Category Archives: Parenting Challenges and Cultural Norms

Going to IFE–New Procedures

My son turned 18 in May and I had all sorts of plans of getting his IDs (both US and Mexican) but we were in the middle of a pandemic and well, that didn’t happen. In August, the IFE (Instituto Federal Electoral) opened back up by appointment only. I managed to get a slot for my son for October 1 using the online booking site.

In order for him to receive his first ever voter’s registration card through IFE, he needed to present his Mexican birth certificate, a proof of residence like a water or electric bill, and two people who could vouch for his identity. 

Although my son was born in the US, we were able to register him in Mexico as the child of a Mexican citizen. His Mexican birth certificate is mostly blank because it only listed what was on his US birth certificate (parents’ names) rather than including grandparents and witnesses. On the back, there’s a whole bunch of writing about the apostille and translation of his US birth certificate. Even though it looks a little odd, it’s a perfectly legal document. 

We always have an issue with proof of residence because we have no public utilities. There is no electricity, no sewer, no water lines and no road names in La Yacata. So he asked to borrow the most recent bill from his aunt, who was also one of the witnesses he brought (the other being my husband). 

Along with these items, he needed to mask up. Since no one would be allowed in without a mask, in the bag of documents, I included two more for his dad and aunt just in case they didn’t have one.

My son balked a bit at having to go with dear ol’ dad, but I don’t have an IFE and wouldn’t have been allowed to vouch for his identity even though I’d given birth to him. My federal identification is in the form of a permanent residence card which doesn’t allow me to vote. 

The gang all rolled out to the appointment in plenty of time. I elected to stay home since I wouldn’t be of any use. From the way my son told it, everything was fine. He explained how we didn’t have an address and were using his aunt’s. He verified his birthday and that he was born outside of the country. His two vouchsafe companions had to wait outside and just send in their IFE cards. He had his fingerprints taken. 

He did have to remove his mask and glasses for the picture and said that not one person in the building was wearing their masks correctly. Some had noses but not mouths covered, some had mouths but not noses covered, and some had chin warmers on. That seems about right. 

After the picture, he was given a phone number to call on the 12th to see if his card was ready for pickup. It wasn’t. But finally by the 15th, it was. He felt confident enough to schedule his own appointment online to pick it up. He even picked a Wednesday so that I could take him if need be since I don’t have classes on Wednesdays. Unfortunately, the earliest slot was November 11. 

I felt so pleased that we were able to successfully complete this transaction, that I made the attempt to schedule an appointment to pick up the new license plates Guanajuato was issuing. It didn’t go as smoothly. But that’s another story. 

So on the fateful day, my husband and son headed to IFE only to find that even after having called and confirmed that my son’s ID was ready before making the appointment, it wasn’t. So he’ll have to call again next week and make another appointment some weeks down the road. But seeing how we are fast approaching the Guadalupe-Reyes holiday season, it might be 2021 before this process is finished. 

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Filed under Getting Legal, Parenting Challenges and Cultural Norms

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

Tiene azucar? — Diabetes in Mexico

Tiene azucar? (Do you have sugar?) is the local way to ask if you have diabetes. It’s not uncommon to see people who have had their feet or legs cut off because of complications with diabetes. The lady who talked to herself on the way to La Yacata had untreated diabetes. She died of a diabetic coma a few years ago at the age of 45. When my son was in elementary, parents were required to attend a workshop on how to diagnose diabetes in our children. We were to look for a purplish ring around their necks that looks like mugre (dirt) but that doesn’t wash off. 

According to the World Health Organization, diabetes is the number one cause of death with nearly 80,000 deaths per year. Mexicans with diabetes die on average younger, at 57 years, compared to the overall age of 69. Early death is not the only side effect. Diabetes can cause strokes, kidney failure, foot ulcers, nerve damage, and blindness.  By 2050, health care practitioners estimate that half of the population of Mexico will have diabetes.

One factor in developing Type 2 diabetes is lifestyle choices. Over the past 40 years, Mexicans have gotten fat. Soda consumption is out of control with an average of more than 176 liters per person per year. It’s hard to find a meal not accompanied by a coke, “la chispa de la vida.” Even breakfast might be served as a bolillo de trigo (wheat bun) and coke. In most areas, a can of soda is cheaper than a bottle of water. High alcohol consumption is another factor in the high sugar diet so popular these days, sugar tax be damned.

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You are what you eat!

The diet has changed as well. Moving from a predominantly plant-based diet based around corn, the average Mexican now consumes more than double the amount of meat consumed in 1960. Carnitas (fried pork) stands can be found on nearly every corner.

In addition to poor diet, Mexicans have become less active overall. Children don’t run and frolic outdoors, but instead huddle in corners playing hour after hour on their cell phones, tablets, and Xboxes leading to a rise in childhood obesity and early onset of Type 2 diabetes.

Of course, it’s not all in the diet. Mexicans also have a genetic predisposition towards developing Type 2 diabetes which compounds the problem.

And the prevalence of this disease places a burden on the healthcare system currently in place. Estimates average more than $700 USD per year per person out of pocket expenses for diabetes maintenance (insulin injections, test strips, pills) and that doesn’t include the cost of dialysis and kidney transplants that are services also not covered under Seguro Popular. Since minimum wage is still under $5.00 USD per day, this is a huge expense for many families

More education about the prevention and management of diabetes is needed. The general idea I hear is that we all die from something, we might as well die fat and happy. And you can bet, their death will be celebrated in grand style, carnitas (fried pork) and coke all around at the velorio and novena perpetuating the cycle.

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Filed under Cultural Challenges, Death and all its trappings, Health, Parenting Challenges and Cultural Norms