Monday, December 30, 2013

Expat Financial Advice: In the U$ Dollar We Trust (original post)

This article from December 30, 2013 has been relocated.

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Saturday, December 28, 2013

The New Allure of Uruguay: Legalization of Marijuana (original post)

This article from December 28, 2013 has been reposted

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Mexican Cuisine Gets Its Comeuppance

article from November 23, 2010
by Julie R Butler

Mexico’s food is finally getting its due, reports Tim Johnson of McClatchy Newspapers. ¡Órale!

According to the article, culinary experts say that “diners sometimes fail to appreciate the richness of a cuisine with vast regional variation and use of aromatic herbs and plants, nothing like the cheesy nachos and brittle tacos many Americans eat at restaurants.”

I’m no expert, but I have been saying this for years. The food I ate while in Mexico was astoundingly different from what is served up at countless restaurants across the United States, starting with a bowl of fish soup that I tried, even though I am not a big fan of fish soup, upon arriving at the Sea of Cortez for the first time ever just north of Santa Rosalía in Baja California. It was my first taste of how full of wonderful surprises Mexico could be.

And I will never forget that chicken with mole poblano I had somewhere along the Gulf of Tehuantepec one sweltering evening, sitting inside the front part of someone’s house that served as a small restaurant. Mmm – mole... I had heard about mole from a Mexican woman who explained to me with relish (no, not that kind of relish) how complicated and time consuming the mole sauce is to make, so I had to try it. Basic mole contains several types of chilies, nuts and seeds, tomatoes, Mexican chocolate, and spices such as cinnamon. Different fruits and many other ingredients that are often closely guarded secrets are added. Describing the flavor is like trying to describe what music sounds like to a deaf person – think William Hurt in Children of a Lesser God. Mmm – William Hurt...

Another fond memory I have is of the fish fillet a la Veracruzana that I had to try while we were in the state of Veracruz, in a little Mexican resort town on the Gulf Coast. It is an Italian-style tomato sauce with olive oil, garlic, onions, bay leaf, capers, and sometimes olives.

One of the biggest differences between the food in Mexico and what is served in the States is the cheese. Mexican cheese is either crumbly and somewhat salty, to be used sparingly, or something more like Jack or mozzarella cheese that melts better. And rather than the sour cream that gringos assume should be dolloped over everything (which is not to say that the stuff is not available at the store), heavy cream might make an appearance on the table.

Another difference is that the sauces are far more refined than what is served in the states. Different regions, of course, all have their specialties. And the point of all the different chilies is, for the most part, not to provide the hottest burn, but to endow their distinctive flavors.

So, while the impression of Mexicans is that everything tends to be over-the-top, as in giant hats and bushy bigotes (mustaches) and flashy clothes and exaggerated drama, underneath this boisterous imagery, there is plenty of room for variety and refinement and exquisite taste sensations.

Julie R Butler is a writer, journalist, editor, and author of several books, including Nine Months in Uruguay and No Stranger To Strange Lands (click here for more info). She is a contributor to Speakout at,
and her current blog is Connectively Speaking
email: julierbutler [at] yahoo [dot] com, Twitter: @JulieRButler

Coming Face to Face with Poverty

article from December 6, 2010
by Julie R Butler

There is a little-talked-about aspect of living in Latin America, and that is poverty. We can all appreciate the fact that the cost of living is lower throughout the region, but along with this advantage comes the sadness of poverty, and it is something that we must all come to terms with in our own ways.

Sad slums covering the hillsides at the edges of cities; park benches occupied by grungy individuals; smells of open sewage wafting up from somewhere nearby; scruffy children sent begging by their parents - these are just a few examples of what poverty looks like. No matter what kind of lifestyle one lives, whether in a resort area or in a regular neighborhood amidst locals, in a large city or out in the countryside, hiring maids and other workers who come to your house or not, expats will at some point find themselves dealing with certain factors related to the fact that there is poverty around them, whether they want to face this reality or not.

