When Maria meets John she is 24 years old. Maria is from a small town, north of Mexico. After studying in Europe for a year, she knows that she wants to move out of her home and live her own life. She applies in Mexico City for an internship and tries to change the university. Also she has no financial support from home and her mother doubts her decision, she moves to the big city, finds a job and shares an apartment with friends. Now she lives in Mexico City and worked in a large company.
On the 7th of January, shortly after the holiday of Epiphany, she meets friends at her home to celebrate and eat the traditional Rosca de Reyes. The "Royal Crest" is a yeast cake, that is traditionally baked on January 6 and decorated with dry fruits. On the inside, plastic figures of babies are hidden and whoever finds a baby in his cake, is believed to have good luck in the upcoming year. Maria finds three babies in her cake that evening - and meets John. He is American and comes from Philadelphia. He also works at a company in Mexico City at that time, they talk and like each other immediately. Maria enjoys his serious, open character. He seems to be someone who does not play games, who is interested and cares about the well-being of his family and friends. When he texts her a few days later asking if she would like to see him again she agrees.
They are together for three months when Maria's father gets ill. His condition worsens rapidly and he dies a few weeks later. She grieves, but she can not cry. Actually, their relationship has not always been easy. They had their discussions, but he respected her and what she wants. After Maria moved out, her relationship got better. He encouraged her in her projects, he loved her like a daughter, he was always proud of her. Maria's birth father has never taken responsibility for her. Luckily John gets to know him also. It is important for him to know her family. When he dies, John takes a holiday and stays with her in her hometown.
After her return to Mexico City, she feels empty. She looks at her life and realizes how dissatisfied she is. She works a lot, earns little and realizes that she wants to live a different life. John travels a lot for his job. Once he has to go home to the US and when he comes back, he seems changed. He is excited and in a good mood, but for no specific reason. One evening, he asks Maria if she would go away with him. They talk about quitting their job and traveling through South America, then he tells her about a job interview he had had in Philadelphia and that there would be a potential position for him in the US. He asks if she can imagine coming with him. And although she says no, she promises to think it over.
She thinks about it for three days, she talks to girlfriends (Miami is too far and touristy, you'll be bored). She thinks about simply traveling with John for a few months and then returning. The risk she would have to take seems to be the same. She has to quit her job, use her savings, give up all security and independence. She has to talk to her mother, 'serious adult talk', as she calls it. Her mother is conservative, Catholic - she does not want to see Maria traveling with a man, sleeping with him in a bed. She knows John, but she has her principles. At this time, they are dating for four months.
Maria meets with John and tells him that she can travel with him but does not go to the USA with him. She does not want to go to Miami, she does not have a work permit in the US, she does not want to be illegal. They are sitting on the rooftops of Mexico while they are talking. John is disappointed and sad. "It broke my heart to see him like this," she says. Maria can’t help, but deciding to reconsider her decision. “Maybe I can come”, she says. John tells her about friends who have found an employer who sponsored their visa. They talk for a long time and make plans. When Maria talks to her mother, she says: This is something I would never do, but I know you and I know that if you do not, you will regret it for the rest of your life. So do it. Maria talks to her boss, she asks for advice. He smiles and says: Live!
Maria and John pack their bags, they buy flights for a South America trip - the route is planned to go over Colombia to Peru, maybe they want to visit other countries. After three days in Colombia, John has another interview with the company that offered him the job. Another three days later he gets the offer - the company wants him as soon as possible.
They decide to stay at least until John's birthday, they travel to Peru and celebrate his birthday on the Machu Pichu. Then they fly back to Mexico and pack their bags. She donates most of her clothes to relief organizations, she has already moved out of her apartment before the trip, and Maria some boxes to her mother. Her mom is not excited about the plan - Maria goes anyway.
In early September, the two land in New York. They want to pick up a few things from John's home and then drive from Philadelphia to Miami, Florida. Maria is not particularly looking forward to Miami, she doesn’t like hot weather or the beach. She gets nervous thinking about the border control at the airport. She has a tourist visa for six months, she is afraid to have too many suitcases, that they will realize that she does not just want to go on holiday and not let her in. Everything goes fine.
They travel two days from Philadelphia to Florida, Miami, it is a long trip, they only stop to switch between driver and front passenger seat - John has to be in Miami on time. When they arrive in their Airbnb she is just exhausted. John has to fly for a week to London three days later. She stays alone in this crazy city. It's September in Miami, it's hot, she's constantly sweating, she turns on the air conditioning, but then the room turns into a fridge, everything is new, the city is ugly - she hates it. When John calls her from London it's late afternoon due to the time difference, he is excited to be there with his new colleagues, sometimes he had a drink too much. Maria feels left alone in Miami, she is sad and questions her decision.
Besides, she does not understand that her boyfriend doesn’t realize how she feels. He does not ask for details, she doesn’t say anything and tries not to show her bad mood. She begins to prepare and apply for her papers - she has six months to find a sponsor to hire her and help her in the process of getting an American work visa. To do so, as an employee, she has to demonstrate outstanding skills that no American can fulfill, she has to find a company that she wants to hire and finally will complete the long and cost-intensive visa application for her.
