With headlines of drug lords dominating the news, it’s easy to imagine Mexico to be a place with little hope. The fact is, in many cases, quite the opposite is true. In tourist rich areas of the country, like Mexico’s Mayan Riviera, the middle class is burgeoning and most Mexicans say their future appears to be brighter than ever, more than it has in generations.
In Playa del Carmen, thousands of miles removed from border-town drug wars, brand new VW’s, Chevy’s and other inexpensive cars (along with a few BMW’s and Mercedes) pull into the parking lot of the local Sam’s Club. Families hang out at modern shopping malls, eat Chinese or McDonalds at the food court, line up for Will Smith’s latest flick at state-of-the-art theaters, and shop for puppies at the local pet store.
Mexicans in this part of the Caribbean are buying cars, big screen tv's, modern appliances, and for many, their very first home. Two million new homes were purchased in 2009 using government backed mortgages, which has doubled in the last 5 years. After decades of not having the ability to afford big ticket items, these major purchases can now be purchased with credit, not just cash. Why the progress?
Mexico’s economy is outperforming most other major economies coming out of the recession. Mexico’s citizens are experiencing double-digit bank loan growth, low unemployment, low national debt and one of the lowest tax burden’s in the world. This energized, economic environment is fostering the growth of a new middle class in places like Playa del Carmen, recently named the fastest growing city in the world by the Guinness book of records. Here, the real estate industry is on the verge of exploding, tourism is growing exponentially, and new hotels, restaurants and support businesses are starting up daily.
The economic transformation in this part of Mexico has been so rapid that some people fear it is all coming to fast, others revel in the progress of newfound prosperity. Whatever the case may be, the stereotypical concept of a poor Mexican lying in the street, in torn clothes, wearing a sombrero may be a little passé. When imagining the modern, middle-class Mexican, one should more apply think, “driving a new VW Jetta, shopping at Sam’s Club and sporting an Izod shirt”.