To all my paisanos, Mexicans living abroad: keep it up.
I think of myself as a global citizen. I have lived in five countries, worked in four, in America, Europe and the Middle East.
For all the expats- as they call us, who have decided to live abroad: I know that we all have different roles, different levels of engagement with society in the different countries and cities that we have been in. It may look like we are having an amazing time living in different places and travelling the world. And we are having it! We know this is a blessing and we embrace it and enjoy it day by day. We love posting photos of our latest discoveries and spreading out the word of how is that we have gotten to the places that we are.
To all my paisanos, Mexicans living abroad: I am very proud of you for your great effort and for representing Mexico to the world.
But what I am going to talk about today is something that none of us really posts/says out loud: it has been damn hard. Really. We need to prove our worth twice. We need to adapt to very different cultures and uses and customs.
We are made fun of our accents – yes, no matter how many years I have been living abroad, I still mix up words from Spanish, French and Italian into some fine new English words that I come up with 😉 But I have witnesses that my speech is easier to understand than Northern Irish accent.
Having been educated in America and Europe, you may think that my written English is perfect. And it is. Most of the time… I had one of the toughest times of my life writing up my PhD thesis- 350 pages of content. I was very lucky having the guidance that I had (an Emeritus Professor and authority in the country I was based in my academic area). But this was tough, and it was never enough. One of them had a very hard accent. It took me a couple of years to crack it! No, I wish I was kidding. I was a national writing winner and public speaker champion back home, and here I was, struggling to communicate with others. Things have changed over the years, I am a speaker and have presented and given talks in various countries, continents, for both industry and academia, but even now I still have second thoughts in certain interactions with people.
This is a tough one. I have witnessed and been target of discrimination many times. In the workplace, while I travel, etc. I have documented most of these cases. Once, one of my closest friends gave me what he thought was a compliment: oh, but you don’t look Mexican… I do! Hanging out with my housemates back in my early PhD student days. I was the only non-European. We went dancing. One of them just stared at me and came close to tell me: If you keep dancing like that no (Insert nationality of the people I was with) girl will like you.
In the Europe that I have experienced, people may just underestimate your performance because you are not European. So we have to prove our worth once and again and again, and even witness others receiving opportunities that we know we have won and deserve. Promotions and exemptions come faster to others that may not necessarily be more qualified or have had a better performance. For example, in Ireland, foreigner’s previous professional experience doesn’t count, but a national’s work experience packing food at Tesco’s does. I have recently heard a colleague being assessed not on the basis of her performance, but her nationality.
And one may wonder, why do you guys leave your home countries? Because we dreamt of something better. I personally believe that I can change the world for the better and I have committed myself to education and the organizations that I lead and am part of to move forward to use technology and innovation for a better future. Don’t we all believe that bringing worldwide talent together will foster innovative thinking? But it is not as easy as that.
But not all is bad, and we always smile!
In fairness, we have been designed to thrive in the adversity. To be the centre of our social scene. We have incredible creativity and are so used to think outside the box that we come up with great projects, and are great add-ons for any place that we touch. I have seen my friends transforming industries in other countries, and we are all writing history from different areas. We work hard. And when we don’t want to work anymore… we work harder.
It seems like it is a resistance competition. It does not matter; we have been designed to thrive in adversity. Having Aztec or Mayan blood running through our veins, we will not claudicate. There will always be ways and we will find them.
To all my paisanos, Mexicans living abroad: Thanks for shining.