Tag Archives: Guadalajara

Just like home

SEVENTEEN YEARS ago when I packed my two bags and flew to Mexico alone to reinvent myself in late middle age, I arrived in a spectacularly strange world.

Many of the things I was accustomed to simply were not available down here, and most of those things were commercial. I am a fan of capitalism and the goodies it offers.

Flash forward from 2000 to 2017 and — oh, my — how things have changed. Just about anything you can buy above the Rio Bravo is now available Down Mejico Way.

There is even a Mexican version of Amazon.com even though I much prefer our homegrown MercadoLibre.

The list of Gringo chain stores in Mexico is too lengthy to repeat here, and it seems to grow longer each year.*

I was particularly delighted when Bed Bath & Beyond, one of my favorite stores when I lived up north, opened recently in the nearby state capital. I shop there often.

There are eight BB&Bs in Mexico. Six are in Mexico City or its environs. A seventh is in Cuernavaca, the not-too-distant Mexico City playground,  and the eighth is in our capital city, the only one relatively remote from Mexico City.

Why were we chosen over the considerably larger burgs of Guadalajara or Monterrey? God knows.

Mexico commercially improves on a daily basis. You can now get most of what is available to the Gringos up north. Plus, we have great tacos, fresh avocados and beautiful babes.

Best of both worlds.

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* Very incomplete list: Best Buy, Sears, Costco, Walmart, McDonald’s, Burger King, Chili’s, Sirloin Stockade, iHop, Home Depot, Office Depot, Office Max, KFC, DQ, Starbucks.

(Note: We don’t depend entirely on the Gringos for great shopping. For example, the Mexican chain El Palacio de Hierro — The Iron Palace — will knock your high-end socks off, especially the flagship store in Mexico City’s Polanco.)

Change of scenery

I SPENT MOST of my life before age 55 in hot zones. Southwest Georgia, northeast Florida, south Louisiana and east Texas.

I know sweat, and I don’t like it one bit.

So when I leaped off the treadmill, I opted for a big — very big — change of scenery not only in moving to Mexico but in settling atop an ever-cool mountain.

We  live 7,200 feet above the faraway sea — the Pacific Ocean — and we enjoy cool weather year-round. It can get a bit stuffy in the afternoons and early evenings of springtime, but it’s a small price to pay for the other 98 percent of the year.

Sometimes we like to visit a beach, and almost invariably we go to Zihuatanejo, which is about three hours from the Hacienda down a smooth autopista* past mango and avocado trees and high mountain lakes.

That’s our favorite beach, La Ropa, in the video.

If the urge to visit a throbbing megalopolis strikes, it’s about four hours, also on a smooth autopista, to Mexico City, or three hours in the other direction to Guadalajara.

If I don’t want to fight the traffic or teeming mobs of Mexico City, but I do want a wider variety of restaurants than we have here on the mountaintop, it’s less than a three-hour drive northeast to San Miguel de Allende.

Also on, of course, a smooth autopista.

In San Miguel, we now overnight at the Hotel Quinta Loreto right downtown, wonderfully located, not elegant but quite comfy, and a big room costs about $38 these days.**

The fabulous Café MuRo is less than a block away.

Sure, you have to elbow aside hordes of Gringos in San Miguel, both those who live there so they don’t have to learn Spanish and tourists who flock there for the same reason.

But that’s a minor distraction.

Then we return to the cool mountain air.

Changes of scenery are available in every direction.

It’s dang sweet.

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* An autopista is a fast-traveling toll highway. The tolls, which can be a bit high, keep the riffraff away.

** Including tax!

The final fan

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ESTEBAN URBINA has died. He was the face of our town. His deadpan mug appeared in art galleries and on murals.

But, more than anywhere else, on the sidewalk, hawking.

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Urbina fan

He made a living — loosely speaking — by selling straw fans on the streets.

Though I’ve watched him for many years and even purchased a couple of his wares long ago, I only wrote about him last September in a  post simply titled The fan man.

