Turnabout: PA rescuing Red Cross
Efforts under way to resume
Red Cross services in PA
Funding employee salaries the major issue
Several Puerto Aventuras residents representing the philanthropic Puerto Aventuras resort community met with Red Cross officials in Playa del Carmen last week to understand why the Red Cross station covering Puerto Aventuras was closed without notice more than a month ago and without definite plans to reopen.
For the record, it takes an ambulance an estimated 25-30 minutes or more, depending on traffic conditions, to reach Puerto Aventuras from the new and five-times larger Red Cross facility in north Playa del Carmen. It replaces a much smaller and outmoded Playa clinic that was located on busy Juarez Avenue to serve a city-limit population of more than 150,000, plus thousands of visitors.
A Puerto Aventuras accidental boat fire two weeks ago in which a crewman was seriously burned called attention to the need to achieve a faster ambulance response-time to the resort and the Poblado in life threatening situations. (The crewman was hospitalized and is now “doing remarkably well considering his condition” according to residents who helped treat him for nearly 30 minutes before an ambulance arrived.)
Red Cross spokespersons Horatio Moreno Trinity, managing director of the Red Cross Solidaridad District, and Teresa Jiminez Rodriguez, president of the ladies’ auxiliary, told PA spokesmen Timothy Howard, a member of the Colonos Vigilance Committee and resident Martin Wohnlich, that funding the salaries of the outlying ambulance crews (four paramedics and two doctors), became financially impossible because of lagging general donations and the extra costs incurred to operate the much larger 24-hour sleepover emergency clinic in Playa del Carmen and its expanded staff.
They told the PA delegates that the Red Cross could finance operation of the Puerto Aventuras clinic building and ambulance if an agreement could be made for Puerto Aventuras to finance an undetermined share or possibly all of the required salaries of employees working in the PA facility. They said they had tried to make arrangements with larger hotels to fund the salaries for services rendered, such as CPR and lifeguard training and helping to obtain those certifications required of hotels, but thus far there are no takers.
The volunteer PA delegates asked for and received financial specifics about the required salaries and said they would discuss the findings with the Colonos and known donors who have assisted the Red Cross in the past. There is also an ongoing effort to explore suggestions of sharing a private ambulance with the Hard Rock Hotel next door to PA or hiring a private ambulance service for the resort community. This would be in addition to the Red Cross to assure services in times of multiple needs. Further meetings were to be held this week in pursuit of short- and long-term funding strategies. The Red Cross ambulance serves anyone in need on both sides of the highway and nearby communities whether or not they can afford to pay.
CENTRO COMERCIAL ASSEMBLY gets under way at 8 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 21 in the Colonos meeting room… CONDOMINIO PUNTA ROCA assembly is at 9 a.m. Saturday Feb. 28 in the Colonos Room… COOKING CLASS – Latitude 20 cooking class is held at 10 a.m. Fridays. All are welcome to join in … ART SHOWS are held each Thursday evening at the Information and Art Center. Artists welcomed to participate… SPANISH CLASSES at Latitude 20 are available at 11:30 a.m. (basic) and 12:30 (intermediate) on Mondays and Wednesdays for new students wishing to enroll… ARMY DAY, Feb. 19, celebrates the Mexican Army and loyalty… Flag day Feb. 24, celebrates the current Mexican flag. This civic holiday was implemented by President Lazaro Cardenos in 1937… Free lecture: “Super Foods That Fight Cancer” – Foods that contain minerals, vitamins and phytochemicals possess anti-cancer benefits. Eating combinations of certain foods offers the strongest cancer protection. Join Professor Emeritus Jim White at 10 a.m., Friday, Feb. 20 in the Colonos Room and learn exactly which foods give you maximum protection.
If you want to learn about the Riviera Maya with photos, maps, services, rentals and directions, click on the Akumal Villas logo in the sponsors’ column. It’s a knockout!
