Abandoning America

I left America on January 19, 2000.

I did it on an airplane from Atlanta with just two suitcases. The future was an open book I had yet to read or write. A murder mystery, a romance, an historical tome? I had no clear notion. But I was sick of the past, and that can make even a cliff look sweet.

Most Americans who relocate south, from what I read on the internet, do it halfway. They return often, and their minds remain up there, which is understandable. Most arrive in Mexico as the un-young, having already packed one mode of perception into their hearts and heads over a near-lifetime.

I have slowly chipped away at my American connections. Today, I have almost none.

First, in 2002, I married a Mexican who does not speak English. I quit speaking English almost entirely. Then, in 2005, I became a Mexican citizen and won a Mexican passport.

More on passports down the line. In 2009, I made my last trip above the border. I don’t anticipate making another.

Financial institutions

In 2014, my U.S. bank — Banamex USA in Los Angeles, an outpost of Mexico’s Banamex, an account I opened before leaving Houston — abruptly dumped me due to Obama-era legislation called FATCA.*

My sole bank now is Spain’s BBVA, previously Bancomer BBVA. When I arrived in Mexico, I had four U.S. credit cards. They have fallen by the way due to various problems. My credit cards now are BBVA.**

Though I no longer had a U.S. bank, I had IRAs at the U.S. investment firm Vanguard, which had no issue with my living in Mexico, but with the advent of FATCA, that abruptly changed.

I quickly switched my address to a Miami mail drop so Vanguard would not cancel me like Banamex USA did.

I opened an account at Actinver, a Mexican investment firm, and put it in my wife’s name. In 2014, I began slowly moving Vanguard money to Actinver. Moving it slowly reduced the annual tax bite. I finished the switch just this year, so I closed the Vanguard account.

I have no financial accounts now in the United States.

Paypal

I had a PayPal U.S. account but, yet again, things started getting dicey due to FATCA. I canceled my PayPal U.S. account and opened a PayPal Mexico account using my Mexican passport and linked to my BBVA account and credit cards. Works great.

Passports

In 2016, my U.S. passport expired. I considered not renewing, but I did it for some goofy reason. I am now good till 2026, when I’ll be 82. I will not renew it at that time, so bye-bye U.S. passport. My Mexican passport will take me anywhere except the United States.

Amazon

I read a lot, entirely on my Amazon Kindle. When Amazon opened a Mexican outpost a few years back, I opened an account there too, but with a different registration. I continued buying my books at the U.S. site because there were few English books available on Amazon Mexico. That has now changed. There are thousands.

All too often, BBVA takes issue with my credit card on Amazon USA, and I have to phone the bank to straighten it out, which is very complicated due to Mexican banks’ hysteria on security issues. They are so hysterical that they inconvenience their customers more than the fraudsters. BBVA is not alone in this.

The bank did it again last week. Oddly, I buy things with the same credit card on Amazon Mexico with never a hitch, so I reset my Kindle and registered it with Amazon Mexico on Sunday. I lost some books in that process, but I’ve purchased three more.

Identical books often cost more on the Amazon Mexico website, but I don’t care. Bye, bye, Amazon USA.

—–

Do I miss America?

Considering the idiocy happening up there, not much.

When I think fondly of my American past, it usually focuses on my youth and adolescence on our family’s farm in southwest Georgia. I lived there fulltime until I was 7, and I continued to visit often into my early 30s when my parents sold it all.

The best memories, however, come from early on, walking through cornfields, looking across vast vistas of peanuts and cotton on the 540-acre farm, paddling the rowboat on Wavering Pond amid tall cypress trees, the walk down the field in front of the house to a narrow creek hidden among trees, the red-clay roads, my grandfather’s Ford pickup truck and gray tractors, the goldfish pond in the yard.

My grandmother’s 15 or so cats, and the dog named Pepper. The general store three miles down the dirt road where everyone was nice.

Frigid, winter mornings before the blazing, kitchen fireplace, eating eggs, grits, fried cornbread and redeye gravy. The main meal at noon with lemonade or iced tea beside vegetables and beef or chicken grown and raised just beyond the screened-porch door.

Willie the maid, Cap the bourbon-boozing handyman, and my pistol-packing grandmother’s real-life ghost stories.

But you know what Thomas Wolf said, and it is so.

—–

*FATCA is a law passed during the Obama Administration that purports to crack down on money-laundering. What it does primarily, however, is to clobber Americans living abroad by placing onerous paperwork on financial institutions with American customers with foreign addresses. The financial institutions often choose to just cancel those accounts.

