While many of the Maya have jobs in Merida, and commute an hour each way daily, most stay in the villages with self- sufficient economies. On my weekend there, I asked more questions about costs of living, as did they about Isla and the US. I was with folks that make more than the minimum wage, so they talked openly about what other family members making the minimum do to make do.
The daily minimum wage is 23 pesos and that is what orchard workers make. They also get to eat all the fruit they want and are given space for small gardens, to raise radishes and carrots for market. They trap rabbits and roast them. But the radish and carrot patches also buy meat so they can give their families the 23 pesos a day, mostly for shoes and school for the kids. A good pair of shoes in the state of Yucatan can be purchased for 50 pesos or less.
The workers sleep in hammocks in the fruit trees, with tarps above them. Is is an easy life? No. But their wives raise turkeys to feed the kids, free range turkeys fed corn they have grown, and sell those, too. The turkeys and a couple chickens produce eggs and more chickens. These are folks that won't even realize a global recession has hit them. Sure, there will be commuting workers who might loose their city jobs. They will shuck corn to take to the tortilla mill and feed their siste's poultry' and be fed. Everyone has clothes to last a few years, it seems.
Common consumer goods are priced by the region. I forgot my 15 peso Walmart tooth brush on Isla Mujeres and picked one up for six pesos in a corner store. A Colgate Triple Action brush.
To a person, the Maya, and most Mexicans for that matter, think Americans are incredibly rich. I was open with them, saying what my Social Security is, what my pension is, and what my health insurance costs. A stagger $6,500 pesos a month...more under the new conversion rate. My bank trust costs, the cost of cleaning my apartments, a staggering wage for them at 200 pesos, the two electric bills, two cable bills, the Mexican taxes paid, the US and Ohio taxes paid, etc. They all concluded I am no better off than a simple worker on Isla. Add to that, the world financial crisis and they became concerned for me.
The visit gave me thought to better plan my "victory garden." Have seeds, will survive! And at least know that the veggies are good and fresh. Bean and rice prices are supported by the government.
It felt so bleak when I was home in Ohio this summer that I bought a Pocket Fisherman. I really did! Eriso look at it, snickered and then suggested I could join the Sunday bunch that brings buckets of fish for him to clean and fry. Well, maybe not a bucket, Eriso. But I can pass some time on a ponga and contribute to the cause. Ha!
One can fantasize survival while watching the daily news. It is comforting to know that I have a roof and resources beyond what dollars can buy. I have some Mexican friends who now understand our economy, and I theirs.