It was a crisp, moonlit night. A Mexican family of no small nobility gathered in the large living room of their substantial hacienda in the Northern State of Sinaloa. They were arguing the future of their once vast estate, which still counted several thousand acres of land. What was left of the original ranch was huddled up to the Western slopes of the Sierra Nevada.
The argument wasn't one of anger, but rather an exchange of ideas over their best options. They were by no means in any sort of financial crisis. Their income from farming and ranching paid for a good life; an excellent standard of living by Mexican measures. However, a firm offer had been tendered to them for the purchase of the ranch, lock, stock and barrel. The offer was from a high-end resort development group, who wanted to expand the hacienda and land into a luxury spa and dude ranch combination.
None of them could fault the judgment of the company, for their land was surely some of the loveliest in Mexico; miles of green pastureland and forest that rose gradually but purposefully to the East, before sweeping up into the majestic edges of the Sierra. Water was abundant and clean; indeed, over one hundred streams and rivers crossed the land, and many artificial lakes had been dug to impound water, both for practical and recreational purposes. It was a spectacular spread from almost any perspective. The hills and the mountains beyond were gorgeous from the lowlands, and the low areas were postcard-perfect from above.
Listening in with detached interest were the family elders, who had already made their choice. Anticipating resistance to the sale of the land, the resort company had offered to build private homes for any and all who desired to stay, and had gone so far as to present architectural renderings of substantial looking homes constructed of stone and wood.
Juan Antonio Vizcarrando, an elegant gentleman at seventy, sat serenely in a comfortable chair as his children and grandchildren discussed the possible sale of this property, which had been put together over a century before by his great-grandfather and his wife's great-grandfather. Maria Rosa, his wife, sat by his side sipping a glass of red wine. She was as pretty a woman as her husband was handsome; white haired, but clear-eyed and remarkably free of wrinkles. At the time of their marriage, the Governor of Sinaloa had presented a toast. As a friend of both parents, he announced that Juan and Maria represented a new generation of Mexicans, and the future of Mexico itself. For they were landed aristocrats with no feeling of superiority, and they rolled up their sleeves and did the hardest work themselves.
It wasn't Juan and Maria who let down Mexico, but the other way around. Decade after decade of bad and corrupt government had been visited on the citizens, and reformer after reformer, once vested with power, just dipped into the pot of wealth for their own benefit. The corruption happened mostly in the cities, and it was the cities that benefitted. The rural populations suffered greatly, and people migrated northward to the U.S. by the tens of thousands. Those who were stopped at the border just tried again the next chance they had, but most made it the first time. Over the years there had been amnesty programs, and many of those once considered illegal were living productive lives in the States.
Juan and Maria were proud people, and they'd loved each other since their teens. They were always proudest, and felt that love the most when they watched their own family make serious decisions. There was passion in their childrens' words, but rational passion as they discussed the pros and cons. Even Diego, their youngest grandson, contributed intelligently, if a bit naively. He could usually be counted on to display a sharp temper and a certain moodiness, but not that night. The others were sorting out the ups and downs of selling, and Diego held it inward, asking what each alternative meant to him personally.
They didn't decide anything that night, nor the next or the next. They talked for weeks, throughout the early autumn and into November. They worried about the real intent of the development company, and were offered trips to other such properties in the United States and in South America. The men went to a resort in Arizona and could only admire what had been done there. Every possible measure had been taken to blend in with, and to protect the original landscape. Also, at that place, the original owners were living in a home the resort builders had provided for them. They were generous in their praise for the developers, but admitted that they might never become totally used to 'strangers' roaming their property.
As for the employees of the ranch, they'd always been assured that they would keep their jobs, and quite likely would be offered better jobs with the resort company.
The downside for each and every member of the family was the loss of place, the loss of position. They wouldn't lose their heritage, but what would that family history mean for them anywhere else? Not much, they agreed, but as a family it was their own obligation to cherish it, to remember how they came to have such a luminous past, and to pass those memories on to future generations.
It wasn't until March that a decision was made. Prior to that, Hugo, the older brother, announced that he and his wife were staying at the ranch regardless of what the others decided. They had a son in college and two married daughters, and a more relaxed lifestyle appealed to them.
That made sense to everyone, because Hugo had long been involved in community affairs. While he might enjoy a change of scenery, and even lifestyle, it would be very wrenching for him to try to extract himself from what he knew so well.
It was the younger brother, Elian, his wife, Delfina, and their children; Paulo, Romi and Diego who made the final decision. They announced their plan to sell out and move to the United States.
There was no argument, because it was expected. Most Mexican children, even well-off ones, admired the big country to the North, and longed after the lifestyle it offered. The Vizcarrondo-Rosa clan had visited many times, and they all found it to their liking. Elian had done much legwork, and had drawn on his long list of friends and acquaintences, to help find a place that would suit them.
Oh, there were many, but the cost of land was usually prohibitive in all but the most unattractive areas. He became interested one day when a friend of his called from the East coast, talking about a property that was coming available on what he called a value-lease. It was a piece of land that measured about a hundred acres, but it was surrounded by several hundred acres of a state park land, and in turn by several thousand acres of state forest.
It was all very complicated. Basically, the heirs to the property had left it to rot, and had only thought of it when long-overdue tax bills came to their attention. They couldn't afford the taxes, and the town the land was in didn't particularly want it, because it was now in the middle of state land. The state had no legal claim, so some lawyers had come up with a deal. If someone would settle on the land, pay off the nearly one million dollar tax bill over twenty years, while keeping up with current taxes, then the heirs and all others involved would sign the land over and it would belong to new owners.
Elian flew up to look, and he stayed right where he was until his wife and children joined him. Much of the land reminded him almost intimately of parts of their property in Mexico; especially the stony trails in the hills, the little streams and falls. It was beautiful and it was nearly perfect. The buildings were run down, some of them falling down, but there was a house that would come back to life without much expense. A little investigation revealed that horses, even commercial operations, were allowed in state parks and forests, although not on beaches.
When his family heard Elian's vision for the property, it immediately became a shared vision. It was perfect in its own way. They would move to the U.S., become citizens, and pass on their heritage in a fun and marvelous way. The zoning wouldn't allow for a hotel, so they planned a riding ranch.
Their own horses would have to stay in Mexico as equine employees of the new resort, but they soon learned that they were in an area full of horses. There were boarding stables everywhere, and many riding stables too. The Vizcarrondo-Rosa family ranch, however, would be the only one able to offer miles of scenic trails, and the only one with trails of any difficulty. The land was in a wealthy area, so it was time for Heritage to meet Money, and all of them together, from Elian to Diego, were literally betting the family farm that they'd succeed.