Mexi-CUTE or Mexi-CURE – Lake Chapala Is A Sick Puppy

Lake Chapala

 

Mexico’s Lake Chapala is a sick puppy. The term “Clean Up The Environment” (hereinafter “cute”) has become a phrase used by politicians to denote a concern that may play well at the polls, but rarely turns into measurable improvements for the ecosystem.  On December 1, 2018 Mexico installed their new President, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO). His election garnered widespread electoral support by virtue of his comprehensive environmental restoration agenda for Mexico entitled NaturAMLO. The whole world is watching.

For AMLO’s administration (as well as many others around this planet), the question becomes one of delivering tangible environmental and public health improvements for his nation, or becoming just another politician playing the cute card. Yet, AMLO and Mexico have a distinct advantage; a cure for cute.

The Lerma-Lake Chapala-Santiago basin in Mexico is a sick puppy that requires immediate, comprehensive treatment – meaningful intervention by Mexico’s federal government. Lake Chapala is located some 35 minutes south of Guadalajara, Mexico’s second largest city, with over 4 million residents. The lake is situated in the state of Jalisco in western Mexico. Jalisco has an estimated 6.3 million inhabitants, 60% of whom reside in the state capital of Guadalajara, with the remainder dispersed among urban and rural areas in the region. Unemployment among adults who are actively seeking work is low (approximately 2%), while annual per capita income is approximately US $6000. The primary employers in the state of Jalisco are agriculture (11%), manufacturing/industrial (25%)   and the services sector (31%) and sectors.  Guadalajara is considered to be an economic engine for Mexico – and one with even more positive economic potential in the future. According to one source, “Guadalajara had the second strongest economic potential of any major North American city, with only Chicago scoring higher for sheer economic potential.”(1)

Lake Chapala is the source of drinking water for 60% of Guadalajara’s requirements, and a few million others. This Lake is the largest body of freshwater in Mexico spanning some 48 miles in length and 12 miles across. The region touts its ranking as the second best climate in the world. Surrounded by lush green vegetation, the Sierra Madre mountains, fertile soils, and magnificent vistas – it is a veritable Garden of Eden.  Fishermen feed their families from their catches in the lake and sell them in local markets. Fruits and vegetables are grown in abundance in the area. It is a weekend getaway destination for residents of metropolitan Guadalajara. The Lake Chapala region is also inhabited by tens of thousands of Canadians, Americans, and Europeans who have chosen “Lakeside” as their retirement home. Thus, the Lakeside area (the north shore sector of the Lake) is truly international in composition. Yet, there are scientifically determined public health and environmental problems in paradise. 

Recent studies have identified wastewater treatment plants discharging untreated effluent into the lake, resulting in measurements of unhealthy levels of fecal coliform.  The cities and/or agencies required to operate these facilities don’t have the money to pay for the electricity required to operate them. Other studies have identified the presence of heavy metals in lake water and the sediment in the lake. Pesticides containing the likes of glyphosate (Think  “Round-Up”) have been found in humans living around the lake. The pesticide source has been attributed to the evaporation of lake water and the subsequent dispersal onto local inhabitants via air currents (wind) and precipitation (rain). Septic systems in some areas are overflowing and contaminating ground water. Children in a specific village adjacent to the lake have been diagnosed with varying degrees of Chronic Kidney Disease at rates deemed 3-5 times greater than comparable populations. There is nothing cute about children medically diagnosed as living perilously on the downward slope toward ERSD – end stage renal disease – the final stage of kidney disease. 

Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is an increasing source of concern for public health officials worldwide. However, for Mexico, the matter has become increasingly alarming. A recent study determined that between 1990 and 2013, the CKD incidence in Mexico translated into increases to  >130% in standardized years of life lost and disability-adjusted life-years (DALY); the second highest DALY CKD ratio in the world.(2) A 2018 study concluded: “It is of paramount importance to consider CKD a public health priority and to implement a comprehensive program of prevention and treatment of this illness.”(3)

Back to Lake Chapala. According to the World Health Organization “Globally, almost 800 million people lack access to safe water and 2.5 billion lack access to optimal sanitation. In low- and middle-income countries, waterborne and pestilent diseases associated with poor hygiene and sanitation are major causes of acute kidney injury and chronic kidney disease.”(4) Unfortunately, in the Lake Chapala basin, poverty inhabits paradise. Those without clean drinking water due to socio-economic realities, continue to rely on lake water and other drainages/sources that surround the lake. Public health, environmental and humanitarian advocates continue to press government officials to intervene and begin the remediation process. Inspired by the public health hazards resident amidst the contamination of the Lerma-Chapala-Santiago basin, advocates have repeatedly called upon the Jalisco Health Secretariat (SSJ) to complete an epidemiological study in areas known to be sources of public health hazards.(5) They receive the typical “cute” responses intended to pacify them from these government authorities, and a myriad of others.

Frankly, Lake Chapala is a national treasure of Mexico. It is a global treasure. It is an area inhabited by people from all around the globe. The health and welfare of millions are dependent upon the restoration of these waters and this basin. The conundrum legitimately demands a cure versus any more cute treatment. Chapala Urgently Requires the Extraordinary: a national political directive that moves from the lip-service of cute, to the demonstrable remediation and enduring pride delivered by the CURE.  The administration of Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has the opportunity to declare that Lake Chapala deserves the designation as a site for the CURE:  Comprehensive Urgent Rehabilitation and restoration Efforts. Perhaps this will be the first tangible step in the roll-out of AMLO’s NaturAMLO promise to the people of Mexico. I certainly hope so.

How will President Andrés Manuel López Obrador treat this sick puppy?

The whole world is watching…

 

Bill Dahl is an investigative journalist who recently completed 4 weeks in the Guadalajara/Chapala/Jalisco region of central Mexico examining the public health and environmental hazards that inhabit the area. He has a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice. He resides in the U.S.

NOTES:

(1) http://www.itesm.mx/wps/wcm/connect/sim/Guadalajara+EN

(2) https://jasn.asnjournals.org/content/18/6/1922  Survival among Patients with Kidney Failure in Jalisco, Mexico, Guillermo Garcia-Garcia, Gregorio Briseño-Rentería, Victor H. Luquín-Arellan, Zhiwei Gao, John Gill and Marcello Tonelli JASN June 2007, 18 (6) 1922-1927; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1681/ASN.2006121388  

(3) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6127446/ – Kidney Int Rep. 2018 Sep; 3(5): 1027–1029. Published online 2018 Jul 27. doi:  [10.1016/j.ekir.2018.07.018] The Tragedy of Having ESRD in Mexico Guillermo Garcia-Garcia1,∗ and Jonathan Samuel Chavez-Iñiguez1

4) https://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/96/6/17-206441/en/ The global burden of kidney disease and the sustainable development goals, Valerie A Luyckx, Marcello Tonelli  & John W Stanifer

​(5)​ https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=http://wradio.com.mx/emisora/2018/08/24/guadalajara/1535133019_890151.html&prev=search Soriano, Giselle

 

NaturAMLO – the Amelioration Mandate for Lake Chapala’s Oversight

NaturAMLO Chapala

 

By the time that the signs of decline are clear enough to convince everybody, it may be too late to save the species or habitat.” – Jared Diamond

About The Authors:

Bill Dahl is an investigative journalist who recently completed 4 weeks in the Guadalajara/Chapala region of central Mexico examining the public health and environmental hazards that inhabit the area. He has a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice. He resides in the U.S.

