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Mexico Newsletter — January 2021

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Mexperience Mexico Newsletter — January 2021

Land border restrictions have been extended to January 21st, 2021: Mexico’s land border restrictions have been extended again; however, we are hearing that American citizens are driving and walking into Mexico without hindrance.  Tourist permits (FMMs) and Vehicle import permits (TIPs) are being issued as normal.  This article summarizes the restrictions and the comments section contains anecdotal notes left by local travelers.  Note that Flights between the US and Mexico are not affected by this restriction.

Mexico’s Gradual and Phased Reopening

Mexico continues to undergo a phased reopening of its economic, cultural, educational, and social activities.  Each region and municipality is implementing a custom reopening plan based on a color-coded ‘traffic light’ system so the restrictions vary depending on each region and/or locality.  Covid updates

New Year’s Eve celebrations in Mexico: The Guadalupe-Reyes festive period continues in Mexico with family celebrations on the eve of the New Year and gatherings to share the Rosca de Reyes and exchange gifts on January 6th.  The rosca (loaf) is interspersed with little plastic dolls representing the baby Jesus and whoever gets a doll in their slice of rosca traditionally hosts a gathering to eat Tamales on February 2nd.

Peak season for Monarch butterflies: The very special Methuselah generations of butterflies migrate each year, leaving the colder northern climes of the U.S. and Canada to take winter refuge and breed in Mexico.  They begin arriving in November and overwinter until March.  The peak viewing period is mid-January to the end of February.  The sanctuaries are open to visitors and our travel associates can arrange suitable tours.  Learn more about the Monarch butterflies and how to visit the sanctuaries.

Spanish language schools and courses in Mexico: Learning Spanish at a language school in Mexico is an ideal way to combine learning and pleasure.  Class sizes are small, so you get the personal attention you need to support you and the class days are designed and paced to ensure that you don’t feel overwhelmed.  Learn more about Spanish courses in Mexico and connect to Schools offering classes.

Gentle Reminder: Please tip generously during this difficult time

Tipping is woven-in to the fabric of Mexican trading culture and, as we explain in our guide, tipping in Mexico must be practiced often and in a wide variety of situations.  Please remember your generosity when tipping during this exceptionally difficult economic period.

Local food shopping and meal times: Local, independent, neighborhood vendors selling fresh foods and comestibles remain a thriving part of the Mexican retail landscape, and if you’re wondering about meal time routines, Foreign Native shares some insights on Mexican meals and meal times.
See also: Foreign Native

Winter climates in Mexico: The winter solstice in December marks the ‘shortest daylight day of the year’ and the start of winter.  Winter climates across Mexico vary by region and elevation, although you’ll enjoy plenty of daylight throughout the winter season, and many places offer comfortable daytime temperatures.

Insurance reminders: If you plan to drive a foreign-plated car in Mexico —even if only for short essential trips across the border— make sure you’re properly insured: US and Canadian policies don’t cover third party liability.  If you own a home in Mexico, you might be wondering whether the property is insurable; most homes can be insured, but there are notable exceptions.  If you’re considering healthcare coverages, read about your choices for healthcare cover in Mexico and connect to relevant resources.

Wireless home internet services: In addition to fixed-line internet access and mobile data plans for your smartphone, you can also purchase a wireless internet service for your home in Mexico that combines cellular data signals with a special modem that creates a WiFi connection in your home or office.  This is useful if the area where you live is not well-served by fixed line services or you want a back-up internet service in case your landline service goes down temporarily.

Mexico visas and documentation: We’ve been receiving many questions in recent times about matters related to visa requirements, and to help we have published and updated additional information about the documentation and visas required to visit or reside in Mexico.  These include:

Mexican consulates are gradually resuming the provision of routine services including things like applications for residency visas, and menaje de casa requests.  Check with your nearest consulate for their current operating status and procedures.

Immigration Assistance

If you need assistance with your residency permit application or renewals, or troubleshooting with an expired permit, consider using the Mexico Immigration Assistance Service provided by our associates.

Insights about Real Estate in Mexico: Whether you intend to rent or buy, our guides and articles about realty in Mexico provide insights and practical advice that can help you to understand the local market and find a home that serves your real needs and budget, avoiding common pitfalls.

Simple living, revisited: Simple living is concerned with identifying your priorities, and defining what is most important in your life. Some people move to Mexico as a means to create a clearing and cultivate simple and meaningful life situations here.  Our article about living simply in Mexico offers a concept primer, and our section about Simple Living in Mexico is filled with local knowledge and practical advice for those contemplating what a simple lifestyle might look and feel like in Mexico.

Pay-day fortnights: What the British call a fortnight the Mexicans call the quincena—that also refers to a 15-day period between pay days.  We have articles and guides to help you learn about pay days in Mexico, currency, and managing your money.

