Where To Go In Mexico?

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 Ajijic on Lake Chapala. Easy living with gorgeous views. Look, but don’t swim!
Photo copyright©Daniel Gair. All Rights Reserved.

Daniel Gair is the author of Amazon/Kindle’s top-rated romp through the Mexican underbrush ‘The Mexico Diaries: A Sustainable Adventure‘ (https://goo.gl/FHJ94q)

It’s a damn vast country, so where to go???

As the wave of U.S. Baby Boomers looking for a warm, cheap place to retire begins cresting on the shores of Mexico, the question of potential relocation spots comes up in blogs and FB pages daily. Those nervously planning their first trip to Mexico, while trying to get a handle on all the possible destination options, are also searching for solid advice.

Having traveled in Mexico for decades, lived here full-time for ten years, and visited virtually every region, Holly and I love to share our thoughts on the subject. Of course there are dozens of books and websites to help guide prospective ex-pats and travelers, but most we’ve seen are either hopelessly vague, primarily meant to address the mechanics of resettling, or are hyping one specific location or region (Mexico has a way of making people feel ‘born again’, and those posting on social media tend to proselytize as if their spot was a new religion). This post was prompted by the fact that we’ve never found a truly concise guide that outlines the many, varied locales, while clearly stating the pros and cons of each, particularly for those planning to relocate. 

Of course we too are biased to where we’ve settled, here on the mid-Pacific coast near Puerto Vallarta, however in this post I share (ahem) ‘objective’ thoughts on the many alternatives and their pros and cons. I realize that by stating the disadvantages for each region I risk insulting every born-again Mexpat who reads this and has an emotional or proprietary interest in their own specific area. All I can say is that I’ve attempted advanced, bend-over backward yoga moves in order to stick to the facts and ladle out the downsides in equal measure, including the cons of our own little slice of paradise.

My first recommendation for those looking to relocate is to rent for a minimum of a month in several different locations before cashing in your chips and committing to any one spot. Mexico has a wealth of relocation possibilites, many with subtly different vibes that appeal to some folks, but not others. The website Housesit Mexico is a great way to sample places free, although the listings are heavily oriented to the Lake Chapala area, and many are only available in the low season. Hopefully this is changing as it’s a well-run service, and their listings seem to be expanding.

The first, main consideration for those planning to visit, or relocate here permanently, is usually whether to head toward the beach or the mountains. In a nutshell, the beaches tend to epitomize the laid-back, tequila-swigging, Mexican hammock lifestyle, while the mountains and central highlands represent a deeper cultural experience with a more comfortable, year-round climate. If Holly & I had it to do over, we’d probably have chosen a more flexible condo or renting lifestyle, spending time in the mountains in summer, then beaching it winters. 

Following are the most popular options, both regional and local, including their flaws and favors. 

If the beach is your thing, then…

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Yucatan, Sugar-white sand beaches (when not covered in Sargasso 😦      Photo copyright©Daniel Gair. All Rights Reserved.

The Yucatan

Advantages & Disadvantages: Mexico’s best snorkeling and diving, cool cenotes (etherial saltwater-filled sinkholes), gorgeous white sand beaches, spectacular Mayan ruins, and easy hop to the U.S. On the other hand, the Yucatan tends to be crowded on the coast, dreadfully flat, and fairly short 3-4 month season unless you happen to like one hundred plus degree days with high humidity. Crime is becoming more prevalent, especially in Playa Del Carmen and Tulum. Beaches fouled with Sargasso Seaweed has become a significant problem the past couple of winters, and is something that is likely to continue and worsen with the warming waters (of course, if you’re a sustainability nut like me, all that sargassum equals endless biomass just itching to be used for mulch or composted. There’s even a guy squashing and drying it into blocks to make houses out of!) The fact that the Yucatan is a major hurricane alley put Holly & me off from investing there originally, even though we liked it and visited regularly in our early days of exploring Mexico.

Cancun, a hopping cluster of high rise hotels and all-inclusives is Mexico’s spring break capital, and Merida is a colonial city with a thriving ex-pat population. It is touted as being remarkably crime free, although we hear that’s changing (like so many other places in Mexico. We’ve seen waves of criminality enter other supposed safe zones, practically overnight, so one should take any reports of specific ‘safe zones’ or especially safe cities with ‘un grano de sal’. Water contamination is yet another issue surfacing in popular expat spots such as Merida, SMA, Lake Chapala, and many other locales.

