The year that COVID-19 took the world by storm is behind us. Vaccines are rolling out to medical professionals around the world, and in some countries like Israel to the general population. We have a glimmer of hope that we will once again be able to demonstrate physical affection to our friends and non-resident family members, while I know I hope and pray that we have all learned a bit about stewardship of our environment and of our own mental and emotional balance.
This New Year’s Eve in Mazatlán this year was oh-so-very-different from the normal, and yet in many ways was so much the same. There were no municipal celebrations nor official fireworks or drones, at least that I know of. Among the foreign resident community, most everyone I know stayed home and at most gathered in small groups, as did most of my local friends.
Younger people, however, have been partying all week if not all month. Busloads of tourists filled the port, and many of the hotels offered New Year’s buffets with music and fireworks. While the malecón was quieter overnight than a usual New Year’s Eve, when we awoke to take a walk this morning we found a lady urinating on the sidewalk behind our house and loads of litter and trash floating on the maleconcito and in the lagoon.
Greg and I enjoyed New Year’s Eve with our son and his girlfriend via online video. Just before midnight we took our champagne and my camera and tripod out to take a few photos of the Golden Zone fireworks from the beach in front of our house. What was nice is that we were all alone on our beach, yet were able to enjoy a spectacularly clear night. I include a few photos and hope you’ll enjoy them. They are fireworks displays from the hotels, by and large. Families around town, of course, also let them off during the evening and overnight. Click on any photo to enlarge it or to view a slideshow.
I wish all our readers and friends a 2021 filled with health, joy and renewed connections. May we love and care for ourselves, each other and our planet with enhanced conviction.
May the joy and hope of this holiday season fill each of you and help keep you healthy and happy throughout the year!
Today on Christmas Eve Day we went out to Colonia San Antonio. Having handed out chickens and food every Christmas Eve for nearly 25 years, it just didn’t feel like the holidays without it. We gave out some toys to the kids, some clothing and household items to the adults, and chatted with some of the friends we’ve made there over the years, including Don José and Maestra Zulema. We got to know Juan Manuel’s new neighbor, Lucero, who has kindly agreed to store our supplies in her fenced yard that’s guarded by watch dogs during our construction process.
Lucero and her home
Maestra Zulema, leader of the invasion
Don José, our old friend
This week we made great progress: the concrete floor was poured, and the workers began to build the cinder block walls. It is wonderful to be able to walk inside the house and feel the size of the rooms and picture how it will be! Very exciting stuff thanks to all of you!!!
Block going up and flooring in
Inside the house you can now see the bathroom and kitchen location/plumbing
Block is about thigh high
Panoramic so you can see how small the lot is and how tiny the house
After reviewing this week’s progress and paying Zata and his helper, we went over to wish Don Rodolfo and Juan Manuel a Merry Christmas. The horrible news this week was that Don Rodolfo had a mild stroke. He is a bit paralyzed on the left side of his mouth and in his left arm/hand and leg. He was lucky, for sure. He went to a neurologist for assessment and has medicines, and we are hoping to get him to a cardiologist right after Christmas. Below is their beautiful greeting of well wishes and appreciation to each of you:
This week we are commencing our second week of construction. Thus far Zata has been doing an excellent job. He sends us photos of his work on a daily basis, as well as photos of all deliveries and invoices. That system has been working great and hopefully will continue that way. The foundation and underground portion of the plumbing are in, as you can see from the photos—note the pipes for both the kitchen and the bathroom. Next will be installing the platforms for the walls and putting in the floor.
Jorge and Greg went to the job site on Friday to review the work and pay Zata. The architect went by today (Monday) to check on the quality and accuracy of the work. Late last week we opened an account at a construction supply store that makes deliveries to the job site every day in order to prevent theft. However, we are having to get resourceful as some days the supply shop doesn’t have what we need, so we have to go looking elsewhere. But, so far so good. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.
To date we have received donations from 41 wonderfully generous people for a total of almost 72,000 pesos. In addition this week we received an in-kind donation of a toilet and bathroom sink, as well as a few smaller items such as a toilet paper holder, towel bars and shelves. Bless you all! Juan Manuel and Don Rodolfo will be over the moon to own such high quality ceramic items!
The lot on which we are building the house is very small. However, it is in an excellent location within the invasion, with green space and a nice view. The neighbors also seem kind. Here is a short video of the location:
Zata is telling us that he is hoping to have construction of the house completed in six weeks, which means four more to go. Fingers crossed! Thank you all for your holiday generosity! Your caring is making a huge difference in the lives of these two gentlemen. Please get the word out to your friends and neighbors; together we can do this. Here is the link to the initial article with information on how to donate.
We have broken ground on the home for Juan Manuel, folks! Zata, the construction worker, began work with his assistant on Monday. On Tuesday Don Rodolfo visited the site and Zata reported that tears of joy welled in his eyes! You all are giving the most marvelous Christmas present to Juan Manuel and his father! Bless you now and forever! Below are photos of the first three days of work:
Let us hope that things can continue to go well. Zata and his helper have found the dirt to be very hard to dig, thanks to the lack of rain we’ve had this year. I pray they both stay healthy and continue with the excitement for the project that they are currently showing.
In my last post I shared with you Zata’s bid for labor. We now also have two different bids for materials. We are still in negotiations with the providers. One has everything and is our best choice, and they’ve promised to discount their bid for us. The second was a bit cheaper, but that is because they don’t have all the materials we need. Thus, I have created an updated budget, below. I am trusting the materials budget will go down once we hear back from the supplier.
