Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tequisquiapan–The Pros and Cons and an Admonition


Something is occurring in my little part of the world that gives me pause, and I’ll explain.

Tequisquiapan lies at over 6,000 degrees of altitude smack in the geographical center of the country, by longitude and latitude. The central part of Mexico is considered the colonial part of the country with an ideal climate. It is also very secure. That I can vouch for. Tequis, as we fondly call it, is a rather small town; the municipal district of Tequis is still under 65,000 inhabitants but not by much.

The municipio of Tequisquiapan is an extended region that comprises many colonias such as Bordo Blanco, El Tejocote, La Trinidad, Fuentezuelas, La Tortuga, Santillan and more. If I mistake the term colonia, I will stand corrected. These outlying areas are small and still totally Mexican in terms of population and character. Even downtown Tequis is still unsullied and has kept its authentic charm. I shudder thinking that it would change to accommodate those resisting to become part of it.

Permit me to introduce some quotes and demographics for other areas. San Miguel de Allende has been an expats choice for retirement since the 1930s. When I worked in the travel business some 45 to 50 years ago, it was known for the quality of its light and attracted mainly artists. It also lies in the central colonial part of the country. However, it is quickly losing the very qualities that drew literally thousands of residents from other parts of the world. Here I quote, “The recent boom drew an even larger flock of snowbirds (mostly American)…”** As you can imagine, the housing market has also seen a tremendous increase in prices, making it difficult, if not impossible, for the native population to keep up with the lifestyle of expats who come equipped with dollars and pay in pesos.  “Foreign residents number from 8,000 to 12,000 with about 7,000 of these from the U.S. alone.”** Here’s another quote, “Old timers started grousing about its Disneyfication.”** 

I went for a visit a few months back and am loathe to return. To me, downtown felt more like California than Mexico. The climate and architecture are still Mexican but you hear more English than Spanish as you walk downtown San Miguel. Prices in the shops are really really high and many of the native Mexicans you encounter on the street are selling one thing or another when not begging. What a pity…

** For more statistics and comments, do a Google search for San Miguel de Allende. I would also suggest that anyone who is contemplating retiring to Mexico first do a thorough search on the internet. Ajijic and Lake Chapala have been dotted with gated communities where the residents don’t have to learn Spanish and manage in encountering hardly any of the native population. Perhaps it would be more attractive to you? Baja California is more expensive than mainland Mexico, but also closer to what one would expect to find north of the border, in either country. I unearthed a site about Lake Chapala titled “Gringos on the Lakeshore”… that says it all. Check it out.

Here, there is a very small number of expats who will not learn Spanish and are attempting to lure compatriots so as to form an exclusive group of people to befriend and with whom to converse and mingle. The same probably happened in the places I’ve mentioned above and perhaps others, as well. I contend that anyone who moves to a new country be ready to assimilate and if not blend, at least integrate, with the native culture and population. When I visited San Miguel, one lone figure remains superimposed in my memory. One very tall woman who was walking close to the museum who had an expression so haughty, almost disdainful, that I felt myself cringe.

So here, please allow me to shout it, IF YOU COME TO MEXICO, PLEASE BE READY TO LEARN THE LANGUAGE! If being surrounded by another ethnic population is bothering you, why come? If you constantly decry what you have left behind, obviously you yearn for it; remain where you can have it! If you feel so alienated in a brand new (to you) culture, why in the world would you come to Mexico?

REFRAIN FROM COMING FOR FINANCIAL CONSIDERATIONS ALONE. You will end up disgruntled, constantly criticising, comparing a developing country to an industrial one. Things are NOT like they are on the other side of the border. The infrastructure is still lacking many of the developments of the richer countries up north. Shopping and entertainment replicate the culture and people of this country, hardly those of the U.S. or Canada.

Speaking strictly for myself, I find it exciting to be admitted in my new surroundings by people whose language I’m learning, and whose culture fascinates me. This unique blend of an ancient indigenous people and another old culture, that of the Spaniards, has a quality that I find enticing, almost exotic. I’m rereading “Iberia” by James Michener for the second time and this helped me tremendously to understand Mexicans. Please educate yourself about the country and its people to find out whether you can accept it wholeheartedly so as to avoid feeling compelled to import what you left behind. It would be unfair, unjust, and unthinkable for Mexico or any part of it to lose its charm and authenticity.

Yes, BE READY FOR A CULTURE SHOCK, But consider it a learning experience, not an exercise in comparison and judgment. And I promise you’ll really enjoy the country and its people.

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