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Scouting Mexico retirement scenes

Marvin West

David Frost
© Marvin West 2010

There are several famous David Frosts loose in the world. One is the excommunicated Canadian hockey coach and agent. Another is Sir David, distinguished Englishman with TV connections to the late Richard Nixon.

My pick is the David Frost, American computer programmer, banjo-picker and adventurer, currently encouraging or coaxing his wife Jo to hop-scotch around Mexico, scouting possible retirement scenes.

I get the feeling that my favorite Frosts are at the maybe stage, sort of trying on the idea, now or later, perhaps here or there, just looking, but very much enjoying the search.

Strange as it sounds, they find connections wherever they go. Roots? Not exactly.

"I once did the hiring for a company in Tennessee. The only people who wanted to work and stay longer than a week were the Mexicans. At one point I had more than a hundred working there.

"I had to learn Spanish, at least a little bit, in order to communicate. I got to know whole families, even the relatives who lived in Chicago. Since you are sure to ask, about 99.9 percent were illegal."

The U.S. business closed. The Mexicans scattered. Some came home.

"I have a lot of friends in Mexico."

This David Frost grew up an army brat, which means moving around was in his blood. One of his extended stops was Viet Nam, courtesy of the U.S. Navy. He remains grateful for having made it back to San Diego.

"My first trip to Mexico was on a weekend pass, to Ensenada. I never forgot Mexico."

In 1975, Frost did a one-week vacation in Acapulco. "I was hooked. I dreamed of travelling all over the country — some day."

Years later, David talked Jo into two weeks in Veracruz, including Xalapa. "We had a great time and started planning another trip."

After retiring, the Frosts got semi-serious.

"We only made plans for getting back to Mexico with no expectations of living here permanently. We just wanted to experience the fun of traveling, visiting beautiful cities, enjoying the rich history, seeing what life here is really like."

The Frosts are smart. They found favorable air fares to Cancun. They found buses departing within an hour. They hit the road.

When Mexico visits evolved into possible Mexico retirement, the Frosts' first question was where. After two or three trips, they decided to go again to Xalapa.

"We have friends there."

They rented an apartment. It was short-term fun but living there wasn't the same as vacations.

"Suddenly the city became too big, crowded, very busy."

Catemaco Eco-Reserve
© Marvin West 2010

The Frosts moved to Catemaco, population about 23,000. Based on three months, they like it fine. There are several restaurants (one has green spaghetti, another serves real coffee, not Nescafe), a dentist who does $100 crowns, a junior Walmart, little shops selling everything else and stalls pushing typical tourist stuff.

The malecón runs along a beautiful lake, a gem formed in an extinct volcano. Handsome backdrop is an arm of the Sierra Madres.

David says the area is quiet enough except for the occasional boat to Monkey Island. Children hustle tourists to load up on peanuts and bananas but tour leaders say don't feed the monkeys, they must remain self-sustaining. No charity? This does not sound politically correct.

Story-tellers explain that the monkeys are leftovers from a decades-ago university experiment that ran short of funding.

David has seen Nanciyaga, the little eco-preserve along the lake.

"They still have the buildings and huts where they filmed 'Medicine Man' with Sean Connery. The jungle literally covers the place. It is a great spot to take a few photos."

Good for birding, too.

Catemaco is famous for witches, sorcerers and a shaman or three who do ritual cleansing, purifications or stick pins in symbolic images of troublesome acquaintances (such as runaway husbands).

David has disappointed those who tried to tease him about his tastes in witchcraft.

"They must all be away on holiday. We haven't seen a single one that we recognized. The locals tell us it is all a show, just another way to meet living expenses."

Not incidentally, Frost says simple living expenses are modest to moderate in Catemaco.

"Good place to string up a hammock. Not much nightlife, just the neighbor's stereo."

Could this be the permanent campsite? You could become resident instructor in bluegrass music. Doesn't that sound exciting?

"We want to keep life simple for the next few years, no skydiving or bungee jumping, just a nice place on a beach for a month or two, then to Huixtla and Comitan in Chiapas."

Chiapas?

"We have friends there."

Published or Updated on: December 2, 2010 by Marvin West © 2010
Contact Marvin West

Marvin West, mostly retired after just 42 years with Scripps Howard newspapers, is senior partner in an international communications consulting company. This column is from his forthcoming book, “Mexico? What you doing in Mexico?”  West invites reader reaction; his address is westwest6@netzero.com.
 

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