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Spinal Surgery in Mexico Success! From Wheelchair to Walking

“Sometimes we encounter things that profoundly change our outlook on life and when it happens, it doesn’t matter that former joys have lost their allure or that our foundations have been shaken. All we know is that the walls we’ve built around ourselves have crumbled into dust. All we know is that our unsatisfied yearnings no longer throb inside us and something restorative is taking place deep inside our souls… ~Will Kautz

It is nothing short of a modern miracle and a testament to the strength of the human body that I underwent and survived two major surgeries in less than six months. The skills of each of the specialists, together with my undeniable grit and gumption, saw me through one of the more difficult years of my life and returned to me the gift of function without debilitating pain or partial paralysis.

To say that I am grateful is an understatement. 

I had a history of back challenges with a fracture at 17 years of age that together with the demands of competitive sports and a twin pregnancy with a 60-pound weight gain…collectively rendered me in need of some serious TLC and repair at the age of 45. 

I had done all the “right things”—chiropractic care, deep tissue massages, physical therapy, acupuncture, rest, ice, heat, a prayer that the pain would go away…and sometimes it would. Most of the time, I just dealt with it, brushed it off as part of my reality and hoped for a better, more pain-free tomorrow and always the ability to continue my active lifestyle. 

No guts, no glory

The whole “no guts, no glory” mentality has carried me through life and in my physical prowess I have found the stronger, never-give-up, courageous parts of myself.

This time, however, I was knocked down for the count. 

Practicing yoga in our home in San Miguel, I felt a searing pain down the left side of my body, never imagining that I had just herniated two of my discs. Collapsing to the floor and calling out for my husband in agonizing pain, I knew that there was no amount of strong will nor determination that was going to get me back up on my feet.

Unable to move nor stand unassisted, my husband and a wheelchair were my only forms of movement and transportation prior to my surgery.

I hoped and prayed with all my might that the doctors would successfully repair my spine so that I would not be sentenced for the rest of my earthly years to a chair. I refused to accept that reality.

Spinal Surgery in Mexico Success! From Wheelchair to Walking

2 herniated discs, left side paralysis and awaiting my MRI

Flat out on a hospital bed in central Mexico like a turtle on its back, I have never felt so helpless and (almost) defeated. The streams of tears flowed without restraint as I lay with eyes closed, not believing the surreal reality I found myself in. There is no dignity in semi-paralysis, peeing in a pan or bed baths. I refused to accept that as my long-term reality. 

The night before my surgery, I laid in my hospital room–alone, in great pain, and without my family. Frank needed to hold down the fort back at home in San Miguel and continue our normal life routine as much as possible for our twins. I am eternally grateful to all of our friends that stepped up and helped us out while I was unavailable. Thank you.

Spinal Surgery in Mexico Success! From Wheelchair to Walking

Waiting, night before surgery

Laying there in the dark and cold and solace of the night, I was in and out of a pain-induced trance of sorts, experiencing some truly powerful revelations about myself and my life…about balance and honoring oneself first–like the airline safety instructions of putting on your own oxygen mask first.

Silver lining, lemonade out of lemons.

My God and I got to spend some one-on-one, quality time together…He and I have always been together since I was a little girl, like the Sclemeel, Schlemazel, Hasenfeffer Incorporated song of the good ol’ Laverne and Shirley Sitcom that I so loved as a kid. Connected at the hip, He and I, always present in my little girl heart.

Making Our Dreams Come True:

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.
Sclemeel, schlemazel, hasenfeffer incorporated.
We’re gonna do it!

Give us any chance, we’ll take it.
Give us any rule, we’ll break it.
We’re gonna make our dreams come true.
Doin’ it our way.

Nothin’s gonna turn us back now,
Straight ahead and on the track now.
We’re gonna make our dreams come true,
Doin’ it our way.

There is nothing we won’t try,
Never heard the word impossible.
This time there’s no stopping us.
We’re gonna do it.

On your mark, get set, and go now,
Got a dream and we just know now,
We’re gonna make our dream come true.
And we’ll do it our way, yes our way.
Make all our dreams come true,
And do it our way, yes our way,
Make all our dreams come true
For me and you.

