YL: When did you move to the Yucatan and where did you move from and why did you move?
Elayne: I moved from New Orleans, after 12 years living and working in the French Quarter. We bought our home last August in the same month as Hurricane Katrina, but earlier in the month. I suppose it may sound strange, but I had a really strong feeling it was time to leave New Orleans. And we feel very unhappy and uncomfortable with the current Administration and political climate in the US.
YL: Why did you choose the city you now live in over other places in the world?
Elayne: This might sound a little odd too, but it seems like Merida chose us! We were talking about moving out of the US. I was researching possible locations in Mexico. Heading south sounded good because we like a hot climate, and we didn’t want to move too-too far away from the US. A friend’s brother has a house in Centro and one at the beach here, though he lives most of the year in California. When my friend heard I was researching moving to Mexico, she suggested I look into Merida. So, that was how I initially found the city (I’d never heard of it before). After many, many hours doing research on the Internet, I knew we were moving here—before we’d ever even visited. We found the house on our first day house hunting (I had seen it online)!
YL: What did/do you plan to do after you move(d) here?
Elayne: I planned to open a B & B & P (Bed and Breakfast and Piercing) venture, which I’m doing. And I planned to finish my book, which I’m also doing. And, I still have another business. It is a shop online and in New Orleans, called Chi-wa-wa Ga-ga; A Small Store for Dinky Dogs (www.chiwawagaga.com).
I have a business partner there who runs it in the French Quarter, and I work on the Internet from here.
YL: Are you doing now what you intended to do when you moved here?
Elayne: Yep. See above.
YL: Did you buy a house right away or rent first? Do you think you made the right decision?
Elayne: Yes, we bought right away, and we are very happy with our decision.
YL: Now that you live here, how do you like it?
Elayne: WE LOVE IT! Couldn’t be happier!
YL: Would you ever return to your former location?
Elayne: I find it hard to imagine ever living anywhere in the US again after enjoying life here.
YL: What are the most striking differences between living here vs. living where you lived before?
Elayne: Hahaha. It is SO different it is almost like being on another planet! One of the most striking differences is the lower crime rate. New Orleans had become very scary. There is so much violent crime there. Another is the cost of living. The quality of life here is great for us. Also, we lived in the French Quarter and didn’t have any yard or outdoor space, except for a small balcony. Here we have a big yard and trees. There’s food growing out there that we can eat. It is amazing after all that city livin’!
YL: What do you love about living here?
Elayne: The people, the culture, the cuisine, the architecture, the sights—ruins, cenotes, haciendas, playas. And, of course, we love our home in the “country.”
YL: What do you miss from your "former life"?
Elayne: Some friends, but they’ll visit. And I miss good Thai and Indian food. But my favorite restaurants in New Orleans were wiped out by Hurricane Katrina, so I didn’t have access there to that food any more.
YL: If you are working or own a business, what is it like owning and running a business here or working here?
Elayne: Well, I haven’t formally opened yet. But I will be catering exclusively to my previous client base—the same folks who traveled in to see me and be pierced by me in New Orleans are the ones I’ll be piercing here. I won’t be “open to the public” per se, or have a studio like I used to. It will be pretty low key.
YL: Do you have to do more than one thing to make a living?
Elayne: I’m kind of semi-retired, really. I’m taking a lot more off time here than I did in New Orleans.
YL: Do you work as much as you used to "back home" or are your work habits different here?
Elayne: My work life is quite a bit different. I’m very relaxed here, and I have more free time and more leisure time.
YL: How is the city where you live different for residents than it is for tourists?
Elayne: Well, there aren’t any tourists where we live in a small pueblito outside of Merida. Our area is not a tourist neighborhood at all.
YL: How is your Spanish?
Elayne: Considering I didn’t really speak any before I moved here, I feel very good about my progress. I’ve learned a LOT in a few months. I have a Spanish/English dictionary in my cell phone, and every spare minute I’m looking up words and learning as much as I can. We also have a housekeeper who is terrific, and she has been teaching me so much.
YL: Is the language barrier a problem for you in your day to day life?
Elayne: Not usually. Every now and then I end up in a situation that is a little over my head, but not often. The resolution to that is to keep learning and become fluent. I’m not concerned about it, though occasionally I find myself in a somewhat frustrating situation.
YL: What is the one most important piece of advice you would give someone planning a move to the Yucatan?
Elayne: Three words: research, research, research! Make sure you know what you want and what you’re getting into.
YL: Are you a Mexican citizen?
YL: If you aren't, do you think you will become one?
Elayne: I don’t think so. I would need to learn more about it.
YL: Why would or wouldn't you?
Elayne: I still have family in the US, and I’m not sure how changing citizenship would affect my ability to travel freely back and forth.
