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How we lost our bit of paradise to someone’s greed – PART 3

Decades of life in a Mexican village ends with land rape
by Steve McKee on December 1, 2009

The side patio at Casa Patricia - 1988

The side patio at Casa Patricia - 2006

When it all went wrong, it was mind-boggling that someone could get away with something this wrong, something so totally unethical. But there they were, trucks and bulldozers, filling in our oceanfront with land fill. The bastards knew just what they were doing, too. It was all part of a massive effort to callously transform several hundred yards of Mexico coastline and make themselves millions of extra dollars in profit. For months and months trucks loaded with boulders rumbled by the front door while barges with huge dredging pumps created massive sand bars to fill in the little harbor that was my parents’ view.

2 0 0 2 - a charming little harbor

Some of the other owners along the beach banded together to try to stop the land rape, but it was no use, like trying to stop the tide by yelling at it. Big money had set this terrible thing in motion and the beachfront owners were suddenly invisible and utterly powerless to stop it.

2 0 0 6 - the bay gets filled in

This was all happening in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, the sleepy Mexican fishing village near Puerto Vallarta that was the winter home of my parents for two decades. In previous years we watched La Cruz slowly grow with manageable bite-size projects that you could easily wrap your mind around, like a new gas station being added by the highway or new condos going in on the edge of town.

2 0 0 8 - a dry dock and service yard is the view

There had been talk about how a super marina would be built that would take over our little bay, a marina that would be the finest in all the so-called “Mexican Riviera.”

We could deal with a big marina as our view if we had to, but then the developers did something appalling. They decided to also add a whole new strip of land by filling in the shoreline with a block-wide swath of new dirt and sand that would, in effect, move the existing oceanfront owners a block inland and give themselves acres of oceanfront property. It was shocking in its scope and sheer audacity. The outraged homeowners had futile meetings with officials in which nothing resulted. A rich developer from Montana (or was it Wyoming?) was said to be behind the project. So some good ol’ boy was using the feeble Mexico legal system to have his way. Quite a combo. (Hey, I like Mexico. But if anybody gets to call the legal system there feeble it’s the landowners of La Cruz.)

In the early days of the land rape the plans were very secret. We knew some of these new lots would have six story condominium buildings that blocked water views and destroyed privacy. Part of our view would be lost to a tall condo building, but part of it would remain partly open over a dry-dock area (an asphalt parking lot where boats would be worked on.) Pretty terrible after years of listening to gentle waves hiss below our patio.

Because my dad passed away in 2003, he never had to experience the sight of his Mexico dream spot being ruined. Luckily my parents were able to enjoy a good twenty year run in their favorite little corner of the world, unlike some of the newer owners further down the beach. Because our lot was wider than most, we could now choose to “get the hell out of Dodge” and sell to a speculator who would surely be fond of the extra width of our lot for its development potential. Our proximity to the spiffiest marina in all the “Mexican Riviera” would then be an asset, at least in this regard.

These days my mother has limited mobility and the idea of living alone in Mexico is not nearly as attractive to her as the idea of cashing out of her now-tainted properties. So for over two years we have attempted to sell her two houses and vacant lot. Buyers were not hard to find (the recession is not so bad in Mexico) but problems would arise when we tried to legally establish the exact location of our south property line, the one abutting the marina. Because of this problem, the exact size of the property could not be agreed upon by buyer and seller. Our first escrow failed because of this, and our current escrow has been stalled for many months while surveyors haggled.

I recently floated the idea that we just split the difference between the two stated lot size estimates and adjust the price accordingly. Hmm, not bad, everyone seemed to say.

Then, just last night, a phone call came from Manuel our Mexican attorney and for the first time in a year he was truly buoyant, cracking jokes and saying that things were finally going extremely well with the buyer’s attorney. My head swam. This would give the McKee family the financial boost we had been anticipating for so long. Manuel said we’ll probably be closing the deal the first or second week in December, which, aside from the financial boost, had the added perk of requiring a trip by me to Puerto Vallarta during one of the most pleasant months of the year down there. Hey, I love experiencing Christmas ambience in the tropics, even the noisy parades honoring the Virgin of Guadalupe that block traffic on the Malecon. It’s all good, especially when there happens to be some financial relief attached. I experienced some of the most sustained euphoria of my life for about the next fifteen minutes, a glorious state to revel in. My happiness peaked as I arrived at a McKee family dinner at my mom’s and I described the great turn of events. And then someone took a cyncal point of view about a minor issue the sellers were asking about and I found I had to defend our handling of it and,  just like that, I was back on the ground. So my fragile bubble of perfect bliss had popped, but we still had a good deal and my mom could move on.

So the McKees are doing what we can to find a happy ending to this nightmare tale of getting screwed over by evil. We’ll see how it goes.

The two casas and our vacant lot as seen from the beach.

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