Category Archives: Living in Mexico

Fairmont Expands in Mexico With New Hotel and Residential Development in the Riviera Nayarit

Fairmont Costa Canuva will be the centerpiece of a gorgeous new beachfront village along the pristine and increasingly popular Riviera Nayarit

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Luxury hotel operator Fairmont Hotels & Resorts and Mota-Engil Tourismo today announced the development of a new 250-room luxury hotel and additional private residences along the Riviera Nayarit in Mexico.

The sparkling new Fairmont Costa Canuva is slated to open in late 2018 and will reside within the new master-planned seaside community, “COSTA CANUVA”, on the Riviera Nayarit. The Costa Canuva development is set along miles of pristine beach, just north of Punta Mita and approximately 40 miles north of Puerto Vallarta International Airport.

Costa Canuva, with more than 4.3 miles of shoreline and 630 acres of beach, estuary and mountains, will offer five hotels, including the Fairmont, and will be ideal for all types of travelers. It will also present residential ownership opportunities within the beachfront village with 2,500 residential units, including some designed by the renowned Artigas Arquitectos firm.

The development will also have an exclusive golf course designed by Greg Norman and Lorena Ochoa, with this being the first course created by the Mexican golfing champion. Two of the holes will present spectacular sea views to guarantee an unforgettable playing experience. Furthermore, an extensive list of activities will be available at Costa Canuva. Families will be able to experience a blend of sea and mountain and enjoy paddle surfing, more than 20 kilometers of cycling tracks designed by the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA), and a canopy park including ziplines, among others.

These will come together as part of a masterful design to respect and enjoy the beauty and luxury of the venue, as is a tradition in projects overseen by famed urban planner, Mario Lazo.
“We are delighted to be at the forefront of establishing the new Costa Canuva community in this thriving and beautiful region,” said Kevin Frid, president, Americas for Fairmont’s parent company, FRHI Hotels & Resorts. “From the Riviera Maya to the Riviera Nayarit, we are positioning Fairmont to deliver our unique brand of luxury and genuine hospitality at Mexico’s most sought-after destinations.”

The Riviera Nayarit stretches for 51,800 hectares along the Pacific Ocean and offers a coastal lifestyle similar to that of California, while sharing the same latitude as Hawaii, providing a temperate yet tropical climate that can be enjoyed all 365 days of the year. Costa Canuva will provide access to sailing, surfing, fishing expeditions, a PGA-level golf course and pristine beaches. It will also add to the offering that led Condé Nast Traveller UK to name the Riviera Nayarit as one of its 10 Destinations To Watch in 2015.

Fairmont Costa Canuva will join its sister property, Fairmont Mayakoba located in the Riviera Maya region, and expand Fairmont’s growing portfolio of highly sought after luxury vacation resorts around the world. The Fairmont Costa Canuva will also feature Fairmont-branded residences for those who wish to make their stay in Mexico more permanent. As primary dwellings or getaway retreats, these whole and fractional ownership homes can be enjoyed all year long and will become a legacy for generations to come.

The development of the Costa Canuva village represents a $1.8 billion USD investment in the region’s economy and is expected to create 6,000 direct jobs and 18,000 thousand indirect jobs locally. The project is being spearheaded by Portugal’s Mota-Engil, one of the largest construction and infrastructure management companies in Europe and the only Portuguese company in the World’s Top 100 Construction Companies, according to Engineering News-Record.
“We are thrilled that Fairmont has joined us in this exciting journey to share the paradise of Costa Canuva with the rest of the world,” said Rafael Lang, CEO of Mota-Engil Tourism. “Our goal is to create a true community, integrating our beachfront village with residential neighborhoods, golf course and lagoons. Not only do we look forward to welcoming international visitors to this wonderful region, but we are excited to create new opportunities for domestic tourists and the local people of the Riviera Nayarit.”

Fairmont Costa Canuva will feature 250 guestrooms and suites, including 40 Fairmont Gold rooms and Fairmont branded residences. It will also boast more than 22,000 square feet of meeting and event space, six restaurants and bars, an expansive outdoor swimming pool and a spectacular Willow Stream Spa encompassing nearly 13,000 square feet. A center for children and young adults, providing creative and active activities, will appeal to holidaying families.

As well as attracting luxury travelers and adventurous sun-seekers, the Fairmont Costa Canuva will benefit from its close proximity to the Sanctuary Convention Center, making it an ideal venue for corporate groups, conferences and social events.

