Mexico And Minimum Wage

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Discussion Thread Forum

$7,500 pesos a month retake

Posted by Jody Dinsmore on February 20, 1997:

I would like to call attention to a discussion way down the list that has recently been renewed by Marvin’s return to Canada from his home in Sonora, apparently by his travel trailer. He is concerned that extremely well-off folks from the USA and Canada are moving to Mexico to essentially live high off the hog at the expense of the Mexican people and he would like to see discussion of this matter. As the postings are way down there, I am asking that you scroll on down and get in on this discussion.

I imagine that most anyone with two homes and a comfortable, expensive way to travel between them could afford to be smug about this. Marvin seems to think that the majority live extremely well yet exploit the poor. I notice he did not touch my question about whether or not the people in his community pay their domestic help IMSS benefits, though he is concerned that others of us don’t.

Personally I am rather ticked with this discussion and I too would like to hear some more opinions. Am I an ogre for paying someone with a second grade education nearly double the minimum wage in Michoacan? Why is the going rate 75 pesos a day in Sonora? I would venture precisely because it is an expat community. Marvin is not paying attention to the reality of moving to Mexico to live IN MEXICO, that is, not isolated in an enclave.

Your opinions, please.


Re: $7,500 pesos a month retake


Posted by Tina on February 20, 1997:

No Jodi, I don’t think you are an ogre! This whole topic touches on one our our concerns about where to live in Mexico. This Gringo Enclave business makes us very nervous, because of what it represents for expectations of income. I don’t get the feeling that all the people who are interested in living in Mexico are pursuing this option because of their large stock portfolios and leveraged buyouts. I think there are a lot of “regular” folks, who for various reasons, have a fixed (read here LIMITED) income. Unfortunately, even in our fine country of the U.S.A., there are not lots of options for those with limited means.

We fear that if everyone who goes to Mexico is in the position to have multiple homes in various countries, not batting an eye at paying N. American prices for everything and anything, soon they will be the only ones that can afford Mexico. I’m sure Marvin isn’t going to Mexico soley for the good feeling he gets from helping others. Could there possibly be just a hint of enjoying a good life in a wonderful place, on far less than it would take to live in Canada?

Yes, I think we have a moral and civic responsibility to give back to Mexico, and help those that we can. But that doesn’t mean that there is something inherently wrong with those of us who are seeking information on how to live a comfortable life on a limited income.

Tah tah and slightly upper crust


Posted by steve on February 20, 1997 :

In Reply to: 7,500 pesos a month retake posted by Jodi Dinsmore de Lopez on February 20, 1997 at 15:47:51:

I am not exactly sure how to approach this discussion but in a way it’s like asking me whether I should take a BMW to Mexico or a Sport Utility Wagon. The answer is that if I take a car it will be the only car I own now which is a 1978 VW Rabbit with a cracked windshield and a hole where the stereo used to be. If the car breaks down, I will probably ditch it and use public transportation. When I live in Mexico, and on my limited income, I will not even consider hiring anyone to do anything. I have never lived that way here in the states and surely won’t miss anything in Mexico. With a small apartment or small casita it won’t be necessary.

Mexico is not a land of opportunity for the poor and uneducated and there seems to be a lot of both. Are you being noble by hiring someone and paying more than the going price? Are you really helping? I don’t know and with do respect, I don’t care. This is a discussion that only those who have the money, have the interest. Again, is the price of a lobster dinner in Guadalajara more than one in Mexico City? Don’t know, don’t care. I can take you to a little place in Guanajuato, on the road to the castle, on the left, up some stairs where they serve the best comida corrida for only $1.25.


Re: Tah tah and slightly upper crust

Posted by Steve Pierce on March 09, 1997:

I feel exactly the same way. Every trip I have ever taken to Mexico involved eating at the absolutely cheapest taquerias and staying in the most modest casas de huespedes possible. Some of the best banquets I have ever had were the humble comida corrida. I was delighted to discover that a hole-in-the-wall eatery with three tables beside the Veracruz cathedral is still there and still known among poor Mexican students as the best place to eat fish. Wages for servants? I doubt I’d ever be able to afford servants. My wife from an affluent Colombian family never felt comfortable with the servants in her family’s house and in those of her friends and relatives. She got into trouble more than once by treating them as people. Drop me a line. I’d like to retire to Mexico but not to a gringo enclave.

