Tuesday, November 29, 2016

moving to mexico -- choosing a place to alight

Late last week at dinner, a woman, who I had just met, asked me: "Why did you choose to live here?"

It is not the first time the question has been put to me. But, for a moment, I felt the same vacant look cross my face that Teddy Kennedy had when Roger Mudd asked him in 1980 why ne wanted to be president. (You could hear an echo of "Hail to the Chief" fading in the background.)

Like Teddy, I had no satisfactory answer. I tried getting away with a glib "it was an accident," but she was having none of that.

The long answer, as you might suspect, is far more complex. When I moved south in 2009, I had no idea where I wanted to end up. Well, that is not quite true. I had an entire list of places that interested me, but I had not yet chosen a finalist.

My idea was to start my search in Melaque. I would live there for 6 months, then move on to the next site on my list, and live there for 6 months. When I had lived in each of my candidates, I would choose a winner.

Obviously, my search took an entirely different direction. Part of the reason was the always-sage advice of Jennifer Rose. She bluntly told me if I stayed no longer than 6 months in any location, no one would invest the time it would take to know me. She was correct.

I also realized something I should have figured out long before I moved down. If I stayed for only 6 months in any location, I would spend most of my time trying to figure where I was going to live for the next 6 months. At best, my plan was Sisyphean.

But I did have a shopping list of suggestions to help me in choosing my potential permanent home. If you have wandered these parts regularly, you will recognize the list.

  • university nearby
  • archaeological sites within driving distance
  • central location for other archaeological sites
  • warm, sunny days; cool nights
  • new acquaintances -- some with a love of food
  • the challenge of a new language
  • time to read; time to learn; time to rest
  • daily learning to survive
  • facing mountains of difficulties -- and being repeatedly crushed
  • long walks with Professor Jiggs before breakfast and after sunset
  • living outside of a car
  • offering help to others
  • graciously accepting help from others

Anyone who knows Barra de Navidad will tell you it is a very nice place to live. But -- it certainly does not score high on my shopping list. When I graded our local communities against my list, I gave the area a C or C- (making the grade) back in 2009. But I never did make it to the second stop on my list.

I am no longer certain what the second stop was. I suspect it was either Morelia or Pátzcuaro -- both of them in the state of Michoacán in the Mexican highlands. I even knew the housing development where I wanted to live in Pátzcuaro.

During my trip to Pátzcuaro's night of the dead earlier this month, I thought about my never-lamented dead plan while walking the streets of Morelia. It is a sizeable city -- with almost 600,000 residents.

And it has a lot of the cultural attributes I was looking for in a home. The university has a reputable school of music that sponsors a wide array of performances.

As for history, Morelia played a part in every event in Mexico's colonial and post-colonial history. The area is also home to some rather grand archaeological sites constructed by the Purépecha -- one of the few tribes that were never subjugated by the Aztecs.

Along with all of that history comes some of Mexico's best colonial architecture. All of it still being used in one form or another as a UNESCO-designated cultural site.

So, why didn't I move from the beach to the cultural heights of the Mexican highlands? The real answer is probably inertia. I do like being near the ocean.

But one reason came home to me on that last visit. Morelia sits in a geographic bowl. With its car and truck traffic, as well as its industrial base, the pollution in Morelia is often trapped in thermal inversions. Looking at the city from the surrounding mountains, it appears to be engulfed in a brown haze for parts of the year.

Having said that, its air pollution is rated as moderate. But it certainly is not as fresh as our ocean air. Or the air in Pátzcuaro.

Who knows? I may simply be justifying the fact that I did not investigate other living sites in Mexico.

As it turns out, I am quite content living in my house close to the sea -- where I can start my day with my morning walks and enjoy the pleasant weather that late fall has brought us.

And what could be better than being content?

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