About Fairmont

Fairmont Hotels & Resorts connects guests to the very best of its destinations, providing travelers with memorable travel experiences, thoughtful and attentive service and luxury hotels that are truly unforgettable. Each Fairmont property reflects the locale’s energy, culture and history through locally inspired cuisine, spirited bars and lounges and distinctive design and decor. With more than 70 hotels globally, and many more in development, the Fairmont collection boasts some of the most iconic hotels in the world, including The Plaza in New York, The Savoy in London, Fairmont Peace Hotel in Shanghai and Fairmont Le Château Frontenac in Québec City. Fairmont is owned by FRHI Hotels & Resorts, a leading global hotel company that operates more than 130 hotels and branded residential properties under the Raffles, Fairmont and Swissôtel brands. For more information or reservations, please visit www.fairmont.com.
About Mota-Engil
The Mota-Engil group has flourished over the last 70 years, marked by a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation in its ongoing quest for new horizons.

Mota-Engil is a multinational and diversified business group with highly recognized know-how throughout the construction and infrastructure management value chain. As a leader in Portugal and ranked among the 30 most important European companies in the construction sector, Mota-Engil is present in 3 continents and 22 countries across Europe, Africa and Latin America. It participates in more than 200 companies around the world while maintaining the same standards of rigor, quality and capacity that have distinguished it throughout its history.

Seasonal Chiles en Nogada: The Mexican Flag on Your Plate

The following post is courtesy of the wonderfully talented, Cristina Potters. Her blog (Mexico Cooks!) is incredibly successful and we are proud to have her as a contributor to share her knowledge, recipes, and gastronomical expertise about Mexico.

Mexico Cooks! couldn’t start the month of September without paying tribute to our iconic chiles en nogada (chiles in walnut sauce), the Mexican flag on your plate.

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Mexico celebrates its independence the entire month of September with parades, parties, and traditional food and drink in restaurants and at home.  The traditional festive dish during the weeks before and after the Independence Day holiday is chiles en nogada, a magnificent tribute to the seasonal availability of granadas (pomegranates) and walnuts. From mid- August till mid-October, fresh pomegranates and walnuts make chiles en nogada possible.  Mildly spicy chiles poblano, stuffed with picadillo and topped with richly creamy walnut sauce and pomegranate seeds, flaunt the brilliant green, white and red of the Mexican flag.

This festive dish is traditionally served especially on September 15 or 16 in honor of Mexico’s Independence Day, though it is popular anytime in the late summer and early fall. During August and September in the highlands of Mexico, particularly in Mexico City and Puebla, the dish is very popular. On streets bordering city markets and tianguis (street markets), you will see village women sitting on blankets painstakingly cracking open nutshells and peeling the thin brown skin from each freshly harvested walnut. It is important to use the freshest walnuts possible, as they produce such a creamy, rich sauce that it is worth the effort demanded to peel them.  Yes, the recipe is time-consuming…but you and your guests will jump up and shout “VIVA!” when you’ve licked the platters clean.

Fresh peaches, in season now.
Fresh peaches, in season now.

Ingredients

For the Meat
• 2 pounds beef brisket or other stew meat or 1 pound beef and 1 pound pork butt
• 1 small white onion, quartered
• 2 large cloves garlic
• about 1 Tablespoon sea salt

Biznaga cristalizada (candied barrel cactus).
Biznaga cristalizada (candied barrel cactus).

For the picadillo

• 4 Tablespoons freshly rendered pork lard or canola oil
• 1/3 cup chopped white onion
• 3 large cloves garlic, minced
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
• 3 heaping Tablespoons raisins
• 1 or 2 chiles serrano, finely minced
• 2 Tablespoons chopped walnuts or pecans
• 2 Tablespoons chopped candied biznaga (cactus)
• 2 fresh peaches, skinned and diced
• 1 fresh pear, peeled and chopped
• 1 apple, peeled and chopped
• 1 extremely ripe platano macho (plantain)
• 1 large potato, peeled and diced
• 3 large, ripe tomatoes, roasted, peeled and chopped
• sea salt to taste

Chiles poblano.  Choose the largest chiles with the smoothest sides for easy roasting.
Chiles poblano. Choose the largest chiles with the smoothest sides for easy roasting.

