Lifestyle Refugee – The Return

Click here for Elliott’s Blog…The Second Chance Ballroom

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If You Read It In The Times…

Local writer and artist (that’s how we roll around here) Janice Kimball posted this article on facebook today. We have all experienced something similar while living in Mexico, where having a flat tire changed costs $30 pesos. One of the myriad of little things that, when combined, add up to a dramatically reduced level of  stress.

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Fair and Balanced.No, Really!

Here’s a blog post from a winter visitor to our sister city in the expat snow bird business, San Miguel de Allende.

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Diane Pearl in the Big Time

Here’s an article about our very own Diane Pearl, who owns a FANTASTIC store on Colon Street, the Ajijic equivalent of Rodeo Drive. Do you have something that you treasure that you got in her store? Tell me about it!

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Pancho Villa’s Fickle Finger

I came across an article sometime ago suggesting that General Santa Ana’s wooden leg was making the rounds of Illinois pawnshops. Apparently there’s a market for this kind of stuff. Read it here

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Mexican Food for Thought

Good News about Mexico from Around the Internet

  • Mexico is so much better and healthier than most people think
  • The population is aging, so many of the people who currently hold jobs are retiring, opening up jobs for younger workers.
  • The last two presidential administrations fostered and encouraged home ownership, which is building a growing middle class.
  • The current administration, at great cost across the board, is fighting corruption and the invasive influence of the drug cartels. It is difficult and painful… but must be done. If Mexico stays the course, this will bring great long-term benefits.
  • Mexico does have vast oil resources. If they ever allow private professionals to get involved, the country can rival many OPEC members.
  • Mexico is a young democracy… as it matures, it will get better.
  • Mexico’s proximity… for better or worse… to the United States gives it great opportunity. Both countries must get over immigration and border sensitivities, and if they do, both will prosper in the relationship.
  • The Pan American games are coming to Guadalajara in October 2011…this year! Guadalajara and Lake Chapala will have a lot of exposure during the games…promoting awareness of the area as a tourist, resident or business location. Since Lake Chapala is sponsoring the water-skiing portion, the area looks to benefit from the additional advertising and tourism coming to the area.
  • Drug violence is not a threat to ordinary tourists like you and me. This is according to the Mexican government, the U.S. State Department and
  • Mexican highways are excellent and well-marked. Most major cities are now connected by well-engineered toll roads that have limited access and are patrolled by federal police and Green Angels, motorist-assistant trucks manned by mechanics.
  • Customs offices are clean and customs officials are professional and efficient. Neither used to be the case.
  • Gas stations are also vastly improved. Almost all now include a convenience store and some even have food courts.
  • And the vehicle stock is better than years ago; gone are most of the lopsided buses and one-eyed trucks of the past.
  • “Mexico’s Drug War Doesn’t Stop Tourists” ( – Top Quote: “I live in New York City,” said Shari Prince, the owner of a residential real estate company in Manhattan who returned last month from what she called a “fantastic” five-day getaway with her three daughters on the Riviera Maya, which is just southwest of Cancun. “I’d be more concerned about the crime here than in Mexico.”
  • “Tourism to Mexico jumps nearly 20%” ( – Top Quote: “In a surprising turnabout, international tourism to Mexico showed a sharp increase this summer — a sign that tourists may be putting aside worries about the economy and fears of drug-related violence, analysts say.”
