The Malecón means Mazatlán to real estate agent Samantha Osuna, who began sinking her roots in “The Pearl of the Pacific in 1991 when she married a local boy.
Osuna took a circuitous route to Mazatlán, beginning her life in California 47 years ago in San Bernardino. Her family left shortly thereafter for Idaho and then Washington where she graduated from high school in Soap Lake, in the state’s apple country.
She started college at Spokane Community College but soon found herself in England, courtesy of the school’s exchange program. While there, Osuna became a community service volunteer, driving a woman who was in a wheelchair to her management job at the Royal Hospital.
During her first years of college, Osuna worked summers in the fishing industry in Alaska, which paid very well. She met her husband, Miguel, in King Cove in 1991. He was from Mazatlán and was working to earn extra money.
“Miguel had already finished dental school and went to Alaska to get money for his master’s degree or build a clinic,” she said. “We married in the fall of 1991 and were married for 23 years.”
Life was spent mostly in Mazatlán, but the couple continued to work in Alaska during summers to earn extra money. Osuna also decided to go back to school and graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 2003.
She got her start in real estate with Keller Williams Realty in Arizona before returning to Mazatlán to work as an independent real estate agent in 2006. Osuna recently discovered that life has a way of reconnecting old relationships. Keller Williams recently opened an office in Mazatlán and she now works for them.
Osuna told us that Mazatlán has grown a lot over the past decade and is now around 700,000 people, one of the largest coastal cities in Mexico.
“I love it here,” she said, “because there is something to do everyday. You can go to the beach, bike or walk along the Malecón or do a hundred other things. The weather is always great so we tend to be outside a lot.”
Osuna believes that many expats are choosing Mazatlán over Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta on Mexico’s Pacific coast because it offers similar weather and lifestyle, but at less cost.
“It’s cheaper to live here,” she said, “plus it still feels like a small town. You can still go to the grocery store and run into four people you know. It’s not quite a big city, yet.”
Many expats, she said, live in the El Cid area of Mazatlán, which is a gated community north of El Centro and just south of the new marina. Osuna and her girls live downtown.
“I live in the old town part of the city about three blocks from Plaza Machado,” she said. “We love it because there are many restaurants, concerts, theater and other things to do. We’re also close to the Malecón, which is about 14 miles long and one of the longest in Mexico. More expats are discovering El Centro as a place to live, rather than heading for the northern part of the city.”
Osuna’s girls are students of music and dance at the Angela Peralta Theater near Plaza Machado.
“My youngest daughter will dance in the Nutcracker ballet at Christmas this year,” she said, “and my oldest daughter studied classical guitar in the theater’s music program. The theater also offers symphony performances and opera.”
Her family lives in a three-bedroom house with two bathrooms that Osuna purchased for US$68,000 a few years back.
“It’s kind of a row house with a one-car garage,” she said. “The feature I love is the patio in the middle of the house, which provides lots of light. Our house is about 1,500 sq. ft. but is perfect for us and close to everything. We’re right on the edge of the historical district.”
Prices in her area are going up. A very large home that occupies nearly a city block is for sale at US$1 million. But that is an exception. Osuna said that homes for expats in gated communities could be purchased for US$100,000 to US$150,000, if you want to live a bit outside of town.
If you are thinking of renting, Osuna said a long-term rental would fall in the US$600 to US$1,200 monthly range for most properties, depending upon location.
“It’s hard to find a rental for less than US$800 near the Plaza Machado right now,” she said. “Most are fully furnished. Farther north, you should be able to find a high-rise condo with about 2,400 sq. ft., three-bedrooms and three-baths right on the beach for around US$1,500 a month.”
She said her utility bills and other cost of living items are quite low, particularly considering she lives in a beach resort city.
“My water bill runs about 80 pesos a month and my highest electricity bill during the summer with air conditioning is about 1,000 pesos a month,” Osuna said. “Our grocery bill is also low, about 1,000 pesos a week, but that’s because we mainly eat fish, vegetables and fruits. When I need to buy cleaning supplies and stuff like that I shop at Wal-Mart or Sam’s Club.”
Educating her girls has also been relatively inexpensive for Osuna. All three are enrolled in bi-lingual Catholic private schools. For her youngest daughter, she pays 3,400 pesos a month. High school is a bit more.
Osuna is active in various expat groups in Mazatlán, including the Friends of Mexico organization.
“Our biggest meeting will be this month,” she said. “We’ll have about 80 people attend. The money goes towards helping poor kids through school. There are numerous charities expats can join to help the disadvantaged in Mazatlán.”
For entertainment, Osuna enjoys the beachside country and western club near her home or walking or biking on the Malecón.
“I would also recommend visiting Stone Island, which is just offshore,” she said. “It’s a fun way to spend the day. I also like to visit Mármol north of Mazatlán to visit the petroglyphs. I went there for the spring equinox and it was a lot of fun.”
If you are thinking about Mazatlán as a place to live, Osuna has some advice for you.
“Don’t rush into it. Come down here for a month or two, not just a week or two. You can’t get the feel of things in a couple of weeks. It’s better to rent a house off the beach to get a good feel for the city. Then you can see if you can handle it or if you really like it.”