the Yucatan & Casa Hamaca
A new way to think about "Time-Shares" in the Yucatan 
As some of your know I spend a lot of time looking for property in the Valladolid area. I've looked a property that should be just left untouched and other properties that are already planted with acres of fruit trees. Ranchos that have cattle and all that come with cattle like corrals and wire fences. Properties with cenotes (fresh water "sinkholes" that are the only source of open water in most of the Yucatan) that are big and beautiful.

The problem I face is the same problem that faces everyone who looks at property or houses anywhere in the world; the property I can afford, I don't like and the property that I like, I can't afford. So here's a possible solution to my problem and a possible opportunity for you (or a friend of yours) to have a home in Mexico.

As an example, today I am going to look at a property, a rancho with a cenote and old-growth forest/jungle, of over 160 hectareas or almost 400 acres. It is close to Valladolid and the asking price seems very reasonable. However, it is out of the range of what I can afford. But if I had 9 more partners with USD$10,000 each, we could purchase the property together and each own a share in the entire property.

Lots of details to iron out, but I think that the concept makes a lot more sense than a two week time-share at a hotel. You would have year-around access. A big playground (400 acres is a lot of property). Easy access to all of the Yucatan (Valladolid is exactly halfway between Cancun and Merida). Easy access to both the Caribbean beaches and the Gulf fishing villages. Easy access to dozens of Mayan ruins.

Plus a much slower pace of living. A warmer climate. And a different approach to life. A opportunity to live pretty high on the hog on a chicken feed budget.

Plus an investment that has a very good prospect of returning interest in the form of sale of produce and/or rental or lease of living space/playing space.

Just so that you know where I am coming from, I am not interested in cattle. They take too much work for the return on investment. And they take a lot of time as well. Plus they cost the environment. I am much more interested in short term crops such as papaya (10 months from planting to first harvest); medium term crops like neem (fast growing tree that produces a natural pesticide) and structural bamboo; and long term crops like cedar and mahogany. I'm interested in making the property as energy self sufficient as reasonable and using solar and wind power as much as possible and as organic as reasonable. I have no interest in horses but this might be a great place to think about keeping a horse or two. I have no interest in racing ATV's through the jungle or in cutting old-growth forest for a quick profit. I'm not a fanatic on being green or organic but I certainly lean in that direction.

I am very interested in preserving traditional Mayan culture and values and in treating the Mayan people with respect. That means paying staff and ranch hands a decent wage, giving them a secure, dry place to live and interacting with them with love. Just so that you don't get scared off by this, a normal wage for a farm worker is between 100 and 150 pesos per day or USD$7.70 to USD$11.50 per day.

We will set up a Mexican corporation that will protect all of our investments and give us equal voice in the direction of the rancho. Foreigners can legally own property in Mexico through various means, including through a corporation. And for gringos, now may be a time to consider a secure toe-hold in someplace other than the USA. Taxes are less, health care is very good and affordable, government control of details of life is much freer.

I'm not sure that the rancho that I will see today is the right one to purchase, but this is great time to consider purchase in the Yucatan. The economy is down and it is affecting the local landowners. Property prices are down. Valladolid is spending a lot of money on infrastructure in anticipation of a surge in tourism and in commerce.

If you want to come down and see some of the opportunities that's probably a good idea.
The investment is low and the possible return is great.

If this idea rings any kind of bell with you, pass it along to your friends who might be interested. And then get back to me via email at

I am going to be traveling on a Mano Amiga planning trip over the next week, but I should have email access most of the time.

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A visit to a Mexican Emergency Room 
Contrasted with a visit to an ER in the USA

Yesterday as I was visiting Merida (the capital of the Yucatan), I started getting an violent allergic reaction (possibly to something I ate). First my hands and feet started itching, then my eyes watered, my face glowed red... I felt as if I were on fire... and my companions said that we should get to the hospital ASAP. Allergic reactions are potentially fatal since airways can shut down. So off we went.
There are three very good hospitals in Merida that I know of and we were closest to Clinica Merida. All three of these hospitals are private hospitals.
When I walked into the emergency room, the receptionist asked what the problem was, took my name and asked if I had insurance. That was it. My friend motioned for me to sit down but before I could sit the receptionist directed me to an exam room since she recognized a potentially serious problem. Before I could sit down there, the doctor entered, did a fast assessment and told me the options. Some slow acting pills or fast acting IV. By this time I was in agony and said "IV, Please!" (By the way, most if not all of the MD's that I have met in the Yucatan read English quite well and speak some English; this is because many medical textbooks are written in English).
I was ushered to a bed in ER, undressed and put on my johnny coat. Almost before I could get into bed, a nurse was there to check my vitals, followed very rapidly by a saline IV hook-up. Within minutes, the prescribed meds (a cortizone and an antihistime) were tied into the saline solution and the itching and redness rapidly disappeared. The needle work for both the IV and the blood samples was extremely professional and completely painless. Various nurses kept checking on me and I was visited by the admitting MD as well as a allergic specialist. I was held for observation for about 7 or 8 hours and then given prescriptions for some meds for the week.
The total cost for the visit including in-hospital meds, bed, blood work, MD visits, etc. came to less than 2,500 Mexican pesos or about USD$187. The prescribed meds for home-care totaled less than USD$45.
I contrasted the level of care, the speed of admission and the total cost with that of my last visit to an emergency room in the US. I was admitted much, much faster in Mexico than I was in the US (in the US, I was experiencing chest pains and had been referred to the hospital ER by a cardiologist... my total admission time was at least 45 minutes before I was in a bed in ER... and another 1/2 hour before I was seen by an MD). My level of personal care was much greater in Mexico in that all of the various medical personnel seemed much less stressed and much more available to attend to me and my needs. And the cost difference was HUGE! An 8 hour bed in any ER that I know in the USA would be at least USD$1,000 to $1,500. And then add on the MD costs, the lab work and the med costs! Very easy to project a total cost of over 10 times as much.
I don't know how to fix the health care system in the US, but it sure can be approved. There might be something to be learned from Mexico.

