It’s early yet. I’ve only been in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, for six months, so I’m no expert. My impressions and observations are personal and preliminary. But it seems to me that a significant number of the non-Mexican population whom I’m slowly getting to know here are what I now think of as refugees. And I count myself among them.
Strictly speaking, a refugee is someone who is fleeing a country to find a better life elsewhere, to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster. So I may be stretching the term to include unnatural disasters. Nevertheless, I think it fits.
The refugees I’m referring to are not, of course, the well-off gringo couples who buy luxurious houses in San Miguel de Allende and live in them luxuriously all or part of the year. No, the ones I’m thinking of are, like me, older, independent American women living as happily and healthfully as possible here on our Social Security income (and whatever else we’ve been able to piece together) because we can no longer afford to live in the USA.
This “refugee” demographic, from what I’ve been able to glean, shares a strikingly similar profile: Over 65. Single (divorced, widowed, or never married). Educated. Professional. Financially k.o.’d by the economic downturn of recent years (among other reasons). Unable to find suitable work at this age/stage of life. Unwilling to accept charity from any source (including family and friends). Learned about this magical mountain town in the central mountains of Mexico, visited, fell in love with its beauty, heart, and soul, and decided to retire here.
This is hardly a hard-luck story. I think of it as a story of hope and resilience. At a time when the American middle class is shrinking (even committing suicide in record numbers, I read recently in the New York Times), economic prospects for all but those at the tippy-top of the iceberg are sinking, and the whole, vast, complicated country seems to be undergoing a tectonic shift, isn’t it nice to know there are other options in this world?
I needn’t mention the likelihood that many more Americans will be fleeing the country if a certain Republican nominee gets elected to the presidency. Those who like short summers, brilliant fall foliage, and long, cold winters will be drawn to Canada; others, like me, who prefer climates where palm trees grow and tropical fruit is abundant and cheap will relocate south of the border and do our best to learn to speak Spanish.
Is Mexico perfect? No. Nowhere (under Heaven) is. The honeymoon phase of my new life here ended a few weeks ago, when my house was broken into and robbed. (See previous posts.) But since then, and until I move to another, smaller place in a safer neighborhood on June 1, the police department has had a policeman stop at this house to check on me every day. He is young, short, stocky, strong, but gentle. He wears a bullet-proof vest and leaves his patrol car running. His name is Alonzo. He rings the bell, asks me (in fast Spanish) how I’m doing today, wishes me well, and shakes my hand. His hand is strong; he makes me feel cared-for. Where else would this be the case?
So far, and for the most part, I’ve found Mexicans to be heartfull people. They take in refugees and treat them as their own. I know this because I am one.