For the Chiles

6 fresh chiles poblano, roasted, peeled, and seeded, leaving the stem intact

Newly harvested, freshly peeled walnuts.  All of the shell and the thin brown skin must be removed to make smooth, creamy-white nogada (walnut sauce). Photo courtesy Gabriela.
Newly harvested, freshly peeled walnuts. All of the shell and the thin brown skin must be removed to make smooth, creamy-white nogada (walnut sauce). Photo courtesy Gabriela.

For the Walnut Sauce

• 1 cup fresh walnuts
• 6 ounces doble crema or full-fat cream cheese at room temperature
• 1-1/2 cups crema mexicana or 1-1/4 cups sour cream thinned with milk
• about 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
• 1 Tablespoon sugar
• 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/4 cup dry sherry

Fresh, seasonal pomegranates, available now in Mexico's markets.
Fresh, seasonal pomegranates, available now in Mexico’s markets.

For the Garnish

• 1 Tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
• 1/2 cup fresh pomegranate seeds

Method

Cut the meat into large chunks, removing any excess fat. Place the meat into a large Dutch oven with the onion, garlic, and salt. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Skim off any foam that collects on the surface. Lower the heat and allow the water to simmer about 45 minutes, until the meat is just tender. Take the pot off the stove and let the meat cool in the broth. Remove the pieces of meat and finely shred them.

Warm the oil in a large, heavy skillet and sauté the onion and garlic over medium heat until they turn a pale gold. Stir in the shredded meat and cook for 5 minutes. Add the cinnamon, pepper, and cloves, then, stir in the raisins, the 2 Tablespoons chopped walnuts. Add the chopped pear, apple, and potato, and mix well. Add the tomatoes and salt to taste, and continue cooking over medium-high heat until most of the moisture has evaporated. Stir often so that the mixture doesn’t stick. Let cool, cover, and set aside. The picadillo may be made 1 day in advance.

Make a slit down the side of each chile, just long enough to remove the seeds and veins. Keep the stem end intact. Drain the chiles on absorbent paper until completely dry. Cover and set aside. The chiles may be prepared a day in advance.

At least 3 hours in advance, place the 1 cup walnuts in a small pan of boiling water. Remove from the heat and let them sit for 5 minutes. Drain the nuts and, when cool, rub off as much of the dark skin as possible. Chop into small pieces. Place the nuts, cream cheese, crema, and salt in a blender and purée thoroughly. Stir in the optional sugar, cinnamon, and sherry, if using, until thoroughly combined.  Reserve at room temperature.

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The stuffed chiles pictured above were dipped into an egg coating and fried prior to finishing with walnut sauce and garnishes. In Mexico, passionate diners argue the pros and cons of coating the chiles; many insist that coating and frying is not traditional, and many insist that it is.  Mexico Cooks! prefers chiles en nogada with no coating.

Preheat the oven to 250ºF. When ready to serve, reheat the meat filling and stuff the chiles until plump and just barely closed. Place the chiles on a serving platter or on individual plates, cover with the walnut sauce, and sprinkle with parsley and pomegranate seeds

Chiles en nogada as presented at Restaurante Azul/Histórico, Mexico City. This beautiful service is only surpassed by the flavors of the chiles.
Chiles en nogada as presented at Restaurante Azul/Histórico, Mexico City. This beautiful service is only surpassed by the flavors of the chiles.

This dish may be served at room temperature, or it may be served chilled.

Note: Many people in today’s busy world prefer to make this recipe using a mixture of ground rather than shredded beef and pork.  Using this quick method, simply brown the ground meats and add the rest of the picadillo ingredients once the meats are browned.  The results will be excellent!

To read more from Cristina, visit Mexico Cooks!
Looking for a tailored-to-your-interests specialized tour in Mexico?  Click here: Tours.

Always A Tourist

Culture and Courtesy – Being a Better Traveler in Mexico

This post was previously published on Mexico Premiere. With Mexico travel season about to kick into gear, we have had several request to re-post it. Enjoy!

By: Lisa Coleman

I’m sure you’ve heard “when in Rome…. do as the Romans do,” but when stepping into a foreign country it’s really worth considering these words a bit more carefully. The saying originated in 387 A.D. when St. Augustine arrived in Milan and observed the Catholic Church did not fast on Saturday like it was done in Rome. He consulted the Bishop of Milan (St. Ambrose) about the matter who simply replied:  “When I am in Rome I fast on Saturday; when I am in Milan, I do not. Follow the custom of where you are.” That sentiment has stood the test of time and can really make a difference when visiting Mexico, or any other country for that matter.

