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Many Americans Moving to Mexico in Search of the American Dream

Mexico is now the host nation for the largest American expatriate community in the world.

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The Larsen's are not alone among American's pursing business opportunities in a more receptive climate. “Merida has welcomed me with open arms, and I could not be happier,” said Vince Gricus, who relocated here after a career with TWA in St. Louis. “I arrived here and I did what I always wanted to do: open a bed and breakfast.”

Describing his experience as “wonderful,” Gricus explains how his neighbors have become like family to him, and how he has been able to transform Casa Santiago into one of the B&Bs that are consistently ranked among the favorites on the online travel referral service TripAdvisor.

The locals have been gracious and surprised by the influx of Americans settling down in their midst. Eugenia Montalvan, editor of the city’s premier cultural magazine, Unas Letras summed up the sentiment in one word: Welcome!

Mesoamerica, a foundation with strong roots in the community, has gone as far as to establish an English-language Literary Salon. Under the direction of Katalina McNulty, who describes herself as an “unrepentant” hippie from Berkeley, the salon assembles each Monday to discuss topics ranging from feminism in the 21st Century to George Orwell to how manners in the modern world have changed. “It’s wonderful to have weekly readings and the opportunity to engage in lively discussions,” she explained.

The number of Americans and Canadians relocating to Mexico is resulting is peculiar developments. In Merida, for instance, there are enough newcomers to justify an English-language lending library -- The Merida English Language Library, is affectionately known as “MELL,” and is also a member of the American Library Association. “The biggest event is our annual chili cook-off,” explained Regniald Deneau, MELL’s administrator. “This is a wonderful place.”

Merida city government cooperates by granting permits to close off streets for this fundraising event. Gricus, of Casa Santiago, echoes that sentiment. “Civic involvement is open to anyone, and there are many opportunities to become involved.” For his part, he helped start the Merida Bed & Breakfast Association to help visitors find the perfect accommodations when visiting.

Rogers, a movie executive, has become the unofficial spokesman for the American expatriate community in Merida. Featured in the Los Angeles Times, he is quick to point out the distorted image the American media paints of the violence in Mexico.

“Although the mainstream media would have you believe that all of Mexico is on the verge of a violent drug-fueled meltdown, the areas affected by those unfortunate problems are far from where we live, and are mostly restricted to those in the drug trade, or those directly combating them,” he said. “To get swept up in any of the problems it seems you'd have to go out of your way to get involved, or to travel into the cities that are afflicted - not likely if you have any common sense.”

Gricus expressed the new sentiment of the Americans making their home to Mexico this way: “I never would have thought that to live out the American Dream I’d have to move to Mexico, but there it is!”

NAM contributor Louis E.V. Nevaer. His book, "The Hispanic & Latino Employee," will be published in December 2009

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