Leaning Towards Mexico

There is really no deciding where it is best to spend the rest of one´s life. It is all done with some bittersweet hope and trepidation. I´ve been too many places and have seen and experienced too much disappointment after having earnest confidence. I´ve read the stories of others whose hearts were broken by a place they fell in love with. Perhaps that is part of the reason I have been looking for so long, and have been mostly crest fallen at what I´ve seen.

But Mexico. In the last 14 years I have been in Mexico more time than in the US. I have worked there, a bit, and slept there a lot. I´ve invested in land there, only to be ripped off by my partner/good friend; a real soul crushing experience. I have few romantic delusions about Mexico. I am currently reading Under the Volcano, which should banish what remains of my fantasies. I think if I stay in Mexico, it will be a measured decision.

I landed back in Mexico City a couple of weeks ago, from Lima, Peru, and it didn´t take long to remember why it has always been my first and last choice. Why hadn´t I just decided that long ago? First, I am very concerned that I won´t qualify for residency with my very limited resources, besides, I still had exploring to do. The issue of financial requirements scares me. If I can´t get residency here, then I am back to the start in terms of finding a place. For a variety of reasons that I will try to  cover in another post, I was not satisfied with the options in South America.

I am set on Mexico for now. I have contacted an attorney, and I hope they can help me sort out the residency visa. Now is a good time to do this, as the dollar is at an all time high vs. the Peso, so at least it seems like I have more money than I do.

What is it about Mexico? That is the ephemeral aspect to choosing a place. I can give lots of practical reasons; I am learning the language, it is close to the US, I love the food and the culture, yada yada. But it comes down to walking the streets of Mexico City and feeling a part of it, and yet totally foreign. It gives me the psychic space I personally need while allowing and inviting me to be part of it.

If I stay, I will try to spend a lot of time in Mexico City. I imagine I will need to settle some place less costly, but I love the city. Here are some photos from the recent visit:

First, there is the architecture, the very bones of the City. The Cathedral is actually built upon the Aztec bones of old Tenochtitlan, upon and with the stones of the old empire. The architecture spans centuries and tells the history of the city. I think now the powers that be understand the importance of this and will protect it.

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Cathedral built atop Aztec Temple

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Bellas Artes

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Random building across from my hotel room

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Down a side street from the zocolo

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The Cathredal

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Abandoned building on the Alameda

And the food! My favorite two countries for street food are Thailand and Mexico. I really cannot decide between the two, but ranking Mexico with Thailand in terms of food says a lot. The food is cheap and plentiful, and of course, muy rico.

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And cool, stylish, joyful street life. Mexicans live hard and party harder.

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So, hopefully, it will be Mexico.

 

 

Reflections on Medellin

From what I had read online, I really had different expectations of Medellin. I think in the back of my mind I was expecting a Colombian version of Mexico City: A city with an historic center and colonial districts, and metro system tying them together quickly. The streets of Mexico City teem with street vendors and life. Music is most everywhere, as well  as delicious food.

Medellin is its own city. It has to be met on its own terms. Much progress has been made since the bad old days, which is the rhetorical point made every time Medellin is written about. But progress and industriousness do no translate into charm and grace. I imagined little neighborhoods with plaza centers where one could feel a part of a community. This might exist, but I didn’t see where or how.

If you search online, you will find many articles about how Medellin is a great place to retire. High on the list of pluses is the cost of living. This cannot be denied. At the moment the peso is about 3400 to the US dollar. That is up from 2400 to the dollar a year ago, and 2000 the year before that. Now it seems historically weak. Inflation has not kept up with the deflated value of the peso, so everything is a bargain for visitors. But right now the US dollar is at a high, and it will probably not stay that way. Cheap today, Medellin could become much more expensive at the turn of the US dollar. One has to be cautious about retiring based on current exchange rates.

Safety and Security

If you are planning to retire someplace, safety has to be a consideration. If you wish to stay safe in Medellin, here is an article with the precautions. The author provides an extensive list of risks and safety precautions, but this one was maybe the most significant for a potential expat retiree:

Don’t get too comfortable

Some neighborhoods in Medellín (El Poblado and Laureles, for example) are often touted as being the safest parts of the city.  This may be true in relative terms, but the truth is, bad things can happen anywhere. Plenty of robberies have been known to take place even in the “safest” of neighborhoods; it’s important to remember this and to exercise caution at all times.

 

Don’t get too comfortable, even in the relatively safest neighborhoods. This is not the life I am looking to live.

The most likely crime will be property crime, but muggings can result in physical injury, of course. Here is a report from numbeo.com about crime in Medellin:

Crime rates in Medellin, Colombia

Level of crime 72.62 High
Crime increasing in the past 3 years 54.55 Moderate
Worries home broken and things stolen 47.73 Moderate
Worries being mugged or robbed 73.86 High
Worries car stolen 59.09 Moderate
Worries things from car stolen 64.29 High
Worries attacked 43.18 Moderate
Worries being insulted 32.95 Low
Worries being subject to a physical attack because of your skin colour, ethnic origin or religion 15.91 Very Low
Problem people using or dealing drugs 80.68 Very High
Problem property crimes such as vandalism and theft 62.50 High
Problem violent crimes such as assault and armed robbery 67.05 High
Problem corruption and bribery 65.91 High

Safety in Medellin, Colombia

Safety walking alone during daylight 55.68 Moderate
Safety walking alone during night 28.41 Low

If you are planning to retire some place, you should start with the rest of your life in mind. You may be spry and strong at 70, but what about 80 or 90? The two safest places in Medellin, and the ones where expats retire, are Poblado and Laureles.

But those places are expensive. If you look at the cost of living in Medellin, of course it is averages. There is a lot of poverty there to bring the averages down. Which brings me back to the cost of retiring in Medellin. Not only is the peso likely to strengthen, but the neighborhoods where the expat retirees settle are more expensive.

I accept that between my expectations, and the scorching El Nino heat, I certainly have a subjective take on the city, but it is good to have other views when considering something so life altering as retiring some place. I’m going to try to make it back to Medellin maybe some months from now and give it a second try. For the moment, though, it is no longer on my list.