Cinder block by cinder block the coastline of the greater Todos Santos area is changing. But not for long if a group of residents has its way.
For several years people have been struggling to stop development on the dunes that in some cases are literally a stone’s throw from the waves crashing in from the Pacific Ocean.
A website created by a group called Protect Todos Santos was launched in May to bring awareness to people who are not intimately involved in the fight. The site is more of an educational resource than an emotional plea for change. Documents from the Mexican government are provided to substantiate the group’s beliefs.
Information is provided in English and Spanish, with the official documents also in both languages.
The site says Protect Todos Santos is an “organization of Mexican and foreign residents working together to preserve and protect the beautiful Todos Santos region from the environmental threats our community faces due to the rapid growth we are now experiencing.”
It further states, “Many battles have been waged over the years, and are currently being waged to prevent overdevelopment, destruction of our coastal dunes, and to ensure we wisely use our scarce water resources. Our success depends on all of us becoming more educated about the threats we face and working together to remediate them.”
The Program for Urban Development for Todos Santos, El Pescadero, and Las Playitas was published in 2012. It covers more than 30 miles from Elias Calles on the south to Agua Blanca north of Todos Santos. The PDU prohibits any development on primary and secondary dunes.
The problem is regulations outlined in this document are not being enforced. Protect Todos Santos is determined to be proactive and diligent to get officials in La Paz to pay attention.
One of the problems throughout Mexico, though, is government officials are not afraid to take a bribe and then turn the other way. This is often how building permits are issued when the law says they shouldn’t be.
Degradation of the environment is the No. 1 reason people want to stop this development. Protect Todos Santos has environmental experts on board to help with the cause. Leading the legal fight is local attorney John Moreno who was successful several years ago in getting the Tres Santos project in Todos Santos to be scrapped.
The law states native vegetation cannot be removed without prior consent. The citizens’ group says construction crews do what the developer says, not what the law dictates. This is how houses on the dunes have come into being.
Building on this dune in the Las Tunas area of Todos Santos, Mexico, has been stopped. The hope is the owner will have to restore it. (Image: Cien Palmas Photograhy)
While several environmental studies have been conducted in this region, the last was completed in 2021. The findings are posted on Protect Todos Santos’ website. In part, it found sand lacking cohesion, making it not suitable to be built upon.
The report also found these impacts:
Fragmentation of the system due to construction on dunes.
Agriculture, behind the coastal dune.
Fragmentation by accesses (sidewalks, paths, vehicle access).
Vehicle traffic on the beach, embryonic dunes.
Infrastructure (houses on and behind the dunes; and in stream beds).
Leveling and filling of dunes.
Loss of landscape quality (the houses on the coastal dunes prevent the view towards the sea).
Environmental degradation, loss of habitat.
The report further states, “Floristically the dune cord has not changed in the almost 50 years that it was sampled for the first time (1972), neither in its topography nor in its floristic diversity. This indicates that the conservation measures that have been carried out have managed to maintain the floristic biodiversity and the geomorphology of the dune cord. This has been achieved, despite the hurricanes that have occurred and the constructions (houses and roads) behind the dune cordon. This is especially important because it also means that, as a whole, in the cordon of dunes, the ecosystem services that the dunes provide to the community of inhabitants of Todos Santos are not lost. However, the threat of its destruction is already evident when counting around 100 constructions on the dune cordon and gaps that fragment the vegetation of the dune cordon.”
What frustrates those who live in the area is that ocean front lots are still for sale. Selling them is not illegal. Building on them is.
“What we are seeing now is the dune lots are still available and being marketed to Mexicans on the mainland,” said Ken Churchill, an ex-pat involved with Protect Todos Santos. “We are trying to educate the Realtors.”
He said a big problem is real estate agents from La Paz and Los Cabos often aren’t familiar with the law and therefore tell clients they are buildable lots.
Developers not stopping
Even in 2005, seven years before the PDU was published, the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT)—which is equivalent to the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States—told Ocean Development it would “require prior environmental impact authorization from the secretary of the
Environment” before the developer could build. It found numerous deficiencies with the environment documents.
That 2005 document spells out how Ocean Development in April 2000 presented information that was “deficient and did not support the requirements to counteract the expected effects on
the environment” and how five years later the environmental documents still did not meet muster.
