Expat Chronicles – An Intrepid Woman Moves To Mexico
By: Bobbie Coray
When I first came up with the idea, they told me :“You should settle down like a responsible old person.” They said I was too old for a new adventure, too frail to uproot my life and start something new. But I’m an intrepid 75-year-old American widow with a shock of white hair, and my mind was set. Disregarding everyone's advice, I moved to San Jose Del Cabo and bought a condo all for myself. And despite their warnings, I was delighted to learn that being old can be a benefit in Cabo.
My first encounter with a local in San Jose was with Sergio, a kind-hearted man who was working the landscaping at my condo. I had been manhandling several bags of groceries and trying to get up the stairs to my little condo when Sergio caught sight of my predicament Without a moment of hesitation, he leapt up from his task to come help me, insisting on carrying my load upstairs without complaint. Once that was done, he then offered to come get my trash every week so I wouldn’t have to carry it down to the bin. He told me that his mother was old too, and that he hoped that someone would do the same for her. He was just paying forward the kindness he hoped for out of the world. I didn’t want to take advantage of that kindness, so every month I give him a little propina (tip). It’s an arrangement that works for both of us, and it seems to work for others as well. I have found that when people help me, they often mention that they hope that someone would do the same for their own mothers.
Kindness like that is in no short supply down in Cabo. Sometimes I have a little difficulty maneuvering on the impossibly high curbs, but no problema. There is usually a handsome gentleman to offer me an arm!
You can see the way people care for each other everywhere. Once, when I was trying to park my minivan downtown, several shopkeepers came out to help me. I’m not sure if it was because of my age or my abysmal parking skills, but after several minutes of trial and error, I finally decided to just give one of them my keys, allowing him to park the car quickly and efficiently. By then, the entire little crowd that had gathered was laughing, and so was I.
Another time I was standing in line, waiting to pay my property taxes at the municipal offices in San Jose alongside about fifty other people. It was another beautiful day in Baja so I didn’t really mind the wait, but other folks seemed to have a different idea. Out of nowhere, a lovely, smiling woman who was also waiting in line with her little son found me a chair and suggested that I wait there. Then she went to the man in charge and pointed to me. A few minutes later, I was escorted to the front of the line so I could pay my tax money. Everyone in line smiled and nodded their approval. I would have waited my turn like everyone else, but the sheer kindness of the rest of the line was overwhelming, and I was certainly grateful to them all.
Speaking of property tax, it’s so inexpensive that I feel that I should pay double! I’m sure that I use more than a few hundred pesos a year in services, but luckily for me, I didn’t even have to pay that because I had an “old person discount card” as we Gringos call it: Credencial INAPAM. (Instituto Nacional para las Personas Adultas Mayores).
If you are a citizen or permanent resident with a CURP (like a Mexican Social Security number), you can get an INAPAM card. That card entitles you to pay only half of what you owe for your taxes once you reach a certain age.
To get the card, you set up an appointment to make another, seperate appointment to meet at the INAPAM office. There you must produce two copies of your driver’s license, a permanent resident visa, your telephone bill or electric bill, your passport, and two small photographs taken by an approved local photographer. It’s overwhelming, I know! But once again, everyone was extremely helpful and guided me through the process even though I speak Spanish like a two-year-old.
It was worth the paperwork though, because now my INAPAM card can be used not only to reduce the cost of my taxes, but also for getting prescriptions, getting discounts at certain restaurants or stores, and more!
If you qualify, they make you a plastic card that you can present to Mexican businesses and government service agencies in order to claim discounts for goods and services, typically between 10% and 50% off. The discount also applies for doctors and dentists, and the card itself can serve as a piece of ID. I haven’t tested it yet, but soon I’m going to try my card at the big chain stores, but not with the local vendors who need every little profit that they can make.
It really is fun being una mujer vieja (an old woman) living in Mexico. I love it.