Costa Maya Newsletter > Archived Newsletters > Sept 2006

Costa Maya Newsletters: of primary interest to property owners on the Costa Maya, - Rio Indio - Placer - Uvero - Punta Herrera - Xcalak and other points along the coast

***********************Newsletter: Sept 15, 2006**************************


* Message board for Costa Maya Neighbors
* Topographical surveys
* US Consulate Meeting in Mahahaul
* Notices from the US Consulate
* Sea Grape / Uva de Playa
* New development on the Costa Maya and surrounding area
* Cruise News
* Mortgages on the Costa Maya
* Learn Spanish on-line
* Hispanic Heritage Month
* Spotlight on your Neighbors

Hi Neighbors,
One of the interesting things about doing a newsletter is that you are aware of all the little bits and pieces of knowledge floating around that could be put to a good use. During the month if I hear something interesting, I grab it and write it down, then pass it along to all of you. Previous to coming to the beach I worked for a computer company that created Knowledgebase software. Basically, that is software that collects bits and pieces of knowledge at the time it is being generated via question and answer process and then makes it available to people the next time they have a similar question. Its an interesting process really, and requires a great search engine to make it work. I've had a lot of people email me and ask questions that have been answered in previous newsletter so I've added Google Search to the Mayan Beach Garden Website. There is a link to the search on the newsletter archive page. If you are looking for something in a past newsletter archive, its a lot quicker than trying to read all the summaries. Forums are another way to collect knowledge. When someone asks a question and someone answers it in the forum, you've taken tacit knowledge (the experiences and knowledge filed away in your head) and turned it into a knowledge article that can therefore be used by others. Its a cool concept and the internet is the perfect place to communicate with people you didn't even know were out there experiencing the same thing that you are experiencing!

You can find this issue of the newsletter and archives of past e-newsletters at this location:


The response to the Costa Maya Message Board has been outstanding. Please read the postings for the last two months. Both the information in the Forum on FM3s and that on Fide Camisos vs. Corporations have been very interesting and educational if not commiserating! I will leave the topics from the last two months on the forum and you can continue to read and add to the discussions. This weeks topic is based on the article below that was taken from MexicoCaribbean's on-line newsletter and the experiences of Denis Couture who owns property here in the Coast Maya. He discusses some issues around having your property legally surveyed. If you have recently had your property surveyed, maybe you can give some advise, list some references, suggested resources, mistakes you've learned from or any other information you can offer that will help your neighbors -- and of course ask questions of others and perhaps someone can offer up advise. Thanks in advance for supporting the neighborhood! Below are some links to some of the topics that have some discussions started.
General forum
Topographical Survey topic:
FM3 discussion:
Fide Camiso vs. Corporations:
Topic: Sapphire Beach neighbors

NOTE: Last month we had some problems on the Forum with Spammers. I have now had to require registration to post to any forum that Spammers post to. Sorry for the inconvenience!


The following was written by Denis Couture from his Mexico Caribbean e-Newsletter. He kindly agreed to let me share it with you.

"Did you ever wonder if the property you were shown by Joe Realtor is in fact the property you ended up buying? I know I did. There is a way you can know for sure that the property being advertised for sale is the one you’re buying. This is done through a topographical survey performed by the office of Catastro. Catastro is the official office for the county that determines the boundaries and marks the corners of the property in the field. Without having Catastro do a survey, you have no way of knowing what you’re buying other than to trust the realtor or seller that’s showing you the property. Is a survey always done as part of purchasing property? Absolutely not, unless you ask for it and pay for it. Most uninformed buyers assume that because it’s standard in the U. S. for a survey to be done prior to purchasing property, that it’s also the case in Mexico. You see, in the U. S. most of the time a bank holds the mortgage. The bank requires that a survey be done before it loans money to purchase a property. In the Costa Maya, where most deals are cash deals, there’s no requirement that a survey be done since there’s no lending institution involved. So, it behooves the buyer to have one done prior to purchasing property. Also, don’t assume that a title insurance company requires it either. You would think they would before issuing title insurance. If a survey is not performed, the title company will simply issue the policy with an “exception” stating that without a survey no claim can be made against the insurance company in the event of a boundary dispute. Wow. And you thought you were protected against this, didn’t you? So, buyer beware. Before you purchase property have your attorney or some other contact, order a survey of the property and get a surveyor’s affidavit. The title company will also require this for the survey to be considered legitimate. On typical 20-25 meter lots, a survey should cost somewhere between $400 and $600 U. S. dollars. If you pay much more than this, your attorney or someone else may be profiting at your expense. One more thing about surveys. Unlike surveys in the U. S. where corner posts are usually marked with concrete bounds, those in Mexico are not. Unless you specifically ask (and pay extra), corner posts marking your property will be made of wood. These are typically a tree trunk no more than 3-4” in diameter and not much longer than 12” in depth (if that) driven into the ground. Guess what happens when a good storm surge comes along or someone decides to give it a good kick? You guessed it—it’s gone and so is the survey you just spent several hundred dollars on. Ask the surveyor to use “mojoneras,” usually concrete markers, sometimes poured in tubes. These will last longer than the wooden posts. You’ll pay a bit more, but it’s definitely worth it."

