Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Way of Mexico

We are currently making a rather fast (for us at least) run through Mexico.  We are spending relatively little time exploring on our stops, and not much time is spent interacting with the locals.  Despite this speed, every country has a few things that are frustrating, odd, or unique.  Here are a few of the Mexican Way.

First is the building materials: cinder-block and brick are the basics, usually with some kind of stucco covering.  Although, there is a near infinite number of wall-less shanties built to provide shade, from whatever material is available.  It makes sense, stone and concrete buildings last longer and are cheaper to build overall.

Second, is their treatment of trash.  With exception to some larger cities, and tourist areas, in most of the smaller towns and outlying areas, it seems that many people just dump their trash wherever it's convenient, and if they are conscientious, they light it on fire before leaving.  I don't have any problem with burning trash, but it is often done right by the road, which can be frustrating.

The average Mexican family produces much less trash than your average American, but the ubiquitous disposablility of the consumeristic society that we live in is slowly catching up to the slower pace of life in Mexico.

Third, the Siesta.  Mexico, and many Spanish-speaking countries, practice a mid-afternoon break, often between 2-4pm (could start as early as noon, and end as late as 6).  Many businesses are closed, and the equivalent of a lunch rush occurs.  We can always tell when a local town's siesta starts, because we have multiple near-misses with pedestrians, and the street/highway-side vendors are too busy to try and hawk their wares to the wealthy gringos, in the ugly, white van.

It was interesting as we drove south to watch the street vendors' wares change to reflect what we saw being grown along the highway.  Changing from mangoes, to pineapple, and bananas to coconuts. There are many roadside lean-to structures made from whatever can be found nearby, a variety of locals will sell produce and local dishes, usually near some topes.  The iced whole coconuts with straws in them were particularly attractive inside of the German oven that is Chuck; made me want to test luck against my coconut allergy...

Fourth, the Topes, and roads in General.  As mentioned in our Baja posts, topes are a standard traffic-control device here.  Speed limits are sparsely posted, and often illogical.  They are essentially ignored by 9 of 10 drivers.  In order to protect the inordinate amount of pedestrians, there are every size, shape, state of repair, official, and non-official topes (speed bumps).   They are often unmarked, and when they are, you have about 30ft of warning.  Sometimes a sign for topes will be lying, and the road will be smooth ahead.  I regularly get Chuck's front wheels airborne when I am distracted or miss a tope in a shade, which are purposely built there so that the road workers and vendors will have shade.  On one 350Km stretch of Mex 200, there are over 200 topes.  I took us nearly 8 hours to negotiate that stretch of coastal road.

While I am on the topic of driving, In Mexico, they allow doble semi-remolques.  These are semi trucks with dual trailers.  Their total lengths are over 70ft; and they are slow.  Here is a stock photo from the internet.

Combined with narrow roads, other slow farm trucks, and the local need for speed; and driving can become very interesting.  My favorite is the 2-lane double pass.  In order to execute this maneuver, you need a narrow 2-lane road with half or quarter sized shoulders.  Take two slow trucks approaching each other, now have two cars attempt to pass, one for each semi.  Now there are 4 cars trying to use this 2-lane road, with both semis hanging off the edge.  I will try to snag a photo of this, but its hard to do when avoiding near death.  Hear is a picture of how narrow and shoulder-less the roads can be.

Here is a lineup of sugar cane trucks coming in from the fields.

Finally there are the white-painted tree trunks.  I have not heard any reason other than aesthetics for painting the trunks of trees white.  Usually its only up to about 4 feet; and to my tastes they look ridiculous, but whatever works.  It seems to be very common, wherever someone owns some trees, they seem to have the need to paint them white. It's all over Mexico and Central America as far as I can tell.

We have a bunch of posting to catch up on, hopefully some cool Mayan Ruins and southern Mexico; stay tuned.


  1. Trees are painted white for several different reasons, from protecting the bark in young trees to stopping insect or fungal infections. It's not aesthetics!

    Hope to see you guys somewhere in Guatemala soon.

    1. Hmmm, that would explain why a few of the coconut farms did their trees. Thanks for the clarification. We are looking forward to seeing you guys as well.