To date we have collected nearly 70,000 pesos. As with any construction project, I am sure we will have some overruns, so it will be very good if we can have a bit of cushion money-wise. And, as I mentioned, theft of supplies and equipment is a major potential problem of which Zata is very aware.
I trust you are as happy as I am with this news. I know Juan Manuel and Rodolfo are glowing with joy. Please keep getting the word out to your friends and neighbors. You can share with them the original post with information on how to donate, or any of my progress updates. Together we can do this! And, hopefully, if all goes well, we will have workable plans and a system in place to build further simple yet safe homes for those in most dire need in our beloved Mazatlán.
Bless you all for your big hearts and your willingness to help those in need! We now have 34 donors and 63,645 pesos to build a house (cinder block room) for Juan Manuel and his father! Our core team has grown, and we hope to break ground the middle of this week. Thank you and please keep getting the word out to your friends and neighbors!
This week we were able to make substantial progress, which very much relieved me prior to everyone stopping work for the holiday season.
The final design
Front view of the home
Earlier, now out of date, plan
Two architects, Sergio Wong and Jesús Iván Moreno Jiménez, have donated their time to produce plans for us. Please join me in thanking them for this volunteer service! Their work is important, as we want a very basic one-room home that will be pleasant and secure to live in, and the plan we put together will hopefully become a prototype for future simple homes for other needy families. The final design is 258 square feet or 24 square meters and includes an indoor bathroom and kitchen—both a change from the original plans which had both outdoors, but something we feel is important. It will be built of cinder block rather than brick, as that is both cheaper and resistant to salitre, the salt staining that is so common here. The roof will be concrete, and the flooring simple outdoor tile. The home will have front and back doors, a window facing the street and a long, narrow window in the bathroom for light. Water will initially come from a hose but will be plumbed in hopes of city water one day. The one room is a “stub” or “pie de casa” which can easily be added onto in the future if good fortune strikes.
We have found a new albañil or construction worker, Zata (real name Edward), who is very experienced, seems quite capable, disciplined and committed to this charity project. Let us hope.
I invited our compadre, Jorge Hernández, who has 30+ years of experience in building and maintaining homes, to a meeting with Yolanda, Zata, Greg and myself, with the architect attending by phone. To me this meeting was crucially important.
Jorge pointed out a couple of things that will cost a few pesos now but will be crucial for Juan Manuel’s future, such as running 4-inch drainage pipe under the floor that can easily be connected to a sewage system once there is one in the community; slanting the floor slightly so rain water will run off (invasions are notorious for flooding); and adding in connections for possible future ceiling fans.
Greg’s input was invaluable in making sure that doorways would be wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair and that the bathroom would be ample enough to accommodate turning around in one. While Juan Manuel is currently on crutches, he may someday be in a chair due to his health challenges, and if this plan is a prototype for future projects, accessibility is a key issue.
Jorge has kindly agreed to volunteer as project supervisor during construction. I am very grateful Jorge, with his experience and expertise, has joined the team! He is recovering from a horrible bout of COVID, so we must be mindful of his energy.
Yolanda, Zata, Jorge
Zata, Jorge and Greg
Jorge and yours truly
Sadly, we are still waiting on updated materials lists from the architects so that we can get bids and update our budget. While they told us we’d have these by Friday, now they tell us it may not be till the new year.
We have received Zata’s bid on his labor, and I post that below. I am thrilled that he is ready to start work tomorrow, Monday 14 December. He will begin by excavating and then installing the septic tank. A key issue during construction will be preventing theft. Both Zata, Jorge and Maestra Zulema, from Colonia San Antonio, cautioned us about the high degree of theft of building materials. We have planned to order only a week’s worth of supplies at a time, and to store them at Juan Manuel’s current home, so that Zata can pick them up there on a daily basis. Hopefully that will minimize our exposure to theft.
If any of you know someone who could donate cinder block, that would be an enormous help. Also needed soon will be rebar, concrete and, of course, the septic tank.
What else can I tell you? As you know, the home will be built in Colonia San Antonio, an invasión or squatter community here in town. The lot was gifted to Juan Manuel and his father. It is in the section of the colony run by Maestra Zulema, who we know well from the Chicken Breakfast. She assures us that Juan Manuel and his father have all their paperwork in order to build. However, building in any squatter community involves risk. No one owns title to the land on which they build until, at some later date they hope, the municipality awards it to them. Such is common practice for people living at poverty levels here in Mazatlán and throughout Latin America, but I want everyone who donates to understand the situation. Juan Manuel and Don Rodolfo have been paying electricity and water, which provides them legal protection for their lot, but they do not legally own it outright despite having paperwork that says they do. The colony has hundreds if not thousands of squatter homes, so there is strength in numbers.
There are several options for donating money or materials to help with this project:
Click the “Donate” link in the right-hand column on this VidaMaz.com website, and pay via PayPal.
Go to any OXXO and donate to BanCoppel account 4169-1603-7041-0699 (photo below) in the name of Yolanda Medina.
Merry Christmas to those who celebrate! Blessed Hannukah and Kwanzaa! May 2021 bring us much more health, sanity and joy, as well as a new and much-needed home for Juan Manuel and Don Rodolfo. No doubt you all have good karma for your help with this project!