Letters from Our Readers
# 5

•Recommend On Mexico Time

Hola, mis amigos --

My name is Neal Erickson and I live in Seattle. I've read and used and appreciated your book in my (so far, limited) travels in Mexico. I've become a Mexicophile somewhat late in life, but intend to make up for it.

I now follow your web page and am aware of your new project about living and retiring in Mexico. I await it eagerly. I would like to recommend a new book I'm sure you would find interesting and relevant: On Mexico Time, by Tony Cohen. Mr. Cohen and his wife have lived off and on in San Miguel de Allende since 1985. They bought and refurbished an old house in the city and the book tells of their travails and triumphs and their experiences with the bicultural world they inhabit. Their experience was also reported on in a recent New York Times article, which might be accessible on-line; and you can also see a synopsis of the book on Amazon or any other bookseller.

Good luck with the book. I'm somewhat familiar with the Guadalajara/Chapala area and the expat community. My brother-in-law now lives in Guadalajara (Colonia Las Fuentes) and my wife and I have visited twice.

Adios, and wish I was there!

Neal Erickson

Taking An Unimog to Central America?

Dear Carl and Loren:

We would appreciate your thoughts regarding a trip I my son and uncle are planning. Taking much of the Mayan route in Guatemala, Belize and Mexico.

We are planning to use an old military style vehicle which is converted into a camper, known as a Unimog and are anticipating mostly living in the vehicle while in Guatemala, Belize and Chiapas, Quintana Roo and the Yucatan in Mexico. Opinion varies on the wisdom of using this type of vehicle or camping out in relation to safety because the vehicle is quite conspicuous and we may not be able to find a camping site.

We are planning the trip for next winter, 2000/01. At that time my son will be 12, I will be 39 and my uncle will be 69.

Any advice you can give on the wisdom of attempting such a trip using this vehicle or what you may recommend would be most helpful.

Thank you, Matthew Solomon

Hello Matthew,

You pose an interesting question... in general, I avoid using military surplus or pseudo-military camping gear in Latin America. It tends to make the Army nervous, and there is always the chance that you'll be mistaken for the Army by the wrong people, or suspected of being CIA agents, or closet Marxists, etc. etc.

This sounds fanciful to some people (who haven't been there) but in regions where guerrilla/Army movements are common, few people casually use military clothing or hardware, and suspicions run high.

Having said that, I personally wouldn't worry too much about using the Unimog. First of all, the Unimog may be quite rare in the U.S., but it has been seen in Central America for many years. In Belize, for example, a tour company out of San Ignacio used to run tourists into the jungles in one. The main reaction you'll get is open admiration and envy.

What color is yours? If it's khaki or camo, I'd definitely paint it -- preferably white, which is the usual color of NGO and United Nations vehicles.

Again, I'd avoid using military surplus clothes or camp gear, but otherwise, go for it!

By the way, I'm sure our readers would enjoy hearing about your trip -- please keep in touch, and send a photo or two if you can.

saludos, Carl

Mexico's flying Voladores

Your information about the "voladores" is fascinating!

I'm a beginner in the Spanish language. What would the proper pronunciation of voladores be?

Jan Willis

Lorena responds,

I'm not sure how to do this, but something like


Vole (as in a vole that lives in the ground)
La la la la (as in 'singing')
Door (is accented)
Raise (I raise flowers)

The voladores were just here at a Chile Cookoff in the Lake Chapala area. It was the second time I've been able to see them and it was quite amazing. I had to wonder, though, how they were able to transport the enormous pole when they travel to events. I can't imagine that many communities would just have one laying around.

•Looking for Book on the Copper Canyon

Dear Carl and Lorena,

I'm from Huntland, Tennessee, and have just begun my writing career as a romantic suspense writer. My newest story is to be set somewhere near the Copper Canyon area, I think. Since I cannot afford at this point in my career to visit the settings of my books, I must rely on the pictures painted by the words of others. If you would be willing to help with my search for information about the area I would truly appreciate it.

Thank you, Debra Webb

Carl responds:

I assume that you've looked at the Copper Canyon section of our web page, but I know, too, that we haven't yet added all our reading recommendations to the info there. In fact, that is high on our "to do" list for the website. The problem, as usual, is too many items on the to-do list!

I am leaving in a few days for the Copper Canyon, so I really don't have time at the moment to dig through my notes. But, off the top of my head, be sure to read "Rain of Gold" -- by Victor Villasenor.

For true historical/ethnic background, Lumholtz (Carl), "Unknown Mexico" is still the best.

Fact is, there isn't a lot written about the Sierra Madre/CC region. Sounds like a good excuse to go there yourself, don't you think?

• Where can I buy Choose Mexico?

