The other day I wrote that although the lack of tourists must be impacting the daily lives of the locals, I hadn't really seen much indication of times being tough.
Within the last few days I've noticed some changes, it might be getting tough...
The local bus, often running empty or with just a couple of people onboard, was packed with people the other day - standing room only.
Some tiendas here in the colonia have empty spaces on their shelves - reduced inventory.
There are very few people in the streets in Centro, and on the beaches, whenever we drive by.
A local I know is waiting for business to pick up before she goes back to work; she has been off work since the first weeks of April when the store she worked at closed down. A job is waiting for her, but not until the tourists return.
Building supplies are discounted, and laborers are working for lower wages.
We went to Cancun late Saturday afternoon. I have never seen so many stray dogs over there. Was it because it was Saturday evening and people knew the dog-catcher wouldn't be around and it was safe to let them out? Was it because it was cooler at that time of day and the dogs that would normally be dozing were up and about? Is it because people don't have money to buy food for their dogs so they let them loose to find their own source of nourishment? I don't know, but it was a surprise to see so many dogs wandering around.
Our taxi driver in Cancun (Luis) reports that there is simply no business - he is lucky to bring in 150 pesos per day (less than $15) and that is working a double shift.
Luis lives in a local area of Cancun, and told us that someone had tried to break into his house the night before. They entered through a window but his two dogs chased them off. What would he have had inside worth stealing? Nothing, according to him. What is sad is that people who are not normally thieves are resorting to stealing in order to eat and feed their families.
A by-product of the poor economy is healthcare. A Mexican friend's daughter, at the age of 23, is suffering from hemolytic anemia. After four years of messing around with her locally, she is now in Puebla, where she is under the care of an internist. The girl requires blood tests, blood transfusions, and possibly surgery. The family has no money to pay, and no way to earn the money because there is no work.
And so, the father of this fine family swallowed his pride and asked us if we could help and loan him some money (he needs 5000 pesos (about $500 US) right now) so his daughter could get the tests she needs. Knowing the man, it must have been very hard for him to ask. And yet, what else could he do? He is working hard just to feed the family and cannot work any harder. Fortunately I am still working and could help him, but this may just be the beginning for him. It's so sad.
On a little lighter note...
There is a local family here - a single mom with three great boys. They rent their small home, and run a hotdog/hamburger stand in the colonias. Their neighbor's dog was picked up by the dogcatcher last week. Even though it wasn't their dog, the oldest boy (15), walked to Mundaca Park to bail out the dog. He paid 150 pesos (about $15 US) to spring the dog free, with a warning that this was the second time and if there was a third time, the dog would be taken to Cancun to be put up for adoption. Now, that is a joke, because as I've mentioned, Cancun has no shortage of unwanted dogs. I have to give credit to the people manning the dog pound, because they obviously did not want to upset the child and tell him the truth about what would happen to the dog if he gets caught running loose again. And so they made up the adoption story.
I know the family could not really afford the 150 pesos to pay for the freedom of a dog that didn't even belong to them, but they scraped it up from somewhere. Miguel came across the boy walking home from Mundaca - a long, hot walk and they still had a long way to go. So Miguel put them on the golf cart and drove them home. The dog had a fit, he's never been on a golf cart before. He's probably never been tied up before either, but when we went by later that evening the family told us that the dog was tied up. I hope for everyone's sake that they don't let the dog loose again. And since the boy's birthday is this month, we'll be a little more generous with the cash gift - he deserves it.
Who else deserves a few pesos in his hat? The guy singing on the Ultramar the other night. Especially if you're a tourist and you and your wife and 4 kids are just starting your vacation on Isla Mujeres and you're staying in a nice private house and you have a Blackberry attached to your body and will manage your own suitcases rather than tip someone to help you, thank you very much. Would it have killed you to reach into your pocket or wallet for a dollar or a few pesos? As the singer passed the hat, you declined, and your wife and kids all saw your lack of generosity and watched everyone else throw in a few coins. Nice example. Maybe times aren't tough for you, but you must know that things are not that great in many places in the world, including Mexico. I hope you are more generous with tips as you weave your family around the island. Enjoy your vacation!