I knew what lay ahead of me and that I had to put my big girl panties on and confront it with determination and courage. That was my only option. That was the only reality I would entertain…getting to the other side—out of the wheelchair, functioning and enjoying my life again with my family and friends. 

During what ultimately ended up being a six-hour surgery, Dr. Salvador Galvan completely removed my L3 L4 and replaced it with a 12 mm silicone prosthetic spacer. My L4-L5 was so severely damaged that it was just a matter of time before it failed, so it was fortified it with a 10mm spacer. Apparently the trauma to my spine was so severe that I lost over three times the amount of blood that is normally lost during one of these surgeries. No doubt that was part of my recovery challenge.

Spinal Surgery in Mexico Success! From Wheelchair to Walking

First Steps. Power of The Polka-Dot-Pajamas!

Surgery Success

My surgery was on a Tuesday morning and come Wednesday night I took my first assisted steps. By Thursday I was able to take my first unassisted ones and be discharged home.

I had a road ahead of me, taking one step at a time. Walking back and forth to the bathroom, taking a shower and being able to stand long enough to brush my hair and teeth were huge accomplishments. Poco a poco, I got there, back to a newer, improved, and “bionic” version of my former self, with my family right by my side cheering me along and literally and figuratively picking me up when I would fall.

My running, kickboxing and horseback riding days are a thing of the past, but I have learned a new “new”. I can walk, dance, trot, stretch, yoga, swim and live a very fulfilling existence with 90% mobility and minimal pain. My limp is gone, cane thrown away and joy and gratitude forever imprinted in my heart. Looking at me, you’d never imagine the scars behind the clothes. We all have them, I just choose to speak about some of mine in the hopes that by bearing my story, I am helping someone else out there. 

Several of my nurses questioned why I didn’t return to the States for my surgeries where the medicine is “more modern”.

“Because Mexico is my home”, I told them each, This is where my heart is, where my family is, where my life is.”

Mi Querido Mexico, I love you.

I want to express my extreme and eternal gratitude to Dra. Rosario my physical therapist, to Dr. Salvador Galvan my neurosurgeon, to Dr. Paolo my pain specialist and to all of the nurses and operating room staff at Hospital Santiago de Querétero. You will forever be my earth angels.

Spinal Surgery in Mexico Success! From Wheelchair to Walking

Me & Dr. Salvador Galvan, Discharge 3 Days after Spinal Surgery

The gift of walking and of health is not to be taken for granted, ever.

May we all pause to give thanks for the many blessings in our lives. They are there.

Peace & Health to you all….

~Katie

For more on healthcare in Mexico:

Surgery in Mexico~A Tale of Survival

Post-Surgery Pain Management in Mexico

Carbon Monoxide: The Silent, Odorless, Tasteless Killer

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Only in Mexico"...Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

Even after six years as a permanent resident of Mexico, there are certain things about our lives here–some of the cultural and regional norms and facets of day-to-day living–that still cause me to pause, laugh, or even gasp in intrigue and bewilderment. 

Take for example:

1. Three lanes on a two-lane highway

"Only in Mexico"...Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

Navigating oneself on the highways often feels like a game of Russian roulette, as there seems to be a nebulous middle lane, created and bordered by nothing more than the driver’s risk-taking spirit and willingness to tempt fate.

Riding as a passenger usually has me alternating between holding my breath and blurting out various unladylike profanities as an attempt to distract myself and make the ride as tolerable as possible.

You can imagine how much my husband Frank loves this when he’s behind the wheel!

2. Ice Cream, Knife Sharpener or Trash Truck?

I wasn’t too sure at first if the loud, clanging noise was the ice cream vendor, the knife sharpener (he actually blows a whistle) or what, until I asked a nearby shop owner who informed me that it was the trash truck—on its way down a narrow, one-way, cobblestone street with pedestrians on both sides.

Stand back!

3. From Farm to Market

A walk through a tianguisan outdoor market filled with a potpourri of every imaginable regional fruit, vegetable, handmade craft and meat—certainly leaves no doubt as to the origin and same-day-freshness of the carne asada tacos you might find yourself eating at one of the many open-air stalls–likely having been delivered that very morning from a nearby rancho.

