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 Safe and Sound in Central Mexico ... 2011

Arnie Greenberg


Setting of 1867 trial Queretero

There has been a lot of negative publicity about Mexico and I am not here to say that this is the perfect Eden, but I’m back in the eastern mountains of Mexico for a winter in the sun and for me, it’s the place to be. There has been a lot of publicity about the warring drug cartels and the news has hurt. But still, there are tourists here from many countries and people seem to be going about their business with smiles on their faces and hope in the air.

No, it’s not perfect. There was a murder in San Miguel this year of an 85 year old American and the publicity cut deeply. Even the government was aghast over the sad event but there are murders and crime everywhere and this unfortunate event had nothing to do with drugs.  Locals, in San Miguel, are outraged that their bustling economy should be weakened by the press’s desire to sensationalize. Last year it was the H1N1 that people feared. There is always something.

Yet, we returned to our winter mountain home euphoric with the idea that we were out of the snow, the wind and sub-zero temperatures of Montreal.  The only difficulty we had so far was a forty-five minute delay trying to take off from Chicago. From the time we left to the time of this writing, all has gone well. After a nice lunch with friends at noon, my wife went off to play tennis while returned to the quiet of our city center rental to send out this message.

Last night we had a lovely Italian dinner near the main square or Hardin after seeing a local folkdance troupe perform at the library theatre. On the weekend we enjoyed a musical light and sound show cast against the outside of the main cathedral, the paroquia. In Thursday, a lecture on Memory helped us understand the mystery of ageing as Prof. Joseph Schmidt from Montreal’s Mcgill University brought a wealth of information to an audience from all over North America. At that lecture, I met people from my home city who I never knew before. Everyone talked to each other. It was like going to a club meeting.

Then, as I explained to an art dealer in Juarez Park that I couldn’t buy one of his paintings since I would be busy packing my belongings for a move to Vancouver, a stranger behind me asked, “Did you say Vancouver. We’re from Vancouver.” We talked, exchanged cards and Email addresses and would get together some day. Little did I know that ‘someday’ turned out to be the next day when by chance, we met again and even talked about playing bridge together in the future.

Queretero execution 1867

No. I do not feel threatened here. As a matter of fact there is so much to do in such a colourful place, I fret for the day when I’ll have to leave.  But many friends from home haven’t even arrived yet. We have a dinner scheduled for 16 friends to celebrate a birthday. This morning a neighbour came over. He and his wife moved here from Oregon. He rents a fully furnished apartment for under $1000 a month and pointed out there are good rentals for as low as $700. But it depends how far you want to be from the crowded center. Many of the rentals include fireplace and stove gas, electricity and maid service. 

Prices have started to rise but not only in rent. Bread, drinks, restaurants,, vegetables and so on are rising too, but very slowly. An average lunch is about $12  including soup or salad, coffee and (often) desert.

Bus rides are about 45 cents. They were only 5 cents cheaper last year and taxis from most points are 43-4 at most. You can ride out to one of giant food stores or even Walmart’s and take a taxi home with your purchases, all for under $6 (US) return. 

I check a sales list for houses or condos to buy. I saw a nice one bedroom unit with terrace for only $72,000 but there are others that go for two million or more. Some people buy a property, use it seasonally and rent it at other times. There are agencies ready to manage your property or keep it secure while you are home or away.

We all have different needs. Some dwellings have swimming pools on or near the property. Some are close to the library, Arts Center or one of the parks. Some are farther away on golf courses where it might be easier if you had a car.

There are travel Agencies that offer inexpensive tours for a few days to Cuba or even to Peru. There are day trips to neighbouring towns like Queretaro or Guanajuato and shuttles to Leon or Mexico City airports for a reasonable cost where you are picked up at your door.

Typical colourful entree

Art classes are available for short or long durations as are language courses. Many natives speak some English but knowing their language helps a lot. There are music bands nightly on the square, concerts, story-telling, writing conferences, meetings with celebrated writers, art classes, discussion groups, play reading, an art and design center and library English book sales. Even the crafts are unique, colourful and available on most streets, from straw hats to native shawls, skirts, furniture, sculpture or games and even replicas of skeletons and skulls. The latter is almost a must in Mexico, especially in November around the famous ‘Day of the dead’.

On Fridays, one can purchase the English newspaper Atencion which outlines in detail, the events that would take place for the week ahead. You can find them on  The paper also has lists of restaurants and real estate agents as well as artists whose studios are open to the public.

This past week the celebrated what they call Candelaria an outpouring of color and fragrant odors married to native music on a gigantic stage. This event is set in the large and lovely Park Jaurez and attracts hundreds of people daily.

Another activity is a Chilli cook-off with rodeo or a craft and jewellery show at the Institute Allende.

This is a favourite of mine that includes music, refreshments and a wonderful view of the main center of the city.

There is no way a person can be bored. You can just sit in the shade of a sculptured tree in the Jardin and read, watch the kids play and the balloon salesmen saunter by. All the while blue and white uniformed police on horseback circle the area in case they are needed.

San Miguel has good medical practitioners, dentists, ophthalmologists, drugstores and ambulance and police service.

The cobbled streets are crowded and the traffic often knotted, but you get used to it since the city is giving so much back. I really can’t think of a better place during the winter months.

There is wireless computer hook up, American channels on TV and places where you can rent or buy CDs or videos.

I was pleasantly surprised when I recently read of a survey that reported that of all the popular places in the world for travel, San Miguel is in the top five. But don’t take my word for it. Come on down. You may even meet some of our friends from back home.

Final resting place of Maxmilian in Queretaro

Street colors are inviting

My final message today is that  especially in the mountain towns, the country is as safe or safer than most. Sure, things happen, but they happen everywhere, even at home.

It’s cheerful, active, colourful and busy. You may go with trepidation but most people dream of returning. I certainly will.

You can Contact Professor Arnie Greenberg at


Over the past few years, Professor Greenberg has traveled with groups to France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, Prague and both Sorrento and the Bay of Naples plus most of Sicily. His tours traveled to the far reaches of the globe including Italy and most of China (Beijing -Hong Kong) and to Russia where his group cruised the waters from St.Petersburg to Moscow. 

"He took a group to Greece and another to northern Russia. In Nov 07 he took a tour group to much of India and ended his tour groups by revisiting France. He now travels with his wife and friends. They winter in Argentina or San Miguel Mexico.  His newly found spare time is taken up with his painting and writing. "I must write every day." His current work is a cautionary manual for would-be tour leaders..  "So You Want To Be A Tour Leader." 

Arnie now travels with friends. He continues writing Travel articles about unusual places but often concentrates on novel writing. Two books based on French Art will be published this year.  Keep reading his web for travel ideas.  His next novel HELLSTORM'S Folly, will be available this fall. He now lives in British Columbia.

Go to: or contact him directly at

(More about the writer.)


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