The document states, “The feasibility and viability of the project, in the opinion of this state agency, has been decided unfavorable due to, among other aspects,
the fact that the fragmentation of the dune system would cause ecological imbalance of the coastal ecosystem of the area, since it is proposed to build a house on each back of the dune, as well as to delimit each lot with mesh or other material that allows the wind flow, and the implementation of wooden walkways toward the beach area that cross the dune. However, this situation has not yet been evaluated in the statement in question considering the total development of the project by building approximately 50 homes along the dune system and its cumulative and synergistic impacts together with the construction of the adjoining Las Tunas II Project.”
Also noted was this is sea turtle habitat, something not addressed in the environmental documents submitted by the developer.
Daniel Kimple is listed on the document as the representative for Ocean Development. Kimple and Eddie Ogden are listed together on the A. Paraiso Realty website. The site boasts of specializing in beachfront properties in Todos Santos.
The site does not have a bio for Kimple. Ogden’s says this, “After 20 years of sales of real estate, construction and development of subdivisions in the Cabo area, Eddie made the move to Todos Santos acquiring large tracts of land with the dream to develop spectacular beachfront homes. All this with the blessing of the local ejidatario officials, state and municipal political figures and federal environmental protection agencies. Several million dollars of sales and many happy clients later, Ed continues to offer quality real estate services to all those who share his dream of a home in Mexico’s beautiful Baja Sur.”
Ogden did not respond to email inquiries asking why they continue to try to sell what they call developable lots in the greater Todos Santos area when the law prohibits such construction.
Kimple also did not answer a series of questions emailed to him, but instead responded saying federal law allows for some construction on the dunes.
He did not address the fact he cited information from the environmental impact report and not the PDU. The EIR allowed for the building of one single family, one-story home on the front 35 percent of the lot next to the road as a test case. That never happened.
The PDU says, “The dunes represent a protection system for the coastline, since they dissipate and cushion the effects produced by the force of the waves, in addition to functioning as a reserve of sand on eroded beaches. They are considered fragile ecosystems, for which the permitted uses and/or activities can only be carried out after the first and second dunes. In the dune areas that present an evident movement of sand, no type of permanent construction may be carried out, that is, in the dune area that presents representative vegetation of dynamic dunes, it is prohibited to build permanent facilities.”
Kimple contends all lots he’s involved with are permitted by three levels of government.
Not just an oceanfront issue
Protect Todos Santos also wants authorities to enforce rules that are on the books that prevent other haphazard development in neighborhoods.
After visiting Baja Sur for more than 50 years, Larry Martin in 2015 bought two adjacent lots in Todos Santos. He put a house and casita on the land.
“We chose our location due to the unobstructed ocean view and because we knew that the neighborhood was protected by the 2012 Community Plan zoning. This limits development to one house per half acre,” Martin said. “Two years ago a La Paz Realtor bought the property between us and the ocean, and secured an option on the adjacent northerly lot. Soon a sign was posted advertising six new homes on the two lots.”
Martin said he told the real estate agent about the Plan for Urban Development and how it did not allow for the density he was proposing. According to Martin, the agent had no interest in finding a compromise. This left him having to fight it out in La Paz, which handles building permits for the Todos Santos region.
“We were told that the building permit was improperly issued and that the lots were not zoned for this density. But after 10 months, rather than deciding to protect the PDU, La Paz has told us that we need to ask the courts for a decision,” Martin said.
Today, there are three houses on a lot where only one was legally supposed to be built.
Next up for Martin is to demand the government have two of the three houses torn down. This, he admits, puts these people’s investments at risk and causes ill-will in the neighborhood, even though all he is doing is trying to enforce rules that have been on the books for a decade.
Pepper leaves pawprints in the sand at Todos Santos. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Walking is usually listed as one of the best forms of exercise. Add sand to the equation and it’s even better for you.
I had forgotten what a good workout it is until I spent two weeks in Todos Santos in June, with beach walks a nearly everyday occurrence. Thank goodness Rubi and Pepper need afternoon walks, otherwise it would have been easy to say it was too hot to move—at least that was the case the second week.
Muscles have to work harder when walking in sand compared to a hard surface like a concrete sidewalk or asphalt street. Quads, calves and glutes are getting a good workout. The soft sand is also good for achy joints. Sand can also help reduce injury because the pounding is not so intense.
Exertion is also dependent on whether you are walking closer to the water where sand is firmer or higher up where it’s deeper and softer. I like to do a bit of both.
