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Always Something New in Yucatan

Star fruit surprise in YucatanSomething new every day!

I thought I knew my little village after living here seven years, but…surprise! I was in Izamal today listing three pretty lots on the outskirts of the town, and after finishing the photography and getting the lay of the land, so to speak, I stopped at a little stall to buy a bottle of fresh coconut water.

Fresh coconut water for $1.50 a liter, cold and delicious.

Next to the coconut man, was a star fruit man… a first for me. I’d never seen someone selling star fruit here. Of course I bought a half-kilo of star fruit and curious, asked if they were imported. “No”, responds the very nice man. “I grow them myself nearby, in Tepakan.”

Who would have thought it? Sweet, juicy fresh star fruit on my doorstep at $1.50 for this plateful!

Time for FBAR

Filing your FBAR tax return in Mexico

It’s FBAR Time

We would like to send out this friendly reminder to everyone about the important FBARs (Foreign Bank and Financial Account Reports) Tax Deadline. The deadline for the 2013 reporting year FBAR is approaching – June 30, 2014. The FBAR is required to be Electronically Filed this year, by the due date.

If you or someone you know has a foreign financial account, take note! And it does not have to be just a personal account. Sometimes having signatory authority or a beneficial interest over a foreign bank or financial account also has reporting requirements.

Last year, the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, FBAR, (Form TD F 90-22.1) was changed to FinCEN Form 114. It is a disclosure report form required to be filed with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network under the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) on or before June 30th each year. This year the Form 114 cannot be mailed and must be submitted through the BSA’s e-filing system.

Note: The IRS can levy a $10,000 penalty, per account, for a late or inaccurate filing.

How Do I Know If I Need to File?

You need to file this disclosure if at ANY time during 2013 you had foreign bank and/or financial accounts that, when combined, exceeded $10,000 (even if it is was just for a moment.) And this value is a cumulative number. For example, if you had four foreign accounts at $3,000 each, you would be above the $10,000 number and need to complete an FBAR form reporting all these accounts or risk a $40,000 penalty.

What is Considered A Foreign Account?

A foreign account meets the following criteria:

  • It is not a U.S. institution or a branch of a U.S. institution
    -A Bank of America account located at a Bank of America branch in France is considered a foreign account.
    -An account at the First Bank of France at a branch located in the USA is not considered a foreign account.
  • You are assigned a customer ID or account number

    -Money or metals held in a safe at your home in Yucatan is not considered a foreign account.
    -Money or metals held at vault, in which the foreign institution has an ID number for you, is a foreign account.

If the account with the foreign institution holds money, tradable securities (stocks or other investments), insurance/annuity with a cash value or precious metals, or the like, you may have a filing requirement.

When in Doubt, Disclose!

Beginning July 1, 2014, banks around the world will be coming forward to the U.S. with information on their U.S customers. That is when the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, or FATCA, goes into effect. Currently, there are new streamlined procedures that minimize or waive penalties for unreported foreign accounts. However, if you come forward after the United States begins investigating the bank where the account is held, there are new higher penalties which can be 50% of the highest balance in the account(s)!

If you are not certain whether you should file, don’t wait, ask your accountant or the IRS now!

****
This announcement has been provided by our friends at Dillinger Carter & Associates, an international tax accounting firm out of San Francisco, CA

Democracy Alive and Well

Democracy in YucatanEach year, the Economist Intelligence Unit, a forecasting and research group owned by the same media company that publishes The Economist magazine, puts out their Democracy Index. This index “measures the state of democracy in 167 countries, of which 166 are sovereign states and 165 are United Nations member states”. The index rates countries on 60 indicators based on 5 categories: electoral process and pluralism, civil liberties, functioning of government, political participation, and political culture.

In Mexico, the COPARMEX (the Management Confederation of Mexico) teamed up with consultants to produce a list of Mexican States based on their scores according to this Democracy Index. As you can see below, our fair state of Yucatan scored the highest out of Mexico’s 31 states, which we consider quite a distinction. Out of a total possible points of 10,000, Yucatan State scored 10,000… a perfect score. Hard to believe, but there it is in black and white.

Here’s the link to the entire listing: mexicovoices.blogspot.mx/2014/06/mexicos-states-ranked-by-level-of.html

By the way, you might want to bookmark this website. The website serves up daily translated articles from some of Mexico’s most respected magazines and newspapers, all on the subject of Mexican politics and economics. As expatriates living as guests in this country, most of us cannot get involved in the politics of Mexico. But because it IS now our country in many ways, it isn’t a bad idea to stay up on the latest events and trends. Unless you are very comfortable reading Spanish, this website can be helpful in that regard.

