Welcome 2013

At the end of 2012 Mexico gets an A for trying, but a for implementation.

First the A. There’s a new law in Mexico against animal abuse.

abused dog

MEXICO CITY (AP) — “Mexico City lawmakers have approved prison terms for animal cruelty, previously considered a civil offense sanctioned with fines and detentions.

The capital’s legislative assembly unanimously agreed that people who intentionally abuse and cause animals harm will face up to two years in prison and pay up to $500. If the animal is killed, they can face up to four years in prison and a $2,000 fine.”

So why am I not jumping for joy?

Mexico legally recognized domestic violence in 2007.

Mexico legally recognized domestic violence in 2007.

The D.

Here is a snippet from a 2008 report on domestic violence in Mexico compiled by Amnesty International for the Hauge’s Domestic Violence Convention, to which Mexico is a signatory.

  • Domestic violence was pervasive and vastly under reported. The law prohibits domestic violence, including spousal abuse, and stipulates fines equal to 30 to 180 days’ pay and detention for up to 36 hours; however, actual sentences were normally lenient. On the state level, laws sanctioning domestic violence, if any, are weak. Seven states have not criminalized domestic violence, and 15 states sanction family violence only when it is a repeated offense.

[I gave up searching for additional information on Mexico’s criminal penalties over the net and will stand corrected if you have something more definitive, but readers should know that rape in Mexico is punishable with up to 20 years.  Still, there’s the odd disconnect that animal abuse now ‘appears’ to draw a greater sanction than garden variety domestic abuse. Go figure.]

So why should you care what Mexico is doing, even if I do because I’m living in Mexico?

Because this is a global struggle.

Because for any nation, including yours, here’s the real deal,

abuse links

and because until we recognize the linkage on abuse there is no hope for anything approaching human rights or an environmental movement in Mexico – or anywhere else.

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For my peeps in the U.S., we can use Mexico’s new law as an example of where America should be heading.

For my peeps in San Miguel, we can double our support for the efforts being made to decrease violence.

For anyone interested, I just had a short article published in the bi-weekly rag “Atencion” on this subject.

http://www.atencionsanmiguel.org/2012/12/28/domestic-violence-and-animal-abuse-is-there-a-canary-in-the-coal-mine/

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Now you get my sincere wishes for a healthy, happy New Year  – where we’ll all continue our compassionate work to change the world!

Happy New Year 2013

 

 

 

 

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Tres Dia de Reyes

Three Kings

I’m delighted to learn about Three Kings Day in Mexico. Why? Because it extends the winter holidays. I’m now in the 12 days of Christmas!

And, because the 12 days start on Christmas Day, down here we’re only at

2 turtle doves

Sing it, y’all!

As I understand the back-story, the 12 days of Christmas lead up to January 6, The Epiphany, or, in Mexico, Three Kings Day, which is celebrated as the public acknowledgement of the Christ.  While Christmas Day is a big deal here, it still represents a private miracle and is celebrated in the home.

During the 12 days of Christmas the Magi are traveling to Bethlehem. Some schools and families here up the ante by moving paper statues of Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar across the room each day closer and closer to the crèche.  Little kids get busy writing letters to the Kings as they watch them approach.  Yes, asking for what they want, because Three Kings Day is the BIG present day.

And a massive day for the Pinata!

And a good day to be a pinata

Me, I’m an equal-opportunity holiday celebrator.  I recognize that all of these holidays rest on celebrations of the Winter Solstice.  As far as one can nail down these things down, evidently the Scandinavian Yule was celebrated from what is now Christmas into early January so, maybe that’s where we got the “12 days of Christmas”?  Who knows?

I like the idea of feeling part of the long human procession celebrating the return of the sun. Adding stories and traditions from a hundred cultures as we came down the ages, until now in Mexico everything is encrusted with gold, frankincense and myrrh.

So, I step lively with the best if them because I don’t care what form the festivities take, and

ladies dancing

lift my glass to the human parade.

My tenderness extends from the child in front of me back through eons – epochs! – to the first ancestors who lit candles during the longest night. Like them, I am mostly pagan at heart.

pagan yule

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Remember, tomorrow we’re at

3 french hensHave a cool Yule, dahlin’s!

 

 

 

 

Parque Juarez, San Miguel’s light

CIMG2196Yesterday I walked over to Parque Juarez to see the artists who exhibit on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday.  They weren’t there, but the mural above is installed in front of the basketball court where a pick-up game had it going on, so I got me some art.

