Welcome to Mexico!
By Victoria Schmidt
I am not an economist. But like everyone who lives in Mexico, I am concerned about the value of the peso. While it might make our USA or Canadian dollar go further, it really is hurting the Mexican economy.
Prices here are rising to compensate, but the wages don’t seem to be keeping pace. A Mexican friend of mine was complaining about the cost of vegetables. She has a lot of mouths to feed in her home. The peso has gone down, but vegetables cost more, yet her wages are the same. Gas prices have gone up as well, so those fortunate enough to own a car pay more to get to work and earn the same.
My husband and I are on very different diets, so we end up eating out often. We’ve seen some modest increases at restaurants, but not so much as one would expect. We’ve taken to leaving larger tips because of the peso rate. I increased my payment to my hairdresser. She works hard, but she hadn’t increased the price of her services, so I give her more. We also gave our maid a raise. But I know that not everyone can afford to be more generous. We’ve made some cuts here and there, and of course the money we have in our Mexican account doesn’t fare well against the USD. So we feel the pinch there as do our neighbors.
I hear people talk about how the rise in prices is worrisome to them because they feel that when the value of the peso increases, the prices won’t go back down.
I’m seeing an increase in bazars, and in people selling wares and talents on the street. There is a gymnast near the Chapala Soriana intersection who does hand stands and cartwheels. I worry about him falling in front of a moving car. I’ve seen jugglers there as well. At the main stoplight in Chapala, a man has decided to offer window washing while we wait at the stoplight. I used to see this only in Guadalajara, but now I’m seeing it at Lakeside.
There seems to be more car washers. Often I cannot exit my car without someone opening my door and asking if they can wash my car. And there are so many people walking about selling vegetables and fruits from their own yards. Some don’t even wait for me to leave the vehicle! I try to help where I can, but my heart goes out to these people who are simply trying to make money in a difficult economy.
Then there are those who simply beg. A woman walks up and down the street wheeling her disabled son in his chair. Women sit and work on their crafts in front of the entrances to stores with small cups out asking for change. Once a woman told me “They can walk you know, they aren’t really cripples.” I was dumbfounded. These women never purported to be cripples, but they are probably widows with no one to support them. I’ve seen them prior to the opening of the store as they “pay” for their cold cement seat by sweeping the parking lot and the sidewalk.
The knocks at my door are more frequent. People asking for work, or begging for food, and I wonder how much longer is this going to go on? As I write this the peso is been at nearly 20-1 all week. When we moved to Mexico it was 11-1. I hope we all take this into consideration next time we leave a tip or buy some vegetables.
Column: Welcome to Mexico
Victoria Schmidt came to Mexico with her husband, in 2007. She is a graduate of Moorhead State University, Minnesota and graduated Cum Laude with a BA degree in Radio, Television and Film. At 23 she was hired at multi-national media corporation, where she worked 10 years as their Director for Operations and Finance. She then ran her own business consulting company. She has won multiple community service awards. Writing has been a passion of Victoria’s since Junior High. She has been active in the writing and publishing business for over 40 years and has been a columnist for the Ojo del Lago since 2008.