Speaking Spanish gives you unique access to Mexican culture: Whether you plan a short visit to Mexico or to stay for longer, being able to communicate in Spanish will make a material difference to your everyday activities and experiences.  This article explains why and our insightful PinPoint Spanish series helps you to get acquainted with the nuances of Mexican Spanish in everyday situations.

Medical health insurance and evacuation coverages: If you’re wondering what options are available for medical coverages in Mexico, learn about the options for Medical Insurance in Mexico.  If you have good medical health coverage in your home country a fully-managed medical evacuation plan can be an alternative in some situations.

Planning to visit Mexico for leisure?

Planning: If you’re planning to visit Mexico this year, we recommend you talk with your tour operator to ask about the local situations, or if you’re traveling independently we suggest you contact the hotel(s) you intend to stay at to ask them about the current situation in their locality.  Flight schedules may be reduced and/or subject to sudden change: check with the airlines for details.

Customized tours: If you would like to book a custom tour in Mexico, our associates can help: they are in constant contact with the operators and destinations they work with, and will book travel itineraries when it is possible and practicable to do so.

Inspiration: You can find inspiration for future visits to Mexico by browsing Extraordinary Travel Experiences, and Travel Destinations in Mexico.

Useful Resources on Mexperience.com

Discover Mexico: Visit our Discover Mexico section for the latest stream of articles and features to help you get inspiration, insights, and connections about Lifestyle, Living, and Leisure in Mexico.

Lifestyle & Living Services: Find services to help you to realize your lifestyle & living plans in Mexico.

Leisure & Travel Services: Find services to plan and arrange leisure & travel experiences in Mexico.

Immigration Assistance: When you need help applying for residency, or help renewing your existing residency permit (or working through a ‘regularization’ procedure after a mishap), consider using this Mexico Immigration Assistance Service, which offers detailed consultancy, personalized advice, and practical help through the process.

Driving to Mexico? Mexperience offers a wide range of articles that will help you to plan your road trip in Mexico.  Our article about bringing your foreign-plated car to Mexico covers key points you need to know, and our (updated) article on Temporary Import Permits (TIPs) shares valuable information about ensuring your vehicle remains legal here. Don’t forget to insure your vehicle before you cross the border as your US or Canadian policy won’t cover you for third party liabilities.  Our guides and articles about Driving in Mexico are filled with practical advice for drivers.

Mexico Insurance: Everything you need to know about Healthcare, Auto and Evacuation coverages in Mexico.

Mexico eBooks: Browse and download free eBooks which provide useful knowledge about Mexico including the 2020* editions of our Mexico Immigration Guide and Mexico Cost of Living Guide.
* We are currently preparing the updated 2021 editions of our Mexico Guides.  They are scheduled for publication around mid-January.

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Matthew Harrup is founder and editor of Mexperience

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January 2021
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Fashion and Lifestyle

The Cold Comes in Snaps and Waves

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Cold weather in the temperate areas of central Mexico comes and goes throughout the winter months in a series of “numbered fronts” that bring icy gusts which may also cause early frosts for a few days at a time. Then it warms up for a while before the next numbered front makes its way down from the US—Mexico’s principal trading partner and supplier of cold fronts.

One practical result of this polar disorder is that the interior climates in Mexican homes are usually a day behind the frequently-changing outdoor weather; remaining warm when it’s actually near freezing out, and vice-versa.

It’s therefore not surprising occasionally to see people dressed for the North Pole on relatively mild days, or shivering in shirtsleeves on cold days.

The timing of the cold fronts is uncertain, but there’s almost always one in the week of November 20, which apart from being the anniversary of the start of the 1910-1917 Revolution, is when the tree-farms on the hilly fringes of Mexico City usually start selling Christmas trees that you can cut down yourself.

Evidence that it can get quite cold in the central highlands is to be found in supermarkets, which each year set out an array of portable electric heaters at the front of the store, clearly visible as you step-in from the chill.  And early risers in the capital know how fridge-like the first Metro trains out of the shed can be on those nippy mornings, so it’s not unusual to see some particularly assertive commuter walking through the carriage slamming the windows shut—although this habit is less-frequent now as people prize fresh-air above warmth during the flu season.

Cold spells across Mexico’s central highlands can be felt anytime from late autumn through to early spring, although by mid-to-late February temperatures usually begin to rise appreciably, creating some windy days in March, as spring returns bringing back the warm days, and more light during the evening hours following the clocks change.

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Kings’ Day Gifts and Kings’ Loaf Traditions in Mexico

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Never a country to shirk its festive responsibilities, Mexico traditionally closes out its Christmas and New Year celebrations on January 6th, Día de Reyes or Three Kings Day.

Also known as Epiphany, the date marks the visit of the Magi to the Christ child: they are traditionally considered to have numbered three wise men, corresponding to the three gifts mentioned in the Bible.

