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Former Chief of Us-Mexico Border~A Granddaughter’s Tale of Immigration

Former Chief of Us-Mexico Border~A Granddaughter's Tale of Immigration

As the granddaughter of a former Chief of the US-Mexico Border, it is no small irony nor coincidence that I, along with my husband and two young children, would choose to immigrate to Mexico four years ago. Departing from San Diego with nothing but a car and trailer full of stuff that we deemed to be the remaining essentials after gifting, donating and selling, we headed south.

Shortly after our arrival to the coast of Nayarit, we became permanent residents (having begun the process stateside) and are now considering applying for dual-citizenship.

From a very early age, perhaps even encoded in my genetics, I have had a deep love and respect for Mexico and her people–her magic, her allure, her fervent sense of community amongst family and friends. 

Of the many influences I had growing up a half an hour away from the San Diego-Tijuana border, my relationship with my Grandfather was by far one of the most significant factors in this unquestionable connection I have with Mexico.

My “Big Joe”, as we referred to him, grand in vision in his Stetson cowboy hat and crisp-collared Oxford shirts, demonstrated via his speech and in his way of conducting himself in cross-border relations such a deep respect and admiration for our south of the border brothers and sisters, that I too could not help but fall in love with a land so magnificently rich in corazón y alma (heart and soul).

We would frequently drive down to Rosarito Beach on weekends to enjoy a family meal at El Nido and I would marvel with the pride that only a granddaughter can feel at my Grandfather’s ability to conduct himself so eloquently in both languages and cultures. Sitting in front of the open firewood stove where our quail and lobster tails would cook, he could turn the ordinary into magic.

His affinity for conversation, his staid charisma, his thoughtful ways and his sharp sense of humor made for a dynamic mixture of traits that simply attracted people to him. It felt good to be in his company and I just happened to be lucky enough to be his granddaughter. 

I used to sit mesmerized on his living room couch, listening to stories of herding cattle and training horses down at our family’s dairy ranch in Chula Vista. He would speak of his many adventures, one of them of having left home at the age of 14 to become a cowboy on the last rancho that spanned the US-American border.

I imagined him to be some sort of a bicultural John Wayne.

Family historians have shared with me that they used to call him the “Paul Revere of Chula Vista” on account of his warning the Otay Valley on horseback of impending rain that ended up bursting the Sweetwater Dam.

He died when I was a freshman at university, one month after the passing of my cherished Grandmary, and although they had lived years and homes apart, their bond and love was undeniable and one that literally lasted a lifetime.

He was the consummate gentleman and could cure the common cold with a shot of tequila and a slice of lime.

While I miss him dearly, I will always carry the strength and memory of his legacy, his humility and his wisdom within me. 

My proximity to the San Diego-Tijuana Border also granted me access to a bilingual/bicultural upbringing that allowed me to move easily between both worlds. Speaking in both Spanish and English at school, work and play was my norm and to this day I happily intermingle between both my anglo and Mexican friends.

If former lives exist, I am sure I was a salsa-dancing Latina in mine! I spent many a weekend in my late teens and early 20’s crossing the border with friends to explore and adventure our way around Tijuana proper and points of interest further south—Rosarito, Puerto Nuevo, Ensenada, La Bufadora…good times for sure.

My Grandmothers Mary & Elizabeth (Grandmary & Baba) had their own fair share of fun shenanigans south of the border and their stories were never short of being hilariously entertaining! This picture below is of the two of them (in the middle) in Tijuana, in 1982 when I was 14. 

Former Chief of Us-Mexico Border~A Granddaughter's Tale of Immigration

My Grandmothers in Tijuana, Mexico 1982

Although my Grandfather passed before I began my teaching career, I know that he would have been so proud that his Granddaughter had chosen to go into a line of work that would not only share the beauty of the Spanish language with her students but also the love of a culture so near and dear to his (and my) heart.

While working on my Masters in Cross-Cultural Education & Curriculum Development, I shared the following reflection in a class exercise—its application and truth are just as valid today (if not more so) as when it was when I wrote it in 1995.

Former Chief of Us-Mexico Border~A Granddaughter's Tale of Immigration

A Mexico Influx~It’s More Than Just a Trump Thing

It comes to me as no great surprise that we find ourselves in a time when more and more people are seriously considering moving to Mexico, looking not just for an escape, but for a reinvented, reinspired life—where adventure is affordable and time and freedom are your most precious commodities. 

Here, there is a palpable beckoning and invitation to slow down and to take it all in, to be in the moment and not rush from point A to point B on autopilot for the sake of expediency and checking off a to-do list. The stimulus and sensory-rich nature of the Mexican culture—alive with a detectable vibra (energy)—beckons you to be awake to and appreciative of the details around you.

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.

Mexico has taught me, and reminds me daily, to relish and thrive in the here and now, to celebrate the present moment and the textures and layers within that moment, and to always, always be grateful. 

Mi Querido México, thank you for taking us in, for welcoming us and for graciously adopting us O’Gradys with open arms and hearts. These past four years have been one heck of an adventure and we are better people for it. 

Dear Mexico, WE LOVE YOU!

..and THANK YOU Grandpa!!!!






