Surviving the crises in Mexico
All parents are rightly proud of their offspring, especially when they stretch themselves in difficult circumstances to make a life and living for themselves. Rachael has amazed us with her ability to turn unpromising circumstances to her own advantage. Having spent a couple of years working as part of an “equipo de animacion” (entertainment team) in a resort on the Pacific coast (Manzanillo), she moved over to the Yucatan just as the avian flu virus was breaking out across Mexico, thus devastating the tourist industry in a matter of weeks. Then came the economic collapse of world banks, which was especially difficult for Mexico, since its 3rd highest source of income is “remittances” sent back by emigrant Mexicans living in the US. When an economy goes through difficult times, the first to feel the pain are the low-paid casual workers, and many thousands had to make their way home to possible penury.
What is now strangling the tourist market in Mexico is the detailed reporting on violence connected with drug-trafficking, which appears to be prevalent throughout the country. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Mexico is geographically about the size of continental Europe, and what goes on in the north is as far away from the Yucatan as England is from Greece. But quiet, sleepy corners like the Yucatan pay the consequences of indiscrimate global reporting. In fact, the Mexicans and Mayans in the Yucatan are the most unassuming, friendly people you could wish to meet.
As a member of the sales staff of the Palace group of hotels, selling residential memberships, Rachael’s commission-only income is entirely dependent on visitors feeling secure about their investments, and prevailing global fears can mean she is swimming against a strong current. When a “dry spell” concludes with a good sale, there is cause for much celebration (which actually happened yesterday!). The positive, supportive atmosphere of the sales team ensures that members going through a lean patch are buoyed up by camaraderie. And in the meantime, Rachael constantly looks for promotional work outside her job to keep the ‘pesos’ coming in and the wolf from the door.
Playa del Carmen. Until 40 years ago, the whole of the coastline in the Yucatan was populated by small Mayan fishing communities. Then with the help of the IMF, a huge investment was injected into making a 100km stretch of the coast into a premier resort. Hundreds of hotels went up and whole towns were created to house the tens of thousands of workers needed to service the industry. Playa del Carmen is one such town which, 25 years ago, simply existed as a tiny fishing community. It is now a bustling, thriving coastal town, and this is where Rachael chose to put down her roots for a while. Taking us to visit some of her favourite haunts about the town, we came to appreciate the attractiveness of this lively community, which is not without its quieter, meditative corners far-removed from the incessant tourist bustle.