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Turn clocks ahead in Quintana Roo

COMING EVENTS…

TURN CLOCKS AHEAD one hour on Sunday morning Feb. 1 or Saturday night, Jan. 31 before bedtime to greet the new Mexican Time Zone known as the “Southeastern Time Zone.” It affects the State of Quintana Roo only…  CHAC HAL AL ASSEMBLY convenes Friday, Jan. 30 at 8:30 a.m. in the Colonos meeting room… BAY BLUE CONDO assembly at 8:30 Saturday, Jan. 31, in the Colonos meeting room…CONSTITUTION DAY, a federal day-off holiday on Feb. 5 celebrates the promulgation of the 1857 and 1917 Mexican constitutions… RECYCLE DAY is Feb. 6 at the skate park from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m…. PUERTO DEL MAR ASSEMBLY is at 8 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 7 at the Colonos meeting room… COOKING CLASS – Latitude 20 cooking class has switched back to its regular Friday class schedule at 10 a.m on Fridays… ART SHOWS are held each Thursday evening at the Information and Art Center…SPANISH CLASSES at Latitude 20 are held at 11:30 a.m. (basic) and 12:30 (intermediate) on Mondays and Wednesdays… CELEBRATION OF LIFE memorial for the late Doe Stowell will be held at 3 p.m., Feb. 15 at the Cultural Center.  

 

 

Red Cross closes its ambulance,

mini-clinic in Puerto Aventuras

Appeal being made to keep the station open

By Staff

   It would be an understatement to say that people from the Puerto Aventuras resort and their neighbors in the Poblado across the highway are disappointed in the Jan. 5 Red Cross action to close the ambulance station and clinic – perhaps temporarily – located in the former Poblado police station.

Residents on both sides of the highway are hoping the closure will not be permanent. Red Cross officials are now saying they are trying to keep the satellite PA clinic open if they can find sufficient funding. But as of yesterday, Jan 28, he facility remained closed.

To re-energize finances, Gerardo Valadez, president of the Riviera Maya business coordinating council, is urging business enterprises to donate to the Red Cross so that its facility in the Puerto Aventuras Poblado can remain open. A decision on whether the station will survive budget restraints was expected to be announced this week.

Ironically, the PA facility’s closure arrives at a time when one of its most active benefactor, resort resident John Schwandke, prepares to leave PA after recently selling his property here. Schwandke and a handful of other resort residents, some affiliated, like Schwandke, with International Rotary, worked intermittently to provide for the equipment and petrol needs of the clinic, including some planned structural changes to enhance the clinic’s efficiency and comforts for the staff that includes an intern doctor and a half-dozen EMTs.

While the closure – permanent or not – was forced only by lack of funding, according to Red Cross officials in Playa del Carmen, it was reported by one source that a pledge from a generous supporter could mean the re-opening of the clinic once the pledge is received.  

Meanwhile, the regional headquarters in Playa del Carmen, which recently moved to a new, two-story building housing ambulance bays and emergency clinic in Playa, say last year’s annual drive came up 2 million pesos short of the goal. They are appealing to business and industry and the area’s wealthy residents to give a bit more to help keep the satellite station open.

Residents of the Poblado and Puerto Maya, with a combined growing population of between 12,000 and 15,000, have been advising the municipal government consistently they need local medical facilities and care, particularly for the poorest of the poor without transportation to Playa’s hospitals other than expensive taxi fares. Losing the Red Cross presence would be an added and unexpected blow to their well-being, they say, and increase their reliance on the municipal budget to provide local medical services.

Whatever the outcome, the closure to date points to the vulnerable position of the Puerto Aventuras clinic and ambulance that rely solely on the financial support of the general public it serves. ( Read more about the Red Cross by clicking on the Red Cross button atop this page.)

 

Cool weather blesses runners

in 7th annual PA road race

By Staff

   Nearly 500 runners warmed to the chill in the air last Sunday as the 7tth annual Puerto Aventuras races for young, old and in-between got off to a prompt start at the Porto Bello line on Puerto Aventuras Blvd. The race gave the developing Phase 4 roadway a run for its money before puffing participants came dashing across the new finish line in front of Dolphin Discovery, which sponsored the event along with the Colonos.

