Friday, December 22, 2006

Getting Married in Mexico

Are you thinking of getting married in Mexico? If you are in the market for a wedding, you've probably considered the option of what is known as a Destination Wedding these days. And if you're thinking of getting married while on vacation, Mexico is probably one of the first places that comes to mind.

Before I tell you about this website that consolidates information about weddings in Mexico, let me say that my husband and I were married away from home... in Italy, to be exact. It wasn't as common in those days (10 years ago) and we had a hard time finding someone to coordinate the event (in Venice). Nowadays, you can choose from a whole list of people and getting married in a romantic location is a much more popular idea.

Getting married in a foreign country has its pros and cons. It is expensive for your guests (we solved that problem by not having any). And it may not be legal in your country (we solved that by having a civil wedding before we left). The ceremony was incredibly special, romantic beyond belief and something I will remember on my deathbed as a highlight of my life. We were married at midnight on the Piazza San Marco in Venice, Italy as the bells chimed and the bands played. About 200 people from around the world came to watch as we stood in front of the golden Basilica and the wedding "official" who was dressed as a doge (the traditional ruler of Venice).

Now, weddings in foreign countries are a lot easier to manage. And Stray Weddings has a very helpful website that makes getting married in Mexico a breeze. They have a free e-book report about the Top Ten Resorts for Weddings in the Yucatan Peninsula. They also have listings of wedding planners, travel agents, translators, photographers and musicians (although in my experience, all you really need is a good wedding planner and they will help you find everyone else). Our good friends Paradise Weddings are listed as one of their wedding planners and I know that they do it all, from flowers to music to videos to napkins.

They have recently started a blog with more detailed info about what documents you need to get married, photos of chapels and other details that will be important to a future bride.

So now, do you want to see photos of our wedding? Sure you do...

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Mexico With Heart

I wish I had more time right now to read this website. I've spent about a half hour here, and instead of feeling like I've gotten a good overview and I can write a nice review about it, I feel as if I have just dipped my toe in the water and I'm anxious to go in for a swim!

The woman who writes this webpage (and associated blog) is Rosana Hart. She has been traveling to Mexico for many years (she talked about going to Acapulco as a child... oh! how I wish I could have seen it then!). She has created a website that gives good information about the top cities in Mexico: Acapulco, Cancun, Cuernavaca, Mexico City, Puerto Vallarta, etc. She lives in the Guadalajara area, and so she writes about that as well.

But she and her husband have also traveled and continue to travel through Mexico, so there is a lot more in her blog and in the section called Mexico with Heart, the Book. I loved a section on El Chorrito, a town with a shrine to the Virgen of Guadalupe (about whom I just wrote an article on Yucatan Living) and another article on Ciudad Victoria, a place I visited this summer. Wish I had read this article *before* I went there!! Another great article is her Sixteen Ways to Meet People, apparently written from years of experience and a must-read for anyone wanting to come to Mexico and see beyond the tourist hype.

Anyway, I'm bookmarking this website and I'll be going back to read more when I have some real time to devote to it. If you are interested in Mexico, I suggest you do the same.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Slow Life in Mexico City

Another blog? Yep, another blog. Another blog by an English-speaking expatriate living in Mexico.

This one happens to be a real Englishman... Seth is from the UK (although apparently he has no plans to go back). He is in Mexico working for Amnesty International, a worthy cause and something that makes me like him already.

Reading the blog, you'll soon learn that Seth is a very likeable guy. I'm not sure what first clued me into this. Was it the fact that he was a good enough sport to dress up like a girl for a party where boys dressed like girls and girls like boys? Maybe it is the fact that he cooks for his roommate Frank, in exchange for Frank's Spanish assistance. Or maybe its because I agree with him politically. Or maybe its just his all around good nature and the fact that he's working for Amnesty International.

In any case, this blog is really just all about Seth, and Seth's adventures in Mexico City. He's from England, went to school in London, but curiously the blog starts (about eight months ago) in Norway of all places. Seth has a thing for Norway. It seems that Amnesty International was the one to send him to Mexico, and so he is here now and writing about it.

He's a fresh face with a fresh attitude to Mexico. His blog is a refreshing read.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Historic Haciendas

I came across this website a few weeks ago and finally got a chance to look at in depth tonite. Historic Haciendas is certainly not the prettiest or best designed website I've seen. But it does offer a little glimpse into a world (and an opportunity) that I knew very little about.

Historic haciendas is an independent collection of hacienda hotels and vacation rentals in Jalisco, within driving distance from Guadalajara. Each hacienda and hotel appears to be privately owned, and has between three and twenty four rooms to rent. Some of them have spas in the hacienda, and they all seem to offer tours doing everything from historic walks to horseback riding. Almost every one of them looks beautiful and, of course, unique in its design and history.

One hacienda, Hacienda Sepulveda (obviously named after a famous boulevard in the San Fernando Valley...) has 11 rooms and was built in 1684. According to the website, the current owner has spent TEN years renovating the hacienda to be a hotel. The photos show beautiful stone walls, boveda ceilings and arched pasillos. The eleven suites all rent for between $145 and 180 USD per night.

The subject matter is unique and I doubt you can find out about these places in many other websites. But the website design is absolutely horrendous. The navigation alone is a case study in what not to do. It works, barely, but it looks bad and it looks different on every page. All the pages are different colors and designs as well. It has got to be one of the strangest websites I've seen in a long time.

But, you aren't going there for an example in website design. Instead, I'm thinking you'll be going there to drool over the photos of beautiful buildings turned into luxurious hotels. And maybe, hopefully, to plan to visit one of them someday.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Unknown Mexico

If you have lived for any amount of time in Mexico, you are probably aware of those beautiful magazines, Mexico Desconocido (Unknown Mexico) that tempt you in the checkout lines at the grocery stores. You pick one up, and try to pick your way through the beautiful looking magazine that promises to illuminate all the wonderful corners and cultures of Mexico for you. But alas, it is all in Spanish and you resign yourself to mostly looking at the beautiful photos.

Well, gracias a Dios, there is the internet. And Mexico Desconocido has a website, with a very healthy English language side to it. And as of today, Mexico Desconocido is no longer unknown, at least to the readership of Mexico-in-English!

Basically, Mexico Desconocido has Travel, Shopping and Publication sections. These sections appear to be only in Spanish. But within the English section, there are two divisions: Discover and Live. I'm not really clear on the distinction between these two. Under the Discover section, you'll find History, Nature, Culture & Society and Monuments & Historical Centers. Under the Live section, there's Sports, Beaches & Spas, Counties and Museums & Archaeological Zones. This is not the way I would have divided these categories; this is not intuitive to my Western mind. But there you have it.

Each category is further divided into sub-categories, and within each sub-category are anywhere from 10 to 40 or 50 articles. It appears that these articles are reprints of articles previously published in the magazine, as they are notated with the author name and dates. Some that I've read are dated back as far as 1994. The depth of information about different parts of Mexico, its traditions, culture, treasures and people. Just casually exploring, I have come across articles about everything from Ricardo Bell, "the clown that made our grandparents laugh" to the mining museum in Pachuca. I've found articles about the Xalapa Museum of Anthropology (surely one of the most beautiful museums I've ever seen) to the History of the Altar of Forgiveness in the Cathedral in Mexico City.

Now don't get *too* excited. Some of the articles are nothing more than a paragraph or two of rehashed facts that are all too familiar to the casual student of all things Mexican...hardly desconocido. But at least one half of the articles are in-depth, interesting and full of details and tasty tidbits of information.

This website is a gold mine of little nuggets of information about Mexico. I'm bookmarking it, and next time I go on a little roadtrip, I'm going to research my destination with this website. I might find out about a little church I might have missed otherwise or a tradition I might not have otherwise known about. After you visit it, you might decide to do the same.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Bookmark the Larpman

Here's a website recommended by one of our readers. And what a great find! has some valuable information that you don't find on other sites. The website is divided into four simple categories: Transportation, Books, Maps and Photos. Four categories of resources that are useful when planning a trip to Mexico.

The books category is a simple listing of a few books that John Barreiro (the Larpman, one would assume) recommends. These are links to his Amazon affiliate listings, of course, so he stands to make a few cents whenever you order one of these books through him. The books are pretty surprises there at all.