The main factor that affects all expats is perception. The sounds of our accents give us away, if not the soft glow of a Norse complexion, towering height, sporty North Face gear, or any of the other tale-tell signs that we can’t help but emit. Regardless of how humble we may think we appear, we are still perceived as being wealthy Northerners; and therefore, we will be targeted for theft and approached for handouts.

One must always be aware of the possibility of theft. Even if you think you have nothing to be stolen, it could end up being your bath towel or your flip-flops that go missing. Getting robbed is never pleasant, regardless of how petty the theft, as it is always an invasion of your privacy. But just as there is a perception that all Yanquis are wealthy and tend to have more stuff than seems necessary, we Yanquis have to put the potential of loss into perspective and find a balance between being wary and being paranoid.

There is also the cultural consideration that “privacy” does not carry much weight in some places, particularly in rural areas and close-knit neighborhoods, where neighbors are very open with each other and being approachable is a very important part of everyday life. What is called the “coconut telegraph” in the Caribbean is a powerful force throughout Latin America, so just remember that anyone who comes to your house will talk to others, and your ability to maintain friendly and respectful attitudes toward everyone in the local community will make a big difference in their reciprocal attitudes.

The automatic perception of wealth also makes us the targets of beggars, hustlers, and even people we come in contact with such as house cleaners and neighbors who will ask us for money. Of course, each individual situation will be different. My point here is to simply raise the issue as something to consider carefully, because your initial kindheartedness can lead to more and more outstretched hands, and the situation can potentially become overwhelming. Once again, the matter requires balance and perspective. There is a balance between feeling compassion for others and recognizing limits in your capacity to give. Consider  your actions in light of your being there for the longer term, instead of letting the emotional impulses of a newcomer take hold. Get creative. If you begin to feel put-upon by beggars, for example, you could offer them some food as an alternative.

When you come to a developing nation in order to live a different lifestyle, it is up to you to contend with the poverty you will encounter and the issues connected with poverty in a realistic way. So be prepared to look inside your heart to find the answers that make the most sense to you in your new life.

Julie R Butler is a writer, journalist, editor, and author of several books, including Nine Months in Uruguay and No Stranger To Strange Lands (click here for more info). She is a contributor to Speakout at, and her current blog is Connectively Speaking
email: julierbutler [at] yahoo [dot] com, Twitter: @JulieRButler

Che: The Expat Who Should Have Stayed Home

article from November 24, 2010
By Jamie Douglas
Much has been written about the infamous Ernesto Che Guevara. No doubt, many of you have seen the film, The Motorcycle Diaries, which is the story of two friends on the ultimate road trip through South America. Some of you may have even seen the epic film, Che, which is in two parts, and is about four and a half hours long. It chronicles the transformation of a young idealist into a ruthless dictatorial military ruler, who personally executed an unknown number of enemies. None of them ever received a fair trial... to which Che is said to have responded, “What do you expect? This is a revolution!”
While encountering untold misery and oppression on his journeys throughout the Americas, it was in Mexico where the young idealist first hooked up with Raoul, and then later with his brother, Fidel. And it was in Mexico City where they hatched the plan to liberate Cuba’s oppressed legions.

