The ‘Americanization’ of Mexico

New English-language journal takes advantage of the growing population of U.S. expatriates living south of the border

Los Angeles Times

MEXICO CITY — The signs are unmistakable: an NFL game at Azteca Stadium, soaring land prices from Ensenada to Merida and a Starbucks infestation of the swanky Polanco neighborhood.

Though most U.S. residents are aware of the growing “Latinization” of the United States, a parallel phenomenon is taking place on the other side of the border. Already, at least half a million U.S. expatriates and long-term visitors make their homes in Mexico (plus another half-million Canadians). That number will soar as millions of retired baby boomers stampede south in the coming decades, remaking the cultural landscape in their own image.

Yet one thing this exile community has conspicuously lacked, until now, is a major English-language print journal to call its own. A handful of English-language newspapers and magazines from the United States are available here, including The New York Times and the Miami Herald’s international edition. But Mexico’s oldest, most visible niche English publication, the 53-year-old tabloid-style News, folded four years ago and hasn’t fully been replaced.

That situation surprised Margot Lee Shetterly, 37, and her husband, Aran Shetterly, when the couple began scoping out a blueprint for Inside Mexico, the free, English-language monthly newspaper they launched last November.

“We were frankly surprised at the numbers, for the sheer size of the market,” says Margot Shetterly, the company’s president and managing editor, who like her husband never had worked for a newspaper before. “This is the kind of opportunity that comes along only once in a lifetime.”

The couple seem determined to make the most of their singular chance.

Working out of their home in the fin de siecle Roma neighborhood with a core staff of eight, evenly divided between U.S. residents and Mexicans, they’ve produced a lively, attractive, 40-page gazette that offers something for both first-time sightseers as well as gringos who’ve gone fully native.

Unlike other past or present English-language papers, Inside Mexico targets ex-pats as much as casual tourists and businesspeople. And its feature-y writing style and emphasis on the arts, culture and lifestyles rather than hard news is more redolent of magazines than newspapers.

The print run of 20,000 is distributed at coffee shops, hotels and other touristy venues. But it’s also being distributed in expatriate haunts and major beach resorts around the country. The couple also plan to open a radio station and have started distributing a weekly newsletter, the Tip, which goes out to 10,000 readers. Their Web site (http://www.insidemex.com/) also is attracting thousands of hits.

Heavy on profiles, features about cultural happenings and guides to the city’s hot bars and restaurants, Inside Mexico takes some of its style cues from urban magazines such as “New York.” But the Shetterlys, who write for the paper when they’re not running it, say their true editorial model is the Village Voice or the Chicago Reader.

To that end, they vow that they will tackle hard-news topics such as Mexico’s rampant drug-related violence and the real-estate scams that have afflicted some U.S. retirees in search of a Baja or Puerto Vallarta dream house.

“We may want to be an established presence … before we take too many risks,” says Aran, who holds the titles of the paper’s editor in chief and CEO.

It all fits the Shetterlys’ can-do, let’s-put-on-a-show-in-a-barn approach to their work and shared life adventure. Aran, a rural Maine native, says he honed a passion for Latin culture while living in Cuba to research a book on William Morgan, an Ohioan who fought in the Cuban Revolution but had a falling-out with the revolutionary leadership and was executed in 1961.

Margot parlayed a University of Virginia degree in finance into jobs on Wall Street and at an HBO Web site. Then came Sept. 11, 2001. Three months later, the Web site was closed and Margot was off on a year-and-a-half sojourn that took her to Brazil, Venezuela and Belize. She and Aran met while working at a New York software company. “We’ve both done a little bit of everything,” Margot says.
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