Mexico a place to be embraced every day

The marvels of Mexico, from the love of family to all those barking dogs

Well, what a controversial column that was: “What do you do every day in Mexico?” I have never received so many e-mails on any other subject. I didn’t think it was such a big deal.

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Perhaps it is because we sound so happy in our new adventure. Several friends have come clean and told us they would never have the nerve to pull up stakes “and just leave everything.” I get that, and it is not something to take casually.

Most people have the idea that I coerced my wife of some 30 years into deserting Canada to move where I can drink cheaply for the rest of my life. Anyone who knows Michelle knows full well that she cannot be convinced of anything unless it makes absolute sense to her.

Her friends believe the last time she went off the rails was when she married me, but I am very grateful for that one mistake, if indeed it was one.

We were staying at an all-inclusive when we first viewed our new Mexican place. Afterwards she dog-paddled across the pool to tell me she thought we could do this. My nerves were shot at the thought of moving to what I then described as a third-world country, a most unfair statement, as I have come to know, but that was then.

Anyway, Michelle was adamant that with a little guts on our part we would make a go of it, and I am glad she felt that way. Given my druthers I might well have returned to Canada saying platitudes such as “We will have a look again next year” and repeated it every year after that.

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As anyone who has read my earlier columns will know, we made an offer and sent a down payment. Then we entered the seventh circle of hell, but now we are here, where we would not be without Michelle’s iron resolve.

We know more than a few couples where one or the other wants to be here more than the other and it is obvious immediately. The people who are the happiest in our crowd are those who together love this great country.

It sounds obvious, but not to many, apparently. They use it as a convenience like a 7-11. A place to drop by and pick up something in a hurry.

Well, my friends, you could never franchise Mexico as you could Florida or Arizona. There is no comparison. I have nothing against those two places, but they often look as if someone took a powder and added water, which was followed by a loud bang, producing street after street of sameness.

Not so here. Nothing is the same outside of some of the tourist markets. Here, cobblestone streets suddenly become pavement only to return to the former in a lethal combination. The love of family here must be experienced to be believed.

There are at least seven dogs per person, or so it seems at times. The garbage pickup is erratic, leaving more time for the waste to be examined minutely by one and all. There is a non-existent postal service unless the mail in question is a power bill. An overwhelming sense of optimism encompasses you no matter how down in the dumps you are. The marvelous food is always crowding our table.

The noise never stops, from dogs to trucks to construction to car alarms to roosters and the inexplicable explosions for no reason outside of “I had a leftover firecracker, señor.”

But best of all is the beauty of the place. Never have I seen such a festival for my tired old eyes as this new country of mine. It is endless, timeless and all-pervading. The stark contrasts in color make such an impression that you cannot believe it is real, all with the background of the unbelievably green Sierra Madre on one side and the almost painfully azure Pacific on the other.

I am as thunderstruck today standing on our terrace as that first day in June 2011.

This is a place that must be embraced every day with a rabid enthusiasm or it won’t have the desired effect on you. You should run towards it with arms open, as Michelle and I did. It is worth it.

The writer lives under a palapa in Puerto Vallarta.

© Christopher Dalton 2015

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  • frankania

    We fell in love with mexico long ago. We offer any Canadians (or Gringos too) to try out the PV area and rent our little 2BR house that we HAD to buy because of the govt retirement plan for almost nothing, then you can buy it for $25k.

    • Walter Smith

      7 years at Lake Chapala, 8 years in PV, we prefer here in PV. We live a little above the author and with the breeze we get up during the day and down at night we never needed our A/C once this summer. No need for gas heaters in the winter. No looking at lirio either!

    • Steve Galat

      Sounds wonderful! Is it SOUTH going toward Yelapa or NORTH of P.V. ? [Greetings from Puerto Aventuras, Q.R.]