Back to Yucatan, the top of the list. We couldn’t be happier to see Yucatan at the top of this list, as it portends a continuing stable economic future for this part of the world. As always, Yucatan continues to be a good investment!

Roger William Lytle

Roger William LytleSeven months ago, I celebrated the birth of my first grandson, Roger William Lytle. A beautiful baby, always happy, he was a joy not only to our family but to everyone who met him. I was lucky to spend a week with him in Dallas at the end of March. On April 7th, Roger died suddenly and unexpectedly, leaving us devastated to be without him.

Although you didn’t know our baby, if you’d like to participate with us, we ask that when you see the chance to do some small act of kindness for someone else, take that chance. Do a good deed or perform some act of kindness in honor of Roger Lytle today. If you’d like, email rogerwilliamlytle@gmail.com to let his parents, my wonderful son and daughter-in-law Zac and Heather, know what you did. They will read the messages to cheer themselves up when they are blue.

The following is the eulogy written by one of their friends and read at the memorial at Twelve Hills nature trails…a cold late afternoon, but the sun came out for us:

When I first heard that Heather was pregnant, I have to admit, I was a little jealous.

But it wasn’t jealousy in the way that aging single women often are envious of their
pregnant friends. No, I was jealous of that baby. Usually, when I’m trying to explain
how great Zac and Heather are to people who don’t know them, I just tell them that
every December, they have a holiday party wherein they invite all of their friends
to come over and make Christmas cards for political prisoners. They’re the most
loveable pair of do-gooders I’ve ever had the privilege to know. They’re the type of
people who make you feel like a better person just by virtue of knowing them. And
besides that, they are so much fun to be around. They have a way of making you
feel entirely at home in their house and in their presence. So yes, I was envious of
that little baby because being born to two such amazing people is like winning the
lottery. What a great life this kid would have.

At Heather’s baby shower, we all wrote little messages to Roger, and I wrote,
“Hi baby, you are so lucky because your parents are awesome!” What I couldn’t
understand until later is how unbelievably lucky Zac and Heather are to have Roger.
And we’re all lucky to have known him.

We’re all here because we love Zac and Heather, and we love Roger.

On the death of her daughter at age 14, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton wrote, “Love enjoys
and triumphs for eternity.”

Roger is gone to heaven in God’s eternal love. And I think that means the love we
feel for him also is eternal. It’s here right now, and it’s with us forever.
And there never was a baby more loved by so many people.

Everyone at Parkland watched Heather grow bigger and bigger and bigger
throughout her pregnancy. When Heather was admitted to the hospital, her friends
watched the heart-rate monitor and cheered her and Roger on. Her friend Elizabeth,
who also is a doctor at Parkland, slept in the call room down the hall from the
delivery room to make sure Heather and Roger had the best care and their preferred
nurses.

He weighed nine-and-a-half pounds when he was born the afternoon of Aug. 25, and
he was so beautiful. Now, I’m not saying that Zac and Heather aren’t good-looking
people. But I had to agree with Heather’s mom when she said the other day that
it’s a marvel such a beautiful baby was born to the two of you. I have to agree with
Heather when she said that Roger is an even better person than she and Zac. Such a
sweet, precious boy.

Zac and Heather are the most laid-back parents I’ve ever known. Some friends and I
once saw Zac at a party down at the Santa Fe Trestle Trail, and when we asked after
Roger, he goes, “Oh, he’s asleep in the van.” They were very European about it all.

And they were very generous in sharing Roger.

When Heather had two months of night rotations, lucky friends and neighbors,
including myself, got to act as what Heather called “surrogate mothers” to Roger.
He was such a good baby and a joy to see, always looking around intensely, taking
in everything around him. There was nothing quite so wonderful in this world as
seeing him smile or hearing him laugh.

There probably are a few of you here today who don’t know the Lytles all that
well but maybe had the pleasure of holding Roger or playing with him at some
neighborhood event where Zac and Heather were volunteering. I know you’re here,
as we all are, because Roger touched your life. And I want to say thank you to Zac
and Heather, on behalf of Oak Cliff, for being servants to our community and for
sharing your beautiful boy with all of us.

Roger attended his first bike race, the Tour of Austin, when he was a week old.
More recently, Zac would show up to the Thursday night bike races at Fair Park
sometimes not knowing before he arrived exactly who would be watching Roger
during Zac’s hour-long race. He didn’t have to worry about it because we practically
fought to serve as Roger’s domestique, there to bring him bottles, protect him, love
and entertain him, even though none of us could figure out how to use those hippie
diapers. Roger was a “junior race promoter,” as Zac put it, doing his duty as head
baby in charge at Spookycross and the Tour of Corsicana.

