Mexico Living Costs

By: Douglas Bower

Most, if not all, Americans who decide to move to Mexico to "get away from it all" seem to do so based on the merits of at least two books, a handful of websites, some seminars (in the Guadalajara area), and a host of chat rooms and forums whose themes are how wonderfully cheap, relaxing, easy, and convenient it will be living in Mexico. These sources also paint a picture of the Mexican people that is, for lack of better words, a picturesque, pastoral heaven-on-earth population of saints who have been sitting around all their lives just waiting for the opportunity to serve the first American who comes their way.

In addition, they move to Mexico based on an image or concept of Mexico of what it will be like for an American who expatriates to Mexico. The current available "expat guides," websites, and chat forums present to the potential American wanting to move to Mexico, Mexico as a Concept and Not Mexico as a Reality.

The title of this article I found while reading a Blog called, The Gringa in San Miguel: Musings on U.S. Immigration Reform, immigrant communities in Virginia and the Mid-Atlantic, and my current research on international retirement migration to Mexico & Central America. In this very astute academic folklorist and ethnographer's Blog, she came up with this statement which so perfectly describes what I've been trying to say during the past four years of articles, columns, and books I've written trying to describe what it is I've seen in the so-called Gringo Expat Communities, Enclaves, Sectors, Exclusive Gated Communities, and so on.

It is Mexico as a Concept, an Image, an Idea that attracts Americans here. It certainly would not be Mexico as a Reality that would bring them in droves. And, in droves they are coming. More than 300,000 Americans have been vacating the premises in America each year since 2004 with a great deal of them ending up in Mexico. Some mostly unreliable sources estimate more than a million Americans live in Mexico. The densest populations of Americans are probably Mexico City, Guadalajara, Chapala, Ajijic, and San Miguel de Allende.

San Miguel de Allende has an Gringo population of about 12,000 in a city least capable of assimilating this many people who, by the way, stress the infrastructure of that little city by playing the tax dodging game . This is but one of the foibles, the dark side, of expatriation to Mexico that you will never read in any of the expat guides floating around today's book market.

They will tell you all the pluses with never any of the minuses. They will show you the light and somehow fail to tell you that any darkness exists. They will regale you with all the niceties in sugary prose peppered with generous second and third portions of anything you want to hear covered with sweet gooey promises and assurances. You would think that to expatriate to Mexico means there will be a city-sponsored parade waiting on you with humble but strong Mexican men ready to carry you on a pedestal to your new home; that Mexico is filled with nothing but goodness abounding; that you will have reached the promised land of milk and honey-heaven.

Mexico is not like that at all.

The two seemingly most popular books, which most Gringo expats I know have not only read but could quote chapter and verse, are, Choose Mexico for Retirement (Globe Pequot), by John Howells and Don Merwin. The second book is Living Abroad in Mexico (Avalon Travel Publishing), by Ken Luboff. Both of these books are fine books that should be read. They are a bit fluffy and well they should be. They tend to present only a part of the picture of expatriation and that is ok for someone who is trying to get a feel for the ABC's of expatriating to Mexico. They are, in general, totally positive, easy to read, and present the expat picture in the most positive light. And, as I said, well they should. If someone is really considering moving to Mexico, for any reason at all, and will be staying for an extended period of time, they should read these books for a quick and lighthearted rendering of life in Mexico.

But, because of time, book length, and sheer commercial viability, these books do not cover the "other side of the coin." They present life in Mexico as something fairly positive100% of the time. Really, only Luboff's book goes into any substance regarding culture and I give him credit for that. In fact, in the chapter on Prime Living Locations, he has a "call out" in which he says,

"Because they have encountered generations of tourists and expatriates, these locales each have well- established infrastructures for foreign residents." (Page 129)*


NEXT: Mexico As a Concept and Not As a Reality part 2

Footnote:
* Living Abroad in Mexico by Ken Luboff (Author) Avalon Travel Publishing; 1 edition (August 31, 2005) ISBN-13: 978-1566919227

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