"Only in Mexico"...Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

Tuesday Market, San Miguel de Allende

If you are accustomed to purchasing your t-bone steak or chicken bits all cleaned up, trimmed and nicely packaged–or if you are a vegan–prepare yourself for a bit of a surprise while meandering through one of these vibrant and dynamic markets.

It is not uncommon to see an entire cow or pig head sitting on the corner of a butcher’s stand, along with various other parts of the animal that in the States are normally discarded and not necessarily considered edible, let alone desirable to look at on full display. 

"Only in Mexico"...Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

Cabeza (Cow Head) Tacos

 

"Only in Mexico"...Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

Refrigeration? Arrive early!

When I took my Mom through the mercado during one of her visits with us, she was quite startled to come face-to-face with a large cow’s head, eyeballs and all, sans the skin. I suppose if one were playing with the idea of veganism, a walk through a tianguis just might seal the deal. For carnivores, it is an important reminder to support farmers who are raising their animals in the most ethical conditions possible.

4. Consume Today or Let Ripen

It’s the small things in life…

Many thanks to the supermarkets for separating their avocados into consumo para hoy (consume today) and a para madurar (let ripen) piles.  Also, when going into a Mom & Pop’s frutería, you might have to ask for the avocados as they are usually behind the counter, hidden away and protected from public fondling.

"Only in Mexico"...Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

Consume Today/Let Ripen

5. Round and Round The Glorieta We Go

Glorietas…those perplexing roundabout traffic circles that serve as an intersection for oncoming vehicles from all four different directions, often converging at the same time. If you are not careful, alert and prepared as you enter this whirlpool of automobiles, you just might find yourself getting stuck, going around and around, like on a spin toy at a child’s playground, feverishly trying to calculate the right moment to jump off and get out!

I have learned that I must enter the glorietas with confidence, ready to kick ass and take on the fast and furious obstacle-like course of oncoming cars, trucks and motorcycles. I do find myself holding my breath until I have successfully exited the glorieta and am, hopefully, headed in the right direction! 

"Only in Mexico"...Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

Round and Round

6. The Mysteries of A Left-Turn Signal

It is not safe to assume that a blinking left turn signal means that a left turn is about to be executed by the driver in front. Quite the contrary, it often means “go ahead, it is safe to pass me now—on the left”.

However, don’t assume that either, for a pass on the left, when in fact a left turn is in the making can be a risky assumption. Additionally, in Mexico, it is common road etiquette to pull to the right-hand side, before making a left turn.

Are you following all of this?

Keep in mind too, while you are mentally and tactically navigating the road conditions, that there are often burros, cows, horses and dogs on the shoulders that one must avoid for both their safety and yours.

Similar to the dynamics of a glorieta, stay alert, aware of your surroundings and able to respond quickly and safely!

"Only in Mexico"...Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

Decisions

7. Metric, Who?

Algebra and metric conversions, admittedly, are not my strong suit. Fahrenheit to celsius, inches to cm, kilos instead of pounds…it’s enough to make a girl dizzy!

Upon my first few trips to the local butchers, I held my breath, wide-eyed, waiting to see what the two kilos of salchicha that I had just ordered would amount to. Fortunate for me, my family loves Mexican sausages and over four pounds of them could easily fit into our fridge and freezer!

Time to get to work and study this helpful chart!

"Only in Mexico"...Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

Photo Credit: K5 Learning Blog

8. Translate with Caution

"Only in Mexico"...Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

Jerck Beef

9. Where There’s a Will…

Determined, resourceful, ingenious, skillful are all adjectives I would freely use to describe the Mexican people. Whether it is reusing, reconfiguring and repurposing or coming up with the most interesting ways to assign function and form to something that might otherwise be thrown out or thought impossible, the Mexican ingenuity truly embodies the “where there’s a will, there’s a way” expression.

During one of my morning walks around Parque Benito Juarez, I saw this woman in the photo below balancing what appeared to be a very heavy load on her head, navigating her way down the slippery cobblestone streets in flip flops! Impressive indeed!

