Category Archives: Cultural Challenges

Elder Care in Rural Mexico

Assisted living facilities are a relatively new concept to Mexico and mostly confined to highly concentrated expat areas. You can find private nursing homes in places like Ajijic, Lake Chapala or Puerto Vallarta in Jalisco. San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato in the interior of the country is another expat haven. Along the US/Mexican border, the states of Chihuahua and Baja Norte are just a short drive from San Diego and El Paso, making them areas of high demand for American citizens looking to reduce their expenses when it comes time to find a place for mom and pop.

Casa Hogar para Ancianos (nursing homes for the eldery), asilos (asylums) and casas de adulto mayores (homes for older adults), are not as common outside of these expat areas. Although small towns often have at least one, usually run by the Catholic church, it may not meet the minimum standards you feel comfortable with. However, there are several other options available if you need assistance in caring for elderly loved ones in rural Mexico. 

Mexicans often live in intergenerational homes, designed to accommodate parents, children, grandparents and even great-grandparents. It’s not uncommon to find homes with separate mother-in-law casitas or a suite of rooms separate from the main house.

If your elderly relative prefers to remain independent as long as possible, there are ways to accommodate that as well. It’s customary for even the middle class to hire a cleaning lady that comes several times a week. She often takes charge of shopping and simple meal preparation for the elderly in her charge as well. Many grocery stores offer delivery service, even in rural areas, making it easier for someone up in years to keep stocked up. Fruit and vegetables trucks come right to your doorstep once a week in many rural areas. Potable water and cooking gas is delivered in the same manner. 

Several of our older residents in Moroleon, GTO.

Even when the elderly are living independently, there are very few elderly that have been completely abandoned. For example, Mama Sofia and her husband Tio Felipe lived in their own home in Cerano while Tio Felipe’s great nephew’s wife and daughter came by once a day to bring them hot meals and check on them. They lived there until Tio Felipe died at 98, then Mama Sofia’s daughter took her to live with her in Zamora, Michoacan where she died a few years later at 97.

In our town, there is an elderly couple that makes the rounds of the local businesses every morning. They are in the bottom right of the picture above. The husband is 102 years old and his wife a mere 80. She is a bit impatient with his slow gait and often is several feet ahead of him on the walk to town. They stop at a place that has coffee for a cup each, then they stop and receive 5 pesos of tortillas from my sister-in-law’s tortilleria. After that, they pass by the carniceria for some carnitas. I’m not sure of the other places they stop. All of these small businesses give them this little bit without charge. Small towns tend to take care of their own. 

In rural Mexico, the elderly often are active in the community while many senior citizens continue to work out of necessity. Our neighbor Doña Oliva is 75 and each morning she has pickled pig feet, bunuelos and other food items for sale. You can see her stand in the top right of the picture above.

Our other neighbor down below, Don Alfonso rode his bike 2 miles to tend to animals he kept in La Yacata. He is now 98 and for the last six months has been unable to make the trip, now assigned to his grandson. 

My own father-in-law is 76 and bikes daily to town to pick up some pan y leche and dog food for his two four-footed companions. His mid-day meal is prepared by his daugher T and delivered by his son B. We try and keep an eye on him as well, but he doesn’t much like hovering and sometimes heads down the opposite road so we can’t keep track of his comings and goings as well as we would like. 

When you need more help with those that have medical issues, full-time caretakers and even trained nurses can be hired. You may need to spend some time finding just the right person for the job however. Some families have opted to rent a small house and have caretakers look in on their elderly family members periodically. Others have chosen to have a live-in caretaker assume full responsibility 24/7. Mexican culture reveres those that have reached “la tercer edad” (the third age) and caring for senior citizens is not looked upon as a burden by most.

How have you found elder care in rural Mexico?

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Filed under Cultural Challenges, Parenting Challenges and Cultural Norms

An 18-year Old’s Birthday in the Time of Coronavirus

This month, my son turned 18. We had planned a trip to Instituto Nacional Electoral for an IFE (voter’s registration card) after getting a Mexican passport from the Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores but the INE is closed and I’m really not sure what sort of documentation with a photo my son can use otherwise, so we are stymied there.

Then we had planned a trip to San Miguel de Allende to renew my son’s passport. However, although the Consulate has hours by appointment listed, the U.S. State Department says there are significant delays and passport applications could take months. 

Without a passport or IFE card, my son can not apply for a driver’s license in Guanajuato, although that office is still open in Moroleon. Without ID, he also can not open a bank account. So, none of these things will happen anytime soon. 

Normally, we have a little get-together on my son’s birthday with some of the Flores relatives. That didn’t happen this year either, although they would have come had we asked, social distancing notwithstanding. We’ve elected to self-isolate as much as possible. Of course, everyone thinks we are overreacting, but after that serious several-week episode of fever, dry cough, and fatigue my son had in February, that may or may not have been COVID-19, well, better safe than sorry. 