I have been looking for a book on retirement in Mexico for my boss. I have one called 'Choose Mexico' 4th edition, written in 1994. So, I would like a more up to date one. Can you let me know how to order this or maybe buy here in Greensboro, NC?

Jacqueline Murphy Sears

Dear Jackie,

You can order from Amazon.com right.... here! Choose Mexico. I also suggest that you check out the other retirement books we have reviewed there.

¡Que le vaya bien!


Searching for the RV Book

Hi Carl and Lorena,

We have searched and searched here and cannot find your book RVing in Mexico. And I had the real title off the one we bought already. Having a good time with it. What a wacky sense of humor!

And Lorena, where in Alaska did you live? we are long-time Alaskans trying to become snowbirdies.

The bookstore says it will order the book for me but I have to pay for it first. I really want to look at it first. Any clues as to where I could find one? I realize I am in rural CO and I will be going to the big city ( Denver) next Fri. so I'll give it a try there or amazon.com

Thanks Karen Harris & Richard Herman

Carl responds

Hello Karen and Richard,

Your best bet to find our People's Guide To RV Camping In Mexico is to check with Powell's in Portland. They have a huge selection of used and hard-to-find books on Mexico. In fact, you can buy it via our website -- just go to the Reviews section and you'll see links to Powell's.

As for previewing a copy before you buy... highly unlikely. But, as the book is out of print and hard to locate, I doubt you'll have any trouble reselling it.

Lorena is taking a nap (up until 5 a.m. working on the website) so I'll tell you that she used to live in Juneau, and was ta-dum! the society editor for the newspaper there. Until she came to her senses, that is,
and headed to Mexico.


•Can I take a rental car into Mexico?

What is the best way to get from the airport of a border city (San Diego, El Paso, McAllen, Laredo, Harlingen, or Brownsville) to the bus station on the Mexico side? Can buses cross the border with passengers?

Also, is there any way to rent a car on the American side and drive down into Mexico (more than 20-25 miles)? I have not found a rental car company who will allow it, but maybe I haven't looked hard enough.

Thanks for your help!

Don Carpenter

hello Don,

Every border town of any size that I've visited has cross-border bus service. In El Paso, for example, an hourly bus from the Greyhound Depot takes you right to the main bus terminal in Juarez -- cheap and easy. I know there's similar service in San Diego/San Ysidro, and undoubtedly in the other cities you mention.

Renting a car to drive into Mexico's interior is another story. Like you, I've never found such a rental agency. Though they might exist, I doubt it -- I've never seen ads, or heard from anyone else who has done this.

Not knowing quite what your plans are, here's another form of transport: in recent years Mexican companies have started shuttle buses and vans from cities in the US with large Mexican-American populations. Find a Denver or Phoenix newspaper, for example, and look in the travel section or classifieds.

If you find a rental into Mexico, please let me know.

best, Carl Franz

Donald H. Carpenter has a website that says this about his novel.... "has written "a remarkably accomplished first novel," according to a review in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution. He "has an eerie way of capturing the psychotic personality," reviewer Joyce Slater wrote. "Psychotics think they're just fine - it's the rest of us who are peculiar." "Dueling Voices" explores the sensitive and shocking subject of child abuse and its horrifying aftereffects - from the sadomasochistic viewpoint of the abuser.... "


Bad Press on Mexico


We are interested in buying your book but wonder if it has the info we are searching for: we are 2 retired couples from the Far Frozen North, but relatively young (early 50's) and are interested in Mexico, specifically the Yucatan peninsula and possibly Belize.

There is much bad press (AAA and CAA) re the crime rate being up 80% and no guarantee that the toll roads are safe etc. Also we wonder about medical facilities as we have two diabetics with us.

We would be RVing from Brownsville TX and hugging the coast to Cancun with many stops along the way.

Appreciate any news you can provide.

Sincerely Norm and Louise Fowler, Karen Harris & Richard Herman

Carl responds

The best way to find out if our book. The People's Guide to Mexico has what you need is to check it out at your local library. If you want a "directory" style guidebook of specific hotels, restaurants, etc., you're better off with Moon, Lonely Planet or others. We cover the rest -- language, food, cop, driving, bribes, health, and so on (and on and on, for almost 600 pages).

Read the PG and it should answer the questions you posed in your email. If we listen to nothing but "bad press", none of would probably ever leave our own front yards.

Stay tuned to our website; there are a lot of people with the same sort of questions, and we're answering them just as fast as we can. In particular, check out the Letters section, the articles on safety and health, etc. (I'll also be posting a new article and photos on RV'ing... soon.)

Your biggest hurdle right now is overcoming the (inevitable) initial nervousness of first-timers to Mexico. Don't worry; you'll get over it!

best, Carl Franz

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