      • frankania

        North of the PV airport about 10 minutes–but I think we just sold the place. Will let you know in a few days…..frank

  • W. Jones Jordan

    I’ve lived in Acapulco for the last 20 years and couldn’t be happier. But I know several people who say they “love México” but act like it’s “A place to drop by and pick up something in a hurry.” – See more at: http://mexiconewsdaily.com/opinion/mexico-a-place-to-be-embraced-every-day/?utm_source=Mexico+News+Daily&utm_campaign=6771ef56f4-November+7&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_f1536a3787-6771ef56f4-349465645#sthash.YU9buBld.dpuf

  • Francis Dryden

    You and Michelle should make a sojourn to Lake Chapala Chris… fall in love with the “real Mexico”. The climate here is known as “Eternal Spring”… no blistering hot summers! And how about this?… a 1,700+ sq. ft. deluxe condo with a spectacular view of the lake, fully furnished (bring your clothes and some groceries) for $250K US. Condo fees 7,500 Pesos per year! This is Mexico! There is some reason why 80% of Mexico’s 112 million population lives above 3,000 feet above sea level.

    Actually, you could turn into a Sunbird!… Live here for the summer and live at “the beach” for the winter!… Lots do!!

    • Clarke

      Wow just shows you what a bargain Cabo is my neighbor just sold his house 2000 SQ 180 view of the arch ocean mountains and city, nice deck pool yard $155’000.00 in 2007 I paid $280’000.00 right next door

      • cruz_ctrl

        “just shows you what a bargain Cabo is”
        yeah, if you don’t mind hurricanes and living in the boonies…

        • Clarke

          True we do get hurricanes once every 25 to 30 years that do any damage and one in recorded history ODILE that was a cat 5 and lets see we are 16 hour drive from San Diego yup really remote here lol

        • Clarke

          That’s why all the movie stars have homes or vacation here like a Clooney, Jeniffer Anisten , Oprah Tony Romo, Micheal Jordan and Bill Gates who has a 25 million dollar home in Pedragal just to name a few because Cabo is in the boonies jajajajajajajajajaja

    • Geoffrey Rogg

      Over 20% of the population live in Mexico D.F. and growing fast. Many of Guadalajara’s business elite have moved to the incredible metropolis of Mexico DF. It is good so many ex-pats are so happy where they live but don’t make assertions in advising others, everything is subjective. Let’s put it this way, Mexico is a country where there is something for everyone. The most important thing is to learn correct Spanish and then the local idioms and take advantage of the many cultural and educational programs offered nationwide.

  • RobertSDF

    Lake Chapala, the “real Mexico” ?? In my opinion, you will find few places so unlike the real Mexico. A good place to go if you want to be surrounded by expats and little to do with Mexico. So many good places to experience the real Mexico.

    • Robert, Chapala and San Miguel are great for them. Let them collect there. I’m in favor of it.

      • RobertSDF

        “Robert, Chapala and San Miguel are great for them. Let them collect there. I’m in favor of it.”
        Very good point, Felipe. Let them all huddle there together.

    • Jill Flyer

      Chapala is a real Mexican town. The municipality of Chapala encompasses other towns and villages including Ajijic, which has a huge expat community. However, everything and every place is what you make it. If you choose to surround yourself with other expats you will not really know the real Mexico. If you choose to participate within the Mexican community, you will find Mexico. By the way, not every town or city in Mexico is poor and not every Mexican is poor and uneducated. Huge cities like Guadalajara are the “real” Mexico too, full of lawyers and doctors and VERY wealthy people.

      • Steve Galat

        You don’t mention MAZAMITLA….

        • Jill Flyer

          Mazamitla is another Mexican town, very similar to a thousand other Mexican towns. But it’s main attraction is that it is in the mountains and the architecture is more like other mountain architecture than the normal Mexican/Spanish architecture. It is more German-half timber-looking.

          • Steve Galat

            Mazamitla can NOT be “very similar to a thousand other Mexican towns” AND be German half-timbered, in the mountains and with distinctive architecture. By your own depiction the village is ‘one in a million’ ! [Greetings from Puerto Aventuras, Q.R.]

          • Jill Flyer

            I said that the difference was the architecture…. but that is not throughout the whole town. But the population, the stores, the way of life is exactly the same as thousands of other Mexican towns.

      • Geoffrey Rogg

        Right on the button. I have lived and worked in many capital cities around the world and my year in Mexico City was the best of all, socially, culturally, gastronomically, business-wise and overall quality of life.