YL: How are you treated by Mexicans? Do you feel resented or welcome?
Elayne: We feel very welcome. The people here are lovely. It was the one thing I couldn’t research via Internet: how would the people react to us? My husband and I are both heavily tattooed and I have a lot of facial and ear piercings. Oh, and I’m a woman and I shave my head, too. Suffice it to say we stand out in a crowd. And, anywhere we go, people look at us. But here, when you smile, it is a doorway to friendship. The folks here have been very welcoming and kind to us.
YL: How do you feel about the economic prospects of Mexico?
Elayne: For us, it is a great situation, though for someone who plans to come from the US and look for a job, I’m sure that would be an entirely different matter.
YL: What are your plans for the future here?
Elayne: To live happily ever after.
YL: Do you see your business growing?
Elayne: Not if I can help it. That is, after 12 years of running my own shop, and years of running someone else’s before that, I’m very much enjoying taking it a bit easier.
YL: Do you see yourself staying?
Elayne: Absolutely. We travel fairly regularly, but as far as LIVING goes, we plan to do that here!
YL: Any last words?
Elayne: If you intend to move here from elsewhere, plan on learning to speak Spanish. I’ve heard of expats expecting Mexicans to speak English, but, that isn’t the local language here...
Elayne runs Angel's B&B&P, what is probably the only B&B&P (Bed & Breakfast & Piercing) in the Yucatan.
elsy 14 years ago
I admire people like you, who find my birthplace as the opportunity to continue living, but starting a new way of life.
I go every year to visit my mother and other relatives and I cannot decide to go back and stay there...perhaps I should now.
Actually, this article (site) caught my attention becasue one of my grandsons loves tatooing and I told him there is no future in it.
I would like him to go to the convenction that will take place in October, do you have any additional information about it? If you do, please email it to me.
From California, elsy
Debbie Ann (from Gauntlet SF) 14 years ago
Just want to send good wishes to Elayne. I have been living outside the US for two years, and love it. Just saw Buck in a film here in Sydney tonight. hope all goes well, and taking it easy and relaxing is a good thing.
jim thompson 14 years ago
Elayne and Jake are 2 of my most favorite people in the world... Elayne and her assistant did a dual piercing on my nipples and it was a fantastic experience. Miss them and New Orleans but I wish them nothing but happiness in their new lives in the Yucatan. In fact, I would like to get in contact once more and reestablish our short-lived acquaintance and become friends. Elayne and her partner Jake are two of the most down-to-earth and caring people I have ever met. Hope to venture that way and just hang out... and I will be bringing supplies from NOLA when we visit. With fond remembrances, Jim and Robbie
WENDI & RICK 15 years ago
Great interview, as always you have such interesting things to talk about.
It is so great that you and Jake both got up and walked forward into a life you enjoy so much. We know you have taken only positive chances and like we've never seen, they have all worked out. Mexico is a beautiful country and as you spoke about the people being so friendly and full of culture, we too agree. Who knows? Maybe someday we'll take an adventure and look for something in an exotic place as well... Mexico, perhaps!
As always, we wish you good luck with your B&B. We are sure it will be amazing because you never do anything less!
Lots of love,
Your friends in California, Wendi and Rick
Dominic Sammaritano 15 years ago
My mother grew up with Elayne in high school, i remember my mom telling me at there high school reunion that she was voted most changed in 20 years . Elayne is such a bright intelligent lady u might be scared of her appearance, but sit and talk with her for 10 mins and see how yer mind takes a second look passed all the piercings and tattoos. again one of the most intellectual people I've had the pleasure to sit and chat with and of course a great person to know!!!
hope u and jake enjoy things there!!!
Unkjime (jim) 15 years ago
Happy to see you doing well. We met once in LA. About +or- 90. @ the Gauntlet while getting some rings. I was in heaven when I met you, fitting for a angel. I e-mailed you after your move to New Orleans.You did not respond. Still you are fine eye candy. Hope to see you again, maybe when your B&B works out.
Time Flies, Jim
Maria Novoa 16 years ago
Great interview Elayne! I enjoyed reading it - especially reading the part of how you felt you've been treated by the "Mexicans". -- I'm so glad you're being treated well by my fellow Yucatecos :)
Good luck with that B&B&P. I think it will be a huge success. Keep us posted as to when you'll have your book finished. Going to check out your Chi-wa-wa-Ga-ga site as soon as I finish posting this (although my own beloved Chihuahua passed away a few years ago, I love visiting anything and everything Chihuahua-geared).
Good luck with your B&B&P (by the way... do you guys do tats? or was it just the piercings that you do?) - in any case... Good luck again! With everything!!!
