Doing the laundry in Mexico

I don’t mind doing laundry. Hands down, I prefer it to doing the dishes. However, with not having electricity at our house for so long, we’ve had to be proactive about doing laundry. I mean, we couldn’t just throw it in the machine and let it wash itself now, could we?

laundry area

Our pre-remodel second-floor laundry area, complete with hand pump connected to the ajibe (dry well).

Necessity meant we found alternatives. One alternative is hand washing. Almost every house in Mexico has a built-in washboard just for that purpose. The raised cement ridges are just the thing for scrubbing stubborn stains. When the washboard isn’t quite up to the job, a bristle brush can be used to attack those manchas (spots). Clothes receive one-on-one personal attention and come out cleaner than regular ol’ machine washing. The drawback is that it uses a LOT of water. First, you have to soak the clothes, then scrub with soap, then rinse the soap off. Although we have our gray water running into the garden, it still was a major expense.

doing the laundry

My husband and father-in-law doing the wash.

The next laundry option is to go to the arroyo (stream) and wash. Water is limitless and the washboards angled to get a good suds on. Washing was much quicker with all hands on deck. Again, though, there were some drawbacks. Wet laundry is HEAVY and in order for it to dry properly, we had to haul it back to our house and hoist it up to the second floor where the clotheslines were. Then of course, occasionally, there were the lookie-loos who laughed at our public chonie washing. But what can you do?

IMG_20180727_104856There are other options should you not wish to air your dirty laundry in public and don’t mind other people touching your unmentionables. The washerwoman still can eek out a living here in Mexico. Just look for signs that say “se lava ropa ajena” (foreign clothes washed here).

If you aren’t comfortable taking your wash to someone else’s home, you can have a cha-cha (muchacha) come in and do the washing for you. These girls often come from very small towns and take the bus every morning to their jobs, usually one or two days per week in each home. They take care of everything, the laundry, beating out carpets, general and deep cleaning, minding the children, cooking, even dog grooming, so that the lady of the house is free to devote her time to other things. Pay is dependant on the number of hours and a chore list and can be quite affordable.

IMG_20180416_123629There are also lavanderías, but not the laundromats that you may be used to with quarter slots and TVs and dryers. These laundromats are drop-off service. They have one or two machines in the back and will wash and dry your clothes for pick up. This is a good option for blankets and comforters which are nearly impossible to wrangle clean in the arroyo (stream). Some lavanderías offer ironing services and small clothing repairs, like sewing on buttons or patching garments.

Another option for those special care items is the tintorería (dry-cleaners). Our local dry-cleaner even offers a pick-up/drop-off service.


Knowing the pros and cons of hand washing, it’s more and more common for the lady of the house to request a lavadora for Mother’s Day. There are several options available. The most popular is the chaca-chaca machine. It’s a round drum that agitates the clothes clean and makes a chaca-chaca sound. On either side of the spectrum is the mini-washer which holds a maximum of 2 pairs of pants but would work well for undergarments and baby clothes and the modern washer with all the bells and whistles.

I opted for the later and have been blissfully using it at the Little House in Sunflower Valley for over a year now. We made an attempt to move it to La Yacata after we got the 3000 power inverter but unfortunately it didn’t work. It seems our power inverter uses a modified sine wave rather than pure sine wave and the washer wasn’t happy with the power output. So for the moment, it remains washing merrily in Sunflower Valley.

hanging laundry

No electricity = no dryer

As for drying options, dryers are quite rare, so sun-drying is the most popular option. Lines are usually made of a special wire that doesn’t rust instead of clothesline, although I have seen plastic clotheslines for sale. Make sure your line is sturdy and anchored well. It’s not fun when your freshly laundered clothing falls into a mud puddle on the ground. In the event that you don’t have a line, fences and cactus will hold your clothes nicely. Remember to turn your clothes inside out so as to minimize sun bleaching. And make sure the clothespin is clipped securely. Flying underwear has been known to cause a death or two (Motorizado se accidenta por calzón volador en La Ceiba).

local laundrymat

A local laundry mat, although not the one we use.

Now that you armed with this laundry knowledge, I give you the domestic goddess blessing “Go Forth and Clean!”



Filed under Electricity issues, Homesteading, Small Business in Mexico

A little about the Mexican National Anthem

The lengthy tribute to war that is the Mexican national anthem was written in 1853 by Francisco González Bocanegra as an entry to a presidential anthem competition sponsored by Antonio López de Santa Anna. The story goes that Francisco wasn’t interested in entering the competition but his fiancée, Guadalupe González del Pino thought otherwise. Guadalupe lured Francisco to an empty bedroom in her parents’ house and locked him in.  She refused to open the door until he wrote something for the competition. Four hours later, he slid the behemoth poem that was to become the national anthem under his door and Guadalupe set him free.

The first musical accompaniment to the lyrics was rejected, so a second competition was held.  Jaime Nunó’s entry, titled “God and Freedom” (Dios y Libertad), was chosen on August 12, 1854.