CIMG2195I didn’t realize how big Parque Juarez is, probably 3 or 4 square blocks, maybe more, with winding paths that circle or criss-cross small fountains and plant groups.  An invitation to explore, to pause and see light and shadow play.  Trust me, my camera doesn’t do it justice.

CIMG2194

CIMG2190It was mid-morning and the paths were relatively empty.  Just two joggers making their determined rounds and a few people walking their dogs. A handful of Moms watching their kids play.  One of a half dozen vendors who was open to sell soda & chips. A semi-cold breeze blew, barely rustling the tall trees or these palms which fascinate me in all their primeval glory.

CIMG2192

It’s a simple thing to walk through light and shadow, to watch young people play basketball, to observe kids blowing bubbles as big as baseballs, to revel in the way the sun explodes a group of poinsettas and gilds everything with a filigree of saturated green-gold.  I gazed at the homes surrounding the park, for this is a sought after, quiet neighborhood.  It’s easy to imagine the people living here believing they live in paradise.

Parque Juarez homes

It’s always been about how light creates glory for me.  As a little kid I would ride my bike down country lanes and skid to a stop, transfixed by a hedge that seemed lit from within.  I had a secret spot deep in the pine forest behind my house where I would sit for hours watching the light paint the woods.  It had a stream ….

stream with mosswhere I would stroke moss that blazed emerald or sunk back to a moist loden as the sun shifted. There were no angels singing hallelujah.  I was silent, and rapt.

forest glory

So yes, it’s always been about light and shadow for me, no more so than in the natural world.  As an antidote to worries over financial and physical stuff, lately I’ve been letting the light in San Miguel work on me.  Ha!  While I thought I was naturally observant over the last six months, I’ve only just truly begun to go beyond mental snapshots.  To stand and let it seep into me. To shut up the mental monkey-chatter and just …. look.

It really is rather extraordinary.

light in SMA

CIMG2183

In the blaze of the morning.
Felice Navidad!

 

 

 

 

Peace on earth

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San Miguel de Allende

My teenage neighbors Alejandro and Karina have invited me to attend a Posada tomorrow night. It will begin at 7:00 with prayers at the home of the woman who’s organized it. Then the procession will proceed down the street intersecting mine. I will go so I can share something special in the lives of these beautiful young people, and to deliberately open my self to a communal peace.

CIMG2175

A wreath on my window 

Despite my love of the Christmas holidays – based on a fondness for eons of human celebration rather than Christianity itself [which I hold to be a current manifestation of something ancient and nearly primeval] -and because my love is held fast by an idea of tasting a few days of peace and celebration on a good portion of the globe, peace I find is hard to hold on to today.

Newtown CT memorial

Like millions around the world, I am hurting over what happened in Newtown, Connecticut Friday.

I search my soul.

Thousands of children are murdered every day by psychopaths who shoot or cut or deny them food or medicine for the sake of profit. Mexico witnesses the slaughter of its innocents in a wave of horrendous violence reported nearly daily…

sorrow

The earth is heavy with sorrow.

So, it is only that I’m American that I mourn so grievously for these families.  And because it comes so close to what should have been joyous for them that it slices so…

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Peace, I remind myself, is found in the details. The slant of the sun. The cry of a bird. Wind on the tongue.

And maybe it comes in cracking hearts.

Because they’re open.

Newtown memorial 2

When it’s good, it’s very, very good

San Miguel rooftopLiving in San Miguel de Allende in December reminds me of living in California. Even on a cloudy day like today [which means it won’t go up to 80 degrees under El Sol] I can find a snug corner in my garden or put a sweater on in the house. Of course, like winter in California, the best of all possible worlds would be to have a roaring fireplace for what I’m told can be frigid nights.

For the most part though, San Miguel has constant blue skies,

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a moving sun that throws shadows in the streets,

san miguel shadows

and twilights to sigh for.

twilight in san miguel

This morning I read a breathless review on San Miguel titled “The Most Interesting Town in the World”. This is the San Miguel de Allende of the prosperous visitor. Lunches are had on rooftop gardens, afternoons are spent exploring “stone streets that rival the most enchanting parts of Spain and Italy”, and nights are a whirl of  wine, fireworks, and music.