Note from Marcia: Last year when Wilma came -- most beachside markers in the area of Placer disappeared, so many of you will have to have your lot resurveyed. Make sure to request concrete markers. We just had the "T" markers used by TransCaribbean which all washed away. Also, if you have some more information on this topic that you would like to share, please post it on the Message Board .


I sent out an invite in early August to everyone on this mailing list about a meeting in Mahahual sponsored by the US Consulate. The meeting On Aug. 21, seemed at first to be a dry itinerary but turned out to be very informational. There was so much information given us, that I had a hard time taking all the notes. While the following information is for US citizens, you might all like to read it because there are some things about Mexican law and foreigners that apply to everyone. You should check with your own country's consulate for more information on some of these subjects.
Location of consulate offices - The Costa Maya is officially under the consulate in Merida. There is a consulate office in Cancun, but it is designed to service only Cancun. The same is true of an office in Cozumel. Any documents filed in those two offices are sent to Merida to be processed, so there is a built-in delay for getting documents returned. A new office is planned in Playa Del Carmen to service the Riviera Maya but no location has been announced. There is no consulate office in Chetumal and nothing is planned. Office hours in Merida are 7:30 - 12:30 Mon-Fri. It is a good idea to have an appointment before going.
Medicare and Social Security - Medicare and Medicaid do not cover medical costs incurred outside of the US. If you move to the US, you need to advise Social Security of your new address. You must fill out a change of address form and form SSA-21. All the forms can be found on Social Security's website at In order to receive benefits, you must receive them via direct deposit to a US or Mexican bank account. For more information and forms (FBU stands for Federal Benefits Unit)
Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative - starting in January of 2007, all persons entering the US via air will require a passport. That means that while you don't need it to come to Mexico, you will need it to get back into the US. The date for land crossings is 2008. Mexico may reciprocate, but the new law is US based.
Renewing a Passport if you are in Mexico - If you live in Mexico, you can renew an existing passport in the Cancun Consulate office but if you are a first time applicant or have lost your passport, you will have to go to Merida and apply in person.
Dual citizenship - Mexican law supports dual citizenship. If you become a Mexican citizen, you do not have to renounce your American Citizenship. You do not loose your US Social Security benefits. There are some benefits to having dual citizenship, like when opening a bank account and buying land. However, because you enter Mexico on a Mexican passport, if you are ever arrested in Mexico, you are arrested as a Mexican citizen and the US Consulate cannot give you support. Once you return to the US, you enter with a US passport and have all the rights and benefits of a US citizen.
Obtaining a US Visa - Often after staying here a few years you gain friends and acquaintances that you would like to come visit you in the US. Any Mexican citizen, who wants to visit the US, will need a visa. Visas are good for 10 years once they are issued, but any individual stay is limited to certain time limits. You must go to Merida to obtain a visa to visit the US. There are "brokers" who say they can get Visas for people, but the consulate representative advised against paying a third party when it is simple to get it directly from the consulate. Passports will be needed as well, but they must be obtained from Mexican agencies.
Death in Mexico - The representative from the consulate told us that it is important to decide what to do in case of a death. How the body is treated after death can determine many things, such as whether or not the body is cremated here or in the US. In Mexico, all deaths require an autopsy before a death certificate is issued. You must take the death certificate to Merida and they will create a Report of Death for an American Abroad. This will be needed for legal and financial purposes back in the US. If you know you have a terminal illness, it is good to register with the consulate in advance as they are the ones who inform the family. If you decide to ship the body to the US, you will need to pick a Funeral Home in the US to legally accept the body.
Arrests - If you are arrested, calling the US consulate will not get you out of jail. They are there to make sure your rights are protected and they can make sure that everything is legal. They do not get involved with whether or not something is right or wrong.
Land disputes - the US Consulate does not get involved in whether someone is right or wrong. They can only help influence regarding processes that seem to be stalled.
Legal documents - The consulate advises you NOT to carry your original passport. Bring copies, even of drivers license. Lock your passport in your hotel safe or home and just carry copies. Store things in separate places. If you loose your passport, you can't prove who you are without a copy. We had a guest here with that problem and they had to produce copies of the birth certificates and other legal documentation to prove who they were. It took them days and they spent several days in Merida taking care of these things.
Working with the police - If you are the victim of a crime, don't go directly to the consulate. You must first file a complaint with the local police in Mahahual. Make sure you get a copy of the report from them. Then go to the consulate ONLY if you feel that you are not being served by the police. You must have this report for them to do anything. They are not a policing agency. They can only use influence to make sure your case is being addressed.
PROFECO - If you wish to file a formal complaint against a merchant, this can be filed with PROFECO ( this is Mexico's federal consumer protection agency. PROFECO has the power to mediate disputes, investigate consumer complaints, order hearings, levy fines and sanctions. All complaints by US citizens are handled by PROFECO's English speaking office in Mexico city at 52-55-5211-1723 or via email at For more information, please see the PROFECO "attention to Foreigners" web page at Profeco. Please use this agency to report disputes. If after reporting issues you still feel you are not getting any response, please contact the Consulate. The US Consulate meets with Profeco on a regular basis to protect the consumer rights of US Citizens. You will need copies of any forms you have filled out. There is an office of PROFECO in Chetumal, but I'm not sure how much English is spoken there. Many of you have had some issues where you have paid for something and not received services. PROFECO is really a consumer protection agency. If your complaint is with a Professional (accountant, lawyer, or someone who offers services rather than goods) you might need to go to a Lawyer who handles criminal cases and file a criminal suite.

