How American Expatriates Found a New Home in Mexico

by | May 12, 2024 | Society, Travel | 0 comments

In an era of globalisation, the allure of international living has captivated many, offering not just new scenery but profound life transformations. This sentiment resonates strongly in the stories of Marjorie Skouras and other Americans who, drawn by the charm and potential of Mexico, decided to make it their new home. These narratives shed light on the profound impacts of such relocations on personal lives, local communities, and cultural integration. From the enchanting streets of Merida to the bustling urban life of Mexico City, these stories unveil a tapestry of experiences that redefine the concept of home and belonging in the 21st century.

Relocating to Mexico Transformed Marjorie’s Life

Marjorie Skouras’ enchantment with Mexico started early in her life, growing deeper as the years passed.

Originally from California, the interior designer made her first journey to Mexico as a teenager to visit her uncle in Baja California, and her fascination only grew as she continued to visit through her twenties. “That’s kind of how it all started for me,” Marjorie, who studied pre-Columbian art at UCLA, shared with CNN Travel. She described her initial experiences in Mexico as uniquely wonderful.

Marjorie Skouras

A Dream Fulfilled

As Marjorie’s career flourished and she began raising a family, her trips to Mexico became sporadic, yet her love for the country endured. Feeling increasingly disillusioned by the complexities and high costs of Californian life, she toyed with the idea of moving abroad after her daughter went off to college.

Though she briefly considered relocating to Corfu in Greece and other European locales, it was a visit to Merida, Yucatán in July 2014 that set her future course. “We knew within 45 minutes that we wanted to live here,” Marjorie remarked about the visit. This sudden decision led her to purchase a 19th-century ruin for $210,000 four months later, which she and her husband restored over two years.

By 2017, Marjorie and her husband, Bruno Bardavid, made their move to Merida. The couple’s fluency in Spanish greatly facilitated their integration into local society, contrasting with some expatriates who live in Mexico without learning the language. “Being able to speak the language has been a gateway to a more interesting life,” Marjorie explained.

Marjorie with Husband Bruno

A Magical New Life

The first few years in Merida were described by Marjorie as magical, attracting a diverse and creative group of new friends. However, adapting to the Mexican perception of time presented challenges for Marjorie, who found the laid-back approach quite different from the punctuality she was accustomed to in the US.

In 2019, inspired by local culture and fashion, Marjorie opened a boutique featuring vintage Mexican dresses from the 1960s and ’70s, as well as her own designs. This venture took a turn with the onset of COVID-19, prompting new changes.

Mission Found Through Music

In 2021, the couple bought land in Dzemul and sold their home in Merida, now focusing on helping local children. They founded the Kooks Music School, offering free music lessons, funded largely by their own resources. Marjorie, now a permanent resident of Mexico and applying for citizenship, finds deep satisfaction in her new life and her contributions to the community.

Marjorie with Husband Bruno

Safety and Living Conditions

While safety concerns are often raised by those considering a move to Mexico, Marjorie feels secure and emphasises the positive aspects of her life there. The cost of living offers some savings compared to the US, though she notes that grocery prices can be comparable to those in American supermarkets.

Embracing a New Home

Marjorie’s story in Mexico continues to unfold with no plans to return to the US. Her bond with the Mexican community has deepened, making her relocation not just a change of scenery, but a transformation of life. She encourages others to consider a similar move, underscoring the welcoming nature and supportive expatriate services available in Mexico. Her journey reflects a profound embrace of a new culture and the rich experiences it offers.

Mexico: A Newfound Haven for American Digital Nomads?

In another report, it seems that many chose Mexico City as their new home during Covid-19. The COVID-19 pandemic and the emergence of digital nomadism propelled thousands of Americans to seek a better quality of life abroad and Mexico City was their chosen location.