Gabriel Vazquz Sanchez is the General Director of AIROMADES – the Intermunicipal Association for the Protection of the Environment and Sustainable Development of Lake Chapala. He holds a Masters degree in Conservation of Natural and Cultural Heritage and Master’s in Integrated Management of Hydrological Basins. He has been Director of the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve of Guanajuato and of the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve of Querétaro. He is based in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico.

Drip, Drip, Drip…

 Pulitzer Prize winning author and scientist Jared Diamond[1] has written; “societies fail to perceive a problem is when it takes the form of a slow trend concealed by wide up-and-down fluctuations.[2] Perhaps that’s why our planet’s annual seasonal fluctuations obscure the reality of climate change. Furthermore, human perception is wired to recognize the apparent.  When it comes to water quality, associated public health maladies, on ongoing ecosystem degradation – these are “slow trends concealed” from our everyday observations because they are less than apparent to us. As Diamond writes in another of his works; “By the time that the signs of decline are clear enough to convince everybody, it may be too late to save the species or habitat.”[3] With water, the decline in its quality and supply, the emergence of related public health maladies, economic decline, the degradation of surrounding ecosystems, and the loss of species, some endemic, contained therein. The destruction of essential water resources that support healthy human habitation, and the associated, strategically important  economies is a slow trend; a drip, drip, drip process.

Water resources worldwide are under tremendous stress. The availability of freshwater is anticipated to become the primary risk associated with economic growth, political stability, and human survival in the near term. Mexico is no exception to this reality.

The Lerma-Lake Chapala-Santiago basin in Mexico provides millions of people and associated economic interests with the primary water resource they require. Its viability is currently under siege after decades upon decades of mismanagement and neglect. Guadalajara, Mexico’s second largest city and the 4 million + residents of the broader region are fundamentally sustained by this distinctly imperiled water resource. Guadalajara is considered the bright shining star of Mexico’s economic engine of the future. (Guadalajara has a geographic footprint and population equivalent to that of Madrid, the capital of Spain).How’s that going to turn out with no water in that engine?

According to the World Bank: “Water resources management is one of Mexico’s most urgent environmental and resource problems, and one that imposes heavy costs on the economy.[4]  This WB study also observes that the decreases in available water in Mexico have increased pollution accompanied by increased demand. The report goes on to point out: “Nevertheless, significant challenges remain, particularly in terms of improving water services and quality and defining the regulations required to implement the established legal and institutional framework. Over half of Mexican households still lack reliable and continuous water services. For most of the country, municipal effluents remain untreated and irrigation systems have rates of inefficiency that exceed 50 percent.”[5]

Well, that particular World Bank study was 12 years ago. Yet, its conclusions remain valid, and require updating to verify the current extent and nature of the damage. In 2015, Mexico established The National Water Commission (Comisión Nacional del Agua aka CONAGUA). Its purpose is to be the administrative and technical advisory commission of Mexico’s Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT). More specifically, CONAGUA administers Mexico’s waters, the nation’s hydrological apparatus, and performs associated social development activities. So what have been the substantive, meaningful, tangible, positive, sustainable results of studies, reports, meetings, conferences and commissions? Frankly, for the residents of Mexico…honestly?…nada. Actually, the water quality, environmental degradation and public health hazards have actually worsened.

The Lerma-Lake Chapala-Santiago basin  is the most glaring example of the absence of meaningful and urgent Mexican Federal government intervention. Flows into the lake transport toxic sediments from the upper basin into the depths of the lake. Untreated sewage, run-off and  wastewater are routinely discharged into the lake, scientifically verified presence of heavy metals in humans, fish, foods and flora are apparent, municipalities cannot afford the electricity required to operate sewage and wastewater treatment plants, the lake is infested by water hyacinths, and the incidence of Chronic Kidney disease remains the 2nd worst in the world, and in some locations around the lake, the incidence of CKD is 3-5 times greater than any other places on the planet. Need I say more?

What’s the problem? Like many countries, Mexico is struggling with population increases, industries requiring water, lack of adequately constructed and maintained sites for disposal of toxins, poor water quality assessment and delivery infrastructure, regulatory inefficiencies, and limitations on financial resources.[6] Translation: The problem is multi-faceted. The required solution is multi-dimensional as well.

Hope or Hype?

Yet, there’s hope. On December 1, 2018 Andrés Manuel López Obrador aka AMLO was elected as the new President of Mexico. Accompanying his election was his pledge to clean up the environment (among other issues) and a renewed focus on restoring the water resources of his nation via a splashy, bold document entitled “NaturAMLO.”

After a major national election in almost any country, people are filled with hope, buoyed by all the hype filled promises that inflated the narrative of the election.

In his book, Collapse – How Societies Choose To Fail Or Succeed, Jared Diamond suggests that societies fail due to the cumulative effects of 4 basic choices; “failure to anticipate a problem (anticipation), failure to perceive it once it has arisen (perception), failure to attempt to solve it after it has been perceived (failure to act), and failure to succeed in attempts to solve it (failure to succeed).”[7]  Regarding water supply, water quality, the emergence of associated diseases, and the degradation of ecosystems Mexico, like many other countries, has succumbed to the failures in each of the stages identified by Diamond.

Yet, President AMLO has an immediate advantage over his predecessors. Guided by his NaturAMLO agenda, his choices will determine the future of the strategically essential waters of the Lake Chapala basin for the Mexican people, and his nation’s economic prowess. As the title of Diamond’s book indicates, Societies choose to fail or succeed. Will NaturAMLO be hype or will it embody the demonstrable leadership so boldly proclaimed by the new Mexican President by the immediate decisions and choices he makes – translating the hopes of the Mexican people into reality.

What might these decisions and choices look like?

A Pathway to Progress:

It took decades for the degradation of the Lerner-Chapala-Santiago basin to come about. It will also be a process to stop the deterioration and begin to restore this strategically essential resource for the Mexican people and the country of Mexico. What might this look like? Perhaps some of the following suggestions will be helpful in providing a phased framework within which this process can succeed.

I. Immediate:

1.The issuance of an emergency Executive Order by Mexican President AMLO designating the Lerma-Chapala-Santiago basin as a national NaturAMLO site. 

2. The term NaturAMLO refers to both an Amazing Mexico Leadership Opportunity for Andrés Manuel López Obrador and embodies the concrete actions that declare the Amelioration Mandate for Lake Chapala’s Oversight.

3. By Mexican Presidential Executive Order, provide a budget and initial, emergency  funding to complete the items identified herein as Immediate and Short Term objectives.

4. The immediate establishment of the an official, Federal, Mexican Government Agency – The NaturAMLO Agency – to evaluate, supervise, fund, coordinate, administrate and rehabilitate designated AMLO sites, as declared by the Mexican President. These sites shall be areas that contain known and scientifically reasonably suspected hazards to human health and require strategically important rehabilitation of environmental degradation for benefit and future of the country of Mexico.