Pamela Marshall Ganné 16 years ago
I will be looking forward to reading the blow-by-blow articles on "El sendero para obtener el pasaporte mexicano" by the Working Gringos with the same excitement with which the French of the "Belle Epoque" anticipated the next installment of "The Adventures of ArsÃ¨ne Lupin" by Maurice Leblanc and the 1980s estadounidenses awaited the next espisode of "Dynasty"!
I was married to a Frenchman for 10 years before I applied for my French citizenship, although I was eligible after 2 years of marriage--even though I had never lived in France! When it was just a question of having a French passport, I was a bit unmotivated. However, when the European Union jumped to 12 members, being a good estadounidense, I said "Twelve for the price of one is too good to pass up!"
My husband was not planning to apply for U.S. citizenship. However, the U.S. went from having immigrants under the auspices of the INS to having them under the purview of the Department of Homeland Security. We also began to hear more about proposed changes to U.S. law concerning ineligibility for Social Security if one did not "naturalize". Needless to say, my husband is now a dual citizen of France and the U.S.
Knowing that several of your interviewees are Canadian, I took the liberty of doing some research re: dual citizenship in Canada:
"Unlike the law in effect in Canada up to 1977, the current Citizenship Act allows Canadian citizens to acquire a foreign nationality without automatically losing their Canadian citizenship. Since February 15, 1977, a Canadian citizen who acquires another nationality may retain Canadian citizenship, unless he or she voluntarily applies to renounce it and the application is approved by a citizenship judge. The current act thus makes it possible to have two or more citizenships and allegiances at the same time for an indefinite period."
As you can see, the U.S. and Canadian positions on dual citizenship and renouncation are virtually identical.
I work in a university Spanish department in Southern California and am surrounded by many students of Mexican descent who are eligible for dual citizenship by virture of their parents birth in Mexico. I encourage them all to take the time and effort required to secure their Mexican passports. We need more closeness between the two countries and ex-pats and dual citizens are our emissaries of goodwill between the two countries on both sides of the border!
Have fun doing the dual citizen shuffle this year!
Buena suerte y buen coraje.
Working Gringos 16 years ago
Madame GannÃ©... it is *always* a pleasure to get such thorough and thoughtful comments on our website. Of course, we very much want to and intend to do a thorough article. One of us is planning on applying for his Mexican passport this year, so we will certainly have some first-hand experience to write about. Additionally, we have spoken directly with a US Consulate who basically said the same thing. You are not required to and indeed the US does not want you to give us your US Citizenship.
We would not want to. But if there was a way to get a Planet Earth Passport, we would be first on the list!
Pamela Marshall Ganné 16 years ago
This is the latest in a number of interviews that I have read in which the interviewee is somewhat unclear about the nature of U.S. citizenship:
1. You can't "lose" U.S. citizenship if you take Mexican citizenship. There is only one way for a native born U.S. citizen to dispense with U.S. citizenship and that is by going to a U.S. Embassy and deliberately RENOUNCING it. And renouncing your U.S. citizenship is not easy to do and cannot be done to escape tax liability, among other things.
2. Dual citizenship is permitted by the U.S. due to the challenges that committed people have made in the U.S. Supreme court in the past. Citizens of some countries of the world cannot "renounce" their original citizenship when they become "naturalized" citizens of the U.S. so, obviously, dual citizenship must be tolerated by the U.S. government, thanks to the highest court in the land.
3. The mere fact that Mexico would "allow" immigrants or Mexican citizens to apply for dual citizenship with another country is advantageous to those who are interested. Belgium, for example, will not allow a Belgian citizen to take U.S. citizenship without losing her/his own national passport.
4. The law regarding travelling to and from the U.S. when one possesses dual citizenship is that one must travel into and out of the U.S. on her/his U.S. passport, period. There is no other requirement, with respect to travel, associated with whether or not one is also carrying a Mexican passport. I am a dual citizen of the U.S. (birth) and France (naturalization) and I leave and enter the U.S. with my U.S. passport. However, upon arrival in France, the French Immigration authorities are only interested in seeing my French passport.
5. In some ways, more important questions than "citizenship" per se should be posed when contemplating taking Mexican citizenship--the national legal system, civil rights, voting rights, military conscription, the right to purchase real estate, inheritance laws, banking laws, bilateral tax treaty agreements, and fiscal domicile for the purpose of taxation questions.
I hope that Yucatan Living will continue to do interviews and will also do articles on the step-by-step process from Mexican short-term, tourist visas, through Mexican permanent residency on to Mexican citizenship. You have an ideal forum for clearing up the many misconceptions regarding dual citizenship and the U.S., as well as highlighting what the rights and responsibilities of Mexican citizenship are currently.
Keep up the fantastic work! It is always a pleasure to check in on the happenings in MÃ©rida, Yucatan, Mexico as seen by the Working Gringos.
Lara 16 years ago
The Angels are the best new addition to the Yucatan!
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