Sam Santiago and Enriqué Cobián at their wedding.

Dallas man met the man of his dreams while vacationing with friends in Mexico

DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer

Sam Santiago was sick with COVID-19 in November 2020 and, with the pandemic in full swing, couldn’t celebrate his birthday — the big 5-0 — as planned.

By March, vaccines had become available and things were a little safer. So he traveled to Puerto Vallarta with about five friends for a delayed celebration. The group had planned to hook up with another group of half a dozen friends who would also be in P.V. at the same time.

That second group included a man named Enrique Cobian.

When the two groups of men got together, Sam met Enrique. And all the plans each had made for spending time with their own group of friends fell by the wayside, Santiago said.

Santiago and Cobian each went to P.V. with the idea of finding a possible relationship. Each had been in a relationship before, and each knew what they were looking for.

And with the pandemic, “I had flexibility with remote work,” Santiago explained. He works in human resources with a specialty in diversity, equity and inclusion.

Santiago had worked for American Airlines for 25 years and retained his travel privileges once he retired from the carrier. So after the P.V. trip, he traveled to Mexico to see his new boyfriend often, sometimes for a quick weekend, sometimes for longer stays of up to three weeks.

This continued throughout the spring and summer and into the fall of 2021.

Last October, the couple was staying in a mountain resort about three hours from Manzanillo. Many of Cobian’s family members were there with them. It was cold, Santiago recalled, so the fireplace was lit, and the two men were in their PJs when Santiago proposed at breakfast.
Cobian’s family took the news well.

At first, it wasn’t supposed to be a huge wedding — just something small and intimate with family and friends. But the men got in touch with a wedding planner — well, with a couple of wedding planners, actually. And one of them, an award-winning wedding planner, took it as a challenge to plan a fabulous wedding in just three months.

The planning included sending out 250 wedding invitations. Of the 250 people invited, 170 came, many of them traveling from the U.S. for the event. The reception included five music ensembles. Fortunately, some of the costs were defrayed by guests. Cobian’s brother sponsored the tequila, and a business associate covered the rest of the alcohol.

Santiago said having the wedding they had was important to them “because of what marriage means to gay people — the fight for equality.

“We needed to celebrate no holds barred.”

And there were a number of personal touches added to the celebration that were very important to the couple. For one, Santiago’s niece gave him away, 20 years after he had given her away at her wedding.

And Cobian’s oldest sister gave him away. When he first came out, she was the least accepting in his family. Now, she’s not only among her brother’s biggest boosters, she and Santiago have developed a close friendship.

To some who questioned how quickly they married — they knew each other less than a year before exchanging vows — Santiago declared, “We walked in with our eyes open.”

He noted that they are both mature professionals who have each had relationships before. Most importantly, they love each other.

Santiago talked about his marriage by phone from the southern Mexican town of Chiape de Corzo in the state of Chiapas as he and Cobian were in the middle of their cross-country honeymoon trip. Santiago said the town is known for its arts and crafts and music. Frida Kahlo drew much of her inspiration from the clothing and architecture of that part of the country.

Their honeymoon also includes stops in Oaxaca, Campeche and Palinque, spanning Mexican states from the Atlantic to the Pacific. From there, they’ll return to their Mexican home in Manzanillo. Santiago has received his temporary residence status from Mexico.

They’ll also maintain their U.S. home in Dallas.

Santiago said traveling to small towns has given him an appreciation of the state of affairs for the LGBTQ community outside the U.S. At a market, he said, they were looking at handmade clothing when the merchant said, “Let me show you something for your wife.” That started a conversation.

One of the sweetest experiences, Santiago said, was with a driver they hired. “He realized we were a couple,” Santiago said, and told them that “his lesbian daughter had gotten married. He was so glad he could help us.”

Santiago added that that’s what he’s seen as he’s traveled around the country: “An outpouring of love.” As the driver dropped them back at their hotel, he gave the couple a hug and wished them a happy life together.

So what do Sam and Enrique think of marriage so far? “It’s a beautiful thing,” Santiago said.