I see this San Miguel too.  And I see what can be exciting and beautiful here [though I don’t consider the narrow, uneven sidewalks in the central historic district part of the charm.] There is an  enchanting light bathing this town in winter. It gilds everything, making magic wherever it falls.

sunlight on cactus

And, like the good life in parts of California where on a chilly morning one can tuck away in the corner of the patio, drink coffee, and listen to the birds, the light brings a peace that is difficult to measure.

It continues at night.  There’s so much less light pollution here that you can see the stars through the trees.

stars through the trees Justin Ackerman

Some nights they can pull you right up.

Thus, what is good is very, very good indeed!

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For you style mavens, here’s the link to “The Most Interesting Town in the World”

http://treatsmagazine.com/articles/san-miguel-de-allende/

Clinica de Salud in La Lejona

I received a six month membership in Seguro Popular, Mexico’s national heath care program, when I applied in June 2012.  Many less well heeled gringos intend to use Seguro Popular for accident coverage, but we self-pay for routine doctor visits.

seguropopular-150x100

In order to extend my coverage past January 20th – in fact, for 2.5 more years – I need to be seen at Clinica de Salud in La Lejona, a neighborhood about 15 blocks from my house. This is the public health clinic attached to the plan and my visit will put me in the system ‘on paper.’  Warned about massive lines, Roger gave me a wake-up call at 5:30 this morning (shout-out to Rog!), so I could be there when the clinic opens at 7:00.

Without much of a facility in Spanish, I look forward to this visit with trepidation.

trepidationUnlike Americans and the Brits, but very much like Italians, Mexicans don’t form straight lines.  It is doubtful anyone will speak English. How will I know what to do, much less understand a nurse or a doctor? What is worse (better?) is that I’m not sick. This visit is for paperwork. Next week I must return to Seguro Popular’s offices at Hospital General to request the extension.

I leave the house in the dark because, though I intended to call a cab,

busy phone

evidently they are all busy at 6:30 in the morning.  Already up for an ungodly hour, I square my shoulders and head out to a cold, deserted street.  But not for long. School starts at 7:00 a.m.

I catch a cab on Ancho de San Antonio and arrive promptly at 7:00. There is a clutch of people standing outside the door and many already inside.  I am the only gringo in attendance.  I ask the people outside if they are in line and receive three different answers.  Looking properly confused and humble I stand back when -ta da! –

trumpets

A doctor who speaks perfect English waves me in.  While he is asking what I’m here for, and tells me that I’ll be seen in Consultario 6, I am goofy with hope that Tall, Dark and Handsome will be my doctor. He will not, but the nurse who will process me comes in at 8:00.

I maneuver a chair against the wall.

public clinic

The clinic is spartan, like public hospitals in cities like L.A. or New York.  There a lot of families. I observe that the toddlers are remarkably well behaved. They do not run in and out of the crowd, scream like banshees or, for that matter, stray very far from Mom or Dad. The babies, dressed in snow suits or buried in velour blankets, are uniformly adorable. I realize I’m being taken back in time and getting to see my two half-Guatemalan nieces as toddlers again.  I get all blah-blah baby-talk with the mothers near me.

Mexican baby snowsuit

How cute are we?

I notice that equipment is in short supply.  Nurses are borrowing blood pressure cuffs and sterilizing thermometers after an intake so they can be passed to the next desk.  People are carrying computers from one consultation room to the next.  There are long waits while the nurses go somewhere-deep-in-the-back to retrieve medicine. Some of the scales don’t work. Chairs are backless or seatless or missing from a bench altogether. Then again, I’ve been in public hospitals in the states. I feel the sudden urge to drum up volunteer contributions for a big, grand Christmas tree at the end of the clinic.

Two hours later it’s time for my intake.  My nurse doesn’t speak English and there are a bunch of papers to fill out. Because I understand more Spanish than I speak, and because so much of medicine is based on Latin, we slowly march along the check-boxes while I observe how passionately she’s trying to breach our language barrier.  She is serious and generous at the same time and, I realize, setting up a new file is something she doesn’t often do. But, this isn’t an emergency.

An hour later it’s time to see the doctor.

the doctor's office

He is kind, thorough, and obviously overworked. He speaks zero English but, as long as I’m here, I mime my way through a couple of chronic conditions. Bingo. I have lab tests to take up at the hospital with an agreement to return to the clinic with the results.

What I also have is a paper trail. Things should go smoothly when I go up to the hospital and request an extension.

medical_records_01

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There are two types of public insurance in Mexico.  One is IMSS, which is basically employer paid insurance and the other is Seguro Popular for everyone else. Over time, expats have been phased out of IMSS.

