Opinion
A woman jogs on the malecón of Lake Chapala in Ajijic, Jalisco. A woman jogs on the malecón of Lake Chapala in Ajijic, Jalisco. DepositPhotos

Expats moving to Mexico: Is it really that bad?

Settling in Mexico is about more than good weather and cheap living

Can it be that 70% of people answering a recent Mexico News Daily poll think migration to Mexico is not beneficial? This simple poll got me thinking about how lifestyle migration from the U.S. to Mexico is having impacts.

Learning more about the website’s audience (where they are living currently and basic demographics) gave me some simplified insight: 58% of readers are responding from the US and 52% fall in the 18-44 age group. Combining these two bits of info, I assume the “against” expat migration group has a bunch of younger people who don’t live here.

So starting from this assumption, the naysayers are a bunch of younger Americans for whom Mexico is a big all-inclusive resort party. How else could you validate the poll’s findings?

Of course, there are negative impacts caused by those fleeing the U.S. and Canada — something I experienced, having moved to Mexico in 2015 and worked in Mexico tourism for over 40 years. American and Canadian migrants can sometimes be painted as “invaders,” especially when we set our sights on smaller villages and towns.

The results of a recent Mexico News Daily poll.
The results of a recent Mexico News Daily poll.

Yes, we create competition for rentals and real estate price inflation. We often don’t integrate into our host communities. Many of us live in “bubbles” of like-minded, monolingual, better weather seekers. We can also flaunt our relative and real wealth in ways that are culturally insensitive. We “dollarize” a local economy. We stick out with our Anglo appearance and white legs, wearing short pants and hats. We skirt certain Mexican laws, when it’s convenient. This is all true.

But there are also expats and institutions that are active agents for change. In 2015 the United Nations passed the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a program signed onto by 176 nations (including the U.S., Canada and Mexico). The agenda proposes 17 goals, including no poverty, zero hunger, good health and more.

For each of these 17 goals, I want to believe there are foreigners moving to Mexico with global views compatible with addressing these tragic shortfalls in the human condition. Mexico’s uphill climb is daunting. A recent study published in Mexico News Daily cites how poverty abatement (post-COVID and midway through the current AMLO administration) is stalled. There are as many Mexicans living in dire poverty today as there were four years ago. Chew on that. Mexico’s current “Fourth Transformation” has been stillborn.

But the good work continues, supported by foreigners and returning Mexicans working in close concert with local partners. These efforts touch the human condition in ways big and small. Jalisco state has an initiative to put Mexicans returning from life overseas on municipal councils. The head of our local transit police spent 20-plus years in the Dallas police department. Mexicans coming home often bring “expat” views about change and getting things done.

The goals of the U.N. 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The goals of the U.N. 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

In my community of Ajijic, expat impacts go beyond pet shelters and child education. This is partly because we’ve been here so long, part of a migration fuse that was lit in the 1940s.

If you have a cause or bring a skill, the ways to connect with time and donations are vast. A charity list published by the Lake Chapala Society is a 12-page compendium of ways to get involved in local initiatives to improve the human condition.

Are these social and environmental outreach programs universally in action across Mexico? No. Can foreign-born residents of Mexico do more to improve their home country or local communities? Let’s hope so. Settling here is about more than good weather and cheap living. Look around and open some doors to personal and community transformation. All-inclusive resorts don’t define our migration wave, and they never should.

Greg Custer is a full-time resident and publishes content about Mexico for living at www.mexicoforliving.com.

Reader forum

The forum is available to logged-in subscribers only.