Roger loved the outdoors. “Any time he was upset,” Heather says, “you could just
take him outside, and he would brighten up.” He loved seeing flowers and would
always grab for them. Heather’s mom gave them an orchid plant, which they set in
their breakfast nook, and Roger could sit in his chair and just stare up at the orchid
blooms for a long time while they were preparing his food.

He loved to watch the hennies in the backyard and to feed the ducks at Kidd Springs
Park. Heather first brought him here to Twelve Hills Nature Center when he was
three days old, and they came here on walks many, many times. They also went on
hikes to Cedar Ridge Nature Preserve and walks at the Dallas Arboretum.

Roger got to have Thanksgiving and Christmas at home with family. He got to see
snow in Dallas. Zac tells the story that during one of the ice storms this past winter,
he bundled Roger up in his little fuzzy bear suit and walked to a friend’s birthday
party with Roger strapped to his chest. Zac says he slipped on the ice and “busted
his ass.” Roger didn’t even wake up.

Roger was a traveler. He traveled in utero to Colombia and Nova Scotia. After he was
born, he traveled to San Antonio many times. Recently, he went to England, where
Zac and Heather both have family. He got to meet three of his great grandparents.
While they were in England, Heather, Zac and Roger spent a magical day at Kingley
Vale National Nature Reserve in West Sussex. It was one of the happiest days of
their lives, and it was particularly special for Zac, because Roger’s namesake, Zac’s
late grandfather, Roger, used to bring Zac to Kingley Vale as a child. Now Zac and
Heather plan to return to Kingley Vale to spread Roger’s ashes.

In England, they took Roger on hikes in the countryside and to the sea. There are
pictures of Roger on a pebbly beach, crying with his feet in the cold, wet sand. Later,
at a sandy beach in England, he had fun knocking down sand castles.

Roger really started to eat a lot of solid food in England. He tasted lamb stew that his
great grandmother made, as well as curry, fish and chips and English breakfast. He
loved English food so much that he gained more weight during that one-week trip
than he had in the previous two months.

Even though he was only 8 months old, Roger experienced many forms of
transportation. He never even cried during the nine-and-a-half hour flight to
England. He’s taken the London Underground, a gondola down the Thames, trains, a
ferry, busses and bikes.

Roger liked to be read to, and his favorite book was “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.”
He loved music and he enjoyed sing-a-longs in Zac and Heather’s living room. By
the way, he also swam in a dumpster pool BEFORE it was cool for babies to swim in
dumpsters.

He loved to watch older children run and play. He loved seeing baby Catalina and
was among her first visitors. He got to meet and hold hands with baby August down
in Austin. He loved playing with baby Will. And when baby Hannah was born at
Parkland, she was in good hands with Roger sitting in the red chair to watch her
monitors. Right now, Heather’s best friend, Roger’s godmother Vanessa, is possibly
in labor with her baby, Jeremiah.

Roger was absolutely doted upon by all of his grandparents and his aunt and uncle.
The Lytles had been planning to take a trip in May to Iceland and then a trip to visit
family in Minnesota in August. And they were busy planning their move to Malawi in
October.

Now that Roger is gone, everything has changed. Nothing will ever be the same
without him here. And we are so sad. We miss him so much. Our hearts are broken.
But Roger was here. He was here, and he made the world better.

In true Lytle fashion, Zac and Heather asked that this be a day of kindness in
memory of Roger. I think we can do better than that. Baby Roger makes me want
to be a better person in general. He was so easy to love, and he brought so much
joy to everyone he met. So I say, let’s all try to be like that too. Spread joy. Love one
another. Remember that you’re here to do good in the world and to love. Roger left
us tragically too soon, but in his short life, he accomplished that.

Yucatan Honey

flowers in Yucatan
flowers in yucatanIf you drive almost anywhere on the Yucatan Peninsula right now, you will be greeted by yellow flowers along the roadsides as far as the eye can see, signaling the end of the “rainy season” and that the tajonal is in bloom. The state of Yucatan is famous for its honey and the honey made from the tajonal flowers is the first major Yucatan honey crop of the year. Our local Yucatan honey is strong and sweet, and is usually bought in bulk to blend with more neutral flavored European honey. I try to keep honey in stock at the office at all times. I recently purchased honey from my Maya friends at Hacienda Tabi. They live there and are certified organic honey producers. Come by the Merida office of Tierra Yucatan on Calle 66 at Calle 49 and pick up a bottle. Take some of the Yucatan home in your suitcase! It is easy to do and it is permitted through customs without a problem. There’s nothing that warms you on a cold winter day like a cup of tea sweetened with Yucatan honey!

