Nor is San Miguel de Allende, Mexico........I started thinking about how to write this over two months ago.
A new person to San Miguel moved into Casita Tranquilo, sight unseen, and never having been to San Miguel. This person had not been to Mexico in 37 years! To be honest, when contacted, I was quite surprised that someone who had never been here would make the leap of faith to move here, sight unseen, with the thought of forever.
But, after saying that they had been reading the blog for several years and that they understood it wasn't the USA, I relented and rented to the person.
The first few days were quiet and tranquil. But, in the end and after day twenty-two, the renter left San Miguel and Mexico forever. All of the things that did not bring happiness are permanently embedded in my brain, still.
It caused me to question what I write on the blog. It caused me to question how I could have helped to prevent this person from making this costly error in some way. I am still questioning the whole situation even though I've only had this happen with three people in fourteen years. It is still disconcerting.
In addition, a few other things have happened to cause me to write this post. First, another person said basically the same thing. "I've been reading your blog for years and I'm ready to move to Mexico and San Miguel. It seems like paradise" Uh oh.
Then just the other day someone wrote and said, "In the last few years, it appears that the costs of everything have gone up in San Miguel with the fancy hotels and restaurants that are so expensive. Can I afford to live there if I move down there?"
So, here goes - I'm going to attempt to give you the nitty-gritty. DON'T shoot the messenger!
In my humble opinion, no where is paradise unless you're there for a short period of time and never see the other side. Whatever the other side is. In other words, no place is perfect!
Here are some of the things that make San Miguel NOT perfect, but, nearly perfect. They are:
Weather - Living in the USA, with central heat and/or air conditioning, you are mostly in conditioned space. One is definitely not aware of the weather on a daily basis as one is here.
Here, without central heat and only space heaters, fireplaces and gas heaters, we are very aware of the weather when the day starts out at 38 or ten degrees colder then that. The months of November through January can be dicey, to put it mildly. I say that as I sit here writing in multiple layers of clothing with pillows propped against the doors and windows to attempt to keep the cold out.
Our summer, surprisingly is mid-April to mid-June when the summer rains come. We can have 100 degree temps in mid-May in the middle of the day. Now, it's not like 100 in Houston where the humidity is 98% because our humidity in that season is around 20%.
Just to let you know.
Sunshine and Rain - To me, one of the great things is the almost perpetual sunshine and lack of humidity.
But, we are in an arid climate here in San Miguel. So, dirt and dust fly from April til the rainy season begins in June. If you don't like dust and dirt (and who does) especially inside your house, then San Miguel is not for you. Or, you learn to ignore it.
Third World Country - Although many, many of the infrastructure items are so much better now from when I came 14 years ago, the lights still do dim from time to time. They even go out once in a while, but, not for hours at a time or days at a time, like they used to.
It's easy to get a land line phone now. It used to take two years. We have real internet. No longer dial up!
Not all the streets are paved. There is paper and sometimes garbage on the streets. It is a law that each person and business is supposed to keep the property in front of their home or business clean, but that doesn't always happen. If that kind of stuff bothers you more then the overall beauty of the place, then Mexico isn't for you.
Graffiti Although there is a program in place in San Miguel to paint over tagging and graffiti as soon as it happens, it doesn't always get covered over in all areas of the town. Most of us keep a can of exterior paint ready to cover over our walls ourselves and not wait for others to do so. Some of the outlying colonias are covered in graffiti. I admit that this does bother me to see, but again, I move on and think of my life as a whole.....
Animals - I remember as a girl that animals and pets were supposed to be outside animals. I'm talking sixty years ago. Well, that is very common in some parts of Mexico, including here. Dogs are let out to roam and be free, as well as cats, burros, donkeys, pigs in the campo, goats etc. Dogs also live on rooftops as their job is to be a watchdog. Many US citizens are highly incensed by this custom. I've had goats eat my plants that were passing through. Heck, some friends of mine who planted flower beds outside looked out to see cattle munching on whatever they attempted to plant. If you fail to see the humor in that, Mexico is not for you.
Specialty Food Items - The overall variety of items that people like such as specialty cheeses, meats, condiments has grown. However, if not being able to find that one special item that you crave would make you crazy, then either bring it with you...........or don't come to Mexico. Of all places, San Miguel has a wide
variety, but for instance, you don't find many American brands in the stores. We find substitutes.
Laws and Customs - They are totally different here. IMHO, better, but then that's me. It takes time to find out what they are and to understand them. Often they are not logical, but only to those of us who come from somewhere else. It can be intriguing to try to figure out where the laws and customs came from, not how can they be changed. For example, there are newcomers here who complain about the church bells and fireworks. They have petitioned the mayor, the government, written letters to the editor of the weekly paper.
I say, buy earplugs, jokingly.
About the laws, such as immigration or whatever, there is always a translator or facilitator to utilize to get anyone through a process. But, it is assumed in Mexico, that it is YOUR responsibility to figure this out and take care of it.
And, back to the question about the fancy hotels and expensive restaurants. Well, this is how that works.
The fancy hotels have the marketing budget to invite travel writers to San Miguel. That is nothing new. They provide them with accommodations and meals at their properties. They show them around to other expensive and tasty places. Hence, it appears that San Miguel no longer has tacos for a dollar or a hotel room for $35 or less. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
So, the bottom line of all this is, Is San Miguel and Mexico paradise or not? Let me put it this way....."if you come and bring a sack lunch and your own happiness it will be"*. If not, you'll probably be disappointed.
Then you will be one of those that leaves in the first year or you might last til year seven when it appears to many of us that people leave, for one reason or the other. Those of us that are long timers do feel it IS close to being paradise. BUT, please don't move here because I said that. Do your homework, which means, spend at least a few months here or somewhere and then make a decision about whether you would want to be here as a resident.
I'm open to any and all comments. I hope this opens up to a discussion. I've probably missed some categories.
*The quote about bring your own sack lunch and your own happiness is used by a tour operator in Mexico.
The first time I read that on his itinerary of the trip, I knew I wanted to travel with him. Many, many, many
trips later, I will tell you that the groups that travel with him are the most compatible people that I've ever
met. Just thought I'd share his philosophy.