A strong contingent of gringos augmented more than 400 domestic runners from all along the Riviera Maya and then some even though a similar race was being held simultaneously in Cancun. That duality probably accounted for a bit smaller turnout of runners here this year. Slightly more than 500 participated last year and an estimated 450 this year.

The mayor of Solidaridad, Mauricio Gongora Escalante and his wife participated in the run alongside  paraolympic medalist Saul Mendoza who conquered the course in a wheelchair. Other people with disabilities, including youth, also participated as the proceeds of 85,000 pesos collected from the runners’ fees were donated to the national DIF, an agency supporting the disabled, for purchase of prosthetics.

In finish-line conversations, Don Papa of Pennsylvania and PA (get it?) said “the weather was perfect” for the comfort of runners who didn’t overheat. “I hardly broke a sweat,” said another runner as post-race activity moved to the large palapa at Dolphin Discovery where masseurs and masseuses were kept busy in the morning shade assuaging the tested muscles of race participants. “This is my seventh ribbon,” said Jean Duns of Canada and PA as husband Bart looked on and other racers like Bob Roadway – an appropriate name for the day – partook with others of a nicely laid out table of recovery foods such as sliced fresh oranges, bananas and bran fruit bars.

The runners were greeted with whoops and hollers and applause from the crowd of observers and were attended to from head to toe by volunteers who met every runner at the finish line by placing a ribbon over their heads and giving them a “Power Ride” drink as another volunteer removed the “chips” from the running shoes that recorded the runner’s time. One race participant – an amputee on crutches – received a hearty round of applause for his smiling display of true grit.

As the sun rose and began to warm the air a bit, the crowd settled in and around the palapa to enjoy conversation and foodstuffs . Volunteers and race officials sorted out the winners and other workers began removing paraphernalia such as loudspeakers and assorted tables and chairs to return the roadway, as environmentalists might say, to its former condition.

And attesting to the racing comfort of the weather, the temperature was recorded at 13.6 Celsius (56 degrees) at around 5 a.m. Sunday, the coldest day of the year here so far. Meteorologists said the chill came riding into Solidaridad on the wings of the season’s 30th cold front from the north. While it was an accommodating temperature for runners, it reportedly dissuaded a number of bathers from visiting area beaches.

 

 

Editorial-ito…

Sometimes, life just plain stinks

   The Pelican received two letters last week complaining about the odor of sewer gas in various parts of the resort. In recent conversations with owners of waterfront properties, complaints were also heard about the accumulation of seaweed, sea grass, kelp or sargassum, however you call it, and its malodorous emissions.  Forty-five tons of it was collected along Playa del Carmen beaches in 20 days. Waterfront businesses there say they are losing money as customers are repulsed by a stench along the beach that some believe stems from illegal dumping of sewage while others say it is from the decomposition of the seaweed. Travel more than 1,000 miles to Cape Cod and you hear similar complaints of people living along a creek they say is producing fetid odors at low tide.

None of this is new phenomena. Rather, it appears that rancid odors have diminished as man has developed modern societies and sewerage systems even while Mother Nature continues to test man’s tolerance of her bi-polar personality . Businesses have prospered around odor complaints. This is evidenced by the sticks of body deodorant and aerosol cans of Lysol disinfectant found at the ready in many bathrooms, yes? If we can extrapolate, then these complaints will continue to surface from time to time along with the disturbing odors just as they have in the past millenniums. People are absolutely right to complain about them in the pursuit of permanent fixes, although it leads us to conclude that in the process, sometimes life just plain stinks.

 

Library to expand teen, young

adult sections by 250  titles

   The volunteer librarians of Biblioteca Puerto Aventuras Public Library are pleased to announce the expansion of our teen/tween Middle Grade and Young Adult section. In the coming months, the library will introduce more than 250 new titles for young readers, including hot new mysteries and thrillers, award-winning contemporaries, popular science fiction and fantasy series, urban fantasy, paranormal titles and sweet romances.