Consular Contact info: - consular information sheets on Mexico, Passport application/renewal forms and lots of other useful information. -Register your trip of residence abroad. If in the case of an emergency, they will have your information and know who to contact in the states. Its a good idea. US Consulate Merida's website - email address where US citizens can send questions, concerns, etc. to the consulate in Merida
Words of wisdom from the consulate - the reality of living in a foreign country is that things don't work the same as in the US.


If you would like to get email updates from the US Consulate in Merida, please let me know and I'll forward your email onto the consulate office in Merida. If you sign up on the US Consulate website (a good idea), you get EVERYTHING for all of Mexico, but not emails specific to the Yucatan office.

U.S. citizens who plan to vote in the upcoming mid-term elections on November 7, 2006 are urged to submit their voter registration and/or absentee ballot requests without delay. Use the Federal Post Card Application, available on-line from the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) website at

Each state has its own regulations and deadlines for registering and requesting absentee ballots. Your state may require receipt of your request as early as 30 days before the election. Check the FVAP website for guidance.

Many states now allow overseas voters to fax in their registration and absentee ballot requests. Some states will fax out blank ballots to overseas voters, and a smaller number of states allow overseas voters to fax back the voted ballot. A few states allow the use of e-mail. See your state’s rules for use of fax or e-mail at


Most of you will go out of your way to preserve a Sea Grape tree, as will someone clearing your property. Known as Uva de Playa in Spanish (Uva meaning grape and Playa meaning beach, it is literally "grape of the sea." They are very hardy, can get quite tall and make great shade. You may not recognize it, however. It is a sprawling bush or small tree that is found near sea beaches throughout tropical America and the Caribbean, including southern Florida. It reaches a maximum height of 8 meters (24 feet), but most specimens are little more than 2 meters tall. It has large, round, leathery leaves with a primary vein that has a red color extending from the base, and the entire leaf turns red as it gets ready to drop from the tree. The bark is smooth and light colored. In late summer it bears purplish fruit, about 2 cm in diameter, in large grape-like clusters. You can see pictures of the Sea Grape at:

