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We sold 8 houses in Michigan to cram our family of 6 into a small apartment in California. We have no regrets.

Evelyn Pech-Vazquez   

We sold 8 houses in Michigan to cram our family of 6 into a small apartment in California. We have no regrets.
  • Evelyn Pech-Vazquez became worried about Michigan's lack of diversity and how it would impact her four children.
  • She and her husband decided to sell their Michigan house — along with seven rental homes — for a profit of $177,000.

We were on vacation in Florida, having breakfast in the hotel, when my 5-year-old son made an observation that left me speechless: "Mama, no somos los únicos hablando Español."

It was true. That morning we were surrounded by a lot of other people also speaking Spanish — a mix of Mexican, Cuban, and Puerto Rican accents could be heard in the background. Three other guests had even joined our large table, as no other seats were available. My son was surprised to see them bow their heads when we said grace, as salsa music played in the background.

My son's reaction reminded me of the importance of diversity and had me questioning the sense of community back home in Lansing, Michigan. After returning home, he continued to ask why no one spoke Spanish in our neighborhood, and I felt sad, explaining that Orlando had more people from different countries.

The lack of diversity prompted us to leave Michigan

We never intended to stay in Michigan as long as we did. We also didn't realize that the lack of diversity would have a noticeable impact on our children. It took my son's comment to realize we needed to leave.

My husband is from Yucatan, Mexico; my father is from Cameroon, and I grew up in Cleveland, where my mother was born.

I saw that my four children were the only bilingual kids in the neighborhood. As they got older, it got harder for them to appreciate speaking two languages and they constantly fought our efforts.

In addition to not having other bilingual friends, I began to see something else very disconcerting. My children, who had spent their entire lives in the same town, were becoming close-minded. There was a common belief in our area that one had all they'd need in their own community, and few had any interest in discovering the outside world.

It was scary to think that all my efforts to diversify them — traveling, living briefly in Mexico, and speaking multiple languages — would be wasted simply because of the surrounding culture. It took five more years for us to leave, but when the pandemic shook the world and presented an unexpected opportunity, my husband and I seized it.

After selling our house and rental properties, we made the move

We sold seven rental homes and our main residence with the goal of buying a house in California and broadening our children's horizons.

In April 2021, we moved 3,000 miles west to a small town in Southern California. The increase in diversity was apparent from the start. In my daughter's first year of kindergarten, she made several bilingual friends. I was surprised by how many kids spoke Spanish, not to mention the long list of other languages.

In our new home in Simi Valley, 40 miles from Downtown Los Angeles, the demographic for Hispanic or Latino residents is 26.2%, nearly double that of Michigan's state capital, per the United States Census Bureau.

I'll never forget the first day my oldest, now 20, came home excitedly from his job at McDonald's and said he was helping train a new employee who only spoke Spanish. This was coming from the boy who had complained about being forced to speak Spanish for years.

For the first time, he looked proud to be bilingual. All three of the younger kids have had similar experiences, whether it was helping translate for a new immigrant in class or speaking Spanish for fun with bilingual friends.

Housing prices made it hard, but we have no regrets

Three years in, we are still paying $2,600 for a two-bedroom, one-bath apartment, evidence of the biggest challenge we've faced: housing. With the profits of eight Midwestern houses, adding up to $177,000, we still don't have enough to buy a home. Zillow listed the average home value in Simi Valley as $846,159. Many of these houses are half the size of our place back in Michigan.

One pleasant surprise was that our high-school graduates might qualify for two years of free community college through the California Promise Program, which waives first-time students' enrollment fees and, in some cases, tuition, as well. This was great news for our big family.

Overall, the sacrifices we made to move to Southern California were worth the benefits of living in a melting pot. We would do it all over again.

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