Retailers given May deadline
to calibrate measuring devices
The Federal Consumer Protection Agency (Profeco) has issued a notice to area retailers that use measuring devices in the sale of their products that the devices must be properly calibrated and carry the federal seal of approval by May 31. Businesses stretching through Tulum, Solidaridad and Cozumel have until that date to arrange a calibration with the agency or face penalties of up to 250,000 pesos.
Businesses utilizing scales, time clocks, meters and gasoline vending pumps among others are required to have the Profeco seal (hologram) of approval to assure consumers they are getting “kilo for kilo or liter for liter” that they pay for. Marisol Huitron Rangel, agency delegate for this area, said businesses after that date with poorly calibrated devices, with the seal of approval or not, will be subject to heavy fines.
State will help tackle beach
recovery attempts in region
The state plans to spend a considerable amount for a second attempt at reclaiming beaches in the Maya Riviera area Including those in Solidaridad, Laura Fernandez Pina, state secretary for tourism, announced last week.
But the Hotel Association of the Riviera Maya hopes the new recovery plan does not result in the negative outcomes of the first attempt that saw replenishment sand disappear shortly after being deposited. The association regrets the “waste of resources” in the prior attempt and wants assurances the project has a more attainable goal and outcome.
Puerto Aventurans are awaiting action to replenish the beach on Fatima Bay. Funds for that project are tied to the receipts from building permits the Colonos issues to builders in Phase 4 where build out of some 132 lots is expected to take some 7 to 10 years. Meanwhile, construction is booming in the earlier phases of Puerto Aventuras as more Mexicans from other states escape the deadly drug wars and other crimes they foment for the relative safety of the Maya Riviera.
International experience propels
Roguez Real Estate manager
Mexico native cut corporate teeth in Europe
The “Millennium Generation”, born between 1980 and 2000 is beginning to join the older, retiring baby boomers born between1946-1964 as a growing presence in Puerto Aventuras.
An example is Vanessa Rodriguez Ruiz who, with her husband, David Zannoni, purchased property here two years ago and are busy establishing themselves as entrepreneurs who will help sustain themselves, their pre-school son and the local economy to and beyond the emergence of the next generation.
Rodriguez, sales manager of Roguez Real Estate, was born in Mexico City and raised in Cuernavaca where she graduated from the University of Morelos, earning a degree in business management and marketing. In January 2012, Rodriguez launched the real estate endeavor after having lived in Europe cutting her corporate teeth with Shell International Exploration and Production in the Netherlands as a senior finance specialist.
She also was employed before joining Shell, as logistics and operations coordinator with Vilmar International, a purveyor of piping equipment for liquid transport, from 2004 to 2008 and garnered kudos from fellow employees at both firms as a “proactive team member“ and an employee who “makes sure assignments are delivered at high quality.”
Before relocating to Europe, Rodriguez implemented marketing programs for the Labor Party in Mexico City, held several other government positions as well as some time spent in sales-related posts for Chrysler Corp. and Inmobillaria in Mexico City.
She relocated to Europe after marrying her husband, David, who was traveling in Mexico and already involved in international business dealings. He was exploring opportunities to expand his business into Latin America dealing in international credit management, outsourcing and business consulting, particularly for the international film industry. That early start resulted in the formation of Cobroamericas in 2011 and its subsidiary Roguez Real Estate of Puerto Aventuras.
“The core business of Roguez Real Estate is to bring international buyers, investors and their representatives together with opportunities in Quintana Roo’s Riviera Maya,” Rodriguez explains.” These opportunities consist of property, land, construction, development, networking and services such as marketing and sales, rentals, property management, finance assistance, closing and escrow services,” Rodriguez said.
Just as the tourist industry depends largely on foreign visitors, the real estate market in Riviera Maya depends partly on foreign buyers and developers and that is where, Rodriguez points out, her bilingual skills, foreign and domestic work experience and contacts play an important role. “Doing business on an international level creates complex relationships,” Rodriguez says. “Differences in culture, language, jurisdiction, law, banking and even time zones need to be understood and managed.”
