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Ask an old gringo about Frida Kahlo, Mexico contradictions, colorful protests Marvin West

Land's End at Cabo San Lucas
© Joe Cummings, 1998
I repeat: Contrary to rumor, many years and extensive travels in Mexico do not qualify me as a know-it-all, A-1 infallible expert. I apologize if I have faked you out.

I do try to answer all questions or redirect them to more knowledgeable sources. I thoroughly enjoy most exchanges with readers. I offer a few from time to time in a basic conversion to pesos (not many).

Question: How bad are things in Cabo? Answer: Cabo San Lucas, at the south end of Baja California Sur, took a hard hit from Hurricane Odile. The storm knocked out electricity which knocked out other services.

Some tourists got wet and inconvenienced. Vacations were spoiled but no lives were lost. Resort owners will likely recover. Little people are hurting. Tourism is the primary industry. No tourists, no jobs, no pesos...

read more

Ask an old gringo about Octavio Paz, Mexico reforms, giant fish tank, price break Marvin West

Spanish edition of The Labyrinth of Solitude by Octavio Paz
Octavio Paz was a thinker, poet, writer and diplomat. Mexico's Congress has declared this "The Year of Octavio Paz" a century after his birth and 16 years after his death.

He was good enough to get the Nobel Prize for literature in 1990. In his most famous essay, "The Labyrinth of Solitude," Paz addressed the complexity of the Mexican mind. read more

San Patricio by the Sea on Mexico's Pacific coast Marvin West

San Patricio by the Sea, an interdenominational community church on Mexico's Pacific coast
© Marvin West, 2014
As churches go, San Patricio by the Sea is an intriguing addition in the low-rent district.

It had a humble beginning, born of need in the late 1990s.

There were hundreds, maybe a few thousands, of Americans and Canadians, residents and snowbirds, in the region but no religious services in English for many, many miles along the west bank, nothing from El Tecuan to Manzanillo and beyond... read more

Ask an old gringo about Mexico economy, Guerrero recovery, anchovy gelato and Yescka Marvin West

Cliff divers at Acapulco carry on the famous tradition of cliff diving
© Gerry  Soroka, 2009
It appears much of the world is very interested in Mexico. A surprising number of Mexconnect readers asked the old gringo about the economy, reforms, boats, Guerrero recovery, Michaocan dangers — and hospitality.
Some questions are far out. One asked about anchovy gelato. Another asked about Yescka. That got my undivided attention... read more

Jovenes Adelante: Scholarships for deserving students in San Miguel de Allende John Scherber

It started in 2001 with supplying a pair of shoes so that a young man didn't have to go to college barefoot. He'd already won a scholarship. A San Miguel woman named Helen Morris provided them, and a r... read more

Ask an old gringo: Mexico questions about tuna war, holidays, spelling errors and dinosaurs Marvin West

A young and smiling calavera
© Geri Anderson 2007

Question: What holidays are big in Mexico?

Answer: Oh boy, judging by the joy and noise, Mexicans celebrate dozens of giant holidays. Most any excuse is good for a day off from work, a neighborhood fiesta and late-night fireworks.

The Day of the Dead is not a conventional holiday but it is an intriguing cultural event. My Mexican friends describe it as beautiful, magical, mystical, religious and pagan — all at the same time...

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Listen up: Sounds of Mexico Marvin West

Women charros or escaramuzas© Jay Koppelman, 2010
Nobody asks about the sounds of Mexico. Upon arrival, that oversight leads directly to surprise or culture shock. Mexicans live life loudly. Church bells ring very early in the morning. Public address systems have no limits. Car stereos are cranked up to concert level. read more

Ask an old gringo about Mexican happiness, jobs for foreigners, Mormon mother, books in English Marvin West

Happiness is not tied to job promotions, Mercedes super cars and mansions on mountaintops. Expectations are generally lower. Many do not enter the rat race. Strange as it sounds, family, good food, good times and a sip of tequila are more important than pesos... read more

Shawls for all seasons, rebozos for all reasons Carron Harlan

We sit crushed together, moist and miserable, in the back of the battered old VW van as we do every day about this time. Interesting odors assail our noses. We would rather not know what it is we are s... read more

Feeding the hungry hearts in San Miguel de Allende Edythe Anstey Hanen

San Miguel de Allende has, for decades, been one of the shining jewels of Colonial Mexico, a mecca for painters, writers, musicians or anyone with artistic sensibilities who has been touched by its anc... read more

Ask the old gringo about Mexico welcome mat, value system, jail time and hot billboard Marvin West

Officials of the beach community of Puerto Escondido, in the state of Oaxaca, threw a December party to celebrate foreigners. A few hundred attended. Free food and drink remains an exciting lure. Mexican dignitaries were there and many immigration personnel worked the crowd, nice to meet you, so glad you are here. There were music, smiles and handshakes. A good time was had by all. How's that for welcome? read more

Mexico lost-and-found fishermen still waiting for massive payday Marvin West

Three Mexican fishermen, lost at sea for nine months and nine days, were world news for a few minutes in 2006.