The Cuban dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista y Zaldívar was deep in the pockets of the mafia, as well as those of US politicians and corporations. The struggle to unseat Batista caused thousands of people to lose their lives. But after the ultimate victory, it was Che who ruthlessly executed, or had executed, all former political rivals, some of whom no doubt deserved to be punished. Che’s motto was that the revolution needed guns and blood.
While setting out originally to do good for the poor, oppressed peasants and natives of Peru, Guatemala and Cuba, I wonder what helped Che to overlook the abysmal conditions of the indigenous populations in his native Argentina, who were living in abject poverty, neglect by the Argentine government.
From the attempted genocide of the War of the Desert conducted by the “heroic” General Rocha, which killed most of the indigenous population, and then the systematic assignment of all the land that had then been declared to be conquered territories to members of the winning army, in huge tracts covering most of the Pampas and Patagonia, Argentina's indigenous people were truly marginalized.
What if, after his successful campaign against illiteracy and the lack of medical care in Cuba; what if, instead of going to Africa, causing untold misery, and then to Bolivia, where the people he was trying to help considered him and the Cuban mercenaries to be an evil foreign influence that was going to lead them to large-scale destruction; what if Che had chosen a different destiny?
I spent quite a bit of time during the 1980s with the Bolivian “Indians” in the Altiplano, as well as in the area around and south of Santa Cruz, and found them to be a very unique culture – hard working, set in their traditional ways and not feeling oppressed, at that time. They lived the way that their ancestors had. My Grandfather had made a similar expedition in the 1920s, also taking photographs, quite an undertaking in those days, and we compared notes before he passed away. The best we could tell, nothing much had changed. The Bolivians still lived their “primitive” lives, their cheeks always bulging with the leaves of the coca plant to supplement their energy. I can see how they did not like these foreigners coming in, bringing trouble. They were not ready for a revolution.
What if Che Guevara had instead returned to Argentina, where, to this day, the Mapuches are fighting for their little piece of land where they can live in peace and freedom to practice their ancient cultural customs? Maybe he could have done some good in his homeland, before his inevitable demise, and he would be famous in today’s Argentina for having been a Freedom Fighter for his own native people, the Mapuches, the Tehuelches, the Guaraní in the north, helping them to get access to health care and education, and the return of some of their ancestral lands, which are now owned by The Benetton Family, Ted Turner, George Soros and others who need 200,000 hectares and lakes and streams so they can fish in peace.

Yeah, what if?
Jamie Douglas
At large in South America

I encourage you to write me at cruzansailor [at] gmail [dot] com with any questions or suggestions you may have. Disclaimer: I am not in any travel-related business. My advice is based on my own experiences and is free of charge (Donations welcome). It is always my pleasure to act as a beneficial counselor to those who are seekers of the next adventure.

The Mayan Ruins of Copán, Honduras

Article from December 2, 2010
By Jamie Douglas

My favorite thing to do while visiting Guatemala is to head over to Honduras to experience the wonders of Copán. There, you will find, in this writer’s opinion, the greatest of all Mesoamerican cultural treasures. Copán is one of the most important Mayan centers, with its large number of stelae (historical stone carvings), the Acropolis, a Mayan ballcourt, and the huge Hieroglyphic Stairway.

The Copán Museum of Sculpture, at the entrance to the site, will take your breath away. Many treasures that were previously subject to weathering and plunder (a persistent problem at the site) are now safely protected there, and a magnificent temple from inside one of the pyramids has been completely reconstructed in the open-air center.

The site is open to visitors year round, and I recommend you take a guided tour at least once, and then go roam around on your own. You will still see deer, rabbits, and monkeys on the grounds, as well as scarlet macaws. Replicas of the stelae stand in their original places, and the jungle is constantly being trimmed back. During my many visits there, I was intrigued by the amount of unexcavated ruins all around the park grounds. The city was quite large, compared to what exists today, but a portion of the site was washed away by the river before it was rerouted.

The little town of Copán Ruinas is quite charming and has a few good restaurants and pizza joints, as well as some comfortable hotels. While in town, as well as at the ruins, little children will offer you mini-reproductions of various things you will see in the park and museum. They are made of gypsum, sometimes of stone, and make for very affordable and portable souvenirs while helping the local economy out.

The best way to get there is to book a tour from Antigua, the best place to base yourself in Guatemala, that leaves early in the morning and gets you back late at night; but I would really recommend at least 2-3 days so you can get to know more about the place. The border crossing from Guatemala has minimal formalities for those leaving and re-entering to visit Copán. Be sure to make arrangements with your mini-bus operator in advance, if you plan on staying overnight. For the really adventurous, you can take buses on your own, but this writer does not recommend that, as some parts in the countryside of Guatemala are still best visited in organized tours.