5. Empower the Mexican President to authorize additional funding to designated NaturAMLO sites.

6. Immediately prohibit access to know sites of human health hazards – one example is Agual Caliente spring waters – and others as identified by the NaturAMLO staff in cooperation with designated experts in multi-disciplinary fields retained for ongoing scientific guidance.

7. Establish a board of public health and environmental experts empowered to advise the NaturAMLO staff as to priorities, methodological considerations for additional, essential studies, the acquisition and deployment of essential scientific environmental measurement and data acquisition devices, and serve to oversee the completion of scientific studies approved by NaturAMLO and the public dissemination of their results – and recommend further scientific remediation modalities when and wherever required. 

8. Prohibit the spraying of pesticides on water hyacinths and other invasive plant species that inhabit the lake by any party.

9. Nationalize the operation of the municipal and Jalisco state operated sewage and wastewater treatment plants around Lake Chapala. The current municipal/state of Jalisco government entities do not that the funds and staff to operate and maintain these facilities effectively. Currently, the lakeside municipalities do not possess the financial resources required to pay for the electrical power required to operate and maintain them. Currently, it is essential to explore the use alternative sources of energy for their operation to reduce their operating costs.

10. Provide an immediate and ongoing supply of clean drinking water to the most at-risk communities – including Agual Caliente, Mezcala, San Pedro Itzicán, El Salto and Juanacatlán – as identified by Enrique Lira coordinator of the Socio-Environmental Forum in Guadalajara. Furthermore, Lakeside communities require a comprehensive intervention in their water resources, including sources, conduction, storage, purification and delivery infrastructure.

11. Establish a Chronic Kidney Disease diagnostic, monitoring and treatment center in Mezcala to provide medical services to affected populations – including the provision of current, state of the art medical devices required to treat a range of patients who suffer from various stages of kidney disease. According to Gabriel Vazquez Sanchez, Director of AIPROMADES[8] in Guadalajara: “The most critical sites are in the territory of the municipality of Poncitlán. Placing this center in Mezcala would be strategically  significant and would have a profound, positive social impact.”

12. Enact federal regulatory legislation specific to this AMLO site. This includes fines and legal consequences for those who breach the federally mandated and administered AMLO site protocols. Deploy AMLO site government overseers who have the official legal authority to monitor compliance with, and enforcement of,  this legislation locally, on-site.

13. Deploy an additional 21 water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes aka liros)/invasive plant harvesting machines to Lake Chapala, fully staffed by trained operators. (There are only 2 harvesting machines at present) Furthermore, make certain that adequate and essential equipment is available to transport the harvested water hyacinths to a designated disposal site so that mounds of harvested water hyacinths do not accumulate on the lake shore, delayed by the essential disposal transportation to the designated disposal sites. There are also shredding machines owned and operated by the State Rural Development Secretary. However, shredding the water hyacinths is not a solution. The  total extraction of the plant is required. Furthermore, It is also necessary to complete an analysis of the chemicals and heavy metals contained in the extracted plants, to ensure their safety level to re-manufacture them into compost or require their disposal at safe disposal sites.

14. The infestation of water hyacinths is not the only invasive species issue. Studies have identified 7 species of aquatic invasive plants. These invaders make root or that float, and their geometric growth alters the Lake conditions. Interestingly, the water hyacinth or lily, is no longer the most abundant species. It Pistia stratiotes, water lettuce, which appears to be more resistant to the increasing temperature. The seven invasive aquatic species in Lake Chapala identified by scientists include: Hydrocotyle ranunculoides, Berula erecta, Juncus effusus, Lemma gibba, Typha latifolia, Eichornia Crassipes and Pistia stratiotes. These infestations in Lake Chapala must be arrested due to their multi-dimensional negative impacts on the ecosystem. These deleterious effects include: blocking inflows and outflows, hampering recreation and fishing, reducing natural currents and water movement, reducing the amount of dissolved oxygen, and retarding the penetration of sunlight. These realities of water hyacinth infestation complicate the essential production of phytoplankton and the health and reproduction of resident fish species. They also provide superb breeding grounds for noxious organisms like mosquitoes that are known carriers of both the Dengue and Zika viruses. It has also been suggested that the hyacinths absorb heavy metals absorbed from Lake Chapala – attributed to industrial waste deposited in the Lerma River that flows into Lake Chapala.[9]

15. Establish and distribute public information materials to fully inform the local populations of the Lerma-Chapala-Santiago basin about its designation as a NaturAMLO site, and provide incentives to them to cooperate and comply with this  national initiative. Create and distribute this information to schools throughout the designated area, and adjacent communities.

16. Recovery of the meaningful RAMSAR Site designation for Lake Chapala is imperative. A management plan that allows for the conservation, nesting and refuge sites of the migratory birds is of international importance. Lake Chapala is a wildlife refuge for migratory waterfowl. The Lake provides the habitat for feeding, hibernation and breeding. The Lake is also home to numerous species of fish, including Menidia contrerasi, Menidia sphyraena, Ictalurus dugesii, and Menidia promelas. The habitat provides support for endangered species of birds including Botaurus lentiginosus and Rallus limicola, and mammals like the Mexican Long-nosed Bat (Leptonycteris nivalis) and the Collared peccary (Tayassu tajacu), as well as Puma (Felis concolor) – which is also endangered.[10]

II. Short Term: Completion Within 9 Months of Declaring the Lerma-Chapala-Santiago basin as a  Federally Designated  AMLO Site

Complete a review of the public health and environmental studies completed by the scientific communities over the past 20 years. Identify:

A. Scientific evidence that confirms both public health and environmental hazards that require immediate rehabilitation and eradication actions. Define the appropriate scientific remediation modalities, including the essential monitoring of ongoing scientific data collection moving toward the achievement of the public and environmental improvement benchmarks.

B. Identify the absence of essential scientific studies that must be completed to ascertain the multi-causal factors whose cumulative effects contribute to the current malady. Issue RFP’s, and evaluate the submitted RFP’s for these essential studies that have yet to be completed. Fund and initiate these scientific studies on or before one year from the date of designation of the Lerma-Chapala-Santiago basin as a NaturAMLO site.

C.  Deploy the essential arrays of scientific measurement devices throughout Lake Chapala basin that are currently lacking. These include: resident water quality measurement devices, measurements devices where any treated effluent is discharged into the lake, examine and deploy water quality measurement arrays at current, known sites where storm water run-off is discharged routinely into the Lake, deploy air quality testing arrays around the Lake to ascertain the degree of evaporation of toxins (eg., pesticide residues) from lake waters that are the disbursed onto adjacent landscape and human populations, obtain core sediment samples at numerous locations within the lake body to determine the current identity of, location and concentrations of heavy metals. This process must include the analysis of sludge and sediments via topobathymetry that measure the cure, actual state of the soils. This has not been done for more than twenty years.