Mexico City, or Ciudad de México (CDMX), is the largest city in North America, boasting a population of nearly 22 million in its metropolitan area. From 2019 to 2023, its population increased by about 3%, adding roughly 600,000 residents, as reported by The World Population Review. During this period, American applications for residency visas in Mexico soared by approximately 70%, rising from 17,800 to over 30,000, according to data from Mexico’s Migration Policy Unit. The true number of American digital nomads might be higher, given that many enter on tourist visas that allow a six-month stay, making it hard to track those who overstay.

CNBC Make It interviewed several Americans who have made Mexico City their home. They cited lower costs, a relaxed lifestyle, and a rich sense of culture and community as key benefits. However, despite a generally higher crime rate than in the U.S., some Black Americans expressed feeling safer and more welcomed in the city.

However, this influx of expatriates is not without its downsides for the local population. Rents are rising, short-term rentals are multiplying, and local Mexicans are finding themselves economically displaced by wealthier newcomers. In popular areas, English is becoming as prevalent as Spanish, and cafes are filled with remote workers.

The complexity of this situation is evident. While some locals benefit economically, others are pushed out of their neighbourhoods.

Exploring Simplicity and Community

Kyla Moran, a 33-year-old former model who moved to Mexico City in 2019, emphasises the community aspect of living in the city. “The real richness of living here is how communal it is, how easy it is to know your neighbours,” she states, advocating for integration into local culture and language as part of the expatriate experience.

Kyla Moran
The sense of community was also a draw for Caitlin Hutchins, who moved from North Carolina in 2011. She appreciates the collective culture, noting, “I value that my daughter is growing up with that sort of mentality that there is a we, there’s an us. We have to look out for each other.”
Caitlin Hutchins
Adalia Aborisade, who relocated in 2017 after a long teaching career in Texas, speaks to the profound peace and simplicity she has found: “The amount of peace and ease that I have in this life—I would not trade that for the world.”
Adalia Aborisade
For Keith Brown, moving to Mexico was about seeking fairness and peace, prompted by personal losses and societal issues in the U.S. He now spends his days trading, learning Spanish, and engaging in local activities, finding new fulfilment away from the pressures of his previous life as a teacher.
Keith Brown
Tiara Darnell, who moved in 2021 and started a soul food restaurant in 2022, also speaks to the safety and opportunity she’s found: “I didn’t know that I needed to leave in order to achieve what I have. I’ll stay in Mexico for as long as you all will have me.”
Tiara Darnell
Despite these personal gains, challenges remain, such as the significantly higher rates of violent crime in Mexico compared to the U.S.

Historical Context and Gentrification Concerns

Longtime journalist Guillermo Osorno points out that the American presence in Mexico City is not new, with roots stretching back over a century. Yet, the recent surge, especially visible since the pandemic, has intensified gentrification and displacement in central neighbourhoods like Roma Norte and La Condesa. This economic disparity has prompted calls for better regulations to protect local interests without stifling new arrivals.

Local architect Leticia Lozano and others express concerns about being economically pushed out of their neighbourhoods due to rising rents and the prevalence of short-term rentals, a sentiment echoed by many residents who find themselves struggling with housing affordability in their own city.

As Mexico City continues to attract long-term renters and digital nomads, the debate over how to balance welcoming newcomers with preserving the livelihoods and culture of existing residents remains critical, highlighting the need for thoughtful urban planning and regulation in the face of rapid change.

Reflecting on Cross-Cultural Journeys and Their Broader Implications

As we explore the diverse experiences of those who have crossed borders in search of new beginnings, the stories of Marjorie Skouras and other American expatriates in Mexico bring to light a spectrum of challenges and triumphs. These journeys are not merely changes in geographical locations but are transformative life decisions that impact individuals and communities alike. They highlight the beauty of cultural integration and the complexities of socio-economic impacts on local populations. As more individuals like Marjorie embrace such life-altering moves, their stories continue to inspire and caution future generations seeking similar paths, emphasising the importance of cultural respect and economic mindfulness in our increasingly interconnected world.


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