Interminable municipal improvement

THE POWERS THAT be here on my mountaintop, the people who run the town, started major street and sidewalk renovations two or three years ago. I forget how long it’s been. It feels like forever.

It’s been nonstop since it started.

Previously, the cobblestone streets (some were just concrete) were in very bad condition. Same goes for some sidewalks. That’s all changing now.

The work seems interminable because it’s so labor-intensive. There are two elements involved. One is the surface of the streets and sidewalks. The other, just as important, is upgrading the underground drainage system.

Flooding was a serious problem during the daily downpours of the five-month rainy season. June to (or through) October, depending.

I’ve really enjoyed watching this work. Unlike above the border where everyone fears getting sued, so construction projects are walled off, nothing is walled off here. You can walk right up and watch, even making a nuisance of yourself.

I particularly enjoy the drainage aspects. What you see in these photos will be just manholes from the street surface, but look what’s below.

street2
Close up.

I never spotted anything like this above the Rio Bravo. Maybe they were doing it this way, but you couldn’t get close enough to see due to lawsuit fears.

If you fall into a hole here, it’s just your tough luck.

street
Not so close up.

Coffee, cookie and construction

cafe

OUR MOUNTAIN town is packed to the treetops with tourists. Not fond of it myself, but it’s good for the local economy, and I’m down with that.

Much of Mexico goes on vacation between Christmas and New Year’s, and at times it seems they all come here. Many of them do.

Yesterday afternoon, I was sitting at a sidewalk table with a café Americano negro and a chocolate chip cookie from Costco. Most of the sidewalk tables were occupied, and hordes of folks were walking by. It was good people-watching.

Finishing my café and cookie — I ate just one, which is why I am so svelte. I don’t make a pig of myself — I stood and walked across the street and the plaza to the far side where a yuge renovation project is under way.

The renovation is taking a very long time, months, and my video illustrates why. Watch those guys detailing the flat stones of the sidewalk. It will last a century or more.

We don’t do prefab.

Another interesting element is that the construction work is not closed off. Pedestrians walk all around the workmen and through the half-finished street and sidewalk.

In the United States, the area would be closed, and all the workmen would be sporting hard hats. It’s probably more perilous the way we do it, but it’s far more interesting too.

Cement, hammers, nails

HERE’S SOMETHING about Mexico you don’t know if you don’t live here: Our nation’s in a building frenzy. You can hardly drive an urban mile without passing numerous construction projects. You’ll see them on rural miles too.

These can be small, medium or large in scale. Businesses that sell construction materials are ubiquitous.* Trucks carrying material down the road from Point A to Point B are an hourly sight. Cement, rebar, bricks, you name it.

We never stop building here — or renovating.

hammerI view this positively. A nation that’s constantly building is a nation that’s moving ahead, and Mexico is moving forward at a remarkable pace.

(We’re even taking steps to legalize marijuana, and that would be lousy for the narcos and great for the rest of us.)

Construction labor is inexpensive. Compared to the United States, it’s incredibly cheap. I like this, of course.

A man who builds things here is called an albañil. It’s invariably a man. I’ve yet to spot a female albañil.

Mexico knows men and women differ.

A Spanish-English dictionary often defines albañil as bricklayer, but a good albañil does far more than lay bricks. A great albañil is a magician. He can build anything.

Barry Obama, the Mohammedan sympathizer and half-white Hawaiian-Indonesian, would not be able to look an albañil in the eye and say, “You did not build that” because the albañil would have built it, and built it quite well.

(Yes, I can inject politics anywhere.)

Unlike tradesmen in the United States and teachers in Mexico, albañiles are not unionized.  You never encounter them blocking highways because they are out of sorts.

The lack of trade unions is a big reason you can get work done at a very good price south of the Rio Bravo.

Many, perhaps most, get into the profession as children, helping relatives. An albañil now working at the Hacienda began when he was 13. Now 40, he’s remarkably talented.

Perhaps the narcos who find themselves without income due to drug legalization will put down their M16s and turn to honest construction work. There’s lots to be done.

Mexico is on the move.

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* I rarely use two-dollar words, but sometimes it’s fun.