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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!

~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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From Puerto Vallarta to San Diego

We arrived at the Puerto Vallarta Airport the afternoon of June 4, 2020, ready for our Volaris flight to Tijuana where we would then walk across the CBX bridge into the US.

In our eight years of living as Permanent Residents of Mexico and flying in and out of Puerto Vallarta numerous times, we had never seen the airport so empty as it was on this surreal, COVID-reality day.

Traveling from Puerto Vallarta to San Diego during COVID-19 (with Kids)!

Our temperatures were taken at various points prior to boarding and once again after landing in Tijuana–via both contactless forehead thermometers and thermal body scanners. At the check-in counter, ID’s and documents were placed up against plexiglass dividers to avoid hand-to-hand contact between agents and passengers. 

All employees were masked and gloved (the majority with face shields as well) and there were disinfecting mats and hand sanitizer stations throughout.

Once aboard, we were happy to see that the plane was not full, that there was spacing between seats and that according to this sign, the plane had been”sanitized”. Nonetheless, I got out our personal hand wipes  to give each of my kid’s and my area a good wipe down. 

All stewards and stewardesses wore face shields, masks and gloves. Drink and food service was limited to a small selection of bagged snacks and ice was not available. The flight was smooth, service was excellent and I can highly recommend flying with Volaris. Crossing the CBX bridge was a breeze, lines were practically non-existent and both Mexico and US agents were cordial and professional.

Return Flight to Puerto Vallarta

We returned to Puerto Vallarta from San Diego on an early morning flight (the only one that day) on June 20, 2020. The lines to cross the CBX bridge were long and the Volaris flight was packed. With reduced air travel and the domino economic impact, the airlines are clearly needing to limit the number of flights per day and fill the planes that do fly to capacity. At least that was the situation with Volaris on this particular day. 

Our return to Mexico was more stressful than the outbound flight due to the crowds. Most passengers were good about keeping their masks on, although several did have to be reminded by the stewardesses to please pull them up and over both the mouth and the nose. 

Traveling during COVID-19

Home Sweet Mexico Home

After a bit of a bumpy landing coming in over the Sierra Madre Mountain range, we were grateful to have wheels on the tarmac and see that not just The Reds’ Daddy was waiting for us at the arrival area, but our fabulous fluff ball Luna Love as well!

Traveling during COVID-19

We made it home safe and sound, showered off the travel and sat down to enjoy this view! 

Tips for Traveling during COVID-19

1. Check with the airline several times before your travel day to make sure your flight has not been canceled. 

2. Wear a mask (and be prepared with backups).

3. Wear a face shield if that is your preference/comfort level.

4. Bring your own anti-bacterial gel & hand wipes.

5. Eat & hydrate well before you board as food/drink options are limited–or bring your own aboard.

6. Breathe, remain patient and lead with a sense of humor and gratitude

While traveling during COVID-19 brings with it some new challenges and changes, for the most part it was a relatively easy experience.

For those of you that have also flown during these surreal times, what travel tips could you add to this list? 

Please feel free to share in the comments section below.

In Health & Peace,

Katie

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**First Edition Written as a Guest Post for: A Traveling Broad’s Favorite Romantic & Affordable Destinations Around the World

With the dollar to peso exchange rate currently at around 20 to 1, Mexico is an ideal destination for affordable adventure travel! 

Situated on the Pacific Coast of The Riviera Nayarit, Punta Mita is a favorite of both locals and visitors alike.

Fresh seafood, chilled drinks and toes in the sand await your arrival!

Accommodations in Punta Mita range in price & amenities and the options are many depending on your budget and preferences. Take for example Meson de Mita located at Anclote Beach and only steps away from the coral sand and turquoise-colored ocean or the luxurious 5-star Four Seasons Resort with its lavish grounds and villas.

Rent a SUP (stand up paddle board), take a panga to the nearby Marieta Islands or simply sit yourself down under one of the many beach umbrellas with a good book in one hand and a cold drink in the other. 