Just remember that this is tropical jungle, and the daytime temperatures can be very hot and sticky. However, nighttime temperatures are quite comfortable, and the town is relatively safe for visitors.

The entire journey is filled with wonderful sights and sounds. And no matter what time of year you decide to go (November to April is verano, or summer, with less rain and cooler temperatures), you are in for an experience of a lifetime.

Jamie Douglas
At large in South America

All photos by Jamie Douglas

I encourage you to write me at cruzansailor [at] gmail [dot] com with any questions or suggestions you may have. Disclaimer: I am not in any travel-related business. My advice is based on my own experiences and is free of charge (Donations welcome). It is always my pleasure to act as a beneficial counselor to those who are seekers of the next adventure.

Learning Spanish: Get In the Groove

article from November 23, 2010
by Julie R Butler
Learning Spanish will enhance your life immensely in Latin America, even though you can often get by without it. But don’t put off learning on the assumption that immersion will make it happen when you can get further ahead of the game before you leave the States. Whether you are taking Spanish language courses or not, there are several other ways to get in the groove.
Spanish language television offers a variety of programming that helps to accustom your ear to the flow of the language. Choose whatever will interest you, whether you are a news hound, you love Animal Planet, or you have a passion for soap operas. I have to say that I have found the dubbed narrators of documentary-type shows such as National Geographic to speak the most clearly and carefully. But, again, pick something that will hold your interest for the best results.

My favorite method is watching movies that are in Spanish with English subtitles. Also, most DVDs have Spanish subtitle options, so you can make a lesson out of sitting back with a bowl of popcorn and the wonderful world of Netflix.
I have often heard the claim that Latin Americans learned their excellent English by watching soap operas or other television shows in English with Spanish subtitles, and one young woman we met said she learned all her English from the Simpsons. Now, I do not recommend watching the Simpsons dubbed in Spanish as a learning tool because the voices are ridiculous, they have to speak very fast to keep up, and it is all very distracting. On the other hand, even though I’m not fond of dubbing in general, there is some value to watching a beloved movie or show that you are already quite familiar with to pick up on phrases and vocabulary.
As for reading, comic books are what people always seem to recommend. But they are full of slang that is not terribly useful for navigating normal, everyday life. Newspapers are helpful, where pictures and context aid in the battle to understand. However, you may not be too keen on the very graphic photos of auto accidents that are usually included, and I’m not sure how important it is to know the seemingly 101 euphemisms for dying that accompany them. What I found to be the most helpful in the early stages of my learning were children’s books and literature for young adults that you are already familiar with (Harry Potter, capaz?).
Of course, anything with an English translation available is also very helpful. I have discovered that articles about Latin American culture, history, people, and other such topics that appear on Wikipidia in English have often been translated from the Spanish language version of Wikipidia, so going back and forth between the two can be enlightening.
The point is to jump in and make some kind of effort, the more enjoyable the better. Every little bit helps.
Julie R Butler is a writer, journalist, editor, and author of several books, including Nine Months in Uruguay and No Stranger To Strange Lands (click here for more info). She is a contributor to Speakout at, and her current blog is Connectively Speaking
email: julierbutler [at] yahoo [dot] com, Twitter: @JulieRButler

More Financial Advice for Expats and Potential Expats

article from November 28, 2010
By Jamie Douglas

Some you may have read the original piece I wrote on Nov 22, dealing with renting vs. buying when relocating to a Latin American country. Well, it started a lively discussion between those who sell real estate in various parts of Latin America and others who are considering making the leap to foreign shores. I did mention that in spite of the United States printing money day and night, it was still safer to hold on to the US$ than pretty much anything else. The reason is because everything in this global economy is interconnected, and if the US$ finally tanks, so will all other currencies.

The only safe heaven will be in “useful” commodities, of which silver seems to be way ahead of the curve. I researched one of the world’s largest currency traders, and spent hours recovering data, using the arbitrary date of February 4, 2008, when things were still smoking hot, as a baseline. I then compared this to the data from Friday, November 26, 2010.