Since the full 10 stanza anthem is mighty long, President Manuel Ávila Camacho decreed that the official national anthem would be comprised of the chorus and 1st, 5th, 6th, and 10th stanzas in 1943.

Mexico takes its national anthem quite seriously. In the Law on the National Arms, Flag, and Anthem (Ley Sobre el Escudo, la Bandera y el Himno Nacionales) it is written that any interpretation of the anthem must be performed in a respectful way, that it may not be altered in any way, nor can it be used for commercial or promotional purposes. Permission must be obtained for all reproductions of the national anthems. The anthem must be played at the sign-on and sign-off for all radio and television programming (usually at midnight and 6 am) and that a photo of the Mexican flag must be displayed when the anthem is played on television. If a choir is singing the anthem, then there is no musical accompaniment. Spectators present during the playing of the anthem must stand at attention and remove head coverings. The national anthem must be taught to all children attending preschool, primary and secondary schools. If the anthem is played outside of Mexico, the Secretary of External Relations (Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores) must grant permission and verify that the anthem is not used for commercial purposes. If the national anthem is performed incorrectly or disrespectfully, the Mexican government has levied fines in the past.

Not everyone in Mexico speaks Spanish.  Thus, in 2005, the Mexican government allowed the National Institute of Indigenous Languages (Instituto Nacional de Lenguas Indígenas) to begin translating the national anthem into indigenous languages.  So far, it has been translated into the Chinanteco, Hña Hñu, Mixteco, Maya, Nahuatl and Tenek languages.

Lest you think you’ll never need to know the national anthem, up until recently, reciting sections of the national anthem was part of the Mexican citizenship test.  In January 2018, the process and test changed and no one is quite sure about the test process or the questions that will be asked but you can bet your bottom dollar that there still will be questions about the national anthem.

n National Anthem

n National Anthem (2).jpg


Filed under Mexican Holidays

Buying Clothing in Mexico

Truth be told, I find buying clothing in Mexico the most difficult shopping experience of all. I am never happy with neither the fit nor the quality of my purchases. I often can’t find anything suitable at all even after hours of searching. However, not having much of a choice, I’ve had to persevere.

Shoes can be bought at a zapatería. Having enormous feet (size 7 1/2 US) or at least compared to local residents, means that I am not able to find my size in the style that I want. Fortunately, our area has a Coppel now and it carries a larger variety of shoes in my size. There’s a little tradition when new shoes are purchased. It’s customary when you show off your new shoes, the person admiring them will step on your foot, leaving a shoe print mark, sort of like that first dent in your new car. It’s just an expected action. Get used to it.


You can get your shoes repaired, and find shoelaces, at the reparadora de calzado. Tio Felipe, when he wasn’t selling moonshine and Pepsi, worked as a cobbler until his eyesight became too bad.

Undergarments, bras, panties, slips, girdles, and such, can be found at the bonetería. This word very possibly comes from the whalebone corsets imported with the Spanish into Mexico. I’m not entirely sure, but I don’t think undergarments were of high enough importance to rate their own specialty store, or even used for that matter, before the conquest. Be warned, bigger sizes of bras are hard to find, which I don’t understand since there are all sorts of boob sizes in Mexico, but be that as it may, the standard size and cup is 34B.

If you need a hat, head to the sombrerería. Western style hats, Easter hats, gardening hats and chachuchas (caps) can all be found here.

Our pueblo (town) is particularly known for its rebozos (traditional Mexican shawls) and there are specialty stores called rebocerías where you can find a multitude of thicknesses and patterns. Some rebozos are hand-made, others are manufactured, but all of them are lovely.

For scarves, accessories and handbags, head to the accesorios shop. Again, each shop is stocked with what the owner most likes, so you might have to go to more than one to find something that you like.

Jewelry can be bought, sold or repaired at the joyería, watches at the relojería. If you want to sell your jewelry items look for signs that say “se compra oro y plata.” (Gold and silver bought here.) They buy by the piece or some will just buy the gems (pedacería). If you just need repairs, take the item to the taller de joyería or relojería, but only a place that has a good reputation otherwise your grandmother’s diamond might be replaced with cubic zirconia and you’re none the wiser.

There are special stores to find a first communion, 3-year presentation outfits, Quinceañeras or school uniforms. Wedding dresses and funeral clothing (yes there are special outfits for the dearly departed) also have their specialty stores. Suits for Quinceañeras or weddings or other formal occasions can be bought or rented.

Our town and the neighboring town co-host 8 km of clothing shops. Talk about shopping overload! Each shop carries whatever it wants and has the sizes that the shopkeeper feels will sell the fastest, which usually isn’t the sizes I’m looking for. Women’s sizes are not the same as in the US, although men’s clothes seem to match. Anything over size Woman’s 12 is considered are talla extra (extra big size).

The weekly tianguis always has at least one vendor with huge piles of second-hand clothes you can dig through. This is a great place to find good quality children’s clothes at a reasonable price, however it is time consuming. Best to take a few of your lady friends and divide and conquer the mound.

