I’ve always, secretly, wanted to be something of an agony uncle. My utter lack of sympathy and compassion, added to my sometimes sick sense of humour, have, however, blocked my path into that area of journalism. But I do get occasional emails, Facebook messages, and Twits (twitters, tweets, twats? take your pick…) from concerned people worried about an upcoming visit to the big bad taco that is Mexico DF. Here’s the latest, republished with permission of course…
Your advice, please.
I am a male, who is living in San Miguel de Allende, with his male partner. It’s been about 2 1/2 years. Of course it’s lovely, but it seems mostly populated by old (bitter) Gringos, who argue mostly about where they can get the cheapest services, or who’s going to the Walmart in Queretaro, or how dangerous is it really, to drive down from Texas this month.
Anyway, I find myself less and less happy here, and though I have found work (not legally), I see that most of the general unhappiness here comes from Old people Who Are Not Working Anymore. There is nothing to do for them but take a morning walk, and hit the bottle in the afternoon, and angry-blog in the evenings. I too am beginning to angry-blog back, which is a bad sign. Mostly they are concerned with their real-estate values, and they haVE ‘head-in-the-sand attitudes about what a mess Mexico is becoming, in terms of personal safety (as they drive their shiny new cars and wear their expensive clothes). I figure if crime-reform ever happens, it”ll start in Mexico City.
I have been in DF once, and found it to be exciting, and a great place. I am warned by everyone not to even think of moving there (crime, crime, crime)… by those same persons who deny the rising crime here in San Miguel and neighboring Celaya (now there’s a town for ya!) I’ll be visiting again within the month.Do most of your friends work, or at least occupy themselves? Is there a retirement community in Mexico City, and will they stay away from me? And.. is it at all possible to live in a place that is somewhat safe, like Roma, without paying huge rents? Rent is cheap here in SMA, but that’s because there is nothing to do. I suppose we could swing $8,000 pesos per month, maybe more. I expect to get robbed or pickpocketed now and then. So, ironically, while we think the country is imploding, we think it best to go the very center; also it seems like more fun.
Is the Gringo-Expat population as asshole-laden there in DF, as it is here? Is San Miguel really the joke that most tourist guidebooks claim it is? I have yet to meet a person from DF who isn’t loving it,…but here, I am warned that I will be killed, and also I won’t be able to breathe, so I should stay away from it.
I Just wondered if you have enthusiastically suggested to others that they should live in Mexico City, or if you refrain from suggesting this… My idea to write came to mind lately when I realized that everyone where I am living has no real job, so there is that ‘nothingness’ which comes with having no purpose. I have work, and should be working right now. (But materials are hard to come by, here) All the materials I need are in downtown Mexico City.
As I said, I was in Mexico City once, last year, and all the fear vanished. But it’s been creeping back.
I blame the media, and gossip. I don’t know. Sorry for rambling.
Tell me your thoughts on San Miguel de Allende- if you have a moment.
I’d appreciate anything, especially along the lines of ‘Get the hell out of there!”
One you your readers,
Obviously, the first thing to note is that….I have a reader! Woohoo! I knew he existed somewhere! I’m probably about to lose any other San Miguel Allende readers though. Such is life. There is so much I could write about his, and other peoples questions about living or visiting Mexico City. I could write a book on it, I’m sure. Maybe I will one day. In fact if anyone out there is thinking of writing a book titled The A to Z of Living in The Big Taco, forget about it. I’ve already got it planned…
I must confess I’ve never been to San Miguel Allende. I’ve read about it, and read blogs by some of it’s English speaking residents. Some make for a little good light entertainment. Most, though, are as dreary and dull as I imagine living in the town to be. But it’s a matter of perspective. I’m a city person. Always have been, and always will be I suspect. I do prefer to be in a busy and slightly anonymous place. That’s just me.
The Rough Guide sums up SMA with this line about the community of the town … fleshed out with less ambitious retirees from the US and by flocks of students drawn to the town’s several language and arts schools. Like such a community anywhere, it’s inward-looking, often pretentious and gossip-ridden…..which is pretty much how I’d always imagined it to be. Not my scene.
So what is life like living in Mexico City? Do the fumes choke you to a near state of catatonic delirium? The air quality situation has actually improved a lot in recent years. I think the altitude is more likely to have an effect on someone, and even then only briefly, in a minor way. Will you be robbed, gunned down, beheaded or kidnapped? Well, there’s no point me saying it doesn’t happen. And to be honest there’s an awful lot of people here with stories that’d scare the pants off most people! But I have noticed that most of these stories come from a few years ago and are getting older by the day.
Living in the central parts of the city, most people are going to find that crime is not something that worries them an awful lot. I know of far more of us gringo types who haven’t been robbed than those who have. It pays to be wise in any big city and this one is no exception. But the safe areas are expanding all the time, as areas are regenerated and the policing generally improves. Calle Regina, just a few blocks away from the Zocalo is a great example. A couple of years ago, that was a good place to go if you fancied being robbed. These days, having been repaved, repainted and re-energized, it’s a lively street full of restaurants, bars and people having a good time.
Rent it has to be said is probably a little pricier that other parts of the country, but 8,000 pesos a month is going to get a pretty fine looking apartment in the city. You could get a half decent one bed place for considerably less. And it has to be said that most things actually cost less in DF. Water is subsidized for one. I think electricity and gas are too, but I could be wrong on that one. Transport is so cheap it’s almost free! Just 3 pesos for a ride on the metro….sell the car! Even better, buy a mountain bike and get some exercise while you get about.
As for the expat community here. I know of one or two retirees, but mostly you’ll find a younger crowd, into the arts and culture, hosting regular parties of all sorts and generally intent of enjoying what Mexico City has to offer. It has to be said I’m one of the least sociable people who are part of that ‘community’, not least because I live a little deeper in the south of the city. But still, I’ve never come across someone I really disliked. Gossip doesn’t travel so far here…people don’t have the time.
I love living in Mexico City. Crime, pollution and the other terrible aspects that are so frequently reported (misreported) don’t bother me. The lack of water does, though that’s easily solved by an incoming resident who seeks out an apartment with a tinaco! The traffic is heavy too , but the more central you live, the less of a problem that is. And they don’t outweight the good things. The life, the museums, the history, the people, the food, the way the city keeps evolving on an almost daily basis. There’s always somewhere to go, something to do, some new people to meet.
Do I recommend Mexico City as a place to live? You bet. Providing you like big city life, then you’ll soon feel at home and wonder why you ever stayed away. San Miguel Allende? Get the hell out of there! The last word on this I’ll leave to another person who wrote a similarly worried letter a couple of weeks ago. She wrote back after her visit….
Thank you so much for responding to my message. You were absolutely right. I am completely in love with Mexico City! It’s a gorgeous city with so much to offer. I went absolutely crazy with the picture opportunities. Thanks again for the tips, but mostly for fighting against our bad image, showing us how beautiful Mexico is and just for caring for it.Saludos!