A Quick Update

In 2010, we moved back to the small town in Colorado that I never stopped missing while we lived in Mexico. Now I sometimes miss Mexico, but I wouldn't travel as freely as we did when we were there, camping out in remote areas and so forth.

Mexico today is in a period of change, and in many ways it is more dangerous now. That said, I have plenty of American friends who still live there very happily, just taking a few more precautions than they did in the past.

Just to say!

Rosana

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Dec. 27, 2008 – Some six years ago, Kelly and I took a short vacation from our home in Colorado, a little ways into Mexico. Our destination was the rural small town of Mata Ortiz, Chihuahua, maybe three hours from El Paso. Texas.

Just another small Mexican town? No, it’s famous worldwide for its exquisite pottery. I’ve already told the story of Mata Ortiz and Juan Quezada – the link takes you to what I wrote about it, five years ago, when we went there at the end of a trip around northern Mexico in our motorhome. (The Mata Ortiz part begins about halfway down the page, just before the picture of a bedroom.)

An American anthropologist, Spencer MacCallum, figures prominently in that story, and I’ve stayed on his email list ever since then. Just recently, I read his latest updates about Mata Ortiz and the nearby town of Casas Grandes, where he and his wife now live.

Here’s a link to a Google Map of Casas Grandes. It’s on the edge of a rich agricultural area. The nearby city of Nuevo Casas Grandes must have at least 60,000 inhabitants, where I think Casas Grandes is about 6,000 and Mata Ortiz maybe 1,500.

View  Map

He talks about it being quite safe there (on the page about travel to the area) and he lists some houses for sale that people have asked him to mention. If you have ever dreamed of buying a traditional adobe and fixing it up, this is one place you can do it! My jaw dropped at some of the low prices, for houses old and new, adobe or not. Here’s one example in Casas Grandes, from the classifieds page. There were some in need of repair for way less.

Old adobe home with traditional walled garden (fruit and shade trees, flowers) two blocks from the plaza on the historic Camino Real. 22” walls, vigas. The oldest section, once the town’s dance hall, dates to the nineteenth century. Newly roofed and re-wired. $65,000 USD.

What would be the pros and cons of living in that area? Admittedly the climate is dry, dusty, windy, and on the extreme side. It can be very cold and very hot… kind of like Deming, NM, where Kelly and I have spent a couple of winters. We’ve never stuck around for the hot summers.

But it’s got great access to the US, maybe two or three hours to Deming or El Paso by car. Sometimes here by Lake Chapala, I feel rather cut off from the US, though admittedly it only took us four hours to fly to San Francisco, California, a couple of months ago.

I’ve had many ideas for books that I will never get around to writing. One of them would be a book about northern Mexico as a place for Americans to live. The conventional views of that region as being drug-ridden and highly dangerous are probably true of a few specific locales. My guess is that a lot of places within a few hours of the border are delightful. Alamos, south of Nogales, Arizona, is a well-known popular spot which Kelly and I liked when we were there in May of last year.

Back to Casas Grandes. The number of foreigners is small, but when we were there, there was quite a spirit of helping the village of Mata Ortiz with its art. And to me, one of the most fascinating things about Mata Ortiz is the extraordinary flowering of creativity there and what that says about what we humans are capable of.

We are not planning to leave Lake Chapala, but next time we drive back to the US, maybe next summer, we may well go by the Mata Ortiz area again and see how it’s doing. And if you’ve been wondering about living in Mexico, this is yet another of many interesting places in this vast and complex country!

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