You might also be able to find used clothing at bazaars. It’s quite a lucrative business to import second hand clothing and resell it here, mostly because the quality of the second-hand goods is far superior to the locally manufactured clothing items

There are also places that specialize in saldos, which are like outlet stores. Although you think you might be getting a good deal, these clothing items often are flawed in some way. Perhaps they are sized correctly or maybe the inseam was cut just a little bit too small. Let the buyer beware in this case.

Lest you think all hope is lost, if you head to larger areas, you may just find a store that sells clothing like Liverpool, Sears, and maybe even a Walmart, if that’s what you like. Of course, the prices are astronomical, imported goods and all, but it may be worth it to find long-lasting, comfortable and stylish clothing.

How has your shopping experience been in Mexico?


Filed under Small Business in Mexico

Inspiring Authors in Mexico–Daniel T. Gair

Daniel T. Gair is originally from Maine, U.S.A. and is currently living full time at Rancho Sol y Mar in Jalisco. Here’s what he has to say about his life.

Mexico had loomed large in my mind since, in junior high, a friend’s older brother came back from a trip to Mexico with his buddies, and regaled all of us younger boys with stories of the adventure. Just the word itself “Mexico” seemed larger than life while growing up. In many ways, it has remained so to this day.

The property we bought in Jalisco was a catalyst for a total makeover of Holly’s and my life. We’ve transitioned from a norm of black-tie fundraisers and cocktail parties to shoveling goat poo and tending chickens. Perhaps the largest transition is that I’ve gone from a life of jetting around the world, to living quite simply, and swearing off red meat and all unnecessary plane travel in an effort to limit my carbon footprint. My main focus in life has become the pursuit of a more sustainable lifestyle, and Mexico, with its ample sunshine, and relaxed regulations, has been the perfect place to follow that intention.

Other than the above practical day-to-day belief system changes, I don’t think my underlying spiritual beliefs have changed any. My beliefs are pretty standard issue Buddhist: Live with integrity. Be as present and in-the-moment as possible. Don’t harm other living beings unnecessarily. Be kind and truthful.

I’ve gotten calmer and more disciplined in my approach to things. I’d like to believe I’ve gotten softer and kinder. I’m trying to live less in my head, more in-the-moment, and to go easier on myself, but that is still a work in progress.

Achieving basic fluency in Spanish has been a big challenge that I have overcome. I have also overcome a lot of my core, day to day fear. I’ve had a good life. What comes now is the icing.

I’d say that other than all the challenges described in the book, the most intractable challenge is breaking through culture and language barriers to achieve the fullest assimilation possible. That and reducing my carbon footprint to as close to zero as possible, which, I’m finding, is a much, much larger challenge than I had anticipated. Creating community at the property is an ongoing challenge. Other challenges I face include missing friends and family and having good pavement to ride my bike on.

I try to take care of myself by eating well, meditating, and getting some good aerobic exercise daily.

I’m deeply proud of my daughter Aja who is one of the smartest, compassionate, and well-adjusted people I know. I am proud of how well Holly and I have dealt with mountains of stress getting to this point in our lives, and, even though the tracks of our lives have diverged a lot, especially with my current self-imposed travel ban, I’m proud that we have still remained committed to keeping our love intact and growing. I’m proud of what we’ve created here at the ranch. It makes me feel hopeful when I see young people get excited by the Permaculture Principals we are practicing, and I feel empowered to see the efforts we’ve made beginning to bear fruit (literally and figuratively). Lastly, I have to say, I’m proud of the book. I think I’ve transmitted a fun, insightful read, and that the stories carry with them a deeper message of respect for culture and nature.

The day we found the ranch was the defining moment in my life in Mexico. Where we’re becoming more and more self-sufficient, I no longer care much about all the consumer choices that we’ve left behind. Part and parcel with that, I barely ever worry about money anymore. We live off a combination of investments, social security, and rental income from a couple of properties, one here, and one in the States. I also have a dribble of photography residuals. As a retired photographer, Mexico has always provided me with visual inspiration. The country folk of Mexican, with their grit and positive attitude, despite so often having the deck stacked against them, are a constant source of inspiration.

I spend my free time reading, listening to and playing music, bicycling, horseback riding, swimming and taking walks with Holly.

As for writing aspirations, for now, it’s all about pushing this little bird, The Mexico Diaries, out of the nest, and seeing if it can fly. I’ve also begun writing regular articles and book reviews for Permaculture North America Magazine, and I intend to continue with that. I am re-working one of the chapters in the book, The Ride To Talpa, into a submission for Outdoor Magazine, or possibly others. Depending on how the book is received, I may begin a follow-up. Just a few weeks ago we had a story-worthy incident where a volunteer we had headed here turned out to be on the Atlanta Top Ten Most Wanted list and was being sought by both the FBI and U.S. Marshal’s Service. We helped stall him until his capture by U.S. agents posted in Mexico city. Seriously, this shit keeps writing itself! Lastly, I have a couple of fiction book ideas that I’m kicking around.

Take it from me, you won’t want to miss out on the adventures found in Dan’s book The Mexico Diaries: A Sustainable Adventure available now at Amazon!



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Filed under Inspirational Writers in Mexico