The countries are listed alphabetically, and the three most important commodities follow at the bottom. I also included a few European currencies such as Iceland to show what lies in store for those who still believe that Milton Friedman was a genius. The influence of the Chicago School of Economics has been devastating on the world’s economies, and it was their alumni who destroyed Iceland’s economy with greed and capitalism without a conscience, as preached by Ayn Rand and her fanatical followers.

Country                US$ Loss or Gain against local currency

Argentina              + 24.74%
Bolivia                   - 8.83%

Brazil                     - 1.20%
Chile                     + 3.70%
Colombia               - 2.50%
Costa Rica             + 1.19%
El Salvador            Fixed at 8.75
Euro                      + 11.2%
Guatemala             + 3.63%
Honduras               - 1.9%
Iceland                   + 78.74%
Jamaica                  + 18.57%
Mexico                    + 15.47%
Nicaragua               + 13.9%
Norway*                 + 13.1%
Paraguay                - .698%
Peru                       - 4.9%
Switzerland*           - 8.07%
Uruguay                 - 6.12%

Platinum                + 6.983%
Gold                      +50.62%
Silver                     +58.64%

*I Included Switzerland and Norway because I received an irate letter from a reader suggesting that the only two currencies worth holding are the Swiss Franc (Yes) and the Norwegian Kroner (No). Norway’s oil boom is about coming to an end, and social spending there is bankrupting the country.

Panama and Ecuador use the US$, and Venezuela is in such disorder that I am not going to get into it.

So you see, the US$ is holding its own, with small fluctuations, against most Latin American currencies. The gain against the Argentine peso is mostly due to inflation in that country.

Now a small piece of advice for those of you who own your own home or property in the US and Canada that is way under water, to where you will never recover your investment, and every payment you make is money that could be used on your potential move south. Consider that when you move away from the United States, your credit worthiness is meaningless. These are cash societies that function very well without 30-year mortgages and eight-year car loans for a Hummer. Hold a fire sale, sell everything you own, head to the destination of your choice, and start life anew. There are good schools in most countries, ATMs are spreading, high-speed Internet access is everywhere (You should see where I am writing this from!), and if you do your legwork, you can find excellent medical care that is affordable, even without insurance. Remember, you only live once, so stop suffering and start living your life.

Looking for further advice? Contact me. Been there, done that – all over the world.

Jamie Douglas
At large in South America

I encourage you to write me at cruzansailor [at] gmail [dot] com with any questions or suggestions you may have. Disclaimer: I am not in any travel-related business. My advice is based on my own experiences and is free of charge (Donations welcome). It is always my pleasure to act as a beneficial counselor to those who are seekers of the next adventure.

Trout Fishing in the Americas

article from November 25, 2010
Not by Richard Brautigan
Lago Epuyén (photo by Jamie Douglas)
North America’s rivers offer some of the best trout fishing in the world! But did you know that Argentina’s rivers and lakes also have some fabulous opportunities for sportsmen and women to catch the big ones? I am talking trout of 9-15 pounds that put up a valiant fight. Patagonia’s many lakes and rivers are full of trout, and there are many guides and outfitters that will gladly take you to their favorite spots. The best viewing we had recently was on the shores of Lago Epuyén, just an hour or so south of El Bolsón.
We went to the shore last fall to take pictures and pick mushrooms. As soon as we arrived, the caretaker of the rustic campground came out to greet us ( but not to hustle us for anything), inviting us out to the pier. He had a bucket of “slop” – mostly bread and water – with him. First, he stood on the dock and clapped his hands a few times. Within a few minutes, he pointed out the fish in the crystal clear waters, and my jaw dropped. I had never seen trout of this size.