The maps category is more indepth, and therefore more valuable. Not only are there links to INEGI, Mexico's geographical institute that produces excellent quality maps, and Mapquest, Expedia, multi-map and the obvious Maps of Mexico, but there is a link to the Google Maps website with 97 separate places within Mexico already mapped for you. Señor Barreiro has also developed his own way to view Google satellite maps, called LarpMax, which I did not want to tax my broadband to test, but which sounds promising.

The third category is Photos. links to various websites that have photo galleries of Mexican locations. He promises that this section will grow, as now it only covers five areas: Mexico City, Puerto Escondido, Guanajuato and Palenque. Our other website, Yucatan Living, has a very nice photo gallery of the Yucatan, which I would love to suggest to Mr. Barreiro.

Which brings me to one of the flaws of this website. There is absolutely no way to communicate with the creator of the site. Mr. Barreiro has crafted a valuable site from which he makes money through Google Ads, Amazon referrals and possibly other affiliates. I don't have a problem with this. But in this 21st Century, when communication is so easy, why not have a way to provide feedback or suggestions? I'm sure he has his reasons... perhaps he'll notice this posting and let us know!

Last, but most definitely not least, is the section on Transportation. I find this to be the most valuable information on the website. Larpman has done his homework, and while I cannot attest to the accuracy of all the information without duplicating his research, it looks good and has got to be some of the most detailed on the web on this subject (in English, anyway).

The Transportation Section is divided into 5 sections: Air, Bus, Train, Auto and Bicycle.

The Air section provides all the airlines that fly to and within Mexico, and listings of which cities are covered by each airline, as well as links to aviation photo websites. Each mention is followed by a link to the airline's website and a link to the Wikipedia page about that airline, if there is one.

The Bus Section includes information about how to purchase bus tickets, a rundown on the difference between the different bus classes, links to bus company websites, schedules and a special section on busses at the Mexico City airport, complete with schedules. This alone is worth bookmarking this website. But there's more! A section on bus travel from the USA to Mexico, complete with the hours and distances for common routes and links to the American bus companies that travel to Mexico. The last section under Bus Travel explains how to travel into Mexico by bus from the South (from Belize & Guatemala), again with links to the bus companies.

But wait! Maybe you've heard about the trains in Mexico and want to travel that way. Señor Barreiro has researched that as well, and shares his knowledge. There are links to the different rail services (the "remaining" rail service, as he puts it) with explanations of routes, times and distances. This is the weakest section of the website, however. The photos appear to be missing (weren't uploaded to his server...) and one of the paragraphs in the introduction is about the bus system, not about trains. Again, if there was a way to give feedback, this might have been fixed before this review.

The Auto Section, entitled "Driving to and within Mexico" is Under Construction, as is the Bicycle Section, but we can probably look forward to similarly detailed and well-researched information. Though I would caution anyone that the rules about cars seem to change all the time here in Mexico, as laws are changed and updated. I can speak from experience when I say that you need to be prepared with a modicum of patience when bringing your car into or out of Mexico. There are times when you might need it.

Overall, this is a well-researched and well-designed website. It has valuable information and it is easy to find that information. The navigation bar at the top is simple and always tells you where you are in the website and there is a site map in case you get lost. Kudos to John Barreiro for his excellent research and presentation... now if only we could tell him personally!

Sunday, October 29, 2006


Si-Mexico is basically a web-based travel agency. If you don't know much more about Mexico than that you want to go there, this website is a good place to start. You can pick any of the popular cities that you might want to visit and find a healthy list of hotels where you can stay. You can compare airfare rates from a number of different services and airlines, book your hotel and even book excursions... all in Mexico and all from this website.

In addition, it has some useful reference information. My two favorites are a page on all the airport codes for the different cities in Mexico and the listing of events and festivities throughout the country during the different months of the year. These are both helpful tidbits of information when you are planning a Mexican trip.

While the ability to search for airfare from competing services all in one place is impressive, the hotel search and booking facility is less impressive. While it is a good place to get a listing of the largest hotels in a given Mexican city, I found that the hotels listed in my hometown are the "safe" hotels, and probably the ones that subscribe to a central booking service. Some of my favorite hotels are too small to subscribe, and so they aren't included in this website. Also, there was one hotel on the list for my city that I am very familiar with. The fares represented on the website are NOT cheaper than the fares published on the hotel's own website. In fact, they are a lot more expensive.

Now in Si-Mexico's defense, they do give a guarantee that they will refund the difference if you find a lower price. At least there is that, but you'll have to catch the discrepancy of course, and apply for the refund. Why not just get the price right?

The website also seems to promise the ability to book excursions out of the major destinations, such as Swimming With the Dolphins in Cancun or Sunset Sailing in Puerto Vallarta. But when the link was clicked on, neither Firefox nor Safari (yes, I'm using a Mac laptop) was able to serve up the desired page of information and booking form. All I got was a blank page with the Si-Mexico logo.

So, while the site has some flaws, I still find it a useful resource. I imagine it is especially useful to the new, first or second-time traveler to the famous vacation destinations of Mexico. I can see how it would provide a one-stop internet shop to the less experienced traveler.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


MexiData is a website maintained and written by a group of businessmen and politicians with insight into the workings of the government and business of Mexico. The columnists are Enrique Andrade Gonzalez, an attorney and business consultant and former Director of Audiences and Hearings for Vicente Fox until two years ago, Kenneth Emmond, a Canadian journalist and consultant who lives in Mexico, Carlos Luken, a consultant and real estate develpor and Barnard Thompson, a long-time consultant in risk analysis who is also the editor and who lives in San Diego. Mr. Thompson runs MIRA, Mexico Information and Research Associates which helps US companies do business in Latin America.

Without spending all day reading the website, I cannot say where these guys fall in the political spectrum between liberal and conservative. One of the categories of information on this website are columns written about their opinions on current affairs affecting or originating in Mexico. The columns are well thought out, informative but not very in-depth.

The second category of data on this website is Media Watch. These are columns written in Spanish for Mexican and other spanish-language newspapers, translated into English. For those of us with not enough fluency in Spanish or time to puzzle out a whole article, this section is a great resource.

But the best resource of all on this website is the Reports section. Here the group has uploaded various .pdf files with reports from all over. There is a lot of good information here. One of the first to catch my eye was the InterAmerican Development Banks' report on Migrant Remittances from the USA to Latin America. Did you know that the cost of transferring remittances has fallen 50% over the last six years? And that remittances from migrants constitutes one of the broadest and most effective poverty allevation programs in the world? I knew it was doing a lot of people a lot of good. Did you know that immigrants constitute 23% of working people in the production sector and 20% of service workers in the US?
Did you know that the majority of immigrants in the US did not have jobs in their home country before they came to the US? And that if they did have work before, within a month they were making an average of six times their former salary? And that almost 40% of immigrants found a job within two weeks of crossing the border?

In this section you can also read reports from Amnesty International about violence against women in Mexico. You can read the Global Competitiveness Report from the Executive Summary of the World Economic Forum, for instance. There is even a Maquiladora Employment report just recently released by the Federal Reserve Bank in Dallas.

In other words, there is a wealth of information for anyone doing research or someone just plain curious, like me. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Adventures of a Third World Shopkeeper

Every once in awhile, I find a new and interesting website by looking at the list of websites that are linking to Mexico-in-English. Adventures of a Third World Shopkeeper is one such website. As I was perusing the website for the first time last night, I wondered "How is it I have not found this until now?"

"Eddie" (and I'm not sure it's his real name, but no importa... ) has been blogging about his version of the Mexican expatriate experience since 2002. He is one of the few British voices that I've come across, and thus his political views on the country he left behind and the one he lives in are different. In one of his early posts about why he wanted to leave and what he was looking forward to in Mexico, I was surprised to see a list of reasons totally different from the one I'm used to hearing from mostly ex-USA expats. But politics is not the reason I will continue to check into this blog.

Eddie is married to a bilingual Mexican and has a 2-year old daughter, born in Mexico. He and his wife own a glass shop, a "cristaleria", the kind of specialty shop you would never find in the USA. He lives near his wife's family. And he lives in a city that no one would mistake as a tourist center. He is thus living as close to a "typical" authentic Mexican life as an expat can get, I would think. And lucky for us, he writes about it.