Their survival was a miracle of faith and fierce determination, or the biggest fish tale ever told. read more

An expatriate in Mexico John Scherber

Being an expatriate has nothing to do with a lack of patriotism, it merely means a person who lives in a country he wasn't born in.

You must be thinking of ex-patriot; someone who's turned against his country. It's a different spelling, like here and hear.

Usually the reasons are about experiencing a new culture and a different kind of weather, as they were for me. And they're always about reinventing yourself against a background that in Mexico I think of as simpático. It welcomes people in a mood for a lifestyle change.

But how does it work, really? read more

Ask the old gringo about ocean-front property, butterflies, boxing and the next Mexico crisis Marvin West

No question about this, the monarchs are coming, the monarchs are coming from Canada and the United States to the massive butterfly campgrounds in the mountain ranges of Michoacan. read more

Driving in Mexico: No country for new cars John Scherber

In Mexico City, traffic rushed past no matter which way you look.
© Anthony Wright, 2011
The thought of driving in Mexico strikes a deadly fear into the hearts of many Americans and Canadians alike. Of course, they purchased Mexican car insurance when they crossed the border. Yet somehow this only made them feel legal, not safe. Now here's the reality as they ease their $46,000 BMW onto the pavement and point it south. read more

Mexico's Boys Town, Villa de Los Niños John Pint

It all began with a casual comment by my friend Rodrigo Orozco — also known as Tarantula Man, thanks to the anti-poaching project he leads in western Mexico — when I told him about a hike I was org... read more

Ask the old gringo about Mexico green energy, sexy models, police protection Marvin West

Kiosk in the plaza of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico 
© Renée J. LaPerrière de Gutiérrez
Question: I have read about the millions or billions the U.S. has lost on solar investments that went bankrupt. How is Mexico doing on green energy? read more

Unraveling Mexico red tape Marvin West

Palacio de Gobierno in Guadalajara, Mexico
© Sergio Wheeler, 2012
Some of the tall tales about government bureaucracy and red tape are probably exaggerated but some are tragically true. I and others got a chuckle out of the recent government campaign to identify "the most useless procedure" in delivering public goods and services. Ordinary people jumped all over the opportunity to fuss about paperwork in triplicate which bogs down registrations, health care, education, social security, property transfers, tax administration, almost everything, even banking and discount cards — at state and local levels. read more

Ask the old gringo about Americanization of holidays, Mexico freedom of the press and marriage tryouts Marvin West

A modern store in Plaza Manzanillo shopping center appeals to residents and tourists in this Mexican Pacific port city. © Donald MacKay, 2011
One reader asked a generic "Anything going on?" which gives me a different opening: Indeed there is. It appears that Mexican holidays are undergoing Americanization. read more

Some illegal Mexicans end up big winners Marvin West

Perhaps you have heard that illegal immigration is down. The economy up north is supposedly discouraging. More and better border surveillance, patrols and the fence could be factors. Up, down or sideways, illegal immigration is, well, illegal. It is breaking and entering followed by an occasional game of hide and seek. All that said, sometimes bad ends up good. read more

Where the Sky is Born: Living in the Land of the Maya Reviewed by Allan Cogan

This is the story about Jeanine Lee Kitchel and her husband, Paul, who made their first trip to the Yucatan Peninsula in 1985 and fell in love instantly with the place. They had visited various parts of Mexico before that and were quite taken with the country. But the Yucatan beaches were of a different order. read more

Medical and dental treatment and coverage in Oaxaca Alvin Starkman

Aside from the small, private hospitals, often referred to as clínicas, there are four publicly funded and insurance-based hospitals in the city, as well as a hospital just outside of the city offering specialized treatment for a number of serious ailments. There is the Red Cross facility available to all, often used for emergency treatment only. The civic hospital provides free services or treatment at a modest cost based on a sliding scale respecting means. ISSSTE is a federally funded facility restricted to government employees who are members of a union. Finally, there is IMSS... read more

Ask an old gringo about Mexico changes, obesity and whale sharks Marvin West

Question: The Pan-Am Games are scheduled for October. Is excitement building?

Answer: Yes. The games were awarded in 2006 with considerable fanfare. Carlos Andrade Garin says all 23 stadiums will be 100-percent ready — just in time. Carlos also says Mexico will present "the greatest games every held" for about one third the cost that Canada has budgeted for the 2015 games. Emilio Gonzalez Marquez, governor of Jalisco, says "security won't be an obstacle..."

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Buying our Mexico dream property on Cozumel David Hammer

As I walked through the hotel lobby, the weight of the three hundred $100 bills sewn to the waist band of my Jockey shorts pulled my underpants down over my small rear. The money was hanging at my knees. As inconspicuous as a penguin waddling through the hotel lobby at high noon, I could easily have been mistaken for an amateur drug smuggler. When I approached the front desk, the clerk asked, "Qué le parece un caja de seguridad?" I knew my cover was blown when he offered me a Safe-deposit Box. It had been a long trip read more

March memories linger in Mexico Marvin West

1995
Mexico smiles and accepts many foreigners — because they bring money. Most prove to be some degree of blessing. Some gripe and complain but do no real harm. A few become curses. read more
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