Our new friend started throwing handfuls of the slop into the water, and the feeding frenzy that ensued reminded me very much of Amazonia, where the vaqueros sacrificed the weakest in the herd to the voracious Piranhas a little downriver from where they intended to ford with their cattle and horses. As soon as the cow was herded into the water, hundreds of piranhas attacked, and within 10-15 minutes there was literally just a skeleton on a sandbank picked so clean, you would have thought that it had been there for months. Strangely enough, attacks on humans are rare, as are attacks by trout on humans in Patagonia.
From northern Patagonia all the way to Tierra del Fuego, on both the Argentine and Chilean side of the border, there are hundreds of lakes and streams where one can enjoy a peaceful and undisturbed day or week practicing the fine art of fly-fishing. The rivers run year round, and unless there has just been a major period of bad weather, the streams are crystal clear. For those who are adventurous, camping is a great option, as long as good care is taken with the fire built for cooking your delicious dinner. The best time is from late November until April. For those wanting a little more comfort, there are cabins available in many places, and no area is ever over-occupied. Accommodations range from the frugal to the luxurious, with or without meals, and most places will be happy to prepare your catch.

Fishing licenses are obligatory and can be obtained in many places at a very reasonable price.
One thing to remember is that if you go to Chile, you have to buy the reciprocal visa to that which the US charges Chileans, about $135 at this writing (November 2010). Once you pay for that, it is good for as long as your passport is valid. Argentina just recently adopted the same requirements for US citizens arriving at the Ezeiza International Airport. These rules apply to US citizens and Canadians. Citizens of the EU and Switzerland are exempt.

Happy fishing!
Find information on the website's "Sporting Fishing" page. This is from the English page on El Bolsón: “It is embedded in a picturesque and colourful mountain valley that ends up in the Puelo lake.”
Jamie Douglas
At large in South America

I encourage you to write me at cruzansailor [at] gmail [dot] com with any questions or suggestions you may have. Disclaimer: I am not in any travel-related business. My advice is based on my own experiences and is free of charge (Donations welcome). It is always my pleasure to act as a beneficial counselor to those who are seekers of the next adventure.

Basic Financial Advice for New Expats

article from November 22, 2010
By Jamie Douglas
In my travels and communications with folks who are thinking of relocating outside of their country, I have found that there are many sources of advice as well as many opportunities to get taken to the cleaners by unscrupulous operators.
In a previous article, I offered the choices of renting vs. buying in a foreign land. I can assure you that when you get to your destination and go to the places where expats meet for coffee and croissants on a weekly basis, there will always be people there who are looking to make a buck off you. Everyone has a deal, from that condo near the beach, to those high-yield, short-term investments, and of course there's that coffee plantation that will pay for itself in 3 years. (Why are they selling the golden cow?) You will also find many other new arrivals who have been there for a few months and may know a little more than you.

As for your cash on hand, always carry what you think you will spend along with a debit card from your bank. There are ATMs wherever there is a bank where you can extract needed funds.
There is absolutely no need to transfer your money into the country you are in just because they are offering better interest rates on US dollars. When all is said and done, you will have exposed your funds to much greater risk for very little gain. In many instances, the capital gains taxes on interest are very high, and in some instances, the banks simply don’t have the money to give to you when you want to make that withdrawal to buy a car or a house: Come back tomorrow, or the next day.
Then there is the constant uncertainty of devaluation. (Not that the US$ has done so great lately.) And who would have thought that the euro, the currency  that the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffet – you know, the one who said that derivatives were toxic and then lost billions on them – and George Soros, as well as Sandy Weil’s Citigroup and many others said was the safe-haven for the wealthy, would suddenly be on the verge of extinction?
But not to worry. As long as the US cotton farmers produce that special cotton that is made into that special denim, which is made into paper to make US banknotes, and the treasury does not run out of ink, there will be fresh crisp new dollar bills injected into the economy, and with few exceptions, the US dollar has been relatively stable in Latin America since the last Mexican and Argentinean meltdowns.
Hold on to your money, in US dollars or Swiss francs (CHF), and be frugal, because with the current economic situation and all the false hope being spread by the bankers and governments worldwide, we don’t really know what will happen. If anything, silver has outperformed just about every other commodity. But then again, when things go south, it’s unlikely that your local grocer will sell you meat for silver – or gold, for that matter.
So, when you go to your Wednesday morning coffee klatch with your fellow expats, just let them know your Social Security is barely covering your living expenses, and you will soon find the true friends that we all need – and you will still have your money at the end of the month.
Jamie Douglas
At large in South America

