In their own words
By Inside México Original Print Publication: February, 2009
For the "25 Mexicans You Should Know" edition of Inside México (November 2007) our editorial team sat in a room for hours, proposing and debating names of candidates, eventually whittling the list to a mix of well and less-well-known figures, each illuminating some aspect of this country.
For "25 Expats," we decided to do something different. We put the word out. We invited you, our readers, to tell us who to highlight. E-mailed nominations poured in from around the country, and several of you even called.
This inaugural group of 2009 finalists is a diverse bunch in terms of where they are from, where they live and what they do. You've helped us round up the expat equivalent of the "butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker." In this case, however, it is the activist, the developer and the expat filmmaker...and the dog rescuer, the theater founder, the birder, and the book store owner. The list goes on.
The common thread running through each selection is the effort these people make to build community between expats and Mexicans. We think that by doing so, they are helping to expand the definition of Mexico. That is what immigrants do.
Expat: Paul Crist
Organization: Vallarta Enfrenta el SIDA, A.C.
- 25 expat voices: Anado McLauchlin & Richard Schultz
- 25 expat voices: Attilio Tuis Berto
- 25 expat voices: Barbara Franco
- 25 expat voices: Barbara MacKinnon vda. de Montes
- 25 expat voices: Caren Cross
- 25 expat voices: Ed Krause
- 25 expat voices: Father Vincent Schwahn
- 25 expat voices: Henry Wangeman
- 25 expat voices: Jeanne Chaussee
- 25 expat voices: Joanie Barcal
- 25 expat voices: Kevin Pickolick
- 25 expat voices: Lee Carter
- 25 expat voices: Maggie Galton
- 25 expat voices: Marcia Hass
- 25 expat voices: Marie Dwyer-Bullock and Ray Bullock
- 25 expat voices: Milou de Montferrier
- 25 expat voices: Molly Fisher
- 25 expat voices: Paul Crist
- 25 expat voices: Rachel Micah-Jones
- 25 expat voices: Ron Buchanan
- 25 expat voices: Susana Trilling
- 25 expat voices: Susana Valadez
- 25 expat voices: Umair Khan
Originally from: Washington, DC.
Lives in: Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco.
Living in Mexico: Since June 2002.
Why did you move to Mexico?
I purchased a 28-room hotel in Puerto Vallarta, almost on a whim, while vacationing early in 2002. At the time, I was ready for a change in my life. As a politically active Democrat, things were not looking so favorable in Washington, DC in 2002. Additionally, my partner of eleven years, an HIV physician, had died suddenly of a heart attack in November 2001. On September 11, 2001, I could see the smoke in the sky from the Pentagon. All of these factors just came together and made me think about the fragility, and transience, of life. I decided that it was time to do something very different with my life.
Tell us about your involvement in the fight against AIDS in Puerto Vallarta.
My work is in memory of my former partner, who worked as the Medical Director of a large HIV clinic and social service provider, and of a former employee at my hotel.
The experience of this HIV-positive employee opened my eyes to the problem in Puerto Vallarta. I realized that the level of stigmatization, shame, denial, and discrimination surrounding HIV in Mexico far exceeded anything I had seen in the US. That employee refused to be tested and seek treatment in time. He once told me "I cannot go to the clinic, because the people will know why I am there." In the end, they knew, and he died anyway. It was very sad.
I also get far more personal and professional satisfaction from this work than I get from running my hotel... and I love running my hotel! My principal role in the organization is oversight, fundraising, bill-paying, and administration.
But the real work is done by our dedicated staff and volunteers. They are out on the streets, distributing safer-sex information, condoms, and referrals to social and medical services. They are doing the HIV testing and counseling, and making sure patients get to their medical appointments.
I believe that the public face of our organization must be Mexican, so I stay somewhat in the background when it comes to public events like our regular health fairs. I've seen and heard resentment among Mexicans regarding foreigners who do charitable work here, and I feel that Mexicans relate better and feel more comfortable dealing with a fellow Mexican when it comes to an issue as sensitive as HIV.
Do you have a specific Mexico "moment" that makes you think, "That's what I love about this place"?
I have that moment every day. I met my partner, Luis Tello, here. As any expat who has come to Mexico and found love will attest, when you marry a Mexican, you marry the whole family. I have a wonderful, loving Mexican family.
What are both the best and the hardest things about being an expat in Mexico?
Experiencing the warmth and genuine friendliness of Mexican people is the best thing about being an expat in Mexico. Many expats are frustrated by the "mañana" attitude of most Mexicans, but you come to realize that this is simply part of a cultural norm that puts people, and personal relationships, before work. If the work doesn't get done on time, there's always tomorrow. But Mexicans understand the importance of taking time to treasure loved ones today.
Of course, this same attitude is also the hardest thing about being an expat in Mexico. I have Mexican employees, deal with Mexican bureaucrats, and interact with workers at Mexican banks, utilities, and accounting and law offices. No matter how urgently I view the issue at hand; there is simply no sense of urgency to get any job done.
Because I have come to understand the Mexican culture and mentality, the "mañana" attitude doesn't seem so hard to deal with anymore. Now, when they say "Vuelve Usted mañana...," I just come back tomorrow.