Yucatan Developments... Your Thoughts?
There was a small news story recently that we reported, about UNAM students doing a study and proposal for a gated, planned community that would cater to extranjeros. Another recent newstory mentioned a shopping mall going up in Valladolid, filled with chain stores ranging from Italian Coffee to Burger King. Both these news stories invited a flurry of responses and comments, most of them along the line of "we don't like these kinds of developments".
Over the past year, Merida alone has started (and almost finished) FOUR new shopping malls. There is one now open behind the fabulously modern Liverpool shopping center that sports an ice-skating rink in the center. The Alta Brisa Mall is open now too, located next to the Star Medica Hospital. MacroPlaza Merida is anchored by a Chedraui grocery store and a Super WalMart. The last one that will be finished is called CityCenter Merida and is also located in the north part of town and will also have a Super WalMart. Between them, the new centers will open 56 new movie theatres, bringing Merida's movie screens to 86 in total. The five shopping malls that existed before these had 718 separate stores, and these four new centers will add an 420 additional stores. (Thanks to childrenofhabitat.blogspot.com for these figures). Merida has never in its history, even during the henequen boom, seen such unprecedented growth.
Having lived here for the past six years, we've watched this happen. We've enjoyed the fruits of this growth at times, and agonized about it at others. In particular, a comment sent to us privately about the planned shopping mall in Valladolid prompted us to share our thoughts on this matter. We think there is something important here that all of us who are strangers in these parts need to think about and understand. Pues, (a much-used Spanish expression that means "so" and "then" and "well" and any number of connecting words that basically mean nothing much at all...) the following is the article, the email we received in response and our response to that email.
First, the article in question...
Valladolid to Get New Shopping Center
On the east side of the peninsula, Chedraui is investing $8,000,000 USD in a new shopping center in Valladolid, and it is to be built in the first quarter of 2008. This shopping center will also be home to Italian Coffee, Burger King, Big Home, Coppel, Hollywood Cinemas, Taco Inn, Famsa and Cajun Grill, among others. With the naming of Chichen Itza as one of the Seven New Wonders of the World, the eastern part of our state needs as many new businesses and services as they can get. Hundreds of thousands of visitors are coming and many new residents are deciding to call the area home. It is a long way from Valladolid to Merida (or to Cancun) so this shopping center is good news for everybody who lives there or stops by to visit.
Next, the letter we received...
Our reader wrote: "Regarding the article, is this view about development prevalent in the expat community and at the editorial board of this publication? What interests future retirees about your area is its unique culture and landscape. My wife and I visited Valladolid last winter and we loved what we saw. The Yucatan does not need to stay underdeveloped, but your fascination for (this) type of development described tells me that it is in danger of becoming indistinguishable from the snack strips of El Paso, Fort Lauderdale or Costa Rica, and that this will happen too quickly. Surely, you will agree that what you have now is special. I am not saying local government should restrict growth. But my wife and I were interested in the Yucatan and this article tells us Yucatan expats are anxious to recreate the world they left behind in the north. This begs the question, why did they leave it? It also has caused us to cast our attention more seriously to southern Europe for our retirement plans."
Lastly, our response...
Dear Sir: We don't originate the subjects of our News summaries on Yucatan Living. We translate articles from Spanish-language sources that are published for a Mexican readership. We do this as a service for our English-mostly readership. If the Yucatecos think it's a big story, then we try to include it.
We can't speak for the expat community, of course, but we can make some observations we feel sure about:
1. The "growth" described in the article below is driven by corporate expansion and the desire of the Mexican
people. The expat community has nothing to do with it. Here in Merida, there are at most 6,000 expats in a city of a million Yucatecos. We'd guess there are no more than 70 expats in Valladolid. We have no direct impact on growth that we can tell. The impulse to build and grow comes from the Mexican middle-class.
2. The socio-economic diversity in Yucatan is extremely vast. There are those who exist on practically no money, living a traditional Maya lifestyle. There are multi-millionaires who own half a dozen opulent homes. And there are people of every conceivable walk of life in between those extremes. One or two malls is a drop in the cultural ocean.
3. In general, expats who move here come for the diversity of experience, not to recreate their former lives. But there's nothing like having access to a modern experience when you need one. This is especially true for health care, insurance, real estate and other important matters. If you want to buy a washing machine, you have to go to a modern store. The mercado only carries washboards. Once you've actually lived outside of your own country, you'll perhaps understand that desire a little bit more.
