Obra Suspendida | Mexico | Living in Mexico

Obra Suspendida

My friends, Irwin and Imelda (not their real names) made some improvements to their home on (name of street deleted to protect the guilty). Among these was the addition of a tejado—a sort of lanai—on their roof. The first photo shows their home after the tejado was completed. The second one (badly photoshopped) shows roughly what it looked like prior to construction.


Remodels require permits, subject to draconian restrictions, if your home is located in the historic center of town. As a general principle, this is good. Much of San Miguel's charm derives from the preservation of a quasi-colonial look. But as is the case in most things Mexican, the regulations are applied capriciously and unevenly.

Everything is subject to negotiation. Most homeowners hire an architect to handle obtaining the permits and inspection processes.

The job of the architect is not, as you might innocently expect, to keep your project within the regulations. He pretty much can't stay within the regulations because of spur-of-the-moment opinions on the part of the inspectors. No. his job is to finesse the inspectors.

How it works is, you decide what it is you want to do, say, add a second story. Since adding a second story will be highly visible from the street, you'll need an influential architect. He'll design what you want and then the games begin.

Permits are obtained which neglect to mention that the new bedrooms and baths will require addition of a second story. Sand, concrete and bricks are delivered on Saturday, when the inspectors don't work. Construction begins. Then one day, as you are coming home, you notice something stuck to your door.


If you've lived here for awhile, you think to yourself, "Oh, shit." You've been tagged with a stop work order.


Don't panic. Practically no job escapes getting slapped with a stop work order.

It's inconvenient. It's against the law for workers to continue with your job while the stop order is in force, so that means more sneaking around on Saturday, or only doing things inside where the inspectors can't see.

Meanwhile, your architect is supposed to go see the appropriate agency to do the negotiation, skid-greasing and outright bribery needed to get the inspectors to lighten up.

It's all so tiresome. If all these inspectors and regulations and red tape accomplished something, I suppose it would all be worth it. But check this out:


This building is right across the street from Irwin and Imelda's house. Look colonial to you? I thought not.

Well, maybe I'm being unfair. This example is, after all, a commercial building. Here's a private home just up the street:


Yup. This building is in compliance. Irwin and Imelda's is not.

As Will Rogers said, "Thank God we don't get all the government we pay for."