Into the Heart of Mexico Into the Heart of Mexico: interviews with extranjeros.

Good answers from interviews with expats

BOOK REVIEW: John Scherber's Into the Heart of Mexico

John Scherber has lived in San Miguel de Allende since 2007 and has written 17 fiction books. Into the Heart of Mexico: Expatriates Find Themselves Off the Beaten Path is his third non-fiction.

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This book is a series of interviews with extranjeros who have settled permanently in Mexico. Scherber asked a lot of good questions, and got a lot of good answers.

At first glance, the “off the beaten path” in the title might seem misleading, unless your idea of “off the beaten path” is “outside of Puerta Vallarta, Cancún and Cabo San Lucas.

Two of Scherber’s destinations, Mineral de Pozos and San Luis de la Paz, are only a few kilometers away from San Miguel de Allende, a major gringo colony. Morelia, Puebla and Oaxaca are big cities that attract a lot of tourists, and Pátzcuaro is also a major tourist destination.

Zacatecas is off the beaten path, however, and also included in this book are Erongarícuaro (usually shortened to Eronga) near Pátzcuaro, and Tlacolula de Matamoros in the state of Oaxaca. I thought these three places were the most interesting parts of the book.

Scherber has several common topics, such as, “How often do you get visits from family members?” and “Why did you choose this town?” The cost of living comes up in some interviews, and not in others. Health care, an important topic for retirees, didn’t come up very often.

The interviewees come from a wide variety of backgrounds, but there are several common threads in their testimonies. One is that they don’t want to alter the culture of the place that they have moved into. (I feel the same way.)

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When Scherber asks, “Do you feel safe here?” the response was always yes, except for one incident where an interviewee was chased out of San Pedro Chenalhó in Chiapas by a group of people with two-by-fours.

However, there was a civil war going on in Chiapas at the time. Another common thread is that the interviewees hang out mostly with Mexicans, instead of other expatriates, and this is the case even in Oaxaca, which has an English-language library that serves as a gathering place.

In the conclusion, Scherber refers to something called a “flicker of recognition.” I’ve experienced this myself, and saw it in another book about expatriates in Mexico, Live Better South of the Border in Mexico, by Mike Nelson. The way this works is that somebody does some traveling in Mexico and comes to the realization one day that “this is the place.”

Books like this are important. The baby-boomer generation has reached retirement age, and a lot of them are looking to relocate to affordable places with good weather. To make such a move they need reliable information from people who have done it.

I think this book needs a couple of sequels, and I have some suggestions for them. Although Scherber is very good at describing the places he visits, some pictures would be good. And a map.

He should go a bit further off the beaten path, and here are some suggestions: Durango, Mulegé (Baja California Sur), Jalpan de Serra (Querétaro), Lagos de Moreno (Jalisco), Teotitlán del Valle (Oaxaca), and Tonalá/Puerto Arista (Chiapas).

If a lot of people buy this book and read it, Scherber will be encouraged to write these sequels.

The writer is a retired Canadian who lives in Guanajuato.

This book is available for purchase through Amazon.

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  • Berynice

    You call them “expatriates” but I call them “immigrants”. Just like nobody brown living in the US is an “expatriate” – neither is anybody from the US living in Mexico one.

    • Ian Hayden Parker

      If you believe that nobody brown in the US is an expatriate then that is because you are under educated on the subject and trying to force stereotypes on people and justifying that by saying everyone else does it, so you will too. Let me explain the difference to you, because being an expat is much different than an immigrant and they have nothing to do with nationality or skin color. An expat is someone who lives in a foreign country without the intent on becoming a citizen or working, mostly retired people are considered expats, and their stay is not defined by a time period. An immigrant is someone who goes to a foreign country with the intent on establishing roots, obtaining employment, and becoming a citizen of a new country, and plans to spend their lives as a citizen of that country. Overwhelmingly foreigners in Mexico are here to retire and rarely apply for Mexican citizenship, and typically are not full-timers, therefore they are considered expats by the words meaning. However, there are also American and Canadian immigrants in Mexico, the people who seek citizenship and to establish Mexico as their homeland, that is the meaning of an immigrant. I am an immigrant, I am an American working in Mexico and seeking to become a citizen. There are also Mexicans who go to the USA as expats, people who are not seeking to become citizens or establish roots or work, perhaps just retire, however they are the minority of foreigners living in the US. Most foreigners go to the US to live, work and become citizens, so when generalizing ‘immigrants’ is often used. Most foreigners who live in Mexico are retired and do not seek citizenship in Mexico, therefore when generalizing about foreigners in Mexico, they are often called expats. But there are both types of foreigners in each country. Hopefully this clears it up for you so you can begin using the words properly and ensuring other people use the word properly instead of saying its about race, because its not. Immigrant and expat is about the legal status of the person. Did they, or are they seeking, to become citizens of their new homeland or only live there. That is the difference.

      • Berynice

        I guess in your world you just get to make up definitions that suit you. But by your own definition most “expats” are white (not poor) people and most “immigrants” are brown people.

        • Henry Golas

          Check the dictionary definitions . Ian is right. Where in his definition did you come up with the idea that immigrants are brown people?

          • Berynice

            Not as he implied somebody who doesn’t intend to become a citizen or is retired. By this definition below all “illegal immigrants” are expats.
            ex·pa·tri·ate

            noun
            ˌeksˈpātrēət/
            1.
            a person who lives outside their native country.
            “American expatriates in London”

            adjective
            ˌeksˈpātrēət/
            1.
            (of a person) living outside their native country.
            “expatriate writers and artists”
            synonyms:emigrant, living abroad, nonnative, foreign, émigré;
            informalexpat
            “expatriate workers”

          • Henry Golas

            That isright. They are.

      • Berynice
  • David Ostrow

    Come interview us gringos in Mahahual or Xcalak, Quintana Roo. We live very “off the beaten path”

  • Felipe_Calderoff

    The reason why he couldn’t find any ex-pats who did not feel safe in Mexico, is that they were no longer there. Talk about a biased sampling method! Sheesh. Yellow journalism, or perhaps a fiction novel.

    • it’s true, if you don’t feel safe somewhere, go somewhere else. Oh, and if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

  • as an ex-pat that has lived here longer than you…..I can tell you Mexico is not for everyone. Especially Republicans. No Place for Republicans should be the title of John’s next book. And my painting covers this one.

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