  • “Tourism to Mexico is Up” ( – Top Quote: “In addition to having several of the top sun and beach destinations of the world, Mexico has 30,000 archeological sites, 110,000 monuments and 31 Unesco World Heritage sites. Many places have one or maybe two of these elements, but only Mexico combines all of them in one destination.”
  • “Mexico Tourism Official: Agents Big Part of Resurgence” ( – Top Quote: “Consumers are now aware that all of these problems are away from (where they will be visiting in Mexico),” Sumano says. “People are much more aware and we wanted to thank the travel agent community because of what they have shared with their clients.”
  • AARP‘s website, Ask Peter Greenberg, Question: “Is Mexico Safe for Travel?” Greenberg subtitled his response “Don’t believe the hype, but do be aware of your surroundings” and went on talk about how, yes, there is violence in Mexico but that the majority of the reported violence is focused in a few border areas, far removed from popular tourist destinations like Puerto Vallarta and the Riviera Maya.
  • With its profoundly rich Indian and Spanish culture, its spectacular beaches and charming colonial hill towns, its real estate bargains and its proximity to the United States, Mexico is the undisputed number one destination for American retirees. It boasts thriving expat communities in Lake Chapala, near Guadalajara; San Miguel de Allende, in Guanajuato; Baja California; and Cancún, in the Yucatan.
  • A quick word about crime and safety in Mexico: Yes, it can dangerous in the cities bordering the United States (mostly to drug cartel members themselves!). Mexico, however, is also nearly three times the size of Texas, and most of the country is reasonably safe and secure, especially resort areas and tourist destinations.
  • Good news: Mexico held an election, and drug cartels lost Saturday, July 17, 2010 The good news for Mexico – and for its relationship with the United States – is that, try as they might to disrupt the political process and dictate the outcome, the cartels failed to do either. Despite violence that included…the assassination of a gubernatorial candidate, many voters turned out to cast ballots – for their choices and not the cartels’.
  • Mexico is growing by leaps and bounds. According to Business Week, Mexico’s middle class “have swelled to record levels.” While many people mistakenly assume that Mexico is an impoverished country, the truth is far from that. Millions of Mexicans have access to mortgages, have solid jobs and are saving toward their children’s higher education.
  • Mexican stocks are outperforming the U.S. stock market. Since 2005, the Mexican stock market has outperformed U.S. Stock markets, according to the S&P 500. In fact, the Mexican market has not only performed better but it’s done at a rate of 10 to 1.
  • Alaska Airlines flies to nine different Mexico destinations and they are offering deep discounts and also offering vacation packages that get you down to Mexico at even lower rates: Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta/Riveria Nayarit, Los Cabos, Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo, Manzanillo, La Paz, Loreto, Guadalajara, Mexico City.
  • Mexico Will Continue to Accumulate International Reserves in 2011. Their record breaking year in 2010 will continue into this year as Mexico strengthens its financial position, reported the Wall Street Journal. Economists declare that inflation rates in Mexico will be contained throughout 2011 and well into 2012. In fact, many experts expect the Bank of Mexico interest rates to stay put into 2012.
  • Largest Bond Fund Manager says “Invest in Mexico” on Bloomberg Television
  • Foreign reserves peaked at a record $113.6 billion in Mexico in 2010, rising $22.6 billion toward the end of the year.
  • Mexican Banks Anticipate Bull Market in 2011: According to the Wall Street Journal, consumer banks have shown double-digit growth in most of their product lines this year.
  • Virgin America airline chooses Mexico as its 2nd International Destination.
  • Mexican GDP Expected to Grow in 2011: The United Nations and the Mexican government both have approximately the same estimate for Mexico’s gross domestic product growth in 2011, around 3.5%. This is on top of a 5.3% growth in 2010, as reported by Morningstar.


