Robert Santacroce joins One Quart Magazine as our senior Mexican correspondent. His first article tells the story of how he, together with his wife Victoria, decided to leave the US and retire on the beach.
“South of the border, down Mexico way.
That’s where I fell in love where stars above, came out to play.
And now as I wander, my thoughts ever stray.
South of the border, down Mexico way.”
Shortly after celebrating Easter in 2016, my wife Victoria and I came to the realization that a very big change needed to happen; one we didn’t expect but were open to. Just seven years earlier we had returned to the beloved southwest – home of our early beginnings together. We were there to live out the remainder of our years cradled by the peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the high desert mesas, the radiant sun and clarity of stars. Although approaching retirement age, we were both still very much involved in our work as artists and teachers truly enjoying our community of Eldorado. It is an area just a few miles outside Santa Fe, New Mexico. Yet, as the art markets stumbled in a weaker economy, managing to live in the area had become challenging financially. We began to contemplate our future and imagine where we could live debt and stress free, if such a place truly existed.
Right around this time, Victoria reconnected with an old friend on Facebook from our Eugene, Oregon days 20 years earlier. Sandra looked very tan and happy in her profile photo and we very soon discovered why: She had been living in Mexico for the past nine years, enjoying her life in the sun among the wonderful people of Puerto Vallarta. We began a conversation with her and within a few minutes Sandra had invited us to come for a visit and experience what a truly stress free life could feel like. As we believe nothing is an accident and everything happens for a reason, we took her up on her invitation and booked a flight.
We began to contemplate our future and imagine where we could live debt and stress free, if such a place truly existed.
We arrived in Puerto Vallarta in the middle of June, as the weather was beginning to get hot and humid. Upon exiting the airport terminal we became very aware of that fact: the temperature was in the 90’s (Fahrenheit) and the humidity was likewise in the same range. A distant experience from our dry Santa Fe home. We were met by the same bright smile we had seen online and rejoiced in our first renewed embrace with Sandra.
Over the following three weeks, we caught up on each other’s lives, explored the city, engaged in her community and started to feel there could possibly be a home for us as well in Mexico. Before departing, we made the courageous decision to relocate! We opened a bank account and just before leaving, we rented an apartment for a year, to begin in September. Now, back in Santa Fe, we had our work cut out for us. It was July and we had a house to sell, the Mexican Consulate to visit to begin paperwork for temporary residency and a tremendous downsizing of our personal possessions to contemplate. What were we thinking? How could all this transpire in just two months?
Well, as destiny would have it, we nearly hit our mark. We sold our house in five days after listing it on the market, arranged for an estate sale company to liquidate all of our belongings expect what we could stuff into four large duffle bags and sold our Volvo. At the end of the sale we were debt free. We looked at each other amazed at our ability to let go of pretty much everything we owned and be open to an uncertain future. Needless to say our close friends were equally stunned and basically fell into two groups: those who were very envious and excited for us, and those who were fearful to let go of their material possessions and worried we would not be safe in Mexico. We reminded them of the relative nature of safety in America.
Although not arriving in Puerto Vallarta September 1st, as originally hoped, we did land soon after greeted by a very surprised and overjoyed Sandra. Before sharing what life has been for Victoria and I since arriving here in Mexico, I want to backtrack a bit and share a few words about the changing climate in the United States. I don’t mean global warming, although that reality is very present, it had more to do with the political climate and the approaching presidential election. We, as millions of other folks in the US, never dreamed that Trump would win the candidacy, we were fearful of his rhetoric and could foresee a country that would come to a crossroads in its future. As it turned out, we were still in America for the election and experienced the mixed emotions shared by all who opposed Trump taking office.
Our top floor apartment is on a high hillside south of town with a wonderful full view of Banderas Bay. Our days are a relaxed mixture of reading, walking, experiencing the wonderful local foods, and becoming educated about our new home.
Now, as we had already made plans to leave the country, Victoria and I felt a tremendous relief but at the same time, enormous sadness for our homeland. It felt like it was truly going to be a struggle to hold onto any semblance of a meaningful structure in Washington and we were concerned as to where things might go; although “a meaningful structure” in Washington is an oxymoron in itself, we had hoped the gains made by the Obama administration would have been furthered by Hillary Clinton’s vision of America. Our own oxymoron is that we have worked hard all of our adult life with the understanding we could truly ‘retire’ and slow down, however that reality was not attainable for us in today’s America.
We are now here south of the border, a border threatened to be under pressure from the new American government in power. We will have to see how everything materializes and pray sound minds will intervene and help calm the waters. Although our moving was not directly influenced by the election outcome, we are extremely happy we are here now, away from the politics and chaos that is showing signs of great fragility.
Life in Mexico
We have been in Puerto Vallarta for a bit over two months and could not be happier with our decision to relocate. Our top floor apartment is on a high hillside south of town with a wonderful full view of Banderas Bay. Our days are a relaxed mixture of reading, walking, experiencing the wonderful local foods, and becoming educated about our new home. We still read and hear about what is happening up north, and have done our part to support positive change, (writing to congressmen, going on Women’s March etc.) however we have pledged to ourselves to be less affected by the daily overload of news to override our newfound excitement in really learning about and experiencing our new adopted country.
After meeting all the requirements with the Mexican Consulate in Albuquerque before leaving, we have already completed the process here in Mexico to receive our Green Card for temporary residency. We have also bought a little red used car and gotten our Mexican driver’s licenses; (what an ordeal!) We are fortunate to have met many of the folks who live in our building, both locals and emmigrates as ourselves. Our location is turning out to be the best in many respects and we are so thankful for how the universe has supported our move with ease.
Needless to say our close friends were equally stunned and basically fell into two groups: those who were very envious and excited for us, and those who were fearful to let go of their material possessions and worried we would not be safe in Mexico.
Victoria has started looking ahead to the fall and color workshops sponsored by students who have worked with her over the years. I have been invited by a local bookstore, very popular with newcomers and locals alike, to give a book presentation on my latest novel a couple of weeks from now. All to say we are feeling a positive change in our lives and a new beginning with our adopted community.
We have begun working on our Spanish language skills and will continue to do so into the foreseeable future, as we feel it is very important to respect and communicate with the people who have so warmly welcomed us into their country.
We are happy and feeling excited about the life before us, as it reveals and inspires us to create and share our passions and talents. The Mexican culture and people are a rich blend of family and tradition. Victoria and I believe we have found our home for the next phase of our lives.