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Living the Expat Life in Guanajuato

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Basilica of Our Lady of Guanajuato in Guanajuato
Credit: Billperry | Bigstock

Mary Jordan grew up on the Oklahoma farm her grandfather staked his claim to during the land run of 1893, but decades later staked her own claim to living the expat life in Guanajuato.

Mary Jordan in a field near Cuanajo, Michoacan
Mary Jordan

Her path to Mexico was a sinuous journey, first to North Carolina to start a business and then to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, where she married and established a new life in Morrison, Colorado, just west of Denver.

Along the way she received an undergraduate degree in English, a graduate degree in Journalism and a Ed.D. in Education/Communications from Oklahoma State University, to prepare her for her life’s work as the Executive Director of the International Electrical Testing Association (IETA), which she founded and ran for a quarter of a century.

“When I first started my business,” Jordan said, “the electrical engineers I worked with were primarily male. When I got my doctorate, though, I was able to ‘pull rank’ on them when I wanted to.”

Although she and her husband loved living in the shadow of the Rockies with its sunshine and clean, clear mile-high air, they decided to invest in a condo in Puerto Morelos, Mexico, sandwiched between Cancun and Playa del Carmen on the Caribbean Sea.

“I loved the small town fishing village feel of Puerto Morelos,” she said. “They do not allow any building to be higher than three stories to retain the quaintness of the place.”

Sadly, Mary’s husband passed away in 2009, so she decided to sell their home in Colorado and move permanently to their condo in Mexico in 2011.

“I sold our home to my daughter and began a ‘slow move’ to our condo in Puerto Morelos,” 68-year-old Jordan said. “It took me several years to finally move all of the things I value to Mexico. I moved two bags at a time.”

Jordan said Puerto Morelos lives on tourism but has a large expat community made up primarily of Canadians and Americans. She knew everyone there and felt very safe.

“I could always sit at a bar, have a glass of wine and always see someone I knew,” she said. One evening in the moonlight in Puerto Morelos she met someone who changed her life.

“I met Peter Pope Jones in 2013, a musician from England who had lived in Mexico for the last 23 years,” Jordan said. “He is now my partner and mi amor.”

The two became inseparable and while on a trip through Sonora, he suggested they visit Guanajuato, a place where he had performed and always liked.

“I just said, ‘Oh, my gosh, this place is gorgeous.’ It is one of the major music centers of Latin America, has seven universities and wonderful culture. Guanajuato is very different from Puerto Morelos and other resort towns in Mexico.”

Image credit: Smej | Fotolia
Image credit: Smej | Fotolia

One of the richest silver-mining cities during Mexico’s colonial period, Guanajuato is situated in a narrow valley about 170 miles northeast of Guadalajara. This city of several hundred thousand people is unique in that many of its main streets are partially or fully underground.

Life in Guanajuato is strongly influenced by one of the oldest universities in Latin America, the University of Guanajuato, which first opened in the 18th century as a Jesuit school for children.

“Guanajuato is so perfect for us,” she said, “ because Peter is a musician and there is live music all of the time. There are symphonies and other cultural events to attend and, because it is a university town, there is a lot of energy, nightlife and things to do.”

Probably the largest annual music event in Guanajuato is the Festival Internacional Cervantino, which has grown to become the most important international artistic and cultural event in Mexico and Latin America.

After owning a condo in Puerto Morelos, she decided this time to look for a home the couple could lease.

“While on a bus from Sonora to Guanajuato, Peter and I made a list of about 20 things we did not want in the house and we also did not want to own anything,” she said. “We were staying at a hotel and just asked a guy if he knew anything about any long-term rentals and he said he had a friend who had a place that would meet all of our requirements.”

The three-bedroom house was formerly used for student housing because it is located close to the universities, so it was a bit run down and would require some renovation.

“Because homes in Guanajuato are known for being very colorful, we asked the owner if we could paint the house in orange, yellow and blue,” Jordan said. “We love the bright color combination. Our new home is one of those wonderful Mexican homes that sits perched on a hillside close to the center of the city, but mysteriously hidden behind a high wall.”

Jordan said that although Guanajuato is over 7,000 feet in elevation, the city is far enough south that its climate does not require homes to have heating or air conditioning, a big utility bill bonus.

Mary Jordan
Image credit: Mary Jordan

The couple has settled in well and now has many friends, both Mexicans and expats.

“We have met many people at concerts because Peter is a musician and Guanajuato is such a music center,” Jordan said. “Peter is primarily a guitar soloist but he also has a band called Gypsy, which plays everything from English folk songs to modern day rock and roll and blues.”

Like many Americans who move abroad, Jordan struggles with learning the local language. She is taking Spanish classes at an independent school called Plateros Spanish School, which provides more personalized small group instruction.

“My Spanish still sucks, but it is coming along,” she said.

Although the couple loves spending time in their new home and using the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables from the markets of Guanajuato to cook for themselves, they also love sampling the street food of the city.

“We cook at home a lot but the street food is amazing,” she said. “You cannot pass it up. It is almost like dying and going to heaven.”

Jordan is a very happy expat in Mexico, and Guanajuato in particular. She recommended that anyone thinking about moving to Mexico “just do it.”

“I love the United States, but when I get back here it’s like a sigh of relief, a breath of fresh air.”

25 COMMENTS

  1. I agree with you..I just still want to work and Queretaro has more jobs than Guanajuato. When I decide to retire retire maybe I’ll be your neighbor.

