Spanish translation: El nuevo emigrante: de Gales a Mexico
by Natali Herrera
In 2015 life was not going well for Alan Scott, a 50-year old British citizen living in Wales. He had worked for twenty years giving guitar lessons to support a career as musician, but after the recession, students “couldn’t afford to pay 20 pounds on a lesson” and started dropping out. He found himself studying a course on how to become certified as a teaching assistant, but aside from the occasional gig, remained unemployed.
“It was a very difficult time for me,” he says today, from his new home in Tequisquiapan, a colonial city in Central Mexico about two hours from Mexico City.
Scott has joined a quietly growing group of baby boomers who have decided to move to Mexico. Ironically, U.S. retirees make up the largest group of them, accounting for the net immigration from U.S. to Mexico (Pew Research).
Many English-speaking emigrants head for towns close to the sea in places like Manzanillo or Cancun, while others migrate towards artistic and historical centers, the “Pueblos Magicos,” like San Miguel de Allende or Mineral de Pozos.
While most emigres are attracted by warm weather, low cost of living and friendly people, Scott chose Tequisquiapan, following a friend from Wales who worked in a school there and helped him get a job.
Tequisquipan is a unique town; it combines the calm lifestyle of a small town with the innovation of big-city transplants, and is home to a large group of Europeans and U.S. expats. But for Scott, who moved there sight unseen, it was a big risk. Would he like it? Could he learn a new language after the age of 50? Was it worth the risk?
To him it was, even though he would have to leave having only seen pictures and done minimal research. He would need to sell almost everything he owned in Wales, in part because it was too long a trip to ship, and in part because he would need the money.
“I had a house full of stuff, everything you could want, fridge, lots of guitars, and I had to give all that up … but it was either that or struggle in Britain for the rest of my life. At the age of 50, there’s not many opportunities …
“We are not going to live forever. I thought, I’ll regret it if I don’t do it. Some of my friends warned me not to do it and I thought, why not?”
To get the required work visa, Scott had the school file his paperwork with the embassy. Meanwhile, he sold all his possessions to prepare for the move. “It was three precarious months not knowing what was going to happen.”
His new life in Mexico has had many unexpected surprises – almost all of them good ones. Since his arrival, he has worked continuously as a musician – 32 gigs in a year – taking advantage of the appetite in Mexico for music in restaurants and other venues. His work as a teaching assistant pays the bills. He has made friends with the owners of the local coffee shop and has already found a Mexican girlfriend.
Emigrating from north to south is clearly easier than the other way around.
Still, there have been a few sticking points. The largest cultural differences are subtle ones, starting with the lack of British humor.
“In Britain you insult your best friends, you insult people who you really like and care for. If one of my friends came here I would say, ‘How are you, you wanker?’ In Mexico, you don’t do it unless you want to fight.”
With his Mexican girlfriend – he holds Mexican women in high regard as a plus during the move – he also has to hold back on the humor and be more sensitive.
“This was difficult – my previous girlfriend in Britain used to insult me and I used to insult her and it was funny. If I had told her, ‘My god, you’re so beautiful and lovely,’ she would have thrown up.”
Other Mexicans also don’t know if he is serious or not, so in a way, he says, he can’t really be his British self.
Another cultural issue for Scott, who spends most of his time in Mexican, rather than solely British or American society, was religion.
“In Britain we’re mostly secular; nobody goes to church, only about 4% – but here it’s a big deal.” He lives near a church and “hears bloody church bells” every morning. “The other morning, I just wanted to go down there in my pajamas and tell them, ‘Guys, turn it down a bit, I live right down here.’”
And then there is the agua. “I don’t like the bloody water. In Britain we just [turn on the faucet], but you can’t do that here.”
In large part, locals appreciate his attempts to learn Spanish by speaking it badly. “People laugh and will make fun of how wrong I speak, but they’ll appreciate that you’re trying to mix.”
The most troublesome issue is closer to home; at the school where he works, a few of his Mexican colleagues have not seemed to warm up to him.
Scott complains, “If I do something wrong they go great pains to tell me … But it is only a small section of people.”
Still, it rankles. Scott was deeply opposed to Brexit, and is offended by being treated the same way as England treated its own immigrants.
“That was also a big reason for me to move, because our country is so right-wing. It has become so racist and small-minded … but we’ve done it.
“[Britain] left Europe so we could control our border better. That’s one of the main reasons.
“That’s another reason why I moved here, because I don’t like the government. We starve people and we’re Britain! We are not very welcoming anymore, and to people like myself who are liberal-minded, it’s a huge embarrassment.”
He can go on and on about this, and does.
“People in any country are the same, they just want a house, enough food and some nice things in life … If people moved around a lot more there would be less prejudice … People get very protective about their area and it’s just silly, people think ‘We’re better than these people across here, we’re better than this town here, we’re better than this country.’ For God’s sake, I think it’s a lack of intelligence, it is.
“In Mexico, I think I feel welcomed 99% of the time, apart from the six in school who don’t like British people. They’re ignorant. You have ignorant people everywhere; we have lots of them, Americans have Donald Trump.”
“People have always moved, and you can’t stop people from moving.”