Category Archives: Small Business in Mexico

El Tortillero

Before we went on our trip to visit my family, my sister-in-law T. asked if my son would help her out on weekends at her tortilleria. Saturdays and Sundays, she averages 8 buckets of masa (dough) each day. Some days, her pistoleras, the ladies who crank those hand-pressed tortillas out, arrive late or not at all. (The word pistoleras literally women wielding pistols or in this case prensas–tortilla presses.) Their tardiness or absence puts T into a bind since she has to fire up a comal and make tortillas herself instead of packing them up and receiving the money.  Because this has been happening regularly, my son said he’d be the money handler.

Since we’ve returned from our trip, he is now working 6 days a week at the tortilleria with T. Weekdays, he works 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. for the lunch rush with Thursdays off. On the weekends, he’s there from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. or so. 

He seems to be enjoying working with his aunt, and she with him, it appears. She has some pan dulce y leche (sweet bread and milk) ready for him every morning. He’s adjusted his schedule so that he is up early for some computer fun before heading to work, then naps in the afternoon. Plus, there’s a little trickle of income for his own use that sweetens the deal and a kilo of tortillas, a container of salsa and some beans every day for dinner.

I enjoy hearing about his day. Customer service always provides some interesting anecdotes. Plus the pistoleras themselves chatter away as they pat and flatten and flip the tortillas.

The other day, my son came home with another one of those strange health beliefs that abound here. This one was that you can’t drink coke and atole (corn drink) together because one is black and one is white. The colors apparently clash in your stomach and make you ill.

Honestly, I don’t know anyone who would want to drink coke and atole together. It sounds like a horrible combination and sure to upset your stomach no matter what color the mixture happens to be. I actually think this belief has more to do with the hot/cold indigenous categorizations. You wouldn’t ingest something cold and hot together. This is why water is often offered al tiempo (room-temperature) with meals or on hot days.

My son also brings us the goings-on from Moroleon. The tortilleria is the hub of gossip mongers. We learned about the sudden death of our neighbor, el plomero (the plumber) from my son. The guy had gotten into a fight, sustained injuries and didn’t go to the doctor. It seems there was some internal bleeding and he died as a result.

Not all the stories are so tragic. One day my son was dispatching the tortillas and a girl about his own age paid him too much money. Before he could give her change, she ran off flustered. All the pistoleras hooted at that! Remember, my good-looking son is a Lady Killer! Later the girl’s mom came back and picked up the change with the young lady in tow, red as a tomato.

It sounds like my son has just pulled up to the house with his bike. Time for me to find out what the latest news from town!

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Filed under Employment, Small Business in Mexico

Internet Saga

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If you remember, after quite a quest, we managed to get internet service at our house in La Yacata. The first month, it worked like a dream. Thus, my decision to move my office from The Little House in Sunflower Valley to La Yacata.

Then came the time to pay for the second month of service. We headed to OXXO, which seems like it just might make banks obsolete, to pay the bill. And the next day, our internet service tanked. Instead of getting upload/download speeds of between 8 to 10 Mbps, they hovered at .08 or less. Nothing would load.

We thought perhaps it was a one-day deal. Maybe there were some adjustments being made to the service. Maybe a glitch in the system. After all, the month before had gone without a hitch. Only, the bad stats continued and continued and continued. I canceled a week of classes.

We called the service support line. After all sorts of “troubleshooting” that we had already done, the service representative hung up on us. So the next day, we tried again. This time the service representative admitted that since we were officially outside the coverage area, there wasn’t really much he could do to help us.

So we went to the place where we had bought our modem and requested a service technician. We were told he’d be out around 4 pm to check things out. I canceled my classes again. At about 4:30, the service technician called and said he thought the problem was that our payment hadn’t been processed. I knew that was a bunch of hoo-ha since I had received an email confirmation of the payment. He said he’d look into it and call back. He didn’t bother to come out to La Yacata.

So if the service technician wasn’t interested in coming to us, we’d take the modem to them. The next day we boxed it up and went back to the office. Their solution was to wait for the service technician to come from Morelia and have him take the modem home with him. Moroleon is officially outside the coverage area. The fact that the internet works in certain areas is apparently a fluke that this office was capitalizing on. So in theory, connecting the modem in a coverage area would “reset” the internet and allow us again to have usable service.

It took two days for our modem to take its trip to Morelia and back. The result was that yes, for a while it did what it was supposed to do. And yet, there were sporadic outages and low service periods which unfortunately often coincided with my teaching hours.

Some research on the company shows that overall the internet service only rates 3 out of 5 stars and that even though they promise nation-wide coverage, that’s not necessarily the case. There had to be something better out there.

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Filed under Cultural Challenges, Economics, Employment, Small Business in Mexico, Teaching

Sonia Diaz Consulting

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My name is Sonia Diaz. My education includes a three-year university degree in Human Resources. Hence, my Licenciada designation. My husband is Canadian and our daughter is 13. My husband and our daughter are my inspiration, my rock, my teachers.

I have been consulting for several years. The information you will find here is based on actual experience on the many topics I cover. I process visas every day. According to the staff of the various offices, I process by more visas, INAPAM, Seguro Popular, drivers’ licenses and citizenship than any other individual in San Miguel.

