Letters from Our Readers

•Where should I retire?

Dear Carl & Lorena.

I have lived 10 years in San Miguel de Allende. Been back in US since 1992. Hope in next few years to retire back to Mexico.

I don't believe I'll go back to SMA. I'm aware of Ajijic/Chapala and Cuernavaca as places with enough foreigners to provide some of the 'luxuries' we're used to, like theater in English, tennis clubs. etc.

Can you tell me the names of other places in Mexico where there are foreigners, not necessarily so many as SMA or Chapala, that I could investigate. Ajijic looks wonderful on paper, but the numbers of foreigners is daunting. I spent more time with Mexicans in SMA and don't want a place where it's them and us, if you know what I mean.

Thanks. Love your books. My copy of People's Guide is from 1972 and my Camping is 1982, so I'm a long time fan.


Carl responds

I appreciate your desire not to live in a "them or us" situation in Mexico. But, having lived in both SMA and Ajijic, I don't really see that there's a problem -- you choose your friends and acquaintances in either place.

Here in Ajijic, for example, I have relatively little direct contact with other gringos. Friends who recently moved here from SMA say they speak more Spanish here.

Like most things in Mexico, "it all depends...."

But, looking elsewhere, the more obvious alternatives are Puebla, Morelia, Oaxaca, Merida and many smaller points in-between. You will find a dramatic decrease in English in these places, which may or may not prove attractive as time goes on.

I haven't yet had time to publish it, but I did an interesting email interview with a couple from Bellingham who moved to Zamora, Michoacan for several months. She taught in a local school, he did "whatever". Their conclusion was that total immersion in a new culture was just too much for them.

This is a topic of constant interest to us and our readers, so please keep in touch and let us know of your own experiences.

Check out the Best Of Mexico section for more information on many of these places.

•Lake Chapala Guide

Hey guys,

I just ordered the book you reviewed on Lake Chapala, written by Teresa....., sounded interesting. I want to get ready for our visit to the Lake, so will want to read the book and dream a little. Don't know yet when we can retire, hope it is soon. Take care........ Terry & Marlin

•Flying from Puerto Escondido to Oaxaca

I just read your letter to Jim Jamieson. I just spent 4 months along the coast near PE and had to fly to Oaxaca City several times. The flights are run by AeroCaribe and AeroVega (less expensive but smaller plane). Costs one-way are $70 to 95 (US). They fly new turboprops. The quality of the flights was excellent.

My last flight was at the beginning of the rainy season. The pilot flew a zigzag course that avoided the thunderstorms. I've been on worst flights on commuter planes along the mid-Atlantic. Given the condition of the road and the time involved, I would take the plane if I had the money. Speaking of roads, after a slow start they were really pushing road construction when I left in June. Perhaps they are better now.


•Thanks for the People's Guide

I always wanted to thank you for your 2 PEOPLE'S GUIDE books. They were my bibles during the trips I took 20 years ago, and it's a little hard for me to sort out true memories of my trips from yours.

One trip was hitching to Belize, and taking several months to do it; and the other was a Volkswagen voyage of a year - we abandoned the car for a month at a time - through Mexico. Really could have used the minivan back then, but now it works to go to work and back every day.....Jackie

•What 'kind' of Spanish to Study

I'm taking a 6 week course in spoken Spanish so I can travel in Mexico this winter. I'll be driving. Of course, I won't have learned much in 6 weeks of classes, but I'll have a tutor for 8 weeks after that. How can I differenciate between Mexican Spanish and Spanish spoken in Spain and S. America?


Carl Responds

Six weeks of class and 8 weeks with a tutor is an excellent start, especially as Mexicans are very sympathetic when anyone makes an effort to speak Spanish.

As for differentiating between Spanish 'dialects', I think you'll find that Spanish in Spain is much more formal than in Mexico, and the same is true in most of South America. Also, Mexicans do not use the "vos" form, but Spaniards and South Americans do.

You'll also find differences in the meaning of words. In Guatemala for example, peanuts are "mani", but in Mexico, "cacahuates".

If your long term goal is to speak Spanish with Mexicans, I'd try to study with a Mexican teacher.

•Hola Companeros

This note is from the cold, dark, gloomy, damp Pacific Northwest. According to your web page, you are probably in Mexico right about now, possibly reading e-mail from one of the little internet cafes that have sprung up. Oaxaca? I'm envious.

This time last year, I was there too; somewhere over there in Chiapas, or en route through Tabasco to Veracruz. I was returning from three years at the American School in Guatemala, where I taught sixth grade. In addition to lots of exploration in Central America while "stationed" there, I managed a few forays into southern Mexico during our holidays. Managed to visit some places which had always eluded me before: Tonina, Bonampak, Yaxchilan, the back roads..

Re-patriation via Fly Mexico last year was not such a bad idea in December either, eh?

Anyway, I just picked up a copy of your 25th anniversary edition guide. How many trips ago was it... 12?...16?...? that I carried the first edition on a visit--via "Kombi"--to Mazatlan/Tenacatita/Palenque/Panajachel. It was invaluable then, as now.

Though I think I have it memorized, so to speak, at this stage of the game, it is still witty and fun, and helps me forget the Oregon winter outside. I always recommend it to "first-timers"

Well, "there you are". And have a good time.


•Laptop Computer? 

Thanks for the great website.

I'll be visiting Mexico City this month. I'm bringing a laptop (flying, by the way), but I'm curious if there is anything I need to be concerned about bringing the computer back and forth through customs?

Thanks in advance,


Carl Responds

No, there are no special customs concerns for a laptop. Other than the obvious precaution of keeping a close eye on your machine while you travel, traveling with one here is "business as usual". I've read that some airport thieves now specialize in lifting laptops -- I carry mine in a dirty daypack.

We're pleased that you enjoy the website. Please keep in mind that we always welcome suggestions, contributions, or "whatever" from our readers. Let us know what you want to know!

PS I just thought of one minor accessory: an adapter for your power plug, from a grounded 3 prong to ungrounded 2 prong. Older buildings here don't have grounded circuits. If you forget, these adapters are easy to find in hardware and notions stores in Mexico.

©1972-2001 by Carl Franz & Lorena Havens