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.



Cathedral built atop Aztec Temple


Bellas Artes


Random building across from my hotel room


Down a side street from the zocolo


The Cathredal


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.





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





So, hopefully, it will be Mexico.




I’ve written about visa laws. Sometimes we forget that by retiring abroad we are immigrants. We have to meet the laws the same way migrants to our own countries do. Check the laws and be sure to stay legal. As the article shows, getting deported at 70 is possible. Personally, this sounds quite disruptive and painful. Not only can U.S. citizens get deported from Mexico, they do. Repatriated, deported and extradited Americans account for more than 2,000 cases a year, or five a day on average. Sometimes more.‘I got deported from Mexico!’ Country expels hundreds of U.S. citizens every year | Fox News Latino

Source: ‘I got deported from Mexico!’ Country expels hundreds of U.S. citizens every year | Fox News Latino

Latin America



It’s huge, and covers a continent and then some. I’ll be traveling around Latin America next year and checking out potential retirement spots. Fortunately in the 21st century a lot of the leg work can be done online. This I’ve been doing for the last couple of years.

I have criteria I’ve been rather loosely applying as I’ve been researching. Concern for affordable health insurance and health care has risen on my list, but the basics remain the same, and the bottom line is being able to live on my Social Security of $1300 a month (plus whatever extra income I can generate).

Here is my current short list:




Mexico meets a lot of my criteria. Unfortunately, there are rather high financial requirements for a permanent visa, and legal status is required for the national health plan. There are other plusses and minuses, and I’ll be spending time there and filing a full report.




Guatemala has risen on my personal list because the visa financial requirements are quite doable, there is good quality affordable health care, and it’s close to Mexico and the US.. Antigua and Lake Atitlan seem to be two favorite spots due to their climate and beauty. Guatemala City may be getting better, but it has a reputation for danger.I plan to spend some time in Guatemala.


This is another country with low entrance and residency barriers. The health care is reportedly good and affordable. The cost of living is cheap, and they are some beautiful locations. It hasn’t risen to a must visit yet, but I am paying attention.


Panama offers the best package for retirees. The communities that meet my criteria in terms of climate and size tend to be more expensive than Nicaragua, Guatemala and Mexico. The medical care is reputed to be excellent. Panama City is a cosmopolitan city, with a challenging climate. Like Nicaragua, I am still researching Panama, and it does have a lot to offer.




I met someone recently who convinced me that Columbia would be an excellent choice. The visa requirements are quite reasonable. There is very good health care and a national health plan. The cost of living is low, there are great beaches and old colonial towns and cities. Medellin gets good reviews, though it is a big city and I am not convinced that it is as safe as it is lauded these days. I do plan to visit and check it out.




There are many publications these days that rate potential expat retirement locations. The income requirements for a visa are quite reasonable. Cuenca Ecuador often tops these lists. In the mountains, it has a springlike climate. There are a lot of expats living in this colonial city. Health care is both excellent and affordable, with a national health plan available to legal residents for about $80 a month. Personally, I am not so keen on the “lots of expats” part of it, and will probably be more interested in places where there is a smaller presence of us. I’ll be checking out Ecuador and will be reporting back.

Next time I’ll go through the map and talk about what places I’ve ruled out and why. Maybe something will move up to my short list, and something else may fall off. I can’t wait to get started!

The Reality of Mexico for Retirement: Visa

Mexico has been at the top of my retirement list for a long time. I’ve spent a lot of time there, and have been learning the language a bit at a time. I love the colonial mountain towns best, with their markets and plazas, with cathedrals anchoring one end and bars at the other, with lots of celebrating in between.

Joanne Bretzer Photo

Joanne Bretzer Photo

The culture of Mexico has both remained in and returned to the southwest of the United States, or the formerly north west of Mexico. Those of us who have lived in that part of the States can feel a bit at home in Mexico. It has always felt a bit like home to me.

But now the facts don’t fit the dream. High on my list of requirements are  health insurance and, of course, legal residency. Here is the problem:

Visa: The following is from the International Living website:

Temporary Residency Visa

The most common type of temporary resident visa for expats is as a retiree. To get it, you have to show that you can support yourself in Mexico on funds you’ve earned (or are earning) elsewhere. The minimum monthly requirement is about $1,553 in net income for an individual (as shown on your last six months of bank statements), plus about $520 a month for each dependent. Alternatively, you can provide bank account or investment statements for the last 12 months that show an average balance of at least $25,880. A third way is to show that you own a property in Mexico that has a value of at least about $207,046.

Permanent Residency Visa

You must show higher income requirements for a permanent resident visa. You can show investments with an average monthly balance over 12 months of about $103,523. Or you can show a monthly net income or pension over the last six months of at least $2,588.

Bottom Line

These requirements preclude anyone who is getting the average Social Security of a monthly $1300, unless you have good investment income. Now, being Mexico, there are ways around these requirements. You may either stay in Mexico on tourist visas and make visa runs, or try to work around the requirements with a lawyer.

This is a serious consideration for those of limited resources. It is fine to consider doing visa runs for a while, but do you want to when you’re 85? This also raises questions about insurance. If you want to be part of the national health plan, you will need legal residency.

Mexico – Right Across the Border


Day two in Mazatlan view from my room.

Mazatlan is a means to an end: that end being, a trip with a friend to Copper Canyon, and reacquainting myself with Mexico. I haven’t been to Mexico for a few years, and never to Mazatlan.


Poverty: It seems that it would be a good idea to teleport tourists from the airport to the Centro Historico in Mazatlan. Nothing between arrival at the airport and arrival at the tourist district would recommend staying here. The intervening reality is poor, dirty and disheveled, and disheartening. It is a testament to the Disney-fication of city centers that tourists are able to suspend the reality of what they see upon arrival and luxuriate in the artificial cultural authenticity of the centros historicos.

Noise: The noise level is challenging. People say Asians are loud, and some can be, but Mexico has the volume at 10 most of the time. Music, laughs, talking  — all great in their own right, but exhausting when constant. But, I’m in a city, so no rush to judgement.

Judgement: That is actually what I am here for, I realized. I am here to judge whether I can, or want to, live here. This task makes just enjoying the place a bit complicated.

Complications: Where to stay? Where to go? When? Why?

People: It is Mexico, after all. People are genuinely friendly, and some are equally genuinely interested in your money. Of course.

Safety: I haven’t seen anything yet to make me feel unsafe. The unsafe feeling comes from media images over time impressing on my mind the idea of the dangerous Mexican male of a certain age and deportment. This is called prejudice, but it gets ingrained and second nature. It’s hard to turn on American television without seeing Latino males causing havoc. It sells well to pander to existing prejudices with evidence to reinforce, and create more, prejudices. I feel safe and the Mexican men I have encountered have been kind and respectful. Now, of course, I haven’t been trying to buy drugs or frequenting the places where people do, and that is probably a very wise thing.

Heat: Yes, well the heat and humidity are here in Mazatlan. I’ll be going down for a long siesta today. The AC in my room is no match for the afternoon heat. I’ll try to score a fan from the hotel. Tomorrow I’ll catch a bus for Durango, 6000 ft up in the mountains in the east. I’ll be back here for a few days next week before heading north to the Copper Canyon.

Language: I’m sort of holding my own with Spanish. Mexicans tend to speak it blessedly slowly. I learn some every day, and have no fear of being able to have a modest mastery of what I need if I decide on Latin America. This hemisphere has that going for it over Asia — I can speak the languages, more or less.

So, my first days have been a bit disorienting and disconcerting, as I now have an agenda which makes me view things with a much more critical eye than in the past.