The best Yucatan options for getting off the beaten path are the beach areas north of Chetumal and Lake Bacalar near the Belize border or Campeche on the Gulf Coastkeeping in mind that either area puts you more than a six-hour drive from Cancun’s international airport and medical servicesAlso a note of caution about Lake Bacalar – it’s drop-dead gorgeous, but also a drop-dead scary place to swim according to recent reports of extensive fecal coliform contamination. Other interesting places to visit are the Mayan ruins distributed like giant stone party favors throughout the Yucatan (Chichen Itza is the most spectacular, but too crowded for us); numerous, cool, old sisal plantations, many of which have been beautifully restored and turned into five-star resort properties; Valladolid with its massive cenote; the islands of MujeresHolbox, and Cozumel (dive with sleeping sharks!); and the Sian Ka’an biosphere reserve. Palenque, located in the Isthmus of the Yucatan, is the place to go to munch on magic mushrooms, explore the jungle ruins, and get in touch with your inner Mayan. Don’t miss swimming in the nearby aqua blue river (Aquas Azules) and spectacular Misol Ha waterfalls. 

Overall, Holly and I love the Yucatan as a place to visit but consider it to be uninhabitable for much of the year due to the heat and humidity. That’s just us though. Many have made their ex-pat homes here and are extremely happy with their choice. In fact, of all the retirement spots in Mexico that people rave about, Merida’s denizens are among the most vocal.

The Baja (including mainland Sea of Cortez)

Advantages: Easy U.S. driving access and reasonable year-round climate in the northern part. Todos Santos is a particularly hip and artsy, though pricey, surf town. Rosarito/Enseñada on the Pacific and the San Carlos/Puerto Peñasco/Guaymas at the top of the Sea of Cortez (just over the border into the mainland from The Baja) share the prize for easiest jog back and forth from the U.S. (although I’ve heard that Tecate is the easiest and most affordable border-hopping expat option of all, other than fuming Tijuana.) Disadvantages: The Baja is basically parched, dry desert. This region also has the feel of still having one foot in the U.S. (which is a good thing for some). Narco activity on the Baja has been ramping up in recent years, particularly around Cabo and the mainland side of The Sea of Cortez is a region of perennial narco activity. Cabo San Lucas is the obvious choice for those seeking sport fishing, golf, and an upscale, high-rise, all-inclusive type environment. Nearby La Paz is a calm seaside town, similar to the vibe of Zihautenejo, but not a lot going on (a snorkeling trip to Isla Espiritu while visiting La Paz is a must!). Nearby La Ventana attracts a winter population of kite-boarding and mountain biking enthusiasts. A vineyard tour of the Valle de Guadalupe region of northern Baja is a definite winner! And a one to two week camping and kayaking trip down the length of the baja, especially during whale rutting season, is worth the effort, though it didn’t live up to our once-in-a-lifetime-adventure expectations.

 

North-Central Pacific Coast

A hundred miles of cities and beach towns with Puerto Vallarta and the sprawling Bay of Banderas at its center.

Advantages: Live-able year-round climate, though somewhat hot and sticky summers. Plenty of culture, good restaurants, amazing farmer’s markets, and overall vibrant expat living, especially Puerto Vallarta area with its many year-round festivals, excellent private hospitals, gay-infused art galleries and nightlife (PV regularly shows up on top-ten lists for international retirement destinations).

There are lots of lifestyle options up and down the mid-coast from big city living to gated golf or sailing communities, to sleepy beach towns. Some of the great beach town options include hip-but-crowded Sayulita, and the more upscale San Pancho in Nayarit state to the north, or the yoga Mecca of Yelapa to the south. Closer into the hub of PV is the sailer’s haven of Cruz de Huanacaxtle, and the Canadian stronghold of Bucerias (excellent kiteboarding in the spring). We also like the beach towns of Barra de Navidad and La Manzanilla several hours south. Near to Barra de Navidad is Malaque a Canadian favorite, and there’s also Costa Careyes for the mega-wealthy. Nueva Vallarta and Punta Mita are the Bay of Banderas’ most upscale yachting and golf-centric destinations. About a 6 hour drive north of Vallarta is Mazatlan with its beautiful historic center, hotel zone and malecón waterfront popular with Mexican nationals, and some limited golf and yachting options. One could think of Mazatlan as being Puerta Vallarta with a fraction of the buzz and services. (Probrecita Mazatlan – a nice girl, even if she’ll never be quite as sexy and glamorous as her big sister Vallarta – but still, who could resist those adorable taxis of hers?)

