Tag Archives: surviving in Mexico

Modern Day Marias–Maria, an indomitable woman

What was Maria’s life like in Egypt?  She was a foreigner, unfamiliar with the best places to buy meat or flour, unsure of her welcome in the community.  Did she keep to herself, hiding behind her new roles as mother and wife, or more likely,  did she take on tasks within the community and become a woman other women sought out for counsel or assistance?

Today’s Modern Day Maria is the latter.  She has always been liberal in sharing her wisdom in our virtual community of women here in Mexico.  Her words have soothed many a troubled heart.  Her wisdom has lit the candle of hope for others.  It can be said of today’s Maria that “Strength and honour are her clothing”  (Proverbs 31:25) and “She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.” (Proverbs 31: 26).  Here is her story.

maria1

I’m Maria. I go by Maria De Acosta as I’ve adopted my husband’s family name as I have no family of my own. I am from California. I now live in a small village on the Sea of Cortez on the Baja Peninsula. I am here by choice 10 years – how it came about is a very long, personal story. I met my husband here in Mexico. I had known his family for many years. He moved back to town and his family introduced us. I knew my in-laws for years before meeting my husband, so it was an easy transition to a family relationship. I loved my mother-in-law dearly. My father-in-law stays to himself. My husband’s sister is the head of the family and is very supportive of me.

Has my life changed? Incredibly so! I am forever a foreigner in a foreign land. I will live out my life here in Mexico. I find myself closer to the people of this town and find a richness of life I’d never known before. I’m able to serve the community as a volunteer in the veterinary clinic and dental clinic. I love it passionately. Living in service is a true privilege! I want to learn to use the anesthesia machine at the veterinary clinic, and I want to be trained to clean teeth at the dental clinic. Much opportunity is here.

I learn every day the value of simplicity, making do, repair and reuse. As to belief system, I do not hold to a religion. I hold myself to being honest, kind, helpful and ethical – that will never change! I realize I am more intelligent, capable and gifted, stronger emotionally than I ever knew. Since moving to Mexico, I speak Spanish better. I wish to become fluent in Spanish but have no formal teacher – everyone in town is my teacher. I want to become as fluent in Spanish as I am in English.

maria3

Like Eartha Kitt said whenever she’d come onstage, “I’m still here!” This means I’ve overcome the challenges, persevered and not only have survived them but welcome them into my being. The most defining moment of my life was when I swam out of my house in a flood with two kittens in my arms, got to safety on high ground. I heard there were two people still in their homes on the river, so immediately put the kittens into a car with a couple of guys staying out of the hurricane; I was the only woman to volunteer to be one of 5 people to go back down into the river to search for these people. They were found hanging on the window bars of their house. Their lives were saved that night.

I have lived through several hurricanes and floods. I faced death several times in the first hurricane/flood. I have lived in less-than-desirable conditions and have suffered and seen suffering and death. I have saved my own life and saved the lives of others, human and animal alike. I have not run from this to escape; I am still here. Goodness has come from this that has changed my life forever and contributed to the tempering of my heart, mind, and soul to make me a better person – I hope a better example of humanity.

maria2

I’ve done a lot of living in my 65 years. I have a house to live in now. I designed it and my husband built it. Life here in the desert village of Mexico I call home is very tough and isn’t for everyone. I’ve seen people come and go in this town and can tell with a glance who will stay and who will leave. It’s as if the town itself, not the people who are always gracious and welcoming, but Nature here Herself, who chooses to embrace you or cast you out. So far, She has chosen me to stay here and I feel calls me her child.

I have dreams of doing a bit of travel. It’s been my life’s dream to travel throughout Mexico. Summers are hard for me – the heat, humidity, and isolation. Looking forward to the Winter Season of activity and service to the community helps get me through. I have too much free time, unfortunately, particularly in the 5-6 months of summer. I write when something comes to my spirit and wishes to be said. I am a singer. I am looking for a music system to replace the one lost in the flood – I feel if I can sing again, a big part of my soul that is hurt and damaged will be healed. (I’m surprising myself now as these words flow forth, just watching them and realizing their candor and truthful directive). I make aged cheese and roast coffee. My goal is to be self-sufficient and use locally-sourced products. I am putting my husband’s daughter through university. The financial burden is troubling.

