Talk to me about retiring in Mexico

Read a lot of comments from foreigners living in the Patzcuaro and Morelia area.

Below are comments and thoughts from people that I have had the honor to meet. A lot of them are my friends. Thank you again to all!

My husband and I retired to Patzcuaro from Lake Oswego, Oregon in August, 2007. We came to Patzcuaro on a scouting expedition 18 months before we moved, fell in love with the area, and feel exactly the same today. Our view was that retirement would get off to a more enlivened start if we were challenged right from the get-go. We were definitely right about that! We had a house built for us while we were still in Oregon, and while I would not recommend using that approach, in our case, it worked very well. We adore everything about our house…..the location, the layout, the neighborhood, etc. In a way, blind luck….but we are grateful everyday for this good fortune. Of course there are lots of frustrating moments in a new culture, especially since we arrived not speaking much Spanish, but even given that obstacles, we have found the people to be genuinely welcoming, warm, and friendly. A sense of humor is a characteristic that goes a long way here, so if you have one of those, retiring here is more fun than problematic. Before leaving the US, I said that I thought “turning the tea cup upside down,” might be a beneficial exercise at our age……and it definitely has been that. In our early months in Patzcuaro, I found it curious that so many of the ex-pats expressed relief at being “back in Michoacan” after a trip back to the states, but now I understand. It is a big relief to return to this simple colorful life, in this very beautiful place in the mountains. Thank goodness we made the leap!

Karin Miles, living in Patzcuaro,
originally from Oregon.”

“I’ve been enchanted with the colonial towns of Mexico ever since I first visited San Miguel de Allende and Mexico City over 20 years ago. It became a cherished dream that one day I’d be able to spend more time somewhere in Mexico. That “somewhere” recently turned out to be Patzcuaro, where my husband, Gar, and I have bought a fixer-upper near the market. Our house, on a quiet tree-lined street, represents a potential that we hope will evolve into an adventure in learning about a culture, a location and a people, as well as a place we can think of as “home.” We decided on Patzcuaro because it’s located in a lush, mountainous area with a temperate climate, not far from the big city of Morelia, and within relatively easy reach of Guadalajara and Mexico City. Other places, such as Zihuatanejo and the colonial towns in the state of Guanajuato, are not far away, either. Patzcuaro itself is a picturesque and appealing town, big enough to provide variety in many things, yet small enough to become familiar.”

Dara Stillman

Denver, Colorado

“My wife and I spent about 5 years traveling to different countries in Latin America, looking for the best place to move after an early retirement. As a result of a Habitat for Humanity trip many years ago we decided to retire early and move “south” to see what we could do to help other people. After many trips to Central and South America, we settled on 3 finalists, Mexico, Nicaragua and Panama. After more investigation (most of 2007 in country), we settled on Mexico and spent 7.5 months backpacking from Zacatecas to Oaxaca, and finally chose to live in Patzcuaro. We like its culture and beauty, the people we’ve met, work with and serve. I describe the climate as having 2 seasons, Wet and Wonderful and Dry and Wonderful, although I should modify them both by adding “cool.” We’ve become active in some volunteer activities and our local church, and have developed a great working relationship with the volunteers at El Sagrario in their comida program for older adults. We haven’t regretted for one minute our choice of moving to Patzcuaro, and are hoping to spend the rest of our lives living and serving here.”

Doug (and Kathy) Butler

“We first came to Patzcuaro four years ago and fell in love with it immediately. We spend our winters here and now own property on the outskirts where we plan to build in 2009. We like the size of Patzcuaro, the fact that it is unspoiled, the vibrancy of the people and the beauty of the buildings and the plazas. The climate is perfect for us, i.e., cool at night and warm and sunny during the day. It is also 35 minutes from Morelia, a UNESCO World Heritage city, which also has amenities that we occasionally like to take advantage of – Home Depot, Costco, Sears, WalMart, and other large international shopping destinations.”

Stella Walsh, Ottawa,  Canada  and Patzcuaro,  Michoacan



“It’s fabulous to move to a place where your expenses are half of what they were in the U.S.”