Disadvantages: The entire mid-cost turns into “Gringolandia” during the winter months, and Puerto Vallarta’s “Romantic Zone” is going through an overwhelming growth spurt that is likely to bring problems, Robberies are notably on the rise throughout the region.

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Puerto Vallarta – specialized in outrageous sunsets. Photo copyright©Daniel Gair. All Rights Reserved.

South and Central Pacific Coast 

Advantages: Big Surf around the resort city of Puerto Escondido. Huatulco, Puerto Angles, and Mazunte are nearby beach city/towns that have their following. Zihuatanejo further north, with its sleepy tourist beach town feel, is similar to La Paz in the Baja, while nearby Ixtapa is a good southern option for golf and high-rise hotels, not unlike Cabo San Lucas or Cancun.

Disadvantages: Unfortunately, like the Yucatan, you’ll boil like a lobster summers, so the south-central coast is not a great year-round ex-pat option, in our opinion. It’s also a bit of a hike from the U.S. or Canada. Aculpulco, once Mexico’s most high-rolling, high society beach resort city has been all but written-off to crime in recent years.

The Coast of Michoacan north of Zihuatanejo is a gorgeous no man’s land only visited by renegade surfers, fishermen, and true adventure types due to the narco fear factor. A trip there is like having California’s Big Sur all to yourself!

The Mountains and Central Highlands

These regions offer a wealth of relocation options, especially if your more a fan of colonial culture and cooler weather than you are of sand and sea.

Advantages are great culture and climate, while the disadvantages are, for us, that you’re trading in laid-back beach lifestyle, for more of a bustle.  San Miguel De Allende is Mecca for the monied, art gallery, fine dining set. It’s just plain hard not to like San Miguel, though, admittedly, it’s had its share a crime over the years, and water quality is emerging as a serious issue. While there be sure to check out the picturesque, art gallery laden mining town of Pozos about 45 minutes north. Holly and I also really like, and have owned properties in, nearby Guanajuato, a terrific, artsy, visually stunning, university city. Other very liveable cities that have expat communities include Puebla, Queretaro, Morelia, Cuernavaca and Oaxaca (arguably Mexico’s cultural and culinary heart). I’m going to stick my neck way out here and say that these highland cites are fairly comparable with their good-to-excellent health care, affordable housing, beautiful historic centers, and increasingly upscale dining and shopping options – vibrant change driven by the influx of gringo expats, and Mexico’s own emerging middle and upper-middle classes. Aquas Calientes is yet another alternative in this group, but one with more of an international expat population, and very affordable. Smaller, popular mountain towns include Tepotzlan and Tequila (among others) and the culturally rich city of San Cristobal de Las Casas further south in Chiapas. One highland locale that blends beach-like feel with great climate is Lake Chapala and Ajijic  with its stunning Malecon waterfront (see photo at top), a short one-hour drive from Guadalajara where one can find cheap international flights and excellent, affordable medical services. Flies in the ointment for this Mexpat enclave are that the Chapala area has its fair share of robberies, and the lake, though beautiful, is badly polluted by the Lerma River watershed. There is also considerable pollution and related health issues due to agricultural runoff into Lake Patzcuaro, otherwise known for its fascinating and colorful Day-of-the Dead celebrations (think the movie “Coco”) and craft villages surrounding the lake.

The Copper Canyon in the north is a great place to tour. Lots to see and do, but brutally hot summers. The train trip through the canyon, with overnight stops, is a must. The mining town of Alamos near the western end of the canyon is also worth a layover, especially if driving down the west coast from Nogales. There are expats in this region, but they seem to be scattered few and far between.

Then there’s the Huasteca Potosina region of San Louis Potosí state, over toward the Gulf Coast. Again, plenty of outdoor adventure; caves, aqua blue waterfalls and cenotes, and the not-to-be-missed surrealist jungle art installation of Sir Edward James at Xilitla. Like The Copper Canyon, there are no significant expat populations in this area that we know of, however, as is true anywhere in Mexico, you will find the occasional North American or European emigres scattered here and there amongst the creosote bushes.

