What's Tony Thinking

Notes from Mexico, No. 3


We’ve now been in  San Miguel a month. It continues to surprise and delight. We’ve been watching the Seattle weather and send warm thoughts to family and friends mucking around in an early snow and negotiating icy streets and sidewalks. We’re getting pretty spoiled here. Day after day of clear skies and temperatures in the upper 70’s.

We enjoyed a recent visit of two friends from Mexico City. They loved San Miguel (who wouldn’t?) but said that much of Mexico is quite different, more “gritty,” less pristine. They were struck by how expensive San Miguel is relative to Mexico City. MC has a population of 20 million and is now the third largest city in the world. I know there’s a lot to recommend Mexico City, but that sounds pretty overwhelming. I don’t think we will make it there this time.

Our friend, Miguel, who lives in Mexico City, is a tennis pro and teacher. He noted that one of the great things about the States, in comparison to Mexico, is our many free, public courts. Here, if you want to play tennis, and most other sports, you have to join a club. I guess that’s true for soccer too. You don’t see the public fields that you do all over the U.S. I did mention the public basketball court in the park near us, but perhaps that’s more the exception than the rule.

On the other side of the coin, buses run everywhere and often. No point consulting a schedule, the next bus is already there. Fare is 8 pesos, equal to .40 cents. Can’t beat that. Taxi’s, also everywhere, are inexpensive. You can get most places in town for a $3 fare. Traffic moves slow, which speaking as a pedestrian, is great.

Speaking of soccer, it has been a kick to watch the World Cup games in a local bar or restaurant. People are really into it. Alas, Mexico got knocked out this week. A big disappointment. We shall see how the U.S. team fares against the Netherlands this Saturday. We join an international cast from Linda’s school to watch the games, have a beer and guacamole.

When the opportunity presents itself to visit with ex-pats residents, I am curious to hear how they came to settle in San Miguel. Most made a trip or two here and then decided to move. Many buy or build homes. Overall the ex-pat community is an affluent group. But not all. Some are single, perhaps divorced or widowed, people of roughly our age, many are women. They have come not only because it is so beautiful and pleasant, but because their retirement dollars go farther in Mexico. One told me she researched different places before coming and determined that San Miguel was very low risk for natural disasters — hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and tornados. I thought that an interesting criteria for choosing a place to live. But I guess if you’ve been living in Florida such things occur to you.

Some ex-pats chaff at things, typically the complexities of city and national bureaucracy. The ones who stick roll with the punches, taking the sour with the sweet — far more of the latter. Many, it seems, have lived overseas earlier in life, so seem accustomed to life in a different country and culture.

One told me that she thought the common denominator among the ex-pats was that they were “adventuresome.” I’m sure there’s a lot of truth to that. Linda met one couple recently who having sent their last kid went off to college, sold everything and hit the road with no clear plan or schedule. First stop, San Miguel.

The next big festival day here is December 12, celebrating the Virgin of Guadalupe. Sanmiguelenses really love fireworks and we’re told the Virgin does too, so we expect a noisy night. Then the 9 nights of Posada begin (one for each month of Mary’s pregnancy). A live manger scene will go up in front of the big church in the town square. One of the highlights of that is having pregnant animals, sheep, donkeys and cows, as part of the scene with some animals giving birth on site. I don’t think “Mary” gives birth on-site, but that would add a note of incarnational realism absent from our nativity scenes and Christmas Eve services!



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