New Changes Coming in 2014

Many new changes are coming up in 2014! One which affects us already as realtors is the Ley Contra El Lavado de Dinero or the anti-money laundering law. More paperwork is being required by the Mexican government, more identification from buyers and there are specific rules governing the transfer of funds. As always, we at Tierra Yucatan are ready and have taken a number of steps to make sure your real estate buying or selling transaction goes smoothly.

businessman-dollar-sign-folded-armsRather than hold escrow in the USA ourselves, for your security we are now using Stewart Title Latin America to do this for us. This provides both seller and buyer with an added layer of protection for your funds. Stewart can also offer title insurance and full closing services should you wish. Otherwise they will act simply as an escrow agent, disbursing the deposits according to instructions at the closing by wire transfer. Here at Tierra Yucatan, we are all happy about the new arrangement. So far, Tierra Yucatan is the only real estate agency in Merida that is protecting your transaction in this way!

As the year of 2013 comes to a close, we find ourselves thankful for the business we conducted this year, the many wonderful people we met in the process and for all the new and interesting residents, both part and full time, that have been added to the population of Merida through our agency. We look forward to a great 2014!

Enjoy A New Hacienda

Hacienda San Jose Pachul outside of Merida Yucatan MexicoRelax, Unwind, Play, Eat at Hacienda San Jose Pachul. Even after thirteen wonderful years living in Yucatan, there are still great discoveries to be made!

Jose Fernandez and his partner Richard Fuller purchased the ruins of an old hacienda near the village of Kinchil on the way to Celestun, and with love and care have created a hidden treasure.

With a group of friends I recently spent a very special afternoon. Together, we enjoyed a leisurely, six-course gourmet lunch created by Jose, where each dish was created from locally-grown ingredients. Jose has a very special touch and the hacienda itself is magical. The old and renovated hacienda buildings are set in beautiful tropical gardens that were designed and are cared for by Richard. There are two luxurious guest rooms, one in old hacienda style. The other guest room is modern and light, and both are large, very private and so relaxing! The rooms are blessed with private patios and everything you can imagine is provided to the guests.

It is definitely worth making time on your busy schedule for a visit to Hacienda San Jose Pachul. Whether you stay overnight or book ahead for a gourmet lunch experience in unique surroundings, consider visiting this magical place. Jose tells me they are planning spa get-away days that will be presented hand-in-hand with a well-Hacienda San Jose Pachul outside of Merida Yucatan Mexicoknown Merida spa. Then guests will be able to enjoy a massage, facial, pedicure, spa lunch and some time by the pool. I can’t wait! Look them up at www.haciendasanjosepachul.com, but book ahead as dining is by reservation only. Be sure to get directions, as the hacienda is kept hidden by design, to protect its privacy and that of the guests. If you take the time to visit, you won’t be sorry!

Rain Rain Rain

Rain, rain and more rain! This has been one wet September. Everything is green and lush, butterflies fill the air and we are so fortunate here in Yucatan! We get to enjoy all this beauty, and we’re safe too. While much of Central Mexico has experienced flooding, we have no such worries in Yucatan.

The Yucatan Peninsula is one big limestone shelf, shot through with holes like a big English muffin. The entire peninsula stays dry despite the torrential rains. The water soaks into the limestone and there are no rivers above ground here. Underground, the water is everywhere and we have a wonderland to explore… underground lakes and rivers of clear, Cenote in Yucatan Mexicounpolluted transparent water, always at an even temperature (in the high 70′s F). These cenotes (pronounced suh-NO-tays) are now famous with cave divers from around the world. Our hundreds of cenotes are an attraction for all visitors, as many of them are now prepared with easy access and facilities for you to spend the day with your family. As the Maya have known for centuries, a cenote is a cool getaway when the weather heats up.

So we can look at all this rain as a way to keep the cenotes filled with water from the heavens. And the rain has another blessing: cool evenings to enjoy a walk or dinner al fresco.

Nighttime temperature lows this week have been 66 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit! That’s pretty close to perfect evening weather for enjoying Merida and any of the hundreds of small towns on the Yucatan Peninsula.

When I Miss Merida…

Though Merida is my home, I have been traveling a lot lately to other countries, visiting and caring for family and exploring the world.