I have traveled the world and feel there is nothing more frustrating than watching “ugly Americans” (Canadians are guilty, too!) being rude or disrespectful to the local people. Regardless of whether it’s an all-inclusive in Cancun where everyone speaks English, or an eco-hotel in the remote jungle of Chiapas, you are still a guest in Mexico… you are still visiting someone’s home.  As a citizen of the world, you owe it to yourself and your hosts to take the time to understand the basics of the Mexican culture and to embrace their hospitality with the respect it deserves.  I have seen bad manners exhibited many times in Mexico, so I am hoping to shed a little light on some common courtesies that may change your travel experience. At the very least, it will bring a smile to your Mexican hosts!
First, let’s talk about changing your mindset when you plan a trip to Mexico and switch from being a tourist to being a traveler.  What’s the difference? Plenty…

•    A tourist expects (and insists) everyone speaks English. A traveler tries to use even the most basic high school Spanish to make an effort.

•    A tourist is content to hang out at the swim-up bar getting lobster-red sunburn while becoming louder, drunker, and more obnoxious by the minute. The traveler heads into town, checks out the local markets, tries to make heads or tails of the menus at local restaurants and takes the time to stroll the streets, smile at the people and take in the flavor and color of the place they are visiting.

•    A tourist goes to the local McDonalds, American chain restaurant, or orders a hamburger at the hotel. A traveler will find out where the best local dishes are served and at the very least give them a try.

•    A tourist is content to be part of a group and to take large tours to all the most famous spots. A traveler tends to rent a car with a few other people (or solo) and explore the area on their own.
That list could go on forever, but you get the idea.

Always A TouristMexico is also far more formal than many would think. If you know anything about Mexican history, you know the Spanish had a tremendous influence on the people and culture of the country. The early Spanish overlords who came to Mexico in the 1500s brought the etiquette of the Royal Court of Spain, and many of those formalities still exist. As a rule, the Mexicans have maintained this cortesía, and it’s important that foreigners be aware and sensitive to not insulting the dignidad of the people they encounter.

The Basics
•    For starters, it helps to use Señor (Mr.) or Señora (Mrs.) with the men or women you encounter. Mexicans always address by social status and this immediately shows respect and will be a quick step in the right direction. (Señorita would be used to address a young, unmarried woman and is similar to Miss.)

•    In a restaurant, if you wish to call the waiter, you generally use the term Joven (Ho-ven). Though it means “young person,” it is an accepted term for all waiters. If you have a waitress, Señorita is appropriate. Snapping your fingers? Never.

•    “Please” (por favor) and “Thank You” (gracias) are a given if you’d like to ask an employee (or anyone for that matter) to do something. Look them in the eye and be sincere, it will take you a long way.

•    Americans tend to enter a room of strangers and only say hello in passing, if at all. They are usually casual, self absorbed and miss the almost constant greetings by their Mexican counterparts. Whether it’s in a public place with strangers, or with people you already know, say buenos días (good morning), buenas tardes (good afternoon) or buenas noches (good evening) to those you see. You’ll notice smiles right away.

•    Being humble is a cultural virtue often forgotten by visitors.  Mexicans will always welcome you when you arrive to your destination and refer to their home or even your hotel as su casa (your house). They are modest and truly want you to feel at home in their country. Keep an eye out for that and be sure to thank them for their hospitality.

•    If you can’t speak Spanish, don’t insult the local people by shouting louder and slower in English. It’s rude and it doesn’t change the fact that they don’t understand. They will appreciate any effort you make, regardless of your skill level.

•    YES it is customary to tip in Mexico.  Here is a great article for reference: http://gomexico.about.com/od/historyculture/qt/tipping_in_mexico.htm

•    Come to a church just as you would at home.  Be aware when entering and always take off sunglasses, baseball caps or hats. Wearing shorts is rarely an issue in the beach areas, but women should take care to wear a wrap or sweater to the waist to avoid showing too much skin, which could viewed disrespectful in such places.

•    The beach is the beach, but away from the resort areas shorts are very rarely worn by Mexicans on the street. Be cognizant of how you look and avoid drawing too much attention to yourself as a foreigner. Never wear shorts to a business event or to a restaurant outside the immediate resort area.
The Mexican culture isn’t overly complex. It’s built on simplicity, humility and courtesy. The people are tremendously warm and inviting, and genuinely care about their guests. Whether you’re a tourist, a traveler, or a little of both, take an extra few minutes to embrace Mexico at its core and I think you’ll come away with a deeper appreciation of a country waiting to invite you home.

