Thursday, July 4, 2013

To Everything There Is A Season…


Timing is everything. Whether you are a comedian, a musician or just an average Joe.


Patzcuaro friday market

Friday Market, Patzcuro, 2006


When we arrived in Patzcuaro, in the summer of 2006, our new lives filled with promise, life was ideal. Vincente Fox was still in office and the Michoacán days were warm, slow and happy. Shortly after our arrival we discovered Corazón de Durazno, a new housing development in the forested hills above the town.

Real estate was booming everywhere and our hope, when we packed up and left Canada was that we could buy, renovate and flip properties in Mexico. We had researched the market here and at that time real estate was relatively inexpensive. With my home staging abilities and Todd’s acumen in real estate photography and website building in addition to the influx of retirees from north of the border, our plan seemed sound.



Breaking Ground in the “Corazón”


“The Plan”, however did not include building from the ground up, but we had fallen in love with Corazón de Durazno. In our defense it really was something totally unique to Mexico and under different circumstances would have been a good investment. But then hindsight is 20/20. We didn’t move on to spend more time in Guanajuato City or Zacatecas, the other two towns where we had considered settling, we just started building. In retrospect I think this was the beginning of the collapse of our “Mexican Dream”.

On July 2, 2006 the Mexican presidential election was held. The competition was fierce with 8 parties involved. The National Action Party  (PAN) had won over the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI, then in coalition with the Ecologist Green Party of Mexico) in 2000 for the first time in 71 years, and was anxious to hold on to the presidency for a second term, while the PRI was desperate to regain the office.The Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) (then in coalition with Convergence and the Labor Party) also believed it had a good chance that year after losing in the two previous elections.

The preliminary official count went to Felipe Calderón Hinojosa (PAN) by a very narrow margin over Andres Manuel López Obrador, (PRD) who then declared a challenge of the results before the Federal Electoral Tribunal demanding a full recount of all the ballots in Mexico City. The PRD alleged election irregularities, including allegations that the IFE’s running scoreboard, tallying the votes, blinked zero for all candidates for a period of 4 minutes.

On July 8th a group of Obrador’s supporters ( a crowd estimated from 500,000 to 3,000,000 depending on which newspaper you read ) gathered in Mexico City’s Zócalo square starting, in Obrador’s words, “the defense of the popular vote”. The protests were mostly peaceful and within the law, but some unions and PRD supporters threatened “civil resistance” should the courts ratify Calderón's victory and there was some concern expressed that this could lead to an armed conflict.

After a prolonged period during which recounts were done in Mexico City Felipe Calderón Hinojosa was declared the definitive winner on September 5, 2006, and was sworn in amid loud protests and demonstrations by the PRD supporters on December 1st.



Our wonderful Corazón neighbours, Irma and Marcos


Being FM3 visa holders, we were not permitted to be involved in any way with the political goings-on so we really paid them very little attention, and with our initial euphoria still intact we celebrated our first Christmas in Mexico. 

Seeing as we were “on Mexican time”, our scheduled move-in date of March 1, 2007 didn’t actually happen until July 1st. I guess it was a good thing that the furniture that we had purchased at a show in Moroleon in March didn’t actually arrive until August. We spent the remainder of that year blissfully decorating and landscaping and readying our new home for sale. Don’t forget “The Plan”.



Front yard


By Christmas 2007 the war had begun. We had seen evidence of the escalating altercations between the police and the drug cartels. President Calderón had begun his war on drugs in his home state of Michoacán. Patzcuaro’s warm, slow days of easy living had become strained by kidnappings, extortion and burning busses.

After some initial worrying we adjusted, as one does to any new situation, and really our day to day lives were not affected very much. Although, one day I did have the army creeping through my back yard and eventually searching my underwear drawer, but that’s a story for another day. What was affected was tourism in Mexico, and in Michoacán in particular.

By mid 2008 most of the responses that we received from the website for the sale of our home were in the area of “beautiful house, but is it safe there?”. The media was having a field day with the Mexican drug wars. Then following closely on the heels of the new Mexican struggles, came the Global Financial Crisis of 2008. As I mentioned earlier, timing is everything.



Christmas Cactus, 2008


By the end of 2008 the situation had become somewhat prickly, as evidenced by the cactus above. The house had still not sold and in early 2009 we lowered the price quite dramatically. The drug wars raged on and tourism in Mexico had reached an all time low as the world media continued to play up the violence, which really only happened between warring drug factions and the Feds. For the most part the general public was left entirely alone, or in some cases greatly helped, and or greatly intimidated by “La Familia” ( Mexican mafia) which made it difficult for the police to obtain the evidence that they needed to bring them to justice.

