La Paz: A Modest Paradise
Let me dispel a belief commonly held by Americans about Mexico that is certainly not true, at least here in La Paz, within The Sea of Cortez. Drug dealers and violence are not the norm in this small, charming, toast-warm village of two hundred fifty thousand courteous citizens. If the dealers are here, they are well-hidden inside a few walled villas and do not make themselves apparent to the general population. Whether they even exist here or not is questionable. People are not being shot here on a regular basis. They’re just living ordinary lives in peace.
“The Peace” is the literal translation of La Paz. And peaceful it is. If any reading this find your lives too expensive and hectic, and you’ve been seeking an alternative to the costly and frantic lifestyle of the United States, let me suggest you invest in a flight to La Paz and research it as your potential new home. While here for a week, you’ll be paying $20 a day for a small clean simple hotel a block from the beach. If you want to get really luxurious, you can splurge on a $40 a day place. Top end exists if you insist on splurging your accumulated wealth.
Yesterday I paid $4.25 for a breakfast of two eggs, bacon, heated tortillas [could have been toast], tasty refried beans, quacamole, a salad, and coffee. Quality brand name spirits [Scotch, Bourbon, etc.] tax-free may be acquired at the local supermarket for $6 a bottle. Groceries, whether veggies, fruit, or meat and fish are one-third to one-half the price of the States.
Becoming more enticed daily to consider a longer stay in La Paz, yesterday I also checked out a local almost new apartment in a small building of 12 units, a charming fully furnished two-bedroom place including gated parking, beautiful kitchen, a giant rooftop veranda with lounge chairs, tables, BBQ, and a vast view of the stunningly blue waters of the bay. The price tag? $500 a month. If you want only a one bedroom unfurnished, or a place in an older building, the cost dramatically descends from there.
As for the Mexicans, following years in America of being constantly besieged by someone forcefully trying to sell me something, I continue to be impressed with how courteous people are. Even when occasionally approached on the street by a very small business proprietor offering a product, which is a somewhat common practice in this culture, I am always pleased at how polite they are. If I say, “No, not interested,” they invariable answer: “Tomorrow maybe,” or “OK, have a nice day.”
On the edge of town is La Paz’s one large [really gigantic] shopping center with Home Depot, Walmart, supermarkets, clothing stores, computer supplies – the whole nine yards, to accommodate any need you have for the luxury items you may deem necessary for your happiness and comfort.
Is it really warm and sunny and mild with cool breezes wafting on shore off the bay? In a word: yes it is. And in July, August, and September, when Summer turns hot, you can pick up a nice air conditioning unit locally for $300 if you don’t have one built-in.
How big a problem is the Spanish language? Since a fairly substantial number of Americans, Canadians, and English already live here, local small business people have learned enough relevant words of English to serve you. Also, I know after three months here, I’ve easily acquired about 100 key works of Spanish and my fluency is growing daily. Shopping is easy.
English speakers I’ve met here who after a few years who have not learned any Spanish are either frightened of learning or just too timid to try. They live their lives mostly locked inside their homes. Cute and charming little houses may be acquired for less than $100,000. Plusher villas are available for appropriate cost increases.
The most telling part of La Paz is the intrinsic sense of human decency and compassion one so commonly finds lacking in crass America. These people have not yet assumed the arrogance and hard edge Americans have. It has a real value, this essential trait of a real human being. It is worth far more to one than measuring every drop of life by dollar bills. Come soon before it too becomes the norm of a still kindly people.