        • Jill Flyer

          You are right Geoffrey. The problem is that most foreigners, Americans think of Mexicans as the people who clean their offices and who live in poor villages. My Mexican friends are like me, they are educated, they are cosmopolitan. I found them through my usual pursuits, like playing tennis, love of classical music and art (I am a photographer). We have a huge group of foreigners here, a majority of whom are French Canadians, who speak French and there are French and Mexicans alike who come from Guadalajara to join us every month solely for a social gathering. The Mexicans are people who have either lived in France or studied French at the Alianza Francesa in Guadalajara. They are architects, accountants, doctors, etc.

          In foreign countries, you make the same kinds of friends that you have in your own country because you have the same interests. Thus, while I am very friendly with the woman who cleans my house every week, we are not friends, not because she is poor, but because we don’t have similar interests. But, to some extent we do talk about our lives, our day to day routines and because I have bothered to learn to speak Spanish, sometimes we talk for a half hour before she starts to clean. And because I know Spanish, I have been invited by my Mexican neighbors (even when I lived in more “Mexican” neighborhoods) to their fiestas, to the christenings of their babies, to their baby showers, to their New Year’s parties, etc. Most Americans come here and never communicate with anyone because they don’t bother to learn the language so they don’t know anyone, neither in the “artsy” community nor the “village people”. So, instead they stay in their gated communities and barbeque and drink beer by the pool every day.

          I live in a gated community now too (because I live alone and was robbed twice), but I carefully picked the community I live in. It is 60% Mexican owned and the residents are University professors, lawyers and engineers, same as the American and Canadian residents. I joined with my Mexican neighbors to try to oust our current President of the community, who is American and thus made friends with all in the community and, as a bonus, improved my Spanish tremendously.

          As I said, it’s all how you make it. If you think that these towns are strictly American and Canadian expats, then it’s because you haven’t bothered to get to know the people who live here and learn the language.

    • Steve Galat

      True, here in Quintana Roo, Playa del Carmen….Puerto Aventuras (where I live)….gated ex-pat communities, NOT “real Mexico” at all….but I can always catch a ride to Chetumal, Puebla, Oaxaca for a week of ‘Mexicandad’

  • Michelle Gallez Dalton

    I can’t tell you how happy we are in PV. Everyone has their special spot in Mexico and this is ours.

  • Mexicanbeachbum Robin

    thanks Chris, still enjoying your adventures

  • Geoffrey Rogg

    Rose tinted glasses I am sorry to say. Wait until you are mugged at gunpoint in the heart of down-town Puerto Vallarta with half a dozen taxi drivers looking the other way. Wait until you home is broken into in such a way that it could only have been an inside job. Wait until your vehicles are taken away by a pick-up truck from a locked garage and witnesses to the event who told you what happened deny everything when brought into the State Prosecutors Office to give a statement for fear of reprisal. We love Mexico too but I have lived and worked in Mexico for many years, speak fluent Spanish including much of the local dialect and my Colombian born wife as a Latin American knows the score only too well. I have Permanent Residence status and love the country, its people and fully understand its history but am cognisant of the very real risks and we have learnt from bitter experience where not go and when not, how best to protect ourselves and our property at the same time knowing that whatever we do it may never be enough. Many old timers like ourselves still can’t leave the country for too long as we love it so much but all of us have our stories to tell. Caveat emptor!

    • You must have bad karma, amigo. I’ve lived in Mexico almost 16 years. Nothing bad has happened to me at all, zip, zed, zero. Perhaps you should consider another part of Mexico.

      • Geoffrey Rogg

        Don’t be glib and be dismissive of other peoples experiences. I can give chapter and verse, naming condominiums and house locations were similar incidents and worse have happened. Karma has nothing to with it. Security measures are the most important and taking note of how local Mexicans protect their homes, families and property and still experience too many incidents. Visit the local State and Federal law enforcement offices and see for yourself the handcuffed delinquents and numbers of Mexicans and “gringos” filing reports of theft of property and worse. You don’t know me, what and who I know in Mexico in general and Puerto Vallarta in particular. I have had permanent Residence Status since 1990 and have also lived and worked in Mexico City which was my home base for my work throughout the country. Otherwise I share your enthusiasm and love of the country and my wife and I enjoy a full and most satisfying social and cultural lifestyle with both Mexican, international and expat friends. Also for sailors like me, I know of nowhere better for day sailing than Banderas Bay and have my sailboat in Marina Vallarta for over ten years. Puerto Vallarta is a Paradise but I don’t want to to minimise the possible downside that, regardless of what you say, has been experienced by nationals and foreigners alike in a country where lawlessness is unfortunately endemic, worse in some areas more than others.

