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Why Move to Mexico?

by Anna Kaplan

Many people move to Mexico to fulfill their dreams. They may be dreaming of a house near the ocean with warm temperatures and sea breezes. They may be dreaming of a quiet, slowly paced life, with time to enjoy simple things. They may enjoy water sports, fishing and snorkeling. They may long for a big, beautiful house that they can’t afford in the United States.

They often fall in love with Mexico as visitors, and later decide they have found the perfect place to retire. Where in Mexico they choose to live depends on what they found there that they could not find in the United States. Many choose to go to Northwestern Mexico, to Rosarito Beach, Enseñada, San Felipe or Puerto Peñasco or San Felipe.

Cathy and Greg Tiwald visited Mexico many times as tourists. They love to scuba dive and had spent time in San Carlos, Enseñada and Puerto Peñasco. They looked into investing in Mexico but after visiting San Felipe, they decided they wanted to be residents, not visitors.

San Felipe is a small fishing village which has shifted from dependence on fishing to tourism and real estate as its economic base. In 2005, about 15,000 people lived in San Felipe, many of whom were American or Canadian.

Cathy explains that when they found San Felipe, they felt comfortable with the place and its people. She says, “San Felipe made us feel like we were ‘at home.’ In San Felipe we found a great town, located on the beach, with warm weather and water which we like, and a wonderful home we could afford.”

Greg says that the couple regularly visited Mexico to scuba dive. When they saw an advertisement for an opportunity to own property in Mexico, they decided to buy with the intent of retiring in Mexico.

The Tiwalds acquired their land through a Fideicomiso, a trust that allows foreigners to buy land near the ocean, and built a house there. Greg says, “We live in Playa de Oro. We call it the ‘Beverly Hills of San Felipe.’ Our home's total size is over 4000 sq ft. In the U.S. a house by the beach of this quality and size would be well over $1,000,000, but we paid just a fraction of that.”

Greg and Cathy did not expect to work in San Felipe, but they are starting a business catering to other Americans, called Sand and Sea. Cathy explains, “We are opening a market, deli and internet cafe, with business center for copies, fax, scanning and business supplies. With the rental of a private mailbox, our clients will receive a set amount of free minutes to call the U.S. The market will carry many of the items that we are used to using in the U.S. that are not available at the stores in town.”

They definitely recommend San Felipe to other people interested in living in Mexico, but they do emphasize that it is a small town with a small-town feel. Cathy says, “I love the ‘family’ we have created here. Our friends have time to talk and visit, and we all support each other. Life, friendships and living are celebrated and encouraged here.”

Diane Pavellas also was looking for the right place to retire, and eventually picked Rosarito Beach, which is located 20 minutes from the border crossing at Tijuana, almost commuting distance to San Diego. About 85,000 people live in Rosarito, including some 25,000 Americans.

Diane was looking for a quiet place by the ocean. She already had lived in many places, including New York and San Francisco, and wanted something different. She says, “When retirement was starting to become an option, I began searching for my ideal place. It had to be near the ocean and have 65 to 90 degree weather.”

She did not know that there was a way Americans could buy land near the ocean in Mexico. She was thinking of San Diego and all its amenities when she decided to take a look at Mexico.

She recalls thinking, “If only I could afford San Diego…Perfect weather, the ocean, the arts, and the theatre. I suddenly got the itch to explore Mexico again. I went on the Internet and was dazzled by the array of homes for sale. I studied the rules of purchasing and prices, and was very happy to find ways to buy my dream. The ocean, the arts and the theatre- I would have it all.”

She told her cousins, Tom and Dee Thomas. They decided to join Diane as she looked for the right place. She says, “This was my first trip to Mexico in 20 years. I relied on my cousins’ opinions and the information I received from the Internet and books.

“I already had determined Rosarito was the place for me. I would be near the ocean away from the busy night life, but only 10 minutes away. I could lounge on my terrace and view the ocean and have a wonderful patio to plant a garden.”

Unfortunately she had a few problems before she found her perfect place. The realtors initially seemed unable to find her a one-story house with two baths and bedrooms, one for her and one for her 88-year-old mother. Eventually, however, they did; and she found her dream home. Her cousins bought the house next door. Sadly, her mother had a stroke and could not live in this new home; but Diane made other arrangements for her and eventually moved to Rosarito.

Diane says, “It has all been worth it! I am happily getting up to either sunny or partially overcast days that turn into spectacular days, which are typically 70 to 85 degrees. I ask myself,

‘Diane, what do you want to do today?’ Ah, freedom.”

Bernadette Schmuker lives about 40 miles south of Rosarito in Enseñada, which is popular with both tourists and people looking for a place to live in Mexico. About 38,000 of its 220,000 residents are from the United States or Canada. Originally from Michigan, she was a foreign exchange student through Rotary International, and spent a year in Sonora. She returned home to Michigan, but felt that she had to return to Mexico.

Bernadette says, “I feel comfortable, welcomed and safe (with) not so many rules. There's a happiness I feel inside here. I live each day for what it is. (I) watch a beautiful sunset over the ocean, and enjoy traveling and exploring all that Baja has to offer. Each day I wake up and say, 'Gracias.'”

Roland and Tammy Mondragon also followed their dreams and moved to Mexico, to Puerto Peñasco. They were living in Las Vegas, caught up in the corporate “rat race.” They thought it would be best for them to escape the stress.

Tammy says, “Roland started coming to Mexico, mostly Enseñada and Rosarito, when he was 16. He introduced me to the area when we met nine years ago. It became our dream to live and work in Mexico one day, because we really loved its environment and culture. We dreamt, worked hard, saved and made it happen.”

The Mondragons decided to move to Puerto Peñasco, also known as Rocky Point, a small city of about 42,000 people best known for its fishing and tourism industries. Tammy recalls, “Before we moved we researched the areas of interest to us, the cost of living, the community and the potential for growth. We decided on Puerto Peñasco.”

The Mondragons did not buy a house, but they opened a business called Kayak Rocky Point.

They rent kayaks, snorkel equipment, boogie boards and fishing poles. They also take people out on the water to see the area. Tammy explains, “The estuaries can be accessed only by non-motorized crafts, making the kayaks a favorite. We offer boat charters for deep sea fishing, sunset tours, parasailing, Bird Island and all other water excursions here in Puerto Peñasco.”

She adds, “Our business is going very well for our first year. We feel that we have built a solid reputation here and have met many great contacts and supporters from both the American and Mexican communities.”

Tammy and Roland left behind children and grandchildren in Las Vegas, and they do miss their family. E-mail and internet phone services such as Vonage, and magicJack however, facilitate frequent communication. The family visited for Thanksgiving, and plan to make it an annual event.

Tammy adds, “Home is where you make it, and there are many opportunities here in the laid-back, low-stress environment of Mexican towns and cities.”

She echoes the sentiments of Greg and Cathy. Cathy describes San Felipe and says, “This is a peaceful, relaxing town and lifestyle…This is like living a permanent vacation.”

Bernadette says, “The Mexican cultural atmosphere- its color, traditions, art, freedom to be who you are, the warmth of its people, the smell of food in the air and the sounds of laughter and music- keeps true to its spirit. I am true to my body, mind and spirit. This is why I choose to be here.”

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