Starving Maids and Scrooges


Posted by Marvin Kemel on February 20, 1997 at 17:38:15:

In Reply to Re: $7,500 pesos a month retake posted by Tina on February 20, 1997 at 16:30:36:

You missed my point when i referred to Mexican employers paying Imss. I do not expect that you me or any other foreigners pay this. iwas only trying to expalin that a Mexican working for a regular employer gets far more than the minimum wage because of these perks. Lets see if i have this correct : it is ok for us to pay about 300 pesos a month for a phone and internet service but only 40 pesos for a maid. I am nmot proposing that American or canadian minimum wages should apply but even in rural Mexico 5 bucks does not go very far.

This IMHO is taking advantage of a poor person, My G-d that is the price of a Big Mac and fries!! Contrary to what you may think i am not a wealthy elitist. We live a good middle income lifestyle. We do not have a maid. But I pay one of the locals $0 pesos to wash and vacuum my truck. So do most of my neighbours. I think that our community(Bahia de Kino) is more of the “real ” Mexico than Chapalla. We do not have: an ISP, a cappucino shop, or bagels. We do have 3000 poor fishermen and woodcarvers who depend on us to assist in any way possible.

I am proud to say that this community has done so long before i lived here. We probably have more Mexican friends than Americans. My wife has tought English to the Prepatoria(volunteer) and the Cruz Roja. I mention this not to brag but rather that you understand that we try to give as well as take. Too many of the posts on this forum are about the cost of this or that. Mexico has a lot to offer: a beautiful country, amazing people, a history quite different than ours, and a culture that I have grown to love. Personally I could never pay someone 40 pesos for a days work.

Next time you shop for groceries see how little that can buy. If your poor Mexican maid works 5 or 6 days a week for this MEAGER wage how is she supposed to feed her family??? Or do you really care? One of the other posters was concerned that because one American paid more ,she might also be forced to increase this princely sum. Que lastima. I am glad that you are miffed, but really you should be ashamed.
Hell, you probably make your maid bring her own food


Re: Starving Maids and Scrooges

Posted by Tony on March 10, 1997:

I dont know of the cost of living in the area that you are talking about. However $40 pesos may not be that bad as you say. Mexico pays very little for its manual labor. However, if you pay more than the going rate in the area, you only help wreck that local economy. I have gone to rural Mexico. The prices that people pay seemed very low to me also. The prices weren’t set by gringos but what the locals felt was fair.

As you may know, many people use maids in Mexico. The service is not just for very well off people. I saw many people who were poor hire people who were even poorer. It seemed to be a type of workfare system. Maybe you should rethink your position. Wages should be gauged by what you can afford but rather what the local market
dictates. Food and drink is part of the hospitality that is normal in Mexico. In general maids get much more respect there than they do in the US. One last thing. Don’t compare wages to the prices at Burger King. The people that eat there in Mexico are people with money to burn. That $40 pesos a day can feed a family of 3. Tony


Re: $7,500 pesos a month retake

Posted by Camille on February 21, 1997:

I have sort of half-heartedly read through this thread and must say…

Look! I live in Mexico, I live in the Lake Chapala area.

So do a lot of my friends.

I know what the minimum wage is and I know what people (maids and gardeners) are getting paid.

I don’t see the foreign community taking advantage of the people, I see them trying to help out.

I also look at all the mexicna friends I have who have domestic help. They DO NOT pay IMSS or anything else to these people and most pay less per hour than I do.
So Please, don’t label all of us foreigners aa cheapskates.

We do the best we can with the information we have.



How To Earn Big Bucks As A Maid

Posted by Marvin Kemel on February 21, 1997:

I have sort of half-heartedly read through this thread and must say…

Look! I live in Mexico, I live in the Lake Chapala area.

So do a lot of my friends.

I see if the Mexicnas pay their help 2 centavos a dya then it is OK for you to do the same. And if the minimum wage was 2 pesos a day would that also be OK. My point is that maybe the minimum is not enough. Everyone is entitled to a basic decent wage. P

aying USA wages would obviously be too much. BUT if a Kilo of Pork is about 30 pesos, and a kilo of Limes 10 then dont you think that 40 for a hard days work is not enough for that person to be able to feed herself??? When you were working did you work for minimum wage? Mexico has double difit inflation.

