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Granddaughter of A Former Chief of US-Mexico Border Immigrates to Mexico

Granddaughter of Former Chief of US-Mexico Border Immigrates to Mexico

As the granddaughter of a former Chief of the US-Mexico Border, the story of why my husband, our 8-year old-twins and I decided to immigrate to Mexico in 2012 from the States is one that I am compelled to tell. 

Burnt out on the consumerist, rat-race grind of life in Southern California, we left San Diego with nothing but a car and trailer full of our “essential belongings” after having sold, donated, gifted and tossed the rest. 

Our remaining earthly treasures included every lego known to mankind, our twins’ organic mattresses, a large-screened tv and the bicycles you can see hanging off the back of our boat! Our 95-pound chocolate lab Seamus rode in the back seat right behind Frank, panting and slobbering in excitement on the entire 4-day drive down!

A sight to see we were, something like a scene from the sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies! 

Roots

Growing up a half an hour away from the San Diego-Tijuana Border gifted me with a bilingual-bicultural upbringing and hence an ability to move easily between both worlds. Communicating in both Spanish and English at school, work and play has always been my norm since I was a very little girl.

I have always had a profound love and respect for Mexico–for her people, her magic and her fervent sense of community. I value and treasure the freedom and safety I feel immersed in Mexico’s rich culture. 

With my parents working outside of the home in their careers as Psychologist and School Teacher, MariaElena (our co-CEO of the family) was a blessing of a second mother to me. She cared for me as if I was her own until the age of five when my parent’s painful yet necessary parting of ways took us away from each other.

It was with MarieElena, that the template of my life was established–a life destined to be immersed in Mexico and with her people. Crossing the border as a teenager in the 80’s to go clubbing in Tijuana or to head further down south to Puerto Nuevo for lobster and off-roading in the sand dunes formed a huge part of the tapestry of my youth.

My husband Frank and I leased a 30 by 60 piece of sand in Bahia de Los Angeles where our twins Mairead and Liam spent many a barefoot vacation enjoying freedom and discovery to their heart’s content. 

Granddaughter of A Former Chief of US-Mexico Border Immigrates to Mexico

“Big Joe”, Former Chief of US-Mexico Border

Dressed in his signature crisp-collared Oxford shirt, ironed slacks and shiny leather shoes no matter the occasion, my “Big Joe” as we affectionately referred to him, was a thoughtful, bright, witty gentleman with no time or concern for nonsense. His words were concise and powerful, leaving an echo in the rooms in which they were spoken. 

My relationship and time spent with my Grandfather was one of the most significant influences in my love for and connection to Mexico. 

He modeled such a deep respect and brotherhood for our south of the border neighbors, that I too could not help but fall in love with a land and a people so magnificently rich in corazón y alma (heart and soul).

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 ranch that spanned the US-American border. 

Family historians share with me that he was considered 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 sacred conversations, knowing that I was bearing witness to a living history book. 

My Grandpa Joe was as tough as nails and lived his life to the fullest until the age of 94.

Chief of US/Mexico Border

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, whole potatoes and lobster tails would cook, my Grandpa turned the ordinary into magic.

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

Granddaughter of A Former Chief of US-Mexico Border Immigrates to Mexico

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. 

Life in Mexico

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.

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.

Mi Querido México, thank you for taking my family in, for welcoming us with open arms. These past ten years have been one heck of an adventure and we are better people for it. 

!Viva México!

~Katie 

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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About the author: Together with my Retired Firefighter Husband and our now 18-year-old twins who were just 8 when we immigrated to Mexico in 2012, we have created a joyful life of design and freedom South of The Border. Welcome to Los O’Gradys in Mexico! Saludos, Katie 🇲🇽 ☘️

{ 24 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!
        Saludos,
        Katie 🙂

    • Katie O'Grady August 12, 2019, 4:40 pm

      Thank you kindly Jeannie!

      I look forward to sharing more of my family’s stories.

      Saludos,

      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,
      Katie

  • 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 allpromarine@montanasky.com– 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
      rachpv@gmail.com

      Best of luck to you!

      Cheers,

      Katie

  • 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,
    Fidel

    • 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.
    G

    • 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!
      Saludos,
      Katie

  • 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..

    • Katie O'Grady February 3, 2017, 1:45 pm

      Eduardo,
      I am truly and deeply honored.
      Thank you,
      Katie

  • 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.

    • Katie O'Grady February 4, 2017, 7:54 pm

      Gracias amiga mía…
      She and I miss you! 🙂

  • 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!

      Saludos,

      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 🙂

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