He doesn't paint a totally rosy picture. In fact, he doesn't paint pictures at all: there are no photos on "Adventures of a Third World Shopkeeper". And after five years, he is still amazed by the things he sees every day in this new culture. One of his favorite phrases is "I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried." Come to think of it, that's a phrase I've been hearing more and more from the people around me about everyday life here.

Eddie writes in a conversational style that is easy to read. He writes in detail about conversations he has in his store, things he hears from his father-in-law or what he reads in the paper. If you want to get a feel for the nitty gritty of 'normal' Mexican life (okay, 'normal' Mexican life doesn't exist...), you'll enjoy Eddie's blog.

My favorite thing about this website? Underneath the title, Eddie writes: "After all, life as a third-world shopkeeper has to be better than as a first-world wage slave." I agree wholeheartedly. Read the blog and see for yourself.

Complete Blogroll

To prevent the list on the side of this blog from growing unwieldy, I am providing a
list of all previously reviewed blogs here:

  • Black Mexico

  • San Felipe

  • Mexico Uncovered

  • First Mate

  • BoGo Light

  • The MEX Files

  • Countdown to Mexico

  • Doing Business in Mexico

  • Prensa Latina

  • Mexico With Heart

  • Historic Haciendas

  • Mexico Desconocido

  • Bookmark the Larpman
    Third World Shopkeeper
    Beyond the Border
    The Road to Merida
    Billie's Blog
    Blog Day Around the World
    Good Airs or Buenos Aires
    Latino Pundit
    Cooking Diva from Panama
    Blogging El Salvador
    Beautiful Horizons
    Mexican Laws
    My Life in Chacala
    Ricardo's Blog
    Cabo San Lucas Beaches
    El Universal
    Viva Veracruz
    El Antiquario
    Yucatan Living
    Through the Looking Glass
    2035 miles
    Jon's Mexico Page
    The Cancun Blog
    Hopalog Travelogue
    Quality Peoples
    Living in Mexico
    Guajiro Dreams
    Sparks Mexico
    Surf Mexico
    Mexico Insights

    Tuesday, September 26, 2006

    Across the Border

    Here we have a blog written by professionals. This is a blog sponsored by the Express News and Channel 5 in San Antonio, Texas. The blog is written by a collection of journalists deep into Mexico (Monterrey, Mexico City, etc.) and along the border. It's reporters writing about Mexico for an interested U.S. audience.

    Knowing that the blog was written by journalists, I had high hopes as I started reading the posts. I wouldn't say my hopes were dashed, exactly. Let's just say they were readjusted.

    I was expecting some good in-depth writing on subjects that matter to people on both sides of the border. Alas, this does not seem to be the content of this particular blog. Instead, the posts seem to be short stories that are either original reporting or translations (and summations) of articles written elsewhere in Spanish. This is not a bad thing... in fact, it's rather a good thing.

    One of the writers, Dane Schiller, appears to live in and report on what's happening in Mexico City. Because this is a blog, the stories are less formal than you might read elsewhere. And they are opinion, hearsay, gestalt and zeitgeist type of stories. Things that work on a blog but not in a newspaper. So there is a story about how people are being required or paid to camp out in support of Lopez Obrador. Or what it was like watching the movie about the World Trade disaster inside an auditorium in Mexico City's World Trade Center. Today's story details how the clash in Oaxaca is heating up and talks about some of the political implications of how the government might respond.

    What I realized reading this blog is that probably these reporters are paid to write this blog. It has the feeling of work to me. Well, and of course it comes under the umbrella of the company they work for, so they can't be as free to express themselves as if this was a personal blog. Still, some of the information and some of the little slice-of-life articles are interesting. The reporting is timely, if not in depth, and does give me a small but clear window into the important events that people are talking about in Mexico.

    So I plan to read it for that: short, timely stories about main events. For more indepth, personal and thoughtful articles about what is going on in Mexico, I will probably look elsewhere.

    Monday, September 18, 2006

    A Family Goes to Merida

    Sometimes these websites that I review get really close to home. In fact, this one emerges from a house about a block and a half from my home! This family of five comes from Scottsdale, AZ and has decided to try living in Merida for two months. They are jumping into this new culture with a lot of enthusiasm and a digital camera. Their website has a blog which has been chronicling their experiences since before they left.

    What I love about this blog is that it really is a blow-by-blow account of the strangeness of moving straight from the States to the Yucatan. The woman who writes it is going through so many of the same things that we went through five years ago when we first moved here. And of course, Merida is my home now and doesn't seem as strange anymore. So the bathroom with a shower in the cocina economica, the aisle of yogurt at WalMart or the water system that seems to have a mind of its own are just de rigeur now. But reading this blog reminds me of what life was like for us when we first moved.

    Another interesting thread in this blog is something that you don't see talked about much in the english-speaking blogosphere about Mexico: racism. The writer is white, writer's husband is black and she has three sons of mixed race. They have experienced some racist remarks on the streets here, which doesn't surprise me. I don't think people here are racist... I think they are ignorant. There is not a very large black population in Merida so most people here, I'm guessing, have little or no preconceived ideas about black people. There is a large gay population, but little or no prejudice against gays. In other words, the Yucatecan people aren't intrinsically prejudiced against people who are somehow different. In fact, it seems to us to be one of the most tolerant places we have ever been in the world.

    But what the Yucatan and Mexico do have is a class system that is hundreds of years old where the whiter you are, the richer and more important you are. "Indios" are indigenous Indians (Mayans, Nahuatls, etc.) and they have darker skin. If there is prejudice here, it's against the indigenous people, whose skin is darker to begin with and darkened by their labor in the sun. Add on top of that the growing influence of television and movies as the US culture infiltrates its way into the heads of young Mexicans... and well, you have an interesting concoction. I, for one, will be watching this blog to see if there are any other insights into this situation as this family gets more acclimated to Merida and the surroundings.

    And then of course, there is the big "reality show" question here: will the Smith Family like Merida enough to move here? Or will they, after two months of living like locals, decide to move home to the United States? I, for one, will be tuning in to find out. Or maybe I'll just ask them over dinner later this week...

    Saturday, September 09, 2006

    Billie's Blog

    I've known about this blog for a long time. I've even corresponded a number of times with the author. Strangely, I kept finding other blogs and websites for Mexico-in-English and not listing this one. In fact, I almost forgot I hadn't listed it! This was really quite unfair of me, frankly, because for those of you who don't already know about Billie's Blog, I was robbing you of a consistent source of enjoyable reading. Those days are over.

    Lucky for all of us, blogs are online journals and the postings are cumulative. So now that you know where Billie's Blog is, you can go there and catch up on all the reading you've missed out on up to this point.

    Billie blogs about everything: her photography (which is a very serious pasttime for her...MUCH more than a hobby!), Spanish lessons, eating out, the San Miguel rapist, her grandchildren and anything else that she feels like, dammit! This is a very personal blog written by a woman who has recently sold her home in Houston and gone to live with her husband in San Miguel Allende. She writes well and she takes lovely photos. Her powers of observation that make her a good photographer make her an interesting blogger.

    So even though Billie's blog is about Mexico (mostly), you will also find hidden gems like a personal list of restaurant reviews in Houston or a rundown (and links) of her photography friends. You'll find her reminiscences about her children or her ancestors scattered in amongst musings about digital photography and taking photos in Mexico.

    This blog is sure to be an enjoyable read for fellow photographers. But I'm sure it will also have a lot to give to those of you living in or moving to or dreaming of Mexico. Don't waste another minute... go catch up on Billie's Blog.

    Wednesday, August 30, 2006

    International Blog Day

    Just heard about this yesterday, but of course, it's right up the alley of Mexico-in-English!

    So today I'm going to point you towards five English-language blogs from other countries where Spanish is the spoken language. There is so much going on in the Latin world, sometimes it seems a shame to just focus on Mexico (it's a passing regret... it doesn't last long). But today's the day to expand and explore beyond the boundaries of our beloved (and adopted, in my case) patria!