If his fame ever earned him a single peso, you couldn’t tell it by looking at him. He always looked precisely the same, like he’d awakened in the morning next to a garbage dump, reached in the pile for his attire, dressed and headed downtown.

The sombrero says it all. See below.

He reportedly died of a heart attack. His age is unknown although I read one report that he was 104, which is patent nonsense. Due to  his disheveled physical and sartorial state, his age was hard to guess. I’d put him between 65 and 75.

Years ago, he was followed around by a younger fan vendor who resembled him in attire. It likely was a son. And the son was only a slight bit less unkempt. I have not seen the son in a long time. Maybe he went on to better things.

Perhaps he’s sporting a coat and tie in Guadalajara and selling time-shares or pork futures.

Urbina will be missed. R.I.P.

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Esteban Urbina, ????-2016.

Catholic steeples and peoples

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I LIVE AMONG steeples, and all of them are Catholic. Oh, there are other religions, usually referred to as “Christian” because most Mexicans, deep in their hearts, bizarrely do not regard Catholicism as a Christian religion.

It’s just Catholicism, period, the one accurate Voice of God.

Other religions are Christian, or cristianos  in español. Perhaps in the big cities of Guadalajara, Monterrey and Mexico City people recognize Methodists, Baptists and so on, but here on the mountaintop we just have “the” religion of Catholicism and cristianos  who sometimes behave like Holy Rollers because they are really joyful.

Catholics are not joyful. They are somber, especially when walking on their knees over rocks to demonstrate their seriousness and love of God, Jesus and the Virgin Mary.

The cristianos sometimes parade in the streets, all shucking and jiving. Catholics never shuck and jive.

We also have Jehovah’s Witnesses who enjoy ringing doorbells and annoying people. My child bride’s evil stepmother and a number of her half-siblings have gone over to the dark side of Jehovah’s Witnessing.

I enjoy watching Catholicism even though I’m no believer, especially now with Pope Francis who appears to be an ignoramus. The Catholics excel at religious architecture and, as I was driving up a downtown hill today, I noticed this view. So I got out of the car and snapped it.

The Baptists, Methodists and certainly not the Jehovah’s Witnesses lack the Catholics’ architectural spirit.

Getting Mexicanized

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Typing citizenship application on my 1923 Royal in 2005.

WHEN I FLEW 30,000 feet over the Rio Bravo from Atlanta to Guadalajara on an icy (in Atlanta) night on January 20, 2000, I had a few plans, but becoming a Mexican was not one of them.

My plan consisted of three parts:

1. Learn Spanish.

2. Get married.

3. Build a house.

I had completed all three in three years. Well, the Spanish was dicey in 2003, but that’s all I spoke because my child bride’s English was — and continues to be — marginal.

One thing not on my sketchy list of plans was becoming a Mexican citizen. Hadn’t even entered my aging mind. It was only after I had been here a spell that I began to see the advantages.

The pluses* were that I do not have to renew my visa every year. I can now vote against Latino leftists. I can open a bank account without, one hopes, Barry breathing down my neck to support his socialistic schemes. I can tell Mexicans that I am a paisano. It makes me look good. I possess two passports. Basically, it’s just fun.

For anyone planning to spend the rest of his life in Mexico, becoming a citizen is — as the old phrase goes — a no-brainer. And, amazingly, it was very easy, a piece of chili cake.

From what I can make out, there was a window of opportunity, possibly unintentional on Mexico’s part, from about 1999 to 2005 in which one might become a citizen without doing much of anything aside from asking.

No language test. No history test. No civics test. Nada. I typed out an application form (see photo), provided a few mugshots, paid about a hundred bucks, and sat back. It was like renewing the yearly visa.

Eleven months later, I had my sombrero, black mustache and bottle of tequila. It’s nice to be part of a nation on its way up instead of on its way down — into the abyss. I shall mention no names.

It was a great idea. Note to Mexico: Thanks for letting me in.

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* At that time. In recent years, the visa situation has been totally revamped.

(Here is an earlier version of the event in question.)