Ann Mikkelsen is a teacher in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She “Friended” me on on Facebook, connecting through Sheri Brautigam, another friend. “I just “met” Sheri on Facebook! A mutual friend, Anaceli Coyoc, is teaching in the same program. Anaceli and I worked together at Emerson Spanish Immersion in Minneapolis. She’s from Belize and that’s where my husband Roberto was born. This is really fun to get to know kindred spirits from so far away,” Ann says. Sheri taught ESL in Mexico, and I met her in Teotitlan last Christmas, introduced her to Roberta Christie at Las Granadas B&B, and Sheri is now house sitting at Las Granadas while Roberta is in Florida doing home repairs. The world keeps getting smaller.
Ann and I are both interested in the expat experience in Mexico, so when I asked her why she chose Xalapa (pronounced HA-Lah-pah) in the state of Veracruz to plan retirement, she shared her story and this is what she told me.
Ann’s husband, Roberto, grew up in Xalapa and they bought a house for his mother there 10 years ago, just two doors down from a sister in an Infonavit (government financed housing for workers). Roberto’s mom had been living in a condo they got for her some years ago that was about a 20 min walk away. It was a three-story walk up, which was becoming too difficult for her to negotiate. Ann and her husband spent two years remodeling the house, long distance (I’ve talked about how difficult that can be!), to make it big enough for her, Ann, Roberto and their friends.
Ann loves Xalapa, the capital city of Veracruz situated in the mountains about 1-1/2 hours from the more humid coast. She’s gone there for 23 years and feels she knows it. She and her husband had been looking for land outside town for a couple of years, thinking they’d like something quieter. Infonavit houses are very close together and this didn’t suit them. Every summer that they’d visit, they’d get phone numbers and drive around the countryside with a brother-in-law scoping out what was available.
In summer 2008 they took the huge step and got a $30,000 home equity loan for 3,600 sq meters of land which is a tad less than an acre. There are cows on it now, which is dandy, Ann says. There are sheep next door and a beautiful view. We’ll see what happens, she continues. She is thinking about starting a B&B in Xalapa when they retire. Ann has just one more year teaching in the public schools and says there are Americans who would like to “experience” the real Mexico apart from the beaches. We have a great place, Ann says, and encourages people to look up Xalapa to get lots of info.
I’ve not yet been to Veracruz, and I want to go. It is the largest Mexican port and was vital to the export of cochineal during the Spanish colonial period. Much of the pineapple that we buy in Teotitlan comes from Veracruz. Xalapa is also home to the Jalapeno pepper — that spicy morsel that fires up the palate in Mexican cuisine. As Ann and I continue our conversation, I will be sharing it with you. Meanwhile, you can find us on Facebook