Mark, San Miguel de Allende,  Mexico

I think a lot of people see retirement as kicking back, playing tennis or golf, and generally taking it easy. For them, there exist (I’m sure) possibilities in Mexico, probably in the well-established gringo enclaves of Chapala and San Miguel de Allende. Perhaps they’d be better served by a gated country-club environment in the southern United States, Costa Rica, or Panama as well.

In Patzcuaro, I observe expats whom I think tend to be a bit more adventurous, and perhaps a bit more resourceful. Living here involves a lot of walking, paying careful attention to where you put your feet (and your head, if you’re at all tall). Unless you’re isolated somewhere, living in Mexico involves noise (lots of noise) and venturing out on the road inevitably involves witnessing *yet another* creative and suicidal driving stunt (turning left from the right lane across four lanes of traffic, through a red light, while talking on a cell phone, and that’s just a start). Then there are street dogs, roof dogs, and dirt, and missing stuff you can’t buy here (who’s driving south who can bring me a …?). Driving also involves endless topes (speed bumps), which in fact make a lot of sense: instead of paying the government by way of a black-suited thug with a taser, speeding here more often provides an opportunity to contribute directly to the local economy, via the suspension repair shop. And though not drinking tap water may seem an inconvenience, few northerners realize exactly how bad (even dangerous) their municipal tap water there is.

In exchange, Mexico has a feeling of aliveness that I rarely feel in the United States. You can’t really sleepwalk here (with every somnambulent step monitored by an array of ‘homeland’ ‘security’ cameras). Unlike the litigious environment up north, where a one-centimeter change in the height of a shopping mall floor requires miles of yellow tape, traffic cones, and brightly-colored warning signs, here there appears to be the assumption that if you step into a hole in the sidewalk, or fail to observe the bent piece of metal sticking out of it, the result is somehow your responsibility, not someone else’s.

What a concept!

At times we have trouble sleeping here, with the chaos of fireworks, fiestas, and barking dogs. By contrast, in Spokane I sometimes felt the challenge lay in staying awake in a programmed, homogenized environment.

If that sentiment resonates with you, you might like it here. Read some books about retiring in Mexico, check out the web sites, spend some time here before you commit.

And, please, learn some Spanish. This isn’t Ajijic 😉


We have lived in Morelia, Michoacán, México for about seven months. We chose to retire in Morelia and Mexico for several reasons.

  1. We wanted to experience life in a foreign culture as a new adventure during retirement. We also wanted a place where we were close to the US so we could easily visit family and friends, and vice versa. This made Mexico a great choice for us.
  2. While there are a few cities in Mexico that are dominated by foreigners from the US, Canada and Europe, we wanted to locate in a city like Morelia where the culture is almost entirely Mexican. This requires us to become familiar with the Spanish language, and while it takes a lot of work to learn it, it is great fun to start speaking with Mexicans in their own language. We do have a number of good friends from the US and other countries here, however we are also making friends with Mexicans (especially as we improve our Spanish).
  3. We wanted to live in a foreign culture, but we didn?t want to cut ourselves off from all aspects of life in the USA. Morelia, like most larger cities in Mexico, has a number of familiar stores like Costco, Walmart, Sears, Starbucks, McDonalds, Blockbuster, and many more. The Mexican movie theaters show mostly US films in English, subtitled in Spanish. We are also coming to know many terrific Mexican stores, and never having gone to fast-food chains very often, much prefer eating in Mexican restaurants.
  4. We were seeking a pleasant, warm climate. We chose to live in-land, because coastal areas of Mexico can experience periods of extreme heat and humidity, as well as tropical storms. In Morelia, almost every day of the year, one can expect highs in the 70?s or 80?s and blue skies. We are just three hours drive from Ixtapa/Zijuantenejo when we want some beach time.
  5. We were looking for a place where we could get excellent health care, as one can in larger cities in Mexico, and at prices well below those in the US. We have been impressed with the doctors, technicians and dentists we have seen thus far. Indeed, speaking of costs, you are likely to see your overall cost of living decline in Mexico unless you choose to live in one of the cities dominated by foreigners where the economy is more like the US than Mexico.
  6. We wanted a city of beauty where we could live close the main plaza so we could walk to restaurants, movies, cultural events and theater. Morelia is such a place?filled with centuries old stone buildings and beautiful parks and other public places.

