Forgotten but Never Gone
|by Art Jones
|As my great
luck and almost no planning would have it, I got to spend a good part
of my adult life in Alaska. I hitch-hiked up there in 1974 to work
on the Trans Alaska Pipeline and help construct it. Then, I was one
of the lucky few who stayed on to do repair and maintenance. I
worked in some of the most beautiful country nature ever made from Prudoe
Bay across the Brooks Range all the way to Valdez. By 1995,
I knew it was time for a change. I took advantage of of my union's early
retirement plan and headed south. I spent about a year and a half traveling
in Mexico and Central America before settling down in Mazatlan, Sinaloa,
la Perla del Pacifico. On June 23, 2000, I had the extreme
good fortune to marry the Dra. Maria Elena Osuna. We live in a big
white house with red tiled roof on a hill overlooking the city and Pacific
|With us are
our cocker-poodle el Chapo Bin Laden and Huma, our eighty pound and growing
American Pit Bull Terrier. My wife practices dentistry, and I'm a house
husband and full time health nut.
I read in our
local paper "Noroeste" this morning, that living in Mexico is only
slightly less dangerous than life in Columbia and Haiti. If you discounted
the civil war in Columbia, only Haiti would pose more of a risk to life
and property. I also read awhile back that Mazatlan and Culiacan,
Sinaloa, along with Tiajuana, Ciudad Juarez, and Distrito Federal (Mexico
City) are the five most dangerous cities in Mexico. That may
well be. In my six years living in el Centro Historico, the old Mexican
part of Mazatlan, Lord knows I've lost my fair share of bicycles....
Once, a few years ago, I left my trusty 81 Nissan unlocked, parked
in broad daylight , downtown. Pinche ratero lifted my laundry,
fresh from the cleaners, right off the seat of the old pickup. In
both cases, the fault was mine. I didn't watch my stuff and somebody got
it. Simple as that, happens all the time, everywhere.
In all the
years I've lived here, I've only heard of two shootings where Gringos were
|One case involved
two Canadians who happened to be having lunch in the same restaurant as
a couple of reputed narcos. Elements of a rival faction showed up
and sprayed the place with bullets.
man was killed and his female companion was seriously injured. The
other involved the infamous "love triangle." No Mexicans were
involved. A few other cases come to mind. The owner of a very
upscale house in a very upscale neighborhood that we were renting was arrested
for being a professional killer. Seems he worked for one of the local
drug running gangs that roam, and some say run the state of Sinaloa.
He allegedly blasted three members of a rival gang on three consecutive
days in the Zona Dorada.
say we were shocked. He was our next door neighbor, as well, and
we thought he was a hell of a nice guy.
a family man, had a charming wife and two nice kids. He was gunned
down a few months later after his bosses bought him out of jail.
Goes to show you never know.... About a year and a half ago my father-in-law
experienced a home invasion type robbery. My wife and step- daughter
were in the house at the time. It was a scary experience. The
robbers were professionals and lost no time in sacking the entire house.
No one was hurt although the property loss was considerable. This
is my personal experience over six years, all in all. I and the other
Gringo residents that I know feel perfectly comfortable living here.
If you're not involved in anything illegal and have any kind of luck at
all, you should be fine in Mazatlan.
There are four
Mazatlans of interest to most Gringos. They are, from south
to north, El Centro Historico, Los Pinos, Playa Norte, and La Zona
Dorada, a.k.a. the Golden Zone. They're all located in a ten mile
long strip about three hundred meters wide running along the Pacific Ocean.
There is of course much more. Mazatlan is made up dozens of "Colonias"
each with its own personality.
speaking, living conditions become more basic as you move inland away from
the beach. The poverty becomes more obvious.
is built on a peninsula. The old city, El Centro as it is now called, is
at the extreme southern tip.
north you go the more modern it becomes. Mazatlan was a stop over
for the 49ers on their way to the California gold fields. Many gold
seekers, sick and sorry from the long, rough voyage around the horn, liked
what they saw and decided to stay. American surnames are found in
many Mazatleco families. Carlos Felton was a recent candidate in
the mayoral race . Ernesto Kelly, Juan Jesus Thompson, Guillermo Coppel
are all prominent Mazatlan businessmen whose ancestors
in el Centro, I'd guess ten to fifteen percent of resident Gringos live
here. Most of the others live in La Zona Dorada. The Zona
is at the extreme north end, where the peninsula is no longer peninsula.
