The Mexico I Once Knew


When I was in college a few years ago (in this sentence, “a few” means “way more than a few”), I lived in Mexico for a semester. I achieved said semester abroad by selling the whole “I should learn a language!” idea to my father who then tried less successfully to sell the whole “This will be a great life experience for Jo!” to my wildly furious but ultimately out-voted mother.

During my stay there, I spent a minimal amount of time attending language classes while opting for a maximal amount of time salsa dancing on the tables and traveling all over the country. To my father’s credit, it did manage to be an incredible life experience, and by some miraculous intervention of divine grace, I also managed to become quite fluent in Spanish at that time. Sadly my Spanish-speaking skills are in the “la crapola maxima” category nowadays, but I can still run (speak?) circles around my white bread (yet ironically an actual Mexican) husband who doesn’t speak the language. As I am basically the whitest girl you will ever see, this confuses the crap out of most of the workers who come to our home and that never stops being funny to me. That reaction alone would automatically deem the trip a perpetual win in my book, but the truth is that Mexico holds a very special place in my heart for a million better reasons.

I love to travel and have visited Central America, Europe, and Asia over the years. Although I stayed briefly with families in Japan and Ireland when I was young, I didn’t have the same sense of feeling truly at home in the culture and the country as I did when I was in Mexico. Perhaps it was the length of time that I was in Mexico or maybe there was some kind of genetic mutation that occurred with my excessive cerveza consumption / extensive bom-bom shaking. Whatever the reason, I fell head over heels in love with Mexico and have never fully recovered from that infatuation.


I spent five months living in the home of a beautiful family in Cuernavaca (located in the lower central Mexico). They looked after me but also allowed me to come and go without restrictions. Every few days, I would hop on a bus with a friend or two and head somewhere new – Veracruz, Oaxaca, D.F., Tepoztlan, Puebla, Acapulco, Ixtapa, Zihuatanejo, and anywhere and everywhere with pyramids.

We could ride for a few hours in any direction and find ourselves in a place that seemed like a new country. Exquisite beaches this way. Thick jungles complete with monkeys and jaguars in another. Deserts over here. Mountains over there. The natural diversity that we experienced still remains unrivaled in my travels.

The only element that rivalled the beauty of the country was that of its people. Their kindness was beyond measure. Given that we were young, low on cash, and even lower on common sense, we didn’t think twice about grabbing a ride with a total stranger, crashing on the sofa of someone we met hours before, asking taxi drivers to trade seats so we could take the wheel (ok that was just me, but the drivers enjoyed the breaks as I drove and yammered total nonsense into their communication radios). I basically lived the ultimate Mexico travel blog that never made it to the internet since Al Gore had just recently invented it in those days.

One of my most amazing and special memories is the trip we took to see the monarch butterfly migration in Michoacan. Given the young / dumb combo pack we were sporting, we hadn’t booked an actual trip to visit the place thousands of people would travel to see. As a bonus, we didn’t realize that it wasn’t exactly (a.k.a. no way at all) walking distance up the mountain once we got close-ish. Ultimately yet another kind stranger saved us. We hitched a ride Jack Kerouac style and bobbled along the dustiest path in the world via the tailgate of that pickup truck. I was covered in a foot of dust one we made it to the site, but I couldn’t have cared less. The butterflies blanketed the area. It was truly breath-taking. I often imagine taking my own butterfly fanatics there someday and even browsed the internet a few days ago to see if just maaaaaybe it might be possible. I felt such sadness when the first notice that appeared on the browser site list was the US government advisory warning citizens to steer clear of the area. In truth, it was far beyond sadness. I felt deeply cheated and my heart ached at the thought of never being able to share that kind of magical natural wonder with my daughters.

It was such a sad reminder of how greatly the country has changed in the years since I left. The safety issues aren’t at all limited to that area. I hear that there are still many places that are safe to visit, but I can’t confidently discern where those safe places are. My worry grows even deeper when my Mexican friends who are visiting the US express their fears about the extreme deterioration in their own towns. Some of them live in places that are shadowed by crime or run by drug lords. They are forced to send money to their families to maintain “protection” or they have to watch what they say and whom they cross. This Godfather reality seems surreal to me, but I’m not being fascetious. This is happening in many areas, and it is devastating to the country. I want my children to know the spectacular part of their heritage, but I can’t take them there. Their safety is never going to be optional in our minds.