        • Oh, I do not dismiss what you say at all. I believe you. Believe me too when I say I have lived here for 16 years experiencing nothing unpleasant whatsoever. Quite the contrary. So what does that tell us? I do think location has much to do with this. I think places like Vallarta that attract foreigners also attracts the bad guys. Foreigners living in condos…even more so.

          And perhaps a bit of karma too. Who knows? Hang in there.

          • Lorileeca

            I can never understand why people would choose to live in a major tourist destination then complain about crime. Higher real estate prices and where do the criminals congregate? Where the money is. Where is the money? Where there is a huge tourist destination. When picking a place to call home one has to consider the pros and cons. If you need what a tourist destination may provide in shopping a weekend trip can provide it. With the amount of major chain stores being built through out Mexico our choice of places to shop is continually growing.

          • Could not agree more. Where I live, a town in the “dangerous” state of Michoacán,we have about 400 Gringos — too many for my taste, but that’s a different matter — there is an active Yahoo forum where these folks constantly chatter to one another. This has been going on a decade or more. The reports of crime are virtually nonexistent.

          • Geoffrey Rogg

            Los ladrones no son tontos y son muy bien informados. Van a donde vale la pena, ni mas ni menos. The thieves are not stupid and are very well informed. They go where it is worth while, no more no less.

        • Linda Thompson

          I’ve lived here for 4 years and visited for the last 30. My apartment building doesn’t have security. I’m on the second floor. I don’t lock my doors…leave the balcony door open 24/7. Single lady. Never had a problem either in my apartment or walking home at night. Yesterday, I dropped my change purse on the beach and only discovered this when I sat down at the restaurant ….walked back, never expecting to find it, but a man who works on the Bora Bora asked me what was wrong…I told him and he said, no problem, I have it….and pulled it out of the pocket of his trunks….all there, returned with a smile! Yes, good karma plays a huge part. And I’m sure if anyone ‘cased’ my home they’d find little worth stealing. I’m sorry that you have had so many problems and feel the need for so much security. I haven’t, and I don’t.
          In fact, one of the reasons I didn’t buy in a condo in the hotel zone was because they feel the need to have 24/7 security (for which the owners pay big bucks)…and I thought it a waste of my retirement funds!

    • Patricia Dolan

      Wow….I’d say bad karma too! I’ve been here since 1998 and nothing has happened to me, just good things. You must have a target on your back. Or is it something that you did???

    • Jill Flyer

      I’ve been reading what other people have said of your experiences. All that I can say is that I have experienced 2 robberies and know lots of people who have been also robbed. Down here (Chapala, Ajijic) the favorite crime is house robberies… it happens often, though of course it doesn’t happen to everyone. So, they can say, as smugly as you all, that there are no problems. Well, let me tell you, there is no paradise anywhere and problems and crime exist all over the world, and if you have not experienced any, then you are lucky, but don’t put down the ones who have.

      And by the way, I am also a single woman living alone and I will tell you that criminals target single people. Because there is only one person in the house, it is easy to track your comings and goings. Some homes are targeted, as the robbers know what is in your house and watch your patterns (i.e., I leave for tennis at certain days and times) or other robbers watch when you leave. As a single person, it´s easy to see that when your car is not in the garage, then no one is home.

      I also speak fairly fluent Spanish and have tons of Mexican friends and up till now have always lived in a strictly Mexican neighborhood…. none of those American/Canadian communities where no one has to ever encounter a Mexican except to go to the store, and where the people spend their time with each other barbequeing around the pool every day.

      However, after 2 robberies I did move into a gated community with guards and cameras. It is however, a community that is 60% Mexican owned. Because, guess what? The Mexicans want to be safe too!

