Thursday, March 15, 2007

How do you know your're in Mexico?

1. The government owns all the petroleum production, and admits it. PEMEX is the ONLY gasoline purveyor in the entire country. No driving around looking for the best price. Nationwide it's all the same. And it's full service all the way which means you stay in your car and let them deal with the pelting rain or scorching heat. And they clean the windows . AND most of the pump jockeys are women.

2. The government owns all the telecommunications outlets and admits it. TELMEX is the ONLY service available. That's for phone, internet, cell phone, FAX service. Makes it real easy to read our bill. And it's cheap, too. $18 US per month for all service except international calls which are about 50¢ each.

3. The government IS the provider of electrical power. No silliness of voting by a community on which provider it should have (as we did in Davis in November; PG&E or SMUD [Sacramento Municipal Utilities Districe]. PG&E won , but I was never convinced it would make a whit of difference). Our electric bill which comes every two months is about $10 US. Household gas is purchased by the tank-ful; it is about $20 for 6 to 8 weeks, depending on usage. It is provided by a company called GAZ. You might think this is free enterprise at work. In a way it is. Global is the other company, but they do not come around on a truck and replace your tanks. You have to dismantle the tanks, toss them in the back of your car or truck and drive around looking for a Global station so you can fill up your tanks. For ease, it's GAZ.

4. Everybody drinks bottled water. Ice cubes are made with tap water.

5 Beer is 55¢ a bottle. Tomatoes are 40¢ a kilo (20¢ a pound). Avocados are about $20 pesos a kilo, or about 20¢ each. Tortillas from the neighborhood tortarilla -- which we had tonight to make fajitas -- are 8.5 pesos a kilo, or 35¢ a pound. There are about 40 tortillas in a pound. Of course, the government subsidizes corn, along with beans, sugar and rice, so the prices are pretty stable. Some agricultural prices have taken quite a jump; onions, potatoes, bananas, for example. Still, I can go to the tiangues and spend $30 pesos (about $2.90) for enough veggies and fruit for a week. The produce is abundant, cheap, good, varied.

6. They have a different word for everything. The best confusion: The regular gas here is called Magna. The first time I went to the gas station I asked for a fillup of, I though, Magna. What I actually said was, "Lleno con manga." That means, "Fill it with sleeves."

7. I will leave you with one of my favorites. We get garbage pick-up three times a week. Our property taxes go to support this civic service. Our own taxes, the ones we personally pay, would not support a US garbage pick-up ONCE a week for ONE week, much less what we get here. And you can put out anything, and I mean ANYTHING, you want to get rid of. Yesterday we went through the bodega and discarded all the old cans and plastic buckets of paint we could find. And where did they go, you ask? To the Hazardous Waste Disposal Unit? To the once-a-month household waste dump such as we have in Davis? Guess. I am not saying that I approve of this irreponsible practice, one that has led to real problems in the ecology of the local salt lagoons and to an enormous pollution problem. But si es. It's another way of life.


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