Roger writing the LAWmag

Puerto Vallarta Law

Thirty degrees Celsius sure beats the -20° C (-4° F) I survived in Prince George last week. And in case the Canadian Revenue Agency questions my travel receipts, I am hard at work here albeit with the sound and sight of 82° F (32° C) Pacific Ocean waves pounding at my very feet.

First of all, there are a few dork lawyers back in BC quick to jump on my absence to take some advantage in a file. If I’m lucky that way, I still have to find some angle to satisfy CRA that the receipts are all legit. From CRA’s docs:

"You can deduct travel expenses you incur to earn business and professional income. Travel expenses include public transportation fares, hotel accommodations and meals."

So on that note..... Puerta Vallarta Law!

Mexico was doing fine ... kind of ... before the Spanish arrived in 1519.

Pyramid of KukulcanThe Mexicans did things by tribe: the Mayans, the Aztecs and so on. These little aggressive roaming jurisdictions were law simpletons much like our ancestors, except on a grander scale, chopping off heads of whichever tribe lost the war – once over 10,000 in one day. Worshiping hummingbirds and the like, they’d pierce every piece of skin they could find. The Maya supreme god "Kukulcan" also allegedly taught their ancestors law (pyramid of Kukulcan pictured).

They seemed to have an adoration of death. The Mayans played a brand of basketball which makes modern ice hockey look tame. Ran on a court the size of a football field, the players on the winning team were beheaded.

But by the same token, some branches of Mexican civilization were neck and neck with European culture. They had contrived heir own calendar and had discovered farming.

Then came the Spaniards in 1519 and they were relentless, suppressing the Aztec language and then imposing the Catholicism religion. They didn’t mess around with religion bringing over the Inquisition to help out, slaughtering thousands of native Mexicans. They subsidized Spain and Spaniards by sucking the silver mines of Zacatecas dry. Whoever survived the Inquisition still had to get through the hard conditions of mine building, mining and colonialism.

When Spain itself was invaded by Napoleon in the early 1800s, the Mexicans took a deep breath and seized the moment to oust the Spaniards. But they were then easy picking for a strong and expansionist American government who contained them to their present borders.

Today, it with some sadness that an ex-patriate Quebecer views a landscape void of most Aztec, Mayan, Tlaxaltecans or Purepechas culture and nothing but hard-core Virgin Mary’s. There’s nothing wrong with that until you consider its origins: about as immaculately conceived as Anna Nicole Smith’s daughter.

The conversion is complete: 84% of Mexicans are Roman Catholics or Protestants. They all speak Spanish.

With what was left of their culture, Mexico struggled for identity and rule of law. Dictators and economic collapses followed one another. Civil war or, depending who you ask, "national revolution" took hold in 1910-1911 and included the activities of Emiliano Zapata (pictured). Zapata saw that the "new" Mexico had merely replaced the noble Spaniards with "noble" Mexicans – a la Animal Farm.

The government eventually regained the upper hand with a constitution in 1917 which had the all hallmarks of Mexico’s recent past:

"5. No one can be compelled to render personal services without due remuneration and without his full consent....

"17. No one may be imprisoned for debts of a purely civil nature. No one may take the law into his own hands, or resort to violence in the enforcement of his rights. The courts shall be open for the administration of justice at such times and under such conditions as the law may establish; their services shall be gratuitous....

"27. Ownership of the lands and waters within the boundaries of the national territory is vested originally in the Nation, which has had, and has, the right to transmit title thereof to private persons, thereby constituting private property."

By the late 1930s, a slow but gradual growth period began – again under the banner of revolution: a political party named "PRI" which stood for Institutional Revolutionary Party. It took a collapse of the Mexican peso in 1994 to bring about the election of a non-PRI president in 1997.Emilio Zapata

Today, rescued as if from the gorgeous Pacific Ocean waves that splash onto the shores of Banderas Bay, Mexican culture shakes off its chains of history. The people are modest and fun-spirited – you just don’t get that it’s from Spain.

Still, today, at 2-million square kilometers, and 110-million people, this is a formidable country which leaves the impression that the people either have not seen their destiny or neither understand nor seek status - thank you very much. Perhaps, like North American Indian, the whole concept of property and the law that supports it takes some getting used to.

According to the CIA Factbook Icirca 2008), the life expectancy in Mexico is 73 years for males, 78 for females; just under Canada’s (77 and 84 respectively). One US or Canadian dollar equals 11 Mexican pesos. Based on gross domestic product figures of the World Bank, the Mexican economy is now ranked 14h in the world

With a contemporary federal republican form of government, Mexico has 31 states, an elected congress and national leader in the office of president.

In 1994, revolutionaries surfed in again with the peso crisis. Known as the Zapistas, the revolutionaries were suppressed but never wiped out, and now apply pressure like mosquitoes, striking sporadically, with no warning, and usually leaving behind damage, if any, that is symbolic and not substantial. The Zapistas run in the jungle and have the alleged support of the most rural of citizens. The gist of Zapistas is the unrealustic raw state of socialism.

The paradigm of an imperfect Mexico is well stated by

"Mexico is a major oil producer and exporter. Nearly one-third of government revenue comes from the industry. Much of the crude is bought by the US.

"But prosperity remains a dream for most Mexicans. Rural areas are often neglected and huge shanty towns ring the cities.

"Violent crime is a major concern; Mexicohas one of the highest rates of kidnappings in the world."

Being as it is into its formative years post-conquest, and with a strong residual culture from the "indigenous" years, Mexico is like a sailboat with an oversized mast, jerking in the wind but with the rigging, with the right captain and crew, to soar.

Since the wealthy legislators don’t lack water or electricity, wealth distribution remains an elusive target of Mexican law. This concern, until addressed, will give the Zapistas, and their violent successors - which are sure to come – a legitimate platform for legislative reform.

Even on the beach at Puerto Vallarta, one can see signs of a significant two-tiered social class system with no overwhelming but essential middle-class. As that breach widens, discontent gathers silently as if the back tow of a wave. Opulent, eat-until-you-drop tourist resorts are manned by common folk but who have cousins, brothers, sisters and family within Mexico’s real world. It is a turbulent balance and one which history has shown that, as any exploited portion of the population enlightens, must either evolve or be shattered.


  • Mexico law resource page, University of Washington, at
  • "The Mayan City of Chichen Itza", The Web Chronology Project, North Park University, Chicago, Illinois

Posted in International Law, Legal History

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