Another must-stop on your Central Highlands tour is Real de Catorce. Near the Texas border, this über cool, ancient-feeling mining city is the main spiritual pilgrimage site and peyote gathering grounds for the Huichol Indians. If you like to dance with aliens, this could be your place.

Finally for the highland options is Mexico City. We love “CDMX” for its wonderful museums, dining, and cafe culture, but, not being city people, we couldn’t imagine ever living here full time. The air pollution is also quite bad spring-through-fall.

Trav-Mex-06-07-127Guanajuato, an exuberant cultural center with a comfortable climate.   Photo copyright©Daniel Gair. All Rights Reserved.

Veracruz / Gulf Coast

Catamaco is a funky little lakeside town, and Vera Cruz is a beautiful port city, but both wilt in the summer heat. Xalapa and Orizaba are very liveable cities with better climates, higher up in the mountains, that are gaining popularity with expats despite Veracruz state’s violent reputation.  Advantages to this region are that is hasn’t been nearly as overrun by gringos as other areas. Disadvantages are that the summer heat & humidity on the coast, and the fact that this region is a perennial center of narco activity.

Resources:

There are endless FB groups for specific cities and regions, too many to mention here. Following is a list of our favorite, more general online resources for digging in further: 

Mexico News Daily (https://www.mexiconewsdaily.com) – The very best English language news source for Mexico!

Surviving Yucatan (https://yucalandia.com) – Yucatan-centric, but still a great source of general life and retirement info for Mexico. 

MexConnect (http://www.mexconnect.com) – One of the best overall Mex info sites with extensive chat boards.

Mexperience – Slick, professional Mexico info site with plenty of useful info but geared toward selling their products & services (https://www.mexperience.com/lifestyle/living-in-mexico/moving-to-mexico/)

Make the Right Move to Mexico on Facebook: One of several move to Mexico FB pages (https://www.facebook.com/groups/1581227251953242/)

On The Road in Mexico (Facebook) – Fine, well-informed travel page.

For a list of the 121 designated “Pueblos Magicos” (Magic Villages), the spots the Mexican government is most highly touting check out Mexico Desconocido Magazine online at: https://www.mexicodesconocido.com.mx/pueblos-magicos-de-mexico.html  (Spanish Only but you can cross-reference the list with Google). While many of these towns are, uhm, “magical”, others tend to be cutesy places barely worth a visit, so do your research.

And last but not least, a shameless plug for those interested to learn more about the ‘real’ Mexico or hankering for an over-the-top adventure story: The Mexico Diaries, A Sustainable Adventure! chronicles the insanity that Holly and I treated ourselves to by moving to rural Mexico (4.7 stars on Amazon/Kindle: www.amazon.com/Mexico-Diaries-Sustainable-Adventure-ebook/dp/B07GMYGB7T ). Also available locally in Mexico at Under the Volcano Books in Mexico City, A Page in the Sun in Puerto Vallarta, NV Books in Nuevo Vallarta, and The Puerto Vallarta Botanical Gardens. The Mexico Diaries, a lively romp through the Mexican underbrush, is both encouragement to choose Mexico, as well as a cautionary tale!

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Plaga, Plaga, Plaga!!!

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Sad Tomotes…

Plaga, Plaga, Plaga!!!

Anyone who has tried growing food organically in tropical or sub-tropical Mexico knows the meaning of the “plaga” – the ubiquitous Mexican word for any bug or fungus friends that love your fruit & veg as much you do!

Following is a collection of local, organic, folk pesticides, plus some store-bought remedies purchased at the Gaia store in Uruapan, and one other ingredient smuggled in from NOB (north of the border):

The Local Brews:

Jorge’s Spicey Chili/Garlic Mix (yum!): 

  1. Soak 250gr. of chopped habanero chilis + garlic in alcohol in a small jar for 3-4days
  2. Add liquid to 1 ltr alcohol rubbing alcohol or equivalent
  3. Add this mix to 10ltrs of water

Jorge says this mix is a good pesticide for general nuisance bugs such as Whitefly (“mosca blanca”), Aphids, and “Escabajos” (small hard-shell insects common with citrus), or larger “mayates” (beetles such as Palm Weevils)

Jorge’s Pretty Flower Mix:

  1. Soak 250 grams of red bougainvillea flowers in jar of alcohol 
  2. Follow steps 2-3 above

Jorge claims this mix is good for virosis/hongos (fungual infections and/or viruses), especially those effecting tomatoes.

