January 2016, Week 4
What’s going on?
Annual race set this Sunday
Everybody is welcome to enjoy watching the annual road race this Sunday, Jan. 31. Runners kick off at 8 a.m. from the parking lot at Porto Bello and will retire to the Dolphin Discovery Palapa afterwards where all the activities and award celebrations will take place. More than 500 runners participated last year… Colegio Puerto Aventuras will hold its traditional “Saturday in Puerto Bazaar” on Saturday, Feb. 6 from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. You will find new and old items to buy and fun activities for all the community. If you are interested in a booth, get information at email@example.com … Speaker Series at 10:30 a.m. Feb. 3 in the Colonos Meeting Room features information on the new permanent or temporary resident visa law and also a real estate guide offered by Mexlaw of Playa del Carmen… Trivial pursuits Sunday, Feb. 7 at 4 p.m. at Latitude 20 with Shannon Rachynski. Proceeds go to the needy. Group Spanish lessons are returning to Puerto Aventuras this year with Maestra Gloria Contreras who has been teaching informal groups here for quite a few years. Classes are held Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11:30 a.m. for beginners and 12:30 p.m. for advanced and intermediate. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call cel 984-108-3517 for more information… Workshop for writers will be held 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 20. A 1,000 pesos donation will benefit the PA Library. More information and reservations at email@example.com … Also…
From moist to hoist
Assembly 3; parking and traffic
Growing mobility problems
aired at annual Assembly
Fixes not that easy to find
Parking and traffic issues, particularly in the busy Centro area, were aired at the Dec. 20 Colonos Assembly while several modest steps were already under way to ameliorate high-season, peak-time parking demand and traffic control.
In addition, reports Colonos GM Armando Rincon, planning is under way for painting a green safety line about a foot wide showing the safest routes to get to and from the Colegio, for example, where many children travel daily.
These issues were broached at the lightly attended meeting by resident Ron Hurst of Chac-Hal Al condominiums, a complex that has been painted into the proverbial corner by near Centro gridlock.
While PA’s shortcomings pale in comparison to the traffic, infrastructure, utilities, political, criminal and other social ills that beset other Mexican regions and communities, it is recognized that even “Paradise” has flaws requiring debate and solutions.
That said, we’re told a person who drove to Centro on a recent holiday week afternoon to purchase gelato could not find a place to park, didn’t want the product to melt, gave up on gelato, returned home and served yogurt on cake with a dash of Kahlua instead. A sale lost to the lack of a parking space.
Revoke gate passes
So in the fashion of constructive criticism, Hurst brought up the practice of some businesses that park rental golf carts and bicycles on public parking spaces or sidewalks, depriving Centro of those spaces to accommodate commerce. He suggested better signage to control traffic and revoking gate passes of errant drivers and parking scofflaws.
This inspired some other proposals from the floor to enforce use of night lights on golf carts and bicycles to prevent accidents and injuries, adding these concerns to the traditional debate about the profusion of children driving golf carts, contrary to local rules.
There is genuine public concern over these issues as the population continues to grow, surely generating increased traffic and mounting demand for parking. The problem is, Centro is nearly out of ground-level space. A tiered parking garage is generally viewed as overkill and streets are already hemmed in.
Let freedom ring?
One observer said “residents here need to adapt. We can change our shopping hours and let the tourists have Centro at peak times,” to ease the strain. Some residents want – insist even – that their children be able to drive golf carts, albeit responsibly. These general issues then, are debatable and open to meaningful discussion.
Part of PA’s attraction for some is the lingering laissez-faire “frontier” character that moves along helter-skelter with fewer rules and controls of the type that constrain the more populated, less developed villages and municipalities.
Taking heed to what is obvious, the Colonos has already placed signs in the Punta Celis (Omni and Oxxo) Centro parking lot that are intended to reserve spaces for delivery trucks. Unfortunately, the signs are largely ignored by car, cart and motorbike owners who need a place to park, leaving large trucks in the middle of the lot sometimes hindering the efficient flow of traffic as they unload.
