university that’s difficult to get into.

Our condo is walking distance from the school.

The not-so-good news is that his family views rent as money wasted, so they will be looking for somewhere to buy.  How soon we do not know. We may sell them our place. I hope so. I have left that decision to my child bride.

I vote a resounding yes. She, on the other hand, holds the typical Mexican view that one should never sell property under any circumstances whatsoever.

But she does see the inconvenience of its being in Mexico City.

It seems every visit to the nation’s capital is worse than the previous, traffic-wise. A friend who lives there says that each time a new thoroughfare is constructed, a new subway line opens or a Metrobús route is inaugurated, congestion just gets worse instead of better.

The young tenant and his mother arrived by bus on Wednesday, dumped a ton of baggage in the condo, and spent the night in a nearby hotel. The following morning, we left town, and they moved in.

She won’t be staying. Just him.

So, as things stand, our twice-yearly visit to air out the condo, chase the bugs away, and mop up dust is now canceled. May it ever be so.

I shot the video on our way back. There were only six other people in the two-decker ETN bus. It looks empty because it mostly was.

A few months back, I decided to never visit San Miguel de Allende again. I hope to make the same vow for Mexico City. Other destinations call and, of course, it’s ever spectacular here on my Mexican mountaintop where we live in peace.

* * * *

(Note: In the middle of the return trip, the bus was stopped by immigration agents, and the passengers were asked for identification. They were looking for illegal aliens, of course. It was a first for me and, strangely, we were in the middle of Mexico. It was akin to being in Kansas. I flashed my official, laminated, full-color, photo-included voter ID.)

26 thoughts on “Back from the chaotic capital

  1. I recently read an article noting that Hispanic neighborhoods here in the U.S. are unusually resistant to gentrification. I think that must be a result of attitudes like your wife’s. When I ride my bike through those neighborhoods here, I almost never see For Sale signs. I suspect that when the time comes, the kids get the house.

    1. Creigh: I think this very common attitude stems from financial uncertainty going back decades or centuries in Mexico. The only thing you could count on was property. Certainly not money in the bank, or even investments. On a human level, I think the same historical uncertainties are why Mexicans are so family obsessed, and are they ever. There was no one else or anything else, not the government or even the Catholic Church, who would lend you a helping hand. Just your relatives.

      1. I concur. Family and property are the two driving forces in Mexican life. And it was once that way in The States. At least, in the gene pool from which I spring. My father sold a piece of timberland that was a legacy to my mother. That breach was never healed. In that scheme, I guess property trumped family.

        1. Señor Cotton: If I really insisted, my wife would go along with selling the Mexico City place. But during our conversations about it, it’s become quite clear that she really, really, really does not want to sell. I hope she comes to her senses. She may.

  2. I love riding the ETN bus as it’s always a luxury to let someone else do the driving, especially in nasty and congested areas such as where you were. Pretty countryside too. I’m sure that was a ride you were more than ready to take. A movie and a sack lunch, what more could you ask for on a bus ride?

    1. Leisa: ETN is the best bus line I’ve encountered in Mexico or anywhere else. I always use it when possible. I never watch the movies, which are connected to headphones so they don’t blare all over the bus like they used to in this country. And the sack lunches are pretty lame. I take my own sandwich makings and do it up right. We eat like princes.

      1. Question: when in Mexico I see lots of houses under construction, as if people are working on them as they get the money. Is this because bank loans are not easily available, or because people are just used to doing it that way, or is there some other reason?

        1. Creigh: Construction here is incredibly constant, far more than anything I ever saw in the United States by a long shot. And businesses that sell construction materials are all over the place. Driving in town you are always seeing trucks transporting construction material. It’s amazing. Some are indeed working on them as they get the money, so you see lots of places half finished, sitting there for months or even years. Sometimes the money is being sent from above the border. I don’t know what percentage of people get bank loans. I doubt it’s very high. I’ve never heard anyone say they have a bank loan. I didn’t have one when we built the house where we live (my mother and I went in 50-50, paying cash), and I did not have one when we bought our downtown casita. An inheritance did that one.

          I think most folks build as they have the money, and that’s the way it’s been done forever more often than not.

          1. It may be an urban legend but I’ve been told by many that leaving rebar sticking up, signaling incomplete construction, is a way of avoiding taxes. However, as property taxes are extremely low, urban legend may be so.

            1. Larry: That’s a new one for me. Never heard it. Doubt it. I’ve always assumed it was left there to make further construction easier. But Lord knows.

        2. Even if you can get a bank loan, the rates are high (>15%, typically) and the terms are short (<=5 years). So there's a huge economic incentive to just build as cash comes in, rather than pay it all out in interest to a bank.

