Living Abroad in Mexico
Prime Living Locations
© Ken Luboff, from Living Abroad in Mexico, 1st Edition.
Used by permission of Avalon Travel Publishing. All rights reserved.
Maps © Avalon Publishing Group, Inc.
Choosing a new place to live takes some serious consideration of the kind of environment and lifestyle you are seeking. Think about whether you would rather live by the sea, or in the drier mountain air? Would you prefer to be in a big city, with a myriad of cultural, entertainment, and employment options, or in a quiet village with a strong European atmosphere? On a farm, or in a gated community? And what about money? Do you need to work? Can you afford to buy a house, or a condo, or will you be renting? How is your Spanish? Maybe living in proximity to a Spanish school or near a university is important. How critical is it that you live close to an airport, a school for the kids, or a hospital?
In many ways, this area is the heart of old Mexico. In the central part of this region, known as the Bajio, vast amounts of silver were mined for 250 years. The resulting wealth built the colonial cities of Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende, Morelia, Querétaro, San Luis Potosí, and Zacatecas. In these and other cities in the central region of the country, such as Guadalajara, grand cathedrals, huge haciendas, and romantic, cobbled streets reveal the romance and splendor of the Spanish colonial period. In this area, one can witness more traditional rituals and fiestas than anywhere else in the country. This is also an area of enormous historical significance. In San Miguel de Allende and surrounding towns, including Dolores Hidalgo, independence from Spanish rule was declared in 1810, and the ten-year fight for independence began.
Central highland cities, like Leon, Querétaro, and Guadalajara, have become major commercial and industrial centers. Others, like San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, and Pátzcuaro, have managed to preserve much of their colonial past. Still others, like the towns along Lake Chapala, are renowned for their tranquility and charm.
The Sierra Mountains run from Canada, down the west coast of the United States, and into Mexico. In Mexico, they are called the Sierra Madre Occidental. This range separates Mexico's central highlands from its Pacific coastal plane. Along some parts of the coast, the mountains come right to the ocean, creating spectacularly dramatic scenery. In other areas, the mountains form a backdrop many miles inland from the ocean. This is true at Mazatlán, the most northerly large city on a coastline that continues south for more than 850 miles (1,368 km) and is known as the Mexican Riviera. And what an impressive coastline it is, with palm trees growing along hundreds of miles of relatively unexplored beaches, great surf breaks, large resort cities, shipping ports, huge areas of fertile farmland, plantations of mangos, bananas, coconuts, and coffee, and major tourist and fishing industries. Along this coast are some of the best beachfront retirement and living locations in the world
In many ways Mazatlán is more real than the glitzier Puerto Vallarta. Just leave the main tourist strip with its onslaught of noisy “love boat” tourists during the winter, and you move into quiet, clean, village-like residential areas and the somewhat tattered colonial downtown. This is not a city of grand buildings or great cultural activity, but one that appeals as a nice, inexpensive place to live.
Foreigners living in Mazatlán come mainly for the beach, the fishing, the golf, the low cost of living, the relatively easy 735-mile drive to the U.S. border, and the quiet life. Many come down only for the winter months, put off by summer heat and humidity. But the ones living here year-round love the place. This is a place to check out if you like the idea of living in a small-town U.S. atmosphere plunked down into a large Mexican city on the sea.
Mexico City and Vicinity
It is no wonder that the Aztecs settled in the valley of Mexico. The high-mountain and fertile-valley terrain around present-day Mexico City is some of the richest and most dramatic in the country. The states of Mexico and Morelos adjacent to Mexico City have spectacular high plateaus, lush valleys, and rivers, all set in a perfect climate. Many of the villages and small cities in these states are so picturesque that you can easily image that you have somehow stepped back in time to the 17th or 18th centuries.
Mexico City itself is both beauty and beast. With more than 22 million people, the city can have horrendous traffic and air pollution. Crime and poverty are serious problems. Yet, once you get to know it, you find that the city is actually like a series of small villages knitted together, many of them very beautiful and elegant. Mexico City is a center of both ancient and modern arts, culture, and finance. It is also a place where people live with an amazing degree of politeness and formality.
The Yucatán Peninsula is made up of three states, Campeche to the west, Yucatán on the north, and Quintana Roo to the south and east. Altogether there are approximately 1,659,000 inhabitants. It is impossible to guess how many of them are full-time foreign residents and how many are snowbirds. But what is clear is that the number of foreigners from the United States and Canada buying property in the Yucatán is growing.
Until 1974, when Cancún was built from scratch, only the most intrepid and adventurous travelers explored the wonders of this region. These were primarily archaeology and anthropology buffs following the Mayan trail and exploring the area's fabulous ruins. Today, Cancún is the most popular tourist destination in Mexico, with more than three million tourists a year visiting its glitzy hotels, palm-lined, white, coral sand beaches, and turquoise Caribbean waters. Most vacationers to Cancún—if they explore the Yucatán at all—take day trips 60 miles (97 km) south along the Quintana Roo coast (now know as the Mayan Riviera) to the Mayan ruin at Tulum. The other, grander, and more extensive sites, such as Chichén Itzá, Cobá, and Uxmal, are left to more intrepid travelers.
Apart from Cancún and vicinity, the largest cities in the Yucatán are Mérida and Campeche. Both cities have colonial roots and beautiful architecture, and both have permanent communities of foreigners, though the one in Mérida in larger and more active.