Dianne Hofner Saphiere and her husband Greg Webb are the authors of VidaMaz about their family life in Mazatlán, Sinaloa, México. It’s an excellent resource for those planning on visiting or moving to the area. Be sure to check it out!
What brought you to Mexico?
Before we were married, we promised to raise our son overseas, so that he could grow up thinking of himself as a global citizen, be fluent in a second language, and know how it feels to be an immigrant minority. A year before he was to leave primary school and start middle school, we made the decision to relocate. For the next year, we had a tutor come in to teach us Spanish twice/week, and we began getting rid of everything extra in our home—major downsizing.
What was the inspiration for your blog name?
Our family blog is VidaMaz, because it’s all about our life in Mazatlán, Sinaloa, Mexico.
What area of Mexico and topics does your blog primarily focus on?
We live in Mazatlán, on the west coast of Mexico, so our blog primarily focuses on this area: what’s going on in town, the joys of daily life, nearby road trips that are worthwhile, cultural tidbits. We love to travel, however, so you’ll find posts about Copper Canyon, Zacatecas, Oaxaca, Michoacán, or even Venice or Sophia. We’ve had lots of posts about raising kids here, but our son is now in university, so that phase is pretty much past. I am a photographer, and we often share what my lens has captured. We love knowing how our posts have helped people over the years, whether it’s informing their decision about moving or where to take a trip on the weekend. It’s a joy to meet them when they visit or move here.
Why do you blog?
We blog for pleasure, and to help other expats. Our site started to help family and friends stay in touch, but it was quickly adopted by our local community as a place to find in-depth stories and information. We write mostly for our expats in our area, but we are read by many locals who use VidaMaz to practice their English and learn about the interests of expats.
What is your favorite blog post?
We’ve posted 450 times since we started blogging in late 2008. Nowadays we can average 27,000 views per month, so a favorite post is very difficult. Our most-read post was written when the Baluarte Bridge first opened, connecting the states of Durango and Sinaloa.
Our second most popular post was about our local merchant marine academy, Latin America’s oldest, where loads of our son’s friends go to school.
I really enjoyed writing about our local, incredible watchmaker.
What has been the most difficult for you to blog about?
That is a very easy question. Our friend was kidnapped and murdered, and we posted to help the efforts to find him. It was heartbreaking, community leaders and expats had nerves frayed… just a very stressful time. We did our best to be helpful, but balancing what the family wanted with what the police advised and what our readers asked for with what we could do was very tough.
What has been the best experience you’ve had in Mexico?
Again that’s easy. Our best experience was raising our son here. At 12 years old he did NOT want to move! On our one-year anniversary, we woke him for school and he told us, “One year since the best decision of our lives.” He struggled for months learning enough Spanish to keep up with school work. Then, about six months in, he went to bed one night, and it was as if a lightbulb turned on. From then on he could handle his schoolwork. Friendships were challenging, also, as people are very friendly, but manners and customs are different. It takes getting used to. He was called “gringo” by his friends for a long time and still is by some. Living here has taught him mental and emotional flexibility. It’s taught him to bridge two worlds, to find the best in situations, to create constructive paths forward. I’m eternally grateful to Mexico, our family and friends for helping make that happen, and wouldn’t trade it for anything.
What has been the worst experience you’ve had in Mexico?
If I’m honest, it’s the deaths of several friends due to violence/extortion. It’s heartbreaking. Other than that, not much. When we go through culture shock, which happens cyclically as you get to know people more deeply, you can have days that you feel haven’t gone well. Perhaps our most difficult challenge was during MotoWeek parade, when a motorcycle crashed, jumped the curb, and hit my husband, breaking his leg in two places. The bone healed fine, but the nerves took over a year to heal, which was hard because he’s a runner. It was a horrible experience due to the injury and sidelining of any athletics, but also because the event organizers and the city officials would do nothing to help us.
If you are currently in Mexico, how long do you plan on remaining?
Mexico is our home. We are all permanent residents and plan to live out our lives here if possible.
Where do you see your blog going?
The blog has very much evolved over the years because what we see as exciting, new and interesting has changed. I imagine that trend will continue. We are blessed with a community of great local and expat friends, and I’ve noticed that we are often asked to take on a leadership role, or at least the role of “voice” or communicator, between the two. We do the blog to share what life is like here, to help others, and because we enjoy it. We don’t make money at it, so we don’t want it to become an obligation in any way; we want it to stay joyful, which so far it has.
What advice do you have for those planning to move or travel to in Mexico?
Do it! Life is an adventure, a “Carnaval,” as they say here. Make the most of it! When you move here, remember you are in someone else’s home. The locals do things differently from, not worse than, what you are used to. Learn to discover the joy, the parts that are better, to savor them. Challenge yourself to adapt to your new surroundings, and discover parts of yourself you never knew you had.
Where can you be found?