I’m inspired by people who are living in service of others – not to change things, impose their values on others, but to enhance lives. This is exciting to me and utterly worthy of respect and assistance. I want to stay active and of service as long as I can. To do this I am taking a yoga class. I’m 65 years old and wish to keep my joints flexible and muscles toned well into old age.

If I could it all over again, I’d have matured quicker as a young person and chosen a clarity of life sooner. I’d have chosen to study well in college.

When you’re faced with life or death, you choose life, I’ve learned. One day death will choose me. I know that death is only a breath away at any time, but until it appears I will go on living ethically and hopefully giving beauty to this planet I call home.

maria4

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Declaring Solvency

thoreau-grasshopped

Oh, you say, but you live in México and everyone knows things are so much cheaper there. But the truth is, they aren’t. For example, a loaf of bread costs $24 pesos, a liter of milk $11 pesos, and a stick of butter up to $8 pesos, a bag of sugar $16, an ice cream cone costs $15 pesos etc and the average wage is less than $50 per hour.

Oh, but you don’t have very many expenses then, you might say. But that isn’t true either.

We have accumulated a little bit of debt. Last year, my moto fell to pieces and we had to buy a new one on credit, which wasn’t easy to obtain. However, making prompt and weekly payments of $315 pesos, my moto will be paid for in 14 weeks! Yippee!!

We have regular expenses such as tortillas (now $14 pesos per kilo), gas for the vehicles which every month is more expensive, clothing and shoes for a growing pre-teen and during the dry season, feed for the animals. Then there are the occasional expenses such as my current quest to become a Mexican resident (See Getting Legal–Trip 1 and Trip 2). And finally, there are emergency expenses like last week when my husband accidentally sliced open his arm with the machete while cutting grass for the horses and had to get stitches.

Since employment is iffy at best (See The Working Man) for my husband and I, becoming self-sufficient has been essential to our survival.

We have been able to eliminate some expenses entirely.

We have no running water, so we bring our water from nearby springs in water storage containers instead of supporting the Pepsi and Coke companies that sell water in garafones (water jugs) here. (See Water Woes) We do not have electricity, so we don’t have that bill to worry about. We use a power converter from our truck battery to run or charge the occasional electric appliances we use, like the blender for salsa, or the laptop and DVD player. Not having a refrigerator also means only buying what can be consumed in a day, so no prepared frozen foods for us.  (See Simple Living)

We have been able to reduce some of our daily expenses to next to nothing.

live simply corn.jpg

Our mini-orchard provides us with limones (limes), duraznos (peaches), guayabas, naranjas (oranges), chayotes, chillimoyas, and moras (blackberries) in season. La Yacata provides us with nopales (cactus), pitayas, (See Picking Pitayas) and tunas (See Picking Tunas) in season. Our goats provide us with meat and milk (See Separating the Sheep and the Goats) and our poultry (See Why did the chicken cross the road) with eggs and meat. We plant maiz, calabaza and frijol (corn, squash and beans)–the three sisters–for both us and our animals. We have also recently decided that our weekly loaf of Bimbo bread was a luxury item, so now we make our own, cutting our expenses from $24 pesos for one processed loaf to $15 pesos for 2 loaves of home-baked organic goodness.

donkey riders

It would be some advantage to live a primitive and frontier life, though in the midst of an outward civilization, if only to learn what are the gross necessaries of life and what methods have been taken to obtain them–Henry David Thoreau

Our wardrobes have been reduced to a few serviceable sets of clothing that are replaced when needed. Our cleaning supplies have been reduced to soap and water, a broom, a mop, a rag, and bucket. Our entertainment expenses consist of board games, horse or donkey rides (See Donkey Races in La Yacata), long walks, bike rides, visiting friends and relatives, reading, gardening and the occasional incidental adventure or two, all of which cost next to nothing.

When we moved to México, we decided to make a fresh start and live within our means. It has been an ongoing process and one that hasn’t been easy. It has required a rethinking of our lives, not just how we spent our money, and reclassifying many things that we thought were essentials as luxuries. (See Forcibly Green-Obligatory Organic) Our diet, our spending habits, and our family has changed dramatically in the 7 years we have been here. I can’t say that it’s been a bad thing becoming solvent.

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