          1. Kim: Well, that explains why I don’t know anyone with a mortgage. Credit card interest is sky-high too. We have four Bancomer credit cards, but I pay them off in full every month, so that does not affect us.

  3. For many years I have been impressed by the Mexican bus system. Will the day ever come when the USA has such a system? I doubt it.

    Buena suerte joven with your condo future. I vote with you (even when that doesn’t count). I’m pretty sure I would never convince your wife of my point of view. Perhaps she will see the light.

    Welcome home. We missed you.

    1. Ricardo: When you and I were youngsters, bus travel was common, and the buses were nice for their times. Now, in the U.S., only poor people take buses. Not so down here, of course, where some bus lines — like the one we were on — are akin to airliners without wings. Very, very comfy.

      1. I know you have not flown an American airline recently. “Akin to airliners” these days means akin to a Greyhound bus (which has pretty much gone out of business in The States). If you said akin to a Mexican airliner, you would have a point. I have been very impressed with how Mexico maintains its private aircraft.

        1. Señor Cotton: I am sure you are 100 percent correct. You are absolutely correct in that I have not boarded a U.S. airliner recently, to put it mildly, and I have no intention of ever doing so again. I also have no intention of crossing the U.S. border again. I don’t even remember the last time I was on a U.S. airliner. Likely would have been Delta to Atlanta around 2004. I don’t fly much anyway. The last time was, I believe, in 2013 when we flew to Mérida. Just the year before, we flew to Havana. Both flights were on Interjet, a very nice Mexican airline. Highly recommended.

  4. You had to present identification to prove you weren’t illegal?

    I’m mortified sir. You were obviously profiled. Too bad you weren’t up here. We could get you on CNN. Maybe even get you a settlement that would make your golden years even more comfortable.

    What a cruel, backwards country. My bleeding heart goes out to you. I’ll be in my safe space for weeks.

    1. Ray: You’re a funny fellow. No, they were not profiling me, but profiling makes perfect sense. I am a fan of profiling. They asked everybody on the bus for “identification.” No profiling. They said nothing about citizenship, but they were immigration agents — it said so on their uniforms — so it was obvious.

      As for my Golden Years being more comfortable, it would be hard to make them more comfy than they already are.

  5. In my not-so-humble opinion, you should either keep the condo and rent it out. Or sell it. But this business of leaving it empty makes zero sense whatsovever. Now, obviously, you have a tenant. But to me it seems to make sense to keep it if you’re going to do something with it.

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    Redding, CA
    Where we’d love to have a condo in Mexico City. Alas! Some day.

    1. Kim: Leaving it vacant for years (11 years now) makes no sense whatsoever above the border. But it does make sense down here. My wife has wanted to keep it as an investment. Real estate values are going up significantly in Mexico City, as you know. Renting a place out in Mexico, on the other hand, is chockablock with potential problems, especially from a distance. We had a reliable tenant for five years. It was one of her former coworkers, someone she knew was responsible. After he and his wife left, we knew of no one to rent it to. Putting up a sign and doing it blind is a YUGE risk here. Will they pay the rent on time? Will they pay the rent at all? Will they trash the place? These are big ifs when dealing with the locals. If they don’t pay the rent, evicting them would be a major issue too, again especially from a distance. We do not live in Mexico City. Weighing the risks against the potential income, the risks win hands down. So there it sat, a vacant investment.

      She paid 100,000 pesos for the place around 1996. Units there now have asking prices of a million or more. I don’t know if anyone has sold one at that price, but that’s what we’ve learned about asking prices. You should have bought the place years ago when I offered it for a relative song! Late bird loses the worm!

      So right now it’s rented. If the kid’s family decides to buy a place of their own nearby (they’re people who consider rent as money wasted) and move him out, we’ll likely offer to sell it to them. I hope he stays put for the entirety of his five years at the nearby university. Time will tell.

      1. Well, as for trashing the place, that’s a cost, right? And that cost has to be weighed against the foregone rents. In terms of foregone rents, I think you’ve already lost the equivalent of several trashings already. And if the purpose is truly investment, it’s even less defensible to keep it empty. Sure there’s risk finding tenants, but somehow landlords across CDMX seem to manage. And as you know, there are “expedited” ways to get rid of non-paying tenants. Easy? No. But practicable? Yes.

        As for me buying it, I just don’t want to be in that neighborhood. There’s nothing wrong with it, but I just don’t hang out in that part of CDMX. Key to me being happy living in CDMX is being able to walk (or take a short Metro ride) to everyplace that I hang out, which is mainly Roma, Condesa, Zona Rosa, and Centro Historico. Otherwise I’d have seriously discussed buying the place when you offered it for sale. It’s certainly very nicely decorated. In any case, best of luck with whatever you all decide.

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