The United States was in turmoil with the worst depression since the 1930’s and the rest of the world was reeling with the impact. In March of 2009, in the midst of all of this we sold the house. Our buyer, understandably, had financing problems what with the state of the American banking system at the time. It took roughly 6 months with us lowering our price another ten thousand to alleviate half the cost of our buyer having to take investment money rather than financing.

However we were just happy that the house had sold, greatly improving our financial situation, as we now had all of the money from the sale of the house in our bank account, but the buyer had second thoughts. On the day that we were to sign the papers, we were in the office of the notario, our buyer went off the deep end.

Calling us thieves and con artists and threatening to have us killed by her mafia friends in Guadalajara and saying that we had threatened her life, she barricaded herself in our home and refused to leave until she had 100% of her money back. After one week and many long hours of negotiating with lawyers we returned 90% of her money, she went back to the States and we started over from scratch.


Photo courtesy of


2010 saw many changes in  Corazón de Durazno. When we bought the property there were only a few houses built there and the atmosphere was relaxed and happy. We socialized with our neighbours, enjoying many parties and dinners in their homes. Todd even said once that it was like living in Mayberry.

We were technically a gated community, but as you can see from the picture above our gate consisted, in Todd’s words, of “pine and twine technology”, and we liked it like that. Eventually though, time marches on and new houses were built, neighbours left and new ones arrived and the property was turned over to the owners and registered with the city.

With this progress came the dreaded Home Owners Association. No matter how well people get along in social situations they will never all agree in a meeting of the HOA, and of course there are many issues that it is essential that everyone agree upon to maintain what ultimately becomes a business. Monthly dues needed to paid to maintain the property, to pay the lovely young man who had to be hired to man the real gate that eventually had to be built, and repair and maintain the high tech sewer system that the architect had included to service our community.

When the house finally sold in April of 2011 we were happy and relieved. But we had taken a bath on that investment and it was pretty clear that “ The Plan “ was going to have to be rethought. Although tourism was improving and we were looking at a new political regime in the following year it was fairly clear that our original idea of flipping property was no longer viable.

The situation in Corazón de Durazno however, had become uncomfortable for us. Somehow we hadn’t thought ahead to when it would eventually become a real gated community. We discovered that this was really not for us and felt that our timing was good in this instance when we moved to San Miguel de Allende.

Our timing had also been good when we sold our condo in North Vancouver, for which we had paid very little, for a ridiculously large price. Now we are about to embark on a new  “Plan”. This time we will endeavor to be a little more diverse in our thinking in an effort to be more adaptable to the changes that ultimately happen in our lives. Is our timing better now? Only time will tell, lo que será, será.





  2. You got it, I'll see you then. I'm looking forward to it!

  3. This is a very good and interesting post. I think it illustrates beautifully the old saw that one should not move to Mexico and immediately buy a house. Far better to rent for a good spell and get the feel of things.

    Sounds like life has pretty much leveled out for you two, and that is good.

    1. Thank you Felipe, as I said before, hindsight is 20/20, LOL. Live and learn, at least I hope we have. We shall see.

  4. Great post. As you know, I was almost one of your neighbors. I am glad I followed sage advice from-- well, you know who. You have quite the touch for being a memoirist.

    1. I think it is best that you followed that sage advise as well. Who knows, someday maybe I will write my memoirs. I think I just need to amass a few more first, LOL.

  5. What a great capsulization of your experiences in Corazon de Durazon. If anyone asks about my life as your neighbor in Mexico, I will refer them to your blog. As you probably know, I have recently sold beloved house there. It was a bittersweet experience, but not regrettable. I do admire your ability to "stick to it" and sincerely regret not being able to re-invent my life on earth there. You guys hang in there. I hope to visit with you in SMA within a few weeks..BT, Casa 12

    1. I agree, the sale of the house was bittersweet. We did have some great times there didn't we? Remember that great Thanksgiving at your place?

      Congratulations on selling your house, and I really hope that you are able to visit SMA while you are in Mexico. You are more that welcome to stay with us.

  6. We, too, took a bath on our big house in Tzurumútaro (better luck with the one in town; we still own some land), but with the hassles and worries and us being so far away (and it's not an easy trip there from Uruguay), we were both of a mindset that we would be willing to give the property away. So that bath was cleansing: 100% improvement in peace of mind.

    Our mistake lay, not in buying a property within 24 hours of arriving in Pátzcuaro the first time, but in allowing construction to get out of hand. Our contractor "knew" we wanted a gringo palace because that's what his last customer wanted. Too much too much too much.

    Nonetheless, we didn't buy a house as quickly the first time we came to Uruguay. It took a week (and btw we fixed it up and sold it for a nice profit).

    1. Sorry to hear that you did badly on your Tzurumútaro house Doug. I thought it was gorgeous! It sounds like maybe the real estate market is a little better in Uruguay. Did you buy another house there or are you renting now? My best to Susan and Jessie.