Where Should I Live in Mexico?
December 3, 2021 8:40 AM   Subscribe

I'm considering spending a year or two living in Mexico, and would like any insight you can share on possible places to live.

I have had, by all objective measures, a really shitty few years, working a job I hate in a place I hate. Up until now, my plan was to move in June to a place I hate slightly less, until my therapist asked me what should have been an obvious question: why not go someplace you don't hate and do something you want to do?

Something I've always wanted to do is live abroad again, and re-learn/become fluent in Spanish, and there is nothing stopping me from relocating to Mexico. It's been ages since I've visited, and I am planning to spend about a month down there in June checking out different towns and cities I might want to live in.

My snowflakes:

-I studied Spanish for a total of 8 years in high school and college. I can still read it well, but speaking and understanding speech are shaky; someplace where I can muddle by in my shoddy Spanish while I work my way towards fluency.

-Right now I'm circling around Central Mexico (San Miguel de Allende, Queretaro, and Guanajuato), or the Pacific Coast (Puerto Vallarta, Sayulita). I like cities, I like the beach, I like cool architecture. But I'm open to totally different ideas.

-A huge expat community is not necessary, but I miss living in places with a diverse international community and that would be a big plus.

-I would like to live someplace with a queer community and an arts scene.

-I am 36/f/single, do not party, but do enjoy having a few glasses of wine or beer at relatively quiet bars. I'm not necessarily looking to date or meet a partner, but a place where it's just me and a bunch of retirees is not what I'm looking for.

-I have savings and will be working remotely. Can pay up to ~18,000 MXN (900USD) for rent.

Keeping this search focused on Mexico only, as points further south put me too far away from where my aging parents reside. I appreciate any insights and advice you can give!
posted by nancynickerson to Travel & Transportation around Mexico (14 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Oaxaca has an amazing visual-arts culture and a small queer scene! Also, the food is amazing.
posted by sixswitch at 9:20 AM on December 3, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Yep, San Miguel de Allende and its surroundings are the classic recommendation for a reason. I have American family members who bought a house there and were spending significant time there each year (pre-Covid). It's pretty, it's not hard to access from the US, there are plenty of expats, a vibrant arts scene. No personal knowledge about the queer scene though. You can definitely arrange your life there so you speak English all day, but you can also do the opposite -- avoid the English-centric places, only shop in stores that cater to locals, etc. Ultimately, it's got a pretty small-town vibe. Guanajuato is similar, but much bigger.
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:40 AM on December 3, 2021

Best answer: This question is speaking to me at a deep level.

I would add Merida to your list of possibilities.
posted by geegollygosh at 11:49 AM on December 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

Seconding Oaxaca as a culturally vibrant city.
posted by leslies at 12:48 PM on December 3, 2021

Best answer: I've lived in SMA for almost a year. It's not very walkable and the expat community is mostly older, white, USian, and wealthy. Not my thing. It's also not terribly close to any airports and most of the local cultural centers that might otherwise make it interesting are still shut down or operating on reduced schedules.

The city has been ok as a coronabunker, but if I were to stay in Mexico past next January (I'm not, and feel free to DM me as to why), I'd be moving on.

Querétaro or San Cristóbal de las Casas are much more lively and culturally diverse. I absolutely loved San Cris when I was there recently for a couple of weeks. Helps if your Spanish is decent, of course.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 1:27 PM on December 3, 2021 [6 favorites]

Best answer: It's absolutely obvious, but do consider Mexico city or places within commuting range, e.g., Cuernavaca.

Cholula is surprisingly hip, cosmolpolitan, and historied for a small city. As a weird foreigner, I've made friends there easily. Seconding Oaxaca city, Merida, and also adding Zacatecas which I think of as in the same category. For the beach-bum experience, consider San Blas. (I have limited patience for surfers, so I wouldn't want to live there. But it's nice to visit and might work for you.)
posted by eotvos at 2:13 PM on December 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Merida (in the Yucatan peninsula) would get you a place with a pool for that money. It's an hour by bus from the beach, but there are lots of cenotes if you just want a dip. Definitely an expat and arts scene, I am ignorant if there is anything LGBTQ+. The food is outstanding, the Dutch and Spanish colonial influence on Mayan cuisine is incredible.
posted by wnissen at 5:41 PM on December 3, 2021

Response by poster: Thank you all so much and please do keep the answers coming!

Somehow Mexico City was not obvious to me, but duh. I’ve booked a ticket to fly down in mid June and am currently marking up a map with all of these suggestions. Even if I don’t end up living there, it’ll be a great trip and a perfect way to mark the end of these Years of Personal Despair.
posted by nancynickerson at 6:18 PM on December 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I don't want to speak out of my element, but.... during our (cishet couple) visit to Puerto Vallarta, we noticed that the city's promised LGBT-friendliness was there but the reality seemed kinda... lGbt. There was a fellow guest at the hotel we were at in Old Vallarta, who spent most of the week trying to figure out where all of the other lesbians were. She found a bar/club eventually that she liked, but still felt like it was pretty skewed to gay men. Very G, she said. Not so much L.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:34 PM on December 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

San Cristóbal, Guadalajara, Guanajuato, Mérida, DF would be my top choices.

I would avoid Puerto Vallarta and other similar resorty towns.
posted by turkeyphant at 8:28 PM on December 3, 2021

Best answer: Oaxaca seems like a must for you to check out. Lots of arts, diverse international scene, walkable, cool architecture. SCLC does indeed have a big expat scene but it felt very geared to tourism in a way other Mexican cities I've visited didn't. It also gets really cold there, if that's an issue for you.

CDMX is my absolute favorite though. If you wanted to have more of a small city feel, you could live in Coyoacan and just be a metro ride into the city center. When I was there almost 10 years ago, I saw gay couples holding hands all over the place, it was lovely.

And yeah, the gay scene in PV is mostly cis men. Apparently Sayulita is where lesbians and other queer people go, though I have not personally been.
posted by lunasol at 11:09 PM on December 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Not threadsitting, but want to greatly thank lunasol and DirtyOldTown for bringing up the specificities and nuances of LGBT population! Definitely relevant and helpful.
posted by nancynickerson at 6:19 PM on December 4, 2021 [2 favorites]

I have two friends (a couple) that moved to Ajiic, in Jalisco. A lot of ex-pats there, they got by with minimal Spanish although one is taking more Spanish classes now. They are both into community theater and there are a few groups there. I haven't heard from them about the other arts, but often a place with lots of theater supports other arts as well They love the place.

Merida was their second choice.
posted by TimHare at 7:24 PM on December 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

I recommend Coatepec, Veracruz (where I live). There's a decent expat community, not too sure about LGBT, it's very close to Xalapa (basically an University town), with a thriving arts scene.
posted by dhruva at 3:03 PM on December 5, 2021 [1 favorite]

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