Rodriguez is fluent in Spanish and English and has a core ability in Dutch and Italian. More information by clicking on the Roguez logo at left.
Mexico, Wal-Mart join forces
to improve farm workers’ lives
(Los Angeles Times) The Mexican government and Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, have announced steps to improve the lives of the nation’s farm workers, two months after a Los Angeles Times investigation detailed labor abuses at Mexican agribusinesses that supply major U.S. supermarket chains and restaurants.
Mexico’s secretary of agriculture, Enrique Martinez, announced the creation last week of a "historic" alliance of produce industry groups that will focus on enforcing wage laws and improving housing, schools and healthcare for the more than 1 million laborers at export farms.
The group represents growers and distributors that handle 90% of Mexico’s produce exports to the United States, which have tripled over the last decade and now exceed $7.5 billion a year.
Separately, Wal-Mart said it is taking action to ensure that workers are treated with "respect and dignity," reminding its in-house buyers that they should buy produce only from farms that meet the company’s standards for decent treatment of workers.
The Mail Bag…
Doe Stowell remembered
A great big thank you to all who helped make my mother, Doe Stowell’s Celebration of Life on Sunday, February 15th, so very special. There were many warm, funny, and at times, tearful accounts of Doe’s life. Her friends captured her spirit so beautifully and poignantly. Thank you to the many great Puerto people who brought yummy food, coolers and ice, tables and sweet desserts! It was a group effort and I couldn’t have done it without you. I am so blessed to be surrounded by such loving and giving people. Doe would have been so pleased, I’m sure. I thank you and the spirit of the Grand Dame of Puerto Aventuras thanks you. She will not be forgotten. Thank you,
Signed/Cate Hauser – Doe’s daughter.
Burn victim’s condition
After reading about the boat fire in Puerto Aventuras, and the subsequent burn injury of Alejandro Estrella, I was hoping for an update of his condition in last week’s Pelican Free Press edition. If you have any news of this young man, an update would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
Signed/ Sharon Frisk
(Ed. Note: He has been released from the hospital and doing well as a Red Cross outpatient, say residents who treated him while awaiting the ambulance.)
Pedestrian bridges for monkeys
Just returned from Campeche on the new cuota road into Playa del Carmen and we noticed numerous white swing-bridge style ropes across the freeway. They are anchored to posts and have pulley wires to raise and lower them. The question is: Whar Are They? Hope someone knows the answer.
(Ed. Note: We’re told those are monkey crossings. The Washington D.C. Zoo uses them. You might compare them to pedestrian bridges used by humans to cross busy highways.)
Banking in Mexico too often
mimics white-collar torture
Executives of BBVA Bancomer, a Spanish subsidiary of BBVA, attended a meeting in this area not long ago saying, among other things, the bank was ready to loosen up on business loans.
What they didn’t mention, to The Pelican’s knowledge, is a mid-level manager at the Centro Maya bank branch in Playa del Carmen whose perceived Napoleonic persona during business hours vexes some gringo customers.
Another thing the executives didn’t mention was an apparent new requirement to qualify for “preferred” service which now entails, according to Napoleon, anywhere between a “200,000 and 300,000 pesos monthly balance.” Huh?
Case in point: We arrived in early November and as usual for the last six years went directly to the bank to deposit the wherewithal needed to meet our obligations for the next six months. What should take no more than 10 minutes took two hours. Why? Napoleon was on the march.
After signing in and waiting about 30 minutes for service, a young man called us to his office and after about 15 minutes of staring at the check and a conference with someone in another office, took care of approving the check for deposit.
This customer, as usual, got into the “preferred customer” line – a discriminatory practice that reeks of base elitism in the first place – and waited another 20 or so minutes. When arriving at the head of the line, Napoleon came galloping along and pulled this reluctant customer from the line with a stern look, as though the customer was suspected of being a bank robber.
