A Month in Patzcuaro – Expatriates

There are no official figures published showing the number of expatriates living in Patzcuaro, full-time or part-time, although when asked, most resident expats guess with a number ranging between 150 and 200. Some foreigners live here full-time, others share their life’s spaces between...

Colonial Rooftops in Patzcuaro, Mexico

There are no official figures published showing the number of expatriates living in Patzcuaro, full-time or part-time, although when asked, most resident expats guess with a number ranging between 150 and 200.  Some foreigners live here full-time, others share their life’s spaces between their home country and Patzcuaro, as circumstances may allow.  Most are of US and Canadian origin, although there is a small contingent of Europeans here, too.

Michelle Roos is from the United States; she has lived in Mexico for three years and made Patzcuaro her full-time home for two of those three.  Michelle is the founder and creator of, which fronts a company she established to enable people to get to know Patzcuaro and its Lakeside Villages, with particular attention given to the matter of sustainable tourism.   Her website is a most excellent resource for people interested in Patzcuaro, as it covers eco and leisure travel and also purveys local knowledge and useful gateways for people who want to rent or buy property in the town.   Her direct experience of living, working and investing in Patzcuaro is reflected in the information published on her website: Michelle purchased a property here in Patzcuaro a couple of years ago; an old ruin near the center of town that has now been transformed into a beautiful and very comfortable colonial home.   As a direct result of her exceptional talents, which instinctively connect people with opportunities, coupled with the sheer hard work and efforts she has made to promote this town she holds so dear, Michelle is widely known and highly regarded in Patzcuaro by the expat community as well as many local businesses involved in travel and real estate.  She is a sterling example of a foreigner who came to Mexico and made a real contribution to the community where she chose to settle.   Life situations change, and Michelle is moving back to the States to be with and marry her fiancée.

Fred, Megan and their two children, are one of Patzcuaro’s longest-standing expatriate families living in Patzcuaro.   They arrived from the USA together with a baby and young toddler, to setup a company which designs, manufactures and exports very fine, top-of-the-range furniture.  Fifteen years on, their thriving business, Copper Instincts, a manufacturing enterprise that sources all its raw materials from around Patzcuaro, continues to thrive and demonstrates how Mexico’s rich natural resources, coupled with foreign expertise and contacts – and a huge amount of tenacity – can be combined to create a productive and fruitful work-life in Mexico.  Their two children, now fourteen and eighteen years old, are fully-bilingual as they grew up and studied in the local schools here.  Their parent’s entrepreneurial endeavors bequeathed them a unique and culturally diverse childhood experience; their eldest son is returning to the States to begin a university course next year.

Many of the expats connected with this town are artists, writers or in some way connected with the art world.

Patzcuaro’s finest art exhibition, which is on permanent display, is also Patzcuaro’s finest hotel.  Gemma Macouzet and Didier Dorval are fine artists and musicians with roots and connections in Canada and France.   The couple arrived in Patzcuaro one day, with the intention of purchasing some some textiles, before moving to Paris.  They instantly fell in love with this ancient highland town, and instead of going to Paris, they purchased a property which is also a national monument: Casa de la Real Aduana.  The property, which was in an advanced state of disrepair, took over two years to restore working with a team of thirteen full-time workers on-site.   The outcome is nothing short of magnificent; the attention to precise detail is clearly evident and exquisite; and although the couple created an impressive website to show off the space, the property must be visited to be truly appreciated.  Today, Casa de la Real Aduana is one of Mexico’s finest boutique hotels; small and intimate offering just five uniquely defined rooms: the beautifully restored and decorated chambers offer the utmost of luxury, convenience and comfort and each one is complimented with original works of fine art and antique furniture.   Using their artistic and musical connections, the owners often host concerts at the property; this last weekend two of Russia’s finest musicians: the cellist Tania Anisimva and Lydia Frumkin, a fine pianist and acclaimed piano professor, performed a breath-taking concert in the presence of a small, intimate, audience of around forty people.   Gemma and Didier are passionate about their art, their music, and Patzcuaro.  Their unequivocal commitment is a leading example of how talented expatriates, attracted by Patzcuaro’s character and charm, are helping to develop and transform this highland town.

Dan and Becky Brawner are Americans living and working between Nashville and Patzcuaro.  Dan is a professor of art and Becky is a freelance graphic designer.   They discovered Patzcuaro a small few years ago and decided to purchase and restore a property which they now enjoy for part of the year, and offer as a vacation rental at other times.  The home in Patzcuaro, which was once an old, run-down workshop, is situated amidst an authentic Mexican neighborhood just three blocks from the center of town.  Beautifully designed, built, and decorated, the property reflects the owners’ artistic passions as well as strengths in their professional fields.   Like many expats living here part-time, Dan and Becky would love to make Patzcuaro their principal home, although their lives and work commitments in the States prevent them, for now, from a full-time move to Mexico.

Bart Hrast, a surfer and photographer, is a relatively new expat resident in Patzcuaro and has opened an art gallery at #5 Buena Vista street, less than a block away from the basilica.  His gallery features a diverse range of artworks and photographic prints, providing an outlet and focal point for local and expatriate artists to exhibit, promote and sell their art.  If you come to visit Patzcuaro for a while, you will soon be presented with an opportunity to attend an art exhibition at Bart’s gallery, the local cultural center, or Mistongo, a gallery and restaurant-bar, situated at #4 Dr Coss street, around the corner from the Plaza Grande.  The art-related events which take place regularly here provide you with an opportunity to meet other expats and local artists, to socialize, and to browse the artwork on offer.

One of the key challenges for foreigners who are not retired but who have a desire to live in a town like Patzcuaro, is the question about how to earn a living in Mexico.  Fred and Megan brought their expertise and started a company that harnesses local resources and exports an exceptionally high-quality, hand-crafted, product to customers overseas; their business model tapped into a perennial issue that faces Mexico now: the country does not lack natural resources, but it reveals a gaping – and constant – expertise gap, which they bridged in their chosen work space.  However, most expatriates who come to live and work in Mexico will end up earning their crust by working in some kind of ‘knowledge’ field: working freelance in Mexico under contract to firms which may be based here in Mexico, but more often overseas, or as employees of their own ‘knowledge-economy’ company.

Some of the younger expats who have settled in Patzcuaro are making an investment with a view to full-time retirement in Mexico.  For now, they enjoy living in Patzcuaro part-time, while renting out their homes when they cannot be here.  Patzcuaro also attracts a significant number of ‘snow birds’: people who flee from harsh winter climates to more temperate environments here in Mexico, usually for three to six months of the year.  If you want to rent a house in Patzcuaro, or similar towns popular with people who overwinter in Mexico, you’ll need to make your plans ahead of time as the homes, like Casa Espejo which your writer is occupying for his month’s stay, book up quickly and you’re less likely to find a ‘last minute’ rental here between November and April.

Continued: A Month in Patzcuaro – Property

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