Foot-long topes angled perpendicularly along Punta Celis on the Oxxo side are often disregarded by drivers in a rush who want to go into a store “for a minute”, which usually translates easily into five or 10 minutes of confounding vehicular flow.
Problem not a constant
The reality is that gridlock here is not a constant. It is mostly a peak-time event. How much does one invest to fix something that is a significant obstruction only one quarter of the time?
Aside from the signs and added topes, some curbing has been removed from walkways along Bahia Xcacel between the post office kiosk and Cedam Museum to park more golf carts at an angle, hopefully freeing up other spaces for cars.
In addition, part of the small verdant park between the post office and Cedam fronting Le Bistro and several small retail spaces could possibly be used to expand parking there and is a partial solution under consideration by PA developer Roman Rivera Torres.
Get-tough rumor unfounded
A rumor that the Colonos was negotiating with the municipality to have municipal police patrol Puerto Aventuras resort to hand out traffic tickets was characterized by Rincon as perhaps a misunderstanding.
Saying no such request has been made, Rincon explained that a long-standing agreement with the municipality has been renegotiated with just a few changes concerning animal an abandoned-car controls and a rewording of violation notices.
For example, he said abandoned cars are tagged by Security here and if not removed within a certain period of time, the municipality can impound the auto. He said municipal dog pound personnel with power to take errant dogs is making unannounced rounds in PA in order to assist and encourage owners to use the leash and pick up the poop.
Start at main gate
More efficient movement of traffic begins at the main gate and it is there the Colonos is concentrating its current efforts to make improvements by adding another resident access lane, an improved pedestrian lane and comprehensive security office to handle expanding technical security equipment.
In the absence of major parking expansion possibilities around Centro, demand can be expected to exceed supply at peak times, supporting the suggestion for the moment that residents adapt by walking or biking to Centro and consider doing so at times when tourists are elsewhere.
The habit of on-street parking in some of the various neighborhoods is also a growing problem. If it is unavoidable, then for the moment parking as much as possible out of the traffic lanes and on one side of the road will help keep moving-traffic lanes safer.
The Mail Bag …
Comment adds to debate
I moved to Puerto Aventuras back in 2001. It was like living in a ghost town, especially after 9/11. I still remember how my wife and I enjoyed walking around the place without seeing cars passing by. It was quiet and peaceful, and although we knew it was not going to be like that forever, we expected it to still be a great place to live.
Today my heart is broken after seeing how traffic anarchy has taken over this little piece of paradise. In the last five to six years, Puerto Aventuras has grown exponentially having people from all over the world moving in. Along with that, some of them have brought their big city lifestyles to this once peaceful community.
I’m amazed at the number of residents who park their cars on sidewalks, right in front of crossroads, on the places marked for golf carts only, etc. Riding a bicycle has become an extreme sport thanks to the taxis, tourist vans, buses, and several locals that neglect to respect speed limits and crosswalks, and that couldn’t care less if a family enjoying a bike ride has the right to pass. My own son has been almost run over on several occasions by drivers who seem to think they are on a freeway. Fortunately but sadly, he has been instructed never to trust a vehicle approaching, even if he is using a crosswalk.
I really wish we could have bike lanes around Puerto for the many people who use bikes for transportation and/or for joy. It would be lovely to see more kids riding their bikes to school confident that they are safe.
Last week I had to ask the chief of security from Dolphin Discovery to please make sure they don’t park their wagon on the sidewalk, where a Starbucks Café sign is already blocking part of it. He was very polite and promised to take care of it. One week later, I’m pleased to say he kept his word.
Unfortunately, it would be very hard to go around Puerto finding out who the owners of the many wrongly parked vehicles are, and it cannot be one man’s job. This is everyone’s responsibility. If we all work together and show respect to the place we live in or that we are visiting, things will change for the better.
I want to acknowledge the efforts by Puerto Aventuras Security personnel who are always attentive whenever I report any of these situations. I hope that by working together we can notice a change very soon.
Signed/Alberto Andrés de la Fuente
Local artist’s unusual pet hogs
attention when out for a stroll
By Gayle Sandholm
Peter Terrin is often seen walking around Puerto Aventuras with his pets, one dog and one pig. In recognition of one of Terrin’s favorite artists, he named the pig, Picasso.
