Mexico Living Conditions

By: Douglas Bower

It has been the Prime Living Locations such as the Lake Chapala area, Puerto Vallarta, San Miguel de Allende, Cuernavaca, Mazatlán, and others to which Gringos have been attracted. Because they came in droves and droves, the Mexicans in these cities had to adapt to serve the Gringos. Thus something different, something that had never before existed, arose. A "how-to-serve-the-gringos" infrastructure was born. It is to these cities that Gringos have flocked and, for all practical purposes, driven prices for everything so high that Americans on middle-class incomes can no longer afford to live in them. I know of Gringos in these areas who have been living there for some time, but who are just now being driven away by the prices. Potential expats are seeing they cannot afford the Prime Living Locations. So, they are trying to find much more affordable pastures in Mexico. Here is what is happening because of it.

They are now trying to move to the "not-so-prime" locations to find more affordability. The "not-so-prime" locations not only do not have an established infrastructure for foreign residents, the locals are not particularly thrilled that the gringos are coming to town. And, to town they are coming.

I've been told that the waiting list for real estate in Guanajuato, for example, is a lot longer than the list of houses on the market. Suddenly, it seems, and almost overnight, there have been real estate agencies springing up everywhere in Guanajuato (where I live). Prices, of course, are now astronomical compared to when we moved here. And the thing is, Gringos are moving to these new areas with nary a linguistic or cultural fluency notch on their cultural belts. That's because they've read these books, these websites, received expat newsletters, talked on chat rooms, and have gotten a feel for what it's like to live in the Prime Living Locations for expats but haven't a clue that the other parts of Mexico are not like what they say in the expat guidebooks.

Do you get what I am saying here? What exists in expat literature, for those gringos wanting to move to Mexico, applies to areas of Mexico where many existing expats and potential expats cannot now afford. The reading material applies to areas of Mexico that have had existing infrastructures for generations for the foreigner but are now expensive beyond most middle-class income folk's wildest imaginations. You cannot come to Guanajuato, Dolores Hidalgo, Zacatecas, or Tlaxcala where it is cheaper and expect the locals to treat you as they would have in one of the Prime Living Locations mentioned in Ken Luboff's book.

If you think about this for a moment, the "I am American Hear Me Roar" act you would put on in one of the traditional Prime Living Locations Luboff mentions in his book, while it will get your needs met there, it will not get you piddly-squat elsewhere. Show up in Guanajuato, Silao, Celaya, Salamanca, Dolores Hidalgo, Santa Teresa, Guadalupe, Jerez, Zacatecas, or any other city outside the Prime Living Locations zone, and act like, "If you expect to work for me, you will have to adapt to me," you will get nowhere fast.

In the cities where the Gringo's presence, the foreigner's dollars, is what the locals depend on for their livelihood-The Prime Living Locations-you will be treated radically differently than in the areas where the gringo's presence does not determine who gets to eat and who doesn't. In Guanajuato, for one example, where no gringo infrastructure exists, the locals do not depend upon the foreigner's presence for their bread and butter. So, coming into town huffing and puffing and threatening to blow all the houses down if you don't get your way, does not work. Give it up. Forget it. You won't get by with it.

In San Miguel de Allende, the gringos will tell you, "Oh, yes, they love us here." The San Miguel de Allende Mexicans, as one who told me this, "We take their money, we smile, we nod approvingly, but they will never be our friends." In Guanajuato, and I am thinking really of a couple of establishments, they will take your money and that's it. You would be lucky if they acknowledged your existence after you tell them Muchas Gracias. One young woman at this ice cream place acts like she would love to kill every gringo who comes into the shop if she could get by with it. She will not make eye contact, will not open her mouth to you even though you have a high degree of spoken Spanish fluency, and throws your change on the counter rather than handing it to you. Whereas, she talks gaily with her fellow countrymen, she acts like she despises Americans. Maybe she does. The point is her livelihood is not contingent upon the foreign presence; yet, she acts accordingly.

Does this mean that Guanajuato or any of the "not-so-prime" living locations are full of mean Mexicans? Not at all. In those towns where the local's livelihood depends on the foreign presence, there will exist an entirely different atmosphere concerning gringos than in towns, like Guanajuato, whose livelihood is NOT dependent on the gringo.


NEXT: Mexico As a Concept and Not As a Reality part 3

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