Our experience of Patzcuaro weather is it is generally a sunny farenheit 70s in the day and high 50s at night during the winter months. El Nino, the weather pattern this year has made it slightly cooler this year and our casa has not a lot of Eastern sun, which it is good to have. My chess playing friend stays at Hotel Rosa on the Gertrude Bocanegro square where he says the plastered walls absorb the sun and let out the heat best during the day.
We decide to take a week at the beach. This trip I will preview was great and involved wonderful swimming and sun, but as well involved serious rumination and consideration of whether we might invest in a Mexico winter home at the beach.
After a few unplanned turns, we ended up a three or four drive away from Patzcuaro in Playa Azul, a beach town in Michoacan Province, a short distance from the major port Lazaro Cardenas, whose namesake was a general in the Mexican revolution and statesman who served as President of Mexico from 1937 to 1944, and is noted among many other things, for establishment of the ejidos in the Mexican agricultural sector which gave communities and peasants ownership to land to grow crops on but did not give individual titles to land.
It is written that the ejidos are usually owned by a community of local people and the land is passed down from generation to generation within the communities which own the parcels. Pretty difficult although legal for a foreigner to buy such land. As a casual tourist it is hard to get a grasp on but a significant amount of work appears to be done on a collective basis and a significant number of real and personal assets and income to be shared on a collective basis.
To purchase sea front property was and is a tempting idea from the viewpoint of nothing ventured, nothing gained. According to what we are told and independent research land can be bought in Mexico on the beach provided the correct legal procedures and conditions are fulfilled.
To greatly oversimplify, we are led to believe that for land within 100 kilometers of the beach, foreign nationals may own through a fidecomiso (a trust) set up through a bank and which provides for ownership of the land in all but name. The trust holds the deeds to the property, and you and/or other named persons which you specify are sole beneficiaries to the trust (and therefore, the property). You have full rights to do whatever you like with your property: it can be developed (in accordance with local planning regulationsn- if any), rented, leased, sold, or given away. (MexExperience on the Web has a page describing Real Estate purchase and sale issues.)
Title to the beach property at present if we understood correctly still has to be in a Mexican’s name. This is not evidently a problem. They are happy to serve as title holders and make sure the property is not misused in the owner’s absence for a small fee.
The rules on ownership although evidently being liberalized are subject to complete change when a new government comes in. (That is another risk factor) And although I have no idea if it is true, some said the Familia, (which either means equivalent to organized crime or just the local informal power structure) so called, can exercise considerable control and if they don’t like you, you may have to leave. So one might fear that if political changes suggest this land of yours should be taken and given to a developer, you may up the creek.
For this parcel we looked at, electric to the land is not there. The challenge can be solved if one has the ingenuity to put in solar power and or use a generator. We are told that solar power materials probably have be obtained in the U.S. and brought down to the site. There is water at this site we look at, but for drinking one has to build a tank for pure water. Evidently there is sewage.
Another consideration is that in a hurricane any structure would be at risk and on this property then back flows from inland water, where a river runs along the beach inland a few thousand meters, possibly bringing snakes and other life may be a risk. Perhaps this is all a bit paranoid but, although the jury is still out, it makes one think it might be safer to rent. Also we learned a little bit about house building also. Extreme damage occurred during a hurricane in Playa Azul during the 1980s, according to one seemingly knowledgeable Canadian, because of the way Mexicans build. According to him, the iron reinforcement bars within the concrete most structures are made from is not built in as watertight as desirable and when assaulted by water and highly driven wet winds oxidizes. This appears to cause the concrete to crack and the structures to fail. Whatever the case may be, many buildings along the beach and in town appeared abandoned. In addition our new friends after they bought and built found their neighbor was putting in a restaurant which has quite loud music not infrequently. So one must think twice anyway…. even though this is a beautiful place!
When we arrived in Playa Azul, we found a number of open hotels. While exploring and driving along the beach road we saw a sign for Copacabanas, which on the name alone I voted to stop at. It was as close to the New York City Night Club of the past, somewhere I had wanted to get off at, as I could get. It turned out a lucky bet.
For $18 (US$) a night, we got a fine cabana with kitchen and upstairs bedroom, on the beach, with beautiful sunsets, the pounding sound of the breaking surf all day and night, warm water swimming, safe if one keeps close to shore (but not safe further out at all), wild palms swaying as if troubled in the wind, pelicans patrolling the beach to sweep down and grab in their long beaks their prey from the ocean. Magpies, crows with long tails and egrets also.
Nearby to Plaza Azul is Lazaro Cardenas – one of the two largest ports in Mexico and bigger than many in the U.S. One sees daily on the horizon three or more tankers and container ships, perhaps two football fields in length — or more —- from bow to stern (we estimated), at a time. We understand there are cargoes from North of calcium or chemicals used in mining iron ore and cargoes of iron and we do not know what else between here and China. According to some, there is significant cartel influence and money laundering in this area. (Given the history of the Longshoremen in the U.S. this makes some sense to me) Certainly the news has covered a number of shootouts between local cartels, Federal forces and vigilantes in the Province. Anecdotally a big company refusing to pay informal taxes on the goods it traded found its offices all disabled or destroyed one morning, and a town not agreeing to pay some tribute may find the truck taking its wares to the port destroyed, a weeks work or more for the whole town gone Up the road in the river we are shown five crocodiles. Down the beach a mile we are informed that sea turtles come in to lay their eggs which are protected by the local people.
the evening we swing in the hammock. We watch snipes, crows, haws, seagulls, other birds on the beach, and watch the Pelicans glide pass overhead. We watch the fishing boats, beached in the day, be launched by two or three fishermen in the evenng, and push their way through treacherous tides out to sea. They are mere lights in the night, which they spend with nets spread beyond the breakers and close to the horizon. In the morning they came in and we obtained fish for the days meals. There is much time to paint. Strangely, as far as we can see, the moon is full three nights in succession. ….There are crocodiles in the nearby river! Sea turtles also lay their eggs just up the way …
[ FOR A NIGHT AT SEA[/caption]