You won't see too many of these unless you live in a tropical area because the tree is unable to survive frost. However, it is moderately tolerant of shade, and highly tolerant of salt, so it is often planted to stabilize beach edges and prevent erosion; it is also planted as an ornamental shrub. The fruit can be used for jam or "sea-side wine) and it attracts fruit loving birds.

Sea grape is highly tolerant of salt spray and salty soils as well as strong sun and wind. It is often planted as a windbreak near beaches and as a hedge or barrier around shopping centers and parking lots. Sea grape makes a fine shade tree - we have it planted in the center of Mayan Beach Garden and it supplies a great shady spot.

The fruit itself is grape like although a bit tougher than the ordinary grape and it has one large seed as opposed to several small ones. They remain green and hard for a long time but eventually one by one they change to their mature deep purple color. They hang in bunches, each one with a single seed, and are about the size of regular grapes. When fully mature, they become soft and have a sweet-sour taste making them great for use in jams and jellies. It is possible to make an alcoholic beverage made from the grapes, similar to wine.


Sea Grape Jelly from Gourmet Bahamian Cooking.

1 quart sea grape juice
5 tablespoons lemon or lime juice
1 package powdered pectin
5 cups sugar

To prepare juice: Wash sea grapes and measure. Put in fairly large, wide pot with half as much water (1 cup water to 2 cups sea grapes). Bring to a boil. Mash often with a potato masher and continue boiling until fruit is reduced to a soft pulp (about 25 to 30 minutes). Drain through a jelly bag or several layers of cheesecloth. Do not squeeze.
Place one quart juice in a wide kettle. Turn heat high and add lemon or lime juice and pectin. Bring mixture to a rolling boil. Stir in sugar and return to a rolling boil. Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary. Pour hot into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/4-inch head space. Adjust caps. Process 5 minutes in boiling water bath.

Sea Grape Vinaigrette

1/2 cup Pitted Sea Grapes or Red Seedless Grapes
1 cup Seasoned Rice Vinegar
1/4 cup Bottled Water
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tblsp Raw Sugar
Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper To Taste

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend well and refrigerate. Take out of fridge 30 minutes prior to use so it will temper.


There is a lot of very new construction going on in the "New Mahahaul" area. The New Mahahual is the area around the port. It certainly looks better and is more organized than the town of Mahahual which still has dirt streets with huge teams of workers. Several new stores have opened in this area along the main road leading to the Port along with a few restaurants. We'll keep an eye on this to see what develops. This area is still "dead" on non-cruise ship days.


As a result of Tropical Storm Ernesto, Several cruise lines altered their itineraries to include Belize City and the Costa Maya.
MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- A Carnival Cruise ship assisted nine Cuban rafters adrift in the western Caribbean this week. The rafters were spotted and photographed Thursday Aug. 17, 2006 by iReport contributor Finola M. Jacobucci, a passenger aboard the Carnival Glory. They accepted water, food and life jackets but refused to come aboard, according to Carnival Cruise Lines. The ship with about 3,500 passengers was en route from Costa Maya, Mexico, to Nassau, Bahamas, when the rafters were spotted. "It's a maritime tradition to help mariners in distress," said spokesman Vance Gulliksen. "It doesn't happen a lot, but it does happen occasionally," he said. Staff onboard the ship notified the U.S. Coast Guard, which picked up the rafters, Carnival Cruise Lines said. The Coast Guard did not confirm or deny the incident, saying it cannot comment on ongoing investigations.
After the incident, the coast line had more than its normal share of military walking up and down the beach and additional checkpoints were set up. We also observed extra military helicopters and planes flying up and down the Costa Maya.


This is the third month in a row that I have included information about Mortgages on the Costa Maya. After posting the last piece of information I was contacted by a competing company who deals in Mortgages. The following is an Info-tisement from ConfiCasa Playa about their services on the Costa Maya. I cannot vouch for either company, but feel it fair that you have an opportunity to contact multiple companies if you are looking for a loan.