The library will also host monthly Young Adult Book Club meetings, where members can read and share their feedback on popular titles for teens and tweens. Our first meeting will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 18 at 4:30pm at the Biblioteca Puerto Aventuras Public Library. The first fiveE teens/tweens to sign up will receive a free copy of our first book club selection, The Cadet of Tildor by Alex Lidell, an exciting and highly acclaimed medieval YA fantasy, ideal for fans of Tamora Pierce and George R.R. Martin. Space is limited. Please email ellecosimano@gmail.com to reserve a book. The library is open to the public Monday through Friday from 2:30 – 4:30pm. To learn more, visit www.puertoaventuraslibrary.org.

 

Briefly Noted…

Work has begun  on Bahia Xaac to improve the lighting there following appeals by residents of the street…10,000 taxpayers are in default in the municipality of Solidaridad and the local treasury department has begun seizing land properties of 12 of those taxpayers owning prime properties along the seacoast under the presumption they can afford to pay their taxes…A municipal animal rescue team made its first visit to Puerto Aventuras last week, stopping and talking to three people walking their dogs – two of the dogs leashed and a third roaming free. The team thanked the owners of the leashed dogs for respecting local rules and asked the third owner to leash his pet in the future. Anyone with a dog complaint can contact Cebiam at 984 877 3050 X 10079/80 or email cebiam.solidaridad@gmail.comThe annual ‘carnaval’ in Playa del Carmen will be held from Feb. 12-17 with floats, music and other activities… Babies having babies – President Pena Nieto this week unveiled a national plan to reduce teen pregnancies by 50 percent by the year 2030. In 2013, 467,000 women younger than 20 gave birth and more alarming, said the president, is that 11,000 of them were aged 10 to 14. Among steps to be taken are the eradication of the “macho culture” in the male population in order for them to accept responsible sexual behavior… Police have arrested nine members of a Veracruz gang on Playa’s 5th Avenue who were using cloned credit cards to purchase goods including an expensive watch… The northeast U.S. snowstorm had an effect on Riviera Maya tourism as flights to Cancun from Boston, New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia were canceled on Monday and Tuesday…

 

The Mail Bag…

Condo buyer claims legal errors

deprived him of paid ownership

 

Dear Editor:

“My name is Dr. Duncan Brown, and like many other visitors who came to Puerto Aventuras, fell in love with the community and decided to make it a long-term part of our lives by making an investment in a condominium here. My purpose in telling this story is to serve as a “warning” to others who have similar aspirations to adequately protect themselves and their investments here in Mexico.

Briefly here are the facts:

• My wife and I entered into a contract to purchase Unit A102 in Quinta Maya from Smart Blue (the developer) in pre-construction with advances made as construction proceeded, and final adjustments and payments made when we took possession. The contract contained the understanding that “ownership” of the property would be through the vehicle of Fideicomiso. We performed our “ due diligence”, had the contract reviewed by a Mexican attorney and a Canadian attorney with experience in Mexico, both of whom confirmed that the contracts conformed with the Mexican Constitution and were well drafted. The transaction was completed using a highly regarded lawyer in Playa del Carmen.

• Transfer of title from Smart Blue to the Brown Family Trust (consistent with the Mexican Constitution for foreign ownership of property within the restricted zone), a certificate of non- liens demonstrated and attained, the trust documents were prepared by Banco Norte, notarized by the Notario in March 2004, with the Fideicomiso registered at the Registry in Playa del Carmen in March 2004.

• At the time of registration, the Registry in Playa del Carmen failed to cancel the title held by Smart Blue, along with other duplicate titles created on properties registered on the same occasion. This error was discovered by the Registry after the duplicated title was sold at auction by the Mexican government tax department (SAT) to SACA (a Mexican legal firm that specializes in seizure of tax distressed properties) in 2010 without prior notice to us. Other Smart Blue titles were canceled by the Registry on other units with duplicated folios when the error was discovered in 2010.

