I was living in Key West, Florida when I first came to Cozumel in the spring of 1988. I was here scuba diving and enjoying the east side beaches, especially The Naked Turtle, where Playa Bonita is today. I fell in love with the island, the waters, and the people of Cozumel. My scuba instructor, who was also a part time real estate broker, convinced me that I should take a look at the houses he had listed for sale. There were three different houses, but one of them really caught my eye…small house, big yard with lots of fruit trees, centrally located…a perfect “fixer-upper”. Long story short, I purchased the house on that first ever visit to the island. Six months later, Hurricane Gilbert slammed the island as the strongest ever hurricane in the Atlantic basin (only to be out-done by Wilma in 2005). I returned to Cozumel three months after the storm to find that my house was fine, but all of those great fruit trees were gone. After three hard weeks of cleanup, I left the island again but this time with the house rented. For years, all the money from the rental went back into the house and property making it nicer and nicer every time I visited, which was usually twice a year. In March of 1998, ten years after buying the house, everything changed. I was living in Seattle at the time, and was deeply involved in the glassblowing scene there. I had put together a very successful business doing the “coldwork” or “finishing work” for many of Seattle’s leading glass artists. On my first night of my Cozumel vacation that year I walked into Raga (a downtown night club around the corner from Joe’s), asked an attractive local girl to dance, and history was in the making. Not that I am that good a dancer (trust me on this one), and my Spanish was extremely basic, but somehow I convinced this girl, Liliana, to hang out with me a bit on my vacation. We had a great time, but neither of us wanted anything to do with a long distance relationship, so at the end of my two week vacation, we said goodbye. Well, that didn’t last long. I got back up to Seattle and couldn’t stop thinking about Liliana and sunny Cozumel as I ground away on other people’s glass art in the constant drizzle of the northwest. I visited the island a few times over the next 6 months and then decided to move here. I officially became a Cozumel resident in December of 1998, and will hopefully live the rest of my life here. One of the many side benefits of this change is that it forced me to concentrate on my own artwork instead of working for other artists, and this is how I now make my living. Liliana and I have now shared 15 years of happiness together, we have added on to the house making it comfortable for to both of us live and work from home.  Instead of children, we are the proud parents of three cats. Yes, Cozumel has changed a lot since 1988, but I still love it here and can’t imagine living anywhere else.

Greg Dietrich is the owner and artist in residence at Galeria Azul, located on avenida 15 norte #449 between 8th and 10th streets. They are open Monday – Friday 11 am – 7 pm, or by special appointment by calling 869-0963.

This story originally appeared in the weekly Cozumel 4 You NEWS – the island’s number one source of positive information about our island!  Be sure and subscribe to the weekly NEWS to find out all the island events!…

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