When we made Puerto Vallarta, Mexico our permanent residence 22 years 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 children. The only channel that we could understand and relate to was CNN with its 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 twenty 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. Twenty 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. Today, we have fiber optics and high speed Internet and virtually no need for regular mail. In fact, we haven´t had even an advertisement in the mail box for five years or more. Electric and water bills (if not sent be email) are personally delivered by the electric and water companies. Anything of importance is sent by Fed Ex, UPS, DHL, or Estafeta.
Twenty 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 two decades, Puerto Vallarta, known as PV or Vallarta by the local residents, has changed dramatically. The greater metropolitan population has exploded to 430,000 inhabitants, most of which are now speaking or at least understanding English. We have many new businesses and stores including multiple Super Walmarts, Sam´s Club, Costco, Office Depot, etc with all the latest in electronics, hardware, and building supplies. The many new huge and modern grocery supermarkets and shopping malls 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 more than a dozen 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 in Vallarta, and a world class aquarium under construction.
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 newsstands 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 every day, none of them will feel stranded in the Third World!