Footprints in the sand along the Pacific Ocean in Todos Santos, Mexico. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Mentally, being on the beach has to be so much better than a street. No cars to worry about. It’s definitely a more serene setting when enveloped by nature and not concrete. And next to the ocean, as was the case when I was in Mexico, meant being able to inhale the sea air and to listen to the waves crashing.
Most of the time I had flip flops on; sometimes I was barefoot. No shoes meant more senses to be aware of. And sand is a great natural exfoliator.
Plus, there were the conversations with my good friend, Jill, as we solved our problems and those of the world’s on our walks. That’s what I will miss most about no longer walking on the beach.
(The video shows how close the build is to the Pacific Ocean.)
The power of the people helped shutter a restaurant in the Todos Santos area that popped up on the beach without permits.
“It’s a terrific reminder that when we work together, we can make a positive impact to preserve our environment and protect our beaches,” a group email from June 11 stated.
Residents first descended on the site in the Las Tunas area on June 10. A day later more than 150 people showed up in protest. Joining them were the mayor, prominent environmental justice attorney John Moreno, ZOFEMAT (the federal agency that regulates such matters), and local police.
Workers on June 11 dig up what’s left of an illegal beach restaurant in the Todos Santos area. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
“They canceled their three-day event, and packed up their tents, furniture, and sound system. Hopefully they will unbury their tinacos and septic system and move their bus too,” the email said.
According to Tribuna de la Paz, legal action and fines are possible.
Todos Santos isn’t the first place Emiliano Antunes, who founded Comunidad Tekio, has created a pop up restaurant and bar.
Tekio is featured in March 2022 in Forbes Mexico in what reads like a paid advertisement.
On June 13, a tinaco (an underground water container) is still on the site. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Translated into English, one paragraph says, “Awareness is one of the core values at Tekio. The concept is developed exclusively in 100 percent natural places. For this reason, we seek to achieve the least possible environmental impact, adapting to what each beach proposes, using materials and construction systems that are friendly to the ecosystem, considerably reducing the environmental impact on nature and our precious planet.”
Building on a beach without permits is an interesting way to care about the environment.
One has to wonder if all the fruit on the nearby beach once belonged to the illegal restaurant
Jacqueline Nunez operates the Evolet Laundry in Todos Santos. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
I never thought I would be that person. You know, the kind who pays someone to wash, dry and fold their laundry. Oh, my, what a luxury.
Doing laundry has never bothered me; that is assuming the machines were at my house. Going to a laundromat, well, that was a nuisance and an education in human behavior that I don’t care to repeat.
In Todos Santos I opted not to do my laundry at my friends’ house. This was because the day I was planning to do a load we didn’t get any water. Yes, that’s a thing in Baja. Water isn’t even delivered to the tinacos every day in every part of town; it was weekly in the last place I stayed. Miss a week and it’s noticeable.
I didn’t do laundry at home that day. I took it to the lavenderia, which was walking distance away. I never thought about doing my own laundry again—at least while I was in Todos Santos. This was too sweet—and cheap—of a deal.
The wash and fold facility has been in the Las Tunas area of Todos Santos for seven years. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
The 7-year-old Evolet Laundry is owned and operated by a local family; the same ones who own the neighboring Cleo’s restaurant. In fact, it’s Cleo and Martine’s daughter, Jacqueline, who is working at the laundromat most days; along with her friend Alisa. (Evolet is Jacqueline’s daughter’s name.)
When Cleo started the business in the kitchen at the restaurant there were two washing machines and one dryer. Today it’s not unusual for the eight washing machines and seven driers to all be going at the same time. It can be that busy. The lights are often off and the two ceiling fans whirling to keep it cool inside.
The laundromat can have water issues just like residents. Maybe that’s why sometimes it took more than a day for my clothes to be ready.
Jacqueline, who runs the business in the Los Tunas area of Todos Santos, said, “There are always problems” with water. Having tinacos out back full of water helps when the flow is interrupted.
How much water is used in a week or month she doesn’t know. She said the wastewater goes into a septic system that later has to be pumped.
Being away from the center of town it makes sense that about 95 percent of customers are gringos.
Bags of clothes line the two walls that are most prominent from the front door. This is the clean laundry. It’s either put in the container the person arrived with or into a white garbage bag.
The price for the service depends on the number of machines it takes. The least I paid was 70 pesos or about $3.45.