Napoleon, who might also fancy himself as the King of Spain, spent another 10 or so minutes peering into the computer as this customer worried about the possible spoilage of the meat and dairy products his wife was purchasing at nearby Soriana’s supermarket.
Then, Napolean returned the check saying there were insufficient funds on deposit to qualify this customer, who previously “qualified” for using the preferred, shorter line. He said customers now needed a 200,000-peso monthly balance, returned the check and told the customer to go in the regular line which was very long indeed. This triggered a verbal customer outburst as to why the bank did not notify its customers of such changes and why Napoleon didn’t strike when the customer was in the back of the line?
The customer however deferred to the denigrating but calming gringo catch-phrase, “Remember, you’re in Mexico” and went through the line seething but willing to overlook the arrogant, shoddy treatment.
Which the customer did…until returning to the bank about four weeks later to make another deposit during a favorable exchange rate.
Napoleon was still there seemingly perched on his high horse, which in reality is a desk chair. The customer and his wife approached his desk, for no other person could handle the transaction, according to bank personnel. “We want to make a deposit,” said this customer and handed Napoleon a substantial check.
He looked at it, placed it on the desk and asked: “Do you own a car?” Husband and wife looked at one another wondering what that had to do with depositing a check. “Yes,” said this customer. “Is it insured?” Napoleon asked. “Of course,” came the reply. “Listen, we just want to deposit a check,” we said. Well, you just don’t talk to General Napoleon like that. He ignored the customer’s wish to get on with it.
He placed insurance pamphlets on the desk, wasting more time, punched some figures into his keyboard, asked for social security numbers, etc. showed the wife some cheap casserole dishes in a box that come with the insurance package and provided an insurance quote we didn’t ask for.
The wife and I exchanged the “Remember. You’re in Mexico” look as Napoleon was told the quote would be considered later. “What? You’re not going to buy now?”
“No” this customer replied. (If you have ever wondered why Napoleon kept his hand inside his breast coat, now you know. He had an insurance quote in there where his customer-service heart should be.)
Then came the last straw leading to a most reluctant decision to publish this editorial to alert potential bank customers that preferred” status at Bancomer is an elusive, unreliable thing. We asked “How much is the required balance for the preferred status?”
He replied with grandiose authority: “Three hundred thousand pesos.”
“What?” this customer rejoined with proportional verbal volume. “You said it was 200,000 pesos just a few weeks ago.” That got him. Napoleon’s composure flinched for just a split-second, and like any general in the saddle, quickly recomposed: “Yes, well, anything in between 200,000 or 300,000. It doesn’t have to be specific.” From a customer perspective, it was an attempted white-collar hold-up by an institution that should know better.
We’ll endure badgering, harrying , long waits and confusion while acclimating to the business practices of a developing country’s financial institutions, but blatant deception by a bank officer dealing with older, well-intentioned customers is definitely not well received.
We wonder in hindsight whether Napoleon is acting on his own or on orders from above to intimidate customers into depositing more and more money or to buy car insurance. Either way, BBVA Bancomer, one of the nation’s leading financial institutions, is not helping its image or its position in the new year by subjecting good customers of all stripes to such arrogant and deceitful “customer service.”
POSTSCRIPT: After trying in vain to reach bank managers in Cancun, we called the bank’s “Preferred Service” number in Mexico City to learn what the specific requirements are for “preferred” status. After multiple calls to the “preferred unit” number, and finally after a 14-minute wait, the bank spokesman there said “We don’t have that information. It is made up by the branches. Have a nice day.”
