When this is all over, you may be thinking about moving to someplace warm and sunny. Here is one woman’s experience, luckily done long before the current crisis.
…in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Patrice Wynne, 68, a former bookstore owner in Berkeley, California, moved to San Miguel de Allende, an artsy town in central Mexico in 2002, after closing her store and filing for divorce. She found not only a wonderful new life as owner of Abrazos, a clothing and housewares boutique filled with the vibrant colors and patterns of Mexico (whose rent was less than 1/10 her store rent in the Bay Area) but romance with a retired Mexican lawyer. After writing a list of 104 things she wanted in a man while recovering from a life-threatening illness (her friends said it was as likely as seeing a unicorn), she found love with Ernesto Perez, who shares her adventurous spirit and zest for life, and married him in 2018.
We spoke with Patrice about her life in the town once called “the best place in the world for an over-40 woman to reinvent herself” by the late (and sorely missed) More magazine.
What is the best thing about living in San Miguel?
By far, living among the Mexican people who are exceptionally kind, courteous, happier and respectful. Foreigners here are a community of spirited people with diverse interests, background and stories. It’s easy to make friends. Improving my Spanish means that I’m always learning. There’s a greater level of happiness here because the quality of life is high.
How has it changed your life?
I met my husband here, the gift of a lifetime. My store Abrazos gives me the daily joys of working with families of seamstresses and mentoring young Mexican women. I’m a better human being: kinder, softer, slower, happier, more affectionate, more tolerant, more patient, unstressed.
What’s the worst thing?
In sophisticated San Miguel, we lack for nothing! Okay, maybe dim sum.
What do you do in your spare time?
I’m a voracious reader and I read much more now than I did during t20 years of owning a bookstore. Biographies of women are my passion. Ernesto and I enjoy traveling to Mexico City, Oaxaca and Merida frequently where we visit markets, museums, and eat the various regional cuisines with glee.
What has “aging out of place” meant to you?
In Mexico older people are valued and respected, integrated into the family system, taken care of in compassionate ways. This is where I want to grow old, in a culture of kindness and loving care. I’m comfortable and content being who I am. And men still flirt with me! Every few months I go to New York to buy fabrics for Abrazos and play with friends in museum outings and fashion parties.
What does aging with attitude mean to you?
It means dressing and being the person I feel like inside, not paying attention to dress codes or rules, in a playful way. I’m fortunate to be part of Advanced Style, a community of highly creative fashionistas who are revitalizing and reimagining what it means to grow old without limits. Every day is an invitation to be bold, creative, wild with colors, mixing fabrics, accessorizing, and wearing styles rarely seen on older people. Ernesto and I are featured in a book, Advanced Love, which celebrates couples 60+. We often say, we’re running out of decades so let’s make each one count!
Cost of housing: I bought my house in a neighborhood outside Centro Historico because I prefer to live where I’m more integrated in the Mexican community. Those neighborhoods are where the best housing and rental deals can be found.
Safety: Use street smarts and reasonable precautions, same as most cities. Wear cross-body handbags, stay out of bars and cantinas late at night, don’t buy drugs, hide valuables in your home.
Health care: I’ve had two major operations in Mexico, one life-threatening, for a fraction of the cost in the US: $4,000 for a one-week hospital stay and surgery for peritonitis, $12,000 for two knee replacements. Each time I received exceptional care at state-of-the-art hospitals, and followup visits with my surgeon cost $45. I had surgery in Mexico since housing, food, and transportation costs for a 6-month recovery in the US would exceed the cost of surgery in Mexico.
Expat community: It’s very easy to meet people and to engage in lifelong learning. SMA offers programs, courses, lectures, festivals, conferences, films, tours, Spanish conversation classes, sports, and game groups daily, all year round!
Taxes: Social Security benefits and pensions are not taxable in Mexico. My business is registered in Mexico and I pay taxes on income. For US taxes there’s a deduction for living abroad before income is taxable.
Discounts: Senior residents with a government-issued discount card called INAPAM get discounts or free rides on bus, subway and air travel, free entrance to museums, and discounts on prescription drugs and movies. Property taxes, already a fraction of US costs, are also discounted. Discounts range from 10-50 percent.
Climate: Temperatures are mostly in the 70s-80s year-round except for May, when it hits the high 90s, and winter when cold spells arrive for several days. The rainy season is June-September
Photos by Alexandra Hernandez (Patrice Wynne and Ernesto) and Claudia Alvarez (shop)