Born in Belgium, Terrin came to Mexico several years ago. He opened his studio in Puerto Aventuras four years ago. The studio is located above the music school near the dolphin pools. He describes his art as modern expressionism (thus his appreciation of Picasso) and informs that he has sold works around the globe.
Picasso is a male mini-pig, also known as a teacup pig. When fully grown miniature pigs weigh only a fraction of larger farm pigs. Terrin got his mini-pig 15 months ago and with continual attention, not unlike that given to other house pets, Picasso is now fully trained.
Terrin calls, “Here pig”, and Picasso comes running. As the artist, his dog and his pig go out for walks at least twice a day, Terrin carries several bags. Some to pick up after the pig and the dog. Other bags contain food. Picasso loves food and lives up to the old saying, “eats like a pig!” The artist says he often carries extra food knowing any children who stop to look will enjoy sharing some with Picasso.
Often passersby will stop, look again in disbelief. “Oh my…it’s a PIG!” Yes a pet pig walking on the streets here in Puerto. While the artist uses the name Picasso, some locals have been known to prefer a similar sounding name: “Pigcasso.”
So keep looking up (or down) in Puerto. You never know what you might see.
Catnap crash- A police pick-up truck unit was involved in a Highway 307 crash in Puerto Aventuras last week when the driver dozed off for a few seconds and struck several other cars on the highway. Two policemen were injured but no injuries were reported from the other vehicles involved…
A small plane carrying the mayor of Cozumel and three other people made an emergency landing on Highway 307 last week on its way to Cancun Airport. Occupants of cars looked amazed as the plane descended upon the heavily traveled highway without incident. It was reported that an oil leak caused the emergency landing…
Zika virus, suspected of causing an alarming rate of microcephaly, a brain disorder, in Brazilian children has made its way to Mexico – 15 cases confirmed – and in the US – less than 15 cases so far. Zika, named after the Zika Forest in Uganda where the virus was discovered in 1947, is traditionally non-fatal, causes a rash and joint pain but disappears after a few days. It is feared the virus is spread to the fetus when pregnant women are bitten by infected mosquitoes, causing brain damage in newborn infants. The US Centers for Disease control recommends pregnant women not travel to Latin America …
While health officials urge steps to prevent being bitten by mosquitoes in the Zika-impacted countries like Mexico and Brazil, some people in Puerto Aventuras are wondering if there is sufficient spraying going on while the rainy season unexpectedly continues. Others find it odd that none of the major retailers in the area seem to be carrying citronella candles to keep mosquitoes at bay when health officials simultaneously urge precautions. The Zika is carried by the aedes aegypti mosquito, which is also responsible for spreading dengue, yellow fever and chikungunya…
A thousand pigs were slaughtered on a farm in neighboring Yucatan state for displaying symptoms of swine flu. But after investigation by health officials, it was reported the pigs became ill after eating some contaminated grain, and swine flu was discounted….
Bridge repairs on the elevated roadway through Playa del Carmen caused traffic delays along the underpass road, known as Boulevard Playa del Carmen, last week. The work was part of a project to repair the road surface and bridge joints that began last September…
A package headed for an address in Playa del Carmen was intercepted by police dogs at the Cancun Airport. Officials reported the package contained 100 suspected methamphetamine pills. Drug-sniffing dogs regularly check incoming containers at the airport…
Seven businesses, from bars to massage parlors, have been shuttered by municipal police in the new year for infractions of local rules, from serving alcohol after hours, or selling without a permit, to tolerating incidents of violence. Fines of 20,000 pesos were issued…
More than 100 mayors of Mexican municipalities have been murdered in the last decade, reported the New York Times last week, prompting concern that drug gangs are modifying their tactics in attempting to control municipal governments and steal their resources. The latest such killing on Jan. 2 of a female mayor who was gunned down the day after her inauguration in Temixco, an hour south of Mexico City, was said by police who interrogated two of the captured killers to signal a move by regional gangs to control political power. The words for that are “mobocracy” or “anarchy” – a state of disorder or non-recognition of authority…
Mexico’s murder rate surged 9 percent in 2015, to 17,013 from 15,653 in 2014. Statisticians say only a fraction of all crime in Mexico is reported and that the dozens of drug cartels in existence routinely buy off police, leading to impunity and mistrust. Meanwhile, kidnappings fell 24.5 percent, the lowest since 2008, and extortion is down 12.6 percent, according to prosecutors from the nation’s 31 states and federal district of Mexico City… And at last the deep potholes at Chedraui parking lot entrances have been filled with stone…
The visa caper: Part 2 of 3
Being lost in translation
confounds the process
The ease of applying for permanent resident visas at the Mexican consulate in Boston, MA., did not prepare us for the frustrations born of confusion that were to follow at the immigration office in Playa del Carmen.
