….asked a friend recently.

Mind you, she is the exception. Most people I mention this to have heard of San Miguel de Allende in Mexico and are super excited for our adventures to come. I have several committed to visiting within a year of our arrival and others who hope to get there within two years. But some folks are left with a bunch of lingering doubts so that’s what I’m talking about in this post. Mikey and I had to go through an internal process touching on aspects mentioned below, so I get where people are coming from. So let’s start with the most obvious question of all:

Why? Why? Why?

Mike and I have decided to move to Mexico for reasons that have largely to do with the fact he couldn’t find satisfying – or even ANY – work here having anything to do with any aspect of his long list of accomplishments, credentials nor skills. It is so unexpected, so depressing and not a little shocking that an honest, hard working man like my good citizen husband can not get one single employer to offer him an interview let alone an actual job. Sigh.

He tried every job board in every state remotely relating to his preservation and construction skills but has turned up nary a lead. Watching him go through this without becoming fully depleted has been to witness a kind of grace. This is the kind of human being I would have thought my country would want to fully engage and allow plenty of opportunities for. Construction? Reconstruction? Historic Preservation?  These should all be highly marketable professional aspects. But, well, who knows, with the economy and his age (in his early sixties) I guess the timing has just been off. So disappointing, I can’t you. So what do we do next?

Let’s Live in a Van Down by the River!

Matt Foley at his most inspirational.....NOT!

Matt Foley at his most inspirational…..NOT!

Ummm…..no, thank you?.

We started re-thinking what could be possible. Because he’s very close to 62, when Social Security can kick in. A circumstantially forced early retirement for him means we need to seriously cut down our expenses.

I bring in some money with my art and projects, but not enough to cover everything we would need as middle class citizens in this country. And we’ve each done the pioneering urban make-over thing, the cinder block and wood shelving units lifestyle, and other kind of sad and sorry, but great when you’re starting out living situations. Plus, let’s face it, I want to keep my horses! So how to approach the challenge of actually avoiding retiring in the van down by the river?

San Miguel – Lower Cost of Living

Colorful Steet,  San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico

All of the city centro is as charming as this.

One way to do that is to move to a place where the cost of living is lower, but the quality of life is stimulating, engaging and we can find projects that might make a difference. A friend asked me why we were “giving up”. She didn’t mean it unkindly, but the fact is we’re doing anything but!

We close on a home in the high plateau of central Mexico in a couple of weeks. Just outside San Miguel de Allende, perched on the side of an extinct volcano that overlooks the San Miguel valley our new home is made of adobe, frosted in multi-hued bougainvillea and surrounded by a pleasant mixture of similarly relocated expats, professional Mexicans; just past a village where the post office is in the tiny general store and a guy drives in twice a week in a truck laden with gorgeous locally grown produce.

San Miguel:

  • tedxhosts a TEDx event
  • hosts an international hummingbird convention ( I love hummingbirds, lol – I hope ours here in KY find us there!)
  • has two full service art schools
  • multiple artist studios, galleries and international art shows.
  • There is a joyfully raucous street festival for every saint’s day (and there and MANY Saint’s Days)
  • the area has horses and ranches out the whazoo
  • The local population of about 60,000 is comprised of 10% expats from the U. S., Canada and Europe, mostly. Writers, artists, philosophers, retirees, historians, scientists and other professionals who have scaled back materially to focus on other pursuits (back the creative arts for many).
  • San Miguelis a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city centro is gorgeous with a colonial look that is as authentic as when the colonists who built the structures made ’em.

It’s kind of perfect for us. So we’re packing a tiny bit up from our life here in Kentucky and are going there when we sell our beautiful home here in Kentucky. (See it here!)

DogTrot Hill

DogTrot Hill

Misinformation Runs Deep

But I run into resistance from time to time from friends and acquaintances who have deeply rooted prejudices and concerns, like this message from another contact yesterday:

Maybe I have misconception about mexico. Seems like danger and drugs and poverty from what I know or stories I hear of friends going down to vacation.