I work closely with staff at various government offices such as INM, (immigration); State driver’s license office; DIF for INAPAM; Presidencia (city hall); Seguro Popular (healthcare); SAT (taxation) and many others

I work both in San Miguel de Allende and Mexico City and soon Puerto Vallarta. I can also provide most Immigration services throughout Mexico.

Mexico’s greatest consistency is inconsistency. Working relationships are very important in Mexico and they often make a difference in the cost of items, level of service, including outright denial, and timing. Personally, I have friends at every government office at which I interact with. It makes the process so much easier. Bureaucracy is rampant. For example, opening a bank account may take 2 hours and there may be 20 pages of documents. In registering a vehicle if one document is missing or one is not perfect you will be turned away. This includes the need for the original bill of sale to be kept with the car for its’ life and signed off with the exact right words in Spanish by each seller. Every facet of government process is like this.

The visa process starts at a Mexican consulate outside of Mexico, often requiring an appointment. Please be prepared. 

Consulates are fairly consistent but not totally in that some want original financial statements and others printouts; some want a marriage license and children’s birth certificates, etc. Once in Mexico, there is a process at your local Immigration office that may take 8 weeks or more. If one makes a mistake with the bank payment, for example, your funds are lost. If one when entering Mexico does not obtain the proper form or makes errors in the process starting over at a consulate may happen. Plan to be in Mexico until the process is completed which as noted may be 8 weeks or more.

Bringing in a lot of household items with a moving company is expensive and may be subject to tax. Mexico is a country of 123 million people and most items are available here and some better suited for the climate and lifestyle. There is always Amazon.com even in Mexico.

Those who are tourists or temporary residents may bring a foreign plated vehicle. A permanent resident may not.

Do not assume a lawyer is always the solution in obtaining assistance. There are few truly knowledgeable Immigration lawyers. Some provide the service with limited experience as they know expats will pay a higher fee than what they normally charge Mexicans. I, for example, process more visas than anyone in San Miguel and likely more than most anyone in Mexico. Lawyers have called me for advice. The same applies to citizenship as clients come to me after their “lawyer” took their money and sent them on a wild goose chase. I also process more Seguro Popular healthcare memberships, INAPAM senior’s discount cards, driver’s licenses vs anyone in San Miguel de Allende.

Come to Mexico knowing the pace is slower; the infrastructure may often not be to your expectations; you are a viewed by many as having an abundance even though you may not; mañana means not today and not necessarily tomorrow; getting angry at workers and especially in government offices while may be what you wish to do, it never works. Enjoy the beauty and the food and the spirit of Mexicans while remembering half the country is very poorly educated and live in poverty. The minimum wage is $5 US for a 9-hour day.

If you really, really want to help a family, provide all the requirements (on your own or in concert with others) to send their child to a private school. Education is the key to Mexico’s future and you will change not only that child’s life dramatically but also the parents and siblings,

move to mexico bible

I’ve co-authored the book The Move to Mexico Bible with Beverly Wood now available on Amazon to help those interested in making the move to Mexico.

I can be contacted by:

CELL: (044) 415-106-1499

EMAIL: SONIANGEL32@hotmail.com

WEBSITE: www.soniadiaz.mx  

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/www.soniadiaz.mx

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Filed under Small Business in Mexico

Buying plants in Mexico

Mexico prohibits the import of seeds and plants from other countries. Which means Amazon and Burpee Seeds do NOT ship to Mexico. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds does but customs can sometimes hold the shipment up for months. Other online places to find seeds in Mexico are La Semillería and Rancho Los Molinos.

My favorite place to buy plants is at the weekly tianguis (fleamarket). Usually, I can score a coffee tin or two with plants for under 20 pesos. You can also buy tierra para plantas (feedbags full of soil) from certain vendors. This is usually dirt scooped up from the base of el acebuche (Olea europaea), La ensina (Quercus ilex) or uña de gato (Uncaria tomentosa)trees which is particularly porous and makes a good mix on top of the regular old black dirt. This is what Mama Sofia collected and sold to supplement her income in Cerano.

Seeds packets are most often found at places that sell animal feed, maicería or Alimentos para animales or forraje. The packaged variety is limited but every now and then you can find exactly what you were looking for. I spent 6 solid months looking for semillas de jamaica (hibiscus flower seeds) until I finally found some. They’ve sprouted and I’m excited to see how they grow! These are the best places to get your corn, pumpkin and bean seeds by the kilo or puño (fistful).

You might also try stores that sell productos de jardinería (gardening products). You’ll find macetas (flowerpots) and some general insecticides here. Macetas are also sometimes sold off the back of trucks that periodically come through town offering 3 for $100 sets.

Viveros (plant nurseries) sell live plants but it’s a pot shot what you might find. The other day we were hot to get a banana tree and went to 4 different viveros before we found one. We also lucked out and found a new barrel cactus to replace the one that putrified in the last rainy season.

Sometimes you might come across a tricycle vendor and I encourage you to stop and take a look. You might just find exactly the plant you are looking for.

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Filed under Alternative Farming, Small Business in Mexico