  2. Great article. My wife and I will be moving to Mexico in 2017. We will be staying with friends in Guadalajara in July, a rental in San Miguel for August, and then hope to explore and rent in Guanajuato. Do you have any advice on starting that search: contacts, reading material, etc. We are not looking to buy so we will need to secure a rental property.

    • Hi, Im Jorge, I wish I could help you. I travel to Gto every year in October and have some Friends there, (both Mexicans and Americans) I will try to get some info from them and I will let you know

  3. Hi, John…Aaron may have some information for you as well as other readers from Guanajuato. Also, we will be adding Guanajuato to our Cities lineup sometime in the next several months and will have lots of information for you at that time.

  4. Thanks for the great article. My husband and I are retiring in March 2017 and making our way through Mexico by car – we have no idea when we will be where but are seriously planning on spending a few months in Guanajuato – an suggestions as to an inexpensive hotel or whatever as a place to first put out heads down while we look for something a little more long term?

    • Look for another story on living in Guanajuato next month, featuring Willis Martin. Glad you liked the article. Perhaps some of our readers can help you out on hotels, Rosalind.

  5. Hi Mary, Is Guanajuato safe? Im looking forward to live there, but im worried about medical communication. Are there any bilingual doctors of how did you manage to express without a technical medical spanish language?

    How can I contact any American group so they can give me specific information about doctors/nutritionist and dental service?

    Thanks

    • Hi Athens – I just moved here 3 weeks ago and GTO is very safe. I feel completely at ease walking around all parts of town by myself.

      I wasn’t feeling well and asked on a local expat forum for a recommendation for a doctor. I saw an excellent bilingual doctor in a modern facility with on-site lab and pharmacy. I saw him the same day, paid about $30USD for my visit, got lab tests AND results the same day, and received recommendations from the doctor by text at no charge (no unnecessary appointment to review labs). I am medically in good hands here and amazed at the low cost.

      • Hi Janet, I plan to move to Guanajuato in a few months. I’m a single 59 year old woman and I’m a bit concerned with security. Let me know your thoughts and any advice you can offer.

        Thanks

        Nora

  6. Great article. I am planning my second trip to Guanajuato this fall after I retire, having fell in love with the city last year. My fantasy is to find a long-term rental and stay there for months at a time. I heard somewhere that the expats in G’juato tended to be a younger bunch than in SMdA, so I was happy to read the article by a woman closer to my age.

    Could you recommend someone or a place to take Spanish language lessons? I have a feeble beginning, but since I don’t use the language regularly I always have to brush up when I travel there.

  7. Hi Mary, Hi Robert, am an Austrian from Chile arrived this afternoon as my plans for Oaxaca did not work out due to the earthquake. Arrived by bus in the afternoon and walked a couple of hours to find a supermarket and the city centre but got a little lost. Anyway, need to look for some rental for a months or two and also need to buy a cell phone for internet. Any recommendation would be most welcome
    thanks
    Gerhard

    • Patricia, click on Cities, click on Guanajuato and then click on Homes. You’ll get averages for current home rentals in Guanajuato for one bedroom and three bedroom places, which will give you an idea of costs in the city.

  8. Am in Guanajuato for today (Feb 28) and tomorrow. Would like to connect with other gringo
    expats since we are considering moving here. We DON´T have email here, only phone. Could somone call us at 401 835 4372? Gracias!

  9. Thanks to your site for puttng us in touch with Willis. He and his lovely wife met us in Guanjuato and graciously anwered all our questions. Nice people. Gracias!

  10. Thanks for an interesting article! My wife and I are very seriously considering a move to Mexico and are concentrating on Guanajuato for our exploratory trip. I understand that the best way to find both short-term and long-term rentals is through communication with expats and locals who live in the community. Whom would we contact for this type of information?

  11. Thanks so much for all the information! I’ll be in Guanajuato for the summer and have been looking at some facebook groups to find apartments. Would you recommend another way to find a short-term rental other than airbnb? I’ve found a couple of possible apartments, but I want to make sure it is safe to transfer the money for a deposit. I’ve done this in the past and was able to get references from other expats through facebook groups, but I’ve found no expat groups on facebook! Do you know of one?

  12. Hi! My name is Wally and I am planning to move and live in Guanajuato in the near future (like in the next 6 – 8 months). I have lived in South Texas all my life where it’s desperately hot and humid. I am bilingual (Spanish & English). I have visited Guanajuato many times before and love the quaintness of the city, the climate, the people and the culture the city offers. I will be visiting Guanajuato in mid July of 2018 hopefully to search for an apartment/house to rent. I would like to make contact with someone who could help/advice me about rentals in Guanajuato. Recommend anybody? Thanks! Wally Mejía

  13. My husband and I have a condo in Tulum, but are coming to GTO for the month of October. We will be in an Airbnb in the Balcones de Guanajuato area. Like you Mary, my Spanish is poor, but my husband Eric is working very hard to be the voice for both of us! We are looking to be “serial relocators” so if we fall in love with GTO we may just stay 🙂 He is a (former) guitarist/bassist and I may have to peel him away!
    It would be grand to meet up with some expats and share a glass of your/our favorite libation and learn about the city from others’ experiences. I hope to hear from you.

  14. Great article! I am a few years behind in getting myself to GTO. I’d like to add there are a few great Facebook Groups serving the Guanajuato expat community. The first is geared for those visiting or living in Guanajuato – all sorts of questions asked and answered about everyday life, or ask your own question and experts will answer it for you. The other Group is a constantly updated list of activities and events in Guanajuato – art, music, food… everything.

    expat community: https://www.facebook.com/groups/gtomx/

    events and activities: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1587748181247376/

    Gracias!

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