4. Mexicans who are being deported from the U.S., (many of whom have never actually set foot in Mexico), are relieved to find some of the familiar brands and shopping experiences they left behind. A small consolation for them, perhaps, but ironically, it's not unlike an immigrant to the U.S. finding a source of their favorite items from their home country. Also, did you know that far more Mexicans travel to the U.S. each year legally (on a 15 day tourist visa) than sneak across the border? Why? Mostly to shop in modern U.S. malls. But given the choice, they'd rather stay at home to do their shopping.
5. Meanwhile, is it really fair to impose one's wishes on people in other countries? If the Yucatecos want a shopping center, why not? Did you notice that all but one store in the article was a Mexican corporation? That means more jobs in Mexico, more middle-class Mexicans, and probably more shopping centers. This is happening all around the world. It's the big global "catch up" to the so-called "developed" world. Good luck escaping it in southern Europe. If you really don't want to see a shopping mall, we'd recommend the Island of Roatan, off the coast of Honduras, and even there, we're not sure you'd be completely "safe".
What do you think? We welcome your comments...
P3epe 14 years ago
About the letter you guys received, I love Merida, both the historic Merida and the living, modern Merida around it. I think we can manage to be a city with history and modernity. Just look at places like Montecristo, Altabrisa and even Francisco de Montejo.
P3epe 14 years ago
Galerias Merida and Altabrisa are the best new shopping malls by far. They're very clean, classy and diverse.
City Center will be great when it's fully occupied.
Macroplaza is garbage. Worst mall ever. Don't go there.
A new one called Sendero looks promising. Since it was just inaugurated it really doesn't have anything of value (besides Cinepolis) but give it time.
About the old shopping malls, Gran Plaza is still number one, Plaza Fiesta and Plaza Dorada aren't going anywhere. They're alright, and Dorada will have MMCinema screens soon!
Working Gringos 15 years ago
What exactly do you want to know, Casey?
casey 15 years ago
I had asked about the housing situatin, is there a different area of this site I should go to
Rodd Sidney 15 years ago
VALLADOLID UPDATE! The New Chedraui called "SUPER CHE" is now open on the Northern Edge of Valladolid ! & its a NEW Concept for Chedraui. its more like a Sams Club than a regular Chedraui. Things are on Racks & Shelving Just like SAMS & City Club or Costco. No MEMBERSHIP Required. The locals here in Valladolid are Flocking here. A friend who works @ the "NEW MALL" said last Saturday over 5000 people passed inside. Its a NEW Phenomenon for Valladolid as the people have been accustomed to shopping @ a few Severly Overcrowded Stores downtown ( The New Soriana intown who bought out another store is really the "only" Competition". I'm sure some of the MOM & POP Places will suffer as will the UNIQUE & VERY QUAINT "MERCADO", BUT the Selection & Convenience & "LOWER PRICES" are something they've all Deserved & Waited Patiently for. Again a small price of PROGRESS. One Downside of the SUPER CHE............They are handing out Creditcards with 300-500 USD Limits to anyone who signs up. My wife got one & we "Read the Fine Print'........WOW! Something like 32% INTEREST!...........This is a new concept for the locals & I'm sure some will be tempted to "OVERSPEND" their budget & get caught in the CreditCard Treadmill so many Americans have Experienced. Oh well.........Again another Price for Progress. The Central Zacalo is still experiencing the underground burying of the cables etc & the Streets are a MESS, But soon it'll be over & the Dust will settle................GO VALLADOLID!
Shirley & Jose A Herrera 15 years ago
I am a born in California U.S. Citizen who has lived in both countries, the U.S. & Mexico. It is not whether Mexico adapts the so called Shopping Malls and culture of the U.S. It is more related to the peace, harmony and tranquility I felt throughout the fifteen years I enjoyed while living in Mexico and where I will soon return.
CasiYucateco 15 years ago
Conditions within or close to Merida and in the far reaches of the state are vastly different. The state has done a fine job of building up port activity and concentrating industry nearby (Progreso, Merida, Motul...etc). But there are far reaches of the state literally living in very similar conditions to those before the Spanish conquest.
Improving the shipping infrastructure, for example, so that maquilladoras can be opened deeper in the interior or spread more widely would be beneficial to all. Overcrowded cities do no good for anyone. Rail lines for shipping or highway routes safe for a mix of bicycles, pedestrians, horse carts and semi-tractor trailers are needed. (With luck, separated sections for bicycles & pedestrians would be provided.)
Development in the form of locally-run schools, better sanitation facilities, better food standards are all improvements. But - to me - the gray area comes when 'better sanitation facilities' means concentrating people in small continuous cement warrens, as opposed to widely spaced rural homes. Yes, the cement homes individually are "better" than palm-thatched huts. Yet, the concentration of people can actually lead to more rapid disease transmission, even if sewage facilities are much improved. (I guess I question whether thousands of tiny homes with thousands of undersized septic tanks are a "good" sewage solution.)
