The other Mexican immigration

The Americans are moving to Baja.

"Slowly but surely, acre by acre, Mexico's Baja Peninsula is becoming an American colony.

"'For Sale' signs are sprouting all over the 800-mile-long peninsula, offering thousands of beachfront properties. Americans are snapping them up. They have already created communities where the dollar is the local currency, English the main language and Americans the new immigrants transforming an old culture.

". . .This new land rush, involving billions of dollars, tens of thousands of Americans, and hundreds of miles of coastline, is gaining speed despite the fact that Mexico's Constitution bars foreigners from directly owning land by the sea.

"Mexico's government wants foreign capital as much as Americans want a house on the beach — maybe more. So it worked around the Constitution. In 1997, it changed the law to allow foreign ownership through locally administered land trusts. A Mexican bank acts as trustee, the foreigner its beneficiary.

"It took about four years before that new system worked smoothly. But now, most often, it does. One result has been a boom in migration, speculation and permanent vacation.

". . .Baja is closer by land and air to the United States than it is to the rest of Mexico; state officials recorded more than 30 million trips by Americans who spent well over $1 billion last year. They say they have no idea how many Americans are living in Baja today, because a certain number are illegal immigrants who never register their presence. Anecdotal and statistical evidence suggests that the number is more than 100,000. . . .

"At least 600,000 Americans — again, an acknowledged undercount based on government records — are permanent residents of Mexico. That is by far the largest number of United States citizens living in any foreign country."

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