Note also that the two recipes above can be mixed together.

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Me with my fancy new sprayer. Photo by Holly.

Commercial Mixes:

Store Bought Salvation (unless otherwise noted, ingredients for the following recipes were purchased at the Gaia store in Uruapan, Michoacan (www.gaiaorganicos.mx) and use their generic Emulbiol (jabón agricola / liguid agricultural use soap) as an emulsifying agent.

Caldo Sulfocálcico (azufre/sulfer + cal/calcium oxide in solution): (originally used to combat sarno (mange) in pets, this product is good for ácaro (mites), cochinilla, trip (thrip) and other insects common with avocados, mangos, and citrus.

1) Mix Caldo Sulfocálcico with Emulbiol and water in the following ratios:

a. When the plant is flowering: 1ml Emulbiol:1ltr water: 10ml Caldo Sulfocálcico

b. When the plant is not flowering: 2ml Emulbiol:1ltr water: 20ml Caldo Sulfocálcico

Note: the vendor says that it can also be mixed with diatomaceous but I question the efficaciousness of diatomaceous when wet

Alomon (garlic/onion extract used for general nuisance bugs such as Whitefly, Weevils Mealybugs, Aphids, Thrips, and Psyllids):

  1. Mix 1ml Emulbiol with 1 liter of water 
  2. Add 3 – 6 ml per liter of Alomon per each Liter of Emulbiol & water

Neem Oil (used for general nuisance bugs such as Whitefly, Weevils Mealybugs, Aphids, Thrips, and Psyllids): 1- 5ml per liter of aqua mixed with 1 – 2 ml Emulbiol

Note: Vendor says use Caldo 1st. If it doesn’t work, then go to Alomon, then Neem, substituting in Alomon or Neem for Caldo Sulocálcio (I think this may be prioritized for cost as Neem is the more expensive ingredient of the three).

Beauveria bassiana: Lastly comes the super, duper, pest-party pooper, (a fungal mycoinsecticide for Whitefly, Weevils Mealybugs, Aphids, Thrips, Psyllids, grasshoppers and beetles. We brought this fairly pricey product down from the U.S. but later found to be available for more reasonable cost in Mexico under the trade name Beauverimic. This wonder product can also be used for bedbugs and is being investigated for use in controlling mosquitos!

Use = 1 tablespoon  per gallon.

Diatomaceous Earth: Our go-to anti-parasite supplement for us and all of our animal brother and sisters. It is also good for control of any insect with a carapace, and we have even had some luck using it to deter the dreaded leaf cutter ants. Sprinkle in their nest, they will sometimes leave, or it can be used to block their nightly commute to the harvest. We bring this from The States in 25pd bags.

Mix liberally with animal feed, or take a teaspoon occasionally as a dietary supplement.

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And one last note: while all of the above can be applied with hand pump sprayers, we recently made the $250 investment in a motorized power sprayer (pictured), and can’t say enough about the help this is for larger scale applications such as our 1-acre Permaculture food forest!

Good Luck Amigos. Happy hunting!

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A Thought About The Web of Life:

“Insects are the basis of the food chain for so much.  Birds, for example, are one of the many creatures that thrive off of them, well certain types that’s for sure but even predatory birds that eat larger forms of life depend on bugs to build the food chain blocks…  Des Cartes, the French philosopher said man is separate from nature, mind, and body are separate.  Cartesian Dualism is, in fact, the cause of this separation that allows people to read such a thing and then not act.  People stopped seeing in patterns and only have a rational worldview.  Essentially this is the missing link in the new age spiritual realm and a message I really wish to hit home with…” (From Insect Decline Blog – see below for link)

Personally, I love this way of understanding our environmental predicament. In fact, I’d take it a step further and say we are not “stewards” of nature, but rather, we are nature, and it is us. It is only by viewing our place in the world this way on a deep, intuitive/psychological level, rather than as a Cartesian separation, with humankind lording over nature, that we will begin to heal our biosphere, which is to say, ourselves…

via Insect Decline Blog: A letter back to a Student who asked about this vital topic

Mexico Sustainability With A Twist!