Maria is young, beautiful and intelligent, she has a university degree, she has worked in a large Mexican company and she speaks fluent Spanish and English. But in Miami, forty percent of the population has Latin American roots and fluent Spanish, and in some areas, people do not speak English but only Spanish. The unique selling point is missing.
It's September, the American election campaign is on and is approaching its end. It is the time when Republican presidential candidate Trump calls Mexicans criminals and rapists. Insults and attacks on immigrants, blacks and Muslims are becoming more common. Maria tries it anyway. When John returns from his trip, the two start looking for a flat. Maria takes over the organizational part, she enjoys it, she has a task and a routine for a while. They are selecting furniture and getting cozy in their new apartment overlooking the skyscrapers of Miami. Maria keeps applying, but she almost never gets an answer. Twice she has a phone call with interested companies, but as soon as the conversation leads to the visa, it's over. Maria is getting tired and frustrated. Most of the time she gets up with John and they have breakfast together. When he leaves the house, she goes to bed again, she cries a lot. She doesn’t want to annoy her mother and her friends in Mexico with their problems, so she keeps them by herself. "They had their one life going on," she says. She can’t focus on a book, when she is watching TV she feels bad because she does not apply at the moment. She feels she doesn’t try everything. She cleans the apartment, she shops food, at night she waits for John. From time to time they meet with Johns friends who are in town or are coming to visit. Everyone wants to go out, to have fun and enjoy the Miami life. Maria is not up to it and she feels like the Grinch. Slowly she gets to know the city, it is difficult to meet people, everyone is stuck in their cars, on the beach you would find only tourists. One day John's office has a vacant position and when she applies, she is invited for an interview. The company offers to take care of sponsoring the visa. Maria is happy and desperately awaits the final answer. Weeks pass and no one replies, the woman who has had the conversation with Maria is now on maternity leave, Maria has never heard from her again. When she checks in with them, it turns out that they worry that the visa process might take too long. John does not ask why his company backed down, Maria does not want to push him, she wants to do something in this country without him. The opportunity passes.
On November 8, 2016, Donald Trump is elected President of the United States of America. "On this day everything exploded," she says. Maria is shocked, John is worried. She feels increasingly insecure, like an 'alien' (a term that is used by the Immigration Office) who wants to steal work from others. Trump's words work. The two have previously considered the possibility of getting married but did not seriously talk about it. Maria is against the idea, it is the opposite of what she has imagined when thinking about getting married - unromantic and rational. She talks to her new friends in Miami, she doesn’t speak to her mother and her friends in Mexico. John and she talk about getting married, he wants to be with her, she wants to be with him. But both are afraid - they are young, they are afraid to fail and know that it should be a decision for life. John's next business trip is due, this time he has to go for three months to Mexico and Europe. They have to decide now. Also, Maria's tourist visa expires. If she wants to stay and work, she has to get married and she can not leave the US until the trial is over. If she goes with John to Mexico and Europe and they marry afterward, she loses even more time until she gets a work permit. Not getting married means Maria has to go back to Mexico. They talk to a lawyer who is surprised that after a visit to her family in November, she managed to enter the US again. Finally, they decide to get married before John's business trip - they got one week left to prepare everything.
The wedding takes place on a Monday in February, two days later John will leave for his three-month business trip. Maria wears a white long beach dress and John a Hawaiian shirt as they leave their apartment. Maria feels weird, it's nothing like what she used to dream thinking about her wedding, but they try to make the day special. They drive to Miami Beach and go to the 'city hall'. Both are nervous, what happens if it doesn’t work out? What if eternal love is only a myth? “You still got some time to change your mind”, she tells John. He is definitive. After three minutes, the two are married.
After the wedding, Maria feels different. Apparently, nothing has changed, they don’t wear rings, it was just the quick signature on the paper and a Yes I do. However, she feels safer, more self-confident, in the country that is not hers. The next couple of weeks she spends with her new friends, making plans, knowing it's just a matter of time before she can start her real life, working, having her own money. She explores Miami, reads, paints. She begins to enjoy the city, which is full of contrasts. Then John comes back after four weeks. The company has canceled the further business trip - they are happy, finally together.
A week later they receive news again: John is supposed to go to Europe - for a year, every three months circulating to another country. All the plans for Miami are gone. Everything will change again. Again a new beginning. It is difficult for Maria to make plans. "Life with you is really a challenge," she says. "But sometimes the difficult times make you stronger." She is not afraid - she is confident.
When she was little, Maria never dreamed of such a life. She imagined she had a good job of saving money, maybe having a big family. Being married did not matter much. But what she knew was that she wanted to lead an exciting life, one by eventually being able to tell her children and grandchildren all the exciting stories from her life. Stories of the life of a strong woman who is at peace with herself, willing to support the people around her. "I guess the most difficult thing is to find the balance. Everyone wants to have a job, to be productive and create something the balance between, that's the challenge. "
*Maria and John are called different in real life. Their names have been changed due to respect of their privacy. Maria and John continue to live in Miami as John's career plans have changed again. After working on some temporary jobs, Maria is working now for a well-known international company. In her spare-time Maria enjoys her life with John and moves forward with her personal handcraft project.