Gringos for Trump: an unlikely cohort of American expats fuel support in Mexico

Gringos for Trump: an unlikely cohort of American expats fuel support in Mexico

Most of the American expatriate enclave in Mexico lean left in their politics, but a small group say the Republican candidate is just misunderstood

Ed and Karen Cage fly the Mexican flag outside their home in the hills aboveLake Chapala. Speaking to their maid or fellow worshipers at the local church, the two septuagenarians make an effort to use their halting Spanish. And they both profess a deep love for Mexico, where they have lived for eight years and hope to attain permanent resident status.

We love the people and the culture, said Karen Cage, whose business card reads, Retired in paradise.

But the Texan couple actively support a US presidential candidate who has stirred outrage and disgust in their adopted country. They also back his proposals to build a border wall, rip up the Nafta trade pact and deport undocumented Mexicans.

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Dadgummit! They broke the law coming in and they took American jobs, said Ed Cage, while sipping Tecate and considering the merits of Donald Trump. I want the wall built!

The Cages are among an unlikely cohort of voters in the 2016 elections you might call them Gringos for Trump. Its a group whose size is hard to gauge; most Americans in this expatriate enclave are active Democrats or at least lean left in their politics.

But with an estimated one million US citizens living in Mexico a large portion of whom are retirees it is perhaps inevitable that some should support a candidate whose campaign has been built on the vilification of the country.

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Opinions of Trump tend to range between the skeptical and the unprintable in Mexico, where his rise is described as the biggest threat to the country since the Mexican-American war.

Many Mexicans still seethe with outrage that their own president invited the Republican candidate to Mexico, then stood meekly beside him at a joint press conference.

But according to the few Trump supporters willing to speak on the record all of whom speak in superlatives of their adopted country and its people Mexicans simply misunderstand the real-estate mogul.

The Lake Chapala Society is a magnet for the 15,000 Americans and Canadians living in the area around Ajijic, Mexico. Photograph: MCT/MCT via Getty Images

Trump loves Mexico. He loves Mexicans. He employs Mexicans, said Karen Cage, a retired television journalist. He simply wants everyone to enter [the United States] legal.

Like other Trump supporters, the Cages see no contradiction in residing in a corner of the country marked by outward migration, while endorsing Trumps description of Mexican migrants as rapists and robbers. Nor do they say any inconsistency with their own obvious affection for Mexico, and Trumps accusation that the country of sending its worst people into the US.

Hes right. If they were the best, they would be employed, have a family and have no reason to leave, said a 10-year expat from Texas, who asked to give his opinions on Trump anonymously, saying: Its not safe.

Others arent so shy, but blame negative images of Trump on the Mexican media.

Their government and their news media has hammered them with how bad Trump is going to be for them, said Bernie Metcalf, a physician from Arizona. He too expresses a deep affection for the Mexican people, despite supporting Trump. Theyre the kindest people in the world, he said. Theyre profoundly resourceful.

An estimated 20,000 expats live in Lakeside during the winter high season half of them America, half Canadian attracted by the spring-like climate, charming villages and cheap property and healthcare. More recently, living costs for such foreigners have been driven down even further as the prospect of a Trump presidency has caused the Mexican peso to sink.

The weather is superb. The people are profoundly decent. The cost of living is fabulous, said Metcalf.

But as the US election inches closer, politics is becoming harder to avoid. Some clubs and social gatherings have banned discussions of the presidential race to keep the peace. All the same, those who stay silent during heated discussions are suspected to be closet Trump supporters.

Some Mexicans at Lakeside also prefer to refrain from passing comment on Trump at least publicly to avoid alienating American customers.

There are people here who like living in Mexico, but dont really like Mexicans, said one taxi driver.

The foreign impact is acutely felt in Lakeside, where many Mexicans speak passable English often learned on previous stints working in the United States.

I tell my customers: If you were not here, Id be living in the United States, said Agustn Vzquez, owner of a popular restaurant, who has six siblings living in California.

He says outward migration has slowed since 2000 around the same time the foreign population started exploding as locals found work closer to home.

But others foresee an increase in business if Trump wins especially if those aghast at the prospect of a Trump presidency make good on promises to move abroad after the election.

We expect more Americans to move down here if he wins, said Winston Tortajada, owner of a local moving company, who isnt excited by the prospect of the increased business. If Trump wins, our economy is going to get worse.

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