Hungry? There is no shortage of local culinary delights. One of our favorites is the Original Anclote with its ocean views, fresh seafood options, excellent service and reasonable prices. 

If you are looking for a weekend (or longer!) escape, a visit to Punta Mita is sure to satisfy and leave you with memories to cherish for a lifetime!

Saludos & Enjoy!

~Katie

For information on Vacationing in/Moving to Mexico and one-on-one, personalized, customized boutique Relocation Services, feel free to email Katie at [email protected]

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Mexico Tourism Tax Refund

If you are a Permanent Resident of Mexico and travel by air to, from and through Mexico, you are eligible for a refund of the Mexican Tourism Tax included in the price of your ticket–usually in the $25.00 to $30.00 USD range-within 12 months of the ticket issuance.

Each airline has their own procedural requirements for applying for the refund so you will want to check with your carrier for their specifications, but whether traveling as an individual, a couple or a family, those total amounts can really add up and it is absolutely worth taking the time to apply for!

I recently went through the process with both Alaska & Delta Airlines and will walk you through my experience with each. I hope the information is helpful and paves the way for you to get your refund(s)!

Alaska Airline

With Alaska Airline we used to simply request a tourism tax refund form the ticket agent when checking in, fill it out right then and there and then receive the refund within a couple of weeks. But the last few times we have flown Alaska, we were instructed to apply online.

I got onto Alaska’s online chat and the agent instructed me to do one of the following (I did both for good measure):

1. Fax to #206-392-7587:

  • Passenger’s Name as Appears on Ticket
  • Confirmation Number
  • Ticket number
  • Copy of Both Front and Back of Mexico Permanent Resident Card 

or

2. Mail All of The Above Documentation to:

Alaska Airline
Refunds Department
P.O Box 68900
Seattle, WA
98168

I was told to expect the refund in 7 to 10 business days and did in fact receive it within this timeframe. 

Last Summer’s Alaska Airline Round Trip from Puerto Vallarta to San Diego (times 4!) 

(Airline) Mexico Tourism Tax Refund Due to Permanent Residents

Total Refund: $116.08 USD

Delta Airline

For Delta Airline, I was first directed to fill out a online form but the system wouldn’t accept my ticket number and prompted me to call their 1-800-847-0578 number. The agent took all of my information (full name, ticket number) and then, while still on the line, sent me an email asking me to reply with attached copies of the front and back of our Mexican Permanent Resident Cards.

Easy Peasy! We received the refund to the credit card used for the purchase within seven business days.

Our Recent Delta Airline Round Trip from Puerto Vallarta to Salt Lake City (times 4!) 

(Airline) Mexico Tourism Tax Refund Due to Permanent Residents

Total Refund: $115.60 USD

According to both Alaska and Delta, there are also other circumstances (citizens, diplomats, infants under age of two, transit/transfer passengers) in which a Mexican Tourism Tax Refund is given.

Again, please check directly with your own individual carrier for their specifications. 

I hope this information has been useful and puts a few dollars back into your pocket to be used for more fun, tacos, tequila and adventures!

Do you have any experience in getting your Mexican Tourism Tax Refund?

If so, I would love to hear about it in the comments section below.

Thank you! ¡Gracias!

Saludos,

Katie O’Grady 

Others articles on this topic:

How to Get a Refund of The Mexico Tourism Tax by TEX MEX EXPATS 

How to request Mexico Tourism Tax refunds for airline flights by citizens and residents by Yucatan Times

*Please protect yourself and your loved ones with an Expat Travel Insurance Policy & Carbon Monoxide Detectors

 

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https://www.losogradysinmexico.com/a-california-cowgirl-giddies-up-in-the-blessing-of-the-horses-san-miguel-de-allende

As a horse-crazy girl growing up in Southern California, I never would have imagined that one day I would ride in The Blessing of The Horses in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato Mexico! Participating in such a grand, once-in-a-lifetime event has indeed left an undeniable mark in my heart of joy and gratitude.

Spending my weekends at the barn and my summers at Rawhide Ranch, mucking out stalls and refining my lassoing and barrel racing techniques was a grounding anchor of a dynamic childhood.