    First, from Buenos Aires, a blog called Goodairs. This is an exceedingly hip blog from a city of similar hipness. Written by two freelance writers, the blog is well-written and full of links and references. You can easily waste (did I say that?)... I mean, *spend* an hour or two flitting through their posts and following the links where they lead. Fascinating, scintillating, award-winning... definitely worth a look.

    Second, Latino Pundit. Here's a blog written by someone watching and reporting on how the media reports on Latino issues. Rather than being about a country that speaks Spanish, I think of this blog as being about the "country-within-a-country" of all the Spanish-speaking and Spanish-identified Latinos within the US. It's a good blog to check in with now and then.

    Here's a tasty blog from Panama: Cooking Diva. This woman, Melissa de Leon, is originally from Panama. She is full of goodness! Her blog is chock full of recipes, reports of events in Panama and even videos! Just writing her blog seems to me like it would be a full-time job, but on top of that she offers a Pre-prepared Dinners of the Week program in Panama, a Corporate Culinary team building program, gives cooking classes and does food product development. I'm impressed. Again, her blog presents a maze of information that any foodie will enjoying getting lost in.

    Tim's El Salvador Blog was originally started to inform fellow churches about the mission in El Salvador that they are sponsoring. But it's really not about that. It's about El Salvador, the politics and goings on there. He's been blogging since 2004, so it's a nice deep blog if you are interested in this beautiful little country.

    And last, but most certainly not least, Beautiful Horizons. This blog is written by a New Yorker in love with his Brazilian wife. As such, he has traveled to many parts of Latin America and he carefully watches the media for Latin American issues. This blog is his personal take on all of it, and so, while it may not be professionally journalistic, who cares? Its personal, passionate, interesting and informative. It includes photos from different places that he has visited (the photo at the beginning of this post is from this blog and was taken in Rio de Janeiro). Another great blog to spend an evening with, and to check in with again and again in the future.

    I hope you enjoy these blogs as much as I've enjoyed discovering them!

    Thursday, August 24, 2006

    Building and Living on Cozumel

    Here is a very personal blog written by an English woman who has recently bought a house in Cozumel. I can't quite figure out if she has moved to Cozumel permanently... No, I don't think so. But she seems to be staying through the summer to supervise some renovations on her home... and well, we'll follow her progress and see what happens, shall we?

    I like this blog for a few reasons. One, I'm interested in what it is like to live in different parts of Mexico. And Cozumel is a unique location. It's an island, for one thing. It just went through a devastating hurricane season last year, so I'm interested to see how things are going. Secondly, the writers style is very easy to read, fun and includes little asides and wanderings that make it more than just another building-in-Mexico blog. Thirdly, so far, it has been about the experience of building in Mexico. And though there seems to be more and more of that on the web these days, that is because there are more and more people doing it. And it is of interest to many of us to learn how things are done.

    For instance, I learned from this blog that there is a national "abalnile" day... May 3, i think it is. How cool! I'm glad I know that. Hopefully, we won't still be building our house by that day next year, but if we are, I'll know to expect the workers to take a little holiday. Or at least to expect lunch from us :-)

    The author seems to be having a good experience with her building project, enjoying the process of learning how things are done and getting to know the workers. As we too have found, the people working on a project are often so cheerful and enjoyable to work with that it makes the whole experience that much nicer.

    And one more thing... the photos of Cozumel at the top of the page (the author is using the same layout that Yucatan Living and Hopalog are using) are really very nice! I look forward to reading more...

    (Editors Note: This blog seems to have disappeared shortly after I reviewed it. I've looked for it again, but no luck. If anyone knows it's whereabouts, please tell me!)

    Friday, August 04, 2006

    Mexican Laws... in English!

    I remember a few months ago, talking to an accountant in Texas who told me that his office keeps up on Mexican tax law. "How do you do that?", I asked. "Do you read Spanish that well?" "No...", he answered, "They are all available in English.

    I was floored. Really! I guess if you think about it, the tax laws in the US are probably available in Spanish...or are they? I'd love to know. In the meantime, there are a lot more than tax laws available in English, and this website that I found recently can get you a lot closer to whatever you need to know regarding the law in Mexico.

    The website is run by a company based in Tijuana and San Diego. Even if you don't become a member and sign up for their services (translations, document preparation, newsletter), a perusal of the website is bound to teach you something you didn't know.

    For instance, the latest newsletter is all about Mexican immigration law. Apparently, the author has been getting lots of inquiries about Mexican immigration law, mostly from people trying to prove how Mexican law is worse than US law on the subject of immigration. The newsletter goes on to explain, in plain English, how Mexican immigration law works and what it is based on. Fascinating.

    On the first page, the interested reader can also find a list of the various categories of Mexican law, designated by the governmental authority that oversees those laws. If you are an expatriate resident of Mexico and ever wondered what PROFECO does, or SEGOB or SRE, then you'll find some answers here. (Go ahead, go look it up!)

    I don't know if this is a comprehensive list or not, but it's certainly a helpful beginning. And if it's not enough, go to the bottom of the page and click on Comments to send in your question or comment. A cute feature of the site: Right above the comment section in small print is this line: (Please don't ask: the drinking age is 18 in all of Mexico).

    I wonder how many requests the author got before he decided to put that up there.

    Thursday, August 03, 2006

    MATT revisited

    I don't know if any of you put yourselves on the MATT mailing list, but I did. And I regularly get emails from them with new stories. This week, the story that caught my eye was "American Perspective: Breaking out of the Expat Shell". It's a short story about a "trailing expat", a woman who's husband was transferred to work in Mexico City. After spending three months inside, afraid to go out because "people" said she needed a bodyguard and that it was dangerous, she finally decided she had to get out more. And now, predictably, she loves Mexico and Mexico City. And she said two things at the end of the article that really resonated with me:

    1 - Mexican culture is so much less about consumerism than the US and so much more about spending time with family and friends.

    2 - She still feels like an immigrant in Mexico... but now she feels like one when she goes back to the US too!

    Next month, they are planning to focus on "The other immigration: Americans living in Mexico. How the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have migrated to Mexico talk about their experience adapting, living and growing in a new culture."

    I tried participating in a discussion on this website after I first found it. I forget the subject matter... it was something about immigration. I entered an honest opinion about my observations of the economy here in Mexico and got such incredibly vitriolic responses. I answered them for awhile, keeping my cool and trying to have an honest and open discussion... but I gave up. The Americans who were responding to me were nasty and rude. So for now, is a place to watch for me, but not a place to participate.

    One more thing about that I like. They have a People Finder service. Its easy and free to post a listing about someone you are looking for in Mexico or the US. Check it out here.

    Saturday, July 08, 2006

    Changes in Chacala

    Title: Chacala Escape, Chacala Budget Rentals, My Life in Chacala... and much much more!
    Type of website: Blogs and websites
    Excellent source of...: whatever you need to know to get to, rent a place and spend some time in Chacala, Nayarit, Mexico. Or just an interesting peek into the life of a gringo living in a small Mexican town.

    Where in the world is Chacala? Until I found these websites, I'd never heard of it. And probably, neither have a lot of other people. But as in all charming little places in Mexico, that may not be true for long. Chacala is two hours north of Puerto Vallarta in the state of Nayarit, and a new road has recently been built between the two places that makes it easier to reach Chacala. Still out of the way for most folks, it sounds like the kind of place that people who like to get away from it all will like to get away TO. After reading about it in these websites, I'm putting it on my list of Places To See in Mexico (it's a VERY long list...).

    The person who writes the blog My Life in Chacala lives in Chacala year round. He or she also maintains the other two websites, as far as I can tell, one for general tourism to Chacala and one to give exposure to the budget rental properties available in Chacala (that is also a VERY long list....). reading the blog I have found that there are two MORE related blogs:

    Gardening in Mexico
    - This blog is really all about gardening in Chacala
    Friends of Chacala - An open blog for people who like Chacala to post information and photos and stories about it.

