Jumapam workers repair a leak in Mazatlán. Jumapam workers repair a leak in Mazatlán.

80-peso water bill reason to be grateful

But when the water stopped running, a Mexican shrug was the only reply

Jumapam is the government agency dealing with water, sewer and rubbish removal in Mazatlán.  Our monthly Jumapam bill is about 80 pesos (close to US $4) and I am truly grateful for this bargain.

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Starting in May and through the summer, I watched Jumapam replace the main sewer line and the individual branch lines throughout the downtown area. The plan of attack utilized six backhoes, two large track-driven excavators, seven or so dump trucks, a large cadre of shovel-wielding workers and three concrete sawing crews.

As I watched the chaos in other areas, I knew our peaceful hillside habitat would eventually be swarming with men and machines.

Our day of reckoning came at 7:00am October 3 when the deafening staccato of the jackhammer fired up all the dogs within four blocks. I bolted out of bed and ran to the window screaming, “Barricade the door, the narcos are storming the gates!”

My Captured Tourist Woman calmly assured me it was only Jumapam giving us a new sewer line. As I watched a backhoe destroy the center of our street, I wondered: Do I need to get my car out? Am I expecting a delivery? Do I have a splitting headache? Does any of this matter? At 80 pesos a month could I actually whine?

As a gringo, I knew it was totally my error for not querying Jumapam as to their timing of the work in our neighborhood. After 10 years I should know that no information is voluntarily imparted, it only comes slowly with polite, but clever interrogation of the right person and even then would I get the correct answer?

Our street has a dead end. The driving area ends at 52 steps and a series of three concrete plateaus which connect to a short dirt street below. The completed Jumapam trench, which ran from the front of our casa to flat ground in the street below, was two meters wide and two deep, with rubble stacked at the sides.

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It was about the same day the trench was completed that I realized we were without city water. After checking the cistern, I knew we had been without it for a couple of days. The connection between the street devastation and the lack of water was obvious.

So I talked with the workers. When I questioned the backhoe operator and members of the shovel crew about the possibility of a broken pipe, I got a collective Mexican shrug; nothing, we know nothing. Finally I got the best dressed guy on the crew, the only one without a spade-tipped leaning device, to call Jumapam and report the problem. Suddenly I thought if there was a broken pipe there should be a wet spot somewhere.

The work crew eyed me warily as I stalked the rubble with my own shovel, seeking a wet spot. It was apparent from their facial expressions that they thought a gringo with a shovel to be potentially dangerous, and they stayed well out my way. After 15 futile minutes, I found no wet spot.

I approached the head man again and implored him to find the broken pipe so we could once again enjoy the luxury of running water. His response was instant. His eyes went wide and he effusively promised that the problem would be resolved immediately.

When I realized my two-handed grip on the shovel was being misconstrued as threatening, I quickly stuck it in the ground and leaned on the handle in the Mexican fashion; everyone relaxed.

After the workers were gone, I undertook a more thorough search. Sure enough, I found a new hole at the edge of our wall, which had a crimped and dented copper pipe lying at the bottom. The crimp told me someone had staunched the flow of water by flattening the pipe and bending back the end before it was reburied.

The relatively small hole told me that the same person or persons that crimped the pipe knew exactly where to dig it.

Viva Mexico!

Bodie Kellogg describes himself as a very middle-aged man who lives full-time in Mazatlán with a captured tourist woman and the ghost of a half wild dog. If you wish to give him cold beer, large sacks of money or a piece of your mind, he can be reached at buscardero@yahoo.com.

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  • Henry Wilson

    you know you are in mexico when you go to use the plumbing in the bathroom.

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