Growing up in Detroit in the '40s to '60s, I learned all the stereotypes of Mexico, all the while I was thoroughly immersed in unlearning my stereotypes about African-Americans as a civil rights, antiwar and feminist activist. When I first hit Mexico in 1970, on a 40,000-mile cross-continent "hippie honeymoon" with my long-haired hubby in a van camper we'd converted ourselves, I saw only those stereotypes.
It didn't help that the wasband looked like Charles Manson (who'd just been caught) and we had to bribe officials at the border to get across. Nor did it help that our starter and automatic transmission were failing and each morning we had to flag down a pickup filled with Mexican workers and beg in sign language to get a push up to 35 mph to get underway. I was terrified our whole trip. Just as some relatives today still think I'm going to be kidnapped by banditos, that's what I expected around every bend. I lived on canned food we'd brought with us from the States the whole time. What a wasted opportunity.
When I met Norma in 1979 in LA and she started suggesting we go to Ensenada for weekends, I thought she was crazy but went along. Still I saw only the negatives. The rats in our rented beach house. The drunks in the gringo-oriented bars who seemed on a perpetual spring break. The ocean fishing trips where the guides threw overboard into the still-clear waters the trash I'd dutifully collected for recycling. The guy on the fishing boat who hurled into the sky pieces of bait hooked onto the same length of fishing line, so that three or four gulls scrounging for food would die linked together. (I got him back by deliberately spilling the oil from my luncheon can of sardines all over his costly suede jacket.)
After 23 years of exploring the U.S., Canada and life together, including three years as full-time RVers, and finding ourselves living in an RV park near Phoenix with a bunch of people who were too concerned about strict enforcement of rules for our liking, Norma started talking about escaping the next 120-degree Phoenix summer in Mexico. More specifically, in San Miguel de Allende, an artsy colony she'd discovered on the internet.
After a lifetime of earning my living writing (newspaper reporter, magazine editor, UCLA hospital PR director) I'd started to rediscover my art side, and San Miguel's reputation as a world class artistic center was a big draw. In high school my English teacher and art teacher had fought for my soul, trying to get me to major in their fields, and I'd figured I could actually make a living in journalism rather than art. Which I did. I even got three mystery novels published and out of my system. Now I was painting again.
So off we went to San Miguel in May, 2002, for what was supposed to be a three-month vacation. After only three days I was head over heels in love with San Miguel. I asked Norma, "What do you think about our moving here?" To which she replied, "Hallelujia, I've been dreaming about it forever, but it had to be your idea."
We went back to Phoenix, put the RV park model up for sale, and started a whole new life of contentment and creativity in San Miguel de Allende.
Much of this site grew out of my 53 letters to friends about our retirement to Mexico, and online writings on many sites sharing information and answering questions about our move. We thought of starting our own website, blog and forum, and here it is. The books came later.
Please ask us anything, using the forum, and let us know what you'd like to see more of here. Once we get started singing the praises of San Miguel, it's hard to shut us up! We'll even tell you the negatives--after more than seven years living here we think we've gotten a fairly balanced perspective. And we're still in love with San Miguel de Allende.
My life in Mexico actually started in the early '60s with a trip to Ensenada with my ex-husband and three kids. We camped on some beach and immediately the car was trapped in the sand. Eventually a guy with a burro came along and in no time our little Opal was out of the sand. The whole vacation was magical. That was the beginning of my love affair with Mexico.
For the next twenty years, I came as often as I could with my three eager kids and a very reluctant husband. Soon we were venturing farther south and the Bay of Concepcion became our favorite spot. The new Baja road to Cabo opened about the time of my divorce and the kids and I took off to really explore.
My old yellow Pinto hatchback was loaded to the top, with my youngest child and our dog lying on the top of all the gear, barely squeezed in below the roof. We were towed through raging rivers, bought shrimp off of shrimp boats in the Sea of Cortez, discovered the joy of peanut butter on warm flour tortillas, camped on open beaches, dug for clams and so much more.
On one trip, we decided to keep driving through the night because the car starter was giving problems and there was no place to stay, nothing anywhere. Just south of Ensenada the lights went out on the car. We were in the middle of nowhere, but "No problem," my son Eric said. He already had the Mexican attitude.
With flashlight in hand, he rode on the hood of the car and guided my way, as I drove ever so slowly. Luckily we soon came upon someone who promptly found that our problem was only a loose wire. And we still managed to get across the border to the McDonald's for our usual Big Macs just before it closed.
With the end of college (I enrolled only after my divorce) the trips to Baja became less and less often, but the fantasy of retiring to Mexico never faded.
In 2001, I was the treasurer for our homeowners association in Arizona and it was hell. I vowed to finish my term despite the squabbling and harassment of seniors with too little to do but enforce rules. Carol and I realized we would never fit into the world of planned senior living.
I began to daydream about Mexico as a way to get through the long contentious board meetings. One day I Googled Lake Chapala. Hmm, interesting. So I kept researching. And on one session I found San Miguel de Allende and it was love at first photograph. The odyssey began.