By Kathleen Peddicord | U.S. News
Durango, Mexico, is an amenity-rich city with great infrastructure, a welcoming population and a very affordable real estate market. The low cost of living is complimented by the dollar’s strength versus the Mexican peso.
The weather is ideal for many retirees. Skies are clear blue and nights are cool, making for great sleeping. This is a clean city whose well-kept streets are lined by buildings and structures more reminiscent of old Europe than Latin America.
Durango could well be one of the best places to retire in Mexico that you’ve never heard of. You could own a home here for less than $100,000 or an apartment for around $20,000.
Durango is a fresh, bustling, modern city in a dramatic mountain setting. Nestled in a high valley in Mexico’s pine-studded Western Sierra Madre range, the scene is like something out of the Old West. In fact, between 1954 and 2004, more than 140 Hollywood movies were filmed in the mountains, valleys and deserts surrounding Durango, including Westerns featuring John Wayne, Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas and Steve McQueen. Some non-Westerns have also been filmed in the area including “Ben Hur,” “Dr. Zhivago,” “Star Wars” and “Pirates of the Caribbean.” A handful of these old movie sets are still standing, including John Wayne’s personal set.
Just 600 miles from the Texas border, Durango is an energetic city with a youthful, university vibe. The historic colonial central market is bustling, and cowboys and ranchers are a regular part of the city scene.
Calle Constitución, a newly converted pedestrian-only area, is home to trendy cafés, shops, bars and clubs. This is a center of activity where city residents take advantage of the great year-round weather to meander the length of the walkway, stop to look over a vendor’s wares, watch the street musicians and enjoy dessert in one of the pastry shops or cafés.
At the corner of Calle Constitución and Avenida 20 de Noviembre, in front of the city’s stately 17th-century cathedral, is Durango’s central town plaza. This is a popular spot that serves as the social hub for the downtown areas.West along Avenida 20 de Noviembre is a series of well-kept neighborhoods, whose small streets and cobblestoned alleyways hide more restaurants, coffee shops and bars. Menus feature everything from sushi to rich, local Duranguense specialties. Continue in the westward direction and you reach Los Remedios, a neighborhood on a hill with sweeping views and some of the city’s best real estate buys.Go east from Calle Constitución and you find more practical offerings, including the 200-year-old central market offering everything from tomatoes to bridles and saddles, a large modern supermarket, department stores and even a Sears store.Mexico is home to more than a million Americans and a half-million Canadians in dozens of expat-dominated locations across the country. As a result, life here could be seen as a middle ground between living in the United States and retirement in a more Latin culture such as Brazil or Chile. It can be difficult to find a city in Mexico offering full amenities whose culture has not been affected by foreign tourists or a large American population. But that’s exactly what is on offer in Durango. This is a city where you can enjoy the local culture without worrying about gringo pricing or negative stereotypes.
The lifestyle and cost of living in this undiscovered city are hard to beat. However, while retirement in Mexico can be a dream for many people, life in a place like Durango is not for everyone.
Here are some of the advantages of retirement in Durango:
- Fair pricing. In many resort or expat areas, visitors are subject to gringo pricing, where expats are charged more than locals for the same item, but this is less likely to happen in a less touristy city like Durango.
- Fewer negative American stereotypes. Negative stereotypes sometimes develop in places that are home to big expat communities, but a place like Durango sees fewer American visitors.
- The Mexican culture is rich and genuine. The area is unaffected by a large foreign presence.
- Real estate is fairly priced in pesos. U.S. dollar holders have a price advantage due to the favorable exchange rate.
- The cost of living is much lower than in other parts of Mexico. You won’t pay the inflated prices Americans face in cities with big foreign retirement communities.
- Genuine friendships with locals. Relationships with locals are easier to form when you’re the only foreigner around. It’s more difficult to meet locals outside the service sector when you’re part of a large foreign community.
On the other hand, here are some disadvantages of retirement in Durango:
- Everyone speaks Spanish. You will have difficultly living in Durango if you can’t speak and understand Spanish. On the upside, your Spanish will improve quickly and dramatically.
- The amenities are not what North Americans are used to. Most Americans won’t find the amenities as comfortable as they are in expat and tourism centers. For example, you’ll find fewer American-standard fine dining venues in Durango than you will in nearby Mazatlán.
- Don’t expect to celebrate American holidays. Thanksgiving, July 4th and Labor Day are not official holidays in Mexico, and you’ll find few compatriots to celebrate them with you. However, you will discover many new Mexican holidays and fiestas.
- Few direct flights to the U.S. Direct flight service to the U.S. is better in the tourist and expat destinations. International flights to and from Durango connect through Mexico City.