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México, Home Sweet Home: A Cross Border Life

I was glancing down at our flight itinerary on our car ride south from San Diego, and even without looking up (no, I was not driving), I just knew that we had crossed into Mexico.

Call it a sixth sense or an acute, deep, cellular recognition of the sounds and smells, but something just joyfully registers in my brain when I know that we are on Mexican soil—when I am, home again.

Once at the Tijuana International Airport, the friendly and very eager to work maletero (porter) greeted us curbside and put all eight (we had purchased snow clothes for the Colorado portion of this trip) of our suitcases onto his dolly, accompanied us to immigration and then to the check-in desk of Volaris airline, chatted our children up (intrigued that these blue-eyed redheads are bilingual) and assisted us in getting all of our luggage handed off to the ticket agent. We tipped him generously (I believe in taking care of people that take care of me and my family), exchanged adióses and made our way through security and to our gate. 

TJ Airport

Tijuana International Airport

Once settled and waiting for our departing flight back to Leon, Guanajuato, I felt this profound sense of relief, comfort and familiarity upon being back in Mexico—a land, people, culture and language that have been home to us for over three years now.

Growing up a half an hour away from the Tijuana/San Diego border and crossing it back and forth more times than I can count has left my heart feeling equally—if not more so—at home in Mexico than in the U.S, especially now at this time in my family’s life with our permanent resident status and our long-term plans to continue to raise our children here.  

With this recent three week trip to the States (spent in both California and Colorado), I am again reminded, and wonderfully so, of all the things that I love about both countries—my adopted one of Mexico and my birth one of the States.

The focus of this post is to highlight a few of the many unique and distinct attributes that stand out to me as being undeniably Mexican.

México: A Mosaic & Cacophony of Stimulus!

The chaos of the traffic (especially on the roundabouts/glorietas!), the darting in and out of street vendors and dogs (yikes!), the family of four piled atop one motorbike (hold your breath!), the burros and their door-to-door deliveries, the gas and water trucks with their loud, signature jingles (especially in the early morning), the mobile fruit & vegetable vendors cruising the neighborhoods, the carcases of cows and pigs being delivered to the local butcher, the early morning lines at the tamale stands with the flocks of pigeons waiting for their portion, the clanging of metal to announce the arrival of the trash truck, the fireworks for any occasion at all (like it is Wednesday), the mariachi bands, the barking dogs, the crowing roosters, the torrential summer downpours, the smells of sweet breads, taquerías, tortillerías, car emissions, sidewalk cleaning products, fresh produce; the cordial comment of “a su servicio” from grocery store clerks and doctors alike…. ALL of this and so much more represents to me the kaleidoscope of color, texture and joy of life in Mexico. 

Some people might find this amount of stimulus “too much”, “too overwhelming” or “so foreign” that it is unsettling and not within their comfort zone. I, on the other hand, find myself exhaling and smiling, like I’m sliding into a comfortable pair of jeans. 

We have made many stateside trips since relocating to Mexico full time in 2012, but this three week one was our longest yet. Perhaps it was the extended time away from our beloved Mexico that gave me an even added and deeper appreciation for the differences between both countries.

Writer and poet Bruce Berger, in a selection titled “Under the Cypress” from his book Almost An Island, speaks of a Héctor from San Ignacio, Baja California, who was “all the more rooted in his property for having sampled life away from it” and “had seen enough of life beyond his property to be consumed by his own land.” 

I get this, it resonates with me so, even as an immigrant who has come to call México, ‘Home Sweet Home’.


liam casa de los angeles

Our son Liam volunteering @ Casa Los Angeles




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 🇲🇽 ☘️

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Pat March 6, 2016, 6:14 pm

    I feel the same way when I land in Mexico. I am home. I was a Rotary exchange student in Chichuahua, Chih. as a high school student. I loved the people, the country and customs. I’ve only been back a few times, but as I tell my Mexican friends: En mi corozon, soy Mexicana (in my heart, I am Mexican) I also have a “Mexican” sister in Leon. It would be funny if you knew each other.

    • Katie O'Grady March 6, 2016, 6:26 pm

      Hi Pat!
      What a wonderful experience that must have been for you.
      I was an exchange student my junior year of college in Salamanca, Spain, but never in Mexico.
      But here I am now, the ultimate exchange student!
      Leon is a beautiful city as well!
      And as to the “En mi corazón, soy Mexicana”…. yes, I totally get it.
      Katie 🙂

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