I moved to Mexico accidentally. It happens more easily than you might think. I was coming just to shake off some city stress and relax for a few weeks…two months maybe…in Cabo San Lucas before heading back to Vancouver. But I met a few people who introduced me to a couple more people and without any real plan or intention, I found myself working as a publicist for a hotel. And also without any real plan or intention, I found myself falling in love with Mexico.
After 2 years my family was very happy that I decided to return to Canada to start a family of my own. But they weren’t so happy when a year later I decided to move back to Mexico (Puerto Vallarta this time) with my infant daughter who was not yet a year old. They couldn’t seem to understand why I would leave the land of “milk and honey” for the land of rice and beans, especially with a baby in tow.
But I was confident that Mexico was where I wanted to raise my daughter. The cost of living in Mexico allowed me to stay home with my daughter until she was three years old and when she did start her fantastic pre-school, it was at a fraction of the cost of what it would be at home. And after having very positive pre-natal care while pregnant in Mexico, I knew that private doctors and dentists here provide equal and sometimes higher level of care than Canadian doctors.
But more than practicalities, it was the cultural approach to childrearing that I wanted from raising my daughter in Mexico. In Canada, I didn’t know the names of my neighbours that lived on the same floor of my condo building. In Mexico, my neighbours all come to my daughter’s birthday party to have some cake and leave a little gift. It’s a culture where children are not taught to be afraid of strangers, where every grown-up family friend is a tia or a tio (aunt or uncle), where all kids at every school wear uniforms helping to equal the economic playing field, where singing out loud is fun and not embarrassing. It’s relaxed, it’s social and its fun.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s drives me nuts that Mexicans love telling me that my daughter would be “prettier” with pierced ears, that Coca Cola can cure all childhood illnesses, spanking is the only effective method of discipline or that I’m a mean mommy because my daughter has a 8:30pm bedtime and isn’t allowed to stay up until midnight. And as great as it is that my daughter is growing up bilingual I do get frustrated that her Spanish now far surpasses mine and there are times when I have no idea what she’s just said.
But mostly, when I see my little girl happily bashing a piñata, eating spicy chilies without blinking or watering an eye, chatting in Spanish or English with strangers we meet and spending long Sunday afternoons playing on the beach, I know that I’ve made the right choice for my family. Milk and honey are definitely delicious, but for me, rice and beans are a lot more satisfying.
Written by Sylvia McNamee for Caras de México. Click here to read more articles examining Mexican identity.