Saturday, June 5, 2010

Mexico Census

Just as in the United States, Mexico is conducting its ten-year census now. The local newspaper included a long story educating people here about why the census is necessary and how to identify the census workers. Just as in the US, this census is used to allocate federal funds for a variety of programs at the local level. It's interesting that most social welfare programs are funded by the federal, and sometimes the state, government. There are few funds raised by local governments. (With property taxes often under $1000 pesos per year, less than $100US, there is not much money made available locally.)

The census worker, Luis, stopped by our house on Thursday, and filled out a fairly straightforward form for the census. Most of the questions were about where we were from, what we did for work before we retired, whether we are enrolled in the Social Security (IMSS) system here, how old we were, what our education level is, etc, similar to the US census. We gave Luis a coke and chatted with him for awhile. He speaks fairly good English. When Mexicans speak English well it often means they have spent some time living in the United States. In Luis'case, he has not, but has been studying English on his own. Here is the sticker Luis put on our outside wall to indicate that we had been "counted."

According to Geo-Mexico, the population of Mexico during the 200 census was 108.4 million. The population has been increasing between one and two percent every ten years. It will be interesting to see if the population increases more this time because of the greater influx of American and Canadian retirees and because so many undocumented Mexican workers have been deported from the United States. Also, the poor economic conditions seem to have discouraged many workers form trying to emigrate to the US. We shall see.

An update from the last post: we have applied for our FM3 visa renewal. We use a Mexican lawyer, Adriana, to process our application. Usually you can apply for the visa in Chapala by going to the City Hall on Wednesday mornings when the immigration officials come down from Guadalajara. They were even in the process of opening a permanent immigration office in Chapala. It's kind of a pain, because you have to go on three separate Wednesdays, get a number at 8:00 AM, then return at 10 to wait in the courtyard until they call your number. The first time you get the information and forms to fill out, the next Wednesday you can turn in your forms, and the final Wednesday, you pick up your new visa IF it's ready. The problem is you cannot begin this process until 30 days before your current visa expires, so it can get a little dicey if there are many delays.

This year they are changing from a passport type booklet to a picture ID card. Conceptually, this is a great idea and will modernize the system, and allow you to carry around your FM3 for ID purposes. But practically, like many things in this very bureaucratic government, every time they change a system, which is fairly often, it leads to many delays and problems which have to be worked out. As a result, they have temporarily suspended the immigration services in Chapala, requiring you to go into the Guadalajara immigration office if you want to do it yourself. We are happy to pay Adriana to process our visas. She will take us to Guadalajara to pick up our finished visas. The total cost this year is about $400US, about $80 for her fee. We are hoping that the system is working well enough to assure that our visas are ready by the time we leave on June 24. If they are not, we will have to get a special permit to use instead when leaving and reentering Mexico. We cannot apply for that until five days before we leave, and must get new photos taken for it and pay $800MX apiece (about $65US). This is the type of thing you just have to deal with. In the end it all works out, but it is not very efficient. Once the new system is up and operating, we should be able to apply online! We'll see.

Speaking of long waits we have a friend who needs hip replacement surgery. She is enrolled in the Mexican medical system, IMSS, which we have decided not to renew. She has been going to the IMSS doctors for evaluation. She finally went in last week for her final blood work and was hoping to have her surgery scheduled soon. Unfortunately, she discovered that there are about 1000 non-emergency orthopedic surgeries scheduled before her's, and she received a surgery date of August 27. Unless her hip becomes an emergency for some reason, she will have a long summer of waiting. Her name is Sue, and she's a very optimistic thinker. Her reaction was, "Well, at least it will be cooler. IMMS hospitals are not air conditioned, and it will be more comfortable!" Apparently, the physicians are generally good at the IMSS hospitals, although the facilities are bare bones and often very crowded.

We had kind of a funny problem develop with our garden. We planted a very prolific vine on the west side of our terrace to block the sun in the afternoon. It grew very well and did a great job. The problem is that as the vines got bigger, they grew up over our roof, which is not a problem, but the leaves started to drop off the lower branches, exactly where we needed them to block the sun. After consultation with Horacio, we decided to plant a new vine in front. It is a very popular plant, Thunbergia, which has beautiful blue flowers, and is very prolific. We'll see. It's fragile when you first plant it, and we had a couple of plants die right away, but at 45 pesos apiece, it was not expensive to replace them. Here is a photo of the new plants in front of the old vines:

Chuy recovered quickly from is involuntary emasculation surgery, and seems not to have been traumatized. Here he is checking out smells in the front garden:

Finally, we have been watching the swallows building a nest in the rafters of our garage, as they do every year. Here is a rather blurry photo of the mother sitting on the soon-to-be-hatched eggs.

The only problem with this is that the birds poop all over the car when they sit by their nest. I tried, earlier in the nesting process to urge them to build their nest elsewhere. Every day I'd hose down the first piece of nest, thinking they'd get the idea. They were more persistent. My poem, The Swallow War, documents this epic struggle:

The Swallow War
Every spring the swallows come
Beautiful, graceful,
Rusty heads.
They build their mud nest
In the beams of our garage.
Every morning, annoyed, I’d clean
The white bird poop
From the windows and roof
Of my violated vehicle.

This year, I declared war.

As soon as I could see
Bits of mud on the beam,
I hosed it away.
And every day, they returned,
Non-plussed, to deliver more mud,
And every day, cruelly, I hosed.

Why do they return
Every day
To violent destruction?

Three weeks,
More mud, more hosing.
And finally I stood
Hose in hand, defeated!

Why did I think
I could prevail
Over such instinct?

Would they persist,
And threaten their eggs?

So now, every morning,
I admire the ever-growing nest
And realize how my will
Is no match for nesting birds,
As I wipe away
More white poop.

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