D. Initiate a comprehensive scientific examination of the use of pesticides and fertilizers throughout the the Lerma-Chapala-Santiago basin as a NaturAMLO region. (See Corazon de la Tierra, 2013[11])

E. Initiate a comprehensive scientific examination of the presence of toxins hazardous to human health in the fish species throughout the the Lerma-Chapala-Santiago basin.

F. Initiate a comprehensive scientific examination of the presence of toxins hazardous to human health in the agricultural products grown, harvested, sold and consumed throughout the the Lerma-Chapala-Santiago basin.

G. Feedback Loop – Ongoing Public and scientific disclosures as scientific results from assessment and remediation efforts are available for public consumption. At a minimum, progress reports for this NaturAMLO site should be issued every 6 months.

III. Long Term: Completion Within 48 Months of Declaraing the Lerma-Chapala-Santiago basin as a  Federally Designated  AMLO Site

The Lerma-Lake Chapala-Santiago basin is a unique national treasure of phenomenal beauty and strategic importance to Mexico as a nation. Yet,  we know the region remains vulnerable to misuse,  exploitation and ongoing threats to its survival. Degradation of the region and this ecosystem happened over the course of more than a century. Even with the resiliency of nature, discernible widespread improvements will also take time. The goals, objectives, measures of progress and other efforts identified in the NaturAMLO Plan will help ensure quantifiable annual outputs are in place that will lead to long-term restoration outcomes, even if such outcomes will not be immediately measurable on an ecosystem scale. Degradation is a process. So is the rehabilitation of the same.

A. Long term requirements for the restoration of any ecosystem evolve over time, as the results of essential scientific measurements dictate.

B. Consult with the international community to garner the experience of other comparable ecosystems that have been restored. Implement a “best practices” mechanism to inject successful approaches, interventions  and technologies elsewhere into the Lerma-Lake Chapala-Santiago basin NaturAMLO initiative.

C. Dredging – Removal of heavy metals from Lake/River bottom sediments may be essential. Replacement soil may be required.

D. Longitudinal Studies are essential.

E. Annual Public Disclosures of the Previous 12 months Efforts, Results and Plans for the Upcoming year are required.

F. Review readily available comparable interventions. See: https://www.glri.us/sites/default/files/glri-action-plan-fy2010-fy2014-20100221-41pp.pdf and https://www.epa.gov/greatlakes/restoring-great-lakes as examples.

G. Based upon the urgency and strategic importance this situation demands, the initiation of the search for qualified, experienced, strategic partners – on an international scale – who can provide on-site scientific assistance, the provision of required measurement devices, and sources of ongoing funding – are essential.

In conclusion, national treasures require national stewardship, choices by leadership, and the treasury of a nation to maintain and restore them as enduring, legitimate displays of  dedication to the public health of the citizenry, ecosystems, species, national pride and vision.  May President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s NaturAMLO priority be treated as the Amazing Mexico Leadership Opportunity and be translated from hype into hope by virtue of the President’s declaration of the Lerma-Lake Chapala-Santiago basin with the honor of being nationally designated by virtue of his Amelioration Mandate for Lake Chapala’s Oversight.

Mexico’s Lake Chapala is the largest lake in the country, the 3rd largest in Latin America, and said to be the 2nd highest in the Americas, surpassed only by Lake Titicaca. It is the primary source of the water supply for the greater Guadalajara metropolitan area. It’s strategic importance to the nation of Mexico us unparalleled. It is the largest water source in Mexico. Millions of people, plant and animal species, and the viability of the nation’s economy depend upon the enactment of an aggressive, comprehensive, and coordinated strategy designed for its restoration.

Such is the current opportunity for Mexico. Without water resource rehabilitation, humanity will be sunk. Mexico is no exception. Renowned author and psychologist Steven Pinker[12] has written: “The nature of reality does not dictate the way that reality is represented in people’s minds. [13]” Thus, interpretation depends upon “what we choose to focus on and what we choose to ignore.[14]

Will the new President of Mexico Andrés Manuel López Obrador focus on the implementation of a comprehensive strategy dedicated to the remediation of the public health and environmental hazards that currently inhabit the Lerma-Lake Chapala-Santiago basin? Or will he choose, as his predecessors have, to continue to ignore this urgent reality?

The choice is President Obrador’s.

Perhaps Mexico will lead the way…it’s an Amazing Mexico Leadership Opportunity for Mexico! .

The whole world is watching.

 

NOTES:

[1] Jared Diamond, is Professor of Geography at the University of California, Los Angeles.  He began his scientific career in physiology and expanded into evolutionary biology and biogeography.  He has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society.  Among his many awards are the National Medal of Science, the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, Japan’s Cosmo Prize, a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, and the Lewis Thomas Prize Honoring the Scientist as Poet, presented by Rockefeller University.  He has published more than six hundred articles and his book, Guns, Germs, and Steel, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. This biographical excerpt of Jared Diamond is from: http://www.jareddiamond.org/Jared_Diamond/Welcome.html

[2] Diamond, Jared Collapse – How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, Penguin Books – Published by The Penguin Group New York, NY Copyright © 2005, 2011 by Jared Diamond, p. 425.

[3] Diamond, Jared The Third Chimpanzee – The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal, Harper Perrenial New York, NY Copyright © 1992 by Jared Diamond, p. 337.

[4] Asad, Musa & Dinar , Ariel The Role of Water Policy in Mexico: Sustainability, Equity, and Economic Growth Considerations, Sustainable Development Working Paper No. 27, September 2006, The World Bank Latin America and the Caribbean Region Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development Department, p. 5.

[5] Ibid: p. 5.

[6] Adler, David The War for Mexico’s Water, July 2015. Foreign Policy – https://foreignpolicy.com/2015/07/31/the-war-for-privatization-mexicos-water/

[7] Diamond, Jared Collapse – How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, Penguin Books – Published by The Penguin Group New York, NY Copyright © 2005, 2011 by Jared Diamond, p. 438.

[8] AIPROMADES – See http://www.Aipromades.org/about – It is the Intermunicipal Association for the Protection of the Environment and Sustainable Development of Lake Chapala

[9] Burton, Tony http://www.mexconnect.com/articles/1263-did-you-know-lake-chapala-under-attack-from-water-hyacinth

[10] https://www.ramsar.org/news/mexico-designates-122nd-and-123rd-ramsar-sites

[11] “Contaminación Agrícola y Erosión en la Cuenca del Lago Chapala,” 2013 Corazón de la Tierra.

[12] Steven Pinker is a Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. Pinker  is an experimental psychologist who conducts research in visual cognition, psycholinguistics, and social relations. He conducts research on language and cognition, writes for publications such as the New York Times, Time and The Atlantic, and is the author of ten books. Excerpt from: https://stevenpinker.com/biocv

[13] Pinker, Steven The Stuff of Thought – Language As A Window Into Human Culture, Penguin Books Published by The Penguin Group, New York, NY Copyright (c) 2007 by Steven Pinker p. 4.

[14] Ibid p. 4.