So when I hear about Mexican citizens trying desperately to come to our country because they want a better life that they can’t find there, my heart goes out to them. In an ideal world, every single person would enter legally. End of story. However the information currently detailed on the US government immigration boards suggests that you should expect to wait 5-10 years or more to receive possible approval. In most cases, a visa must be obtained before applying for a green card, and in 2017, about 1,250,000 applications were on the visa waitlist. Only 85,000 of those applications were approved, and many of those went to highly skilled workers or people with immediate family in the US. If you do the math, that’s about a 6% chance of getting approved and is weighted toward those with US famliy or a Ph.D. level degree or skillset.

As a parent, I can tell you without question that I would go to the end of the earth to protect my children. Most decent parents would. They are woven into our souls the moment they enter our lives. We are here for them from that point on. So knowing that, I get why someone would risk it all for the chance of hope for the sake of their loved ones.

I’m not saying that it makes it right. I’m just saying that I get it.

I don’t pretend for one moment to have the perfect answer nor will I tell you that there is a right side or wrong side to this crisis. In truth, I don’t have any answers to this problem at all. In my eyes, there is no black and white. All I can see is gray after gray after gray, and I struggle immensely with all sides of the issue.

Reading about the separation of the immigrant families makes me feel such sadness. It reminds me once more how blessed I am. I am blessed because I can’t fathom what a life like that must be like. I am blessed because my biggest problem is my town is a ridiculous monthly water bill, not a crime boss demanding favors or payments. I am blessed because my husband and children are sleeping safely in this home a few mere feet away from me. Yes. I am blessed in more ways than I can count.

Whatever the reasons, whatever the stories, I send prayers to all families. I pray that we will always be blessed with the company of others who love us, that we will forever be given shelter and protection, and that we will be guided with our families to our true homes wherever they may be.

I pray for you. I pray for them. I pray for us.

Blessings to all of you. Jo

30 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. LA
    Jun 19, 2018 @ 07:08:04



  2. I tripped over a stone.
    Jun 19, 2018 @ 07:11:49

    I love Mexico. I love the culture, the food, the language, the colors… I love Mexico. My husband and I have been there about six times… 7-10 days at a time. We are warned to stay where the tourists are supposed to be and for the most part, we do. But the beautiful moments are those when we ventured out into the unknown in Mexico. (Not smart, almost in serious trouble a few times) I am jealous of your experiences, what an incredible time for you. I don’t have any answers either. I can’t stomach the brutality that goes on in some parts now. I wish we could help, I could help… I’ll join you and pray. ~Kim


    • Jo Price
      Jun 19, 2018 @ 07:21:57

      So many people think of the rough border towns or even the major tourist hotspots, but they haven’t seen what I remember of Mexico. Like you, I definitely found that magic was everywhere as soon as I entered the road less traveled (for mega white bread gringos like yours truly). It was not a smart or safe choice then, but it was basically Disneyland compared to today. I don’t think that it will change until the people rise up en masse and revolt against the oppression of crime that has taken over too many places. It will happen eventually. It always does. But I just wonder what the cost will be until then. I love that you have experienced the beauty of Mexico, too, but maybe don’t do that anymore. Seriously. I can’t handled a land without Kim. ❤️😘❤️


  3. joyfullyrenewed
    Jun 19, 2018 @ 07:22:55

    You make me wish that I had gone to Mexico with you instead of Greece for my semester abroad! The rest just breaks my heart though. I don’t know the answers to this problem. What I do know is that my own grandparents were refugees from Asia Minor to Greece. They didn’t leave their homes with only what they could carry because they thought that Greece was the best country in the world. They left because they had no other choice. Stay=die; leave=maybe live. Again, I don’t know the answers, but I have heard enough stories from my own grandparents to understand the desperation.


