Saturday, January 07, 2012


Paraplegia News (PN) April 2006

Reason & Remarks

Editor Cliff Crase

Utopia Remembered

"Did you have a hard and trying winter? Did you just pick up your Paraplegia News after pushing your cold-rimmed wheelchair through a snow bank? Why not get away from it all? Visit Sunny Mexico! The El Dorado of the Western Hemisphere! Mexico, a Paradise for Paraplegics!" The aforementioned were some of the intriguing introductions of numerous articles in PN in the mid-1950's, written by nomadic paralyzed veterans searching the tantalizing territory south of the Rio Grande for a warm climate. What was discovered were friendly folks, accessible housing, and affordable personal attendant care - a perfect place to vacation or settle down.

In subsequent issues from the 1960's and 70's, appealing advertisements accompanied the "come hither" articles: "Why Mexico?...Because it offers a new kind of wheelchair living. Special facilities for quadriplegics and paraplegics mean that Guadalajara's famed hospitality, perfect year-round climate, and relaxed colorful living can be yours now - at an amazingly low cost for vacationers or long-term residents. Modest rates include personal care, wholesome meals, laundry, a private swimming pool, and chauffeur service. Nursing care available, sightseeing tours, and entertainment arranged. Accommodations from single rooms to family units."

The claims in the ads were answered prayers to hundreds of wheelchair users who were holed up in long-term medical facilities, inaccessible houses, or apartments up north, in many cases with limited funds. This definitely sounded like an affordable haven just south of the border.

Decades ago one of the many reason Mexico was such an enticing destination was that a person could enjoy a comfortable life after surviving a catastrophic injury. Few World War Two veterans who incurred spinal-cord injuries (SCIs) on the battlefield could anticipate longevity. Subsequently, when PVA was founded the mission was to work with the medical establishment to address the lack of knowledge about the care, cure, and first-response treatment of SCIs, and, just as importantly, to strongly encourage Congress and the Veterans Administration (VA) to recognize the lack of facilities to accommodate paralyzed patients and their special needs. Thus, with the progress of modern medicine and vastly improved medical facilities, survival years dramatically increased.

For those of us who never took advantage of the Mexico experience, and for the folks who were not around at the time and are just curious, we're in luck. A book coming off the press, QUADALAJARA - The Utopia That Once Was, is written in first-person by Jack Tumidajski. Yes, so many quads flocked to the historic city of Guadalajara, 50 miles south of Mexico City, the gringos spelled their new-found paradise with a "Q" instead of a "G."

Don't even think about correctly pronouncing Tumidajski. Don't even ask. I did, and...well, the Polish Kid took a deep breath and explained, "I was taught by my family 'Tum i dice key, ' accent on 'Tum.' But recently two Polish sweeties, one a therapy student in San Diego and the other a Red Lobster employee, pronounced it 'Tu may das key' and 'Tu me dice key, ' accent on 'Tu.'" Then, he mentioned how his siblings and cousins had their pronunciations Americanized. But I digress. I gave up and just called him Jack.

The book covers Jack's family life prior to enlisting in the Army, and his Vietnam experience, including the R&R trip to Bangkok. He survived combat action and the exotic Bangkok nightlife only to become a C6-7 quad as a passenger in a car accident while home on leave. Jack details his never-ending road to recovery, the multiple setbacks, and his longing for independence. After taking a couple of trips to Las Vegas to hone his gambling skills and, ahem, socialize with the locals, Jack continued to seek more independence from an existence that can only be experienced by someone who constantly has to rely on attendants. Jack headed for the border, where he found a whole different world and could live the good life paralyzed and in a wheelchair. He had plenty of good company and found his niche in the friendly community of Quadalajara.

Jack takes readers through the creation and politics of the Mexico PVA Chapter, the success and eventual demise of the clubhouse known as Paradise Central, gambling gringos, and his and others' love affairs. The lad from Pawtucket, R.I., bundles up the saga with numerous photos, press clips, and a narrative that exudes a feeling that you were there - and, finally the migration north and adios, Mexico.

To order a copy of QUADALAJARA - The Utopia That Once Was, go to

(Personal Note: Cliff Crase passed away in 2007. Rest in Peace, My Friend...)


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