Mexiconsiderations – Lake Chapala and The Fifth Risk

Mexico – The Fifth Risk

 

During my visit to the Guadalajara and Lake Chapala areas in October/November 2018 I brought along a new book; The Fifth Risk by one of my favorite writers, New York Times bestselling author Michael Lewis.  On the final page of the book is a quote that captures its’ essence: “It’s what you fail to imagine that kills you.”[i] How is this pertinent to Mexiconsiderations? Stay with me.

On October 29, 2018 the Lake Chapala Reporter published a piece about the results of a Lake Chapala water quality study presented during a seminar at the Jesuit University of Guadalajara.  According to one official, the study indicated characterized the detected levels of arsenic and coliforms as worrisome (exceeding safety levels identified by the World Health Organization). This same article stated: “Wastewater treatment plants are NOT working (Lakeside municipalities cannot afford electricity payments to operate them). Thus, wastewater continues to be discharged into the Lake.”[ii] Holy crap, I said to myself. I recalled how unusual it is to see people swimming in the lake. I wondered why. I decided to look into this public health issue further.

On November 8, 2018 The Lake Chapala Reporter disclosed that Chapala had not paid for water sanitation in three years. The CEA – the State Water Commission – demanded payment of 6 million pesos for their management of Chapala’s wastewater treatment facilities. Chapala had only 900,000 pesos budgeted.[iii] Chapala has recently asked the Government of Jalisco for a loan to repay these 3 years of past due bills for wastewater treatment. A week before this disclosure, it was reported that the rainy season had added so much water to the lake that in Riberas del Pilar, groundwatwer was being contaminated due to overflowing septic tanks.[iv]

As I investigated this issue further, a quote from author Michael Lewis kept ringing in my head: “the fifth risk is the risk a society runs when it falls into the habit of responding to long-term risks with short-term solutions.”[v] It turns out that the public health and environmental concerns contained in the Lake Chapala region have been studied extensively over the years. Yet, little, if any, comprehensive and coordinated efforts have been implemented to address this multi-dimensional miasma. Certainly, no plan is currently in place that will provide scientifically verifiable results regarding the comprehensive environmental restoration of the Lake Chapala basin. On the contrary, the situation has become vastly more serious. It would be unfair to blame Mexico and the communities  that surround Lake Chapala for this failure.  The consequences of The Fifth Risk are apparent throughout each and every society in human civilization. Yet, that’s no excuse to continue kicking the can down the road versus garnering the essential attention and action of the federal government in Mexico to begin to enact the required multi-faceted solution(s).

I contacted Gabriel Vazquez Sanchez, General Director of the Intermunicipal Association for the Protection of the Environment and Sustainable Development of Lake Chapala (AIPROMADES). He characterized the current public health and environmental situation in Lake Chapala as follows: “an emergency that should be addressed at all levels of government.[vi] Again, I heard myself mutter, Holy crap!

A study published in August 2018 concluded: “Lake Chapala, is the main source of drinking water for over 4-million inhabitants. We concluded that it will be difficult to continue to use the lake as the main source of freshwater for the Guadalajara metropolitan area without substantial interventions.[vii] Another study revealed the level of fecal coliforms measured in Lake Chapala “indicates the existence of untreated wastewater discharges from municipalities or the low efficiencies of wastewater treatment plants.”[viii] The most riveting study concerned the health of children – the majority were between the ages of five and nine in  this specific study.[ix] CDK (Chronic Kidney Disease) was found to be endemic in a specific population of children residing in a community adjacent to Lake Chapala. The term endemic refers to a disease or condition routinely found in a particular area and among certain group of people This particular study began in 2016. The results were published in 2017. The findings are alarming: 68% of the children studied were diagnosed with stage 3a or 3b of Chronic Kidney Disease (3a = mild to moderate/3b= moderate to severe). The rate of CDK in this particular studied population is 3-5 times higher than others.  The researchers also found traces of heavy metals (mercury and lead) present in the urine samples of the children.[x]

In this article, you have heard people declare the public health and environmental reality in Lake Chapala to be one requiring immediate, substantial interventions and an emergency that should be addressed at all levels of government. Perhaps you think this set of public health concerns is for indigenous populations only. Well, you’d be wrong. In the study involving the children above, all 451 kids tested positive for the insecticide dimethoate – and the popular weed killer glyphosate; a positive test for the presence of pesticides. The researchers determined that the same levels of pesticides were resident in 50 year old men and two year old infants. Transmission was via air currents. “There are pesticides in the lake. When the water heats, it evaporates, and the air currents pass from the lake to the population.”[xi] This includes the thousands of expats who reside in the Lake Chapala area. There is no immunity to public health hazards on our planet – no matter your nationality, income, age, ethnicity, gender, political party affiliations, religion or sexual identity.

Michael Lewis wrote, “the risk we should most fear is not the risk we easily imagine. It is the risk that we don’t.”[xii] That may be true. However, when the public health and environmental risks are apparent and require human action to resolve – and we fail to respond accordingly, that is not a failure of the imagination. It is a failure of the human will.

What’s the root of the problem? According to Enrique Lira, a coordinator of the Socio-Environmental Forum in Guadalajara: “What is genetic is the disinterest of the authorities. They deny the problem as their predecessors did. It’s like avoiding responsibility is in their genes.”[xiii] Well, although the U.S. remains saddled with a President who continues to deny the reality of the ongoing public health and environmental degradation posed by both climate change and the intentional destruction of a  robust environmental regulatory enforcement apparatus (it may be another expression of the cognitive and genetic defects of this guy) –  Mexico is not. On the contrary, the recent election of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO in September 2018)  was accompanied by a strategic plan to clean up Mexico’s environment.[xiv] This should unequivocally include the restoration and re-imagination of a seminally important body of water in Mexico… Lake Chapala and its’ tributaries; upgrading wastewater treatment facilities, and establishing the monitoring, infrastructure, and quality improvements for the distribution of clean drinking water for the current population – and for generations to come.

The future of Lake Chapala will not be due to a failure of the imagination. It will be determined by the emergence of a coordinated chorus of voices demanding that the fifth risk must be avoided – where the fifth risk is the risk a society runs when it falls into the habit of responding to long-term risks with short-term solutions.”[xv] There are no short-term solutions available for the comprehensive remediation of the public health and environmental risks posed by the current conditions in the Lake Chapala region.  On the contrary, succumbing to the fifth risk has caused the current reality. Perhaps, the expats residing in the Chapala region, along with the Mexican people, can come together to be an integral part of a uniquely effective chorus. It will be a process, not an event. Yet, it can be one that will become an enduring source of national pride and international collaboration – for the benefit of ALL stakeholders. Nothing is more powerful than coordinated and collaborative international advocacy led by those determined to eradicate the legitimate threats to their piece of paradise on this planet.

Yet, It may be another episode of falling prey to the fifth risk if this does not occur…a Mexiconsideration.

For me, I am betting on the locals and ex-pats residing in the Lake Chapala region to rise up together, and insure that the required remediation becomes a reality.


NOTES:

1 Lewis, Michael – The Fifth Risk, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.  New York, NY Copyright (c) 2018 by Michael Lewis p. 219.

[ii] Lake Chapala Reporter – October 29, 2018: ITESO – Lake Chapala Contains High Levels of Arsenic and Coliforms.

