Feb 17, 2006, 9:35 PM
Post #39 of 43
Part of this thread has gotten into the topic of living in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, so felt it was my duty to dispel some misconceptions about that . BTW, I am an animal lover and it is those very animals that prevent me from living in Mexico full-time again. Besides a cocker spaniel who loves Mexico and gets along with Mexican dogs, we have two cockatoos and a parrotlet, which are inmigrados non grata for Mexico. You could bring them in without knowing the President, but it would surely make the process bearable. The quarantine alone is awful. And once they are in Mexico, they can never come out.
About the Valley, there are plusses and minuses to living here. The proximity to Mexico is a big one. Access to affordable medical care is another. I see a doctor in Reynosa for $20 and a dentist for $25. Dental work is about $200-$300 for a porcelain crown etc.). I can drive to San Miguel in a day if I really hump it or in two days with stops at hot springs on the way. Monterrey is about 4 hours and Saltillo 5. Veracruz is a hard day or two with pleasant stops.
Please don't be put off by the comments by the person who lived here 20 years ago. I respect his opinions, but respectfully disagree with them, as he might with mine. They were that person's opinion, and perfectly valid as opinions, but I feel that they were excessively negative. I lived here 20 years ago too as well as a lot longer and today, so my opinions are a little more varied. I moved here in 1956 and have lived in Mexico and South America and half a dozen states in the USA. Brownsville is (to me) the least attractive or desirable town to live in (my personal opinion to be taken with a grain of salt), even today. McAllen and Edinburg are the nicest areas, except for South Padre Island. While some may say that the weather "stinks," that is a personal prejudice. Winters (to me) are absolutely wonderful, mostly with days in the 70's and 80's and nights generally in the 60's. We do get a few nights of 40's or 40's and it does snow every 30 years or so. Mostly, winters here are, overall, warmer than in San Miguel.
Summer does require air-conditioning, but so do most parts of the USA and many in Mexico. While temps of 100 to 105 are not uncommon, it is more comfortable than many parts of the USA due to middle humidity, in my opinion. Humidity is relative and like relatives, everyone has a different view. I was born in New Mexico and have lived in New Orleans and Galveston, so I appreciate all the extremes of it. 60-80% is fairly common (though lately it has been in the 40%-50%), but yes it gets in the 90% range now and again. If days are unbearable to some, they can be rewarded by a cooling breeze from the Gulf that cools things off at sundown. The best weather here is from October-April. I will take that over a few months of heat.
While it may be the "poorest" metro area in the States, that is like saying that Mexico is "poor." The "metro" area includes the prosperous towns of McAllen and Edinburg and many more that are much poorer. Lots of people make very little money, but we do not have dirt streets (OK, some colonias do, but you probably aren't going to live in one). Most of us have indoor plumping. We have all the "things" and stores etc. that everywhere else in the USA has, be that good or bad. By golly, we even have two Starbuck's and two big-name book stores, though neither carry my books, but at least the libraries have them.
I do agree that the culture is different from Mexico's or other parts of the USA. Since our population is predominantly Mexican-American, it is a curious blend of cultures that not everyone understands or likes. The warmth of the people that we gringos so like in Mexico is here too. The pace of life is slow and it is very family-oriented. People will stop and help you if you break down on the highway. It's not Mexico, but it is close.
Many Mexican-Americans do not like Mexico. There are cultural reasons for that. They have traditionally in the past been mistreated by Mexican officials when they did travel to Mexico. While that is not as true today as it was even ten years ago, the stereotype lives on. The Paisano program has done a lot to change things.
Anglo people here are not all afraid of Mexico, but many are (just as elsewhere in the USA), since their idea of Mexico is the border cities. A common misconception by short-timers here is to think that Winter Texans are Valley people. They are not. Winter Texans, as a group, are fearful of Mexico, and if they weren't, they would be Winter Mexicans. But, I have found a large group of Mexican-American and Anglo friends who like and know Mexico here, more so than in many other parts of the USA. I give seminars about traveling in Mexico here and they are always well-attended.
The cost of living here is less than in most touristic areas of Mexico. We bought a 4 bedroom 2 bath home with a yard and trees (including a citrus tree) in a nice section of McAllen for $110,000. Can you do that in San Miguel or Lake Chapala or Vallarta or ...? You can buy a house for that, but it would be smaller. Now, if you tried to do that on South Padre Island, you would be whistling Dixie. Rents run from $300 and up for a 1 bedroom house or $250 and up for a 1 bedroom trailer on a long-term basis. In the winter those same places start at $500 for the short-term.
The short answer to your comment is that some people prefer to live in Mexico and some will find this a good alternative. In my case, it was the best compromise that I could make, so I moved here from Austin. I can afford it and I can be in Mexico in fifteen minutes.
"Mexico" Mike Nelson
Writing about Mexico for 40 years.
Maps, Road Logs for drivers
Author of "Live Better South of the Border."
"Spas & Hot Springs of Mexico."
Mexico is a state of mind.