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.