[iii] https://lakechapalareporter.com/chapala-has-not-paid-for-water-sanitation-in-3-years/

[iv] October 26,2018 – Lake Chapala Reporter

[v] Lewis, Michael – The Fifth Risk, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.  New York, NY Copyright (c) 2018 by Michael Lewis p. 75.

[vi] Email November 22, 2018

[vii] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/327167877_Calculating_long-term_changes_in_Lake_Chapala’s_area_and_water_volume_using_remote_sensing_and_field_data

[viii] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/319692488_Water_Quality_Index_of_Lake_Chapala_in_Mexico_and_its_potential_risk_to_public_health

ix  Prevalence of Albuminuria in Children Living in a Rural Agricultural and Fishing Subsistence Community in Lake Chapala, Mexico.   International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 14(12):1577 · December 2017 in a Rural Agricultural and Fishing Subsistence

[x] https://mexiconewsdaily.com/news/heavy-metals-blamed-for-kidney-disease/

[xi] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mexico-health-village/murky-business-a-hunt-for-answers-as-children-fall-sick-around-mexico-lake-idUSKBN1DY11E

[xii] Lewis, Michael – The Fifth Risk, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.  New York, NY Copyright (c) 2018 by Michael Lewis p. 68.

[xiii] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mexico-health-village/murky-business-a-hunt-for-answers-as-children-fall-sick-around-mexico-lake-idUSKBN1DY11E

[xiv] https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/mexicos-president-elect-promises-to-clean-up-the-environment–and-build-a-new-oil-refinery/2018/09/10/f91ac9d6-a336-11e8-a3dd-2a1991f075d5_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.c4b7aa2fc214

[xv] Lewis, Michael – The Fifth Risk, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.  New York, NY Copyright (c) 2018 by Michael Lewis p. 75.

The MEXODUS – The New Norm – North American Retirees Moving to Mexico

 

Mexodus

 

Needless to say, the social and political rancor in North America has reached new heights (or lows). In the U.S. political sphere, the November 2018 mid-term elections resulted in the Democratic Party  wresting control of the U.S. House of Representatives. The U.S. President’s approval ratings hover around 38%. The issue of U.S. immigration reform remains paralyzed amidst political acrimony. Yet, the U.S. President remains adamant about his desire to obtain billions of dollars to build a border wall to keep prospective immigrants out of the U.S. Yet, there’s a new norm that has developed.

Obscured by all of the above, is the steady flow North Americans  headed south – to Mexico. Frankly, it’s an exodus; a MEXODUS. According to CBS News, the number of Americans retiring outside the United States is growing exponentially. Between 2010 and 2015 the number grew 17 percent. The figure is expected to rise during the next 10 years as boomer retirement continues.[1] According to several sources, Mexico is now considered the preferred retirement home for an estimated 1-2 million American retirees – more than any other country.[2] From the present through 2030, an estimated 10,000 Baby Boomers will achieve retirement age each day.[3]

“Where should I retire?” It ‘s a common question in North America as Baby Boomers contemplate how and where they might spend the remainder of this life.  For tens of thousands, this question includes destinations outside the U.S. or Canada. Oftentimes, this process involves mulling over Mexico. Every January, the publication International Living, provides retirees with suggestions using their Annual Global Retirement Index. In 2018, Mexico was ranked as the 2nd Best Place to retire by IL[4]. Estimates vary, but it’s safe to conclude that a few million Americans and Canadians now reside primarily in Mexico. That’s a lot of Gringos who have made the leap.

I recently completed 2 two week visits to the Guadalajara and Lake Chapala areas in central Mexico in August and October/November 2018. The purpose of these trips was to examine the possibility for retirement in this locale; already home to thousands of expat retirees/resident tourists from the U.S., Canada, Europe and the U.K. What motivated my wife and I to invest in considering Mexico? We had several. We’re not alone. During these recent exploratory visits, we had the opportunity to speak with dozens upon dozens of North American baby boomers in Mexico. Some were already residing there. Others were exploring the possibilities as we were.  Our question was: “What inspires retiring North American baby boomers to consider Mexico as their retirement home?” Here’s what they told us:

  1. Reduce My Cost of Living – As study after study indicates, North American Baby Boomers are ill prepared financially for retirement. This “lack of financial preparedness” has become the primary cause of anxiety among Boomers.[5] According to International Living, you can live on U.S. $1,865 per month in Mexico including rent, utilities, groceries, entertainment, healthcare, household help and incidentals. For a couple, the figure moves to an estimated $2,500 per month.[6] Again, costs are relative. Want to live in a tourist area near a Mexican beach on the sea? Your costs will be significantly higher. The same is true for areas in Mexico where North American retirees are already well established like the Lake Chapala/Ajijic area and San Miguel Allende. The current peso to the dollar foreign exchange reality makes reducing the cost of living even more practical (currently 20.5 pesos to one U.S. dollar in early December 2018).
  2. A Better Climate – For many, the motivation to move toward a better climate and retire the snow shovel, winter clothing, umbrella, and avoid sleet, ice, humidity, excessive heat, and the like was a common reply. Of course, Mexico is a massive geographic area. However, the variety of improved climate choices within the country make it attractive to retiring baby boomers
  3. More Affordable Healthcare – Mexico, particularly when compared to the U.S. has a vastly more affordable healthcare environment.[7] Of course, this depends upon one’s current medical requirements and those that may arise in the future. No, Medicare is not valid for medical treatment outside the U.S. Thus, you must rely on cash and qualifying for available Mexican healthcare coverage for those who hold both temporary and permanent visas. Of course, for treatment requiring Medicare coverage, you can return to the U.S. for the same.
  4. A Cultural Adventure – A common response was the desire for a cultural adventure. Mexico’s proximity to Canada and the U.S. provides just that. From food, to landscapes to architecture, language, the arts and the people – Mexico possesses what North American retirees seeking new cultural experiences are after.

Baby Boomers have been characterized as those who “make smart decisions based on available resources.” They are independent and “make up their own minds and determine what is most valuable or significant.”[8] Moving to Mexico for retirement appears to have become the new norm for North American boomers. There is no wall that can prevent the flow of North American retirees relocating to Mexico – along with their substantial economic contributions to the Mexican economy. Perhaps you and those you know might join the MEXODUS?

About The Author: Bill Dahl is a journalist who recently spent 4 weeks in the Guadalajara/Chapala region of central Mexico examining the possibilities for retirement, the culture, and the socio-economic environment.

NOTES

[1] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/more-americans-are-retiring-outside-the-u-s/ – December 27, 2016

[2] https://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/on-retirement/articles/2017-10-24/8-reasons-mexico-is-americas-favorite-place-to-retire-abroad – October 24, 2017 by Kathleen Peddicord

[3] https://www.seniorliving.org/guides/baby-boomers/

[4] https://internationalliving.com/the-best-places-to-retire/ Prentice, Glynna – Mexico Editor September 2018 – The World’s Best Places to Retire in 2018.