Thirteen years ago Dan Gair & Holly Hunter bought land in a small village on the coast of Jalisco. Three years later they sold their U.S. businesses and moved to the property full time. The experience since became a rogue experiment that overran the lab – fun, challenging, and even scary at times.

In September 2018 “The Mexico Diaries, A Sustainable Adventure”, a memoir about their journey, was released on Amazon & Kindle. To date the book has received an astounding 4.7 average rating on Amazon/Kindle and 4.44 on Goodreads (30+ reviews on each). SurvivingMexico. com / Book Reviews calls The Mexico Diaries “A whirlwind Mexican journey to sustainability and beyond…”.

In the book you will find scores of eccentric people, outrageous animal stories, narco encounters, corrupt cops, and even a splash of Voodoo or two! The book is also a narrative about switching up our lives and pursuing a more sustainable lifestyle on foreign soil.

For those of you considering Mexico as a place to retire to, ‘The Mexico Diaries’ can serve as both encouragement, and a cautionary tale.

That’s it then. Hop on Amazon using the following link (https://goo.gl/FHJ94q), purchase a copy, and enjoy the ride! Please also consider giving it a review (the Amazon sales game is all about reviews which drive rankings) knowing that 50% of any profit will be donated to The Environmental Defense Fund!

#Mexico #sustainbility #adventure #Permaculture #photography #sustainable #travel

 

 

Mexico Renewables Are Coming Online!

Mexico’s growing renewable generation could cut power prices by 40%

Electricity prices in Mexico could drop by 40% by 2024 because of growing renewable capacity, according to a study released Wednesday by the Mexican Business Coordination Council (CEE), the country’s largest business group.

Greater renewable generation capacity could lead to average locational marginal prices in Mexico of $38/MWh in 2024 from $64/MWh in 2017, according to the study co-authored by the Mexican wind and solar energy associations, AMDEE and ASOLMEX.
Renewable generation can make Mexico a more competitive country, Leopoldo Rodriguez, director of AMDEE, said on Wednesday at a release event for the study.

“It is clear CFE is contracting the lowest electricity prices in the world without investing a peso in new power plants,” Rodriguez said. The price forecast assumes the country achieves its goal of generating 35% of its electricity from clean sources by 2024, he added.

In 2017, Mexico generated 69.4 GWh, or 21% of all of its electricity, from 22.3 GW of clean generation capacity, which represents 30% of its total capacity, data from Mexico’s Energy Secretariat (SENER) shows.

As a result of the three long-term electricity auctions Mexico has held, the country will double its wind and solar generation capacity in the coming years from 11 GW of capacity in 2017, Rodriguez said.

The study is based on market data from long-term electricity auctions, self-supply projects and private bilateral power purchase agreements in Mexico since the energy reform was enacted three years ago, Rodriguez said.

“Data have shown renewable generation in Mexico has more than surpassed all our expectations,” he added.

The study shows that levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) for renewable generation in Mexico can be lower than combined-cycle gas turbine (CCGT) plants.

While the LCOE for CCGT in Mexico is in a range of $42-78 MW/h, the estimated cost for wind is $19-67/MWh and for solar is $18-$66/MWh, the study found.

The study highlights that the final LCOE of power projects will depend on the quality of resources and the capacity of the companies to execute the projects efficiently.

However, to continue Mexico’s exponential clean generation growth, the country needs to expand its transmission grid, Eduardo Reyes, an energy partner with PwC Mexico, said Wednesday.

Based on the SENER’s latest long-term forecast the country requires 28 GW of new CCGT and 32 GW of clean generation capacity to meet its power demand in 2030.

Today, Mexico has 44 GW of CCGT and clean generation capacity under development applying for grid interconnection, Reyes said.

“All these projects won’t be developed, but the number under development is substantial,” Reyes said, adding that the interconnection demand surpasses the available interconnection capacity in the country by 12 times.

Expanding Mexico’s transmission grid will allow the country to enhance the reliability of its electric system by enabling a higher flow of intermittent electricity among different regions, he added.

To expand the country’s transmission grid, it will be key to attract and further open this segment to private investment, Reyes said.

by — Daniel Rodriguez, daniel.rodriguez@spglobal.com

Originally published on SPGlobal

Buying Property in Mexico

The process Holly and I went through in purchasing Ejido property here on the coast of Jalisco was not an easy one. Fortunately, our seller, an expat who had Carte de Poder (Power of Attorney) for the property was someone highly acclimated and 100% fluent, and thus able to navigate the brutal bureaucracy involved. Even with that, the process nearly killed him – literally.

