Skip to comments.Mexico undergoing Americanization as retirees, others become expatriates
Posted on 03/20/2005 5:56:53 AM PST by qam1
MEXICO CITY - (KRT) - The day after the U.S. presidential election, Jim and Joan Marker left for a scheduled vacation in San Miguel de Allende, central Mexico.
Now they've decided they'd like to live there permanently.
The Alabama couple are among the many United States citizens who have been going south, for adventure or a new life. The decades-long trend has gathered steam in recent years, statistics show, and Mexico is undergoing a sustained Americanization, with Americans buying more property, seeking permanent residency and congregating in enclaves that seem like home abroad.
The U.S. State Department estimates that the number of Americans in Mexico has increased from about 200,000 a decade ago to between 600,000 and 1 million today.
"Fifty percent of my clients are Americans," said Enrique Riquelme, owner of the ReMax real estate firm in Playa del Carmen, a town near Cancun that once was a haven for youthful Europeans.
"The people who are buying here are three or four years away from retirement ... although there are also a lot of younger people coming - 38 to 40 years old - looking for a place to rest or get out of the cold."
Analysts say the influx of Americans is fueled by such factors as a lower cost of living, more affordable housing, warm weather, a more relaxed pace of life and a different political atmosphere.
More than 76 million American baby boomers are expected to reach retirement age in the next 20 years, and 25 percent of them have no health insurance or savings, according to an AARP report.
A significant number of those future retirees will likely be heading south, said Viviana Rojas, a researcher at the University of Texas in San Antonio.
"Mexico makes them feel younger, connected again and re-energized," Rojas said.
Up to 10 million Americans live abroad, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures. Because of its proximity, Mexico has drawn a significant portion of that group. The exact number is an elusive statistic, despite the efforts of researchers - governmental as well as academic - on both sides of the border.
Just as many Mexicans cross into the United States illegally, Americans sometimes live illegally across the border, Mexican migration officials said. Some Americans who come to Mexico on six-month tourist visas simply overstay their time. Others come and go like nomads, staying for extended periods without necessarily establishing formal residency.
"The United States isn't the only country that has problems with illegal immigrants," quipped Mauricio Juarez, spokesman at the Mexican Migration Institute. "We have our own."
Depending on which part of the United States Americans come from and where they move, living in Mexico can be 25 to 75 percent cheaper. Like most world capitals, Mexico City itself can be comparatively expensive, and its crime, congestion and pollution problems turn off many.
But expatriates in Mexico generally pay less for health care and medicine, housing and domestic help, according to experts and the expatriates themselves.
Rojas and a colleague, T.S. Sunil, are studying a sample of U.S. retirees in Ajijic, Jalisco state. She said more than half the 172 people surveyed said they were living on less than $1,000 a month. That money covered rent, utility bills and other costs such as maid and gardener service and regularly eating out.
"These are people who are looking for alternatives that will accommodate their fixed income," she said. "The key question here is, how many Americans can manage to live (in the United States) on less than $1,000 and have all those amenities?"
American and Mexican developers are building condominiums, resorts and in some cases entire communities in hopes of enticing Americans south. Foreigners, regardless of their immigration status, can now own homes in their own names.
In Cabo San Lucas, businessman Edward Hooton, who is from Oregon, is working with a Southern California consortium that has put up $8 million to invest in a new resort.
In Nayarit state, public officials are trying to lure Americans by hawking an affordable lifestyle. Ads for the fishing village of Sayulita assert that residents can live in the village for as little as $500 a month, gardener and maid included.
"Prices have risen because there is so little available land to purchase and there is only so much view of the ocean, or beachfront," said Caren Elkan, a real estate agent in San Francisco, just down the road from Sayulita.
On the other hand, Ajijic-based realty company Laguna Real Estate lists homes in Jalisco at prices starting at $51,000.
Some Americans have come to embrace Mexico to such a degree that they're becoming citizens. Hooton, the businessman from Oregon, has lived in Mexico for 24 years off and on and recently filed for citizenship. Under Mexican law, he will not have to give up his U.S. citizenship, a factor he regards as an added incentive.