[5] Lloyd, Alycynna – Lack of Retirement Savings Haunts Baby Boomers, REWIRED, August 31, 2018 – https://www.housingwire.com/blogs/1-rewired/post/46700-lack-of-retirement-savings-haunts-baby-boomers

[6] How Much Does It Cost to Live in Mexico?https://internationalliving.com/countries/mexico/cost-of-living-in-mexico/

[7] Mexican Healthcare is Affordable and Excellenthttps://internationalliving.com/countries/mexico/health-care/

[8] Abramson, Alexis Ph.D. –  10 Important Baby Boomer Characteristics and Statistics, July 2018. https://www.alexisabramson.com/baby-boomers-characteristics-statistics/

Mexiconsiderations Part II – Guidance for North American Boomers Contemplating Retirement in Mexico

About The Author:

Bill Dahl is an investigative journalist who recently completed 4 weeks in the Guadalajara/Chapala region of central Mexico examining the retirement possibilities. He resides in the central Oregon.

I recently completed 2 two week visits to the Guadalajara and Lake Chapala areas in central Mexico in August and October/November 2018. The purpose of these trips was to examine the possibility for retirement in this locale; already home to thousands of expat retirees/resident tourists from the U.S., Canada, Europe and the U.K.

What motivated my wife and I to invest in considering Mexico (Mexconsiderations)? We had four: A reduced cost of living, access to more affordable healthcare, a better climate (no cold and snow), and new cultural adventures. We’re not alone. According to CBS News, the number of Americans retiring outside the United States is growing exponentially. Between 2010 and 2015 the number grew 17 percent. The figure is expected to rise during the next 10 years as boomer retirement continues.[1] According to several sources, Mexico is now considered the preferred retirement home for an estimated 1-2 million American retirees – more than any other country.[2]

Charles Handy has written: “The first step is to measure whatever can be easily counted. This is OK as far as it goes. The second step is to disregard that which can’t be easily measured or to give it an arbitrary quantitative value. This is artificial and misleading. The third step is to presume that which can’t be measured easily really isn’t important. This is blindness. The fourth step is to say that which can’t be easily measured really doesn’t exist. This is suicide.[3] For our Mexiconsiderations, Handy’s quote provides a useful evaluation framework for us. Stay with me.

The First Step – Measure Whatever Can Be Easily Counted:

The weather in the Lake Chapala has been touted as the second best climate on the planet, averaging 72 degrees F year round. At 5,000 feet in elevation, humidity is minimal. During the five month rainy season (June to October) rainfall averages 30 inches annually (mostly during the evenings and at night). The Lake measures some 48 miles in length and 12 miles in width. Towns, villages and cities dot its circumference. It is surrounded by the lush Sierra Madre Mountains. A 40 minute drive from Ajijic-Chapala to the Guadalajara metropolitan area (and Guadalajara International Airport – GDL) is also a plus. Earthquakes occur in this region.[4] There are poisonous spiders too.It has been reported that the Guadalajara-Chapala region in Jalisco is the largest retirement community outside the US. [5] The cities of Chapala and Ajijic are estimated to have resident populations that total 40,000, although estimates vary.[6]

The 2n Step – Disregard That Which Can’t Be Easily Measured or Give it An Arbitrary Quantitative Value:

How many of us reside in the Lake Chapala area? Estimates range from 10,000 to 30,000 – and everywhere in between.[7] Are we able to reduce our cost of housing? Well, that depends on your ability and requirements. Buying a home or condo in this area  currently ranges in price from $200,000 to over a million U.S. dollars. Prices are on the increase. Furthermore, real estate housing sales are all cash – there are no mortgages available for foreigners. Rentals are in short supply during the high season (November – April). During my recent visits, the prices for purchasing a home and rental rates increased between August 2018 and October 2018. There also seemed to be a notable increase in the costs for services, food and dining out. Even local realtors we consulted with admit that “housing prices at Lakeside are on the rise.” Why?

Supply and demand. With an estimated 10,000 baby boomers in the U.S. reaching retirement age every day until 2030 – and – those in this cohort who have not saved/invested/planned sufficiently for the same; they must now consider reductions in their overall cost of living. [8]  Mexico appears to provide that opportunity. According to Fannie Mae, Baby Boomers in the U.S. account for forty percent of total U.S. home ownership with $13.5 trillion in home equity.

Yet, the internet is inhabited by virtually every figure you might imagine as it relates to the possibilities for reductions in your overall cost of living by moving to Mexico. The facts are that reality diverges significantly from the arbitrary quantitative values that predominate the web narrative, as this is something that is difficult to measure. Don’t fall prey to this artificial and misleading pitfall. Individual financial circumstances and requirements vary widely. Take the time to plan your financial budgetary requirements, before you explore moving to Mexico (or any other locale). Know your numbers. Be real. Budget for the unexpected (travel, healthcare surprises, etc.). Know before you go.

The Third Step is to Presume That Which Can’t Be Measured Easily Really Isn’t Important. This is Blindness

With so many American, Canadian and European retirees considering relocation to Mexico, the assumptions about the purported value of the equity in your home as relocation capital, is a source of unanticipated blindness for too many. Get this measured by a local real estate professional. Get several “market valuations” from different realtors in your local area. Consider a reasonable “time on the market” required to sell your home. Don’t forget to account for the realtor commissions and closing costs.

If you think you are simply going to move all your worldly possessions to Mexico…think again. It’s costly – very costly. So is storage in the U.S. Consider these costs. Get real numbers. In the Lake Chapala area, contact a local moving and storage company. They have web-based tools to assist you in evaluating the costs, requirements and time frames (including essential customs compliance on both sides of the border).

Bringing your car to Mexico for your retirement? “Of course we are!” Think again, this is costly, requires proper permits, insurance,  and you must either pay a substantial sum for Mexican licensing or get the car out of the country within 6 months of your initial border crossing with the vehicle. Do you have a loan on that vehicle? Are you underwater? If you are a couple, in whose name is the vehicle registered to? Only the registered owner of a vehicle can legally operate it in Mexico. Remember this in your financial and practical Mexiconsiderations.

Do you and yours qualify for a temporary and/or permanent resident visa in Mexico? What are the certifiable financial and documentary requirements the Mexican Consul in your area deems essential? What are the costs? Time frames? What are the implications if you do not qualify for anything other than a tourist visa? Have pets?What kind? Can you take them with you? What sort of documentation is required to transport them to your new residence in Mexico? Do your pets require certain vaccinations before travel? Are there veterinarians available? What do they cost?

Are you and yours “digital citizens” who enjoy hassle free internet connectivity, fast downloads and streaming video? Currently, in the Lake Chapala area, I was unable to send my wife in the U.S. a photo via cell phone or my laptop due to the archaic digital infrastructure that currently exists. (There is a plan in place to change that). How much will it cost you to get a satellite TV hook-up? Will you be able to receive all the programming you require? What are acquisition, installation and monthly costs?

Don’t fall prey to the blindness that the excitement about the prospect of retiring in Mexico may thrust upon you. Resist the presumption on matters like those addressed above whereby what can’t be measured easily really isn’t important.