For many years, Three Kings Day was the date when gifts would be given to Mexican children, who would put shoes out before going to bed on the evening of January 5th. Although this was gradually and inexorably taken over by the imported tradition of Santa Claus, families here maintain the tradition of giving children toys on Three Kings Day. Rather than the main course, this is for many a complement to the excesses of modern-day Christmas; “Por no dejar” —for the sake of keeping it— as some may say.

The continuation of Three Kings Day celebration is notable in the commercial world — toy prices in Mexican stores aren’t discounted to unload leftover inventory until around the second week of January, and the days leading up to January 5th can often see shoppers out late at stores and markets desperately seeking to fill last-minute orders.

The extravagant meals taken at Christmas and New Year are not repeated on Día de Reyes, but instead Rosca de Reyes (“Kings’ Loaf”) is eaten, usually with hot chocolate. The large oval-shaped cakes — sweet bread topped with crystallized fruit and sugar — are interspersed with little plastic dolls representing the baby Jesus. Whoever gets a doll in their slice, and you have to cut your own to avoid feelings of being cheated, is supposed to buy the tamales on February 2nd — Día de la Candelaria: a Catholic tradition celebrating the presentation of Jesus in the temple.

How many of the people who get the slices with dolls actually end up buying the tamales themselves is an open question. But you probably don’t want to gather for Rosca with people who insist on further slicing each slice horizontally to inspect for dolls: not the spirit you’d want to start out the year with.

Rosca de Reyes, of course, shows up in the shops long before January, just as Pan de Muerto is usually available long before Día de los Muertos—in some places as early as August.

There are other ways in which Día de Reyes marks the end of the long holiday season, sometimes referred to as Guadalupe-Reyes to describe the slow month between Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12th and the grade schools going back for the new term around January 7th.

It’s also the time to start taking down Christmas trees, festive lights, and other seasonal decorations. But there’s no rush.

Candelaria on February 2nd isn’t a holiday in the sense of having the day off work, but it does come a few days before the Constitution Day holiday, which is celebrated on the first Monday in February.  That is also an official holiday, and for U.S. sports fans it has the added advantage of usually being the day after Super Bowl Sunday.

So tamales and American football. It doesn’t get much more convenient, or neighborly, than that.

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Elevation: Why 7,000 Feet Can’t Deliver a Free Lunch

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Mexico is a mountainous country, and many of its towns and cities away from the coasts are situated at elevations of least 5,000 feet above sea-level.

If you plan to live in Mexico, or visit here on a self-catering or camping vacation, a consideration to take into account is that the elevation (the land’s height relative to sea level) has an effect on food preparation, because water situated at higher elevation boils at lower temperatures.

The science is quite simple.  The atmosphere surrounding Earth creates pressure against all objects within it.  Barometric pressure at sea level equates to a little less than thirty inches of mercury, or 14.69 pounds per square inch.  At this pressure level, water boils at 100 degrees Centigrade, 212 degrees Fahrenheit.

However, the density of the air becomes thinner at higher altitudes (which is why it’s harder to breathe at higher elevation) and the pressure continues to drop constantly until you reach space, where there is no air, no density, and no pressure.

Water thus boils at a lower temperature because the pressure on the water molecules is lower at higher altitudes, requiring less energy for the molecule bonding threshold to be reached (the point at which molecules break away and coalesce into steam).  And so, because less heat (energy) is required to break up the molecules, the water boils at a lower temperature.

Boiling water, cooking, and baking at high elevation

Water doesn’t always boil at 100C/212F: For example, at 5,000 feet above sea-level water will boil at 94.9C (202.9F); at 6,000 feet water boils at 93.8C (200.9F); and at 7,000 feet water boils 92.7C (198.9F).  This online calculator works out the figures.

Tea and coffee: Some tea-drinking connoisseurs argue that coffee is a better beverage option when one is situated in high elevation, because tea requires a high water temperature to “steep” properly.  That’s probably more a matter of personal taste than science, but as staying well-hydrated is important when you’re situated at higher elevations, it’s worth noting that tea quenches thirst whereas coffee aggravates it.

Baking at high elevation in Mexico: If you’re accustomed to baking cakes and pastries in places situated at lower elevations, you’ll discover that the proportions of ingredients and the timings needed to complete the bake will need to be adjusted. This article shares some useful tips about baking at higher elevations.

General cooking: In terms of everyday cooking, you won’t experience an energy gain, i.e. use less fuel, to cook your meal because although the water reaches boiling point sooner, you need to leave your food cooking for longer.  An example is preparing a hard-boiled egg.  If it takes five minutes to hard-boil an egg at sea-level it will take proportionally longer at higher elevations; so any gain realized through lower boiling points is lost in the longer while it takes for the heat-energy transfer to take place.

This is another way of demonstrating that there really is no such thing as a “free lunch”—not even in high places.

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