When Marco Favila was just 18, he lived in Mexico City for a year and experienced one of the best years of his life. Now, the big city attorney’s dream of returning to Mexico City has come true.
“I quickly realized that I was a big city person and from that time on I was like a fish out of water living in smaller towns,” the 39-year-old Favila said.
Born and raised in Flint, Michigan, his family moved to Mexico City for a year just after Favila graduated from high school. His father, who worked for a British import/export company, was born in the state of Mexico, so the transition to the country was smooth for the family.
Favila spent his freshman year in Mexico City at Endicott College, a Boston-based school. “The combination of the big city and seeing a part of my roots made for a very good, memorable year for me,” he said.
His father was transferred to the Dallas, Texas-area and Favila enrolled at the University of Texas – Arlington where he received a bachelor’s degree in political science in 2001. After several transitional years, he entered law school at Syracuse University in New York and graduated in 2007. He passed the state bar exam soon after and then headed to New York City.
“After living in Mexico City,” he said, “I realized I was a big city person and in the U.S. the biggest of them all is New York City, so I wanted to give it a try.”
He worked primarily as a legal consultant in New York for about nine years but Mexico City was always in the back of his mind.
“After five or six years of professional experience in New York I started to really think about Mexico City,” he said. “Then in 2014 I was given the opportunity to lead a team of American attorneys to conduct an investigation there. That lasted for about a year and a half.”
Having tasted Mexico City again, Favila began making plans to move there permanently but financial giant Goldman Sachs offered him a job in New York that he could not turn down.
“That name carries a lot of weight in New York and I didn’t want to just pack up and leave at that time,” he said. “I decided to stay with them for at least a year, until my Mexican citizenship came through and I could make the move to Mexico. Although I arrived here without a job, within two weeks I received a job offer from Banamex, one of the country’s largest banks. I am a vice president in the bank’s money laundering department.”
Favila has settled into a high-rise apartment building in the city’s Polanco district, an upscale neighborhood with some of the best shopping and restaurants in Mexico City. His 27th floor one-bedroom apartment has great views, full amenities, about 600 sq. feet of space and is less than 15 minutes from his work. He pays just US$900 for luxury urban living.
The Polanco neighborhood is perfect for his passion for bicycling and his interest in culture. Major museums, a new aquarium and a major up-scale shopping mall are all within a half-mile radius of his apartment.
Favila speaks Spanish fluently but with a recognizable American accent. He pointed out that English is now widely taught in Mexican public and private schools and dual Spanish/English public signs are common, but advises expats to learn the language for a more satisfying life in Mexico.
Although Mexico City is well known for its large expat community – many of them corporate transferees – Favila spends much of his time with family and friends.
“I have a Mexican girlfriend and relatives in Mexico City,” he said, “so I spend a lot of time with them, including a birthday party this weekend. On Sundays I love to walk or bike on the Paseo de la Reforma, They close it to automobiles so people can walk their dogs, bicycle, rollerblade and just enjoy the city.”
Cultural transition to Mexico has been easy for him, except for the pace of life. As most expats soon realize, time has a different meaning in Mexico. Having lived in New York City for nine years, it will take a while for Favila to adjust to his new environment. But even with his new rhythm of life, Favila has fallen hard for Mexico City.
“I love the culture here,” he said. “You can find beautiful buildings from 500 years ago, nearly 150 museums, world class restaurants and world class shopping. But best of all, I love the warmth of the Mexican people. Everyone is so much more polite here. For example, every time I get into an elevator and someone new gets in they automatically say, ‘Buenos Dias.’ In New York they pretend they don’t see each other.”
Mexico City has many similarities to New York when it comes to traffic and easily getting around the city. Favila said it has a well-developed and inexpensive public transit system, but many still rely on automobiles to get to work.
“If there is no traffic, you can get across the city in about 40 minutes,” he said, “but that doesn’t happen often. During weekdays, commutes up to two hours one-way are not uncommon. Mexico City has over 20 million people in the metro area and it has traffic issues, just like other super-cities. If you can take the subway, it’s a good deal. One-way fares are only about US$.35.”
Favila has found the cost of living to be quite a bit less than New York City, although eating at one of the city’s finer restaurants still costs about 80 percent of what a meal would cost at a comparable New York restaurant.
“You can get whatever food you want here,” Favila said, “but I prefer sampling the street vendors fare and also shopping at the local markets. It’s very cost efficient and you really get to know your neighborhood and be part of the local community.”
Favila clearly loves Mexico City but he is still amazed at how many others also love it.
“When I lead a team of 40 American lawyers for a year and a half in Mexico City, I was amazed at how many seemed to love the city as much as I did,” he said. “People from Miami, Los Angeles and New York did not want to go home. It was shortly thereafter that the New York Times proclaimed Mexico City as the #1 city to visit in the world.”
As a newly arrived resident of Mexico City but also someone who has lived there before, Favila offered sound advice for expats considering Mexico City as their next address.
“I’m a very practical person,” he said “in terms of getting things in order, especially my finances. Make sure you have credit cards that have no foreign transaction fees. I have a debit card so I can withdraw money from an ATM without any fees. As for phones, I still have a U.S. smart phone number but I would by lying if I didn’t say that it would probably be a bit more convenient to have a local phone number.”