16 July 2007

Los extranjeros invaden Jalisco/Foreigners invade Jalisco

State house (Jalisco)

The National Immigration Institute (INM) released figures earlier this week showing that Jalisco has more foreign-born residents than any other Mexican state except for Baja California. (Chihuahua, which like Baja California is also on the border, placed third in the survey. It wasn't mentioned if data from the Federal District were included.)

With booming expat enclaves in the Chapala Riviera and Puerto Vallarta - the latter area spills into neighboring Nayarit state - this news about foreigners in Jalisco shouldn't come as a surprise. The INM said 56,065 foreign-born residents live in the state, a figure that's probably low as many people arriving in Jalisco simply obtain a tourist card - if anything - and stay for less than six months.

Somewhat curiously, a story announcing the INM findings in the Mural newspaper (subscription required) stated:

"La Perla Tapatia [as Guadalajara is referred to] is now considered one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world."

Not so fast. Yes, Guadalajara is much less provincial than before, but locals still call it El Rancho Grande, in English: The Big Ranch. Many of the foreigners here, according to the INM, are studying in one of the seven local universities. But the city doesn't attract many expats that work and/or run businesses - spare some tech industry workers. (The average age of the foreign-born population is supposedly younger than the average Mexican, but this must simply reflect children born to Mexicans in the U.S. that now live down here.)

Foreign retirees now opt in much larger numbers to settle in the Lake Chapala area. (Take a look at the dwindling membership at the American Society of Jalisco if you don't believe me.) Adding to Chapala's appeal, it has an even better climate and less pollution than Guadalajara. Still, Guadalajara is one of the most livable big cities anywhere and tastes are becoming less conservative - even if the politics and social mores still tilt in that direction.

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