The People's Guide To Mexico
Carl's Mexico Notebook

Archive Issue 14 August 2001

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Technical note: There's been a gap in my entries to this Notebook lately, thanks to technical problems behind the scenes of this website.

This will mainly be of interest to webmasters and writers thinking of do-it-yourself publishing, but I've been tearing my hair out, trying to convert all of my past Notebook entries into "normal" web pages rather than continue to use Blogger.com's "push button publishing" method.

I thought Blogger (a nickname for "web logs") publishing was the answer to my prayers, and though it worked quite well for about a month, when it quit working well, it did so with a bang. I've had to tediously republish all of my Notebooks, redo the links, etc. etc.

The lesson I learned from this is simple: if you're serious about publishing your writing on the internet, be very cautious with web logs. They can be wonderful, but the technology and coding aren't yet reliable enough for me. end of rant.....

Huitlacoche, Lost... and Found

Tuesday, August 14, 2001

Bill B. wrote: Carl, your notebook entry for July 31, included a link to Mexgrocer.com with the comment that I could find huitlacoche there. I scrolled through the pictures and searched, but still didn't find it. Any suggestions?

We've traveled in Mexico plus eaten in Mexican restaurants here in California and have yet to find someone who is familiar with "corn smut", so I don't know what -- if anything -- I'm missing. Thanks for your website and thanks for any suggestions.

• Hola Bill: Well, I've got egg on my face... or is that corn smut? Even as I wrote that mini review of MexGrocer.com I thought to myself, "better check this out, just in case..." but then I let it slide. So... you're correct; there is no huitlacoche at MexGrocer. I have written them and asked for a source, but in the meantime, I've done some internet research. It seems that there are a remarkable number of recipes and huitlacoche references -- but no obvious place to buy the stuff except here in Mexico.

This scarcity of huitlacoche is obviously a money-making opportunity. My suggestion is that you come to Mexico, buy a truckload, and corner the market up north.

P.S. This just came in from MexGrocer:

Dear friend: Sorry we let you down, but we are still trying to get this product in our inventory, we will let you know as soon as this happens, in the meantime, the only place we know that sells Huitlacoche is: Kitchen Market, Phone 888-HOT-4433

Stay in touch,

Juan Lam, Customer Service http://www.MexGrocer.com

Bill then replied: Finally, success! I just ordered a 7.4oz can of "cuitlacoche", item #0505, for $5.85 plus $6 s&h from http://www.thecmccompany.com. They have quite a listing of unusual items that may also be of interest to you. Now I'm waiting to taste this stuff and see if my curiosity and expenditure were worthwhile.

Incidentally, we built our own airplane and have flown many places, including Mexico. I learned programming enough to present our website, http://users.ap.net/~bravopapa if you have interest.

Mazatlan - Costs, Housing, Work

by Art Jones

Hola Lorena and Carl: as you predicted, since you published my first letter concerning life here in Mazatlan, Sinaloa, I' ve been getting a ton of letters asking about retirement and other prolonged stays. The most common question these folks have is, "How much is it gonna cost me each month to live in Mazatlan.?

In the last few years I've seen folks here with such widely varying "comfort zones" that a stock answer to this question is impossible. My answer is always, " that depends... it depends on what you were comfortable with in the States or wherever you're from".

The second-most common question is, "Can I live in Mazatlan on $xxx per month?". As with any question that begins with "Can I?", the answer to this one is always "Yes!". Of course, the question is really, "Will I be comfortable living on $xxx per month?".

At this very moment, there are probably apartments available in a reasonable part of the city, if not in the Centro Historico itself, for as little as 1000 -1200 pesos per month. (Carl's note: the U.S. dollar is currently worth about 9.2 pesos.)

These apartments won't be near the beach, and they obviously won't be in one of Mazatlan's more fashionable barrios (neighborhoods) but they are available. But, as you know, such bargain places are generally not turn-key operations. Often the damage from the last tenant is considerable, and in these lean times it is often impossible to get help from the landlord for any fix-ups you have to do. Apartments at this price don't usually come with stove or fridge, and even the light switches may be missing from the walls. They'll almost always need paint and considerable TLC. You furnish a place like this to meet your wishes.

If you can afford to move up into the range of 2500 pesos and more, however, things rapidly improve. An apartment or house for 2500 pesos will get you somewhat closer to the beach, although you may still have to furnish it completely.

Considering the services that are available in Mazatlan, I still believe this is the most undervalued city on the Pacific Coast. Property prices have certainly been rising rapidly for the 4 years that I've been here to witness. Gringos 'in the know' and with the means to do so are buying whatever is available, and renting long-term what is not for sale.

In spite of this, however, Mazatlan has in no way reached the atmospheric price levels of Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco, and other popular beach towns.

Do folks really live in Mazatlan on $600, $800, or $1000 per month?

You bet they do, "con mucha felicidad". Many, many Mexicans live on much, much less. The relevant question remains, Àwhat is my level of comfort? (I know that you emphasize this a lot in The People's Guide To Mexico).

I find my own comfort level has changed somewhat in the last 35 years. How about you?

Another popular question is about the availability of work in Mazatlan.

I advise, "if you need or desire to work, bring yours with you or create work here". As it now stands, there really isn't much work to go around. A few Gringos make a precarious living teaching English ( you don't have to speak Spanish to do this). Their salaries are maybe 5000 pesos a month, tops.

Of course, the infamous Gringo timeshare hustler still abounds in the Zona Dorada. There are also those who have bought a job by becoming proprietors of -- you name it -- bars, restaurants, B&Bs, property managers/real estate sales, etc. etc. With the Mexican economy as tough as it is right now, it may be difficult to squeeze much profit out of these enterprises, but there are a few hardy souls out there working at it.

All in all, retirement in Mazatlan can be a snap. It can also be as pleasurable and comfortable as you want it to be. The first step is to visit Mazatlan, and then stay here as long as possible. Find a lifestyle that is comfortable for you, and like the sneaker guy says, "just do it!".

One can collect all the information in the world but in reality it's the experience that counts. Everyone's experience of a place, a city, or a country is unique to themselves. It's really not that complicated -- and believe me, if I can do it, anyone can.

Anyone who is seriously planning the "big move" or an extended visit to Mazatlan should feel free to e-mail me . I'll do whatever I can to help.

As always, your pal... Art

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