    • Jo Price
      Jun 19, 2018 @ 07:29:45

      That’s exactly what I think (and not just the part about your going with me to Mexico but Lord woman we would have had a frickin blast!!!). I know that there are some scumbags that come over illegally, but there are plenty of scumbags that were born and live here legally now. That’s just humans being humans. But there are amazing people who dream of something better. Something more. A possibility of a good safe life for their children. They leave everything behind, and that must be terrifying. How desperate do you have to be to be willing to uproot your entire life and come to another country with nothing eapecially knowing the current legal risks here. The people whom I know in that situation are terrified of being here now, but it’s still worth it to avoid the insanity they face in their home towns. It hurts my heart for them, and I can’t fathom seeing them in jail or having their children taken from them.


  4. shalini
    Jun 19, 2018 @ 08:49:58

    Jo, I think our lives were much better, than what we are giving our kids.
    Growing up I lived with bare minimum, we could afford only those, but it was still a better life, more stronger life, more energetic life. But today the world is a scary place. I am scared to travel much.. It is a different world, and not in a good way.


    • Jo Price
      Jun 19, 2018 @ 20:04:31

      Yes I think that the kids have too much of everything yet they seem to be starved for the things that they need most. Conversation. Playtime. Basic human interaction. It truly saddens me.


  5. José María López
    Jun 19, 2018 @ 10:40:56

    Don´t worry. All the presidential candidates say that they are gonna get rid of the violence, so it will be gone in July for sure. 😉


  6. Jo Price
    Jun 19, 2018 @ 11:17:41



  7. bone&silver
    Jun 19, 2018 @ 16:04:42

    Thanks for sharing your experience- it sounds truly wonderful- and yes, like you I’m acutely aware of our privileged Western lives nowadays. Ripping children from their desperate parents is a heinous crime, and good Americans need to riot in the streets, donate money to refugee organizations trying to deal with that crisis, and say their prayers too. Actions sometimes speak louder than words, and goodness knows we need action NOW, to stop the decline of our world any more, for our children’s sake. For EVERYONE’S children ❤ G


    • Jo Price
      Jun 19, 2018 @ 19:59:18

      I think the revolution will happen there long before it will here. People won’t live under oppression forever. It’s just not the human way.


  8. José María López
    Jun 19, 2018 @ 19:58:54

    I didn´t know you stayed with a family in Japan. How was that experience? How old were you?


    • Jo Price
      Jun 19, 2018 @ 20:03:03

      I was in high school when I was with that family. That one was only for a week. I think that the stay with the family in Ireland was around 5 weeks. Both were eye-opening experiences but in completely different ways. Travel has such a way of changing our perception of the world and of ourselves.


  9. José María López
    Jun 19, 2018 @ 20:10:02

    Oh yes. Travel opens a new universe. After I lived in Canada I can definitely say that I became a different person. I was in Toronto most of the time but I stayed in Montreal with a family for two months. Unfortunately I almost forgot all the french I learned but it was really fun and interesting.
    Japan and India are definitely in my bucket list. I´ve never been to Asia.


  10. José María López
    Jun 19, 2018 @ 20:20:26

    I am fascinated by Taoism, Buddhism and all those philosophies. Did you see the last Karate Kid movie? The most recent one? I want to stay in the Wudang Mountain Temple that is shown in the movie. You can go there to study mandarin, taoism, tai chi and other arts. I would love to experience the life in a monastery for a couple weeks and visit the surrounding countries for a few more days.


    • Jo Price
      Jun 20, 2018 @ 17:21:27

      I have been a fan of the Asian philosophies since high school. I had an incredible teacher who took several weeks to teach us about them, and I was hooked from that moment on. So different from the Western approaches.


      • José María López
        Jun 20, 2018 @ 18:19:00

        When I read Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman I even got bored in some parts of the book but what really makes his work interesting is the Eastern influence you can notice in his writing. Those are the best chapters for me. Same as Carl Jung, I think what made him such an amazing psychologist was his ability to integrate Eastern philosophies in his work. My father had a collection of Lobsang Rampa´s books, a Tibetan monk. Those were the first books I read since I was a kid. I love them and they opened my curiosity for those topics.
        Maybe I will marry an Asian woman, if you know somebody interested, let me know, 22-25 years old preferably please 😉.

      • Jo Price
        Jun 20, 2018 @ 19:34:26

        Lol. That’s so you on every level!

  11. Tingletravels
    Aug 20, 2018 @ 15:14:01

    I love this!! I live in Mexico and think its one of the best countries i the world! It truly has it all! ❤


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