It was odd being the only gringa at Clinica de Salud this morning, but not because people were staring at me or because the nurses and doctors were ill-tempered.  Far from it.  My fellow patients were kind and gentle.  The clinic personnel did their level best.  It was odd because I recognized that all of us there today are relying on a system that is fraying at its seams. Mexico is to be congratulated on attempting to institute a national insurance program, but lord, it’s needs funding.

For a brief moment today I imagined being truly sick and waiting in the public health clinic even with Spanish.  It is NOT an experience I want to have. Why? Because I am a spoiled American.

They say you’ll get to know yourself when you move to Mexico…

Sometimes it’s an ugly truth.

Note to self: MUST study Spanish.

Healthcare for American expats in San Miguel de Allende

Can you live in San Miguel de Allende on $1200 USD a month?  Yes, if you’re 40 and frugal.  Probably not if your in your mid-60’s with chronic conditions that require specialists, or those ever-so-expensive “watch and wait” tests.

$1200 USD per month was the income requirement when I moved to San Miguel last June.  Let’s say you have that, but like me, precious little savings behind you.  [Mexico just changed its income requirement to $1900 a month.  After you read this, you’ll understand why that is a more realistic figure.]

Seguro PopularTo its credit, Mexico has a form of universal healthcare and expat residents can join. English speakers don’t really know what it covers since the booklet is published in Spanish and we’re not learning Spanish that fast, but the best that I can make out is that it’s geared towards infant & maternal health along with chronic conditions like diabetes and asthma.  As well it should be.

So what do most older American expats living here do when Seguro Popular isn’t enough?

premier bus MexicoFor anything complicated they either self-pay specialists, most of whom are in Celaya or Queretaro (not in San Miguel de Allende), or they bus or fly to the U.S. so they can use their Medicare.

But, those costs aren’t really in your $1200 a month budget, are they?

budget busterIt’s not to say that inexpensive healthcare isn’t readily available in San Miguel de Allende.  It is, for simple things like a bout of bronchitis, a round of [gasp!] amoebas, or a urinary tract infection. If what you need is antibiotics, you can see a doctor for less than $2.50 US.  You self-pay your prescription – probably around $25.00 US – and you’re on your way.  A specialist in any of the routine scenarios might cost you $30.00.  Waaay less expensive than seeing a doctor for routine care in the U.S.

And you’re good for an accident in Mexico too.  That’s where Seguro Popular comes in. Break your ankle and you’ll be treated. There will be some cost, but your budget will heal.

accident budget busterSo, what’s not to like?  You can self-pay for routine care, and you’re fairly well set for an accident.

healthcare spending by age

I don’t care whose chart you look at, unless you won genetic roulette, your healthcare costs are only going up and your ‘conditions’ are only going to get more complicated. While the trend in the U.S. is definitely to extort more and more money from everybody, your Medicare still pays 80%. But if you don’t have the means to return to the U.S. and use it, what good is it?

In Mexico, your self-pay portion is going to go up.  This nation doesn’t yet have the resources to provide quality care for its own citizens, much less a Grey Wave from NOB.  You want quality? It’s here, but you’re going to have to pay for it.

And that is why Mexico’s new immigration requirements of $1900 USD a month is a realistic figure.  With that amount of money you can afford to buy an expat insurance policy that will have you seeing world-class specialists in Mexico City.

[I’ve been advised that an excellent policy can be had in San Miguel de Allende for $325.00 a month, with a one-time deductible of $2,500.00 – not a yearly deductible like in the States.  No cancellation if you become horribly ill. This policy is beyond my reach, but might suit some readers.]

Factor in your travel costs and you’ve have $1500.00 to live on.  In San Miguel de Allende, it will be a frugal lifestyle, but that’s simply because San Miguel is the most expensive place to live in Mexico.]

I have no doubt that Americans with financial means have Zero interest in this blog.  What I’m trying to do is give readers who don’t have those resources a heads up while they ponder ‘the simple life’ south of the border.  While it is true that the 20% that Medicare doesn’t pay can (and for many of us probably will) drive us to bankruptcy, it’s also true that for many serious conditions you won’t be treated in Mexico unless you can first pay out of your own pocket.

“First” is the key word here. There’s no billing in Mexico.

“Old age is no place for sissies.”, attributed to Bette Davis.

“I don’t write ’em, I just report ’em.” jaxinmexico