Containers full of clean laundry are ready to be picked up. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Everything came back clean, folded and nicely put back into the bag I had delivered it in. It took only a couple trips before they knew my name. When I walked up they knew me without me needing to say who I was, no matter the mask I was wearing.
It’s possible to ask (if you speak Spanish) for items to be line dried, washed by hand, ironed, mended, separated a certain way, or for all shirts or the like to be laundered together.
Jacqueline said it’s easy for her to know whose laundry is whose. Masking tape with the client’s name is put on the washer and dryer, then the bag. She was hesitant to reveal any funny stories, but did say some customers’ intimate objects sometimes end up in the laundry bag by mistake.
One client was sure the bag he was given was not his. The laundromat had unzipped the outer cover of the bedding, and returned it in pieces, so to speak. The customer was still adamant. At the old location, a couple doors down, there were cameras just for this reason. Jacqueline was able to track the transaction on her phone, which she shared with the guy. He was embarrassed to realize he didn’t even know his own laundry.
AJ takes over the driver’s seat on the drive north through Baja. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Two engines in four months. Three if you count the original one.
The latest one came with a guarantee. Not sure what good that is going to do me 1,500 miles from the mechanic, but it was reassuring as I was driving north from Baja to Tahoe. I’m sure I’ve invested more in this 2002 Jeep Wrangler than it is worth. But then again, can you put a price tag on being able to get home safely with your dog and belongings?
I had to let my anger with the Mulege mechanicgo. He got me from his town to Todos Santos with the engine he put in. I was able to drive to the Los Cabos airport a couple times and then around town for a couple months before being grounded. I think he did the best he could.
Luckily, I could walk most places I wanted to go in Todos Santos. My bike took me farther.
Victor at MultiServicios Las Brisas explains how the Mulege engine cannot be fixed. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Salvador, the Mulege dude, had told me to get an oil sensor when I could, but said I didn’t need to be in a rush. Just ignore the sensor light, he added. Because I was tired of car issues I waited to deal with the sensor.
Finally, I took it in. The guys at MultiServicios Las Brisas in Todos Santos said the sensor wasn’t the problem. A compression check proved the oil pressure was not holding, which meant oil was not getting where it needed to. If I kept driving, the engine could seize and I would need another one. I really didn’t want to go through that again.
Unfortunately, we don’t always get what we want. After the Todos Santos mechanics pulled the engine they determined it could not be fixed.
I could see metal shavings in the oil. The oil was dirty. The oil pump was dangling as though it had never been attached properly. That was one of the new parts in the Mulege repair job. None of this was good.
I was going to get another rebuilt engine or not have a vehicle. Order it, I said.
I don’t know anything about the Mulege motor other than it was not with me long.
I know the current one came from Tijuana or Mexicali. Victor, who owns the Baja Sur shop, said he deals with brothers in northern Baja. He didn’t say which one sent the engine south. This was actually the second engine the brothers sent. The first was the wrong one. This delayed my departure by another week.
Exasperation filled my voice and facial expressions even with a mask on. The owner of the shop said not to worry, I would only be paying for one engine. It never crossed my mind this mistake would be my financial responsibility.
I chose to believe the wrong engine was delivered and that he had ordered the correct one.
The Jeep gets worked on in Todos Santos. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
I don’t know much about this engine except it’s a 2004 either from a Jeep Cherokee or Grand Cherokee. I don’t know the mileage, any tests it’s gone through, or what may have been rebuilt. It likely came from a vehicle involved in an accident.
The day I found out the Jeep was ready I couldn’t actually take her home. The vehicle behind it had too many parts out for it to be able to be moved. This was so Mexico. Another deep breath and back I went on foot to where I was staying.
The next day I arrived to pay for the Jeep and my credit card was declined. Crap. I didn’t have the $1,438.48 on me in pesos or dollars. The debit card worked. Phew. My credit card company was “protecting” me is what I later found out.
A tennis friend’s husband is a retired mechanic. He took a look at the engine and listened to her purr. He made sure the oil was clean. A drive to Cabo San Lucas to see friends on the day before I headed back to the States proved uneventful. I wanted that little bit of mileage behind me before I made the four-day trek north.
I had a little hiccup when just outside of Lone Pine the check engine light came on. I wanted to ignore it, but thought better because I was headed toward icky weather and needed to cross mountain passes. She asked me what year it was. I didn’t know if the correct answer was 2002 or 2004. The mechanic in Bishop said it was no big deal and back on the road I went.
