Americans in Mexico, six life stories

“I have never felt rejected for being an American, despite that the U.S. has not been a good neighbor to Mexico”

English 25/02/2017 11:43 Mexico Actualizada 02:31

Guadalajara Reporter, Jalisco newspaper made by an American

For Sean, a 4 year academic stay turned into a new life in Mexico.

Today is Wednesday and the next edition of the Guadalajara Reporter is underway. Artilcles for proofreading come in, together with the ads that will be featured in this edition. It is the rush of the edition closing date. Sean Godfrey, a native of the U.S., partner and marketing director of the Guadalajara Reporter has been familiar to this rush for over 20 years.

Sean came to Guadalajara at age 33 as part of an academic exchange to lear Spanish at the University of Guadalajara, but a “pair of deceiving tapatío* eyes” convinced him to stay.

Among the many fascinating stories the newspaper carries is that of Sean, “I was writing an article for an Economics Magazine and my research took me to the Guadalajara Reporter. I talk to the people who ran the newspaper and they asked me to stay and work for them. I partly decided to stay because, after four years of studying the language, I got here and said to myself: What on earth are these people saying! Simply because Mexican Spanish is a completely different language whatsoever”, remembers Sean from his desk in the small office where the Saturday edition of the Guadalajara Reporter is being edited in Verde Valle neighborhood.

Three months after his arrival to the newspaper, Sean stayed as a chief of production. Jalisco, however has not been his only home in Mexico as he has also lived in Mazatlán, Sinaloa, where he set up a newspaper which failed to succeed, His second job was to “sell condo time-shares to gringos** with a lizard on my shoulder”, Sean recalls. He then returned to the journalism industry and worked for the Pacific Pearl newspaper, “I was sort of a jack of all trades there, writing articles and even working with the printing press.”

Fate took him back to Jalisco shortly after that, when his present partner called him saying former owners of the Guadalajara Reporter wanted to sell the newspaper and how much effort would this be for one person.

Significant changes surface after 25 years of Sean’s arrival to Jalisco: Guadalajara has expanded without any urban control, it is more unsafe and most of the people living there have moved to Chapala, Sean assures. Sean’s life has also changed. He’s married with three children, whom only interest in the U.S. is vacationing and touching the snow, “They are Mexicans. I am the only gringo at home”, he says with a laugh.

Sean has a sound opinion on the current state of affairs in the U.S., “It is really frustrating. Nobody ever thought he could actually win this and now we are scratching our heads trying to figure exactly what happened and how is it that mi come country came to this. Trump’s triumph is the result of economic and xenophobic issues on the rise, as well as of a lack of proper schooling.”

*Native of the state of Jalisco

**Mexican way of referring to U.S. citizens

Business and pleasure in the same place

Baja California is one of the favorite spots for U.S. retirees.

For the past 20 years, Baja California Sur has become in the favorite destination for U.S. citizens that seek to start a new life, particularly in the La Paz and Los Cabos municipalities.

Reasons for setting up a business and deciding to stay to live are the landscape, its nature, peace and calm, as well as it people. “It is simply fantastic”, says Peggy Rodríguez, whom was instantly captivated by the place and decided to leave her former life as head of Libraries and Hospitals in Boston six years ago, to blend into this peaceful community.

At age 70, Peggy assures that he never imagined her lifestyle would change so much. She goes to the Nicolás Bravo local market twice a week, where Don Alfredo, from “Hermanos Calderón Fishery” suggests an ojotó fish, which she had not tried before and loved to have this time.

In the Margarita fruit shop she admires “alive colors” coming from fruits and vegetables, while she uses the opportunity to practice some Spanish. Peggy retired 15 years ago and after becoming a widow for the second time in her life she came to La Paz from Vermont in 2011. A friend invited her in and she fell in love with the place, “There is something that touches your soul and stays with you. When you come through the highway and see the bay, the mountanous background, those brown and olive green colors are simply a sight to see. You do not tire from admiring the view. I think that, once you get tired of living in La Paz, you have actually got tired of living.”, says a lucid Peggy.

“I have never felt rejected for being an American, despite that the U.S. has not been a good neighbor to Mexico”, she assures. “It is precisely for this that I feel embarrassed about the way president Trump has addressed Mexico, a country that many Americans have for a home.”, Peggy says.

Baja California Sur is a good place to invest apart from the wonderful nature, quality of living and resting environment it offers.

Call me Pedro

Peter Sparrow, a businessman who came to La Paz in 1996 to help his parents manage the family hotel, prefers to go by the name of Pedro. He enjoys of his family, his business and is in love with the Baja California coast. Pedro also feel in love with Verónica Perpuli, a native of La Paz who is his wife, business partner and mother of his two children.

