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!
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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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