His attorney, Gilberto Pineda, represents 60 Americans seeking permanent residence.
"It's never been easier for Americans, or other foreigners for that matter, to become Mexican citizens," Pineda said
Applicants must prove at least 60 percent proficiency in Spanish - no problem for Hooton - and learn the national anthem.
"That may be the biggest obstacle I face," he said of the anthem, "especially because I don't know the words."
It's not just retirees who are heeding Mexico's siren song. The country also is drawing younger Americans looking for a different way of life and Americans who regard Mexico as part of their heritage.
Darren Ethridge, 34, formerly of Memphis, arrived in Playa del Carmen in October 2000. He's been an occasional bartender at Captain Dave's, a watering hole that is owned by an American and caters mostly to Americans.
"I came down here for the Pan-American (highway) race," he said. "There was a girl involved, too."
Ethridge settled in Playa because, he said, it is younger and hipper than some other expatriate centers - and has topless beaches as well. He said that he could not imagine returning to live in the United States and that he does not miss the hectic pace and materialism of his native country.
"Another thing about living in Mexico: I don't need every gadget that everyone has in the States; I don't need the BMW, and a house is just a place to crash," he said.
Tereso Ortiz, of Dallas, is one of the estimated 24 million U.S. citizens and residents of Mexican descent. He sees Mexico as the place where he will spend his golden years - to be closer to family and to enjoy a retirement that he could not afford in the United States.
"I love this country," Ortiz said of the United States. "But Mexico will always be home." He already has bought a retirement home in Ocampo, Guanajuato.
For other Americans, Mexico is a refuge from what they view as a rancorous environment back home, awash in disagreements between "red" and "blue" states following the re-election of President Bush.
The Markers said they were drawn by "Mexico's ideal political climate," adding that the November elections left them feeling like strangers in their own land.
"The election was a clear indication of how divided we are as a country," said Marker, 65. "Here, I feel politically comfortable."
In San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato state, real estate agents said that the day after the election, they received many phone calls from Americans inquiring about moving to the town.
Alexis White, 56, of New York City, was in San Miguel recently. She said the election results helped send her there.
"I come from one of the two (places), New York and the District of Columbia, which were attacked on Sept. 11," she said. "And we don't feel any safer. If anything, I feel more scared and that's why I'm looking for a home here in San Miguel. Is Bush the sole reason? No. But he's a big factor."
Ironically, the influx of people from north of the border is sparking a kind of backlash - against Americans among Americans.
San Miguel de Allende may be the most American town in the country. About 10 percent of the residents are American. Most stores price their wares in dollars. English is heard everywhere.
"Americans have been coming here for years," said Daniel Scher, a businessman in the town. "Now it's a crescendo."
The Americans in San Miguel are the ones who regularly oppose allowing chains such as McDonalds and Starbucks to move in. And they frown on the idea of building a freeway to better connect San Miguel to the rest of the country.
Residents of Ajijic share those sentiments.
"There's a growing sense here," said Karen Blue of MexicoInsights.com, a Web magazine published in Ajijic, "that it's time to shut the door to outsiders, bolt it and throw away the key. But these are just people being selfish - because the flow will only grow."
Dick and Marge Olson manage an RV park-cum-apartment community for Americans in Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, off the surfing coast between Cabo San Lucas and La Paz. The area once was pristine, quiet and isolated, but developers plan to build golf courses and big hotels on traditional tomato farms. The farmers are resisting the project, but the developers are expected to prevail.
"When we first came down here, it was like going back in time 50 years," Ms. Olson said.
Added Mr. Olson, 67: "We love it here, we really do. But there's too many people, Americans and Mexicans."
Yep. Mexico has an illegal immigrant problem. All those foreigners moving down there and pumping cash into the economy. The horror. /sarcasm
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Sounds very nice and so bucolic in Mexico. Too bad it is a lie and one's existence is coupled with the banditos in the area. The USA is and will always be the best Countyr in the world. As Ken Hamblin said, "Pick A Better Country."NSNR
I know a couple who was planning on moving to Mexico for financial reasons -- don't know if they ever did or not. I'm sure the areas mentioned in this article are safer than the border, but I can't imagine I would feel as safe there as here.