Danger and drugs as topics come up a lot, especially with folks that haven’t traveled a bunch or lived in the sorts of ‘iffy’ neighborhoods I have. It is never a good idea to make gross generalizations either way  (good or bad) about an entire geographic region as large as the country of Mexico just as it isn’t wise to do so for the entire United States in one fell swoop. No place is entirely safe and no place is entirely unsafe. You should always bring yourself up to speed on the ‘lay of the land’ and adjust your actions accordingly.

Gun Violence

Chicago isn't even in the current top 25 most violent U. S. cities - even with all the recent shootings

Chicago isn’t even in the current top 25 most violent U. S. cities – even with all the recent shootings

In Chicago where I used to live there have been horrible statistics racking up this year and last through a spate of ugly gun-related deaths. But Chicago doesn’t even rank in the top 25 cities in the U. S. for such things. New Orleans, Detroit, Dayton, Fort Meyers – all top it by a wide margin. I bet the friend quoted above wouldn’t have such qualms if I told her I was moving to Rocky Mount, NC (another in the top 25, surprisingly, to me anyway.

American news media give a lot of coverage to raw violence which is why we all hear a lot about the gang troubles of both the northern cities of Mexico (over drugs) as well as throughout the United States and most especially Chicago, lately. Now, I don’t know where her friends vacation in Mexico but I bet it’s nowhere near San Miguel.

More Concerns

This same friend had some more concerns for me:

Plus the whole slaughter thing (horses) and their love of horse tripping that I learned about last year.

Click this image for more American Horse Slaughter facts

Click this image for more American Horse Slaughter facts

I know what she means. Each year, Americans send tens of  thousands of our unwanted equines  to Mexico and Canada to be processed for their meat. Where I live, in horse country Kentucky, thousands of such unwanted horses start life every single year. Thoroughbred and Quarterhorses produced on the farms of too many breeder heres, some would say overbreeders, of each end up on trucks bound for international slaughter every week/month. Mexico plays a role in this dirty little secret of the American breeders Associations, but so do the people who get those horses onto those trucks right here.

Horse tripping? It’s a barbaric practice of seedy rodeos, popular in the American West, too. They believe it captures an authentic representation of how they used to ‘break’ horses. Idiocy sometimes knows no political boundaries.

She Forgot to Mention

  • Bull Fighting
  • Rampant Chauvinism and Machismo
  • Homeless Dogs

I’m expecting knowing I’m surrounded by these activities is going to give me much to try to act on and worry and stress about. Also someone stealing my own horses. But I’ll take precautions and start spreading the word through my art about my thoughts on animal treatment. I’ll direct my efforts towards the children.

Utopia Isn’t a Place

…it’s an attitude. It’s a feeling you get when you’re in a space where your life’s purpose intersects with your ability to fulfill it. I envision making a lot of attempts to find ways to get kids to see animals as the sentient beings they are. I learned as a Peace Corps volunteer in Fiji that you effect the most permanent change when you effect and engage the children of a village, a city, a country.

This arbor wraps around our new casa

This arbor wraps around our new casa


My Art is the Perfect Tool for This Work

It’s how I connected with kids in Fiji and it’s how I hope to connect with kids in Mexico. Plus I’m bringing my miniature horse who is an awesome ambassador for animals. Look for things to progress once I’m finally there.

I believe our new home will support me and my dreams and how these intersect with reality.

I believe our new home will support me and my dreams and how these intersect with reality.

I Love my Friends

I love their concern. I invite them to air them with me. It’s good for me to have to explain things to others because it helps solidify what I’m  ruminating in my interior. I’m not expecting to find Utopia in Mexico but I am expecting to create a small one. Subscribe to my updates.

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Stay in touch!

If you visit San Miguel let me know so I can fix you a beverage and we can sit right here and catch up!

If you visit San Miguel let me know so I can fix you a beverage and we can sit right here and catch up!