By David Taub
Chapter 1: Deception, Invasion and Revolution
It was Dec. 15, 1995, a modestly warm afternoon in Merida, the Capital city of the Mexican State of Yucatan. Then-primatologist Dr. David Taub, was studying Spider monkeys in a small rain forest in the southern tip of the Yucatan peninsula.
Lady Luck was riding on his shoulder, for he found a hacienda for sale at a bargain price. The Federal government had just devalued the peso – bad for the Mexicans, good for gringos looking for bargains. David bought Hacienda Puerto de los Pelicanos, and the telenovela of don David began.
Fast forward a few years, with a bit of important background. Several years before Covid-19 laid low all the world’s economies, don David allowed a man (who turned out to be less than trustworthy) to operate/manage a BNB, restaurant and bar on the hacienda grounds. We shall refer to him as Señor Zero.
Soon, don David became suspicious of Señor Zero’s operation. The Mayan gods did not hold Señor Zero in high esteem either, for he was badly injured in a car accident, and the “lady friend” with him was killed. This “lady” was rumored to be his mistress de jour. Keep in mind that the No. 1 blood sport of small Mayan villages in Yucatan is gossip.
Subsequent to the accident, Señor Zero became invisible to the authorities; he turned over the operation to his niece, “Jazabel.” Jazabel continued to run what appeared for several years to have been a quite successful operation, as she continued to use her uncle’s “under the table” model of management. She apparently had been well trained.
Then the Covid pandemic shut down all of Mexico. Shortly thereafter, “la invasion” began. The hacienda was shut down completely, with all buildings locked-up tight. Only the trusted gardener, Fernando (a pseudonym) came to manage the hacienda grounds and wonderful gardens, even though neither Señor Zero nor Jazabel paid him.
The invasion began late at night, in moonless darkness. The only sounds were the palm fronds waving in the mild gentle winds and mongrel dogs barking. Jazabel, accompanied by several “assistants,” crept onto the hacienda grounds, cut off the locks on the buildings, and “took possession.”
The next morning, the denizens of the village surrounding the hacienda, woke to a spectacle of menacing-looking men guarding all the entrances to the hacienda. A large sign was erected at the turnoff into the hacienda from the two-lane black top “road” that ran outside the village. It announced that Jazabel was back in the BNB, restaurant/bar business; one and all were welcomed. No Covid restrictions here.
Fernando immediately emailed don David, more or less comfortable in his aged historic house in Beaufort, S.C., advising him of the invasion by Los Bastardos. Don David immediately emailed Señor Zero and Jazabel, with what American lawyers call a “demand letter,” DEMANDING, in no uncertain words (both Spanish and English versions) that they MUST vacate the hacienda immediately and never return. They answered with a photograph of a hand with a digit raised. It was difficult to identify whose hand it was, but the message was certainly unambiguous.
Thence began Plan A, how to displace Los Bastardos (a cognate that vividly describes the entire illegal possession of don David’s cherished hacienda). This action took several months, and three successive sets of Mexican lawyers, before don David connected with the right “hombres” to develop and execute Plan A.
Because Axiom No. 1 for gringos dealing with Mexican authorities is “Nothing ever happens quickly!” Trust me, it doesn’t.
Axiom No. 2 is “Get a good Mexican attorney, who speaks English, and ALWAYS follow his/her advice.” After two failed attempts at applying Axiom No. 2, don David succeeded with attempt No. 3.
Having been a Magistrate Judge in Beaufort county for five years, it was entirely reasonable that don David’s brain was imprinted to think in terms of American law. Big mistake. He suggested what seemed to be a prudent straightforward legal approach — that is, don David should go to the appropriate Mexican court, present his deed of ownership, and obtain a court ordered injunction displacing Los Bastardos. Naive doesn’t come close to characterizing such gringo foolishness.
Mexican attorney No. 3, a very street-savvy lawyer, also became a good personal friend of don David’s. He quickly replied to don David’s lengthy tome outlining his gringo legal thinking. His response: “Señor don David, if I should follow your suggestions, we will be in a series of Mexican courts for at least three years, all the while Los Bastardos will remain in possession of your hacienda, and laughing all the way to el Banco. I do not think you wish to go this route, and I strongly recommend against this “American” approach. Instead, I strongly recommend ‘The Mexican Approach!’ which is ‘SILENT and SWIFT.’”
Time to apply Axiom No. 2. Don David agreed to everything his knowledgeable attorney recommended. Priority No. 1 became repossession of Hacienda Puerto de los Pelicanos ASAP, and immediately (what a joke that was) and permanent dispossession of Los Bastardos. The lawyer wrote back: “Gracias, don David. I am at your service.”
Alas, the Editor of The Island News, fine fellow that he be, has restricted me to a limit on words, which I have already exceeded. Tune in to Chapter 2, the climax to this telenovela.
“Well, all I know is what I read in the newspapers.” – Will Rogers.
David M. Taub was Mayor of Beaufort from 1990 through 1999 and served as a Beaufort County Magistrate from 2010 to 2015. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.