As the granddaughter of a former Chief of the US-Mexico Border, it is no small irony that I, along with my retired firefighter hubby and our eight-year-old twins–burnt out on the consumerism-centric, rat race grind of life in Southern California–would immigrate to Mexico to create our lives anew.
Departing from San Diego with nothing but a car and trailer full of the “essential belongings” that remained after selling, donating and tossing the rest, we headed South!
Shortly after our arrival to San Pancho, Nayarit, we received our Permanent Residents cards–having begun the process stateside at our local Mexican Consulate and with the assistance of a highly reputable, Puerto Vallarta-based legal liaison.
A DNA Kind of Love
From a very early age, perhaps even encoded in my genetics, I have had a deep love and respect for Mexico–her people, food and music…her allure and absolute reverence for community, history and tradition.
I often joke that if former lives exist, I was a salsa dancing latina in mine!
Growing up just a half an hour away from the San Diego-Tijuana Border gifted me a bilingual/bicultural upbringing and thus an ability to move easily between both worlds. Speaking in both Spanish and English at school, work and play has always been my norm.
And without a doubt, my relationship with my Grandfather was one of the most significant influences in my love of and connection to Mexico.
Grandpa, A.K.A. “Big Joe”~Chief of Us-Mexico Border
Always dressed impeccably in his signature crisp-collared Oxford shirt, ironed slacks and shined leather shoes–no matter the occasion–my “Big Joe” (as we affectionately referred to him) was a humble, bright, witty gentleman with no time or concern for nonsense. He was as tough as nails and lived his life to the fullest until the age of 94.
He adored me, and I him.
A Living History Book
Sitting in his living room overlooking Mission Bay, he would speak to me of his many adventures, of his life on our family’s dairy farm in Chula Vista, of the beautiful horses in his care, and how at the age of 14 he left his home to become a cowboy on the last rancho that spanned the US-American border.
Family historians state that he was the “Paul Revere of Chula Vista” by warning the Otay Valley on horseback of impending rain that ultimately ended up bursting the Sweetwater Dam.
I would listen in awe, taking mental notes of these precious conversations, knowing that I was bearing witness to a living history book.
We would drive down to Rosarito Beach on weekends for an early dinner at El Nido and I would marvel with pride and joy at my Grandfather’s ability to conduct himself so eloquently in both languages and cultures. Sitting in front of the open, wood-fired oven where quail and lobster tails would cook, my Grandpa turned the ordinary into magic.
His affinity for conversation, charisma, thoughtful ways and sharp sense of humor made for a dynamic mixture that simply attracted people to him. It felt good to be in his company and I was lucky enough to be his granddaughter.
Although my Grandfather passed before I began my teaching career, I know that he would have been so very proud that I had chosen to go into a line of work that shares the beauty of the Spanish language and culture with the youth of today.
My Grandmothers Mary & Elizabeth also had their own fair share of South of The Border Shenanigans and their stories were nothing short of hilariously entertaining–truly like something out of an I Love Lucy Show! This picture is of the two of them (in the middle) on a day’s outing in Tijuana…I can imagine the laughter!
Crossing The Us-Mexico Border
It comes to me as no great surprise that we find ourselves in a time when more and more people want to move to Mexico, looking not just for an escape from “politics” that defy reason and common decency, but for a reinvented, reinspired life where adventure is affordable and time and freedom are your most precious commodities.
Life in Mexico WAKES you up from whatever slumber you might have previously found yourself in, RESETS your outlook and REMINDS you that true, mindful, engaged living results from paying attention and participating in a life of design.
I thank my beloved Grandfather for setting the bar high, for leading by example and showing me a love and respect for Mexico that is forever imprinted in my heart and has forever changed the trajectory of my life.
Mi Querido México, thank you for taking my family in, for welcoming us with open arms. These past eight years have been one heck of an adventure and we are better people for it.
Looking for an excellent read on US-Mexico Border Relations? Vanishing Frontiers: The Forces Driving Mexico and The United States Together
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