I love Mexico. But that is a simplification - a generalization attempting to sum up my feelings about Mexico. And those feelings are complicated and nuanced, much like Mexico the country, Mexico the culture.
When I was a young boy, my grandfather owned a small diner in downtown San Diego. My grandfather immigrated to the Unites States from Mexico shortly after my mother was born (my mother was born in Mexico City, which is why I was able to become a Mexican citizen, even though I was born in California). Anyway, he owned this little diner and - being a frugal man who didn't allow himself to be bound too tightly by rules - he bought the meat he served at the diner in Tijuana. One day, he decided to bring me along on one of his shopping trips south of the border. Having experienced, up to that point, primarily the manicured suburbs of San Diego, Tijuana was an eye-opening experience for me. I felt that I had stepped back in time, but not into a past I recognized - some other past that I hadn't realized had even existed. Dusty streets, swinging doors, crowded markets. And animals! Chickens and donkeys walking the streets. Unattended dogs. Men on horseback. It was all very amazing to my young eyes. It felt romantic, compelling, alive. I felt like I was in the real world, and that where I lived was more like an aquarium - with its own atmosphere and decorations and people, but somehow not quite real.
From that point on I was hooked. I wanted to accompany my grandfather on all his trips to Tijuana. Alas, he was too busy to take me on all his trips, and I was too busy being a school kid to accompany him. But as soon as I was old enough to venture out on my own, I started visiting Tijuana - with or without others, I didn't care. I just wanted to be there. I would venture further and further away from the gringo enclaves, deep into the heart of the real Tijuana - the parts where the locals lived, shopped, ate and drank. "Get me away from the gringos" a friend I had dragged down there told me once, and I brought him to a bar where Mexican men and women drank and danced to the banda music playing on the jukebox. My friend was in heaven. I was over the moon.
So, that border town was my introduction to a lifelong passion for a place and a culture. My romantic notions have given way over the years to a more realistic perspective. I've had bad experiences in Mexico - nothing awful or life-threatening, but unpleasant (I've had worse experiences in the States). But those few bad experiences have been overwhelmed by the good experiences. I have ventured now to many places in Mexico - I've lived in Oaxaca City and Puerto Vallarta and San Miguel de Allende. I have experienced Mexico now not just as a foreign visitor, but as a resident and an investor. And as those things, I've had to deal with complicated processes and the deeply inefficient bureaucracy of Mexico. But I've also been rewarded with the beauty and simplicity of Mexico. The kindness and generosity of the Mexican people.
By some miracle that I don't understand, as the U.S. has devolved into a place without social contracts, a place where anti-social behavior isn't merely tolerated but rewarded, Mexico has remained a place mere steps away where society still functions, where social interactions are expected and warmly received.
Of course, I am not alone in finding Mexico a compelling alternative to the more northern American countries. People from the U.S. and Canada are flocking to Mexico now in extraordinary numbers. And interest in Mexico among these people is soaring. And while there are many tactical guides for navigating the various facets of Mexican society and government and relocation processes, and many travelogue style YouTube channels dedicated to various places in Mexico - I have found that there really isn't a lot of content out there that helps the visitor to Mexico understand Mexico at a deeper level, beyond just the tactical and the pretty pictures. This is a gap I hope to fill, perhaps clumsily at times - but always with the best intentions, and with the hope that readers of this blog will take away some understandings and ideas that they may not have realized or held before.
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