When I’m gone for any length of time, I find I start missing my adopted home. (Yes, I was not born here… I was born in England, but I’ve been traveling through and living in Mexico for over 25 years now).

It’s interesting to me what I miss when I miss Merida. Because what I miss is not what a person might see or experience who has only been in the Yucatan for a short time.

To start, I miss waking up here. After years of living in the centro historico of Merida, I purchased and live in a home about an hour outside of Merida in a pueblo called Tepakan. When I wake up, I don’t hear much at all. I hear a few dogs barking, and far-off children playing or calling to each other. I might hear a car or truck going by once every five or ten minutes in the morning, though there are stretches of up to an hour during the day when I won’t hear anything with a motor. When I wake up, I hear birds… all sorts of birds. And not just any birds… these are the raucous calls of tropical birds that sound like screams and cries and laughter. At home in the Yucatan, I wake up to a cacophony of birds that is unique to this part of the world… and I miss it when I’m not here.

I miss the long, quiet drives with no traffic. In so many parts of the world, commuting to work involves driving in traffic. I have my own business and I do a lot of driving here in Merida and around the Yucatan Peninsula. But I am almost never stopped at a stoplight for more than a minute, and I have practically forgotten the experience of driving on a highway in traffic. That kind of thing just doesn’t exist in my world now.

I miss the food, too. Not just the panuchos and sopa de lima that I can get on almost any street corner in Merida, or the great lunches at my favorite cocina economicas. But I also miss the food my neighbors in Tepekan share with me. During the Day of the Dead season, my neighbors will bring over a homemade pib or two… a Yucatan-style chicken pot pie that is traditional during that time of year. Every Sunday, I can just walk out my door and down the street for a homemade dish of cochinita, probably the Yucatan’s most famous and most delicious dish… and very hard to reproduce in other parts of the world.

I miss the colors. Have you ever noticed how drab most first world cities can be? In Mexico, and certainly in and around Merida, if houses are painted, they are often painted in bright colors. It costs just as much to buy a can of brown paint as it does a can of purple paint… so why not paint my house purple? All the better if my purple contrasts with my neighbor’s blue house, don’t you think? I love that about this area (and the rest of Mexico).

If you come to live here, you already have probably fallen in love with many things about Merida and the Yucatan. You probably have lots of reasons why you moved here or want to move here. But sometimes the things you grow to love about a place are not the things you first fell in love with… but those are the things you miss when you are away.

What do you miss when you aren’t in Merida?

Growing Merida Art World

No short blog post could begin to talk about everything that is going on in the art world in Merida. Merida has never been the seat of art in Mexico (that would have to be Mexico City…), but in the last ten years, the art world in Merida has continued to expand, encompassing more and more artists from around the world, different kinds of art and an ever-expanding audience of art patrons.

Fernando Castro Pacheco art in Merida YucatanArt in Merida initially centered around the MACAY, Merida’s contemporary art museum just off the Plaza Grande, and the Archaeological Museum on Paseo de Montejo. There were various artists in Merida, such as Fernando Castro Pacheco and Alberto Castillo (now both deceased), who studied abroad and in Mexico City and then returned to paint in Merida. Pacheco became famous around Mexico for his unique and colorful style, examples of which can be seen in the murals in the Governor’s Palace on the Plaza Grande in Merida. Alberto Castillo, a less recognized painter, was a favorite among visitors and locals alike for his more naive but no less colorful style.

Over the last ten or so years, many artists have converged on Merida, attracted by the same set of amenities that the rest of us are drawn to: inexpensive living, laid back life style, large houses to be renovated, access to modern amenities and great food, to name a few! People like Melva Medina and Abel Vazquez came to Merida from Morelia and Oaxaca respectively. Other artists have come from places like New York City, such as fabric designer Luli Sanchez or Harold McAnaney… not to exhibit or sell their art, but to have a quiet and inspirational place to create their art. Some of the most exciting art comes from street artists that may or may not be selling their works on Graffiti in Merida Yucatanany given night on the streets outside the Peon Contreras Theater, and from some of the fine graffiti artists who have taken their art to new and beautiful works on walls throughout the city.

Also over the last ten years, art museums and art galleries have proliferated in Merida, ranging from the City Art Museum in the old and renovated Post Office to the Soho Galleries and others in Santa Ana and Santiago, which sell art from local artists as well as from artists in Cuba and other nearby Latin American countries.

Art is everywhere in Merida now… from the ESAY art school in the old Railroad Station to the art market on Paseo de Montejo every Sunday morning. If you love art, come to Merida!