“Pigtailed Cowgirl” was my go-to Halloween costume, complete with a Western-brimmed hat, boots and the biggest belt buckle my jeans could support.

Barbies and dolls never held my interest. Showing hunter jumpers during the school year and spending my summers working hard and getting dirty at a dude ranch was my idea of a good time.

Studies, travel, my career, and various other life ambitions took me away from horses until 2014 when I moved to central Mexico with my family.

A Cowgirl’s Dream

Thanks to my lucky shamrocks I had the opportunity to participate in the ultimate equine experience of my life–The Blessing of The Horses–an annual central Mexico pilgrimage that convenes at The Parroquía of San Miguel de Allende.

While my emergency spinal surgery one year later was a success and I was thankfully not sentenced to a wheelchair for the rest of my earthly existence, little did I know that this ride would be my last.

Heading out atop Guerrero (Warrior), a 17-hand black Friesian horse, into the desert plains of central Guanajuato, 

traversing the trails and sometimes no trails at all, we met up with many other groups of riders from the surrounding communities on our way to El Jardín, the town center of San Miguel de Allende.

The Blessing Of The Horses, San Miguel de Allende (A Cowgirl's Dream!)

Watch Out for The Tree!

I was so mesmerized by the totality of the experience that I did not notice the low-lying tree branch just inches in front of my head. With no time to duck, it ripped my hat right off and brought it tumbling down to the muddy ground below. Fortunately, it landed to the side of the puddle, and even better than that, the spikey branch spared my face. One of the cowboys riding next to me was gracious enough to hop off his horse and retrieve it for me. Gracias, muchas gracias. 

Upon rounding the corner of the train tracks, I was greeted by the sight of hundreds of riders that had all joined together, some who had made the trek from bordering cities and states, for the procession up Canal Street into the main plaza.

The Blessing Of The Horses, San Miguel de Allende (A Cowgirl's Dream!)

I was one of a very small handful of female riders in a sea of cowboys and my face hurt by the day’s end from all of the ear-to-ear smiling!

I know my Grandpa Joe was smiling down from heaven, seeing his granddaughter out there in Central Mexico, atop this extraordinary, high-stepping, magnificent horse riding into a 16th-century colonial town amidst hundreds of cowboys and spectators, living my best life, in Spanish, in Mexico!

My Beloved Grandpa Joe, Former Chief of US/Mexico Border & Immigration

¡Viva Santo San Martin!

The procession didn’t begin without first a cleansing downpour from the high-desert sky, adding another element of surprise and adventure to the ride. Within moments of the first drops, all of the horses did a 180-degree turn around to position their hindquarters to the rain and thus shelter their faces as much as possible. Quite a sight amongst so many horses!

One of the more senior cowboys performed the honorary task of charging up and down the cobblestone street, shouting“Viva Jesus Cristo, Viva Santo San Martin!”. The parade officially commenced and in groups of two and three, we made our way up to the Jardín, passing by hundreds of waving, smiling spectators to the base of The Parroquía where a full Catholic mass was given to bless the horses and their riders.

The Blessing Of The Horses, San Miguel de Allende (A Cowgirl's Dream!)El Centro was filled with flower-adorned arches and papel picado strung from the buildings. Riding through this tunnel of color, celebration and tradition was an honor for this 45-year-old California Cowgirl in Mexico!

The Blessing Of The Horses, San Miguel de Allende (A Cowgirl's Dream!)

Blessing of The Horses & Riders

Arriving at The Parroquía, hats were removed and heads bowed down to receive the blessings from the high priest.

The Blessing Of The Horses, San Miguel de Allende (A Cowgirl's Dream!)

There are experiences in one’s life that have the power to change who you are—to impact you in such a profound way that you see the world around you differently, with more depth and perspective. This was one of those times for me.

Thank you, Guerrero, The Gentle Warrior, for being my grand, majestic, safe companion and guide for the day. Thank you Mario and Rodo for your protection and navigation along the ride…an experience and a day I will never ever forget!

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