"Only in Mexico"...Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

Determination & Will

10. Is That Side Mirror Really Necessary?

To avoid collisions and keep your side mirror intact as part of your car, pull it in on narrow, cobblestone streets. Trust me, you’ll be happy you did if you deem it a necessary part of your car.

"Only in Mexico"...Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

11. Hard-Working Burros

In many parts of México, burros are used for field work, transportation and delivery. It is not uncommon to be out and about and come across a pair of them hard at work.

"Only in Mexico"...Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

Knock-Knock, Special Delivery!

12. A Different Kind of Saint

One morning after dropping our twins off at school, Frank stopped by the tortillería to pick up a medio kilo of flour tortillas. Next door was a small furniture store that had this little treasure on display out in front:

"Only in Mexico"...Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

Art Is in The Eye of The Beholder

I’m sure you can use your imagination to to guess what this darling little saint statue looked like from behind. I’m thinking the creator of this treasure had a laugh or two.

13. Pig on A Leash

This was a first.

"Only in Mexico"...Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

As seen in El Jardín

14. Trampoline on Third Floor Terraza

Yes, and yikes! No playdates for my kids at this house!

"Only in Mexico"...Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

Life Without Safety Nets

While not an exhaustive list, these are some of the more noteworthy sightings and experiences I have had in these past 6 years. I am grateful that I get to live in a country that keeps my senses alive and teaches me to take things in stride. 

Have you ever experienced or witnessed something in Mexico that has made you wonder, pause, or question in fascination, confusion, amusement, and gratitude?  

I would love to hear about it in the comments section below!

Saludos,

~Katie

Last but not least, today’s Spanish Lesson:

The Spanish Teacher in me just can’t help herself! You will notice that many of the words throughout this article are cognates–words that sound alike or are possibly spelled exactly alike as their English counterpart. Another reason that Spanish is one of the easiest languages to learn—truly!

1. Carretera: highway

2. Tianguis: open-air market

3. Centro: center

4. Mercado: market

5. Consumo para hoy: consume today

6. Para Madurar: need to ripen

7. Frutería: fruit shop

8. Glorieta: roundabout

9. Salchicha: sausage

10. Tortillería: tortilla shop

11. Medio: half

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All photos taken by Katie M. O’Grady

© Katie M. O’Grady @ Los O’Gradys in Mexico, 2012-2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts, photos and links may be used, provided that permission is granted and full and clear credit is given to Katie M. O’Grady @ Los O’Gradys in Mexico with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

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Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

Thanks to creating a radical change in our family’s lives, we no longer live under this paradigm of life in a 21st-century modern society.

I can remember being STUCK in traffic—more often than not—anxiously and impatiently tapping my fingers on the steering wheel, moving along inch by inch, so fed up with that being the “norm”, knowing in my heart that it didn’t have to be and feeling so READY for a change.  

The picture above represents so much of what we were ready to eliminate in our lives—breathing in exhaust fumes, missing out on active, joyful engagement in life because we were on hold in a sea of cars. That was not how we wanted to spend our valuable, once-in-a-lifetime time. I would take pictures from the dashboard of my car to the hundreds of bumpers in front and send them to my husband with the message, “One thing I will NOT miss”.

And I don’t, not one little bit. 

Immigration to Mexico

Since immigrating to Mexico in 2012, we have gone from daily traffic congestion and the frequent witnessing of road rage to driving on jungle roads and 16th-century cobblestone streets. We have traded in mind-numbing, lost hours in the car to engagement in other, far more meaningful activities of our choice. 

If one of my jobs as a Mother is to support and nurture the emotional well-being and development of my children, then moving to Mexico has been one great step in supporting that endeavor.

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

Freedom and Horses in San Pancho, Nayarit

 

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

A Dream Birthday Party!

We immigrated to mainland Mexico when our twins were eight years old, during the middle of their third-grade year. Within three months of our arrival, we became Permanent Residents of Mexico. The process went rather smoothly for us because we did our homework prior to our move and had all of our required paperwork in order. Patience, planning and having the right legal liaison were in our favor as well. (*for a referral in the Puerto Vallarta and San Miguel areas, feel free to PM me)

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

Arrival in LA Bay and ready for some tacos!