Getting the Jeep fixed was an emotional roller coaster. The added stress was that I needed to be back in California this week to sign some important papers in person.
The Jeep, well, she is still going. Who knows how many miles and what adventures I’ll have with this engine. The first one got me nearly 200,000 of fun, the second one less than 1,000 miles.
The year-old pandemic is fraying the nerves of so many people. Children, though, are experiencing stress at an alarmingly high rate. They often don’t have the coping skills, and may not know how to effectively express what they are feeling, let alone understand the why behind the emotions.
The nonprofit Padrino Children’s Foundation based in Todos Santos now has two full time psychologists to help this vulnerable population; whereas a year ago only one was on staff.
“One of the first things we predicted is that we would see a rise in mental health,” Alejandra Peña Salguero, lead physician and medical director for the nonprofit, said. This is because those cases were increasing pre-COVID-19. “We increased the psychology team early in the pandemic. We are booked and there is a wait list.”
A triage system was developed to reduce the wait time. Urgent cases receive immediate attention. This could be someone who is suicidal or at risk of violence in the home or needs medical attention. That child will be seen that same week.
Peña said before the virus took hold medical needs were the primary focus. Now mental health tops the list. COVID caused isolation, particularly in teenagers, is causing depression and behavioral issues.
For the Padrino psychologists, Israel Navarro Maldonado and Jessica Avila Franco, their job is to meet with the child to assess what is going on and then address their individual needs. When the pandemic first hit services moved online. That was difficult with so many clients not having access to the internet. Then sessions were by telephone. The office was rejiggered and in the summer patients returned to in person appointments.
Domestic violence, Peña said, is the No. 1 problem and often the root of children’s problems.
“The kid is just the symptom. The reason is often what is going on at home,” Peña said. “Many parents split up during the pandemic, many lost relatives.” The instability and ongoing economic slump contribute to the family’s chaos.
For the child, it can start with misbehavior like not following orders, not listening, throwing tantrums. It’s beyond normal kid stuff and can escalate into aggression against a relative.
“Parents think we are going to treat the child and really it is the whole family we need to work with,” Peña said. “If the family is not willing to work, we have to try to help the child one way or another.”
Peña is particularly concerned with the children not going to school where they would interact with others on a daily basis. In Mexico school is taught via television as opposed to the internet because most households have a TV. Schools, in the past, were the primary place where social, mental and other issues were first detected. Parents might not know there is a problem until it’s a crisis.
This is a worldwide problem. School has gone remotely in many countries, isolation has become the norm, and socialization is missing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States, from mid-March to October 2020, emergency rooms in the States reported a 31 percent increase in mental health issues for ages 12-17, while ages 5-11 with mental health troubles in the ER were up 24 percent compared to the prior year.
Peña wonders what will happen to the neurological health of kids after a year or more of isolation. Already fewer are getting childhood vaccinations, she said.
“For the public there is not a lot we can do. But we can lead by example by being kind to each other. There is lot of tension everywhere. A lot of people want to place blame. We need to be kind and tolerant to each other,” Peña said. While mental health can be a taboo subject in many cultures, it is even more so in Mexico. That is why Peña recommends when gringos hear their Mexican workers or someone in town talking about struggles, especially with their children, to let them know about the Padrino Foundation.
The dirt circle is where the stupa will be erected. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Seventeen crates containing specially carved granite are scattered about. Hay bales face a makeshift stage of sorts. Prayer flags flutter in the gentle breeze. Plants fill a circle of dirt that is outlined with gravel. Farms surround the larger area.
Welcome to the future home of the Enlightenment Stupa in Pescadero.
While the land has been blessed and the structure is ready to be erected, the stupa will not come into being until the lama is able to travel from Nepal to perform the ceremony.
This is what the stupa in Pescadero will look like when assembled. (Image: Rebecca Silva)
“A stupa brings stability, harmony and peace and all the positive traits of energy to the place it is built, to the community,” explained Loton Tashi. Tashi, as a monk and lama, is the director of the stupa compound in Pescadero. He is originally from Tibet, has taken a sabbatical in Bhutan, and been affiliated with dharma centers in Guadalajara and Mexico City for eight years prior to coming to Baja Sur. He has been involved with the local project since 2013; becoming director in December.
By definition a stupa is, “Burial mounds containing relics of the historical Buddha across the Indian subcontinent. Many were later developed into shrines or temple compounds.”