    This has got to be the most blogged about Mexican village in the country :-)

    The central blog from which all these other blogs and websites spring is the My Life in Chacala blog. This blog was started in July 2005 and every post is on the same page (it's a VERY long page...). It's like a gossipy newspaper all about the people and happenings in this little town. There are many entries about various houses being built, who cooked dinner for what occasion, what's happening with the local ejido land, who graduated from kindergarten today, etc. Very chatty, very first person. The writer is really into the flojera of Mexico. (If you don't know what flojera means, I'm not sure I can describe it. It has something to do with 'going with the flow. She or he seems very resigned to not speaking much Spanish and not really knowing what's going on around him (though she sure seems to know a lot to me). A lot of her/his writings are rather mundane, with a lot of reporting on the local construction projects. But as you continue to read, the mundane-ness of the goings-on in Chacala starts to transform... probably in the way it has started to transform the writer. And then every once in awhile, there are little gems like this, the writer's response to people wanting to come down and volunteer in Chacala:

    "It's hard to get back into my mindset then, but I think I thought that because I was from a wealthy nation, and had the "advantages" of education, etc, that I was in the position to offer my expertise or experience, or knowledge to people in Chacala. And I don't think it occured to me that what I had to offer could possibly be damaging or disrespectful of the culture or families here.

    Now I wonder if maybe people who come here with the idea of "helping" people who live here are often unaware that there is a strong culture and set of values here about which they, as gringos, have little knowledge of. That it would be hard to "help" here until you have learned about what is already happening here.

    And that maybe the first step to "helping" here is to learn about the history, culture, language, values, and mores here. Like what is polite behavior in this society. Maybe try to make some friends, and observe what it going on. Or at least learn how to be polite here."

    Honestly, if I was thinking of moving to or investing in Chacala, this blog would be a great source of information. A steady reader of this blog could keep on top of the development of the town. But this blog is also the chronicle of the transformation of a person who moves from Gringolandia, perhaps a little wounded or a little disillusioned from his former life, and over time is healed and changed by the power of Life in Mexico, one family, one coconut palm or one kind word at a time. And that is becoming a longer and longer list of people...

    Wednesday, July 05, 2006

    A Mexican In Brazil

    Title: Ricardo's Blog
    Type of Website: Blog
    Great source of...: whatever Ricardo is interested in this week. Ricardo is a Mexican, working for a multinational corporation in Brazil in their IT department.

    Here's another great blog. Being a resident in Mexico, I like to read (in English) about what's going on from a Mexican's point of view. In this case, Ricardo is an expat like me... only he's a Mexican living in another country and not in the US, which is so, well... predictable! (This photo, by the way, is from his blog and is a picture of his son)

    I got to this blog originally because Ricardo is keeping on top of the Mexican Presidential race, which as most of you probably know is starting to look a lot like the first time they made Bush the President of the US. Too close to call, recounts, you know the story. Anyway, Ricardo is watching and reporting, from a Mexican's point of view. Ricardo is watching a lot of things and commenting on them (photography, soccer, websites in Spanish, the US immigration debate, biofuels...) and his comments are interesting, intelligent and enlightening.

    Ricardo has only been blogging since February... I hope he continues. I'll be watching!

    But Ricardo's blog is more than political.

    Monday, July 03, 2006

    Cabo San Lucas

    Title: Cabo San Lucas Beaches
    Type of Website: Travel Guide to Cabo San Lucas
    Great source of...: Insider's tips on traveling to Cabo

    Mexico is a huge country isn't it? We live in the Yucatan and sometimes I forget that Cabo San Lucas and Baja California are part of the same country. They seem so far away in both distance and culture.

    But they are indeed still part of Mexico. And this website is a great guide if you're thinking of going for the first time and are a little worried about being in Mexico.

    Of course, those of us who live here or have been going to Mexico for a long time know that you have nothing to worry about. But with the press that Mexico gets, ranging from Montezuma's revenge to Mexico City kidnappings, it's no wonder that people have some trepidation if they have never been to Mexico before.

    This website seems geared towards people going to Mexico for the first time. Cabo is probably a good place to go on your first trip to Mexico, as it has a lot of the amenities that Americans and Europeans are used to, while still retaining some Mexican charm and its natural seaside beauty.

    The website is obviously written by someone who loves the area. It is set up with a "story" on each page, ranging from how to select the best resort for your needs to the background on Cabo Wabo, the famous Cabo bar. There are also pages on How to get to Cabo, Where to Stay, Where to Golf and what weather to expect. And a small photo gallery.

    My only complaint about the Cabo website is that it's pretty shallow. I'm sure there is a lot more to say about the place. I'd like to see some more in-depth maps (the one map is pretty simplistic), more photos, more detailed recommendations about where to eat and what to do. The website does a good job of presenting Google ads to the reader, but doesn't balance them out well enough with original content. The writers have been visiting Cabo for 20 years... I would love to read more about how Cabo used to be, stories of their trips there, the people who live in Cabo or go there regularly.

    The content that is there is helpful... there just isn't nearly enough of it!

    Friday, June 30, 2006

    The Universe That Is Mexico

    Title: El Universal
    Type of Website: online newspaper
    Great source of...: News about Mexico... in English!

    Real Mexico-philes know all about this website, of course. But I would be remiss if I didn't mention it. I envision that this little blog will someday be a great resource for people moving to Mexico or just interested in Mexico. And so leaving out El Universal would be akin to forgetting to mention the Virgen of Guadalupe or something (OK, maybe not that bad... )

    According to their website, this newspaper, which is better known as in its paper, you-can-spill-coffee-on-it version, has been headed up by the same man, Juan Francisco Ealy Ortiz since 1969. The little blurb about that (in Spanish) talks about "la constante lucha por la dignificacion en la relacion entre prensa y gobierno"... the constant fight for dignity in the relationship between the press and government. Hear hear!

    But the English part of this newspaper is actually the Mexico edition of the Miami Herald and is called "Mexico News" in the site map. The main newspaper is a Mexican newspaper in Spanish (El Gran Diario de Mexico, no less!). So its really a great website for those of us trying to learn Spanish. We can start off reading the Spanish stories as best we can, and then turn to the ones in English after our brains are weary from the tiresome task of translation.

    So, what can you learn on El Universal? Tonite I learned that four players from the Mexican World Cup soccer team were in the running for the "team of the stars" to be announced next Friday, that Cancun is now targeting upscale travelers and that the Mexican Federal Electoral Institute is warning ahead of time that there will be no technical or legal reason to challenge the validity of the results of the presidential election. A cursory glance at the headlines shows that the elections are very much on everyone's minds. I also learned that the institute, called the IFE, expects to call the results at 11 pm on Sunday night.

    As Sunday comes around, you can believe I'll be checking in to because I won't want to be waiting for my brain to be doing those slow translations.

    Tuesday, June 27, 2006


    Title: Viva Veracruz
    Type of website: Blog
    Excellent source of...: Insight into the life and thoughts of someone preparing to move from Colorado to Veracruz Mexico.

    There are many well-kept secrets about Mexico. The beauty and incredibly rich liveability of Veracruz has got to be one of them. John Calypso (can that be his real name? How romantic... ) certainly agrees with that observation.

    Last summer, we spent three weeks on a roadtrip that took us to the city of Veracruz and then up into the mountains to Xalapa. We found it to be one of the most pleasant cities on our whole trip. Cool and sunny climate, lovely downtown and one of the most beautiful museums we've ever seen. From there, we traveled up higher into the mountains, ate lunch at a roadside cafe and had a lovely day we've been talking about ever since. We can see why John likes it so much.

    But the man with the lyrical name doesn't just talk about Veracruz. He talks about politics (even Mexican politics! Que horror!) and his family and philosophy and really, whatever he feels like talking about. He and his wife apparently spend half the year in Colorado and half the year in Mexico. And they are working on closing down their life in Colorado in order to move completely to Mexico. He has written a lot lately about what it feels like to do that. What he's going through, what he's thinking. He writes about being a parent to a young man who has just moved to Los Angeles. In short, he's a typical aging baby boomer... but he's ahead of the curve, because he has already begun *his* move to Mexico. Some of us believe he (and we) are just the crest of the wave.

    John Calypso appears to be a thoughtful man with time to express and share his thoughts. For anyone considering moving to Mexico, there is a lot of good information scattered among those thoughts and the thoughts are pretty interesting too.