The London Dive Show last week exhibited the “Waters of Cozumel” in the hope of interesting UK divers to visit and dive in this area, an industry that needs a little boost this year according to reports… Hard Rock Hotel next door to PA is among five tourist destinations looking to fill 50 jobs in housekeeping, security, hospitality, boutique, food and beverages. It is another reason the other side of the highway is experiencing rapid housing and population growth… Three Colombians suspected of grand theft in a Merida country-club estate were arrested in Playa del Carmen after the car they were using was spotted and identified on security cameras. Chalk up another success for videocams… Unpleasant odors – A longtime resident told the Pelican that the sewage odors drawing complaints here from letter writers could be emanating from the Barcelo Hotel treatment plant located just off the highway on the jungle side just opposite the hotel, sight unseen. The source said the odor occasionally reaches PA on the wings of southerly breezes… Another fatal traffic accident was recorded on Boulevard Playa del Carmen (under the overpass) last week when two workers crossing the boulevard were struck by an SUV operated by a reportedly drunk driver. It was hoped the overpass would reduce these accidental deaths on that busy road linking all of the Riviera Maya… U.S. trade with Latin American hit a record last year with a 2.5 percent increase, much of it due to trade between Mexico and the United States…Ferry competition between Cozumel and Playa increased on Monday when a new carrier entered the fray. Check prices… Mexico is clamping down on so-called aesthetics clinics operating without a license and offering procedures and pills considered to be serious health risks. Look for licenses and permits before buying into procedures… The first wave of spring breakers began this week and to meet it the various consumer and police agencies are warning liquor retailers and restaurants not to serve minors or face major penalties… Quintana Roo is among the eight most expensive states in housing rentals at an average $2000 a month… Muralists are being invited to decorate selected walls in the city of Playa del Carmen, including spray-can realists… The 50-member Symphony Orchestra of Quintana Roo performs tomorrow, Feb. 20 at 8 p.m. in a free concert at the sports poliforum in Playa del Carmen… Microsoft is opening a training center in Cancun next month to service employees and others of small to medium businesses in Cancun…
Want to get your car grackled?
Park under Centro trees at dusk
By Gayle Sandholm
Like clockwork, as the sun’s last rays brighten the tops of trees, Great Tailed Grackles from across Puerto Aventuras and beyond fly toward their roost for their evening gathering near Puerto Centro. Like numerous other birds, they congregate at dusk each day in an early evening routine of nonstop songs, squeals, caws, and whistles.
This evening cacophony in the trees near the OXXO comes mostly from the loud and social Great Tailed Grackle. Found in parts of the U.S. and Central America, it is also referred to as the Mexican Grackle. Their roosts are often a canopy of larger trees (commonly called—yes you say– annoyances) where the grackles congregate and jostle for preferred positions within the roost. Gathering in these large numbers provides for safety and protection from night predators. Some who observe them think they are reporting to each other on the day’s great finds or are looking to find a mate for life.
The male can reach up to 17 inches (43 cm) with its tail nearly one half of its body. They are jet-black with a violet-blue sheen on the feathers. Female grackles are smaller (13 in /33 cm) and mainly brownish black with a pale brown belly. Both have yellow eyes. They are often seen feeding on the golf course or other open fields and continually looking up.
In Mexico, the great-tailed grackle is also known as the Zanate. Wikipedia reports a legend that it has seven songs. "In the creation, the Zanate having no voice, stole its seven distinct songs from the wise and knowing sea turtle. You can now hear the Zanate’s vocals as the Seven Passions (Love, Hate, Fear, Courage, Joy, Sadness, and Anger) of life." Next time you frequent their roost listen for seven songs. And I would normally say keep looking up, however doing so may not be too wise if you are standing under the roost!
Cleaning up animal abuse
on foto-happy 5th Avenue
Several organizations and government agencies have joined hands in an effort to prevent wild animal abuse in the tourist district of Playa del Carmen. The goal is to educate tourists not to pay for photographs taken with these animals, some of which are suspected of being drugged into compliance. This approach, say spokesmen for the agencies, will discourage the purveyors if they can’t make any money from the practice.
Some animal handlers have been arrested on various complaints, including aggressive language and shoving tourists taking unpaid pictures of the animals and their handlers. But other handlers appear to have documents that allow the practice. To retaliate, the agencies are distributing posters to be placed along Fifth avenue asking that tourists ignore and not pay the handlers.
Sunday, March 15th – 1-5 p.m.