Of course, Mexico is not perfect?nowhere is. Also, moving to Mexico is a lot more complicated than moving to a different city in the US. It is a different country, with different laws. We suggest all Americans contemplating such a move spend time living in a city or two for several months before finalizing a move. There are many excellent sources of information on the internet – we especially recommend a subscription to That is an on-line community where people (mostly Americans and Canadians) share their experiences and thoughts about Mexico.

For us, retiring in Mexico has been exactly what we wanted. As we get settled and learn more about our new home, we find ourselves liking it more and more.

Jim and Linda Pierce from Carmel, California

“Mexico is an exciting and beautiful country. Mexicans are kind and gentle people. It’s a great place to retire, or semi-retire. especially if you still have ties to the USA or Canada. It’s very convenient to return north to visit family and friends. Expect lots of visitors. Mexico also has all the USA conveniences, like Costo and Home Depot”


Mexico is a wonderful destination for retirement. There is art, culture, history and many, many other good things to do. The people are warm and friendly and, in many cases, the cost of living is less than in many parts of the United States or Canada. Heath care is far less expensive and much more personalized than elsewhere. Some worry about violence. I don?t Much of this is localized in places where foreigners do not go. In almost 40 years living in Mexico, I am delighted with the decision I made and never look back!

Linda Neil

“My wife and I bought a house in Patzcuaro in 2005. Approaching retirement, we decided to put some of our retirement saving into a modest Mexican house. Our house, near the Plaza Grande, probably has been a good investment (it’s value first went up and then down, but not as far down as, say, the S&P500). More than this, it has given us great pleasure to visit Patzcuaro a few times each year. It is a beautiful, friendly, and relaxing town. Patzcuaro is near to Morelia, with its cultural and shopping possibilities, close enough to the coast to make a weekend trip a delight, and close to lots of other natural and cultural treasures of Mexico. When we retire, I expect we will spend several months in our house in Patzcuaro each year. The summer (when it rains) and autumn (when the flowers bloom and Patzcuaro becomes a cultural center around the Day of the Dead) are especially nice times to spend here”

Bernard Wasow

Washington DC

“This is my third winter in Mexico and my second in Morelia. I love the festivals, museums, food, etc. but mostly, the people. Morelia is a wonderful place to live and a great base to travel to other places of interest. I highly recommend it. I am from Ottawa (Canada’s capital). It is minus 20 there today (December 8th) which speaks to why I am here”


“My first trip to Mexico was in June of 1991, to San Jose del Cabo in the Baja Peninsula. I liked very much what I saw. There was cactus, beside the Sea, sports fishing and golf. So I went back to Vancouver Island and wound up my business there, returning to Mexico in October of 1991.

Since that time, I have traveled extensively through Mexico. A lot of my travel has been to attend meetings and conferences of the Mexican Association of Realtors. (AMPI) At this time, Mexico does not have licensing in real estate. For this reason if making an investment in Mexican real estate, dealing with a member of AMPI is a MUST. Another must is acquiring a tile insurance policy. Three title insurance companies are operating in this country.

Life for me in Mexico is a rich cultural experience. These days, I live six months each in the states of Baja California Sur ( La Paz) and Michoacan (Uruapan) . Both have tremendous natural beauty, B.C. S. on the sparkling Sea of Cortes. Uruapan Michoacan is high up in the mountains with tall pines, everywhere. The state is known as the avocado capital of the world and also produces a wide variety of fruit and vegetables. The Indians in Michoacan are called Purepecha. They have a rather interesting history, much too long for this report. I will say they excel in crafts, music and are known for their gastronomic abilities. The capital of Michoacan, Morelia is an colonial architectural treasure.

My doctors and dentist are all here in this country. I am almost 75 and receive excellent medical care, here in Mexico”


2 Responses to Talk to me about retiring in Mexico

  1. grannypants says:

    Mexico is filled with beautiful places to visit and to retire. For the Pacific Coast, if you like small, there are many places, but none quite like
    La Manzanilla, Jalisco. With the U.S. forcing people to work longer just to survive, I can see the trend Southward again and I am not talking about the locals!

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