On Nov. 3, just a few days after arriving, we got into the line hanging outside the guarded door at the immigration office. As we waited for quite some time, feeding anxiety, we witnessed several bewildered people clutching sheets of paperwork exiting the office and disappearing into another nearby door that we later learned was a for-profit computer/copy shop that, alas, we would later depend upon for survival.
Next door to that was a lawyer’s office that was being shared with a photographer and maybe somebody else offering another kind of service. We later learned the photos we took in the US were no good here. So we had to have them taken again by the photographer in the lawyer’s office. Don’t ask why.
It appeared that a veritable cottage industry had blossomed around the busy immigration office located on the second floor of the Plaza A building just north of the Playacar gate on 10th Avenue.
Without belaboring the difficulties we encountered translating what was needed to advance to Phase 2, we were told to fill out a basic information form that we could get on the computer by going to the Internet’s Mexican immigration site.
Of course, we didn’t have a computer with us so it was suggested by a not terribly helpful receptionist that we visit the aforementioned computer/copy shop, find and fill out the form, which naturally, is written in Spanish. Our smiles were replaced with worried frowns.
Let’s just say the computers themselves were not exactly state-of-the-art. When we got to the immigration page where we were told we would find the form, we saw a half-dozen forms there and we suddenly were not sure which to use. Such was the derelict nature of the guidance offered by the INM receptionist.
So we asked the young lady who runs the shop to help us, told her what we were doing and she pointed out the form we should use. After we struggled with a strange computer and some vaguely-worded questions, the young lady printed the form and a copy or two, charged us a nominal amount (plus our happy tip) and we returned to the line to answer questions and show passports again, something you do every step of the way. Don’t ask why. Its universal.
The receptionist with the sour look and the dour demeanor then said it was the wrong form, added another form and a piece of paper purporting to tell us that we had to also write a required letter to go along with the forms. It was our fault we don’t speak bureaucratic Spanish, but still, eliciting guidance from this particular receptionist was like trying to keep sargassum off the beach.
We were running out of time and patience, spoiled as we are by US standards of customer service. We decided to bring the forms home, ponder the vague questions and write the required letter which, to our chagrin, we overdid…in English and Spanish.
And then we cheated. We asked a veteran facilitator friend to look over the letter, which was a full page (each) containing our Mexican address with the lotes and zonas and every possible distinguishing piece of address information, followed by several paragraphs of why we wanted the visa.
Saved from anguish
The facilitator saved us from more anguish. All the letter had to say was that “I want a residente permanente status, I am retired, and my address is…” The facilitator then gave us an important tip: “Your address needs to be the same as your CFE bill,- and bring the bill with you. It becomes part of your documentation.”
On our fourth visit to immigration with our completed forms and the letter, we were made to show passports again, asked the same questions again and finally the red light at the reception desk turned green. We were given numbers and told to sit and wait.
We now progressed from the reception circuit to a counter where an agent went through our documents, asked to see passports, again, confiscated our visitor visa, gave us a paper to bring to a bank to pay our fee later and then told us we would be contacted by email from Mexico City and told when to return to the Playa office. So much for Phase 2. We didn’t know it yet, but Phase 3 would surprise us.
(Next Week: The smile slowly returns)
SPEAKING OF SMILES…
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