    Wednesday, June 21, 2006

    El Antiquario

    Title: El Antiquario
    Type of website: Website
    Excellent source of...: information about Mexican history disguised as promotion for a magazine dedicated to the Art, Folk Art and Antiques of Mexico.

    Oooh, this website is delicious! It's not well designed and it isn't even well maintained. But it has some tantalizing information for anyone interested in Mexico's fascinating past.

    There seem to be these sections: Folk Art, Antiques, Art and Travel. There is a way to Subscribe to the magazine. There is a Bulletin Board with classified ads about art for sale and art being sought. And of course, the usual Contact and Links pages. There is also a listing of the articles in each volume of the magazine. I see no indication about how often the magazine comes out.

    The tantalizing part, of course, are the sample articles that are reprinted on the website. One of my favorites (so far...) is the one about "Mr. Acapulco", a musician who traveled Europe in the 30's recording Big Band music and then settled in Acapulco in 1943, helping put that resort community on the global map. "Mr. Acapulco" established the first nightclub in Mexico City "that you could take your wife to" and the first swimming pool in Acapulco. He organized the famous Acapulco cliff divers to do shows at night, he dated movie stars and entertained presidents. He even married Hedy Lamarr (briefly)! It's a fascinating interview, and just one of many magazine excerpts on the website.

    As I mentioned, the website isn't particularly well designed. And the listings for art and folk art are very heavily weighted towards the Jalisco area, since that is where the magazine is published. Ni modo, as we say here. It doesn't matter. It's still a website with a lot of great information for those of us who love Mexico.

    Tuesday, June 13, 2006

    Living AND working in the Yucatan

    Title: Yucatan Living
    Type of website: Blog
    Excellent source of...: Insight into the lifestyle and experiences of two "gringos" living and working for a living in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico.

    OK, so the other day it occurred to me that I've never actually reviewed my own website! Silly me.

    My husband (Working Gringo) and I (Working Gringa) have been working as website designers/photographers in Merida, Yucatan for the last four years. We do a lot of local tourism-industry websites (B&B's, hotels, etc.). Unlike a lot of people, we are neither students, nor independently wealthy nor retired. So we have to work for a living.

    On Yucatan Living, we write about our daily experiences, share what we've learned and try to have some fun with it in the process. We've lived in the Yucatan for over four years now, and living here has changed our lives completely. You can read about that in the websites Interview section, where there are other interviews with local expats. There is a Music section (linked at the top of the pages) where you can hear local Yucatecan Trova Music. And there's a Photo Gallery too, with some of our best photos from our lives around here. There are other sections, like too, like Art, News, Destinations or my favorite, Survivor, which is about what it takes to make it here.

    Yucatan doesn't see itself as part of Mexico. It has always been a place apart. Some have said that Merida is like Mexico was forty years ago. And we could argue that Playa del Carmen is the future of Mexico, arguably the fastest growing city in the Americas. If Mexico is a land of contrast, nowhere does that seem more true than here, where the Mayan campesino can be found eating at the same taco stand as the Cancun millionaire. Our internet magazine, as we like to call it, Yucatan Living, celebrates the Yucatan. We hope it gives you a taste of the Yucatan and that you enjoy it as much as we enjoy writing it.

    Saturday, June 10, 2006

    Alisa in Mexico-land

    Title: Through the Looking Glass
    Type of website: Blog
    Excellent source of...: Insight into life of an US expatriate married to a Mexican national and living in the suburbs of Mexico City.

    This is what blogs were invented for. Alisa Cooper is recently married to a Mexican man and lives with him outside of Mexico City. She seems to have plenty of time to enjoy her life there and lets us share in the pleasure by writing copiously about it. Not only is she incredibly observant but she has the fortunate position of being married to a Mexican who appears to have an established career, family and circle of friends. Her powers of observation and her penchant for writing provide her readers with birds eye view of her rich and varied experiences in her new life with her husband.

    One minute, Alisa will be talking about the World Cup and comparing it to the upcoming Mexican presidential elections. The next minute she will be extolling the virtues of paint and colors. And even though we live in different parts of Mexico (when she's enjoying freshly picked apples, we're feasting on freshly picked mangoes), so many things are similar. One of her entries about the difficulty in paying the monthly phone, water and electric bills on time because the postman can't seem to distinguish between their #73 house and the #73 house three doors down on the same street made me chuckle. Que tipico!

    Though Alisa has only been blogging since January 2006, she is incredibly prolific and I haven't even begun to make a dent. I've read enough to know that there is treasure there, though, so I encourage you to dig in and enjoy!

    Wednesday, June 07, 2006

    2035 Miles from Where?

    Title: 2035 Miles
    Type of website: Blog
    Excellent source of...: Insight into life of an US expatriate (and his wife) in Guadalajara.

    Noah, the writer of this blog, writes about his life, which happens to be going on in Guadalajara, Mexico at the moment. So while the blog also includes commentary on Steve Jobs' speech at MacWorld or Noah's review of the latest XBox game, Noah writes extensively about the day to day experience of living in Guadalajara. Recently he has been writing about the Presidential race, which is of course heating up before the election on July 2. But also there are just nice chatty posts about what is going on in his life, like trying to get an FM3 or seeing a fatal car accident on a street corner.

    One of the coolest things about this blog is a linked website that he and his wife created about their house. It looks like a little website for a lovely bed and breakfast, but its just all about their house for the people who might like to come visit them, including a schedule of who is coming when so that friends can stagger their visits. I don't know... something about it is just really lovely. Its so well done... a little web labor of love.

    Noah's a good photographer too, so don't miss the link to his photos. In addition to some lovely photos of the area around Guadalajara, there are photos from an extensive trip that he and his wife made through Latin America last year.

    Another curious gringo reporting on life as an expat in Mexico. As a fellow expat living here, I'm loving following all these different families and their experiences. But what I want to know here is: Where is Guadalajara 2035 miles from???

    Sunday, May 28, 2006

    Mexicans and Americans

    Type of website: Nonprofit organizational website
    Excellent source of...: News and information about the intersecting culture and issues between Mexico and the United States.

    If you are reading this blog, this website will probably be of at least passing interest. It seems that some people with an interest in both countries have decided to be proactive in looking for solutions that plague the relationship between them. It claims to be not supported by any political party or interest, but by "bicultural people with family in both countries".

    The website doesn't suggest any solutions, but it gives us, its readers, the chance to talk about their views and suggest their ideas. There are online polls and discussion forums.

    Every month, the website plans to present three different aspects of the relationship to be discussed and debated. This month, for instance, the three issues are:

    -Advertisers wooing the Hispanic market. Is it encouraging immigration from Mexico to the US?
    -Walls and their effectiveness throughout history
    -The Minutemen: should they have the right to watch the border?

    For each issue, there is an explanation of the different questions around the issue, with some facts and figures. There is a poll to get a feel for how the readers feel about the issue. And there is a discussion forum on each subject where registered readers can weigh in with more detailed views.

    A unique feature, that I hope will be used and contributed to, is a place to "Tell Your Story". To quote the website: "Real people with heart-wrenching tales of struggle and hope are the spirit of ongoing immigration between our two countries. Those inspiring experiences continue to touch many lives everyday but still remain largely unheard. Until now. Where does your inspiration come from? Share 'Your Story' and inspire others to do the same."

    I am really interested to read these. Awhile back, we read about a guy who was interviewed at the border about why he was risking his life and spending his money to get into the United States. He was a young man of working age from a town called Izamal, which is about 30 miles outside of Merida. He said he was a construction worker and that he couldn't find work here. This made us laugh (and think) as there is so much construction going on in and around Merida right now, the gringos are having a hard time finding people to work. On top of that, last year's hurricane season created such a wealth of construction opportunity on the Mayan Riviera that workers were streaming in from all over Mexico to work there. So why does this guy feel like he has to travel thousands of miles for an opportunity to work? We suspect that the whole story is not told. We suspect that people are still going to the United States based a lot on tradition and stories, and not on reality on the ground.

    I look forward to participating in the discussions on this website and hope that some of the readers of this blog will join in as well.

    I also want to acknowledge that this is a new website. It doesn't have a track record yet, and as we all know, many good ideas get neglected or never get off the ground. I have great hopes for vamos a ver!

