First Symposium of American Retirees and Mexican Government Representatives

National Forum on the North Ameican Retiree Community: Expectations and Options for Living In Mexico

by Beryl Gorbman

This past weekend, I was an invited delegate to a conference in Mexico City, along with 44 other American expats, who met with highly placed officials of the Mexican federal government and the American embassy to talk about issues of concern to American retirees here.

The conference was coordinated by an organization called International Community Foundation (ICF) and was handled beautifully by a Mexican PR firm. ICF has produced a number of studies about American retirees in Mexico, some with surprising conclusions and statistics, that had been made available to us before the conference. You can read these studies on their website. Their goal is to promote good works in Mexico through the philanthropy of American retirees.

Most of ICY’s focus to date has been on the western coastal communities of Mexico, but they were enthusiastic about having representation from other parts of the country.

There were people in our group who had accomplished some laudable civic endeavors. I was deeply impressed by Ted Rose and Susan Hill of Colima and their organization Project Amigo . Not only do they get American dentists and other caregivers to come down and treat people, but they provide scholarships for disadvantaged kids, and regularly send them to the USA to live with American families and attend school.

Ted Rose of Project Amigo – center. Susan Hill, second from left.

All the Americans and the organizers got together Thursday evening and talked about the meetings with the Mexican officials the following day. ICF suggested four major areas for our conversation focus:

  • How American retirees and the Mexican government can increase opportunities for local communities
  • How the Mexican government can help expats age in place
  • How the Mexican government can improve engagement in local communities (?)
  • How the American expat community can help improve the image of Mexico outside the country.

Initially, we were in an elegant meeting room, that looked like a medieval courtroom in a building next to the federal palace in the zocalo. We were joined by about 100 Mexicans from various organizations and a number of people from the newspapers and TV stations. (Most of the newspapers covered the meeting the next day.)

Meeting participants

Officials' podium

Mtra. Gloria Guevara Manzo, National Secretary of Tourism. To her right is Richard Kiy, President of ICF.

Ms. Guevara, surrounded by reporters

Other officials included  Lic. Nathan Wolf Lustbader, the director of the federal economic office of foreign relations (to the best of my translation abilities).

The room in the magnificent old building where the common sessions were held, was truly royal. Bishops’ chairs lined the walls and the carved wall in back of the speakers’ podium was a work of art.

back wall of podium

The general tone was that the Mexican government valued the financial and philanthropic contributions of the increasing numbers of American retirees and want to know what services we think we need to continue living in Mexico.

After the official presentations, we broke up into smaller groups and met with people from our own states – officials involved in tourism, foreign relations, and economic development. They were quite sincere in wanting to know what our concerns were about Mexico. The discusussions were genuine dialogues – questions and answers across the board, all done with a spirit of genuine interest and cooperation. It was an intelligent exchange, one that I enjoyed immensely. I felt we were clearly heard.

Some of the expats expressed fears of continued cartel violence and said that if it got worse, they would consider leaving Mexico. Some of us talked about the need for assisted living facilities for our ageing population, and access to good medical care.

Our discussion group, which inlcuded expats from Yucatan, Colima, San Miguel and Ajijic, was attended by about eight attentive government officials, including two from Yucatan, one from the State Tourism Board. We were carefully recorded and observed – they were really interested in what we had to say.

Since one of the stated goals of the conference was to attract more retirees to Mexico, I pointed out that the Tourism Board might consider producing new promotional materials that stressed the truly wonderful things about Mexico and not just the recreational and vacation opportunities.

Martha Lindley of Merida suggested that they consider planning assisted living facilities so that those of us who so desired could “age in place.” Howard Feldstein, from Ajijic, was concerned about the crime rate they were experiencing there – not narco crimes, but home invasions and robberies. The officials said they would look into heightened security.

Howard Feldstein from Ajijic

Some of these photos are from the cocktail hour and dinner we had the night before the conference. It was a great group.

Bob Bruneau, who nominated me for the conference, is an old and dear friend from Seattle. It was so good to see him after many years. He and his partner own a flower shop in Puerto Vallarta. He was my real estate broker years ago in Seattle.