I encourage you to write me at cruzansailor [at] gmail [dot] com with any questions or suggestions you may have. Disclaimer: I am not in any travel-related business. My advice is based on my own experiences and is free of charge (Donations welcome). It is always my pleasure to act as a beneficial counselor to those who are seekers of the next adventure.

New Expat Housing: Rent or Buy?

article from November 18, 2010
By Jamie Douglas
So you want to become an expat! No matter the reason or where you come from, the most important thing is housing. So what are you to do when you are finally ready to make the big leap into the great unknown? Should you contact real estate agents at your chosen destination?  Look at online classifieds in publications?  Rent or buy?
Here are some of my experiences over that last 40 years. I have lived in countless countries and always rented. I had mostly great experiences and a couple that were only good. The worst were in the USA, where apparently landlords believe that that the security deposit is theirs to keep, no matter what, when they know you are leaving the country.

On the other hand, when the washer or water heater check out, I call the landlord, and generally speaking, things get fixed quickly. And that is just one advantage. The other is mobility. If the location does not live up to your expectations, you are much more free to move on.
So you go to – let’s say – Parador, where there is a large expat community, and everything is hunky-dory, until the Army decides to suspend the constitution and declares martial law. Chances are, of course, the CIA and United Fruit or some mining company had something to do with that, and Yanquis and Gringos are not very popular at the moment. Now you are confronted with two choices: Stay and risk everything, including your life, or bail out on the last flight leaving Parador, which is already overbooked with the former corrupt  government officials trying to flee the country along with your fellow expats.  I speak from experience here, and not just once!

If you rented, you sacrifice your household goods and walk away – with a minimum loss.
If you bought land or a house, you are now completely on your own, and selling your dream-become-nightmare will not be so easy because the other 7,000 expats are trying to sell as well, and some are willing to take centavos on the dollar just to get out, thereby  depressing the market tremendously – that is, assuming that the new Maximum Leader has not decided to nationalize your lovely coffee plantation and adjoining vineyard, which you put so much time and dedication and all of your and your investors’ money into.

And if you bought into a gated community, don’t forget that the friendly man in the pseudo-police uniform never really could stand all the rich foreigners and locals who lived behind their walled compounds, and he won’t be there to keep looters and kidnappers out.

The army and police will be either decimated or busy establishing themselves in positions of importance. Everywhere you look, the graffiti on wall says “GRINGOS FUERA DE SAN VINCENTE!” And of course, there will be the usual chorus of peasants: "Parador’s lands are for Paradoreños!" 

So now what do you do? Stay and fight like in the Wild West Movies – bad, bad idea – or get packing – great idea, as you can always come back later when things calm down? And don’t worry about your caretakers. They will squat on the land and then claim it as their own.
So, my suggestion is to RENT until you get to know the place pretty well, make local friends, blend in, and don’t flash your wealth.  If, after a year or two, you feel comfortable, and you have that absolute need to want to fix your own appliances, roof and anything else that will definitely go wrong, you now have a great circle of local acquaintances who will know who wants to sell what, you can hire a local attorney of repute (again your local friends will gladly help you) and you can save yourself a bundle of money, all the while making new friends and actually getting to know your neighbors.

Jamie Douglas
At large in South America

I encourage you to write me at cruzansailor [at] gmail [dot] com with any questions or suggestions you may have. Disclaimer: I am not in any travel-related business. My advice is based on my own experiences and is free of charge (Donations welcome). It is always my pleasure to act as a beneficial counselor to those who are seekers of the next adventure.