    Sunday, May 21, 2006

    Portal San Miguel

    Title: Portal San Miguel
    Type of website: Online guide to San Miguel de Allende
    Excellent source of...: Events, maps, reference information, and advertising of businesses in San Miguel de Allende.

    This website shows you just how gringo-ized San Miguel de Allende has become, and what a large gringo population lives in this small Mexican town.

    If you are traveling to San Miguel, you would probably want to use this website as a reference tool. Not only is there a map showing you where San Miguel is in relationship to the rest of Mexico, but there are easy-to-read themed maps of the downtown area. Choose from Hotels, Restaurants, Shopping, Art, Tourism, Real Estate, Schools and Services or Health and Beauty. Of course, these maps are all designed as advertising mediums, with ads from local businesses pointed out on each map, but they are still useful for visitors or new residents.

    One of the most useful features on the site is a White Pages listing of phone numbers, the San Miguel on-line phone book, which appears to be mostly gringos (but not all). Of course, this is probably most useful to people living there, while the rest of the site is more geared towards tourists.

    There is an extensive and exhaustive activities calendar which includes everything from Bridge games to Nightlife. There is also a Lifestyle section, which is mostly listings of local businesses with a little bit of information on visas and moving to Mexico. Better information on that subject can be found on other websites. There are Obituaries, Classified Ads and even a listing of books written by gringos about San Miguel de Allende.

    The people who run this website are selling the advertising, as well as their services doing web design and hosting. I think it's important to keep in mind that the businesses featured on the website are their advertisers. That doesn't mean it isn't a useful site... just that it probably only represents a portion of what is available in San Miguel.

    (Editors Note: This website seems to have disappeared since I wrote this review. If you have any idea where it went, please let me know!)

    Thursday, May 18, 2006

    Jon's Mexico Page

    Title: Jon's Mexico Page
    Type of website: A personal webpage with stories and photos galore
    Excellent source of...: Well-written stories and quality photos about different areas of Mexico.

    Oooh, this is a great find for all you Mexico-philes out there! Jon Clark originally moved to Mexico to teach English, but after two years of that, decided to stay and try his hand at journalism. He wrote for an English-language newspaper, The Miami Herald, covering Mexico for over a year while living in Mexico City. Then he moved to Arizona and now he covers the border towns.

    He's a good writer. When he was writing for the Herald, he was ranging all over Mexico topically. There are stories about everything from Mexican Coca Cola and why it is so popular to Carlos Gotari Salinas and why he isn't so popular. There are stories about baseball in Mexico, Mel Gibson in Mexico and the Mormon Church in Mexico. As someone who lives here, I enjoyed reading some details and background about some of these issues. Jon's a paid reporter, so his stories, while not personal like a lot of blogs, are well researched and in depth.

    Now he's a little more focused on the border town issues... but there is a lot going on there, and its a subject I'm not that familiar with, living in the Yucatan. He is living in and writing about a place that deals with the immigration and integration issues of Mexico and the US on a daily basis, and I predict the stories may get even more interesting in the coming months.

    And though I've barely mentioned the photos, Jon is a good photographer and the photos are well worth the time it takes to look at them.

    Friday, May 12, 2006

    Blogging Cancun

    Title: The Cancun Blog
    Type of website: A personal blog
    Excellent source of...: Personal observations about businesses and goings on in Cancun. If you want to join their club, it's also a source of discounts at various Cancun merchants.

    I set out to find a really good website or blog that's all about Cancun. I can't say I've found it yet (but I'm welcoming your suggestions...). There is the wonderful blog about Hurricane Wilma recovery, But most of the websites that you can find on Cancun are all about booking your reservations for hotels and tours. They remind me of a classroom full of eager fifth graders (pick me! pick me!) and I find them annoying, to say the least.

    For one thing, when I go looking for information on Cancun, I'm usually NOT looking to book a hotel. I'm looking for real, honest-to-goddess information. And it seems to me that information about what's really on the ground in Cancun is surprisingly hard to find.

    Of course, Cancun isn't a normal place. There's the Zona Hotelera, the coastal zone where all the big hotels are lined up along the sand. 8 MILLION people (and growing!) come to Cancun and the rest of the Mayan Riviera every year. The majority of them seem hellbent on partying, drinking and generally carrying on. Even on this website, a lot of the people asking questions want to know the best hotel to stay in, where the girls are, that sort of thing.

    Then there's downtown Cancun, which seems to service all the people that actually live in Cancun, and there are a growing number of those. Downtown Cancun is adjacent to the low-rent residential areas of Cancun which stretch for miles and really easy to get lost in. Some of those residential districts don't have running water or paved streets, so needless to say, there is quite a huge disparity in the way people live in Cancun.

    But I wonder... what kind of life is in Cancun? What is it like to live there? Are there cultural events? Fiestas? Operas? Concerts? I live three hours west of Cancun by car. Occasionally I hear about a corrida there with a famous Spaniard, or a musical concert by a Mexican crooner. But the cultural life of Cancun seems pretty sparse.

    Last time we were there, we were forced to stay in a hotel downtown because there were no rooms under $380 a night in the hotel zone... and we are far too Yucatecan now to pay those prices. The little hotel we stayed in was quite adequate, in a charming early 60's-era sort of way. We ate across the street at a sushi restaurant that has been there for 13 years (I didn't think Cancun was that old...) and we ate the best sushi we've had in years. Maybe ever. It was fantastic.

    So there are things to be discovered in Cancun.

    But I haven't discovered a decent Cancun website yet. I found this blog, which is the best I've seen so far. As blogs go, this one isn't great. Yet. It bounces back and forth between being really personal to being shamelessly commercial, plugging local businesses. The blog was just started after Hurricane Wilma, and its run by two people: Tim who lives in the US and visits a lot, and Susan, who lives in Cancun. So the blog has two perspectives, the visitor and the resident. I like that about it. So far, it's unevenly written and doesn't seem to have found a rhythm yet. (It always takes me about five tries to spell that word correctly)

    But at least the blog is personal and it's not asking me to make a hotel reservation.

    Do you know of a good Cancun website or blog written in English? Diganme!

    Saturday, April 29, 2006


    Title: Hopalog
    Type of website: Personal blog of a family of 6 on the road in Mexico after selling their house in Northern California
    Excellent source of...: Growing fascination and envy.

    OK, I have to admit...I'm absolutely fascinated by the story. Kathy, the author of this travel-blog, is married with four children. She and her husband apparently sold their house in Northern California, bought a van and an RV and are touring around Mexico, home-schooling their children and looking for a place to settle down. Apparently, they have a satellite internet hookup on their RV and Kathy posts photos and a running commentary almost daily. And there's a whole wealth of Flikr fotos too.

    I'm inspired to begin considering (again) convincing my husband to buy an RV, pack up the two dogs, and hit the road next year. Of course, we would have to sell some properties first. That isn't out of the question. And then there's the business. But with a satellite hookup... oh! sorry. caught me daydreaming.

    When you think about it, this blog is a literary version of a reality show. And maybe that's the wave of the future. ("Wave of the future, wave of the future..." - Howard Hughes). In the end, there's nothing more interesting than reality. Nothing more powerful than truth.

    This afternoon I read an interview with Al Gore saying that reality must have it's day (he was referring to global warming). And while I type this, I'm listening to Neil Young's new album, streaming over the internet to my little corner of the world and hopefully many other corners as well. (..."I'm living with war in my heart every day...I take a holy vow to never kill again"). And I'm reading this story about two people who really DID leave their jobs to spend more time with their family.

    And I'm feeling hopeful.

    Monday, April 17, 2006

    Quality Peoples

    Title: Quality Peoples
    Type of website: Personal blog of young California designer who moved to Mexico two years ago
    Excellent source of...: A look at what it is like to live on the West Coast of Mexico. Also, insight into living in Mexico as a young professional (as opposed to what so many expatriates are here: old retired people).

    This website isn't really *about*'s just about someone who lives here. And for that, it's a fascinating read if you are interested in the subject. I guess Americans living in Mexico is still a novelty, though I wonder how much longer that is going to be true.