As it turned out, Anne McEneny of ICF and I had been exchanging communications on and off for some time about some of my blog articles and I had published the link to their agency reports almost two years ago.

Bob Bruneau, Puerto Vallarta

Merida's own charming Martha Lindley

Delegates from Baja

You can spot an (ex) New Yorker anywhere.

Anne McEneny of ICF is in the center.

After the conference wound up with final speeches by officials at around 1:30, we went to Sanborns House of Tiles with Russ Mills of Puerto Vallarta. We were all quite pleased at the way the conference had gone. Speaking for myself, I don’t recall ever having been asked by a Mexican government representative what might make my life here more pleasant. I appreciated the opportunity and I thank them for listening to us and for having this conference.


About BG

Beryl Gorbman is a writer and private investigator who divides her time between Seattle WA and Merida Yucatan Mexico. She has published two works of fiction, 2012: Deadly Awakening, and Madrugada. They are both available on Amazon and other outlets. Also at Amate Books, and Casa Catherwood in Merida. You can read about them in various articles on this site.
This entry was posted in Merida Expat Life, Politics and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to First Symposium of American Retirees and Mexican Government Representatives

  1. It sounds like an excellent event. I have some questions:

    1. Were no Canadians invited? If not, any idea why?
    2. Will this become an annual event?
    3. How were the expats selected? Will there be different ones next time? How would one find out if they could be included?
    4. Will there be any kind of follow-up with you of the issues you discussed?

    Thanks, Beryl.

    • BG says:

      Canadians were not included and I don’t know why except that it is an American foundation. There has been no mention of this happening again. I was selected because of my blog. They selected people who had non-commercial projects in their communities and who were retired. We were not told of any follow-up plans, but if anything comes of all this, I will publish it.

  2. Howard McAskill says:

    “How the Mexican government can improve engagement in local communities (?)”

    I’m intrigued by the question mark, especially since the connotations of
    ‘engagement’ imply (to me) potential involvement of a kind not welcomed
    or even tolerated at the local or any other level in Mexico. Your blog is a
    vital tool toward improving my very limited understanding of such matters,
    so it would be most instructive if you could expand on this particular issue.

    • BG says:

      I put the question mark there because I didn’t understand the statement myself. Let me try to clarify it with ICF and I’ll put another comment on this article.

  3. Anne McEnany says:

    I just wanted to give a bit of context to the forum and also answer the questions above. The International Community Foundation has met with the Secretary of Tourism several times on the topic of sustainable tourism (better coastal development) and quality of life for expats (“aging in place” and infrastructure improvements). The government’s desire was to hear directly from the expat community and they agreed to co-host the forum with us to do that.

    Because our research focused on the U.S. retirement community, we focused mainly on U.S. participants for this forum. We have three years of data on U.S. retirees, but little or nothing on Canadians. Having said that, however, there were two Canadians there, and the forum was called the “North American Forum” not the “U.S. Forum.” Although we cannot speak to specifics about the Canadian retiree community, we are not deliberately trying to exclude them. Similarly, we focused on coastal communities primiarly, which is where our grantees are. Merida was one of the only inland communities represented at the forum for that reason. But again, we are not deliberately trying to exclude people, but rather trying to reflect the demographic that was presented in our research.

    To select participants, we reached out to those people that answered the survey in 2009 and again in 2012. We only had space for 50 people and we filled the group quickly.

    I don’t know if this will be an annual event. We need to follow up on this one first! ICF has committed to work with the Secretary of Tourism on state-level meetings with governors, to document working relationships with retirees in places where there are good relations (like San Miguel de Allende), and also to follow up on some of the specific recommendations from the forum. I know it will take some time to do that so I don’t want to commit to another forum yet.

    “Engagement in Local Communities” — for ICF, this means civic engagement or volunteering as well as charitable giving. How does the retiree community spend its time in Mexico? We have a whole report on trends in this area on our website.

    I hope this is helpful! Thank you Beryl for the venue to respond.

    Anne McEnany
    CO-Author, “U.S. Retirement Trends in Mexico” and
    Senior Advisor, Conservation Program

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