Stranded in the Third World?
When we made Puerto Vallarta, Mexico our permanent residence a decade
ago, our friends back in the States frequently asked if we felt stranded
in the Third World. The answer was no; perhaps the Second World! Prior
to the demise of the USSR, the Second World consisted of the communist
bloc countries. Since the collapse of the iron curtain, there are no longer
any Second World countries, so perhaps we can promote Mexico to the New
Second World! Actually, Mexico along with China, India, Brazil, Turkey,
and others are recognized as Newly Industrialized Countries or NIC´S.
These NIC´S have more advanced economies than the developing countries
of the Third World, yet have not attained the level of developed countries
of the First World. Regardless of what World we were in, it was a cultural
shock and required a number of changes to our daily living habits. As
an example, the Mexican TV had only five or six channels which were either
old movies from the US with Spanish subtitles or Mexican shows obviously
directed to sixth graders. The only channel that we could understand and
relate to was CNN with it’s biased, almost anti-US commentary that
was only a bit more palatable than the sixth grade Mexican shows! Newspapers
and magazines from the US were few and far between and the news was usually
history by the time they were made available here. Mail delivery was so
pathetic in Vallarta ten years ago that the only way to be assured of
receiving mail, including newspapers and magazines, was through Mail Boxes
Etc. which delivered from El Paso to Vallarta once a week. The service
was fairly priced and we had a good chance of receiving most of our mail.
Ten years ago we had dial-up, ultra slow Mexican speed internet service.
It worked most of the time but was pitifully slow and got disconnected
constantly, especially if there was a threat of rain.
Ten years ago, the grocery, drug, and hardware stores varied from absolutely
horrible to almost acceptable. The choice of foods and supplies was limited
but enough to survive. We had bottled water, Microdyn to clean fruits
and vegetables, pills to keep us free of amoebas and bacteria, and the
rest of the basics needed to live in the tropics known as Paradise! We
did have a decent golf course, world class fishing, and an absolutely
perfect climate with Pebble Beach type views from everywhere. Most importantly,
we were meeting a bunch of similar minded, adventurous, recently retired
North Americans that came to enjoy a new pace of life. One could probably
say that we were stranded in the Third World but the benefits of living
in Paradise just about offset the drawbacks and limitations associated
with this new style of life.
During the past decade, Puerto Vallarta, known as PV or Vallarta by the
local residents, has changed dramatically. The population has exploded
to 350,000 inhabitants, most of which are now speaking or at least understanding
English. We have many new businesses and stores including a Super Walmart,
Sam´s Club, Office Depot, etc with all the latest in electronics,
hardware, and building supplies. The many new huge and modern grocery
supermarkets are equal to the finest in the US with a complete selection
of frozen foods and most of the other food products that we 50,000 Americans
and Canadians are accustomed to, all of which are imported from the States.
Vallarta has grown to the point where there are now seven beautiful golf
courses with more under construction; hundreds of tennis courts, and of
course, Vallarta still has the world class deep sea fishing. The medical
care in Vallarta has changed accordingly with the population boom. There
are three new hospitals and numerous modern clinics. The water is as pure
as in the States and the food purchased from the modern air-conditioned
supermarkets is equal to the finest in the US. There are a number of new,
huge cinemas, new theme parks, and hundreds of world class restaurants
Now, let’s return to the idea of being stranded in Paradise. Today,
most all North Americans have satellite TV with 350 channels from the
States or Canada. We all have high speed internet service with exactly
the same information at our fingertips that we would have anywhere in
the States. Most of the Americans and Canadians use Vonage or a similar
telephone provider for almost free and unlimited calls to their friends
and family back home. Mail service in PV is excellent, however all mail
is routed through Guadalajara or Mexico City and serious delays still
happen in these cities. Therefore, any items of importance are sent via
DHL, FedEx, or UPS. Most items mailed by DHL will be received within 48
hours and are easily
tracked on the internet. American newspapers and magazines are current
and can be purchased at news stands located throughout Vallarta.
With the thousands of houses and condos currently under construction,
the totally new city infrastructure, and the future ten year building
plan underway, PV is no longer a developing economy; it’s a booming
economy! With all the modern internet technology, nobody should ever feel
stranded in Vallarta unless they desire the old Mexican pace of life which
can be had by simply avoiding the technology.
There are a few things for certain in Vallarta; none of the retired North
Americans will have to go to work tomorrow, the weather will be perfect
for doing whatever pleases them, they will enjoy being with their friends,
and with two to three hour flights leaving for the US all day everyday,
none of them will feel stranded in the Third World!