Mexico Gains As a Home for Gay U.S. Retirees
As baby boomers enter retirement, the American dream of spending carefree golden years in a tropical oasis has never seemed further out of reach. Faced with dwindling 401K accounts and rising health care costs, many must consider going back to work indefinitely instead of enjoying the final chapter of their lives. But a growing number of LGBT retirees are discovering an affordable alternative south of the border.
While the U.S. continues its war on illegal immigrants from Latin America, Mexico is embracing thousands of Americans each year providing a welcome jolt to the economy. With virtually free public health care, temperate climates, and endless opportunities for entrepreneurship, the appeal to U.S. retirees is no secret. Reports of escalating drug-related violence, however, have scared many from even visiting Mexico.
EDGE reached out to several expats who have made the move south, including adult film star and trans advocate Buck Angel. Angel, or the self-named "man with a pussy," broke boundaries in the U.S. by becoming the first trans man to appear in an all-male gay porn earning him countless accolades including "Transsexual Performer of the Year" at the AVN Awards, but grew weary of the government's crackdown on the adult entertainment industry. He applied for a Mexican visa five years ago, and has remained there ever since.
"The whole political climate really inspired me to get out of the States," Angel told EDGE. "Because my work is so intense, it is great to have a relaxing place I can go in between my work trips. It is perfect to have a haven here, which is very private, and affords me a lifestyle I could never have in the U.S."
Angel resides in Merida, a coastal community on the Yucatan Peninsula. For what he would have paid for a studio apartment in Los Angeles, Angel owns a property that he describes as a "private resort" -- complete with a guesthouse, pool house, separate office, and private gym. With his jet setting lifestyle, Angel employs a full-time domestic staff that takes care of his every need at a fraction of what it would cost him in the States.
"My life here is ridiculously luxurious," he confessed. "Never in my wildest dreams did I believe I could have the amazing lifestyle I have here. It is totally a champagne lifestyle on a beer budget. Everything from real estate and domestic help, to food and healthcare is extremely affordable."
Growing Number Take Advantage of Cheap & Good Healthcare
Though reports have portrayed the Mexican health care system as "third world," Angel claimed he has "never had better medical care in [his] life." Recovering from a recent hysterectomy, Angel said the Mexican doctors took time to keep him informed throughout the procedure. And he recommended that anyone in need of surgery should consider travelling to Mexico to escape the States' astronomical healthcare costs.
"You can pay for your trip and have a vacation for much less than just the medical bills in the U.S.," Angel said. "My private hospital room was like a deluxe hotel room, yet it cost less than plenty of hotels I've stayed in around the world. The doctors are absolutely phenomenal and take so much time to explain everything, like you're the only patient they have to deal with. This is so different from the impersonal attention I've received in the U.S."
As a transsexual, many doctors would refuse to operate on Angel in the States. Mexican doctors, on the other hand, have been nothing but "accepting, kind, and compassionate," he said. For that reason alone, Angel believes Mexico is an excellent option for LGBT retirees.
The community in Merida is surprisingly queer too, he added. Homophobia and hate crimes are virtually nonexistent and natives welcome the gay community with open arms.
"Merida is one of the gayest cities in all of Mexico," Angel said. "There is a large gay male expat community here. The locals are more on the down-low, but there are many guys cruising each other everywhere you go. It is absolutely safe for gay retirees, and a lot of older gay ex-pats have found that the daddy-boy thing is quite accepted here."
While Angel is aware of reports on ongoing drug violence, he thinks it's simply a matter of location. Crime may be increasing in border towns, he said, but there haven't been any drug-related deaths in Merida for several years. A strong police presence helps to keep the community safe for natives and tourists alike.
"Just like crime rates in the U.S., it depends on where you go," Angel said. "At first it was kind of shocking to see all of the police with big machine guns, but if you're not a criminal you have nothing to worry about. I'm glad they're there because they are keeping my area crime free. It is actually a lot like the 1950s in a way-mellow, no crime, and very family oriented."
Creaing an Expat Gay Retirement Community
On the other side of the country, Lou Kief and his life partner, Bill, are attempting to create a nonprofit retirement community for gay men in Guadalajara. The couple ran a successful retail space planning firm in San Francisco for years, but when the Reagan recession hit in the 1980s the two decided to take off on a five-year journey. After rehabilitating an old dilapidated sailboat, the couple sailed along the Pacific coast and fell in love with the culture and temperate climates of Mexico.
So when it came time to retire, deciding on a destination to spend the remainder of their lives together was easy. The couple first purchased a beach home in Manzanillo, but missed the social life that only a city can provide. Finding a thriving gay community and superior medical services in Guadalajara, the pair made the move to the bustling city after nearly eight years in Manzanillo.
Kief set his sights on a historical colonial home in central Guadalajara and quickly purchased it. After two years of renovations, the couple is enjoying their new life in the city, which Kief said is not much different from San Francisco besides in price. And the couple wants other gay men to experience the affordable alternative so they've purchased a modern office building with hopes to turn it into retirement home for gay seniors 60 and up.
"Many businesses assume that all gay people have tons of money," Kief told EDGE. "Unfortunately, this is not the case for an overwhelming number of gay seniors who are about to enter retirement and will depend mostly, if not entirely, on a small social security check to make it through the last parts of their lives. When you're young, you don't think you're ever going to need something like this. This last year was the realization that we're not too far off before we're going to need it ourselves. So we thought that we needed to give something back to the community."
Nestled in the heart of the city, Jubilación Guadalajara will offer gay seniors "five star living, and personalized care," including fine dining and bilingual concierge service to a local health care facility. Prices in the eight-story building will start at around $115,000 and include monthly condominium fees. When renovations are complete, the retirement home will offer patrons large common areas, a restaurant and lounge, rooftop wellness center with exercise equipment and spa, and an underground parking garage.
Kief predicts that Jubilación will open its doors in the next few years, but the retirement community has already attracted attention on social networking sites. The Facebook page is averaging nearly 400 hits a day and several retirees have already expressed interest in making the investment.