The govenment is determined to correct it,s fiscal problems by not giving any increases in wages. They are using the poor to solve their problems. You are doing the same. I can see that I have upset many people. Methinks perhaps some guilt may be showing. And rightfully so. Life is not a Jane Austen novel. But I gues it is more important to just promenade the streets of Chapala nd suck on a Latte while your maid scrubs and cooks for a lousy $5.00 . AS for the person who called Chapala the real Mexico, nothing could be further than the truth.

Do you visit people who live in Casa de cartone? Do your friends have dirt floors? I doubt it. But then this is all moot. Better to underpay your help, all the while convincing yourself that you are helping the downtrodden. Give me a break!! Noi wonder Mexicans refer to American women as Gringas.



Posted by BETSY on February 21, 1997:

Hello everybody!!
Lately I have read some wild postings about wages, rotten Gringas, and fairness. What is going on? Who do you think you are? You are guests in a foreign country, and frankly, why are you there if you want everthing to be like back home, amenities, wages and all. It is time to realize why some Americans are not liked by the Mexicans. Sure, they will take your money, but, the moment you turn around, then they will laugh at you, or worse, give you a kick in the rear.

So, please, if in Rome, do as the Romans. Mexico is a rich, poor country, and to allow a bunch of semi-retired Gringos screw up their economy is too much. You have to remember, Chapala is a Mexican town, even though there are a lot of Americans there. THEY ARE GUESTS THERE. You are not doing anyone a favor by paying an unreallistic wage to a maid, much less to her.

You upset the local and country wage standards. You can offer gifts of things, but do not reward them by paying high or higher than the going wages. How do you think the local banker feels when his maid’s sister makes more than he does, the sister working as a maid, for Americans locally. (That banker is really going to like you.) The fact that you can give someone a job, and pay on time, and, pay the benefits required by law, is much better looked at than paying high wages to the maid.

She will think you are great in the beginning, and after a while, a fool. This goes for any other employee as well. To tranfer your U.S. mind down to Mexico is not good for us or for you in the long run, and you will not be a happy person here for long, that is.




Posted by Marvin Kemel on February 22, 1997 at 06:57:05:

In Reply to: UNFAIR WAGES posted by BETSY on February 21, 1997:

> I see sort of a keep them poor, barefoot and pregnant philosophy. After reding this post I now know why the term “Ugly american(or Canadian)”is used all over the world. Heaven forbid we give others the chance to rise to our economic level. I guess I was wrong . Maybe we should only pay the maid 4 pesos a day and then the local banker will be even happier.

Will Marvin spark the next Revolution?


Posted by Jodi on February 22, 1997 :

In Reply to:RE: Unfair Wages posted by Marvin Kemel on February 22, 1997:

“Heaven forbid we give others the chance to rise to our economic level.”

Marvin, I think you need to sit back for a bit and think about Mexico’s history. You are not dealing with Canada or the US here. This land has been run by totalitarian governments since the early indigenous groups began building their massive city-states. Since those times the few have essentially forced the vast majority into what basically amounts to servitude, or at least utter poverty. Mexico passes through many years of feudalism and encomienda. Stabs at land reform and redistribution of wealth have not worked well, in large part due to inadequate education of the poor masses.

Certainly I am not saying this history is a positive one, on the contrary. But you cannot expect to bring democratic values here and have them work instantly. What do you think the zapatistas are all about in Chiapas? Why do you think that Michoacan, where I call home, is in a state of constant tension and occasional upheaval?

The poverty in Mexico simply will not go away. You are correct. Inflation is crazy these days. I just paid 77 pesos for a cylinder of gas the other day and a year ago it was 41. My salary has not doubled, nor has that of most Mexicans, I am certain. Life is getting more difficult for all of us. However, my (Mexican) husband and I find it important to continue to give our maid the two days a week we can afford to have her here. If we let her go, which we have considered on occasion, she would then have to find another family to fill in those days.