It resembles a slightly tacky Southern California beach community.
That said, its real popular with expat Gringos. Very near the beach,
a 3 bedroom, 2 bath in a gated community with all the amenities and a golf
course can be had for about a hundred grand. That's way cheaper than
Puerto Vallarta or Acapulco, and I shudder to think what one like it would
cost in the U.S. The nuevo rico Mexicans favor the Zona as well.
Unfortunately, that includes more than few narcos. The Zona was the
site of a long running drug gang war, but has quieted down a great deal
of late.... I don't think there has been an incident up there
since Ramon Arellano Felix, the FBI's second most wanted fugitive was gunned
down up there on May 11 of this year. I don't go to the Zona much.
It's not so much because I don't like it or feel afraid of being caught
in a cross fire; it's just that El Centro is so pleasant that I seldom
was an "in spot" for the rich and famous of the 1950s. Clark
Gable and friends were regulars at Playa Olas Altas; they stayed at the
Hotel Belmar and at the recently remodeled Hotel Freeman. The Freeman sat
empty and idle for 15 yrs, but is set to reopen any day now. The
city moved north over the past few decades, and along with it went the
people: Los Pinos, largely residential in the 50s, Playa Norte in the 60s
and the Zona in the 70s, 80s and 90s.
Down, Advantage Up
Since the 9/11
attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, tourism has been in
the pits. Along with the decline in activity of the fishing fleet and the
general weakness of the Mexican economy, the past couple of years has put
a serious hurt on the area. Mexico is at the bottom (I hope) of a
long, extremely long, economic depression. It is definitely harder
for the average Mexican to make ends meet now than just after the devaluation
of 1995. Signs of a reversal are now being seen however.
there is a lack of tourism in Mazatlan, there is no lack of retirees taking
advantage of rock bottom prices to scoop up colonial era fixer uppers here
in El Centro and more contemporary digs in the Zona. If you ever
had the desire to really be in on the ground floor of something in Mexico,
Mazatlan may be for you.
A side from
the real estate bargains and the almost perfect weather, the friendly people,
and the seafood that Maz is famous for, there are a few other benefits
to Mazatlan life I 'd like to mention. Before choosing Mazatalan, I spent
about a year and a half traveling in Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras,
and Costa Rica. There are beautiful and charming locations galore
in all those countries, no doubt about it, but they also have some serious
drawbacks. One is accessibility. Tucson, Arizona, is a grueling
one day, or a very pleasant two day drive from Mazatlan. It's a two-and-a-half
hour flight to LAX, and there are several flights leaving daily.
Mazatlan has tiendas, mercados, and tianguis. But Mazatlan also has
Sam's Club and Office Depot and any day now, will open a Walmart.
How about that? Most important for me is health care and the availability
and accessibility of medicines. Mazatlan is loaded, I mean loaded
with absolutely first rate doctors, private hospitals and clinics, dentist,
dental labs, you name it. And it is cheap. My completely unscientific
research into the cost of medical care points to about one-third to one-tenth
that of stateside prices depending on the procedure. These folks
are one hundred per cent competent, many went to same med schools as U.S.
doctors. The big difference is Mexican doctors feel that they are
working for you, not the other way around. You always have first
and final say on how your treatment should proceed. Most U.S. citizens
living in Mexico who are not accustomed to their doctors paying a lot of
attention to how they feel, sometimes find it a bit strange at first.
are available at any pharmacy with no prescription needed. Again,
the cost is a fraction of U.S. prices. Since I moved to Mazatlan,
I've gotten myself into great shape. The only drugs that interest me at
the moment are Ginko-Biloba (120 x 40 mg x 24% for around seven bucks);Nootropil
(Piracetam 30 x 800 mg for around $14 USD); and Viagra (1 x 100 mgs 2 doses
for most) for around $12.50 USD. If you've dreamed of real HGH and
Testosteron hormone replacement therapy but couldn't hack the astronomical
U.S. cost, the last time I checked HGH was available at my local Farmacia
for somewhere around 9 bucks per I.U., and 250 mg of Testosterone (Sostonon
250) is about the same price.
My wife is
a dentist who specializes in dental reconstruction, dentures, crowns, and
bridges, etc. Almost all her family are med-professionals, and good
health is my hobby. If I can help anyone relocate or come for medical-dental
work, go ahead and email me through the link in the Additional Resources
info at the top of this article.
Index ~ Mexico