Start Info-tisement. . .

"Real Estate Financing Is Catching On In Mexico
If you are ready to own a vacation or second home in Mexico or have considered retiring in Mexico, rejoice. More and more people are discovering that they can buy a home in Mexico and obtain a mortgage for up to thirty years from ConfiCasa Playa, Mexico’s premier mortgage source. The process is relative easy and we will do all of the hard work for you.

The first step is finding the home of your dreams (it can be located anywhere in Mexico). Homes located in resort areas of Mexico generally take less time to process and close.
The second step is to contact a Loan Officer at ConfiCasa Playa to discuss current mortgage products, interest rates, loan terms and qualification procedures.

At the present time our loans are available for Mexican Nationals, US Citizens and other nationalities with US income, a US Social Security Card and residence address in the United States.

If you are applying for a US Dollar loan, the processing time from start to closing is sixty to ninety days. If you are applying for a Mexican Peso loan, the time required to close is slightly longer.

We presently offer five residential loan products for Mexico. One of our loans is an Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM) while the other products offer a Fixed Rate. Loan amortizations range from 15 years to 30 years depending on the product selected.

Our loans are all based on the appraised value of the property to be purchased in Mexico. No lean will be required or taken on your home in the United States.

Most of our clients will select a property prior to submitting an application for financing. While this process is the “norm", it is definitely not required. We will be happy to “Pre-qualify” you to help determine the dollar value of home you qualify for. All that is required is a simple phone call or email to our office.

To receive a loan in Mahahual will be a challenge, the lenders are hesitant to make loans in areas that do not have electricity. (Some of the large homes outside of town could get financed) As of today our company has not closed any loans in the Cost Maya, but things are changing daily. There should be no problems financing in the downtown area, Chetumal or Bacalar.

If you are interested in obtaining a mortgage to purchase your MEXICO DREAM HOME, please contact us. We will be happy to assist you.

Thanks, ConfiCasa Playa

Contact Brian Murphy, President: or
Tom Martin, General Manager:
713-3441712 (US) or 984-803-5013 (MX)"

. . .End Info-tisement


If you ever watched Destinos on PBS, you are aware of the quality of its production. This telenovela, or Spanish soap opera is designed for high-school and adult learners of Spanish. The telenovela starts with an old man calling his family members to his side before he dies to reveal a deep secret. The program travels the Spanish speaking world to uncover the mysterious revelations where you learn culture and are immersed in the story while you learn Spanish. It is very easy to follow, with a narrator who tells you the basics of what you are about to view, then after each segment, gives you some Spanish lessons. It is a very entertaining way to learn the language. You can purchase the DVDs on this website, but you can also view the videos on-line. The Video on Demand requires a high-speed internet, so Satellite users like myself struggle to view them, waiting long periods of time for the buffer to fill. The series introduces Spanish words slowly and as the series goes along, you find that you are understanding more and more Spanish. Plus the story is GREAT!


September 15 to October 15 is Hispanic Heritage Month. Take a moment and reflect a little bit about where you own property. The Heritage of Quintana Roo is rich in Mayan Heritage (hence the name "Costa Maya") as well Spanish/Catholic. Learning about these cultures enhances your appreciation of the people and the love of the area. During this month there will be plenty of programs on the Public TV stations dedicated to the subject and if you have children, you will find that they are being taught about Mayans or the Spanish conquest. It's a good opportunity to learn more!
Also Remember that Sept 16th is Independence day in Mexico. Viva la Mexico!


I just got back from vacation and didn't get around to the spotlight. If you aren't familiar with the neighborhood spotlight, please check this link:


The editor of this newsletter (me) makes no claims that the information here is completely true. I am not a news reporter, Spanish is not my native language and this is not my primary business, but rather a service to the neighborhood. If you find something untrue PLEASE let me know and I will print a disclaimer. I try to verify the information but even the newspaper prints up rumors, so I can only report what I read and hear. THANKS!!!!!

Until Next month...

Regards from your Costa Maya Neighbor
Mayan Beach Garden, Boutique hotel on the Costa Maya


Updated: 26-Apr-2008

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