Linda Bott moved to the capital of Baja California Sur six years ago for the warmth of the people, best captured, she said, in the local proverb: “At the table, there is always room for one more.”
“We ended up in La Paz because the people here are very warm and welcoming,” Bott said. They say, ‘En la mesa, siempre hay lugar para uno más,’ or in English, “’At the table, there is always room for one more.’ That pretty much sums up why we are here.”
La Paz is the capital of the state of Baja California Sur and the state’s largest city with nearly 250,000 people living in the area, drawn to its high standard of living and quality of life.
“This is a great walking city, especially the El Centro area and our beautiful malecón,” Bott said. “The malecón isn’t as long as the one in Mazatlán, but it is lovely.”
Bott, 70, and her husband John, also 70, were living in San Francisco when they began trying on Mexico in 2002, landing first in Puerto Vallarta. Over the next 10 years, they stayed in Puerto Peñasco, San José del Cabo and Todos Santos before finally discovering La Paz on the western shore of the Sea of Cortez.
“We liked the friendliness of the people and also the size of the city,” she said. “It wasn’t big like Guadalajara and didn’t have that touristy thing you find in Cabo and Puerto Vallarta. We do get our snowbirds and boat cruisers during the winter months, though. I think there are maybe 5,000 expats in this area. Lots of Canadians, Californians and people from Seattle and Washington state.”
Bott was born and raised in the Sierra Nevada Mountains northeast of Sacramento and graduated from high school in Truckee before moving farther east to attend the University of Nevada, Reno. She received a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1971 and her master’s in speech language pathology in 1981.
“I’ve been very fortunate in my nearly 40-year career to work in a variety of jobs,” she said. “I’ve worked in hospitals, home care, skilled nursing facilities, rural school districts, Indian reservations, the state of Nevada and the city of San Francisco. My last position in San Francisco was for a very large skilled nursing facility.”
When the couple moved to La Paz in 2013 she was asked to see a child of English-speaking parents, and then began seeing other children and some adults as a volunteer. The work led to a partnership with two other women in a non-profit organization called Voces de Niño, an innovative home-based therapy program. It provides speech and language therapy services for children and adolescents who are within the autism spectrum, developmental delays, cleft lip and/or cleft palate, unspecified speech sound production and/or receptive/expressive language delays. The program is based on a team approach, which includes the child or adolescent, their parents, the therapist and parent facilitators.
Bott and her husband have chosen to rent in La Paz and not invest their resources in a home. Their first place was in a condo complex that had many Canadian expats and some Americans.
“We started out there to get our feet wet,” she said, “but our goal was to immerse ourselves into the community. After three years we rented a house close to the water for a while, but we really wanted to live in a Mexican neighborhood. We found a place and now are the only expats living there. From the moment we moved in, all of our neighbors have been really nice, always including us in neighborhood activities.”
Bott’s near-fluency in Spanish also helped them to quickly integrate into their new community. They are renting a large three-bedroom and three-bathroom semi-hacienda style home.
“It’s about 25-years-old and has great energy and flow,” she said, “with archways, an outdoor kitchen and a pool. It’s a perfect house for entertaining, which we do a lot.”
She told us that a similar size home with a water view in La Paz would probably rent for about US$1,500. If you live more inland, the price is closer to US$1,000.
Prices in La Paz and the rest of Baja California are typically higher than mainland Mexico, primarily because so many goods have to be shipped in.
“Electricity is definitely expensive here,” Bott said. “We use a lot more air-conditioning because of the heat. Last summer, the heat index was over 119 F one day. If you live here permanently, you know how to handle it, but you definitely have higher electricity costs because of it.”
La Paz also experiences hurricanes from time to time, the last was Odile in 2014.
“By the time it got to us here,” she said, “it was a category three. We were living in a condo at the time. We weren’t as devastated as Los Cabos, but we had significant damage in La Paz. If you want to move here, you have to understand that we are in the path of hurricanes.”
La Paz has lots to offer expats, including classical music performances, Ballet Folklórico, the state dance troupe and variety of other music venues and performances. Bott said sport fishing is very popular among expats and visitors and expats can also participate in a wide range of other activities.
“Many expats volunteer with local groups,” she said. “My husband John belongs to Baja Dogs, which is a foster program for abandoned dogs.”
Dining out is a favorite expat activity in La Paz and the Botts are no exception. They enjoy an occasional night out at a better restaurant when they are not entertaining at home. A dinner with fresh-caught tuna and a couple of glasses of wine costs about US$30 for two, before the tip. For a more casual meal, four tacos with two drinks from a street vendor runs about US$5.50.
If you want to travel from La Paz, the Manuel Márquez de León International Airport has flights to most of Mexico’s major cities, but no direct international connections at this time. You can also connect to Mexico’s mainland by ferry to both Mazatlán and Topolobampo. If you want to take a nice drive, Los Cabos is just two-and-a-half-hours away on the four-lane highway from La Paz to the Pacific side of the state. There also is a highway south, but it is a two-lane road through mountains.
But who wants to leave such a beautiful place? Not Linda Bott. We asked her why they stay.
“It’s the Mexican people. As I tell everyone, there is always room for one more place at the table in La Paz.”