• All appropriate taxes, maintenance fees, and utility expenses were fully paid and current at the time of the seizure, and have been fully sustained subsequently by my wife and myself.

• In October 2010, the unit and it’s contents were seized, and the unit occupied by SACA.

There would appear to be a straightforward sensible resolution: SAT returns the monies it received at auction, and which they were never entitled to (as no taxes were outstanding), to SACA, and the unit and contents be returned to the registered owners. However nothing appears to be straightforward in the Mexican legal system.

My wife and I have been involved in this legal battle approaching five years attempting to regain our property and defend ourselves in actions brought against us by SACA. We have expended very large amounts of money to Mexican and North American attorneys in the six legal cases to date, without resolution. Most recently, we have been accused of “simulating” the Fidecomiso in an attempt to circumvent the Mexican constitution, an assertion that we point out is patently ridiculous and  unsupported by documentation. Importantly the acknowledged facts and admitted errors by the Registry and by the Notario and unjustified actions by SAT in seizing a property on which no outstanding taxes were due, have fallen by the wayside.

The Mexican Consulate, and Canadian Department of Foreign affairs have not been able to assist us.

My advice to potential investors in this most beautiful of places would be this: Nothing is as it appears, the Fidecomiso does not protect you or your investment, and the Mexican legal system is ponderous, ineffective, and expensive should you need to be involved in it. Protect yourself, believe nothing that you are told, and then look very hard at what you are doing. Your well-intentioned and fully legal actions may result in a similar story for you, and I would not like to see that happen.”

Signed/Dr. and Mrs. Duncan Brown

(Ed. Note: The perceptions and facts above are those of the letter writers. They have not been corroborated by this publication.)

 

Where is ‘for sale’ feature?

Dear Editor:

   Will the Pelican free Press include the "For Sale" menu option in the future? I noticed it has been deleted the past several months and thought it was an excellent way to advertise things for sale in PA.

Signed/Mary Strojny

(Ed. Note: We agree with you but It was a non-starter and probably will not resume in this publication.)

 

Nature Watch…

As possible ‘desalination’ nears,

a look at Mexico’s bottled water

  

Ed. Note: As Puerto Aventuras mulls the proposed plan to switch the resort’s water system from fresh-but-undrinkable ground water wells to desalination of seawater, one comment stands out above all others: Will the local consumer trust the process and the piping to actually begin drinking desalinated, purified water here?

Portable desalination plants have delivered potable water from the oceans to military installations across the globe. Cities like Tampa, FL. have turned to desalination as well. As reported earlier in the Pelican, the private water company here evidently has reason to consider desalination besides saving the fee it now has to pay the government for drawing fresh – but not purified – water from the ground. Sea water is free even if the physical plant and process to desalinate it isn’t.

Mexico’s natural fresh water supply is undrinkable, making Mexico the world’s largest per capita consumer of bottled water, as the story below from the New York Times explains. It is a report worth reading in the broad sense for people facing the possibility of desalination.

“MEXICO CITY – Drinking bottled water is one thing. But bathing one’s baby in it? In Mexico, the world’s largest per capita consumer of bottled water, anything goes.

David Montero drives three hours every week from his apartment in Iztapalapa, a crowded district on the eastern edge of this sprawling capital city, to the village where he was born to fill five five-gallon jugs with clean water to mix with the juices he sells from a roadside stand.

Back at home, his wife, Cecilia Silva Reyes, buys as many as eight five-gallon jugs of water a week for drinking and cooking. As for the tap water the city supplies to their working-class housing complex, “it’s yellow,” Mr. Montero scoffed. “It has been like that forever.”

In Iztapalapa and in many communities across Mexico, talk of tap water is a constant — whether there is any, how it smells, what color it is, or whether it carries sand, mud or unspecified insect life.

Despite reassurances from the authorities that municipal plants pump clean water into the supply network, skepticism is widespread, even when politicians sometimes come forward to guzzle some tap water in public to make a point. “Who knows?” Mr. Montero asked.

