Last month I was invited to contribute a chapter to a book about ex-pat women from the USA who have chosen to make a life in Mexico. Tell your story, the editor said. Write about your experience. What was your reason for leaving our land of the free, home of the brave (my tongue and cheek terminology)?
I dug deep. Went back to the story about how I met the Chavez Santiago family thirteen years ago in Teotitlan del Valle and fell in love: with them, with Oaxaca, with Teotitlan del Valle, with the rug weaving culture, with Zapotec life and values, with the climate, archeology, history, artisanry and art.
But, I always did, and still do, consider The United States of America my country, where I am vested and invested in language, culture, and especially social justice and political issues.
And, I am now spending most of the year at home in Teotitlan del Valle, with occasional, short stays at my apartment in Durham, North Carolina.
So, I went deep into that question about how did I get to Mexico, and more importantly, why I make it home, am comfortable and love it there. I will save this for when the book is published and you can read it for yourself.
(As a consequence, I wrote a blog post about the difference in terms: immigrant and ex-pat.)
By writing about this I realized that it is time to declare my commitment to Mexico by applying for a permanent resident visa. It was about time, I told myself. I have been living permanently in Oaxaca for many years but functioning as a visitor, leaving the country and returning. I wrote the Mexican Consulate in Raleigh, NC, and scheduled an interview to make application.
(I confess, too, that the Supreme Court Justice nomination and hearings helped me make this choice, too.)
My application was approved and within two hours I received the official visa in my passport. I knew I had done the right thing after taking a pulse on why I was grinning ear to ear!
This means I will have 30 days after returning to Oaxaca to present this credential at the immigration office to get the ultimate, official identity card. Permanent means I no longer have to leave the country at the end of 30, 60 or 180 days. It means I can get a bank account and a credit card and own a car, get discounts and free admissions to museums, bus rides, and what else tangible I do not know. But, the intangible is that I belong in Mexico, too, and that feels good.
While I was at the consulate, I met Cecelia Barros, who heads up cultural affairs for the consulate in North and South Carolina. We talked about ways to bring attention to the talent, creativity, rich history and culture of Mexican people to this part of the USA. Our mutual goal: to overcome and disable the stereotypes and shiboleths that so many hold about Mexico and Mexican immigrants.
I invited her to Omar’s presentation at Meredith College, and we are cooking up some ideas together about ways to develop educational programs that would offer greater cross-cultural understanding and appreciation. I’m excited about that.
My experience at the Mexican Consulate was positive and supportive, and did not mirror that of my Mexican friends and family who go to the US Embassy in Mexico City and are treated perfunctorily, with disdain and most often with denial.
Before I leave to return to Mexico on November 8, I will vote.