Preparing for Mexico-bound Baby Boomers

Inside México: Do you think the Mexican government should encourage Americans and Canadians to choose Mexico as a place to retire?

Jorge Castañeda: It's a very important trend for the three countries. Americans and Canadians from the "Baby Boomer" generation are in different circumstances than their parents were at the same age. They have more disposable income. They have more open minds about where to live. And they are retiring with a different sense of what retirement means. They will continue writing, reading, playing sports, and contributing to causes that matter to them. When they come to Mexico, technology and their comfort with it allows them to stay connected to their family and friends back home.

Retirement centers in the United States are filling up. It's very important for Americans and Canadians to have somewhere comfortable to go.

For Mexico, it's a very important opportunity. We are one of the few countries in the world positioned to take advantage of this phenomenon, mainly for geographic reasons. Most American and Canadian cities are within a two to three hour plane ride from Mexico. Mexico should do what it can to encourage Baby Boomers to retire here.

IM: What do you see as the benefits to Mexico of having these people retire here?

JC: They have high disposable incomes. They bring in hard currency. They will demand services that will create jobs. They are mature and they understand that they are in a different country.

IM: What does Mexico need to do to prepare for this influx?

JC: There are several things Mexico needs to do. The first is that American health insurance companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield and about four or five of the other big ones (including, perhaps, Medicare) should cover at least first- and second-level medical services here in Mexico. This insurance needs to be made available to Americans who live here. After 65, there are many typical health-related problems that arise, but most of them are easy to fix.

Second, there need to be airports sufficiently close to where the Americans and Canadians are settling. This will enable these retirees to return home and their children and grandchildren to visit them easily.

Finally, Mexico needs to provide the types of facilities that these people will want: golf courses, movie theaters, satellite television, good phone services, etc. Also, the facilities need to be in place to offer them medical support. There is no sense in the insurance companies reaching agreements to cover the retirees in Mexico if there are no clinics and airports to service them.

IM: What about the resources this group will consume? For example, there is not an abundance of water in some parts of Mexico.

JC: It depends on the area. Some parts of Mexico are hard-pressed for water. In other parts, it's quite functional. Americans do consume more water than Mexicans but they are also used to paying for water. I wouldn't emphasize this as a problem that needs to be addressed.

IM: What about the perception of security problems? Do you think that this has an impact on whether or not people choose Mexico as a place to retire?

JC: I hope that the new government will address these security questions because, first and foremost, they affect Mexicans. Some of the events you read about are bloody and spectacular but they don't affect Americans. I don't think many tourists want to go to Nuevo Laredo.

The places most tourists go are very safe. Take Mérida. It's a beautiful city with wonderful weather (although it's a bit hot in the summer). You're within two hours of the beaches of the Maya Riviera. You are within an hour or so of ecological reserves with flamingoes and other wildlife. You can walk down the Paseo de Montejo at midnight and not worry about your safety. There are no security concerns there. There are no security concerns in Puerto Peñasco either.

The security issues create an atmosphere that is not conducive to tourism, but they should not be a deterrent.

IM: Do you think that the flow of Americans south and of Mexicans north will have an impact on border politics?

JC: There will be some issues in places where there have never been many crossings and now there will be more. Like Nogales, for example. Most people who drive into Mexico are Mexicans coming home for the holidays and Mexican-Americans visiting family. For the most part, Americans fly into Mexico.

Will it impact the interior? The more Americans that come, the more issues will arise, just as more issues arise in the United States when more Mexicans there. Both countries are reluctant to deal with issues of immigration, but they are going to have to.

Mexico has been hospitable to Americans for more than half a century, since tourists started going to Acapulco in the 1950s. Mexicans understand the benefits of Americans visiting our country.

There will be a cultural impact, certainly, as there has been in the United States with all the Mexicans living there. However, I think this will be in the best interests of both countries.

Dr.Castañeda's work as Foreign minister for three years under President Fox focused on diverse issues in US-Mexican relations including migration, trade, security, and narcotics control; joint diplomatic initiatives on the part of Latin American nations; and the promotion of Mexican economic and trade relations globally. Since 1997, Dr.Castañeda has been global Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Latin American Studies, New York University. He has been member of the board of Human Rights Watch since 2003.


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