Lily here, to share my perspective on living in my little barrio in Mexico. One thing I love about Mexico is the number of home family run businesses, and the freedom which they hold to do what they want with their homes and businesses. One of the first things I noticed after crossing the border through Tijuana into Mexico was that there were impromptu businesses and restaurants everywhere. No where was off limits, people's houses, garages, sidewalks were turned into anything from convenience like stores called Miscelaneas to restaurants and taco stands. It was one of these many sidewalk taco stands that we ate at that night after we crossed. To this day they are still some of the best tacos we've had in Mexico. I'll also say that some of the best food in general that I've eaten here has been on the sidewalk next to a cart or a grill.
When we first lived in Acapulco, we lived in an apartment building less than 5 minutes from the beach. It was fine, especially for the price, but with two dogs and a budding glassblowing business and garden, we needed more space. So up the mountain we drove, in search of a steal of a house, preferably with land to garden and a view. We found it at the top of the hill, surrounded by what many would view as a poor neighborhood. Our house is easily the nicest finished(or somewhat at least, to avoid taxes many structures in Mexico are left "unfinished"), and one of the nicest in general. We certainly have the nicest view.
When we first came to our neighborhood, we met what is now our friend and neighbor, and asked him for help finding rentals. He showed us some further down the hill that he knew of, and at the end offered to show us his house, which he pays 500 pesos a month for. It's a two room unfinished mud brick house with a cement floor and metal roof, with a decent sized fenced in yard, which he uses as a work area as he is a carpenter. We were surprised at the value for what he was getting, as that works out to only 25 US a month, roundabouts. He then showed us the property next door which he thought was rentable for between 500-1000 pesos a month. This property had a much larger lot, with an outdoor gazebo area and chickens and such on the property. We then turned our attention to the much nicer house next door, and expecting it to be rented, we asked if he knew how much for. He told us it was empty. We jumped on it, as it turned out to be exactly what we were looking for, and so much more.
When we moved in, our neighbors were confused to say the least. They couldn't figure out why white people wanted to live in their little barrio. The first month was fairly amusing, as our neighbors displayed some comical faces at the sight of a white woman walking around in their neighborhood like she lived there or something. I was friendly and either waved or said hello to anyone I encountered. I almost always got replies, and when I didn't it was because they were too surprised to say anything back. The taxis and collectivos that drive through the hood all day would stop and ask me if I was lost and needed a ride on pretty much a daily basis. This continued for about a month. Just after I paid my first months rent, my neighbors stopped me on one of my many trips to the miscelanea for a coke. We introduced ourselves, and the wife of my neighbor handed me a couple handfuls of a red fruit she had picked off the tree in her yard. So there it was, I was accepted. I had made it a month and I hadn't run screaming out of there neighborhood. Since then, her whole family has been extremely friendly, her kids yell hi at me as I walk by. Something I noticed is that for the most part the kids, who are learning english in school, all try to practice their english on me. I generally try to practice my spanish back.
I have a favorite miscelanea in my barrio and its because of the service. Its a farther walk than the closest one, and its up a hill, but the people that run it are great. I'm somewhat proud to say the only place I've ever held a tab is on this hill at either the market down the road or this miscelanea. The man who runs it is pretty old, in his 60s at least, but he speaks a little english because he used to work as a doorman at a hotel in the city. His whole family works there too, as they also run a part time restaurant out of their house, but for the most part he handles the sales at the store. He was very friendly, and the first one in the neighborhood who really tried to talk to me, other than my neighbor. He asked me questions like why Acapulco, why his barrio, and if I was liking my time here. He asked how long I was intending on staying, and was delighted when I said I came to live, not to vacation. He sells lots of useful things, everything from bread to rice to mole and of course various coke products in glass bottles. He's never charged me a deposit fee on any of my cokes, and at this point I just bring an old bottle with me to trade in when I go. What I find funny is that I usually cannot go there with more than a 50 peso bill, as they rarely have the change to give back. I consider myself to be one of the more broke people in my circle of friends, but compared to these people I'm considered rich. This is part of what added to their confusion in regards to us moving here. His wife is extremely friendly to me, always trying to tempt me into her tamales and her tortas that she serves on saturdays. She's so friendly that I intend to make her some glass jewelry, both to show what I do for work and as a sign of respect to her. His granddaughter has taken a liking to me, she often tells him to sit down so she can help me at the store instead.