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About the author: Internationally-Acclaimed Author & Relocation Coach Katie O’Grady is a 4th generation San Diegan who together with her retired Firefighter hubby and their now 14-year-old twins immigrated to Mexico in 2012. Los O’Gradys in Mexico is InterNations Top Expat Mexico Blog and Katie has been featured on various distinguished platforms including Elephant Journal, Yucatan Times, and Huffington Post. Seven years into their Mexico adventure, Katie and her family continue to embrace their reinvented, reinspired lives where tacos and fun are part of their daily round! If you are interested in learning about raising bilingual, bicultural, cross-border children and creating a life of design south of the border, feel free to contact Katie at [email protected] and on the following platforms: Facebook Instagram Pinterest

{ 23 comments… add one }
  • Jeannie Kezlan February 21, 2015, 4:18 pm

    I sooooooooo loved reading your story. Now , want to hear more of your adventures.
    Very different from my experience as I have been here for over 9 years and had to go thru the visa process …but finally have had my Permanent Resident Visa for a couple of years now. I too, love it here for many reasons……..Keep writing and enjoying life! Jeannie

    • Willie Bautista February 3, 2017, 12:27 am

      Thank you for article. It is so positive. Look forward to new ones.

      • Katie O'Grady February 3, 2017, 1:57 pm

        Mil Gracias Willie!
        I appreciate your taking the time to read and comment on my article.
        Will begin the next one tomorrow!
        Katie 🙂

  • Frank February 21, 2015, 5:19 pm

    Wow, honey, touched my heart and brought a tear to my eye with that writing.

  • Daniel Reveles February 23, 2015, 4:28 pm

    What beautiful writing! You’ve got a national best-seller taking shape.

    • Katie O'Grady January 12, 2018, 6:03 pm

      Wow, thank you kindly Daniel!
      Coming from you, that means a lot!
      Saludos y un abrazo,

  • Tim & Olga Simms March 6, 2015, 9:53 am

    Hello O’Grady family- Tim and Olga Simms from Montana here- We enjoyed reading your website! We have a problem similar to what you had when applying for your Permanent Resident Visa. My wife and kids are Mexican citizens as well as American citizens, I (Tim) am only an American citizen and thought it would be a breeze to get “legal” in Mexico, because of my wife and kids status as Mexican citizens. Dealing with the Mexican Consulate and Immigration has been a nightmare to summarize my ordeal. We call one agency and they contradict the other agency etc. etc. We read a woman named Raquel Cibrian of L.I.A. was of great help to your family and assisted you with your visas. How do we contact her? We would like to hire her to help with our immigration issues. Could please help us contact her? Our email is [email protected]– any help you could give us would be greatly appreciated!! Thanks for your time and consideration- Tim & Olga Simms

    • Katie O'Grady March 6, 2015, 2:12 pm

      Hello Tim & Olga,

      Yes, I understand that the immigration process can be tricky.

      Fortunate for us, it was rather smooth, and in large part because of the tremendous help from Raquel.

      Her contact info. is:

      Raquel Cibrian
      Legal Immigration Advisers
      [email protected]

      Best of luck to you!



  • Fidel C. Rodriguez February 2, 2017, 9:06 pm

    Wow is all I can say. Your grandfather would be proud as am I to know ya’ll. I admire you and Franks courage to march to the beat of your own drum and move to Mexico despite it going against the grain. I can only imagine the obstacles both real and perceived you’ve had to overcome and I’m grateful because you’re journey gives each one of us the courage to march to our own drum. Today, I realized we are kindred spirits because I read the words I’ve used many times to explain my love for Mexico – “I feel it’s encoded in my DNA.”
    Y que vivan los O’Grady’s! Si señor!

    Tu amigo,

    • Katie O'Grady February 2, 2017, 9:15 pm

      BIG, BIG smiles around here, reading this Fidel!
      Muchas Gracias hermano mío…
      Saludos y un fuerte abrazo….
      Los O’Gradys 🙂

  • glenn February 3, 2017, 6:57 am

    Hi Katie,
    I too enjoy my new found friends in Mexico. My first venture I had some concerns. The US media puts a negative spin and allows us the bad Mexico, instead of the good Mexico I’ve had the pleasure of associating. I’m unsure of the future relations between the countries, though I hope the media spin will get better. The people I have come to know are good, hard working, spiritual people, just like me. I’ll be back for sure, I look forward to associating with my new friends, that noise will tone down, that we can share the good that each country has to offer.
    Be Well.

    • Katie O'Grady February 3, 2017, 1:54 pm

      Hi Glenn,
      I understand certain concerns and I definitely understand the distortion of the media. Of course there is good and bad everywhere, and therein lies the human condition–good and evil. Research and common sense go a long way no matter what country you find yourself living or traveling in. As for me, I have never felt so supported by community, so integrated and so wonderfully welcomed as I do here in Mexico. We can all only be responsible for our own behavior and the energy we hold towards others.
      I hope you continue to enjoy your own adventures south of the border!

  • Eduardo February 3, 2017, 12:21 pm

    You may have heard this a lot but once again, in the name of many Mexicans, you are welcome in our country! hope more people could see life as you do..

  • Lisa Terreri February 3, 2017, 6:55 pm

    Strong work Katie! You distill your experience of Mexico so well. She definitely left a mark on me.

  • Maribel Gonzalez-Becerra February 15, 2017, 2:12 pm

    This blog post brought me to tears. Thank you so much for representing us (Mexicans) in the positive light that you do. Muchas gracias de todo corazon.

    • Katie O'Grady February 15, 2017, 7:07 pm

      Hola Maribel,

      That is absolutely the highest compliment I could receive, thank you!


      Katie 🙂

  • Pat Huber February 15, 2017, 10:26 pm

    Love this piece! Pat

    • Katie O'Grady February 16, 2017, 11:09 am

      Thank you Pat,
      I have to say it is one of my personal favorites.
      Un abrazo,
      Katie 🙂

  • dept of edu March 16, 2017, 3:57 pm

    Hmm it appears like your blog ate my first comment (it was extremely long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I wrote and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. I as well am an aspiring blog blogger but I’m still new to the whole thing. Do you have any suggestions for newbie blog writers? I’d definitely appreciate it.

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