Despite Mexico’s problems, it does not suffer, objectively, from Tragic Dirt. It’s not Mali, it’s one of the nicer pieces of landscape on earth due to much of it being at enough altitude to mitigate its tropical latitude. But Mexicans don’t seem all that intent on maximizing the potential of their homeland through civic-minded improvements.
I have a vague theory that Mexicans fear that gringos would overwhelm their country if it weren’t so craptastic. Mexican mediocrity is a price Mexicans are willing to pay to keep tens of millions of Americans from retiring to Mexico. In 1967, I visited with my parents the Lake Chapala colony of American retirees (where Fred Reed lives). So the idea of retiring to Mexico has been around for a long time.
Here’s an article by an aging American surfer girl who semi-retired to Mazatlan in Mexico in 2006. She lives on $1200 per month.
She doesn’t mention crime, which exploded in Mexico in 2007 when the PAN government declared war on the cartels. Mazatlan, which seemed pretty safe when I was there in 1982, is in Sinaloa, which has been bad news for the last 14 years. But the article is otherwise informative. From CNBC:
Published Tue, Apr 6 202111:01 AM EDTUpdated Wed, Apr 7 20219:25 PM EDT
Janet Blaser moved to Mazatlán, Mexico in 2006, after falling in love with the beach town during a vacation
… I have absolutely no regrets. I wanted an adventure, and boy, am I having one!
But there are challenges.
1. The weather can get really hot and humid …
2. Unbelievably high noise levels
If you’ve been to Mexico, you know that noise levels are often through the roof. Speaking of roofs, in many towns, “watchdogs” are kept there, and they bark all the time — at nothing or at everything.
In many parts of Mexico, people keep dogs on their rooftops, both as a kind of early warning system and for convenience.
I can remember walking through a residential neighborhood in Acapulco late at night in 1979 and one dog started barking and you could hear the dogs barking spread block by block until you could hear dogs over a radius of about a mile barking.
And then there are the parties, for birthdays, quinceneras [sic], religious and other holidays. Often these events include rented speakers as big as refrigerators set up in the street in front of their (and your) house. You might find your street blocked by a bounce house or funeral memorial for a day … or three.
Strolling musicians are common and can be lovely, but sometimes you might prefer a quiet conversation at dinner or listening to waves at the beach instead of a 10-piece, horn-heavy band.
In Mazatlán, open-air taxis, called pulmonias, have gigantic sound systems with speakers that blast music as they make their way through the neighborhoods. While ostensibly there are city sound ordinances, they’re rarely, if ever, enforced.
What to do? Pack earplugs.
3. Expect some disappointments when shopping …
4. Figuring out the norms
No matter how long you live in another country, you’ll always be, at heart, a native of wherever you’re from, and so there are layers upon layers of unrealized cultural norms just waiting to be discovered.
Being an immigrant is a constant lesson in humility and often embarrassment. It can be little things like shopping etiquette, when and how much to tip, where to park, or more significant things that can cause offense or problems.
This article would have made the NYT instead of CNBC if it was instead about how awful gringos are to Mexican immigrants by expecting them to know American norms.
Trash pick-up is one example. In most Mexican towns, garbage is simply piled on certain street corners in whatever plastic bags or boxes one has handy. No one “oversees” the process, and it’s often a sticky, stinky mess. Why don’t they use garbage cans? Don’t ask.
Mail is also notoriously unreliable, and utility and other companies hire their own couriers to deliver monthly bills. Property taxes often must be paid in person at a bank or city office.
Bewildering and frustrating to Americans, but normal life for the locals.
5. The language thing
Unless you speak Spanish fluently, communication may be challenging. In cities with expat populations or lots of tourism, many locals will speak English. But it behooves you to at least learn some Spanish if you really want to assimilate into your new community. …
Seems fair. There are various foreign countries where a huge fraction of the population speaks the global superlanguage of English, but Mexico isn’t one of them. Mexicans like Spanish and don’t mind not being world-class in language.
6. Trash, littering and other environmental issues
In Mazatlán, unfortunately, littering is alive and well. People throw trash out the windows of busses and cars, leave piles of it on the beaches, use plastics like there’s no tomorrow. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat on my surfboard watching empty potato chip bags and Styrofoam plates swirl by. (My weekends include a couple of hours cleaning up my favorite beach.)
There are no vehicle emission requirements, and a pinkish-grey haze of pollution often sits on the horizon.
Smog in Mexico City was horrific until the 2000s, when NAFTA allowed American used cars with catalytic converters to be sold in Mexico. This drove up the price of used cars in L.A., but for the first time in a generation, residents of Mexico City could see the 3 snow-capped volcanos on their horizon.
The city has no recycling pick-up — just one overloaded recycling center. Very few restaurants or food vendors use biodegradable containers because they’re so expensive or just unavailable; Styrofoam is the go-to for food to-go. This is changing, but it’s been very slow and unsteady.
In many Mexican towns, city water (e.g. for the toilet, sink, washer) can be shut off at any time, for days on end — with no warning. One learns to appreciate simple things like clean running water or running water in general.
7. You will get lonely …