There are at least three other miscelaneas in my immediate neighborhood and probably a dozen or more on the way up the hill. Most of them seem to be part of or attached to their house. They all sell slightly different items, but the gist is the same. Its generally snacks, drinks and emergency food items like butter, oil and rice. They all have different atmospheres and I've only had bad experiences with one of them, which already has a reputation for not being the best. My bad experiences weren't even bad necessarily, more just weird and unlike my other interactions in my barrio. Lucky me, I have three others that I can go to whenever I'd like, which is nice for when one is closed, there's generally always another one to move on to. I prefer the one I talked about above, but I do like to support the other local businesses as well when I can.
For awhile, there was only one market in my barrio , some were farther down the mountain. They sell everything from potatoes to meat, also sporting a lot of the same items as miscelaneas. The prices are good, way better than the store for better quality food. Chicken so fresh you think it might have been killed and chopped up that morning, big potatoes for a great price. The only place I find the same quality items for cheaper is the central market, which at this point is far from where I live. My only problem is that its partway down a mountain, and its a bit of a long steep walk to get there.
About 2 weeks ago, when going down to town for some reason or another, we passed one of the many unfinished, in construction properties. The cool thing about Mexico is that people here dream big, even on a budget. There are several castle like properties on my hill that are half built, with just a room or two finished that are in constant construction. By this I mean that people seem to buy the building materials when they can, and build little by little, often one bag of cement at a time. As we passed this particular property, we noticed in the unfinished garage is a new market, just opened for business. From a glance I could see that they carried everything the other meat market does, but much closer, just at the end of my street. I went to visit and soon found that they have cheaper prices, and an extremely friendly owner who speaks a little english. Just two weeks ago, there was nothing like that in my immediate area, now there is. I go there often, and did so today in fact for some potatoes, eggs and butter. Everytime we drive by there now, everyone there smiles and waves. This is a great example of how free markets work, when there's a need here someone fills it, and it generally fills their needs as well.
One more thing I want to touch on about life in my barrio, and in the city in general here is the number of people on foot or motorcycles selling food. All over Acapulco at various times of the day you will hear either "BARRIIIOOOOOOOOO!!!" or just a guy going "OOOOOOO!" very loudly. These men and women walk all over the city with giant baskets full of food on their heads, selling everything from sweet bread to pizza. At my old apartment there were two guys that circulated our area three times a day, selling different things each time. I admire their strength and dedication. There are guys that drive around in cars with loudspeakers that announce "palates, con leche y chocolate y fresa y coco..." and so on and so forth. They are selling homemade popsicles out of their cars, often with their children with them to help. On my hill at least, and probably also all over the city there are guys riding motorcycles with coolers strapped to them filled with everything from tortas to tortillas. They just drive up and down, beeping to announce their presence and stop when someone yells after them.
I love the fact that there are very few beggars here, and the ones that are have reason to. I once saw a man with what looked to be a flesh eating disease on his leg asking for pesos for medicine, had I had some to give I probably would have, I could only offer a smile though. The people have a very entreprenuerial spirit here, especially the kids. I see kids and adults all over the city, selling all sorts of things to make money for their families. In the US, these people would be on food stamps and several other forms of government aid. Here people hustle and make it happen, and you can see that it works.
For me, as an anarcho-capitalist, Mexico and Acapulco have been extremely refreshing. The amount of activity, the drive to make something happen for yourself is huge here. The people understand that the only one responsible for their lives is them. I know many expats, especially American's are put off by people always trying to sell you things. Many find it annoying. I, however, find it amazing and have respect for them all, from the guys washing your windows at stoplights to the kids selling bread on the coastera. To me, this is one of the most beautiful aspects to this place and is a huge part of why I love living here so much.