The chances of her finding a family willing/able to pay what we pay her are not high. Therefore, she will have a cut in her income. That family may not give her a Christmas bonus. They may not give her medicines for her or for her kids when they need them. They may not have her buy an extra kilo of beans for herself from their money every time they ask her to go to the mercado a block away. In other words, she and her children will probably suffer far more if we let her go than if we keep her.

If you are concerned about the appauling wages in this country then you could make a difference through education. You could begin to tell the people in your community that they deserve more. Indeed they do. But they will really need to put themselves on the line and spark a Revolution to make the advances necessary to be paid as are folks in the First World. Will you be that spark?

Re: Will Marvin spark the next Revolution?


Posted by Marvin Kemrl on February 22, 1997:

In Reply to: Will Marvin Spark the Next Revolution? posted by Jodi on February 22, 1997:

Thank you for that intelligent response to my postings. I have studied some Mexican history. I am not a revolutionary, but a Capitalist who has a heart. I would not pay a Mexican maid Canadian minimum wages nor was I inferring that the other Ladies who posted do the same. But as a businessman who employs people in Canada I could not expect a person to work for wages that would not allow him or her to at least eat.

I somehow doubt that the original person who posted about paying 40 pesos would suffer if she raised it to 60 pesos. That is still only about $8 per day . The response i got still lead me to believe that these people are living in an American ghetto with little regard for fellow human beings. Mexicans would refer to them as “codo duro”(pardon my spelling). One lady even stated that all Mexicans were back stabbers. A stereotypical racist comment. I am not nieve enough to think my paying a fair wage will make a difference, but it is certainly the humane thing to do. I see too many foreigners, both tourists and residents, who treat Mexicans with hate and disgust .

If the people and the country are so bad why live there? I am also aware of how poorly the wealthy Mexicans(PRI) treat their fellow countrymen and I see no vast changes coming in my lifetime. Before Salinas stepped down I thought that maybe there was a hope for economic changes that would spark a middle class but the only changes that have occured is that the economic recovery is being placed on the backs of the poor instead of the wealthy.

However that does not give me the right to” do in Rome” . After reading some of the postings I am considering taking my boxes of used clothing that were intended for workers at the campos to Chapala and distribute them to the “poor” Americans. They are all pleading poverty.


Thanks Jodi

Posted by Camille on February 26, 1997:

In Reply to: Will Marvin Spark The Next Revolution posted by Jodi on February 22, 1997 at:

I truly appreciate your intelligent resonse to this subject. I feel the same and know the position you are in because I also live and work for pesos.
My S/O and I have had the same conversations about our help and we feel that whatever we can do to keep her employed is better than helping her become unemployed.
We also take into consideration that things are difficult for her and her family as well as do many of the Gringas in this area – clothing, excess food, etc., anything that I might think I no longer need goes to help her and her family first.

And Marvin, if you’re reading this, the reason we are called “ugly” is for our complete lack of manners and respect for the countries that we visit,their people and customs, not for the wages we pay.”

Economics 101


Posted by John Cummings on March 05, 1997 :

In Reply to: Re: Will martin spark the next revolution? posted by Marvin Kemel on February 22, 1997 at 15:18:37:


I have read your postings with a great deal of interest. You are completely out of touch with reality. I am not going to respond to all of your postings as it would take forever and you still will never understand anything about economics or the real world.

How can you call yourself a capitalist and businessman and not have even a basic understanding of economics. You should know that in a free capitalistic society, wages are NOT based upon need. Wage levels are dictated by the marketplace. You pay a wage level that is consistent with finding suitable employees for the task at hand.

If you do not pay enough then you will not be able to attract quality employees. Wage levels like other prices should be set by the marketplace. If you pay wages that are higher than an employees market value then you will cause distortions in the economy that will end up harming everybody via high unemployment and inflation. If you arbitrarily double everybodies income then you will have massive inflation resulting in high unemployment.

The very people that you are trying to help will now be worse off than before as will everybody else. This is already happening in areas like San Miguel Allende where the cost of living is becoming very expensive because of the influence of the foreign residents. I commend you for being a good samaritan but spread your good fortune in other ways that don’t disrupt the local economy. Mexico is not the US or Canada. The US became the wealthiest nation on the face of the earth because of the free enterprise system that people like you are trying to destroy.