Dengue fever, for example, is a "city disease." The mosquito must bite an infected person, then bite an uninfected person within a limited time period, or the disease is not transmitted. Thus, dengue fever is very rare in rural circumstances. The disease simply fades out as the transmission means are not possible amoung widely spaced populations. In the city, dengue fever quickly can become epidemic or endemic.
So, there is a lot of gray - to me - in the way that "controlled development" is done. Unquestionably, people everywhere deserve healthy safe living conditions. Some of the proposed solutions, so far, seem to substitute one problem for a neater appearing solution that brings other, perhaps unforeseen, problems. Often, the fast solution isn't quite the improvement hoped for.
steve in Merida 15 years ago
A few sidelights about some of the rustic or quaint qualities of the Yucatan: Controlled development the Yucatan may ultimately be the best way forward into the 20'th century for many Yucatecans. A recent research study reported a number of troubling statistics for the Yucatan, showing just how far behind the Yucatan is from the rest of Mexico, and describing the need for improvements in public health and the economy.
Households with no Toilet or Latrine: Yucatan 25% vs. 7% - 15% for the rest of Mexico
Working Population earning less than $4 USD per day: Yucatan 23% vs. 7% - 16% for the rest of Mexico.
Population older than 15 yr illiterate or with incomplete primary education: Yucatan 40% vs. 24%-44% for the rest of Mexico (Michoacan area ranked highest here)
Households with no sewage system: Yucatan 41% vs. 20% - 37% for the rest of Mexico.
Average prevalence of Salmonella in Retail Meat: Yucatan 59% vs. 14% - 30% for the rest of Mexico.
Average prevalence of Salmonella in diarrheal episodes: Yucatan 16% vs. 6% - 13% in the rest of Mexico.
Average prevalence of Salmonella in asymptomatic kindergartners: Yucatan 11% vs. 2% - 4% for the rest of Mexico.
What do you readers think?
The low literacy rates and relatively high % of workers earning
Carlos de la Barrera 15 years ago
To the readers who think that Merida and overall Mexico is too American you are totally right. Just think that Mexico is becoming South USA or an extension of USA without a border(someday in the future we all know it will be erased). Something like the next American bunch of States. Someday Mexico is going to have dollar currency and more American expats moving here running from expensive life in the USA. As an Americanized city Merida will not be the exeption and the American influence here will grow more and more until there will not be more space for the next USA like mall that Yucatecos now embrace so much like a big playground. It is call progress as we all know and it is a constant fact. To the expats who do not want to see such an American influence you most move very south like to Brazil, Peru or Bolivia. I know people from Mexico living there that they do not like the American influence so much and they move very south. Believe me that there you will not see monster stores such like wallmart and there less people speak English also. What you will see is a lot of Brazilian influence being Brazil the biggest economy in South America. In Mexico we still are North America because below of Mexico is Central America. The American influence in Mexico basically is due to its geographical location.
CasiYucateco 15 years ago
Someone commented on the obvious wealth and sources. A lot of Mexicans have moved to Merida from DF. These are upper-class type folks with piles of money. Mom and the kids live in 'safe' Yucatan, and dad commutes weekly (if very rich) or monthly (for those down on their luck) back and forth to Mexico City where he works.
I've also met Columbians - students who have been sent to live in Merida more or less permanently - to escape violence there. And some from other areas of the world.
For the very rich, Merida is valued for its safety and tranquility, even though their mass movement to the White City attracts a few criminals too. (Several high-profile crimes were committed by guys who went from DF to Merida to "rob someone rich" in the past couple of years.) And the burgeoning growth is creating its own set of problems, reducing some of the tranquility.
So, retired or wealthy Americans, working Mexicans (with money), wealthy foreigners from around the world, plus those with "connections" to "activities" that are less than admirable are all part of the mix. BUT....
Merida has economic powerhouses aside from those:
1) It is the education center of all of SE Mexico, without a doubt.
2) It is one of the premier health care centers of all of SE Mexico.
3) The abundance of water has led to more farming and livestock activities (chickens, pigs, even some cattle ranching).
4) There are a number of quite large maquiladoras (sp?) and many many smaller ones. Larger ones employ a thousand or more people per shift.
5) It is a main shipping hub for Mexico as the Port of Progresso provides access to the world of industry.
So, besides just the type of people moving to Merida, there is innate economic activity. Merida has been a leading city in the SE area of Mexico for a couple hundred years.
Mitch 15 years ago
Bar the door Mary! We ain't seen nuthin yet.
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