Diana Cuevas knew she wanted to be an attorney at the age of 7. She did not know that her career path would include multiple university degrees and an expat life that would bring her back to the land of her birth to practice international law in Querétaro, Mexico.
Born in Mexico City to parents from Barcelona, Spain, 47-year-old Cuevas learned the importance of education and the rewards of expat life early on. Her parents moved to Wales to complete their doctorates in biochemistry and then held jobs with private pharmaceutical companies and governments in several European countries.
The importance of education was not lost on Cuevas. She homeschooled herself for a high school diploma and then entered university at age 16.
“My dad told me that if I really wanted to do international law, I would need to polish my English,” Cuevas said, “so I started my academic life by studying English literature at Clare College at the University of Cambridge in England.”
But that was just the beginning of a long academic road she followed for the next two decades. Intent on achieving her long-held dream to be an international attorney, she received law degrees from universities in Mexico, Sweden and the U.S., culminating in a degree from Harvard in international business law with a specialty in negotiation and resolution.
Her first job after years of schooling was with the District Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, Nancy Gertner.
“I worked for a while with Judge Gertner before trying my hand with Barker, Epstein and Losccoco, a private law firm in the Boston-area,” Cuevas said. “They specialized in immigration issues.”
She left the law firm for a stint as a co-owner and vice president in charge of contracts and dealer negotiations at “Antiques and Fine Arts” magazine in the Boston-area before deciding to start her own business in 2011.
“I moved to New York City to start my own business handling negotiations, dispute resolutions and contracts on a freelance basis, mainly for corporations,” she said. “Since 2011, I have expanded my business to include my new home office in Querétaro and affiliate offices in Lisbon, Portugal; Paris, France; and, Shanghai, China.”
Cuevas decided on Querétaro as her main office because it is one of the fastest growing cities in Latin America and has one the greatest concentrations of multinational companies in Mexico, particularly automobile and aviation firms.
“Querétaro has a busy international airport with connections to the U.S., Canada and South America, which is very convenient,” she said. “ For major international flights to my affiliate offices in Asia and Europe, I drive two hours south and fly out of Mexico City’s international airport.”
About 60 percent of her business in Mexico is serving the needs of expats, including employment contracts, immigration, work permits, healthcare issues, divorces, adoptions, marriages and even a little bit of real estate work.
“It sounds like a lot but they are all interconnected,” she said. “For example, when I do wills and trusts I often handle associated real estate matters. It’s just understanding the needs of expats, which I understand very well as an expat myself.”
As an attorney fluent in Spanish, setting up her practice as an LLC in Mexico was a breeze, although she said it was time consuming.
“It’s a very simple process, but you have to be patient in Mexico,” she said. “You’ll get it done eventually.”
She owns an office building in the Juriquilla-area of Querétaro on the way to San Luis Potosí but rents a 1,600 sq. ft. home about five-minutes away from her office.
“A must requirement for my home was plenty of outdoor space for my German Shepherd dog, who is always by my side,” she said. “I have a big garden, three-bedrooms, three-bathrooms and a large modern kitchen with all of the modern amenities. All this for just US$900 a month.”
Although Querétaro is home, her business travel schedule leaves little time to spend enjoying the cultural benefits of the city.
“There are a lot of cultural activities in Querétaro,” she said, “including museums, theater, opera and great restaurants, which reflect the growing international community here. Unfortunately, I don’t get to enjoy many of the activities because my days are very full. I wish I had more hours in the day. I basically live for my dog and go the gym every day.”
When she does have a few extra hours, she enjoys shopping at the Antea LifeStyle Center, the largest shopping mall in Mexico and the second largest in Latin America. The mall carries all the big international luxury brands like Tiffany, Prada, Rolex and Cartier, to name a few.
She also tries to make time to participate in some of the activities of the local expat community.
“The Expats in Querétaro group is quite active,” she said. “Some of them work and some don’t and there is also a nice combination of people of all ages from around the world. It’s energizing for me to be part of the group, although I can’t join them all of the time.”
Cuevas does not see many disadvantages for expats living in Querétaro, except perhaps the lack of direct flights to Europe and Asia from the local airport. Those flights still require using Mexico City’s international airport. But she can spend an hour talking about the things she loves about the city.
“The weather here is fantastic year-round,” she said. “We benefit from our location in the central highlands with an elevation of nearly 6,000 ft. It ensures that we have spring-like weather most of the year. Querétaro is also a big city of nearly 2 million people and offers just about anything you need or want.”
Cuevas has lived in or visited more than 50 countries, some of them multiple times. She also did lots of research before making her move to Querétaro. We asked her to name the top reason for choosing the city as a place to live and conduct business.
“The people in Querétaro are friendly,” she said. “It’s still a community where people pass by and say hello and wave goodbye. They help you if you need help in the street, as most Mexican people do. It’s also a very dog-friendly city, which is important to me as a dog owner. If you have a service dog you have the right to go into any establishment as long as your have the proper certification. You can even take your dog into the cinema or a restaurant. It’s definitely my kind of place.”