I am not ashamed of what we have accomplished in America. I am proud of the fact that we have attained a high standard of living through hard work encouraged by our free enterprize system. I love Mexico and the wonderful Mexican people. I certainly do NOT admire their government or legal system that has held them back for so many years. What you are preaching is the same old tired propaganda that the unions and socialists have preached for years. John L. Lewis produced the highest paid UNEMPLOYED coal workers in the world.

Believe me I feel for the unfortunate people of Mexico and other poor countries. My wife of 32+ years is a Mexican citizen and believe me she does not come from the upper class. All of her family live in Mexico and they are hurting badly. Mexico is a poor country becaue they have not had a free enterprise system. The people suffer because of massive government corruption
and a stifling beauracracy. If you want to help the people then educate them so they can demand the same freedoms that we enjoy.

I also take strong objection to you considering that your area is more Mexican becaue it is poorer. Isn’t that pretty ironic when you are complaining about the poverty. Do you have to be poor to be a Mexican. That is a pretty racist way of viewing things. The only way Mexico is going to improve their living conditions is to modernize and come into the 20th century. They are
actually doing a pretty good job of this so hopefully conditions will improve. My young nephews and nieces in Mexico have all learned to use computers by the time they were 6 years old. Does that make them less Mexican? Don’t condemn another area because they have an ISP. You ought to worry why you don’t have one.



Re: Economics 101

Posted bY Marvin Kemel on March 05, 1997 at 17:59:36:


Economics is not a science but an art. No two economists agree on anything. Even Alan Greensapn changes his theories often. My postings were not about employers in the sense of businesses but rather about Foreigners who are NOT employers but do hire casual labour. This is not the same thing. Is it ok to pay a maid a wage that she cant use to feed herself? I wonder what an Ethics Prof. or your local Minister or Priest would say on this subject. As for your reference to my lack of knowledge on economics you are way off.

Henry Ford ( a capatilist, racist,dictatorlike person) once doubled the wages of all his workers because they could not afford to buy his cars. All the other industrialists were angry but the resuls were that all the factories gained sales. Granted this was long before real Global markets existed and it is simplistic but non the less it worked. If Mexico does not create a middle class they are doomed. Mexico has lots of $ it is just not distributed properly. I did not state that kino was more”mexican” than any other place I simply said that Chapala is certainly more plastic.

There is nothing wrong with this if that is the way one chooses to live. But when Betsy posted something about it being the “real” Mexico I cant agree. In one of the travel forums on the net a poster referred to Chapala as a “gated” community(his words,not mine) I am neither defending my community or knocking another.

We all seek different things in life. BUT a community in Mexico with latte shops and thousands of foreign residents is not IMO the “real” mexico(her words, not mine). I might add that I have received at least 10 Email replies to my postings . All but 2 were in support. I repeat paying a maid 40 pesos a day to clean and cook is not only miserly but cruel.

I wish I could quote scriptures. I am sure there are many passages to support my ideals. It seems that many of the posters are upset that I have upset the status quo. Maybe they need a little awakening. Living in a third world country amongst poor people is never easy. Most of us would not want to give them all our worldly posessions and live like a monk. Paying one maid higher wages will not affect the economy one iota, but it will help one poor Mexican Maid. In my eyes that becomes”do the right thing”

Forget the economics debate – change subject


Posted by John Cummings on March 05, 1997 at 19:29:51:

In Reply to:Re: Economics 101 posted by Marvin kemel on March 05, 1997 at 17:59:36:


You and I will porbably never agree on the subject of overpaying or underpaying people so I am not going to pursue it any further.

I do agree with what you say about the plastic American Colonies that have sprung up around Mexico. I can’t say anything about Lake Chapala because I have never been there. However it has no appeal to me. My wife is a Mexican citizen and I am both bilingual and bicultural. Most of our friends are Mexicans. We also help the Mexicans in the US. We have helped many of the quote illegal aliens here in California. I far prefer to live in the Mexican areas however that doesn’t mean poor areas. For example we like La Paz, BCS very much.

