A letter from Mexico is a monthly letter from Mariana Alvarado, a feminist journalist living in Mexico City. Each month she’ll be exploring different topics, especially the relationship between Mexico and the United States.
It was the perfect night. I could not have felt more proud of my roots. The sound of the band playing salsa music and the world famous song “Oye Como Va”, popularized by Carlos Santana, had everybody dancing.
I was ecstatic watching how all these people with different backgrounds, ethnicities and lifestyles were enjoying the music as one; celebrating and dancing without analyzing who was the person next to them. It was during a summer night at Santa Cruz in California some weeks ago. We were visiting my husband’s family and decided to go for a walk around downtown.
Locals were celebrating the first Friday of the Month, a night when galleries and the art museum offer free access and different activities all ages, especially children. I was happy to see a Mexican American family doing face painting for kids and musicians from different cultures playing live music.
There was also an exhibit of low-riders and another one about foster kids and their struggle to settle. It portrayed children and young adults from different racial groups, their concerns and the way they see the world. I could sense it was having a huge impact on visitors at the museum.
The whole night out with my family and enjoying First Friday–by surprise because we had no idea it was happening–got me thinking about the importance and benefits of diversity. But most of all, it truly made me feel safe again in the U.S. and glad my little girl could see the greatness of her second home.
Ever since President Trump took office, I’d been thinking about how my first time back in the U.S. under his administration was going to be. I had concerns about feeling unwelcome and having to put up with anti-Mexican or racist comments. A couple of times, I even visualized myself being detained at the airport’s immigration and customs area, being separated from my family and interrogated.
While getting ready to travel to the U.S., I rehearsed in my mind several times my responses to any possible comments about my ethnicity, my culture or any questions regarding my family’s decision of living in Mexico instead of the U.S.
Yes, it sounds crazy, but I’d been thinking about it for months. Basically, since the past Presidential election favored a person who has shown no respect for any racial group other than white people.
I was also worried about not feeling and experiencing that sense of diversity and inclusion that had a big influence on my decision to become a U.S. citizen almost 10 years ago.
Thankfully none of those things happened. Our arrival and time in the U.S. was good in every sense. Nobody questioned anything, intended to separate us as a family or interrogated us. Actually, I truly appreciated the warm eye contact and ‘welcome home’ from the immigration officer.
I felt welcome again in the country I chose to be my second home. I was relieved and feeling hopeful, despite all my concerns. As the days went by, I kept feeling warmly received, first, by the airport employees, many of whom were Asian, later by an Indian waiter at a restaurant near where my in-laws live and then by African American women working at retail stores.
I was content when my father-in-law told us a Chinese doctor would perform his heart surgery and he seemed very confident this professional was doing a great job. I was glad when an Uber driver told us he’s from Guadalajara, Mexico (my home town) and was happily living in California. And then, that night in Santa Cruz downtown, made me realized I had nothing to fear.
I was back at home again. Feeling safe and experiencing the diversity and greatness of the country I fell in love with many years ago. That night and all the different people I encountered during our trip, reminded how we learn from one another, from distinct cultures, and how the U.S. is one of the greatest nations because of its diversity. A country built by immigrants.
Experts, academics and public figures have accepted and repeated that cultural diversity is important, but to make the most of it, we need to understand one another to facilitate cooperation.
PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), a multinational professional services network headquartered in London, says diversity and inclusion lead to more innovation, more opportunities and better business performance.
An article published in Forbes says diversity and inclusion is not just another politically correct workplace initiative, it’s about bridging the opportunity gaps. It recommends American enterprise to adopt diversity and inclusion as a strategy for growth.
I could cite more articles, studies or opinions about the benefits of diversity and inclusion, but I’m sure you have seen them everywhere in America. However, the current administration seems to ignore this.
In fact, with their actions, the Trump administration is showing its desire to join a growing worldwide trend of Nationalism. They truly believe the government have subordinated the interests of the U.S. for those of outsiders, immigrants, and people of different color. So Americans come first, Trump says over and over.
The president’s decision to end DACA (the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program), his travel ban, his obsession with building a wall between the United States and Mexico, and lately, his continued threats of abandoning NAFTA, are nothing but indications of his intolerance to diversity and inclusion. He just doesn’t get it.
And that’s probably OK. At this point we need to stop hoping he and his administration are going to change that. At least I did. That doesn’t mean we are going to do nothing and just sit down to watch how this great country sinks.
No, I’m not saying or suggesting that in any way or form. Instead, I’m inviting you to think about all the benefits the diversity in your neighborhood, schools and places of work has given you. And be aware and thankful for that.
You probably don’t think about it that often, because diversity is so intrinsically engrained into our daily lives that we don’t stop to think who made food at restaurants, or who works in the manufacturing plants. We just enjoy the benefits of it.
As we face difficult times and the consequences of poor leadership, we should remind ourselves that we can do a lot just by appreciating what others do for us, regardless their skin color or country or birth. We also need to stop being afraid of respectfully expressing our disagreement on the path the U.S. is taking.
That night at Santa Cruz and feeling welcome and safe again at the country I call my second home are etched in my mind and heart. And since then, whenever I start feeling hopeless about the U.S. or my home country, Mexico, I think about it. I like the idea of believing there are more good people than bad, more light than darkness.
Mariana Alvarado is an award-winning journalist based in Mexico City with 20 years experience as a reporter and editor of web and print. She’s currently a journalism instructor with the Center for Digital Journalism at Universidad de Guadalajara. She’s worked on both sides of the border covering immigration, international business and border issues. She’s collaborated with Grupo Reforma in Mexico and with the Arizona Daily Star, the Orlando Sentinel, among other publications in the U.S. She’s married and have a two-year-old girl. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: Alvaradomariana