Once in a while someone asks me how I like living in Baja, California, Mexico. They want to know how I learned the language, if I miss the United States and, if I have safety issues with living in Mexico.
When I first moved to Baja, I didn´t speak Spanish. My husband Raul spoke English and so did most of his family. Although speaking English helped me adjust, I soon realized I had to learn the language no matter what. How else was I to speak with my childrens´ teachers at school? How was I to go to the market, the bank or pay the bills? Learning Spanish was a necessity and believe me, when necessity arises, it´s amazing how fast we learn.
It didn´t take long for me to discover how much I enjoyed speaking Spanish. There was no need for formal lessons, I had plenty of family members to practice with especially when they decided to stop speaking to me in English. Within six months I was understanding 65% of the language and within a year I conversed fluently. Today, I read and write in Spanish and I´m 95% fluent.
Do I miss the United States? I don´t miss it as much as I did twenty years ago. My life has dug it´s roots deep into the sandy soil of Mexico. What some people might consider disadvantages, when comparing Baja to the U.S, I see the exact opposite. The lessons I learned about family, life people and relationships goes far beyond anything I could ever have imagined. I´ll admit, at times it hasn´t been easy, but life isn´t about being easy. It´s about learning from our mistakes, growing up, and becoming the best people we can possibly be.
My husband and I moved to Baja with our two children when I was 22 years old. This is where I grew up. Most of us would like to remember the house or town we grew up in as the place where we felt safe and secure. In all the years I´ve been living here, there has never been the question of my safety as an American living in Baja.
I´ve never felt more safe and secure, even if my red hair and freckles were a dead give away to my foreign status.
I understand there is enormous concern these days regarding the drug cartels and other forms of organized crimes that run rampant in some areas of Northern Baja. Tijuana, an over sized border town just south of the San Diego border, and Rosarito Beach, a few miles south have been affected by organized crime and drug trafickers trying to cross drugs into the U.S. Although the Mexican government has done an excellent job controlling the situation and continues to do so. I live farther south in the city of Ensenada and in all the twenty years I´ve lived in Baja, never have I encountered anything out of the ordinary or dangerous.
The Mexican people are the most hospitable people I have ever known. There is a genuine sense of hospitality which radiates from within the hearts of the everyone here. When they open the doors to their homes, you are welcomed as friends and family.
The people I´ve met here in Baja have all been honest, hard-working people. There are good guys and bad guys everywhere but in a nutshell, people are people. We experience joy in our lives, heartbreak and difficulties as well. An American family having problems with their teenager could just as well be a Mexican family with the same problems or a Japanese family clear across the world.
I love my country but I´ve also come to love another. Mexico´s people have taught me so much. They´ve accepted me into their homes and into their families to which I am most grateful. Twenty years ago I embarked on a whirling, roller coaster ride filled with enormous ups and downs, twists and turns. I just keep wondering when it´s going to slow down long enough for me to catch my breath.