Baja California

Our twins were seasoned Mexico travelers prior to our move, having spent the first eight years of their lives adventuring back and forth between San Diego and Baja California. Frank’s firefighter schedule and my school teacher’s allowed us blocks of time off together as a family and we took full advantage of them to head South!

Mairead and Liam fondly referred to their Baja home as their “other home” and Mexico forever became ingrained in their hearts as a place of fun, discovery and family connection. 

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

Adventuring in Baja, 2006

 

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

Baja Babies! Bahia de Los Angeles~2008

Departure Day

Aside from the inevitable emotion of parting ways with loved ones, our move and the preparations leading up to our departure from San Diego were relatively seamless in the sense that it was meant to be and something we collectively were all on the same page about and ready for

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

Saying our goodbyes to my Mom at San Diego airport~2012

We arrived in San Pancho on a Friday, and that following Monday our formerly homeschooled twins began their first ever five-day-a-week program at Escuela del Mundo. Surrounded by tropical trees and open green space, our children experienced freedom and discovery like never before.

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

1st day at Escuela del Mundo

While the Spanish immersion component of their new school was a bit of an initial challenge for The Reds, they transitioned and acclimated rather quickly, having been exposed to Spanish in a border city the first eight years of their life. Even without those language advantages, we all know how sponge-like children’s brains are, and if given the opportunity, they are able to assimilate and adapt with great ease. I do believe they were the only ‘Mairead’ and ‘Liam’ their classmates had ever met, but their new friends and teachers warmly accepted them and made great efforts at learning and pronouncing their unique, Celtic names.

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

Liam making new friends at Escuela del Mundo~2012

From San Pancho to Sayulita

After Escuela del Mundo in San Pancho, they went to Costa Verde International in Sayulita, Nayarit—a neighboring village just 10 minutes down the main jungle road, famous for its bohemian, surfing culture. Moving to another school was indeed another change and adjustment for our children, but one that they embraced wholeheartedly with the amazing, trusting, positive attitudes that they approach most things in life with.

Located a few blocks from the beach, Costa Verde is a bilingual, multi-cultural school that focuses on environmental sustainability and the advancement of ecological responsibility in Mexico…and surfing! In fact, it was part of their PE program!

Mairead and Liam continued to explore, discover and develop their own sense of community and connection within the larger context of their family’s move and immigration to Mexico. Their language skills progressed and improved to where at this point, a year or so into our move, they could flip back and forth between English and Spanish with great ease.

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

4th Grade at Costa Verde, Sayulita

From Coastal Mexico to Central Mexico

After a year and a half of coastal jungle living, we were ready to experience another part of Mexico and set our compasses on something completely different. Sight unseen but with lots of research, we chose San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato in the interior of the country—the birthplace of Miguel Ignacio Allende, one of the leaders of the insurgent army during Mexico’s War of Independence. San Miguel de Allende was the first municipality to be declared independent from Spanish rule, and as such, life here is steeped in history, culture, national pride and one festivity after another

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

La Parroquía, San Miguel de Allende

 

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

School field trip to Cañada de la Boca!

Our children are developing their mental and physical capacities in a loving, nurturing and intellectually stimulating environment of freedom and growth, with two hands-on parents who are no longer trying to keep their heads above water in the rat race.

A Life Without Limits

They see a life without limits, that anything is possible, that dreams do come true, that carving one’s own way in this diverse world is not just possible, but doable. Our children have witnessed their parents reinvent themselves from teacher and firefighter to Writer/Relocation Consultant and Photovoltaic Designer. They have gone from being monolingual homeschoolers to bilingual life learners of this world, interacting and learning with not only Mexican Nationals but also with many other adventure-driven families from various parts of this globe.

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

My son Liam volunteering at a rural school outside of San Miguel de Allende

Immigrating to Mexico with Children~A Mother’s Perspective

Immigrating to Mexico with Children~A Mother’s Perspective

From San Diego to Mexico, we embrace our re-invented, re-inspired lives south of the border and give thanks daily for Mexico and her people’s warmth, hospitality, graciousness, and generosity…for welcoming and adopting us O’Gradys and allowing us to feel at home in our new land.

