The nearby capital city

WHEN I MOVED to Mexico 19 years ago next month, this is the city in which I initially lived — above a garage.

Unlike most folks who relocate below the Rio Bravo, I did almost no research beforehand. What investigating I did was almost entirely hunting online for a language school that was not too far from Mexico City.

I had a girlfriend of sorts in Mexico City but, not being a masochist, I did not want to live in the chaotic national capital.

Here is the language school I found. If I had decided on a different language school, I would have moved to a different city, and everything that’s happened since would have happened differently.

I stayed in the capital city for just eight months before moving to my mountaintop town of about 80,000 souls that’s located 50 kilometers to the southwest up a modern, four-lane highway.

Having the big city nearby makes living in my hardscrabble backwater considerably more bearable. We drive down there once a week for shopping, a good meal and the occasional odds & ends.

Our dentist is there, and our internist too.

My child bride did post-graduate study in Madrid in the mid-1990s. She often would get irritated at Spaniards who believed Mexico consisted entirely of dirt roads and burros.

As you can see from this video I found yesterday on YouTube, we are far from being just dirt roads and burros. We do have dirt roads and burros, but we are much more than that.

In many respects, living here is better than living above the Rio Bravo.

Strolling the streets like a Gachupín

IT WAS LATE afternoon on Sunday. We were walking the block and a half from the Hacienda to the barrio plaza.

I was wearing saggy, gray sweatpants, a newer, gray sweatshirt, a gray, wool beebop cap and, incongruously, tan loafers by Dockers.

You look like a Gachupín, said my child bride in español, using the derogatory Mexican term for a Spaniard. Maybe I did.

She is not fond of Spaniards, a sentiment shared by many Mexicans.

It’s similar to how Social Justice Warriors feel about Chris Columbus and the crews of the Niña, Pinta and Santa Maria, hauling their Spanish privilege.

My child bride studied six months in Spain in the middle ’90s. She loved the food but concluded that Spaniards, for the most part, are sangrones. Grumps and arrogant. Her favorite dishes were paella and fabada Asturiana.

She also went to a bullfight in Madrid, more to watch the people than the bulls. It wasn’t until a decade later than I attended my first bullfight. I went with her in Mexico City at the enormous Plaza México.

In Gachupín mode, I continued with her to the plaza where we sat on a steel bench facing the ancient church. I had my Canon, so I shot the video. Were it not for the minivan the scene might have been filmed a century ago.

The church — 16th Century, I’m guessing — is undergoing renovation.

You can’t see it here because they started on the roof. Contributions were solicited from neighborhood residents months back, and we ponied up 1,000 pesos even though we never use the church, and I’m no Catholic.

The music was coming from behind us on the far side of the plaza. Mexicans usually get dressed up on Sundays and walk around their plazas, but the people in our hardscrabble barrio don’t uphold that tradition.

After sitting half an hour, we moseyed home and watched a movie on Netflix. I traded my Gachupín gear for pajamas that were not gray.

 

A better Mexico

MY CHILD BRIDE spent six months in Spain in the late 1990s doing postgraduate studies.

She often got her panties in a twist due to European attitudes toward Mexico, that it was a backward nation where most roads were still made of dirt.

When I arrived below the border about four years later, most of the roads were not dirt, but the highway system certainly needed some improvement.

That has happened in spades. Many of our highways now are better than what one finds above the Rio Bravo.

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Nice chains

We have lots of great stores from above the border. Sears, Costco, Walmart, Sam’s Club. And chain restaurants. Chili’s, McDonald’s, Dairy Queen, IHOP, Sirloin Steak House.

Plus many more.

Recently, Bed, Bath & Beyond opened in the nearby state capital. It’s indistinguishable from its stores in Houston or Atlanta. I love that place.

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Checks and water

Years ago I wrote hereabouts that there were no public water fountains in Mexico. At least, I had never seen one.

I was quickly corrected by a reader who said he had spotted one way over in The Yucatan.

Just this week, I saw water fountains in two stores. One was Costco and the other was a supermarket here on the mountaintop. I was surprised.

But I would not use one. I have formed habits.

Another surprise occurred last week. Our local Bancomer branch was totally renovated, and new ATMS were included. They accept both cash and check deposits!

While I recall such things in the United States, I’d never seen an ATM here that did anything more than dispense cash.

(By the way, if you’re going to open an account in a Mexican bank, I highly recommend Bancomer.)

I recently read a report that about 80 percent of Americans feel that Mexico is a dangerous place to visit. Most Gringos have never set foot here and base their opinions on hysterical reports from the media and State Department.

Fact is you can visit here quite safely. You can go to Walmart, Costco  or Dairy Queen with confidence, and you won’t be mugged or murdered in the parking lot either.

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Bonus material

While on the Hacienda roof a couple of days ago to photograph the water tank for the post Agua! Agua! Agua! I snapped a few other shots just for fun.

stairs

Looking down the circular stairs on the upstairs terraza.

back

Street out back to the right.

street

The same street to the left.

And thanks for joining me here today.

People and places

sitting

TAKING A WALK around downtown Tuesday with my Canon and my Kindle in my little black, faux leather, man bag, I snapped these two photos.

Above are well-fed señoras sitting on a sidewalk killing time. Below is one of the most photographed scenes in our city, something constructed during Spanish Colonial days.

(Note: A slightly different version of the two women, plus other stunning, black & white, photos can be found, as always, on my photography site, Eyes of the Moon.)

spain