Recently I had the privilege of meeting Debrorah Szekely, the founder of Rancho La Puerta. I’ve been enjoying a luxurious week here at the ranch in Tecate, Mexico, as a part of a group of 18 women lifestyle bloggers.
Deborah is an incredible woman and a mentor to all of us. The life story of Deborah is as full of achievements as it is improbable. Born in Brooklyn in 1922 and raised in New York City, Tahiti, and Marin County, California, Deborah found herself at age 18 jouncing down a dusty road in Tecate, Baja California, Mexico, in an old car with her husband, Edward, a 34-year-old Hungarian scholar, philosopher and natural-living experimenter.
Edmond Szekely had been named the Director of the British International Health and Education Society in Leatherhead, Surrey, England, but as the war broke out he found himself unable to return to Europe. Szekely was in the reserves of the Romanian army. He had been ordered to report to duty to support Hitler’s ambitions of world domination, and as a Jew this was tantamount to a death sentence. Szekely ignored various orders until finally in 1940 his passport was cancelled and the Romanian government issued an order for his arrest. This, the last straw, he also ignored.
Then U.S. Immigration and Naturalization notified him that if he were found in the U.S. after June 1, 1940, he would be arrested and returned to Romania as a deserter. Britain’s cities were burning, and transport back to England by ship was extremely hazardous. A number of foreign-passport Jewish men in the United States were in a similar position at this time; forced to leave, but with nowhere “back home” in Europe to go. Those with adequate funds to wait out the war went to Canada. Those without, crossed over into Mexico.
Without documents, Edmond and Deborah crossed into Mexico—and Mexico welcomed them. All of their possessions rode in a box mounted to the back bumper. They were, in fact, “undocumented aliens” – one of the reasons that she has been a champion of immigrant rights and cross-border cultural programs throughout her life.
In the 66 years since, Deborah has gone on to fashion a remarkable life and career as the founder of the modern health and fitness movement, as the owner/director of two destination spas –Rancho La Puerta and the Golden Door; a government career during which she served as President and CEO of the Inter-American Foundation in Washington, D.C., various assignments as a U.S. Diplomat, and other posts; and as a philanthropist and public servant who has funded numerous causes in the realm of education, health and the environment, and created several non-profit organizations.
At 87 years of age and being a mere 5′ tall, this woman still has more energy and spunk than most people have at age 25! She still meets with her trainer three times a week and walks several miles each day. During an interview with fitness expert Andrea Metcalf, Deborah mentioned that she still does push-ups as a part of her regular routine. At Andrea’s request, Deborah dropped to the floor and did ten push-ups- much to the astonishment of all of us!
She attributes her vibrant health and longevity to taking time for herself, eating a healthy organic diet, regular exercise and following her passion. I believe it also has a lot to do with her incredibly positive attitude that seems to permeate everything and everyone around her. This woman is an inspiration!
So thank you Deborah for sharing this wonderful resort with us. Even more importantly, thank you for sharing your passion with the world and for being such in inspiration to all of us. When I leave Rancho La Puerta not only will I take the knowledge I’ve learned home with me, but I’m also taking a smidgen of your contagious spirit and zest for life along with me too, just in case I need it on a rainy day. ☺