I've been to San Miguel de Allende, there is a very large expatriate population, it's a beautiful town though.
San Miguel de Allende is full of Left-wing Bush hating liberals, some have been there many years. They are happy that living is relatively cheap there as the article says and they can have servants and keep folks in their place, after all, the natives are very happy to be dirt poor, living in squalor as long as they can serve the gringo expats.
Friends of mine have decided that they are going to find a more conservative crowd to hang around with in Mexico if they return for any length of time other than that bunch. One of the women they rented from bragged about voting absentee TWICE. Of course, we recognize that the rules and laws only apply to conservatives/Republicans.
Have fun expats--C-ya!!
Actually, it is much safer than the border towns. What's really interesting is, most Mexicans who live far away from the borders don't like their countrymen who live near the borders. I've been told by many, they make their country look bad. Those that I've worked with want to see a conservative type of government, they want to work towards establishing a freer Mexico, and they want a different government. They are struggling, but hopeful that one day, their country will change for the better, and they don't want to leave. One compared those living on the border to the perception of gangs in the US. That's the best analogy I've heard. What else is interesting is they told me, many of those trying to get in to the US are from the extreme southern part of Mexico. I spent months at a time for a couple years setting up a new plant operation about 2 hours north of Mexico City. But, Mexico City is a hellhole, not like border towns.
This is good. If we combine the liberals going to Mexico and Canada with the growing liberal abortion rate we may one day see the end of Liberal Democrats in the USA.
Thanks for the info. My son/his wife live right now in a border town in TX (military) and ... well, life is certainly interesting there. :-0
I knew sooner or later, it would be Bush's fault. I can see where liberals would prefer it, though. The government runs on graft. The so-called elites are uniformly left - wing (one of the reasons Trotsky didn't die in Brooklyn), and despite having been (for a large part) financially less than successful up here, they can feel both smug about the US, and superior to the Mexicans because of the lower cost of living down there. AND - NO handguns!
I see these border threads, and I agree with most, but I've had to live and work in the interior, places most Americans have never heard of. (I've also been to border towns, which are really creepy). Some of my friends would like to see all those trying to get into the US put in jails. I've seen really bad areas, but it isn't that different from the rotton areas of Bigcity USA. You just have to know where not to go. I always felt safe, but then I was with Mexican friends. Most of these people were young, married with children, 20-30's with an education, a nice home and furnishings, and came from good families. They hate what's been happening to their country and hate the reputation they have. They are looking forward towards becoming future leaders of some type. Maybe there is hope, 10-20 years from now.
Don't suppose they'd allow me to bring my gun collection...
Anyone planning to live permanently south of the border would do well to work very closely with an honest, local (Mexican) lawyer. Not too many years ago there were articles about how gringos had invested in real estate and land they thought they owned and it turned out they they had leased. It was actually a pretty good living for the locals (owners, real estate agents and lawyers) who had their properties improved, repaired or built by gringos who paid not only for the work done but for the property itself. It took varying amounts of time but eventually these clever gringos were tossed.
If Mexico is such a conservative paradise - why are so many trying to rush our borders? And, why is their such a demand for private security personnel and installations among expats working in Mexico?
My wife and I took a motorcycle ride through there 6 years ago. It could be an ideal retirement place, maybe a little spooky. It claims to have a place that was the inspiration for Hotel California.
I never said it was a conservative paradise. I've seen the liberal hippies in San Miguel. I'm just saying from my experience, the people I've met and worked with don't like what's going on, they are mad that their country has this problem, they are mad that nothing is being done to fix it. Maybe I just hung out in conservative circles. You know, birds of a feather...... They thought Fox was the better of the candidates, and supported him, then later felt betrayed, again. I'm just offering my perspective from my time there. The interior, the tourist areas, and the borders are like three different countries.
Seems we went down this road in Texas circa 1830's.
I didn't think Americans were allowed to buy property in Mexico?
Thought you knew about that?
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