The Fourth Step is to Say That Which Can’t Be Easily Measured Really Doesn’t Exist. This is Suicide

If you are a U.S. citizen contemplating retirement in Mexico, do you believe you are going to be able to somehow reduce your overall healthcare costs by getting rid of costly Medicare supplement plans? Really? What will fill those gaps? If you are required to consume prescription medications to maintain your health, are they available in Mexico? How will you get those meds refilled in Mexico?

Do you have a will? Is it valid in Mexico? What if you purchase real property in Mexico? Is that will still valid in Mexico? If you have a trust, is that trust recognized by the Mexican legal system?

What if you or your spouse experiences a disabling healthcare crisis and/or one that requires major, immediate and ongoing medical interventions? What’s your plan for these possibilities? “That’ll never happen to us.” Really? What about the unavoidable eventuality of death? What’s your plan?

Author Steven Pinker has written: “The difference between a dead body and a living one is that a dead body no longer contains the vital force we call a mind.[ix] Mexconsiderations – contemplating retirement in Mexico – requires mindful measurements – many of which have varying degrees of visibility and escape the consideration they deserve. May this brief article provide you with some helpful tools to guide you along your journey considering Mexico for your retirement years.

 

NOTES:

[1] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/more-americans-are-retiring-outside-the-u-s/ – December 27, 2016 –

[2] https://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/on-retirement/articles/2017-10-24/8-reasons-mexico-is-americas-favorite-place-to-retire-abroad – October 24, 2017 by Kathleen Peddicord

[3] Handy, Charles The Age of Paradox Harvard Business School Press © 1994 p. 221

[4] https://mexiconewsdaily.com/news/jalisco-earthquakes-felt-in-three-states/

[5] http://geo-mexico.com/?p=10612 – “Retirees and “Residential Tourism” – A Case Study of Chapala-Ajijic in Jalisco –  January 6, 2014.

[6] http://geo-mexico.com/?p=10612 – “Retirees and “Residential Tourism” – A Case Study of Chapala-Ajijic in Jalisco –  January 6, 2014.

[7] https://seniorplanet.org/aging-out-of-place-in-lake-chapala-mexico/ – April 12, 2017 by Erica Manfred.

[8] https://www.housingwire.com/blogs/1-rewired/post/46700-lack-of-retirement-savings-haunts-baby-boomers

[ix] Pinker, Steven Blank Slate – The Modern Denial of Human Nature, Penguin Books – An Imprint of Penguin Random House LLC New York, NY Copyright (c) 2002 & 2016 by Steven Pinker, p. 224.

Mexiconsiderations – Retirement in Mexico for North American Baby Boomers?

Ajijic – Chapala

Mexiconsiderations

North American Retirees Moving to Mexico

By Bill Dahl

About The Author:  Bill Dahl is an investigative journalist who recently completed 4 weeks in the Guadalajara/Chapala region of central Mexico examining the retirement possibilities. 

“Where should I retire?” It ‘s a common question in North America as Baby Boomers contemplate how and where they might spend the remainder of this life.  For tens of thousands, this question includes destinations outside the U.S. or Canada. Oftentimes, this process involves mulling over Mexico. Every January, the publication International Living, provides retirees with suggestions using their Annual Global Retirement Index. In 2018, Mexico was ranked as the 2nd Best Place to retire by IL. Estimates vary, but it’s safe to conclude that a few million Americans and Canadians now reside primarily in Mexico. That’s a lot of Gringos who have made the leap.

My wife and I began pondering this question last year. We spent hours upon hours searching the internet, watching a few hundred YouTube videos, and talking to others about this possibility. This included extensive conversations with our Hispanic friends in the U.S. – most of whom have family and friends currently residing in Mexico. During our marriage, we have traveled to Mexico on numerous occasions. Typically, Puerto Vallarta, Cancun, Cozumel, Mexico City, a cruise to Ensenada, and a walk around Tijuana (for a few hours) – like most American and Canadian tourists do. So, we made a decision.

In August 2018, we set out for a region in Mexico we had never explored before: central Mexico – the state of Jalisco. This region was recommended to us by our Hispanic friends and confirmed by our research. What motivated us, along with millions of others? We had four: A reduced cost of living, access to more affordable healthcare, a better climate (no cold and snow), and new cultural adventures.

We flew from our home in Oregon to Guadalajara, Mexico (GDL) – a two stop, 2,300 mile  flight (about 12 hours door-to-door) on Alaska Airlines. We stayed at a hotel in Zona Centro Historico in downtown Guadalajara for four days ($56 U.S. per night, for a huge room with an outdoor balcony, including breakfast). We found Guadalajara to be a truly magical city – one that most North American tourists never visit. The people, architecture, art, weather, food, value, transportation, history and culture were mesmerizing. We yearned to return.

We departed Guadalajara via UBER for a 45 minute ride to our hotel in Ajijic (Ah-hee-heek) for a 7 day stay, on the shores of Lake Chapala – home to a purported 20,000 expats from the U.S., Canada, Europe, and the U.K.  Lake Chapala is the largest body of fresh water in Mexico spanning some 48 miles in length and up to 12 miles wide. It has a superb climate averaging 72 degrees F year round. In August, it is winter in the Chapala area. It rains at night (as it does in Guadalajara). Locals refer to the climate as eternal spring. The busy season is November through May when snowbirds arrive from the north to enjoy the area.

You simply cannot come away from a stay on the north shore of Lake Chapala indelibly and wholly entranced by its multi-dimensional beauty. It is hypnotic. The flowers and vegetation are explosive in their myriad of colors, forms and scents. The vistas are fantastic. The people, food, landscape, weather, art, culture, options for activity and entertainment, accommodations, value, and architecture are all hypnotic. We even took a tour of the area with a local realtor (who had relocated here a year earlier from Wisconsin). Our four primary considerations we set out to explore first hand appeared to be verified: A reduced cost of living, access to more affordable healthcare, a better climate, and new cultural adventures.

During our stay in Ajijic, we had the opportunity to meet with couples from the U.S. and Canada who were attending a seminar at the hotel we were staying in. It was called Focus on Mexico – A Learning Adventure. These couples, like us, were exploring the possibility of retiring to this area of Mexico. To a person, these folks shared that “I cannot imagine retiring in Mexico without attending the FOM experience.”  We flew back to the U.S. glowing – we’ve found it.

We continued our discussions and my wife returned to work. “I think you should attend the next Focus on Mexico seminar,” she said. I registered for the seminar and confirmed my travel plans for two weeks in late October to early November 2018. I studied to improve my Spanish language skills for 5 weeks prior to departure. We also made a list of questions to answer on this second exploration trip. These included:

What are the actual housing costs in the Lakeside market at this time? What does access to more affordable healthcare really mean? What are the immigration and customs considerations? Can we bring our pets and vehicles? What does the area around the entirety of the lake look like? What is the reality for access to wi-fi, the internet, and satellite television look like? What is the water quality in the lake? What is the state of the local infrastructure (sewer, wastewater treatment, water quality and electricity)?  What about the available options for banking/finance/investment and currency conversion? Is local government stable and adequately funded? What does public safety look like?

I’ll provide the answers to these Mexiconsiderations – and many more issues  – in the upcoming articles in this series.

ENJOY!


 

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