Don't Like the Poverty in Mexico?

Mexico! Just remembering your first trip across the border to Tijuana, Mexicali, Nogales, Juarez, Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa, Matamoros or any other border town probably conjures up thoughts of poverty. Our first introduction to extreme poverty was 25 years ago near the outskirts of Mexico City and we’ll never forget it. Although poverty still exists in Mexico, it is nothing like it was due to the stable peso and the Mexican economy booming for the past decade. Furthermore, comparing resort cities on the Mexican Riviera to border-towns is like comparing Beverly Hills to Bangladesh! We have been coming to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, referred to as PV or Vallarta by the locals, and have owned property here since 1984. In 1997 we purchased a beautiful new villa and made it our permanent residence. It has been a wonderful investment, having tripled in value during the past ten years. In 2002 we invested some money in the Mexican Bolsa, or stock market, at 3.25 pesos per share. That investment currently trades at 11.55 per share, yielding a 255% gain. During those five years the Mexican peso has held firm at about 10.8 pesos per US dollar.

When we moved to PV ten years ago, women sitting on sidewalks nursing their babies, hand out, and cup in front were commonplace. The few cars and old buses were often dragging or missing their mufflers, were often dinged and dented beyond recognition, and always such a variety of colors that it was virtually impossible to ascertain their original color. The streets and sidewalks were filthy and need of repair and stores looked like what one would expect in a sleepy little Mexican fishing village. Unemployment was high and help readily available for $10 per day. None of the streets had signs or centerlines, making driving your basic free-for-all. Ten years ago, prices in the stores and restaurants were relatively low because labor was cheap, they had only locally produced products, and very few had air-conditioning. Even in Vallarta, there was some degree of poverty, yet one could survive due to the low standard and related cost of living.

Things have changed drastically in PV during the past ten years. The Mexican economy is booming and it’s especially true in Vallarta as a result of tourism. There is virtually full employment with the majority of the younger Mexicans speaking some degree of English since income is approximately three times as much if one speaks and understands English. Ten years ago, we had a cruise ship visit PV every other day whereas now, with the new marina, we have two or three cruise ships here daily. The International Airport is roughly four times the size it was ten years ago with flights arriving and departing constantly. A second International Airport is currently in the planning stages. The prices of real estate have roughly tripled during the past ten years as have the prices of materials and labor.

With the economy booming and full employment, the majority of the locals now own their own cars and a good portion of them are new. Most all the buses are new and clean and seldom do you ever see a clunker with its muffler dragging behind. In fact, the standard of driving has been substantially improved because the locals are proud of and take care of their new cars. All the streets are now clearly marked, often lined with palms, and kept immaculate. All of the thoroughfare roads are either new or have been doubled in size with new bridges, lighting, etc. There are so many cars now in PV that congestion and parking have become the main problems in our beautiful Paradise. Three new parking garages have been built downtown during the past four years; one above ground and two below ground with public parks above. The old stores are either being renovated or torn down and replaced with beautiful new buildings. Because there is such opportunity available in Vallarta, the level of education is constantly improving at the new University of Guadalajara campus which provides the ideal setting for thousands of young Vallartenses to receive advanced educations. The booming economy has attracted some of the finest doctors and dentists in Mexico, many educated in the States or Europe. With the increase in talented doctors and dentists, two large medical centers housing sophisticated state-of-the-art equipment have been built in the past five years. Fine restaurants abound in PV, all having clean and modern kitchens, providing employment for thousands of workers as do the many modern hotels. New high rise condos and those currently under construction are seen everywhere providing great employment for thousands of construction workers.

In the evenings during “high season”, November through May, when everyone is out dining or partying, the streets almost resemble New York with the yellow taxis everywhere. In fact, the Malecon, or walkway along the beach, has more people visiting the sites and shopping at midnight than it does at noon. The sleepy little Mexican fishing village is no longer sleepy nor little, with a population now exceeding 350,000 residents. During the “high season”, PV rocks for about 18 hours a day. One must wonder whether those sidewalk women ever got jobs or moved to Los Angeles. There is certainly no poverty to be seen in Vallarta today!

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