**Interestingly, your credit history does not cross the border, so you must start fresh here. Whether you were a deadbeat or a stellar risk above the border, it means squat in Mexico. When you get a credit card from a Mexican bank, it will begin with a very low limit, and you take it from there. My limits now have been raised far higher than I need. Mexico has a credit bureau.

Another move south

For years I’ve been moving my entire life south of the border, little by little. That is to say, if I can do it down here, why should I continue doing it from up there? That is what most Gringos living in Mexico do, it seems. They have many lifelines, or rather that’s how they think of their continued connections to the United States.

Some examples of my American disconnect is that I have no U.S. driver’s license. I have no U.S. bank account. I have no U.S. mailing address if you don’t count a mail drop I’ve kept for almost 20 years in Miami because, at first, I needed it, but I’m needing it less and less, and I anticipate canceling it in two more years. The only reason I need it now is to have a U.S. address on my IRA account at The Vanguard Group, a necessity.

Vanguard had no problem with my correct address here in Mexico till 2014 dawned, and the FATCA law was dumped on us by the inept Obama Administration, a move intended to crack down on drug dealers and money launderers but which hosed retirees living outside the United States more than anything.

Long story short, my U.S. bank, a California branch of Mexico’s Banamex, summarily canceled my account, and Vanguard looked like it was going to follow suit till I provided the Miami address. We opened an investment account at Mexico’s Actinver in my child bride’s name and, to minimize the tax blow, I’ve been transferring money little by little since 2014. I’ll be done next year, and the Miami address can be canceled along with the Vanguard account, which I’ve had for over 35 years.


Another move south? Says the headline up top. It’s a biggie for me. My Kindle committed suicide a couple of days ago, so I went to the U.S. version of Amazon to order another, which is what I’ve done since the dawn of Kindle. I’ve had about five Kindles, plus I also order my digital books in English from the American version of Amazon.

They balked at shipping the Kindle I wanted to my Mexican address in spite of initially saying it would ship to Mexico. Well, darn! I turned to the Mexican Amazon. I knew Kindles are available there, but would I have access to the thousands of English books for sale on the U.S. website? I suspected not. I was mistaken.

So my new Kindle is en route from Mexico City, and it will not only get to the Hacienda quicker, the e-reader and accompanying cover cost less than the same order from above the Rio Bravo even if it had been shipped to a U.S. address. This all puts a smile on my face. Another departure from America and its increasing craziness.

It will arrive on Monday. “Guaranteed!”

Amazon opened its Mexican version five years ago.

From the Nazis to Amazon

vocho

IN THE EARLY 1970s, when I was married to my first wife and had a toddler, I bought a VW Bug convertible. It was so much fun! Totally unsafe, but who cared?

Airbags? Nah! Viable seatbelts? Nah! Padded dash? Yeah, right. It was hard steel. But we really enjoyed it, especially with the canvas top flipped down.

One afternoon in a summer rainstorm in New Orleans I was driving alone up Magazine Street (driving up, not down. There’s a difference.) and the puny wipers were doing their best. Janis Joplin was singing Me and Bobby McGee on the radio.

It was the first time I’d heard that song, and I still associate it with the interior of my Bug convertible in a sweltering New Orleans afternoon deluge. I gave the car to my wife after we split up, and she rapidly ran it into the ground. Sad.*

The world’s last Bugs were manufactured only in Mexico over the last few years, but that has come to an end. Sad again. And the only place the final cars will be sold is on Amazon Mexico. You can pay the full ride, or you can fork over 20,000 pesos for a layaway.

That’s about 1,000 U.S. dollars. Layaway is alive and thriving in Mexico.

Now, let me return to that rainy afternoon in New Orleans when I’d only been married once, had a cute little girl named Celeste, and I drove a white Bug convertible.

Imagine the rain.

* My second ex-wife scored even better. I gave her a house! Voluntarily. Or stupidly if you subscribe to my mother’s point of view.

Embracing the lifestyle

New Image
Felipe relishes his pineapple.

NORMALLY, EVERY weekday morning, I sit on the downstairs veranda with fruit — usually pineapple chunks — following my exercise walk around the neighborhood plaza.

But this morning, I changed my tune. I went upstairs, took a seat atop one of the new chairs that we purchased from Amazon. They are more comfy than the hard rockers on the downstairs veranda, and I ate my fruit. That’s me doing it.

We’ve been enjoying June since the annual monsoon began a couple of weeks ago. The temps have dropped considerably. This morning around 5 a.m., I even rousted myself out of bed to close the windows. It was chilly in there. I went back to sleep.

My child bride might have been in this photo too, but she skipped on the exercise walk because she was busy in the pastry kitchen, baking for her weekly sale tomorrow on the principal plaza downtown. I usually walk solo on Fridays for that reason.

Since this post is solely about the photo, that’s all I have to say right now.