Friday, June 14, 2024

I was only going to stay a year, but now it’s been 7!

People often ask why I love Mexico. The answer is a simple one.

Mexico took me by surprise. A delightful surprise. Originally wanting to move to Valencia, Spain, my plan was to move from Antigua Guatemala, where I’d lived for two years, to Mexico where it was easier to become a resident (back then) and apply for Spanish visas.  

Then I fell in love.

Valencia, Spain
While Plan A might have been Valencia, Spain, things soon took a very different turn. (Musement)

With the warmth of the people and the amazing variations in cultures; Mexican, Mayan and other indigenous groups. I fell in love with the art, the textiles and fabrics, as well as the incredibly talented artisans bringing it all to life with amazingly vibrant color. Yes, the colors, most of all, the quintessentially joyful Mexican colors, are what I fell in love with. And let’s not forget the food.  

The amazing food, made fresh daily like a gift, made my tastebuds dance. I mean if you’ve never had a tlacoyo stuffed with beans and topped with perfectly sautéed huitlacoche drizzled with cream then I’d love to be there when you do. My taste buds rejoiced and I’ve never had a more perfect breakfast. No wonder it’s been a favorite since pre-Hispanic times. Like your Grandmother’s recipes, which always seem to taste amazing, these traditional recipes have been handed down for hundreds (if not thousands) of years, and you just don’t mess with perfection. 

All of these things blew me away and that’s why I decided to stay another year, then another. Now, it’s been seven and delightful surprises still pop up all the time. Just today, I was delighted at the optometrist.

My glasses needed repair, which will take two weeks. Without them, I am lost but was delighted that a pair of readers in my prescription was only twenty-five pesos. 

To clarify, I live on Cozumel, an island in the Riviera Maya region of the Mexican Caribbean, so repairs take longer because my glasses have to be sent to the mainland. While that’s less than ideal, I was delighted that replacements in my prescription were available so cheaply that I picked up two pairs just in case I misplaced one. 

That’s the thing about Mexico. Even if you are inconvenienced, there is always a quick (and normally cheap) fix to get you through. Yes, even though there has been a lot of discussion lately about the cost of living increase, it is still a lot cheaper than in the US. 

As Mexico Correspondent for International Living, I travel regularly. Every time I go to the US to speak at conferences or attend boot camps, I am always taken aback by the difference in the price of things. Out of curiosity, I asked my friend in the US, who recently bought a pair of cheap reading glasses from the pharmacy, how much they were. She replied, “Oh nothing, they were ten or fifteen dollars.”

Even at that ‘cheap’ price they are still ten times more expensive in the US. My cheap is a different cheap. My prescription twenty-five peso reading glasses (US $1.50) compared to fifteen dollars, I know which cheap I’d prefer for the same glasses. 

Optometrists in Cozumel
While there has been a noticeable rise in the cost of living, Mexico still offers excellent value for residents. (Optica Caribe)

So, when I hear people complaining about inflation, I’m still thankful that I live in Mexico because today’s little excursion to the optometrist would have been ten times more expensive if I didn’t live here. 

Plus, the warmth of the Mexican people is evident in every daily interaction. Like a local, I caught the combi — a collectivo which is a local van transport — to the optometrist. As soon as the door slid open there were smiling faces and as I sat was met with a chorus of buenos diás. Now when was the last time you got on a bus and everyone smiled and said good morning? 

The same thing happened when I entered the optometrist’s shop. All the staff wore big smiles, and another chorus of buenos diás met my ears. Now, I don’t know about you, but that’s how I like to start my day — with smiling faces and people warmly saying good morning. 

This is why I stay. This is why I love it here. It hasn’t changed in seven years, though prices have gone up. More foreigners arrive each year after realizing how relaxing and wonderful it is, but the local people never change. 

There is a genuineness here and all through Mexico. Last month, I went on a work trip to San Miguel de Allende. From passing people in the street to the cleaner sweeping the steps of the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel early one morning to the driver who I called every time I needed a ride. Every single one of them was lovely, warm, full of smiles, and most importantly, were angels when listening to my bad Spanish

As you can see, I was only supposed to stay a year but even now seven years I fall a little more in love each day with no plans of leaving just yet. Spain can wait. Or perhaps become an extended vacation at some point because Mexico has embraced my heart and soul. 

Mexico Correspondent for International Living, Bel is an experienced writer, author, photographer and videographer with 500+ articles published both in print and across digital platforms. Living in the Mexican Caribbean for over 7 years now she’s in love with Mexico and has no plans to go anywhere anytime soon. 

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