A study released last year by the Inter-American Development Bank found that Mexicans used about 127 gallons of bottled water per person a year, more than four times the bottled-water consumption in the United States and more than any country surveyed.

“People are using this water for cooking, for bathing their babies,” said Federico Basañes, division chief for water and sanitation at the development bank.

There is a similar move toward jugs of clean water in countries like China, Indonesia and Thailand, the development bank found, as rising incomes give residents the ability to buy bottled water.

Mr. Basañes said the study raises the question of whether governments are paying enough attention to water quality as they try to bring tap water to all their citizens.

“Are we giving consumers potable water or not?” Mr. Basañes asked, noting that the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean region have invested a total of about $2.8 billion a year on improved water and sanitation since 1990. “Even if we are, is there a perception problem?”

With the move toward bottled water, families sometimes spend as much as 10 percent of their incomes on water, double what the development bank estimates they should. “Can you imagine a poor family paying their water bills — in some cases a fairly steep amount — and they are buying water on the side because they don’t trust the water they are getting?” Mr. Basañes asked.

Then there is the concern of whether the bottled water is really any better.

“We’ve never had any complaints,” said Maximiliano Santiago, who set up his own water purification business three years ago in a storefront at the edge of an Iztapalapa market.

He buys well water that is trucked in from outside of Mexico City rather than using the Iztapalapa tap water — “it would damage the filters,” he said — runs it through carbon and sand filters, and then purifies it using silver ionization. He said he calls a biologist from time to time to check the quality.

Mr. Santiago works seven days a week for a profit of about $15 a day. By midmorning, he stacks 40 five-gallon jugs on two three-wheeled cargo bicycles and pushes them through the neighborhood shouting “aguaaaa” along the way.

It is a business model that is emerging in megacities across the developing world. Rich people pay a premium for branded jugs that can be refilled from companies owned by multinational corporations like PepsiCo, Coca-Cola and Danone. In working-class neighborhoods, local entrepreneurs fill the demand.

“If you go to Mexico or Manila, you’ll see the same thing, but they have emerged independently,” said Ranjiv Khush, a founder of Aquaya, a nonprofit group that researches ways to get clean water to poor people.

Mr. Khush said the small suppliers in Mexico, Indonesia or the Philippines are simply offering a cost-effective response to a problem that overstretched authorities cannot resolve. “What’s fascinating to me is that this is the solution that local businesses have come up with,” he said. “This is what people want, and I think we should learn from them.”

In Mexico City, the authorities have been trying to improve water quality in places like the long-neglected district of Iztapalapa. The city has spent about $70 million on water purification plants over the past six years, Ramón Aguirre, the director of Mexico City’s municipal water authority, said in an interview.

He blamed advertising by the large bottlers for the lack of confidence in the city’s water. There is “money behind the sale of drinking water,” he said. Mr. Aguirre also speculated that water gets contaminated once it reaches people’s homes, in their underground or rooftop storage tanks.

“I know the water,” he said. “What I don’t know is the level of maintenance in buildings’ cisterns and water tanks.”

Jesús Rebollo, a community activist in Iztapalapa, agreed that there has been an improvement over the past few years, but said most people do not believe it.

“After having seen yellow water, brown water, people just don’t want to take the risk,” he said. “It has stuck, the problem of the lack of confidence.”

Even Mr. Rebollo is not certain of how effective the investment has been, suggesting that purified water from the new plants gets contaminated in the city’s aging water mains. “Once it gets into the pipes, you lose all the effort that was put into it,” he said.

Rocío Pérez González, one of Mr. Santiago’s customers, ran the water from her tap in her kitchen, where she was preparing lunch. Crystalline water gushed out.

“It’s clean now, but years ago it came out dirty. It looked like chocolate,” she said. “So I got used to using the refill jug. Everybody here got used to buying water. We have had that habit for 15 years.”

A version of this article appeared in print on July 17, 2012, on page A9 of the New York edition with the headline: Bottled-Water Habit Keeps Tight Grip on Mexicans.

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