Changing times

cine
Well, lookee here! We’ve joined the Big Time.

IN SEPTEMBER 2000, when I drove to the mountaintop in a rental car, there was a shortage of stuff like stoplights, chain stores, Gringos and the like. That has changed.

Now we have stoplights, and most people heed them. We also have chain stores like Walmart’s Bodega Aurrera, Soriana, Oxxo and Coppel, one of which is a sizable department store. We also have lots more Gringos.

When I arrived after living eight months in the nearby state capital, there were about 40 Gringos hereabouts, many of whom were oddballs and lunatics. Now there are 10 times that number. Some are oddballs, but most are normal folks, it seems.

Though I intuit that many vote in the wrong direction, a sort of lunacy.

Way back then, we had a funky movie theater. It had two screens. One showed porno, and the other showed regular fare long after it had debuted at theaters in the nearby capital city. Our theater was old and fun to visit, but it closed about 18 years ago.

The town made a big step forward last week when a movie theater opened that’s part of the Mexican Cinépolis chain, which I hear now has theaters in the United States.

First-run flicks at last. It’s like we’re not in the boonies anymore. The five-screen theater is in a large, new retail area, and other buildings are under construction. The grapevine says that one is a Domino’s Pizza. Just what we need, more pizza.

Mexicans love pizza almost as much as they love tacos, cheese and salsa, especially pizza with weenie and pineapple chunks. This is not Paris.

I’m praying for a Costco, Sears, or perhaps they’ll resurrect Bonwit Teller.

The modern mountaintop

MY HOMETOWN has a new hospital, a large, snazzy spot just two blocks from the main plaza. It’s called the Bora Medical Center (yes, in English*) and Hospital.

The website, like the medical center itself, is still not completed, but both are up and running, open for some business if not all. That will come later, they say.

This is the second significant private medical facility to arrive here, the other being the far humbler but still quite good Clínica Pátzcuaro, as some call it.

When you grow old, medical facilities rise in importance.

When I moved here almost two decades ago, there were two small government hospitals and a few clinics. I would not have voluntarily spent one night in any of them.

Before moving south of the border, I frequented bookstores in Houston, sitting and thumbing through all the “Retire in Mexico” books available. Most did not even mention my current mountaintop pueblo, and those that did didn’t have much good to say about the place, mostly that it got real cold in winter, which it does.

I wish that would keep more Gringos away, but it ain’t working.

When I arrived, there was only one internet provider. Now there are various. What passes as a ring road, called the Libramiento, was a potholed four-laner. Now it’s a smooth six-laner. There were no traffic lights anywhere. Now there are quite a few, all on the Libramiento.

We did have a movie theater that was hidden on the edge of the central market downtown. It was an old, dingy place with two screens and mildewed seats. One showed X-rated movies, and the other showed mainstream fare that had debuted months earlier in the nearby state capital. That theater shuttered years ago.

A huge lot on the Libramiento is currently being leveled. Reliable scuttlebutt says a movie complex will be built and a Domino’s pizza too. Twenty years ago, there were no Gringo-style convenience stores. Now we have lots, a Mexican chain called Oxxo.

When the first Oxxo arrived, many in the Gringo community were outraged. It conflicted with the “authentic” look of the town, they whined. Mexico ignored them, and good for that. Oxxos are very convenient. You can even pay bills and send money about anywhere via an Oxxo cashier. I wish they had ATMs, however.

Two decades back, there were no chain supermarkets. Now we have two. One is the Walmart-owned Bodega Aurrerá, and the other is the Mexican chain Soriana.

I want a Costco and a full-fledged Walmart. A Best Buy too.

We had no department stores till a few years ago when the Coppel chain constructed a large, two-level store across the street from the Bodega Aurrerá.

Mexico now has its own Amazon, which debuted about five years back. It’s just as good and efficient as the branch above the Rio Bravo. It even sells Alexa.

Speaking of Gringos, when I arrived on the mountaintop, there were about 40. Now there are 10 times that number or more, and newbies arrive every year. I wish we could funnel them all to San Miguel de Allende. It’s warmer there, and they’ll be happier. You don’t even have to learn a word of Spanish in San Miguel. Everyone speaks English.

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* This is a bit disturbing. When the natives speak English to you, it usually means you’re gonna be charged more.