Instead, we had tacos and some red velvet cake from a box. Even this required a masked trek to the carniceria, fruteria, tortilleria, and the abarrotes. My son declared himself well satisfied with the meal, though so it was worth the effort. 

There were no gifts this year since Amazon is not delivering to Mexico at the moment and Amazon Mexico charges 4x the amount for the same products. I did order some clothing items for him from Zulily which is still delivering to Mexico, but there is a considerable delay in shipping, so who knows when that package will arrive. It’s not like he goes anywhere, so if his pants have become highwaters and his shirts ride up over his belly, no one but the three of us (and our animal kingdom) see it. 

So what has my son been doing during quarantine? Pretty much what he was doing before, really. He is still on track to graduate from online prepa (high school) from UVEG in a few months. When that happens, his diploma should have his picture on it, so that would take care of one form of identification for those official documents mentioned earlier. Of course, the local UVEG is closed, so I’m not sure how that will play out, but he has a few more months of classes anyway.

We’ve put off talking about future plans for the moment. Is college even an option anymore? The last few classes he has to finish are designed with a vet degree in mind. We’ll see.

He’s been playing an online game with his friends called Don’t Starve. In it, he must learn new skills to survive a foreign habitat, including basic first aid, hunting and gathering, food storage, farming, and self-defense. If there ever was a game designed with today’s situation in mind, this would be it! My son’s interest in our small stockpile of medical supplies and long-term food storage has increased. We’ve always been focused on local foraging as well as animal husbandry and have recently added on to our kitchen garden. The information he has absorbed because of our lifestyle he has used to his advantage in the game, making him an in-demand team player. 


He’s been reading the Skulduggery Pleasant series by Derek Landy as well. I ordered this set a few months ago in paperback, so he’s able to head out under a mesquite to read and at least get out of the house for a bit. 

Of course, there are The Puppers to keep him occupied, and now Fuzz Lightyear. Things might not be as exciting as I’d hope for my son at 18, but everyone under this roof is healthy and safe, with enough to eat, enough to keep themselves busy, and well, that’s really enough. We’ll just take it one day at a time for now. 


Filed under Cultural Challenges

Mother’s Day in Mexico in the Time of Coronavirus

mother's day

In Mexico, Mother’s Day is a big ta-doo. There are early morning serenades, flowers, family gatherings, and in the event that a mother has passed on, trips to the cemetery. Moroleon has specifically forbidden these activities this year. 

That doesn’t mean some families didn’t carry on as usual anyway, though it was more clandestine. It’s not like there is any real way the prohibition can be enforced. 

Take for example the fact that the churches have been closed in town. At least one group has moved their services out here to La Yacata. So every Saturday evening we hear some chanting, singing, and even some trumpet blowing from the house at the corner. I think it might be an Episcopalian group. We practice social distancing and reroute our dog walk during services, so I can’t be sure. 

Since parties are a no-go in town, again, family gatherings, including Mother’s Day celebrations,  were moved to La Yacata. The dogs didn’t get their afternoon walk on Sunday because of all the roving children and drunk adults. 

Which brings me to another matter. Moroleon has enacted La Ley Seca (the dry law) which is in force usually only right before an election. All sales of alcohol were prohibited in town beginning May 8 until May 30. Yet, people still found a way to get enough alcohol to get liquored up. 

There is a potential shortage of alcohol looming because the beer manufacturers were declared non-essential and closed in April. The very determined, however, will be able to get pulque which the old women still make in nearby La Barranca. 

no escencial

Moroleon followed the prohibition of alcohol sales and serenades with another one-two punch. All non-essential businesses must close, including the textile factories, on May 11, until the end of the month. Without the textiles, well, Moroleon is in big trouble financially. 

These prohibition and closure dates are based on the premise that the peak contagion for COVID-19 will happen between May 5 and 11. Yet, now, the date has been changed with the latest figures to May 20 although social distancing requirements are supposed to be lifted on May 17 in most of the country and on May 30 for the rest of the states. 

What this means is anyone’s guess. For now, the number of confirmed cases and deaths is still rising in Mexico. Medical personnel is the highest at-risk population. In fact, 42% of the patients in the state of Nayarit are hospital workers, which is worrisome. The actual death toll in the epicenter Mexico City may be much higher than reported. 

And yet, there are still conspiracy theorists even in Mexico. One hospital was stormed by about 300 people in an apparent “rescue” attempt believing the virus to be a government plot to kill people. Medical personnel is still being attacked and murdered as the supposed harbingers of death rather than essential workers. 

With all these shenanigans, Mother’s Day in our home was a quiet affair, no different from any other day. We’ll stay home and ride out the pandemic one day at a time, however long that takes.

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Filed under Cultural Challenges, Health, Mexican Holidays, Safety and Security