Stupas exist throughout the world, with several hundred erected in the United States and closer to 20 in Mexico, according to Tashi.
Tashi is the spiritual leader at the Pescadero stupa. While the dharma talks had to recently be suspended (again) because of the coronavirus, they will resume when appropriate.
“This place will become the center of learning, contemplation and meditation,” Tashi said. “This will be not just for Buddhists. It is not sectarian. It is for the whole region, for the world; it is for all.”
In November 2019, the ground where the stupa will be built is blessed. (Image: Bill Levine)
The original idea came from Rebecca Silva, who has donated the half hectare of land that is on the same street as Hierbabuena restaurant and Rancho Pescadero. In 1976 she was in Hawaii cooking for the 16th Karmapa, who Silva describes as a “walking Buddha.” “At one point he told me I would be building a stupa there in Baja,” Silva said. The Pescadero stupa is dedicated to him.
When the now 71-year-old Silva was 15 her mystic grandmother told her the tip of Baja would become a very spiritual place. That premonition is coming true.
“This particular stupa will be very rare because it was carved from granite in Portugal. It weighs 44 tons,” Silva said. The goal was to make it out of something that for hundreds of years will withstand hurricanes and salty/humid conditions.
It cost $56,000 to create, with shipping through the Panama Canal to Ensenada costing $10,000, and it taking another $10,000 to truck it from Ensenada to Pescadero. The money has come from donations. The spiritual teachings are that one person cannot pay for the stupa, but that is must be a community endeavor. A donor lent money to the stupa to get things to where they are today, with fundraisers helping to pay back that individual.
The stupa will be 7 meters high (nearly 30 feet), with a square base of about 5 meters (17 feet). It will be round as it goes up from the ground.
Loton Tashi is the spiritual leader at the Pescadero stupa. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Tashi describes the assembly as similar to putting Legos together. Each piece, though, has special meaning. The process will not be rushed, with every phase being blessed by the lama who will come from Nepal when the pandemic allows. Each layer will be filled with various items that represent things from the local area as well as historical pieces.
“Our teachers in Nepal and Bhutan will fill it up with relics,” Tashi said. “There are hundreds of thousands of enlightenment rules.”
Beyond the actual stupa, the goal is turn this land into a spiritual and retreat center where classes will regularly be taught, and people could stay overnight in future cabins. It will be a destination of sorts for those on a spiritual journey and those who might want to begin one. Meditation walkways and paths will be created.
“This is going to outlive all of us. This is going to be going on for centuries,” Silva said of the stupa.
Until your hostess or concierge in Mexico says it’s OK to flush the toilet paper, assume the garbage can is the place to put soiled toilet paper.
This can take some getting used to for people who for their whole lives have not given any thought to what goes down the toilet. It’s a big deal when there is no municipal sewer system or the septic system isn’t equipped to handle the paper.
In most cases it’s best not to flush toilet paper in Mexico. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Many public and private establishments have signs on the wall in Spanish and sometimes in English saying to use the garbage can. Even if there is no sign, that doesn’t mean you should flush everything. What’s in the garbage can will give you the answer to the flush or not flush paper question. Not all places have a can with a lid. While this may seem unsanitary to add your paper to the pile, the only other possibility is to drip dry—assuming that is an option.
Several large hotels have systems on site that can handle the paper. But don’t assume this is true everywhere. Better to not flush than to have it back up because it won’t just be paper that covers the bathroom floor.
Sometimes it’s the materials used when building the plumbing system that causes problems. The pipe between the toilet and street drain or septic system may not be wide enough to handle the paper. Sometimes the water pressure is not enough to force everything through the pipes.
Many buildings in Mexico are old—lots older than what one finds even on the East Coast of the United States. Not all have been retrofitted to be on the city sewer system, and even if they have been, there could still be infrastructure issues.
Septic systems are often small in Mexico, but they can be retrofitted. If it is large enough and paper has been kept out, it probably won’t ever need to be pumped out. Micro-organisms decompose the solid waste that settles to the bottom of septic systems, so it’s not like it’s sitting there forever piling up.
Another reason so many private septic systems don’t get full is that builders have directed only black water to go into the vault. Grey water, what comes out of sinks (other than one with a disposal), showers, and bath tubs often go onto the property to water plants. This means there is a whole lot less water going into the septic tank compared to a lot of residential properties in the U.S.