Friday, January 21, 2005

unfinished houses

I came back to Mexico last Saturday, bringing my friend along with me for a short visit. One day while we were riding a bus through the countryside she asked me about the thin metal rods, usually capped with an upside-down soda bottle, that jut out from the tops of the ubiquitous concrete-block houses. These are support rods for concrete walls and when they are left to jut out above a building it suggests an unfinished building project.

I recalled asking about the rods myself after I first arrived in Acapulco last year, since the place was absolutely full of the things. I got two explanations: one romantic, one pragmatic. The first said that the metal rods reflected the eternal dreamer in all Mexicans, that they were forever hoping for the windfall that would provide for the next upward expansion of their house. The second explanation was that Mexicans pay a lower property tax if they can claim to be living in an unfinished house. This loophole – if it does indeed exist – seemed to be begging for abuse, but noone has ever authoritatively affirmed or denied its existence to me. However, knowing the inefficiency of the Mexican taxation system, it could well be true. In any case, it makes for a good excuse to quit your construction project half-way through.

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