... I'm Going To Merida!
Editor's Note: We hope you enjoy this latest offering from our guest writer, Jonathan Ruiz, who also writes for El Financiero in Mexico City. Lucky us, he and his family have a house in the Yucatan, so we are able to enjoy his talents as well. This week, he brings us information about who really is moving to Yucatan... and maybe why. What do you think?
The man wears a baseball cap. Printed on it you can read in Spanish: Si gana Trump me voy para Mérida. Translation: If Trump wins, I'm going to Merida.
It is a funny picture of a person whom looks as a tourist, taken apparently in an airport. He wears the cap probably as a joke. His image was passed around among my friends before the recent political elections in the United States, through the popular social network called Whatsapp.
At The End of the World...
There are many popular sayings among Mexicans that always describe the peaceful state of Yucatan as the place to be when the end of humanity approaches. Most commonly it goes like this: Al fin del mundo, me voy a Yucatán. In other words, when it looks like the world is coming to an end, I'm going to Yucatan.
Because Merida has always been a little behind the rest of the world. Because Merida and the Yucatan have until recently been very isolated from the rest of Mexico and the rest of the world. Because it is peaceful in Merida, unlike, it often seems, the rest of the world.
The end of the world is probably not that close. But right now, you should understand that many Mexicans consider the results of the election in the United States a menace to their prosperity. Some of them are considering moving to the Yucatan. According to Google Trends, the number of searches regarding Merida went up 20 percent in Mexico after November 9, when the outcome of the presidential election in the United States was finally decided.
Are many people really coming to Yucatan? Well, think about this: 7%. That is the percentage of increase in the state’s population between 2010 and 2015, according to the official data from INEGI, the Mexican department that takes the census. There are 2.097 million people living in Yucatan State as of 2015.
This is above the national average increase of 6% during the same time period.
Specifically regarding immigration into Yucatan, this government agency has information only for 2010 and only for movements within the country. So far, they have not been measuring the influx of foreigners. So no, we still do not have accurate expatriate numbers for Yucatan.
INEGI says that between 2005 and 2010, almost 50,000 people arrived to Yucatan, mainly from Quintana Roo, Mexico City and Campeche.
Making a Life in Yucatan
How easy is it to make a living in Yucatan once you are here?
There are two kinds of responses I have heard when I ask Yucatecan people about this. Most of them do not seem to be as worried about the economy as the people from other Mexican cities.
But some of the people living in Yucatan recognize that the economy needs to grow. I spoke to one of the owners of a local chocolate company who is originally from Belgium.
Although she is happy to live here with a prosperous business, she recognizes the limits of the size of the economy. I asked her if she would be interested in having someone else distributing her products in Yucatan.
“I don’t think so," she said. "It is a small market...”, she answered, who already has three stores operating under her brand name, Ki’Xocolatl.
Consider this. Mexicans make in the formal market, on average, 295 pesos per day. That is an extremely small number. But Yucatecans make only 216 pesos, a little more than 10 USD for the whole day, and under the average for the country of Mexico.
This information probably should go with a disclaimer, as the authorities are only measuring the income of people integrated intp the formal sector of the economy, those that are paying social security services through IMSS (Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social).
In other words, this data comes from the reports given by companies to the Mexican authorities based on the social security they pay to their employees. But in this country, and particularly in Yucatan, the informal economy is huge. So is the economy doing well? Or not? You decide...
Growth of Yucatan
Finally, a relevant fact: Yucatan is growing faster than the rest of Mexico. INEGI recently released the ITAEE, an indicator of each Mexican state’s GDP. The southeastern state of Yucatan grew 4.1% during the 12 months prior to June 2016. Compare that with 2.5% of national growth of the GDP or the decrease of 6% of the neighboring state of Campeche, which is almost completely dependent on the oil industry.
Yucatan has a good story to tell. Yucatan is not a state that leans on exports or oil. The Yucatecan economy is a service economy, with strong business in tourism, and in food and other services sold to other Mexican states that have tourism income as well. Quintana Roo’s economy, for instance, grew 5.5 percent during the same period. Kudos, Cancun! And good for Yucatan, too, because much of the supplies and services that Quintana Roo needs are supplied by Yucatan.
Considering the scenario that the president elect of the United States is painting of Mexico, maybe its not a bad idea to be on the side of the country that is a bit isolated from the powerful automotive industry. That industry has invested heavily in Mexico, and those investments are perceived to have hurt millions in the United States. Perhaps those millions of people will be looking for compensation that offsets what they feel they have lost.
If you are thinking of running to Yucatan to get away from it all, you may still want to consider that there are big companies investing here. AB Inbev is betting more than 300 million USD in a brewery in Hunucmá that will open next year. Bunge, the giant wheat flour seller that had an annual income of more than 43 billion dollars in 2015 is building a 30 million USD mill close to Mérida. Many large Mexican companies are placing their bets on the restaurant and hotel industries here as well.
You might be thinking of coming to Merida at the end of the world... after all, it is a well-known saying in Mexico. But the world is coming to Merida faster than you may think.