“When I tell people I live in Mexico City, the response is often bewilderment shadowed with trepidation.” I wrote these words in 2006 as the introduction to my guide book. Since then, a combination of bad news and misinformation has made those reactions even stronger for many people who’ve never visited. Through my blog and book I’ve shared the joys of living here: what to see, where to go, what to eat, etc. Now, as part of my work for Mexico Today, I’m beginning a series of profiles of people who have chosen Mexico City as their home. I hope their stories will help to clarify some of the bewilderment and to reduce the trepidation. So meet Louis and Elodie Santamaria:
After a 24-year career with the U.S. State Department, and having lived in seven different countries, Louis and Elodie Santamaria chose Mexico City when it came time to retire last year. Louis, a gregarious man , tall and lanky, was born in Mexico and raised in the U.S. “We have family and friends here, so that was big selling point,” he said. Elodie is a pretty blonde whose elegant manner, style and accent are pure French, despite her naturalization as a U.S. citizen in Texas years ago. They both confess that they might have preferred Paris, where Elodie still has family. “But for the price we paid here for a 3000-square foot house, we would only have gotten a 200-square foot studio in Paris—not to mention the incredibly high cost of living there.”
Both speak fluent Spanish and love Mexican culture, food and music. They take full advantage of the wide cultural offerings here. "It's a big reason for choosing Mexico City," claimed Elodie. They have friends from all over the world as a result of their years at the Embassy, and they love to entertain, so the large rooftop terrace of their new home was a bit selling point.
They had lived in Mexico City twice before, each time for three years, and raised two sons here. So there have been some surprises but not too many shocks. “You do need patience, but once you learn the rules—which aren’t always easy to find out—it’s a very manageable place to live,” explained Louis. “The phantoms of scary health and safety issues are way overblown. I’ve lived in a lot of cities, so I have ‘street smarts’, but I feel as safe here as I do anywhere in the world.” Elodie added, “A lot of people are concerned with medical issues. Health care is affordable here, and the quality of the doctors and hospitals is high—just as good as in Paris.”
For retirees, money is usually a question. So here’s the scoop:
The Santamaria’s 4 bedroom, 3.5 bathroom house, with living and separate dining rooms, eat-in kitchen with patio, large laundry room, garage, and rooftop terrace cost a total of US $400,000 after renovation. The property includes a shop on the ground floor that brings in a monthly rent of 7000 pesos (around US $600) which is about what it costs to maintain the house (light, gas, phone, taxes, and maid service three times a week). Their home is on a tree-lined street in the Colonia Roma neighborhood, an eclectic area that dates back to the early 20th and is in the midst of a renaissance that draws a hip, young crowd to its many cafes, restaurants, galleries and shops. "And it's near to public transportation, so we can get anywhere in town easily," said Elodie.
“Mexico City is not for the faint of heart, but it’s so much more than the negative myths that surround it.” said Louis. “We’re very happy to call it home.”
For information on finding a place to live in Mexico City, check out my older blog post,