I live in Mexico and I am very cold. And I’m not happy about it. To be fair, I’m never happy about being cold anywhere, and I’m not great with super-hot weather either. When it comes to temperature, I’m the most intolerable of princesses, sneering at anything that’s not a perfectly pleasant 75 F (24 C) and sunny with a very slight breeze and clouds moving briefly in front of the sun at 10-minute intervals.
That’s why winter is my least favorite season in my city of Xalapa, Veracruz. The temperature? Well, around 50 F (10 C) at night, warming up to maybe 70 F (22 C) during the day, though that’s the top of the range; it doesn’t last.
At this point, there are surely some northerners and Canadians chuckling to themselves and saying, “Why, that’s shorts weather!” but hear me out. First, I’m from Texas. And while temperatures surely get that low and lower in Texas, the low temperatures can be escaped because of the magic that is climate control.
It might be snowing outside, but inside it’s always toasty warm. Every house, every building, every car is climate-controlled. If you’d like to feel the cold, you can simply go out and enjoy it for whatever duration of time you see fit. If you don’t want to, really the only “suffering” you might encounter is moving from the car to a building or house and back.
So back to Mexico. Walking outside in 55-degree weather? Not that bad. Pleasant, even. Sitting in a home with a temperature that won’t break 60? Miserable. Changing clothes? Torture. Going to the bathroom? Better psych yourself up first for that icy seat. Taking a shower? The hot water is nice, but leaving it behind (okay, fine: letting it run over you until there’s none left) downright feels like divine torture.
Needless to say, most of my winters here are spent slightly drunk (momentary heat) and more than a little grouchy as I waddle around the house in my three layers of clothes but still icy-cold hands.
Again, I know that a range of 50 – 60 F is not that bad. But once the temperature inside of your house drops – and it will drop – getting it warm inside again is and has so far proven to be a very difficult task.
No one here has actually come out and said to my face: “It’s just cold sometimes and there just aren’t any realistic solutions.” That seems to be the general attitude. I’m sure my irritation with the cold inside my house is, to them, the equivalent of someone yelling at the wind for blowing on them.
It’s just that I know the technology exists that can help us control inside temperatures. I grew up with it. And it’s not that it’s impossible to take other steps to make things warmer, even in the absence of central heating. Even super rich people’s houses here are freezing when it’s cold outside…it’s just not seen as a problem worth addressing.
Mexican houses are built differently. They’re made of brick and concrete, which means that the walls aren’t mostly hollow like in the U.S., and which also means U.S.-style heating and A/C systems are not as efficient, especially central air and heating.
All in all, it’s a pretty good building material. The main downside to it is that it’s porous, and humidity (read “mold”) is a constant problem that also doesn’t seem to be designated as a true problem. (I’ll admit, I’m amused when I read panicked messages about mold on U.S.-based sites; I don’t think I’ve ever been inside a building in this city that didn’t have mold in it somewhere. It’s so humid, in fact, that if you leave your shoes in the closet for several months, they’ll be moldy by the time you get them out.)
When it comes to the cold, the concrete isn’t precisely to blame. What I do blame, and a lot, are the windows. I have never figured out why, but the glass for windows in houses in incredibly thin and flimsy, so much so that I’ve always joked that windows down here are mostly symbolic.
As you can imagine, the cold comes through easily. What cold doesn’t get in through the windows comes inside instead through the many gaping holes around door and window frames. Add to this that many keep certain windows open during the winter in any case to reduce trapping in even more humidity, and fighting the cold essentially becomes a lost cause.
I’ve taped the cracks around doors and windows, but this isn’t possible, of course, if you sometimes need to use them. For the time being, I’ve simply given up on standing out on my balconies because I don’t want to “unseal” the doors to them. I have rolled up towels that I keep in front of the bottoms of doors leading to the outside to prevent too much of a draft from entering.
But mostly, I do what all Mexicans do: I bundle up, put some extra blankets on the bed, consume my weight in hot drinks and alcohol while I wait for spring and try my best to type with icy hands.