Cuban but lived in U.S most of his life, Alfredo decided to move to Mexico with his husband more than ten years ago. He gives us in this testimony his vision about the more latino country of North-America.
My partner Stew and I have been living near San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where we built a "green" off-the-grid home on a small 7.5 acre ranch.
Hi Alfredo, can you introduce yourself and tell us about your projects in Mexico?
I was born in Cuba, lived in the U.S. most of my life. I was a journalist in Chicago and have lived with my husband Stewart for 44 years. He owned a home inspection company also in Chicago. In Mexico we live in a three-hectare ranch where we built an off-the-grid house solar electricity and water heating, a rain collection system and passive heating and cooling features. The only outside "input" is propane for the stove and back-up water heating. It was a very exciting project to plan and execute and the results exceeded our expectations.
Why did you choose to live in Mexico?
We retired early, when we were both 57 years old, and we did quite a bit of research and visited several possible places to retire, from Antigua, Guatemala, to Vancouver, Canada. We considered a number of factors, climate being an important one, but also cost of living, a community friendly to gay people, cultural amenities and so on. Though no place scored a perfect "ten", San Miguel de Allende came up very high on the list.
How were your first steps in the country? Was it difficult to find accomodations and to integrate mexican society?
We arrived a little more than ten years ago, in the middle of a "housing bubble" in San Miguel, when prices were skyrocketing. We rented for a couple of years to allow ourselves to get oriented before buying. I would strongly advise newcomers to do the same, in order to find which areas of town you like best and can afford, etc.
What does your everyday life look like in Mexico? I guess that the rhythm is completely different than in US?
The rhythm of our lives is definitely different, slower and more relaxed. Part of it is being retired and not having a nine-to-five routine anymore; the other is that the pace of life in Mexico is far slower (sometimes frustratingly so) and less hectic, particularly coming from a big city like Chicago.
Mexico is a large country, which part did you see or/and prefer?
We traveled around quite a bit and considered Guanajuato, Guadalajara, Lake Chapala, Oaxaca, Mexico City, and even a couple of coastal cities. San Miguel de Allende attracted us because it is a beautiful place, small but not too small, it has a good-size expat community and most of all a climate as perfect as we were able to find anywhere.
How would you describe mexican culture? What surprised you?
We now live outside the city in a rural setting. I was surprised to find that Mexicans are quite private, reticent people, often difficult to get to know. I've been somewhat disappointed that although we have developed a large circle of friends, most of them are also English-speaking expats, from the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand. I wrote about this phenomenon in one of my blogs.
Mexico is often seen as a violent and dangerous country, could you give us your expat point of view about it?
Mexico indeed is an often violent country, though most of the violence is concentrated along the border with the U.S., and the perpetrators and victims generally linked to the drug industry, either as traffickers or law enforcement. What is generally true and disturbing across the country is the problem of corruption and impunity: few crimes, even capital crimes, are ever properly investigated or resolved. Having said that, we do not feel personally threatened or insecure living in San Miguel, particularly when we watch and read about the constant reports of mass shootings and other mayhem back in the U.S.
Any advices for a soon-to-be expatriate in Mexico?
I would say to come down here and rent for a while and see how you like it before committing to any moves or selling your home. Also, come with an open, adaptable mind. Mexico is a different country where life transpires differently but where you could be quite happy.