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Retreat in Puerto Vallarta – Stranded in the Third World?

When we made Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, our permanent residence a decade ago, our friends in the United States often asked if we felt stranded in the Third World. The answer was no; maybe the Second World! Before the disappearance of the USSR, the Second World was made up of the countries of the communist bloc. Since the collapse of the iron curtain, there are no Second World countries anymore, so maybe we can promote Mexico to the New Second World! Currently, Mexico along with China, India, Brazil, Turkey and others are recognized as Newly Industrialized Countries or NIC’S. These NICs have more advanced economies than developing Third World countries, but have not yet reached the level of developed First World countries.

Regardless of the world we were in, it was a culture shock and required a series of changes in our daily living habits. As an example, Mexican television had only five or six channels that were either old US movies with Spanish subtitles or Mexican programs obviously aimed at sixth graders. The only channel we could understand and relate to was CNN with its biased, almost anti-American commentary that was only slightly more acceptable than 6th grade Mexican shows! Newspapers and magazines in the US were few and far between and news was generally history when it was available here. Mail delivery was so pathetic in Vallarta ten years ago that the only way to ensure you received mail, including newspapers and magazines, was through Mail Boxes Etc. which delivered from El Paso to Vallarta once a week. The service was reasonably priced and we had a good chance of receiving most of our mail. Ten years ago we had a super slow internet service in Mexico. It worked most of the time, but was pitifully slow and kept disconnecting, especially if there was a threat of rain.

Ten years ago, grocery stores, pharmacies, and hardware stores ranged from absolutely awful to just about passable. The choice of food and supplies was limited but enough to survive. We had bottled water, Microdyn to clean fruits and vegetables, tablets to keep us free of amoebas and bacteria, and the rest of the basics necessary to live in the tropics known as Paradise! We had a decent golf course, world class fishing and absolutely perfect weather with Pebble Beach type views from everywhere. More importantly, we were meeting a group of like-minded, adventurous, recently retired Americans who had come to enjoy a new pace of life. You could probably say that we are stranded in the Third World, but the benefits of living in Paradise almost outweigh the inconveniences and limitations associated with this new lifestyle.

Over the last decade, Puerto Vallarta, known as PV or Vallarta by local residents, has changed dramatically. The population has exploded to 350,000, most of whom now speak or at least understand English. We have many new businesses and stores including Super Walmart, Sam’s Club, Office Depot, etc. with the latest in electronics, hardware and construction materials. The new, large, modern grocery stores are equal to the best in the US with a full selection of frozen foods and most other food items that 50,000 Americans and Canadians are accused of, all of which are imported from the United States. Vallarta has grown to the point where there are now seven beautiful golf courses with more under construction; hundreds of tennis courts and of course Vallarta still has world class deep sea fishing. Medical care in Vallarta has changed in line with the population boom. There are three new hospitals and numerous modern clinics. The water is as pure as in the United States and the food bought in the modern air-conditioned supermarkets is equal to the best in the United States. There are several huge new movie theaters, new theme parks, and hundreds of world-class restaurants in Vallarta.

Now, back to the idea of ​​being stranded in Paradise. Today, most Americans have satellite television with 350 channels from the United States or Canada. We all have high-speed Internet service with exactly the same information at our fingertips as we would anywhere in the United States. Most Americans and Canadians use Vonage or a similar phone provider to make nearly free and unlimited calls to friends and family back home. Mail service in PV is excellent, however all mail is routed through Guadalajara or Mexico City and severe delays still occur in these cities. Therefore, any items of importance are shipped via DHL, FedEx or UPS. Most items shipped by DHL will be received within 48 hours and can be easily tracked on the Internet. American newspapers and magazines are up to date and can be purchased at newsstands located throughout Vallarta.

With the thousands of homes and condominiums currently under construction, the city’s brand-new infrastructure, and the future ten-year construction plan underway, photovoltaics is no longer a developing economy; It’s a booming economy! With all of the modern internet technology, no one should feel stranded in Vallarta unless they want the old-fashioned Mexican pace of life that can be achieved simply by avoiding technology.

There are some sure things in Vallarta; none of the retired Americans will have to go to work tomorrow, the weather will be perfect for doing what they please, they will enjoy being with their friends, and with two to three hour flights leaving every day for the United States, none of them will feel stranded in the Third World!


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