I’ve got a story about the construction standards in Yucatan, Mexico. I’m an industrial designer by education and I’ve done a lot of construction in my life as well. So when I got down here, I decided that I was going to do my own drawings and do my own general contracting for the property I purchased. So I asked my lawyer what I needed for building permit.
He said, “Don’t worry about it.”
So I didn’t worry about it. Almost exactly one year later, we were still doing heavy construction (you can see everything going on from the street) and somebody from city hall showed up and said, “Where’s your building permit?”
I panicked. I called my attorney again and explained what happened and he said, “Don’t worry about it.”
The next day I had permit that was good for a year. My attorney is an ex-mayor and one of the reasons why he’s an attorney is because he knows how city hall works. If I had gone down to city hall and tried to do whatever I had to do, I would probably have been three days in various lines until I got to the right line.
This was 10 years ago. I think they may have tried to upgrade the system, but I never had a building inspector come and say, “Okay, that’s not the code,” or anything like that.
Both engineers and architects here typically supervise. They not only do the drawings and design, they also act as general manager of the construction. There are half a dozen who I know that they’re really ethical and they try to deliver the best job possible, both from the design standpoint and the execution standpoint.
Because of my background I felt that I could do it myself. I worked with the plumbers, electricians and masons.
While designing a second floor on the house, the mason said, “We have to make this a little fatter here to support everything.” It was very informal way of doing it. It was all done by his experience rather than by calculations.
In Merida and in Cancun, they’re trying to be a little bit more professional, particularly in Cancun, which is very vulnerable to hurricanes, so they are attempting to make their construction standards more rigorous. I don’t think everybody’s first thoughts are “let’s make this very good,” that is, until another hurricane comes in and knocks down stuff that is substandard.
Basically, everything here in the Yucatan is constructed with concrete block. You cross the border into Belize and everything is wood, which I don’t understand. I can almost count on my one hand the wooden structures I know in northern Yucatan. The Belizeans and the English came and took all the good wood in Yucatan,. That’s a part of Yucatan history with the Caste War and the British supplying guns from Belize to the Mayans in exchange for hardwood. The Caste War was, in very general terms, the last uprising of the Mayans against the Hispanics. A lot of the furniture that ended up in England in Victorian times either was from Belize or southern Yucatan.