Montecito 01

Montecito Beach Village – Step into the Dream in Huatulco

By: Lisa Coleman

Flip through the pages of Architectural Digest or Robb Report and you’ll see that Mexico’s luxury villa market is making an impact. Quietly carving out a niche for distinguished buyers from around world, Mexico is on the move. Second home seekers and wealthy expats have discovered the beauty and perfection that can be found along some of most breathtaking beaches in the country. Ultra exclusive communities in Punta Mita (near Puerto Vallarta), Cabo San Lucas (Baja California), and Costa Careyes (between Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo) are known worldwide by a discerning clientele. But it’s a small, unique development called Montecito in the beach town of Huatulco that is defining extraordinary.

Montecito 01

Huatulco is far different from its high profile companions. Considered and developed as an “ecotourism” resort in the early 1970’s, 70% of Huatulco is made up of ecological preserves. In 1988, then President Ernesto Zedillo converted most of the area’s preserves into a giant national park (protecting both land and marine life).  Huatulco prides itself in being a totally “green” resort. Mexico’s FONATUR (National Trust for Tourism Development), who built the resort town, still ensures that all new projects meet certain standards in order to maintain Huatulco’s Green Globe status.

Palmasview

At the center of Huatulco’s allure are a series of nine spectacular bays notched into 21 miles of shoreline hosting 36 beaches, countless inlets and coves, and arguably some of the most remarkable coastline on the Pacific. The main areas are: Tangolunda Bay, home to the big name resorts, an 18-hole golf course, and a smattering of nightlife. The bay of Santa Cruz has a bustling marina, an intimate village with beachside restaurants and bars, plenty of shops and a cruise ship dock. And, Chahue Bay (CHAH-way) located between the other two, with a marina, lots of new high-end condo projects and a public beach. About a mile inland, the charming hamlet of La Crucecita is a slice of pure Mexico. With a colorful and quaint town square, plenty of inviting restaurants and bars, a few excellent fresh seafood stalls to pick up the daily catch, and a brand new grocery store, the infrastructure is solidly in place. It’s not unusual to see a jet or two parked at palapa-topped international airport.

Montecito 12
Located at the east end of the resort on a private peninsula, Montecito Beach Village is an unforgettable collection of 2, 3 & 4 bedroom beach and oceanfront Villas. This low-density (only 30 Villas in total when complete) 12-acre masterpiece is quickly becoming one of the most notable developments in Mexico. Touching the shores of two beaches and hosting phenomenal views, Montecito is at home on an incredible piece of land. Designed by famed Mexican architect, Diego Villaseñor, whose past works include the Four Seasons in Punta Mita and the Four Seasons in the Dominican Republic (to name a couple), Montecito’s impeccable style was developed to promote sustainable, elegant coastal living.

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Project Director and Managing Partner, Greg Glassman, describes the concept that makes Montecito so special, “We integrate the natural environment into the human habitat. We have created this development with minimal impact and we are fortunate to have the opportunity to develop such a unique community on this land. We are careful to protect and preserve all the flora and fauna on the property and create each Villa with nature in mind.”  Glassman further describes, “We strive to not only integrate our Village into the natural environment but the cultural environment as well. This kind of living experience can’t be found anywhere else.”

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And, I’d have to agree. There is an intrinsic perfection to everything here. “Architecture is about the art of living and the way to construct the human habitat,” says architect Diego Villaseñor. “I create spaces that resound in the soul and imagination, that give human beings a sense of protection, freedom and a place to be with themselves.”  Having spent time at Montecito, I can confidently say it’s a one-of-a-kind development.  It’s where I wander in awe and step into my own dream. This is the ultimate in beachside living. They haven’t missed a thing. Every detail is in place and every inch of the property is thought out.  It’s among the best of the best. For me, Montecito is a probably just a dream I can visit when I’m in Huatulco, but for those who can make a place like this a reality, they shouldn’t miss the opportunity.