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Vitamin B Complex vs. Bug Bites 
Vitamin B Complex wins hands down!
Last December a visiting MD suggested taking Vitamin B complex on a daily basis for general health as well as for bug bites. Since that time I have been taking a B complex tablet every day. The vitamin that actually works is B12 but I take at least 100% of the MDR of all the B's. Since December I have had less than a dozen bites that I can remember. Yesterday brought the entire experience back to me vividly.

I was in the jungle yesterday with a friend; we were looking at a piece of property to purchase. It was a damp day with off and on light rain. And there were lots of bugs. I felt a sharp pain on my arm and looked down to see a huge fly taking a bite out of me. Before I could swat it, off it flew. But as soon as the fly flew, the pain stopped. And this morning, there was no welt. I took off one tick from my back last night, but found no other bug bites. My friend, however, was covered with bites, some became huge welts within a matter of minutes.
We were attacked by the same bugs, but my reactions were markedly less.

I'm not sure if the vitamin B complex changes my taste and or odor so that the bugs don't like me as much as they used to or if the B complex changes the way my body responds to bug saliva or whatever they inject into the skin.

Whatever the reason, it works for me.

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A Great Time to Visit the Mayan Ruins of Chichen Itza 
I went to the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza last week as a spur-of-the-moment trip. I arrived at about the time I normally tell guests to leave... about 11:30 AM.

Usually by this time, the parking lot is full with cars and there are about 100 or more large busses from Cancun and Playa del Carmen. The lines to purchase tickets are large and your must fight your way through crowds of people .

When I arrived I was able to park in the shade in the lot closest to the entrance. I had no line to purchase my ticket and was besieged by guides to utilize their services. When I entered the grounds, it was if the time was 8:30 in the morning rather than mid-day (I normally recommend to my guest to arrive by 9:30 AM at the latest).

Almost no one there. It was easy to take a photo of any structure with no one else in the photo. On the way out, I counted the large busses in the parking area. There were 9 when normally there would be 115. When I returned to Cancun from NJ on 5 de Mayo, there were 2 people in first class and 23 in coach. There just are no tourists.

What does that mean to you? First of all, the airfares to Mexico are the lowest that I have seen them in 12 years... even lower than the fares were after 9/11 if I remember correctly. Secondly, wherever you go, you will be treated as special because there are so few tourists (at Casa Hamaca we always treat all of our guests that way... we treat them as special individuals not just as another number). All in all, a great time to visit the Yucatan.

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Things that Go Bump in the Night... Alux? Spirits? or Ghosts? 
House cleaning, Yucatan-style
This is a subject that I have been loath to write about for fear it would scare off guests to Casa Hamaca. However, with the economy, the narcotraficante scare and now the swine flu scare, there are not a lot of guests to scare off. Tourist-related business all across Mexico is waaaay down.

Last night, I was awake at 2:00AM, thinking about some issues in my life when I heard my manager call out my name. I waited for a few minutes to hear her call out again or to knock on my door... and then I realized that she was not in Valladolid; she was spending the night in Chichimila. I put it out of my mind until this morning when the cook asked me if I made popcorn in the microwave at about 11:30 last night. I hadn't nor did anyone else 'fess up to making popcorn in the middle of the night. Then Karlos said that about 2:00 AM he had heard a number of people talking and walking about on the second floor... at a time and location when and where there were no guests or employees.

So what and/or who was it that made popcorn, walked and talked during the night and then called out my name at 2:00 AM? Alux? Spirits? Ghosts? Or what? When we discussed these phenomena this morning, a number of the staff expressed concern if not fear. All of my staff live in small villages surrounding Valladolid and all believe in alux and in other strange and wonderous beings. The local villages are filled with witches and shape-changers and Mayan-sirens and shaman and creatures that are now just part of the mythology of the Western, rational mind.

We all agreed that we needed a housecleaning... a cleansing to be more specific. So Tuesday, a shaman (h'men) is coming to do the annual feeding of the alux as well as a cleansing of the entire house and grounds.

Last year, in May, we fed the alux and have had no problems for about 11 months. For you who don't know about the alux, they are best described as Mayan leprechauns... small creatures with more or less human form that guard the fields and houses of the Yucatecans. But they need to be treated with respect and to be fed annually.

So what are the noises in the night? Things that go bump in the night? Ghosts? Spirits? or Alux? I'll let you know what happens Tuesday. And if anything changes Tuesday night. Where are the Ghostbusters when you need them?

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