They'd sold all of their belongings. They'd left their dog and their cat with friends in the central Mexican town of Celaya and traveled to the border, driving 16 hours in two days.
They were heading for Oregon, but now their trip was stalled. Not by a lack of money. Not even a car failure or a flat tire. They were stuck at the border because Juan Bosco, a Mexican national, didn't have the right papers. During a meeting with Mexican border officials, the couple was blocked from crossing over into El Paso, Texas.
The complicating factor was that they were on a deadline. In less than a month, they were expected at a Portland wedding celebration--their own.
"We had the car packed with all of our clothes and our dreams," Juan recalls.
Those dreams had started less than three years earlier when Juan and Amy met in an Internet cafe in Barcelona in October 2000. Amy Knox, then 23, was a recent college graduate who had been through Europe with a friend that summer. The night she met Juan, then 25, the two shared a kiss. It was a kiss that didn't just change her travel plans--it changed her life.
Amy was scheduled to return to Portland at the end of that week. She says she would have packed her bags and left Barcelona--except that Juan's travel plans sounded better. He was leaving for the tiny country of Andorra, wedged in between Spain and France in the Pyrenee mountain range, and was planning to work at a ski resort.
"I told Amy that I was going to go by myself," Juan says. "She said, 'Why don't I go with you?'"
That's exactly what she did. She said goodbye to her friend, extended her airline ticket, and then called her parents to tell them she was staying in Europe. (It was a month later, on another call home, that she confided the part about her new Latino lover.) By the end of the week, the couple was in an Andorran hostel.
Amy spent the winter working at a resort in the Pyrenees. In the spring, Amy's time in Europe was up. It was a tearful goodbye, but Amy traveled home to the Northwest with a promise that she and Juan would meet up in Mexico in six months.
arrived in Mexico in September 2001, she was planning to travel around the country with Juan for a while, but wasn't sure how long she'd stay.
didn't count on staying two years. While Juan worked as an industrial engineer, Amy taught English and Spanish at the University of Celaya. The two lived together in a small house and spoke, occasionally, of getting married.
By the end of the next summer, they were engaged and hoped to make their home in the States. Last Christmas, while visiting her parents, they took the first steps toward that goal by marrying in a civil ceremony in Portland. It was a very small occasion. Aside from telling Amy's parents--who were the witnesses at the courthouse--the couple kept their marriage a secret.
When they returned to Mexico, the couple traveled to Mexico City and began the paperwork so that Juan could become a U.S. resident. Three months later, they received word of the appointment in Cuidad Juárez.
After five days spent in limbo, Juan was eventually cleared and the two continued their road trip, visiting friends on their way to the Northwest.
They arrived in Portland, with Juan's U.S. residency papers in hand, on June 22. Three weeks later, they were married again, this time in front of 70 family and friends at St. Stephen's Catholic Church in Southeast Portland.