On Monday, November 18, a group of NPSIA students attended the latest instalment in Carleton University’s Ambassador Speakers series: “Mexico’s Role in the World with Particular Reference to its Relationship with Canada,” by The Ambassador of Mexico, His Excellency Francisco Suárez Dávila.
I must admit, the long title and the particular wording of this ambassador talk reminded me of my life in Latin America. You see, dear reader, we Spanish speakers tend to be overly wordy with our speech. The longer the sentence, the better. Hence, I felt right at home hearing this talk.
The talk began with the ambassador mentioning that Mexico City experienced one of it’s coldest days in history last Monday, about -1 degree Celsius. Of course, to the ambassador, this was nothing compared to what he has to face here in Canada.
Ambassador Suárez continued his talk by clearing some misconceptions of Mexico the attendees might have had. First, Mexico is part of North America, not Central America. This might seem obvious, but such clarification speaks to the depth of connections Mexico and Canada should have, be it through NAFTA or other collaborations. Second, and surprisingly enough, Mexicans don’t wear sombreros anymore, nor do they take siestas. Tongue in cheek comments aside, Ambassador Suárez had a strong point: Canadians do not know enough about Mexico, nor do Mexicans know enough about Canada. This realization is very surprising if we consider that Mexico is one of Canada’s largest trading partners. Also consider that the numbers of Canadian tourists going to Mexican beaches every year is astounding. As a side note, the ambassador recommended that if you ever find yourself in Mexico, do go to the central provinces and cities to check out some of the architecture (everything from Pre-columbian to Baroque) and amazing museums (La Casa Azúl in Mexico City, a museum solely dedicated to Frida Kahlo’s work, is a must see).
The ambassador proceeded to go over some of the recent events in Mexican politics, including the opening up of markets, privatization of Mexican telecommunications (which ultimately benefited the famous Carlos Slim), the end of the Petróleos Mexicano’s (Pemex) monopoly and the new opportunities in silver and gold extraction presented to Canadian companies in Mexico.
Next, the ambassador addressed the elephant in the room: The drug war and the problems Mexico is having with cartels. Despite the negative images in the media, the fact of the matter is that Mexico remains a strong democracy, one of the largest economies in the world, and one of the fastest growing ones. Issues with cartels remain confined to certain border areas in the South and North of the country. Mexico also plays a leading role in the international stage. Ambassador Suárez made particular mention to the Alliance of the Pacific (Alianza del Pacífico), an organization, the ambassador argues, Canada should belong to.
Finally, two issues between Canada and Mexico were brought up. First, the “big B” problem: Beef imports and Mexican regulation on Canadian beef. Second, the “little v” problem: Visa regulations on Mexican citizens entering Canada. If I needed a reminder that I was amongst other native Spanish speakers, this last part of the talk made me smile. The classification of problems used by the ambassador might seem odd to English speakers and merits an explanation. In Latin American Spanish we don’t differentiate between [v] sounds and [b] sounds. Hence, why we say “little v” and “big b” when we speak. So, for example, if I were to spell out Vancouver to my folks back in Bogotá, I would say something like “Little v, a, n, c, o, u, little v, e, r”.
The night ended with a small reception, drinks and snacks. Overall, it was a great talk where many of us got to practice our Spanish (special mention to Annelies, who has an adorable Iberian accent). We encourage students to attend future instalments of the Ambassador Speakers series. Keep an eye out for upcoming events.