Montecito 2

Montecito’s Phases 1 and 2 are in the process of completion. These phases will be comprised of 15 villas, two clubs (the Cala Beach Club and the hilltop Loma Lounge), and the management buildings.  Lifestyle perks include daily housekeeping, gardening, maintenance, pool cleaning, concierge, and cooking services.  Prices start at $1.2 million and they have already built and sold 5 villas in the past year.  (If you just want a taste, some of the villas at Montecito are available for rent. You can get info on the website. )

For more information visit: www.montecito.mx.

Checking In With A New Expat

David Simmonds

I want to introduce you to Stacy Taylor, a friend of mine. Stacy has spent most of his adult life in radio as a talk-show host. He’s one of the best in the business, having had good runs in San Diego, Chicago, and most recently San Francisco. Stacy couldn’t do the right-wing scream that dominates the airwaves. He’s way too smart and independent for that, so he’s in Mexico, a place he has always like. In fact, that is how we got to know each other about 17 years ago when I was publishing the Mexico File and he had a top-rated show in San Diego. He graciously had me on his show a few times.

Well, the radio biz has changed in recent years and Stacy is now living in Rosarito Beach in Baja, just about 30 miles south of the border on the West Coast.  I wanted you to read some of his thoughts that he posts on his blog. I have the feeling that Stacy will be migrating from radio to writing, and if you read this piece you’ll see why.

http://stacytaylor.com/living-in-mexico/baja/some-observations-after-two-months-in-baja/

Should You Move to Mexico?

David Simmonds

It seems like a simple enough question, doesn’t it? You are at point in your life when a major change is possible. You’ve traveled to a few places in Mexico, kicked back on the beach at sunset with a cold cerveza and thought “I really like this place – the weather is perfect, prices are good, the people are amazing – yes, maybe I could make this happen.” And then, of course, most of us go back home and dutifully fall into the familiar daily grind, only occasionally allowing ourselves to remember that day on the beach and the possible plan that always seems…just out of reach.

But now, more and more of us are acting on those elusive dreams. For many that time in life has arrived when the impossible becomes the possible, the impractical becomes “just maybe.” The Baby Boomers, those ‘60’s counterculture rebels-in-waiting, have worked for 40 years and are finally ready to be the people they remember they were. At the core, they are still the backpackers and wanderers, the idealists and the dreamers. And Mexico, after all, is so close, and it has all those warm beaches, and history, and food carts serving those mesquite tacos…just maybe.

And it’s not just the Boomers. The internet has changed everything over the past 20 years. Today you find younger gringos, many with families, living in Mexico. They have web-based businesses they can run from anywhere, or they have started a physical business in Mexico – a restaurant, a tour business, a real estate office. They live in a Mexican neighborhood and are learning Spanish. They have discovered the concept of community, a soul-satisfying lifestyle that has all but disappeared in many towns and cities north of the border.

Moving to another country, without doubt, is a big deal, and requires extensive research and planning. That beautiful little colonial town in the highlands seemed like a place you could call home forever when you visited for that one idyllic week last year. As did the fishing village where you spent two weeks last Christmas – well before the rainy season with all the bugs and humidity that no one thought to mention to you. Finding your spot, the place that you could live, requires that you spend some time there, summer and winter. You need to see if you can adjust to the pace, the daily life challenges, the Mexican way.

Pick several places that you think you could live. Do extensive research on the net, read the blogs and join the discussion groups. Ask questions from people who are in Mexico. Learn all that you can, and then plan a road trip, either by car, bus, plane or most likely a combination of all three. Initially, spend at least a few days in the places you are considering. Look at the neighborhoods where you might live, not just the tourist area. How is the local transportation, the town infrastructure, the cultural options? Can you get back to the US or Canada directly if you need to without sitting all day in the Mexico City airport waiting for your flight. If you’re on the ocean is the water actually accessible for safe swimming? How are the medical services? That is a big issue. How will you spend your days? If you are retiring, what are you going to do with yourself? Will you soon be bored, waiting for happy-hour every day? These are just some of the many questions you will need to answer before you haul all your things down there to set up house and a new life.

I am always asked “where is the best place in Mexico?” And, of course, it is impossible to answer. It is a different place for everyone, and is answered from the heart more than the head. For me it is the West Coast of mainland Mexico, in the states of Nayarit, Jalisco and Colima. I like the jungle, warm water, and crashing surf. I like to watch the sun set over the sea and the discovery of a beach with no footprints that I haven’t seen before. Yes, for me, that is the best place in Mexico, I answer them.