A native of L.A., Sparrow had regular contact with the Latino culture as he often traveled to the two Mexican Californias. Life and love finally made him stay in the south corner of the coast.

According to Sparrow, La Paz is a peaceful city ready to receive people from different parts of the world with open arms. “Here is where I have everything, my family, mi children, my friends, my business”. Sparrow owns the Tequila’s bar in La Paz pier, where he has befriended more Mexicans than Americans.

Pedro considers that Mexico-U.S. relations live hard times, “It hurts to hear such things of Mexico. Our family is Mexican, so as our friends.”

“The amount of respect we have shown towards them (Americans), despite the offenses we have received is amazing”, says wife Verónica.

Pedro and Verónica stick together, beyond politics as they both assure family comes first. Both of their children will be freshman shortly and they will continue investing in Mexico and enjoying from Baja California. At the end of the day, “people can tell good people from other.”, says Pedro.

Wooed by the streets of San Miguel 

Barbara Gayton changed Florida beaches for the pebbled streets of Mexico, 12 years ago. Since the arrival of Donald Trump to the White House, Barbara is sad and concerned for the harm Trump policies have shortly caused everywhere.

A retired teacher, Barbara came to San Miguel de Allende in 2004 and decided to leave her job behind and live there, “One day and I fell in love with San Miguel”, says in her broken Spanish. “San Miguel is the perfect place to retire, many Americans like living in Mexico. People are kind and mean well, the weather is perfect and there is good energy everywhere. This is good living.”, says Barbara, who only goes back to Florida and Texas to visit her family for Christmas.

The Allure of Mexican Culture

A family far from the gringo stereotype found their home in Mexico.

Ángel and Raquel came to Playa del Carmen over ten years ago and where immediately fascinated by the natural beauty of the Mexican Caribbean, the warmth of its people and the peace and safety that can be found in the heart of the Mayan Riviera. Together with their two children, Emiliano, 19, and Ixchel, 11, they seek to learn and enrich from the Mexican culture, its colors, flavors, music and history. “I did not come here to live as an American”, says Raquel.

When asked about president Trump, she says “Not my president”, while Ángel prefers not to even mention him. Instead he says “Love thy neighbor as you would love yourself. Shutting the door to your neighbor goes against everything I learned in the U.S.”

“Nomads and free”, is how this couple defines themselves. Though they have not yet decided whether they would make of Mexico their definite place of residence, they do have a clear vision of their stay in our country “I chose to come to Mexico, along with the responsibility of contributing to the place the best way I can”, says Raquel.

This is a couple who knows what stigma and discrimination in their own country looks like, as they experienced it firsthand from an early age. Ángel was born in Puerto Rico and moved with his family to New York at age 7, while Raquel was born in California to Mexican parents.

A hidden treasure in the heart of the Mexican Caribbean

Hundreds of Americans have found a home amidst the exuberant Mayan jungle for over 10 years.

“The best kept secret” of the Mexican Caribbean is found between Playa del Carmen and Tulúm. It’s name is Paamul, a Mayan term for “destroyed ruin”. Paamul is an exclusive coastal hosting featuring a hotel, ten cabins, a dive shop, a restaurant and a trailer park.

Over 200 American retirees and people in post live here “It is a quiet place with good quality of living and no violence. A very safe place, indeed”, says Kalu de Silva business partner of a Paamul restaurant.

American Lyda Puleston came to Paamul over 16 years ago. Her truck was one of the first ever in the area. She married Roberto, an Italian she met in the Mayan Riviera six years ago, and lives in Paamul with her children Gloria, 12, Castor, 14, and Dómino, 5, all of whom go to a school by the sea and play with the children of the rest of the Americans living in Paamul.

Learning English, Italian and Spanish is key for Lyda and Roberto’s children. They think of Mexico as “one of the most beautiful places in the world, with plenty of potential and which represents an ideal place for everyone.” They both stress that “the future of the world” lies within ancient Mayan traditions, its relationship with Nature and Earth, as well as on its medicine.

For Lyda, Trump is the expression of ignorance and a poor schooling system in the U.S., “Not many people have access to proper schooling in the U.S. and fail to understand what a global world is. Trump doesn’t really know what he is doing”, says Lyda who trusts that Trump would be impeached before completing his term in office.

Shockingly for Lyda and Roberto, half or at least a third of the residents of Paamul voted for Trump “They voted him and, yet, live in Mexico, such incongruity.”, they conclude.