“The fact that there are two types of title creates considerable confusion for most Foreign investors

To start with the property needed to go through the process of “dominio pleno” a solicitation to have it removed from the community Ejido land holdings. Next, it had to receive state approvals on its way up the food chain to the final application for titling by RAN (Rural Agrario National) in Guadalajara. Once titled, it still had to be registered back at the state level, then returned for a final “derecho del tanto” (right of first refusal for Ejido members) and payment of taxes at the Ejido level.

Normally, once titled by RAN, a coastal property can be held in fideicomiso bank trust and even receive Title insurance with an expat named as the beneficiary. In our case, however, we had to form a Mexican corporation due to the size of the two parcels. This process added an extra six months. In total, the process, start to finish, took three years, with plenty of under-the-table “tips” paid along the way by the seller.

(For more of the back story, check out my memoir “The Mexico Diaries, A Sustainable Adventure” rated 4.7 stars at Amazon/Kindle: https://goo.gl/FHJ94q)

The following is offered as a quick-start trouble-shooting guide to any foreign nationals considering the purchase of ejido, or recently privatized ejido property, particularly in the federal restricted coastal zone.

Old house

1) Any deal to purchase property that is still part of an ejido (communal land holding) should be considered RISKY. Regardless of what you may be told, using a Mexican national as presta nombre (borrowed name) or any other means to purchase ejido property in the restricted zone can never be a fail-safe proposition regardless of having powers of attorney (carta de poder) or a will (testimento) in place. While many people have successfully “owned” property for years in the name of a presta nombre, there seems to be increasing financial/development pressure that is making that vehicle for holding property ever less stable over time.

2) The litmus for determining if a property is actually private, and not still part of the ejido, is possession of a Title from RAN (Registro Agrario National). A word of caution, however; many sellers will say that properties are titled, and will wave around what’s called an “escritura”, however, these are usually ejidal deeds and are not the same thing as a full RAN title, or acceptable as instruments that can be held in a bank trust. The fact that there are two types of title creates considerable confusion for most Foreign investors, however, any Notario can easily determine if the title is a proper RAN title, the kind necessary for a secure purchase. It should also be noted that converting a Ejidal escritura to a proper RAN title can take years. Beware of anyone claiming otherwise. There is a cluster of titles in our town that have been in process since 2006!

4) It is advisable that any deposit money paid should be accompanied by a formal compra y venta agreement, best reviewed by a Public Notario’s office. A formal compra y venta will be drawn up for privately titled property only, not ejido property. Any purchase agreement other than a formal approved compra y venta should be considered extremely risky. Consideration should also be given to the facts that realtors aren’t licensed, escrow accounts are rarely used, and that even deposit money accompanied by a formal compra y venta may be at some risk.

Note here also that even with a compra y venta agreement in place, all members of the ejido are constitutionally entitled to the first right of refusal before the first sale of a property out of the ejido.

5) Final purchase, payment, and transfer of title should be conducted under the supervision of a Public Notario’s office only.

6) Even with proper RAN title and/or municipal subdivision approvals for deeded lots, there are still risks! Unlike the U.S. (or Canada?) where municipal approvals cover the liability for adherence to federal environmental rules, approvals granted Mexican municipalities do not cover this liability. Any subdivided property being sold without a prior Estudio Impactal del Medio Ambiente (Environmental Impact Study) is still at full risk for future fines or even forfeiture for any existing or future development done without the study. In many cases, a Forestry study will also be required.

7) A final cautionary note. Even if you are confident that your papers are all in order, keep in mind that the Mexican legal process makes the legal system in the U.S. look like a bullet train. Legal battles can take many years to resolve, if ever, and a legal fight is usually a true battle of attrition, and largely stacked toward the Mexican nationals.

Good Luck Amigos. Buying property in the restricted coastal zone is definitely not impossible, but it should be considered a gamble, and like all gambling, it should not be done with more than you can truly afford to lose. Purchasing property in the interior, where fee simple deeds are easily acquired, is a straightforward process very similar to the U.S. or Canada. Striking a deal to lease or build on a Mexican’s land are other options that are often successful.