Wednesday, 20 January 2010

HELLO again from rural Mexico and/or deepest South Texas!!

FRIDAY, January 15, 2010

       Three "Winter Texans" encountered me as I came out of the HEB grocery near our place in Mission, asking if I were the same "crazy Gringo" who has a place in the interior of Mexico. It was a fairly predictable that occurs about three or four times per month. Usually they are folks who have been referred to me, or had me pointed out as "certifiable"....but that I could be considered at least a nominal authority about matters concerning Mexico. These folks were fairly normal in that they had the same reasonable questions and concerns about investing, living, and generally hanging around in Mexico. What I shall put in print below is a fair combination of this little meeting and perhaps a hundred others, at different times and in different places.

Point one
       A lot of folks have the idea that a Gringo can go to Mexico and live on 600 dollars a month. Please be aware that such is impossible, unless one would wish to diminish his standard of living to the extreme. To be blunt, my rule of thumb at this writing and under the economic conditions we are encountering, both good and ill, is that a minimum expenditure in an urban area for day to day living for a couple would be at least 2,000 American dollars/month. In some rural areas with adequate infrastructure and housing alternatives, a couple might be able to get along on 1,600 dollars per month.
      This usually would include about 300 to 500 dollars per month for a modest but comfortable house or apartment in a decent setting, and slightly less in the rural areas. In the rural areas there are fewer places to let, but they can usually be found with a little effort.

      Electricity, for instance, can be somewhat expensive, given what little the user may be powering. In our little place, for instance, we pay between 50 and 70 dollars every two months.....which seems reasonable....until one considers that we power a medium sized refrigerator, a few pig-tail lights and lamps and even fewer incandescent.....all of which are vigorously policed and turned off when not in use. There are two old-fashioned televisions, one of which is used quite a bit, and the other very seldomly, and two small air-conditioners, one in each bedroom.....which are also used very, very sparingly.

Point two
     It is all but necessary....I would go ahead and say unavoidable.... to take out essentially what is a Mexican the form of what is called Forma Migratoria - III, or the famous FM-3. This requires a visit to the Mexican counsul most convenient to the applicant. One must also have a valid American Passport, proof of income which can be earned without employment in Mexico which, at this writing, would be equivilant to about 1,600 American dollars per month.
     There are other somewhat mundane things, such as a letter to the indicated official of the Secretaria de Gobernacion expressing why the applicant would want to live in Mexico. Another is the provision of six passport photos.   With this document in hand the holder can purchase land anywhere in Mexico, with certain limitations concerning the size of tract, and with certain prohibitions concerning location of the land and/or house. The FM -3 also facilitates the engaging of everything from obtaining a telephone, satellite/cable television installation, and even making a longer term lease on a desired property. Normally, where purchases are not allowed, leases are....and in some cases....inheritable and renewable 99 year leases are permiitted.    It is also easier, sometimes requisite, to have your FM-3 in order to open a bank account or recieve money transfers.

Point three
     Buying and/or building a home may well not be the best alternative for a first-timer, or for a person who does not intend to be at his residence at least 80% of the time. In the opinion of the Old Gringo, it is best to "get one's feet wet", and rent or preferably lease for a year or so before jumping into the deep end of the pool. And...before even that.....the new Mexican "residente immigrante" should have either mastered the process of documenting his vehicle at the border for what is called "temporary importation" and/or how to master the Mexican autobus system. The Mexican bus transportation system is a marvel for those who can adapt, in that it provides comfortable medium and long distance travel for relatively inexpensive fares. Most 2nd class, and all 1st class and deluxe busses are almost almost always clean with functioning HACV systems, assigned seating (from the original terminal), clumsy but effective luggage control, and even terminals that are from survivable to pleasant.
     Another alternative for the newcomer that would beat hanging around in Mexico for excessively long and pointless periods of time is to take a couple of group tours....and enjoy matter how funky they might be. Your objective on such a tour would not be to "survive" going to Mexico or to be entertained....but rather to determine if you can adapt to the order within the disorder, the contradictions, the inefficiencies, the food, the language,and so forth.

It will be my pleasure to continue my pontifications about the how's and why's and when's of doing things in Mexico, all from the point of view of one Yogi would say...been that and done here.

Posted by The Old Gringo at 8:42 AM More later!