    Unlike many people I know, Ed Fladung, the owner of this blog, isn't over 55 and retired. He moved down to the Puerto Vallarta area to help his parents (who I think may be over 55 but have a business there) with the family business. And it seems that he liked it so much, he stayed. Well, apparently, he also fell in love. Not just with Marcia, but also with Mexico.

    He doesn't just write about Mexico. He writes about California when he goes back there, about design, about his life. But he lives in Mexico, so a detailed read of this blog can give you a pretty good idea of what life is like for an expat in his world. And of course, if you want to just cut to the chase, he has a category "ex-pat life" with 140 posts about the subject.

    Oh, and Ed's a surfer, so you can find out a lot about surfing in that area. And of course, he's a photographer, so you'll find plenty of those on his website as well. He's a designer and he's building a house, so there's photos and info on that too.


    Tuesday, April 11, 2006

    Another View on Living in Mexico

    Title: My Life in Mexico
    Type of website: Personal blog of retired Californian living in the State of Durango
    Excellent source of...: Detailed information on what it takes and what it is like to live as a retired person in a non-touristy, normal city in Mexico.

    Sometimes I find interesting websites by looking at the people that have come to see our website, Yucatan Living. While perusing the 'referring pages' in my Webstats statistics, I came across the website of Mr. Rolly Brooks, a fellow former Californian.

    Behind the humble design and everyday language of this website is a wealth of information for anyone interested in moving to Mexico to live a normal, everyday life. Lerdo, Durango, is not a tourist hot spot and probably doesn't have a large gringo population. So the photos and the stories and the subject matter are all about typical Mexican life, as seen through the eyes of a gringo who is very privileged (and apparently grateful) to have been adopted by a large extended Mexican family (is there any other kind?).

    The website has a brief tour that explains how Rolly got to Mexico, shows photos of his neighborhood and family and then takes you to a page with links to other parts of the website. There are photo essays on street vendors, houses and churches in his neighborhood. There are instructions on how to make a piñata or tortillas. There is even a photo essay on how they make my favorite kind of brooms (though I have never seen *green* ones!).

    Rolly has done a few building projects, both in the US and Mexico. The website includes some very detailed photo essays of those projects, which will be of great interest to anyone thinking of building in Mexico. One of them even includes all the costs of the project. And there are two very useful pages with photos of tools and building materials and their Spanish names.

    While this website is not professionally designed, it is easy to navigate. And it has a wealth of information...after living here for four years (though in another part of Mexico), I learned a lot from this website.

    But what I love about this site is what isn't said expressly, the story that emerges from behind the photos and stories of Mexico. This man, Mr. Brook, who self-admittedly looks a lot like Santa Claus, seems to have left the United States under difficult circumstances. Because he seems to have treated well a man he hired to work with him years ago, he was invited to live in Mexico with that man's family. And because he had the courage to accept this generous invitation, he has had the good fortune to have been accepted into another way of life that it seems he is fully enjoying. His life in Mexico may be more humble, and he may not have as many 7-11's within one mile of his home, but he appears to have a rich life full of family, children, fiestas, explorations and the daily pleasures of learning about a culture that is new to him. And what better culture to be learning about? The Mexican culture is as deep and wide as the Rio Grande, rich with stories and traditions, colored with the pain and suffering and joys of generations that have created it. And Rolly Brook appears to be in it up to his elbows, enjoying every minute of the adventure.

    Mr. Rolly Brook is a lucky man and I feel lucky to have shared his life through this website.

    Thursday, March 23, 2006

    Livin' La Vida Lopez

    Title: La Vida Lopez
    Type of website: Personal blog of young American woman's 6 months in Michoacan, Mexico
    Excellent source of...: A true-life experience of what Mexico looks and feels like to an American, as well as what it feels like to be a woman in love with an illegal Mexican.

    I have to say: I love this blog. I don't know this woman, but in reading her blog I have been privileged to peek into her life, which interests me because she too has been living in Mexico. And while I may not agree with all her ideas and opinions, I love the way she expresses herself. The blog is fresh, raw and honest.

    The blog is an account of the six months that Emily and Sergio, her Mexican immigrant husband spend in his hometown of Morelia, Michoacan while they wait for the United States to grant him a visa to return legally. She is pregnant with their child and going back to Mexico to live in the same house with his mother, father and siblings whom she has never met. Apparently, it isn't enough to marry an American anymore to become legal in the US. After you get married, you have to return to Mexico and wait for your new legal status to be approved. So this is what they are doing. The blog begins with their packing up to go. It ends (so far) with a photo of her getting off the plane back in the States. It's a great story.

    In the course of reading the story, I got to discover and explore Mexico through her eyes, as well as the eyes of her husband, returning to Mexico after immigrating to the States years earlier. My favorite post was photo essay of a day spent at her new family home, with photos of the brick wall and the scorpion they found in the kitchen, among other things. But it's all good, from the bus trips being entertained by the local boracho to the cooking lessons with her mother in law.

    Emily seems like a typical American girl of Swedish descent who happened to fall in love with a Mexican boy. This circumstance takes her to a part of the world where she would never have found herself otherwise, as it has so many women (and men) in the past. And by reading her blog, we get to vicariously make the journey with her.

    (Editors Note: This much-loved blog (at least I loved it...) seems to have disappeared after the writer had her baby. Not much of a surprise, actually, but if you find that it has relocated somewhere, please let me know!)

    Friday, March 10, 2006

    Insights and Predictions

    Type of website: Magazine-style guide to Ajijic and Lake Chapala
    Excellent source of...: Articles of interest to people living or thinking of moving to Lake Chapala. Slightly interesting to anyone interested in living in Mexico.

    I think if we want to see the future of any popular Mexico expatriate city in Mexico, all we have to do is look at Lake Chapala and Ajijic. The expatriate community there is large (about 20,000 according to this website) and has been growing steadily for years. They have developed things like garden clubs and magazines; lots of people have written books and articles about the area. There are many businesses in Ajijic being run by gringos, and quite a few websites too. Not that many good ones, in my opinion....but I did find one recently that is well-designed, easy to navigate and well written.

    Mexico Insights is run by a group of women who have lived in the area for varying amounts of time, with varied backgrounds. Some of them have written books; others are tour guides. What they seem to have in common is a deep love for their new home, and the ability to both write and gather information through a network of other residents. This combination has created a website and online magazine that has been taking in-depth looks at the cultural and everyday experience of living in Mexico, and Lake Chapala in particular, since December 2001.

    Each month, there is a note from the editor that explains what is in the magazine. The magazine is available only to subscribers (for $39.95 a year). In addition, you can have access to all previous issues for $24.95. I am not a subscriber nor have I signed up to read the previous issues (nor, I might add, do I even know these people). But I don't have to. The editors are smart enough to put enough information on their website so that you can get a good idea of their writing style, the depth of their understanding and experience and their general attitude, as well as an idea of the kind of subjects covered by their magazine.

    Every month, the editors give the casual reader a paragraph or two (and some photographs) that preview what is in the current issue. This month's issue includes an article about Mata Ortiz pottery, English-language bookstores in the Lake Chapala area, an assessment of the Lakeside real estate market, things to know about being in the hospital in Mexico and about six or seven more subjects. Each of these seems to be written by someone who has been there and has first hand experience.

    There is a Complimentary Issue of the magazine online that is available to everyone. The articles there are thorough and helpful to anyone interested in the area, even if you never go on to buy the magazine. Articles cover subjects like what to expect at the Guadalajara Airport, how to shop the "Mexican way", a list of B&B's around Lake Chapala, a list of fall fiestas and information about the safety of the drinking water.

    The water subject interested me, so I clicked on that and got a list of "facts and figures", only a few of which were related to water. OK, so the title was a bit misleading, but the other facts on that page were just as interesting, factual and useful to someone living or considering living here.

    The website is also selling Living at Lake Chapala seminars, as well as books on Lake Chapala and Mexico written by the editors and their friends.

    I wouldn't recommend this website as a place to revisit unless you plan to subscribe, though you might learn something from reading through it once. I also wouldn't necessarily recommend it to someone under the age of 25, unless they are interested in garden clubs and hospital visits. But if you are a typical resident or future resident of Lake Chapala, I would think the magazine subscription for a year and/or the archives would be well worth it. And a casual read of the website would be worthwhile for anyone interested in living in Mexico.