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My friend Claudette at Pranza

The sign on the table says “The Realtor is In” Look for it around town!

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Happy New Year, and a Great Link

In this morning’s inbox, there was an email from Barbara Hopkins with “new blog post” in the subject line. Forgetting for a moment that I have a friend with that name, I immediately assumed that my mother was wagging her finger at me in cyberspace, and reminding that I need to put up a new post. If my mother sees this, she will be rightly shocked that such an idea would enter my head, as it is not at all her style, but thus is the guilty wiring of a middle aged woman. 

Instead, the email led me to a mighty fine blog post written by my friend, one that I think will be useful to anyone who should come across it. I encourage you to check it out by clicking here.

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How Bad Is It?

Two weeks ago, a reader sent in a comment regarding the levels of violence being reported on here in Mexico. Anna wrote in with this question ;

Hi there,

I’ve been following your blog for a while and have been very interested in moving down to the Lake Chapala area. I appreciate this entry on your perspective on the media hype surround violence and crime in Mexico. But I ran across a recent article from the Guadalajara Reporter concerning recent crime in the very area you’re in. Can you take a look at this article and give your thoughts on it?

How is everyday life down there currently? Please let me know. Thanks in advance for your time.

  A popular conversation down here involves comparing where we are to where we were. The only possible conclusion to be drawn is that the whole world has become a violent place, sometimes scary to live in. The question is, is it more so than at other times in history, or is it that media and it’s outlets bring it to our attention more? And is it worse in Mexico than in other places? I don’t know the answer to either question. I do know that everyday life, which is what Anna asked about, hasn’t changed at all. I am neither more anxious or less careful about my daily activities.

I experienced considerably more violence first hand in my Virginia suburb than I have here. In 1998, when constuction was brand new, there was a natural gas explosion due to faulty work that took a life, injured several people, and blew up a house. The same affluent suburb made the local (but not national) news a few years later when a dismembered body was found in a suitcase in a dumpster at the town square. Across the street from my house a young man and his sweetheart died in a murder suicide pact, shattering the lives of our neighbors. Meanwhile, I struggled to go on sales calls on September 11, 2oo1, unaware of the devasting impact that the attacks were to have, and my step children were sent home from school as the Pentagon, employer of many of their friends’ parents, was bombed by terrorists.  A year later we cancelled a vacation, too scared of exposing ourselves to the beltway sniper, who for three weeks terrorized the communities in which we lived and worked and killed 10 random victims, to leave the house. And none of this came as close to home as the first year that we lived here, when my stepdaughter was a freshman at Virginia Tech, and locked down in her dorm while a shooter massacred her classmates.

My suburb never made it on to CNN, although some of these events did. The total of all this violence has never been combined to batter me with “news” of how dangerous my life was, although it obviously was.  Virginia has never been the subject of Consular warnings or daily headlines. In spite of that, a case could be made that I moved to Mexico to escape the violence in posh Virginia Horse country, and that I have been successful, as nothing like the above violence has occurred to me or those close to me since I’ve been here.

 The world, all of it, all over it, is too violent. Here in Mexico, narcos kill each other pretty routinely, but nobody ever shoots up a classroom. The inexhaustible appetite of wealthy America for the drugs that have remained huge business, not a dent made in the trafficking that continues to provide work for people who are poor enough to be willing to make themselves soldiers in a ridiculous war, is the source of the danger. Feeling safer in the country where the drugs are going than in the country where they are coming from doesn’t make very much sense. 

We have a cultural reverence for news anchors, left over from the days when they were journalists searching out stories to report during the two hours that 3 channels allotted them each evening. Filling up a news hour that literally never stops is a challenge, and the info-nalities on the many 24 hour news channels sometimes get stuck on stories that aren’t very…well, that aren’t even true.

 As an example, my stepson and his fiancee visited us here for Thanksgiving. We anxiously watched the endless loop of stories on CNN about the new TSA requirements, knowing that the kids were flying out of Reagan National, where surely the security measures would be even more onerous. We continued to watch with the kids, safely arrived and with their junk unmolested, while they drank margaritas and wondered how CNN could be making such a fuss. They hadn’t experienced anything different while flying, and still the news prattled on. It was the same last year, with the Swine Flu, remember that?

 Mexico isn’t for everyone, but if you want to come here, don’t let fear keep you away. The idea that violence is something that happens someplace else may be comforting on some level, but a little quiet consideration will reveal that if you are staying where you are because violence can’t happen there, you are already in Paradise. A fool’s Paradise.


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Gringo is NOT a Dirty Word

I occasionally have clients arriving armed with information gleaned from guidebooks that is hard to talk them out of. It’s usually odd, old fashioned stuff along the lines of women not being tolerated on construction sites or that the wearing of shorts is inappropriate–it often is, depending on whose doing the wearing, but that´s a matter of taste, not culture. As far as what those of us who live here are called, it is most often “Gringo,” especially in locales like Lake Chapala, where there is a big presence. The alternative is Estadounidense, so I think you can see why everyone, most notably the Gringos themselves, is more comfortable with the “G” word. Here’s a videoclip   where you’ll hear it used by a sweet couple who live in Puerto Vallarta.

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