Today, I ‘d like to introduce you to a friend of mine. A friend I have had the pleasure of knowing now for eight years. He truly is one of the kindest, funniest people I’ve ever met.. His tenacity and resilience inspires. My friend’s name is Jack Tumidajiski. He is a Vietnam war vet who managed to get out alive, but only five days backs from the war Jack woke up in a hospital bed paralyzed from the neck down. By 1972, he had moved to a commune of paralyzed veterans in Guadalajara, Mexico, an experience which inspired him, 30 years later, to write a book: Quadalajara — The Utopia That Once Was. Jack’s book chronicles his entire life, including his personal experience with paralysis. But it is, first and foremost, a tribute to the people he met in Guadalajara. It’s a must read, and I promise you will be inspired. Jack was kind enough to consent to an interview.
Jack, thanks so much for agreeing to do this interview. Let’s start at the beginning. What prompted you to tell your story? Why did you write the book?
I wrote the book to set the record straight and preserve the memories of those who experienced it and that unique place in time that will never be replicated. To give people a better understanding of what people with disabilities–whether spinal cord injured or otherwise–have had to experience and overcome since the first paraplegics and quadriplegics injured during World War II began to survive long enough to actually be discharged from military and veteran’s hospitals into a world not yet ready for them. Long before Christopher Reeve made the terms quadriplegic, paraplegic and spinal cord injury commonplace and helped raise awareness around the world, many unknown and forgotten people worked tirelessly to help one another and make a difference.
Why Guadalajara? What drew you there?
Guadalajara was, as advertised, 365 days of sunshine, reasonable cost of living, famous for its year-round nearly perfect weather, and beautiful senoritas. It was a no-brainer.
How did Guadalajara become “Quadalajara”
While many spinal cord injured veterans lived out their final years wasting away in a VA hospitals, afraid to face the outside world, a number of ‘The Men’ decided to explore the exotic notion of visiting this place in Mexico that a number of their hospital buddies spoke so highly of. By the mid-1950’s, there were reports of and by paraplegic veterans exploring and visiting places in Mexico. Although most of these initial stories appeared in articles in PVA’s Paraplegia News, word of mouth spread in VA hospitals and civilian care centers from New England to New York to Chicago and on to Southern California where a steady pipeline of wheelchair users–both veteran and non-veteran, men and some women–continued to swell the ranks of those desperate and/or adventurous enough to gamble their future happiness–or lack thereof–on this intriguing ‘South of the Border’ option.
What been the response of fellow vets to your book?
A collective-yawn (wink)? Actually expected to hear from more Vets–but everyone has their story to tell. My target audience seems to be female baby boomers who lived through the Vietnam era.
What sets “Quadalajara — The Utopia That Once Was.” Apart from other books?
It’s a unique book both inspirational and historical. The appendix of the book alone contains almost every article, document or story a researcher of the Guadalajara Era could hope to find. Included are hundreds of bios of many of the original explorers and pioneers who first venture south of the border looking for freedom, independence and a second chance in life
What books do you read?
I used to read on a semi-regular basis but since I wrote Quadalajara I have not read another book. Favorite author: David Horowitz, among other biographers.
Any advice for aspiring writers?
If you’re planning on writing a book, find out everything you can before you begin–including marketing, promoting and new technologies that make books more accessible. Don’t be left with boxes of hardcover books in your living room!
Jack, thank you so much for taking the time to discuss the book and your life.
You’re welcome, T. Now where are my cookies?
To purchase the book and find out more about this amazing man, please go to