I get asked all the time what it’s like just moving down here to Mexico; to run a business; to build a house. The appeal of simply doing a “Jed Clampett: and loading up to move to the land of manana and tacos has an understandable appeal.
That is certainly reflected in the number of gringos snapping up property left and right all along the Baja Peninsula. The sound of the mariachis is now so often wrapped around the equally rancorous sound of earthmovers, backhoes and jackhammers. Que lastima!
I tell folks to read all they can. Get on the internet. Go to the bookstore. Get their hands and brains wrapped around as much literature as you can and absorb it all. Then quietly file it away because NOTHING ever works the way it’s planned down here.
For one thing, none of the books will ever tell you about the most powerful union here in Mexico. We have unions (sindicatos) for everything in Mexico. The waiters, taxi drivers, room cleaners…every occupation…has a union that can bring a business or project to it’s knees if you go sideways with them.
But none is stronger or more neglected than the infamous “Sindicato de Cunados!” Basically, the Union of Brother-in-Laws!
For example, I’ve spent about three years trying to get a simple concrete block building erected, re-modeled and opened up so I can run our business more effectively. Anyone who has tried building something in Mexico can bear witness. I got pulled into the trap early and has taken three years to finally catch on.
I have a guy who is cleaning some of the old concrete debris off the lot. I happen to mention, that I need some cabinetry work done. “Senor Jonathan, don’t worry. I will have my brother-in-law come down. He is a muy bueno carpintero (carpenter).” Wow. Great. A personal reference and all.
I bring him on. He starts the project. Two days later, he quits. He says someone stole his tools. Can I help him out by loaning some money to buy tools and take it off the bill? Well, I have half a shelf complete so I guess I’d better lend him the money so he can finish. Three days later, he’s no longer answering the phone. Neither is the first guy who referred him. I still have half a shelf.
Another “brother-in-law” was referred to patch a few cement holes in the wall. “Si, Senor Jonthan. Don’t worry. I have mucho experiencia!” I leave for a week. I come back and two of the 4 holes are patched.
But the guy had a truckload of sand dumped on the sidewalk outside the building blocking the walkway and into the street. He used all of two shovels of sand to make his cement patch. Then he left. He stopped answering his phone too!
I now have a 5-foot-high-pile of sand in front of my building that the kids use to play “King of the Hill.” The city say it will give me a citation for blocking a public walkway and causing a traffic hazard into the boulevard. Of course, I paid another “brother-in-law” to truck it back somewhere else. I didn’t ask and didn’t want to know.
I had a brother-in-law welder do some great iron work for me so I gave him a project of building me a gate. It was beautiful too. Until I tried to open it. He had welded it shut.
Another brother-in-law was referred by several people as being a “great professional painter.” I got a quote from him to paint several rooms. “Senor Jonathan, one week job. That is it!”
Three weeks later, when I come back, they have not finished. “We only had one paint brush” says the head brother-in-law. “In our quote we made a mistake and did not include extra paint brushes so we only had one.” They did not buy more because I told them not to go over the budget!
Two watched while one painted. Then, it was the next guys’ turn and the other two watched. Three weeks of this. From what I’ve heard, that’s the prototype “union” job. One works and two watch.
And it was not the right color. They thought I would like the color THEY chose better. They also explained that the color they chose was cheaper so it saved me more money!
If I did not like the color, no worries. They would happily re-do it again with the right color! And they would give me a good quote and INCLUDE enough paint brushes. Only problem is that the color I wanted is now no longer in stock and will take 1 month to get.
But don’t worry. They have another brother-in-law in the paint business who can get the paint faster. For a small fee. Of course. A discount no less because “Somos familia!” (We are family!) He says with a grin!
Ah, the union. It goes on and on! I have met and had the pleasure to work with so very many good workers down here. Many become friends. But beware the Union of Brother-in-Laws! There is one to fix your car, install your TV, and build you a wall. Most of the time, you just have to laugh and roll with it. Shake your head. That’s Mexico.
That’s my story. If you ever want to reach me, my e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.