      • Geoffrey Rogg

        My intention was not to start a debate but merely to make people aware of what I and scores of others know the situation to be and that applies to those who live in not only Puerto Vallarta but other resort areas up to Punta de Mita, Nayarit. I don’t speak of Ajijic because the few friends we have there have not told us of any bad experiences. An important fact to note, as Jill Flyer pointed out, is that no matter how friendly your Mexican cleaning lady, plumber, locksmith or any other service provider or casual acquaintance may be you may never know who their friends or family are and you must always obtain reliable references before letting them into your home, because the majority of break-ins are planned with full knowledge of your home’s contents and whereabouts. If you have nothing of value it is no mystery why you are left alone. I always say enjoy the downtown and the beach but do not bring the downtown or the beach into your home which must be your castle no matter how humble. There are gangs of young people who speak pretty good American English operating in the downtown and beach areas whose sole function is to create friendships with the “Gringo”, gain their confidence and access to their homes, only to pass on the information to their compadres who you have never met & who will effect the break-in. Especially vulnerable to this type of abuse are the LBGT community who have done so much to enhance the downtown but who all too often are the prey of charming young rogues offering friendship but whose real intention is to gain the confidence of their unsuspecting victim. This is no exaggeration because we have friends who have fallen victim not only robbery but to extortion as well. Having said all that I still believe PV and the whole Bay area to be fabulous but like other exotic places in the world you must have your wits about you and not be too curious to know the unknown, especially on your own.

        • Steve Galat

          do NOT live your life in Fear, m’dear. Now….Go thou forth….and Kick Ass (and woe unto Pharisees who cross you!) STEVEE, Puerto Aventuras QR

    • Steve Galat

      Wow….Some Bad Luck there, hermano! Been here since the mid-1980’s and, but for a 4-yr bid at Santa Marta Acatitla (my own bad), I have no problems at all here in Puerto Aventuras, Q.R. I don’t miss Hallandale Beach, Florida at all!

  • I’ve lived in the middle of Mexico since 2000, moving here from Texas. Became a citizen a decade ago, wouldn’t move back above the border for anything at all, nada.

    A few observations: You bought a residence down here before living here? Baaad idea, but I’m glad it worked out for you.

    Postal service is poor? Not where I live. It’s slow, but it works great. I have a PO box, which I recommend getting.

    Marvelous food? Sure, if you like Mexican. Other cuisines are lamentably lacking.

    Puerto Vallarta? Aren’t you tired of sweating? No matter. Have a swell time.

    • Henry Golas

      When I am sweating I just think of all the snow I do not have to shovel.

  • Jill Flyer

    You actually get an electric bill? Wow! Sometimes we do and sometimes we don’t (I live near Ajijic and Chapala), same for the phone bill. And, of course, since they put them under the garage gates, they are thoroughly soaked when it rains. I could put up a mailbox but that would not insure that the bills would be put in there.

    Though I must say (after 12 years here) that they are getting almost consistent but I still don’t trust them. When you live down here, there are certain things you must commit to memory: the date your electric bill is due every month and the date the phone bill is due. Although things have improved. There are actual places to pay the electric bill, like the Oxxos and Walmart (which of course didn’t exist 12 years ago), so that the whole population of the municipality of Chapala doesn’t have to march over to the CFE every month to pay the bill (and wait in line for an hour because there was always only one window open, even the day the bills were due).

  • Paige Peters

    It always amazes me when people talk about the crime in Mexico. There is crime everywhere!! Does anyone watch the U.S. news or read the internet, my god, crime is rampant in the United States. How many school/mall/office shootings have your heard of in Mexico? NONE!! I have lived in Mexico for 20 years and yes, I have experienced crime (stolen car, house broken into) but it’s no different than the crime I experienced in Bellevue, Washington. All cities have good and bad areas, just be smart about where you go and be aware of your surroundings. I would not even consider leaving this beautiful country to live “up north” again, it’s a nice place to visit, but this is my home. The most amazing weather, people and food ever!!

  • Beau

    Congratulations Michelle and Chris; have a long and happy retirement life in PV.

  • lang_eddy

    I love your little stories on living in Mexico….my wife and I live in Mexico 4 months of the year…Dec-April, and we love it so much….we don’t live in PV….we live outside of PV…I will not tell you where because the town I live in is Mexician, and I want it to remain that way…..its beautiful, and the people are wonderful…never had any problems at all….I wouldn’t live in PV for all the tea in China…..but do enjoy…..and thanks for your stories…

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