May the adventures continue!

~Katie

From Mr. O’Grady: Moving to Mexico with Children, A Father’s Perspective

*Please protect yourselves and your loved ones with carbon monoxide detectors for both home and travel safety: Kiddie

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*We only recommend products and services we’ve spent our own money on and love! This article contains some affiliate links for products we use. If we haven’t spent our own money on it and given it an O’Grady’s thumbs up, we don’t recommend it.

 

 

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A California Cowgirl Giddies Up: Blessing Of The Horses, San Miguel de Allende

As a horse-crazy girl growing up in Southern California, I spent my weekends at the barn and my summers at Rawhide Ranch refining my lassoing and barrel racing techniques.

“Pigtailed Cowgirl” was my go-to Halloween costume, complete with a western hat, boots and the biggest belt buckle my jeans could support.

Barbies and dolls never held my interest. Riding, grooming, cleaning stalls and tack did.

A California Cowgirl Giddies Up: Blessing Of The Horses, San Miguel de Allende

My Brother & Me, Rawhide Ranch, Blessing of The Horses

Studies, travel, my career, and various other life ambitions took me away from horses until 2014 when I moved to central Mexico with my family.

Thanks to my lucky shamrocks I had the opportunity to participate in the ultimate equine experience of my life–The Blessing of The Horses–an annual central Mexico pilgrimage that convenes at The Parroquía of San Miguel de Allende.

While my emergency spinal surgery was a success and I was not sentenced to a wheelchair for the rest of my earthly existence, little did I know that this ride would be my last.

Heading out atop Guerrero (Warrior), a 17-hand black Friesian, into the desert plains of central Guanajuato, 

A California Cowgirl Giddies Up: Blessing Of The Horses, San Miguel de Allende

traversing the trails and sometimes no trails at all, we met up with many other groups of riders from the surrounding communities on our way to El Jardín, the town center of San Miguel de Allende.

A California Cowgirl Giddies Up: Blessing Of The Horses, San Miguel de Allende

 

A California Cowgirl Giddies Up: Blessing Of The Horses, San Miguel de Allende

I was so mesmerized by the totality of the experience that I did not notice the low-lying tree branch just inches in front of my head. With no time to duck, it ripped my hat right off and brought it tumbling down to the muddy ground below. Fortunately, it landed to the side of the puddle, and even better than that, the spikey branch spared my face.

Upon rounding the corner of the train tracks, I was greeted by the sight of hundreds of riders that had all joined together, some who had made the trek from bordering cities and states, for the procession up Canal Street into the main plaza.

A California Cowgirl Giddies Up: Blessing Of The Horses, San Miguel de Allende

I was one of a very small handful of female riders in a sea of cowboys and my face hurt by the day’s end from all of the ear-to-ear smiling!

I know my Grandpa Joe was smiling down from heaven, seeing his granddaughter out there in Central Mexico, atop this extraordinary, high-stepping gelding into a 16th-century colonial town amidst hundreds of cowboys and spectators, living my life in Spanish, in Mexico!

A California Cowgirl Giddies Up: Blessing Of The Horses, San Miguel de Allende

The procession didn’t begin without first a cleansing downpour from the high desert sky, adding another element of surprise and adventure to the ride. Within moments of the first drops, all of the horses did a 180-degree turn to position their hindquarters to the rain and thus shelter their faces as much as possible. Quite a sight amongst so many horses!

A California Cowgirl Giddies Up: Blessing Of The Horses, San Miguel de Allende

One of the more senior cowboys performed the honorary task of charging up and down the cobblestone street, shouting“Viva Jesus Cristo, Viva Santo San Martin!”. The parade officially commenced and in groups of two and three, we made our way up to the Jardín, passing by hundreds of waving, smiling spectators to the base of The Parroquía where a full Catholic mass was given to bless the horses and their riders.

