By Todd Bates
Having lived in Puerto Vallarta for seven years and after living on the beach, in an amazing condo in Marina Vallarta, I recently moved to a more traditional Mexican area. I wanted to enjoy the complete experience of life in this country and the opportunity arose to make this move. Removed from the comforts of the tourist areas, Puerto Vallarta is a vibrant city with a population approximately 200,000 that welcomes you to explore and experience in many ways.
I am only two blocks to the beach, but a world away.
The first few days were spent learning the lay of the land. Getting up to speed on garbage days, flow of traffic, local noises and the myriad of normal things ones needs to learn regardless of which city or country.
I was thrilled to learn that I was living in a mixed community; with some new families, but with many more existing or original owners – some almost forty years! This sure lends to the flavor of the neighbourhood.
As well, as per Mexico, there is this great blend of small businesses right beside homes; the root and proof of Jane Jacobs’ theories. After a few days, I noticed the amount of detritus on the sidewalks and decided I would take action.Basing my actions on the “Broken Window” theory proposed by Wilson and Kelling; the theory being that if no windows were broken in a building, no one would break one, but it there was a broken window, persons would break more. I started by picking up the garbage on the streets. Each day collecting two or three bags. But I soon realized that this was a drop in the bucket and took it upon myself to go further with my plan.
I needed to engage the local residents into seeing the personal value they share in the neighborhood. Purchasing a gallon of white paint, I started to paint the trees, from the base to about 140 cm or 5 feet. In total there were about 40 trees to be painted. The neighbors were interested in my efforts, but silent and polite.
That first gallon only lasted for about five trees; as I had no reference point. I went back and purchased two more and continued on. Suddenly, my neighbors were seeing that this was going to continue and were very happy with my efforts; so much so that even the children came out to assist with their tree! Here we were working together to improve the community overall; a wonderful start to my latest adventure.