When someone asks me how I like living in Mexico the tone in their voice has a hint of disapproval and wonderment. Like they’re secretly thinking, “What the hell are you doing there?”
I live in Baja California only forty miles from the San Diego border in the Port of Ensenada. Our ranch is located in Baja’s wine country, the Guadalupe Valley which lies between Ensenada and the border town of Tecate.
Many people who visit us have the idea there are no laws in Mexico. They think of Baja as the last remnants of the wild west. Or, if they watch a lot of tv, they believe their TV screen is the same size as Mexico which means the entire country is under siege from assaults, shootouts, and robbery. A war zone? Not at all.
There are some places in Baja which are known hotspots just as there are in the United States or any other place in the world. I certainly wouldn’t take a stroll in downtown L.A. at 2 in the morning, would you?
In 2009, Tijuana, a major city directly south of the San Diego/ San Ysidro border crossing in California became infected with drug cartels battling each other for control over the drug trade. Yes, heads were chopped, literally. Many people died. The Mexican government and its military did a fantastic job in their effort to regain control of the city, which they did.
Today, other known hot spots are the mainland states (Baja California is a peninsula and not part of the mainland) of Sinaloa, Colima, Guerrero, Michoacan, and Tamaulipas. All of these places are thousands of miles from the Baja Peninsula.
With only the TV screen to guide their way, people’s imaginations run wild when they hear negative news about Mexico. Sometimes it distracts them from looking in their own backyard to what’s really going on.
Once a lady who inquired about reserving a weekend at our ranch actually asked us if we had guns on the property to protect them if the cartels came to the ranch. We never answered her.
Over the many years, we’ve dealt with tourism, we learned there are some people who refuse to see new horizons. They are stuck in their belief system and no amount of explanation will change their minds.
Unfortunately, sometimes our guests ask surprising questions and it takes every ounce of strength my husband has to answer politely while he mentally prepares his answer. Sometimes I have to kick him under the table reminding him to take it easy.
He loves his country and is very proud of his Mexican heritage. A true historian, he can answer every question you can cook up regarding safety in Mexico, the government, travel, and Mexican history.
When one of our guests innocently inquired how Mexico planned to deal with their drug traffic problem, he bit his tongue and replied, “Look behind your fences. The United States is the biggest consumer of the drug trade. Every ounce of drugs that travels up from Columbia, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Mexico goes directly to the United States.”
There are big border crossings all along the U.S. where the drugs enter and then travel into different areas of the country. The Texas and California borders are the main hub for this type of transaction. But is Mexico the only one we must accuse? Certainly not. How do the loaded down semi-trucks cross without inspection? You got it. They surely have someone on the U.S. side who lets them in. It’s a business. I don’t approve of it but it’s a fact.
As an American having lived in Baja for thirty years, I agree Mexico delivers to its top consumers. The U.S. Personally, I’ve never seen anything suspicious in all my years living here. I drive the highways alone, at night, and during the day. Not once have I feared for my life or worried about the Bandidos (there aren’t any) waiting to assault me around the next corner.
Do I miss the United States? Of course. It’s my country and I love it but my life has dug its roots deep into the sandy soil of Baja. Some people may see this as a disadvantage, especially when comparing the economy in the U.S. to Mexico but rest assured, people, drive brand new cars here, we have whole food markets and there are people who live in beautiful homes who are not involved in shady interactions.
This I’ll tell you firsthand. The lessons I’ve learned about family, life, people, and relationships go far beyond anything I could ever imagine. I’ve learned to see people as people regardless of what car they drive or how much money they make. I’ve seen humility in its most horrifying way, me, a white girl who grew up in a posh neighborhood and the daughter of a doctor.
I’ve sat in people’s homes who have only a dirt floor and milk crates to sit on but you know what? They are the friendliest hospitable people I’ve ever met. They may not have anything in their pantry to offer you but be sure they will offer you something if only a glass of water. It’s considered rude not to offer your guest something to eat or drink when you visit their home.
My two children are both bilingual and bicultural. My husband and I are too. We work with so many people from the States, Europe, and Mexico it goes with the territory. Inside our home in Ensenada from the time our children were babies, we spoke only English and still do today. The TV is in English and so is music and books. Now that we have a granddaughter, I’m teaching her English and she understands so much. She will speak Spanish hands down. No doubt about that but with the opportunity to learn English, many doors will open for her in the future. I’ll make sure of that.
As I said before, people are people. We experience joy, heartbreak, and triumphs. We’re here to cheer each other on not squelch another’s dreams or undermine their pursuit of happiness.
“Viva Mexico! Espero que les gustaron mis palabras, los que vienen desde mi corazón.”
“I hope you enjoyed my writing, words which come from my heart.”