A California Cowgirl Giddies Up: Blessing Of The Horses, San Miguel de AllendeEl Centro was filled with flower-adorned arches and papel picado strung from the buildings. Riding through this tunnel of color, celebration and tradition was an honor for this 45-year-old California Cowgirl in Mexico!

A California Cowgirl Giddies Up: Blessing Of The Horses, San Miguel de Allende

Arriving at The Parroquía, hats were removed and heads bowed down to receive the blessings from the high priest.

A California Cowgirl Giddies Up: Blessing Of The Horses, San Miguel de Allende

There are experiences in one’s life that have the power to change who you are—to impact you in such a profound way that you see the world around you differently, with more depth and perspective. This was one of those times for me.

Thank you, Guerrero, The Gentle Warrior, for being my grand, majestic, safe companion and guide for the day. Thank you Mario and Rodo for your protection and navigation along the ride…an experience and a day I will never ever forget!

If you would like to read about another central Mexico pilgrimage that I had the fortune to participate in, please click on this link:

Feast of Saint Martin, Guanajuato~Mexico

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Cultural Differences, Mexico vs. The States~ 'No' is Not The Answer

 

There are clearly many cultural differences and nuances between the States and Mexico.

Some of them more subtle than others, some that take their time to settle into, and others that set you back on your heels.

The first time Rosa, our house helper extraordinaire came to our home, I offered her a cup of morning coffee. She readily and happily said yes, even though she didn’t drink one sip of it. I  found it in the corner of the kitchen counter at the end of the day—cold, still full, no sign of lips ever having come near it. 

It was safe to surmise that she didn’t care for it or perhaps more accurately that she never really wanted it in the first place, but saying ‘yes’ to the offer, even with no desire of drinking it, is much more the culturally accepted norm here in Mexico and in great contrast to my experience in the States where the default response is, “oh, no thank you”, so as to not inconvenience the hostess or come across as a PIA. (There are exceptions to this of course.)

Not that a simple acceptance of a cup of coffee would deem one an opportunist, but there indeed seems to be a certain discomfort in the US in receiving a simple offer with a simple, “yes, thank you”…a way of graciously acknowledging the friendly gesture.

Here in Mexico,“sí, muchas gracias” is the norm, for to do or say otherwise might be considered rude and certainly not the cultural norm in a society that revolves around community and friendships

If you are offered a cigarette (as my husband has been on multiple occasions) and are not yourself a smoker, graciously accept it with a big smile, stick it behind your ear, and say that you are saving it for a very special occasion. Saying “oh, no thank you, I don’t smoke” and then going on to state all of the hazards of smoking, might deem you an individual with rudimentary social skills.

How about a party…invited to one and don’t think you can go? Instead of saying ‘no’ with a laundry list of all of the reasons why, just graciously accept the invitation and if you aren’t able to make it, send a last-minute message or even nothing at all. This is not seen as rude or inconsiderate, just a culturally accepted norm. Of course if you are only one of two people invited, a gentle decline is in order, but if you are one of many, not making it regardless of your RSVP status is not considered a social crime. 

Cultural Differences, Mexico vs. The States~ 'No' is Not The Answer

Hosting a party with a starting time of 4:00? Don’t be surprised if your guests start rolling in around 6 or 7 o’clock. It’s cultural.

Invited 25 people to the party? Expect the number to at least double! Make room and more food for all of the cousins, aunts, siblings and best friends that will be joining the celebration! And no, they did not need a formal invite—the more the merrier! This must be where the ‘mi casa es su casa’ comes from.

These are but just a few examples of situations where we have had the opportunity to learn firsthand the importance and cultural significance of saying ‘yes’, of being open to the unexpected, of viewing life through a different lens, of expanding our horizons and improving our craft, sense of humor and flexibility as human beings.

We are transplants, expats, immigrants. We love living in a country where conversations and relationships are like a dance versus a race…where life’s moments are more about the experience versus the bottom line and how fast can you get there…where I can say ‘yes’ to the coffee, show up late to the party, and have it all be okay.

¡Viva México!

Other interesting articles on cultural differences between the U.S. and Mexico:

Cultural differences between the U.S. and Mexico in the Business World

Seven Cultural Aspects to Know Before Doing Business in Mexico

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