I am interested in where you live in Mexico. Do you live in San Carlos just north of Guaymas or where? I spent time in San Carlos about 23 years ago. We have many relatives that live in Cd. Obregon, Sonora as well as in Sinaloa. I am curious what San Carlos is like now. It was just developing when we were there.




The Good Life


Posted by Marvin Kemel on March 05, 1997 at 20:35:05:

In Reply to: Re: Forget Economics change subject posted by John Cummings on March 05, 1997 at 19:29:51:

Buenos Noches: John, Bahia de Kino is north of San Carlos. WE are 110 km. w. of Hermosillo. San Carlos is still apretty place but because of the influx of Mexican Tourist Government $ it has changed( i think for the worst) There is a new road from the highway into San Carlos and many new hotels. A huge Howard Johnson, a Club Med, etc.

The marina is really nice. I do envy some of the tourist infrastructure-bank machines, good restaurants, neat bars, etc. But of courrse along with that comes all the negatives: higher real estate prices, snobbier people, etc. I discoverd kino while travelling through Mexico about 7 years ago. i had restored an old Cortez motorhome for the trip to Guadalajara and was looking for a place to stay on the way by the ocean.

When we came into Kino and saw the beach we fell in love. I now know what Mexicns mean by :mi tierra. Kino is comprised of two communities. Kino viejo is the Mexican fishing village of about 3000 people. They are either fishermen or wood carvers. Kino is famous for ironwood carvings. Fishing in the Sea of Cortez is very poor as it is overfished. Thus the people are very poor.

If it were not for Kino nuevo I dont know how they would survive. New Kino is either wealthy Mexicans with palaces on the beach or Americans( a few Canadians) who live in both houses and travel trailers. We have a Club Deportivo which although was originally started to run Rescue One( for the sport fishermen) it has become a focal point of the communities. We have a banquet facility, library , bar,etc. The people are mostly retirees and it is a mixed bag: some live on social security, others live well above this. Most come here for the fishing but i think many stay here for the “sense of community”.

Many are actively involved in the Mexican community: Catholic church, familias unitas, fund raising, school projects,etc. The surrounding area is mostly agricultural with campesinos coming from el sur to work here. They are even poorer than the fishermen. But the amazing thing is that they do not consider themselves to be poor. They have a family which is far more important than money . Most people in our expat community mingle in old kino like a local. We have more good friends in old Kino than in the new town. I wouild sooner go to a Wedding or a Quincianera(spelling??) than to an American banquet.

Eating tacos from a puesto all the while chasing flies away is better than Burger king any day. The Seri Indians live in Deemboque and Punta Chueca not far from us. My wife who speaks pretty good Spanish( i get by) is learning some Seri. Life is pretty “laid back” here. When we are craving the big city we can go to Hermosillo: Wal Mart, Price Club ,etc. Of course along with the big city comes the crime- lately spare tires are a hot commodity. What keeps us smi primitave is the lack of a Marina and a good golf course. I hope we never see either. The road to Kino also is not the greatest. Have you ever been to San Blas, Sin. Another one of our favorite places. If you ever come to kino pls. look us up. We could debate Economics over a Tecate con limon.


Re: the good life


Posted by John Cummings on March 05, 1997 at 22:36:15:

In Reply to: The Good Life posted by Marvin Kemel on March 05, 1997 at 20:35:05:


Thanks for the information and your hospitality. I looked up Bahia de Kino on the map and I see it is due west of Hermosillo. The map shows a large island just off shore from you. I would imagine that we would like it there from what you have described. We used to spend quite a bit of time in northern Sonora. We also far prefer the local taco stands and good conversation with the Mexican people.

The Mexican people still have the art of being great conversationalists. Burger Kings and the like are not my cup of tea and I would just as soon not see them. We don’t go to these places here and we sure don’t do it in Mexico. I don’t know what their appeal is in Mexico. The food is generally lousy and they are very expensive compared to a good local taco shop.

I visited San Blas about 25 years ago. It is un pueblo near Los Mochis, Sinaloa. We have family in Los Mochis. We are going to Mazatlan in May for a couple of weeks. You mentioned the crime in Hermosillo. It is very unfortunate but crime is becoming a serious problem in many parts of Mexico.

Take care, John

Published or Updated on: February 20, 1997 by Discussion Thread Forum © 2009


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