So, is Mexico for you? It is estimated that about a million Americans and Canadians live at least a few months in Mexico every year. I know many of them, and most have told me it is the best decision they have ever made. They feel safe, leading full, interesting lives, and wouldn’t go back full time to their old hometowns if you paid them to. They have discovered that it’s never too late to be that person they remember. How about you?

This article was oringally published on www.mexicotoday.org . Click to visit the site for all current Mexico news.

 

 

Yucatan Program Helps Maya Children Attend School

Maya Children in CholulBy Jeanine Kitchel — Most people come to Mexico for sun and sand.  But lately it seems there’s a fair share of both travelers and expats who are doing a whole lot more than soaking up the rays.  Take Jill Allison from Seattle, for instance.

She’d read Greg Mortenson’s Three Cups of Tea and wanted to give something back.  So after landing in Merida in 2010 where she’d planned to spend extended vacation time, she happened onto edúcaTE.  It’s a program that helps children in the Yucatan receive an education when their parents cannot afford to send them to school, and it was sorely in need of funding and on the verge of shutting down.  It had 19 students under its wing.

To save the program, she needed to find someone local to run it.  That person was visual and ceramic artist Katrin Schikora.  Schikora lives in Cholul, a pueblo near Merida, where edúcaTE is located.  Then Schikora called on her friend Cheri Pittillo for help.  The three formed a bond and decided they were good to go.  Allison returned to the US and started registering the program as a charitable organization and non-profit.  Schikora and Pittillo, local Yucatan residents, started tinkering with the charity to see how they could make it work.

The simplicity of the program and what it accomplishes is probably what hooked Allison in the first place.  While the Mexican government provides children a free public education, it does not cover expenses of mandatory uniforms, specific footwear, and school supplies, thus children living in poverty often can’t attend school because of the additional expenses.  EdúcaTE picks up these costs and now has 45 children in the program who couldn’t have gone to school before.

Now registered as a non-profit both in Mexico and the US, the current focus of edúcaTE’s work is in Cholul.  Katrin Schikora, executive director, explained how she was drawn into the budding organization.  She wanted to do something for the disadvantaged population in Cholul, which she said was a small pueblo when she moved to Mexico 20 years ago.  Of late, large houses are becoming more common, and in a town with many advantages, she knew there were also people who had nothing to eat.  This program was a beginning, a way to help the local people.

With a staff of eight volunteers Schikora set up headquarters in her ceramics studio.  Schikora said the main emphasis of the program is to pay for children’s school costs, to give tutorials in math and physics for secondary students, and to give all types of tutorials for the primary grades.

Many tutorials deal with learning English as a second language and one of her goals is to set up a more advanced language program that could be coordinated with volunteers.  She feels this would also help kids improve their academic levels.  She said often children will have little support from their parents as they want the children to go to work rather than school.  So it’s a struggle for many in the program to even be there.

Another part of edúcaTE’s emphasis it to give breakfasts to needy children in the group.  The charity realizes that kids cannot learn if they are hungry.  This part of the program is funded in part by the Merida Men’s Club, an informal group mostly comprised of expats that meets once a month.  Donations are made for the program whenever the club meets, but oftentimes those donations do not cover all breakfast costs.  EdúcaTE has 25 places for breakfasts and feeds kids in primary grades, four through six, as the government provides food for the lower grades.

Schikora, who trained as an art therapist, said her goal is to be able to assimilate students into an integral development, and take them to exhibitions and on excursions.  She has lots of plans.

Presently the program is in need of new sponsors for next year and there is already a waiting list of 40 children.  The selection process is done by word of mouth, and children are vetted through home visits to see if they qualify for the program.  One of Schikora’s volunteers is her lifeline to the town, Doña Chula.  She knows the entire village, said Schikora, and with a questionnaire, figures out a socio-economic study on the basis of the home visit, the child’s grades and the family’s need.

More sponsors are needed to keep on track with what has already been accomplished.  A rather unique way they’ve upped sponsorship was started by some older expats who travel back and forth to the Yucatan each year from the US.  They’ve begun giving their grandchildren a sponsorship of a Cholul student as a gift rather than buying them presents for Christmas or birthdays. In this way the child plugs in early as to how to help others, and can see the progress made through edúcaTE’s website, or through notes written to them by the children in school.  Check out the website at  www.educateyucatan.org/ for info on how to sponsor children through the organization.  A $140/US donation will sponsor one student in grades one through six for one year.