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

Chief of US/Mexico Border

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. 

Immigrate to Mexico

O’Grady Mugshots!

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.

Chief of US/Mexico Border

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. 

Family Shenanigans

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!  

Immigrate to Mexico

Grandmary & Baba in The Middle. Can You Hear 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. 

!Viva México!


Looking for an excellent read on US-Mexico Border Relations? Vanishing Frontiers: The Forces Driving Mexico and The United States Together  



*Protect yourself and your loved ones with Carbon Monoxide Detectors for both home and travel*


*Ready to learn more about Moving to Mexico? Click here: Relocation Consulting



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 🇲🇽 ☘️

{ 25 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 🙂

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

      Thank you kindly Jeannie!

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


      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 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

      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..

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

      I am truly and deeply honored.
      Thank you,

  • 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!


      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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