Abu Dhabi: As she prepared to take up her first assignment in the Middle East as Mexico’s Ambassador to the UAE, Francisca Mendez wondered about the cultural differences she would encounter. But when she arrived in the UAE and settled in, she was happy to find that there were many commonalities linking UAE and Mexico.
“It was a pleasant surprise to know about marriages between Emiratis and Mexicans. Some of the Emirati men, who have married Mexican women, are actively promoting cultural interaction between both peoples,” Mendez, with a diplomatic career spanning 25 years, told Gulf News in an interview on Monday on Mexican National Day.
“There are many other common elements [between the two countries] such as hospitality and family values,” Mendez said.
In her seven-month stay in the UAE so far, she has immensely enjoyed the hospitality of Emiratis, including from top officials. During the conversations with them, Mendez is happy to pick up some common words in Spanish and Arabic.
An estimated 1,500 Mexicans living in the UAE are also contributing to the people-to-people relations, Mendez said. Most of them are professionals in aviation [about 100 pilots work with four major airlines], oil and gas and hospitality sectors. About 750 of them live in Dubai, 350 in Abu Dhabi and the rest of them in other emirates. The number of Mexican students studying at foreign universities and other institutions in the UAE is also increasing, Mendez said.
Many Mexicans are members of Damas Latinas, a social organisation of Latin Americans in the UAE. The embassy frequently organises workshops for Mexican women and children on Mexican language and culture.
Bilateral relations have been steadily improving since diplomatic relations were established in 1975. Opening of the Consulate General of Mexico in Dubai in July 2008, the UAE Embassy in Mexico in March 2010 and the Mexican Embassy in Abu Dhabi in January 2012 are major milestones. High-level official visits too take place with regular frequency with His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice-President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, visiting Mexico in April 2014. When the President of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, paid a state visit to the UAE in January 2016, both nations signed 13 major deals, including agreements and Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) in various sectors such as investments, trade, tourism, culture, energy, higher education and scientific research, banking, etc.
“My priority is to implement those agreements and MoU and strengthen relations,” Mendez said.
She believes that culture can improve relations in powerful ways. “When you enjoy a contemporary art and food, you get closer to that culture and people,” she said.
Mexico’s culinary array is not only outstanding but also as diverse as its regions, she said. The Unesco has recognised Mexican cuisine as an Intangible Cultural World Heritage, the envoy said.
Culinary delight and photo exhibition to celebrate National Day
Mexicans and their friends have an opportunity to enjoy Mexican cuisine and a photo exhibition on Mexico in Abu Dhabi as part of Mexican National Day celebrations.
Mexican Gastronomy Week and an exhibition of photos of a prominent Mexican photographer is being held at Emirates Palace from September 16 to 21.
Although the National Day is on September 15, the embassy is celebrating it on Tuesday, September 19. The embassy is keeping it a low-key affair this year because of a recent earthquake that killed around 95 people in Mexico, said Francisca Méndez, Mexican Ambassador to the UAE.
The photos of Safoador Ortega, a Mexican photographer, will provide glimpses into Mexico, she said.
Ortega told Gulf News that he would stay on for another three weeks to work on an important project. He will travel across the UAE and shoot pictures for a project titled ‘Inside the heart of the Emirates’. Those pictures will be exhibited in Mexico City with the support of the UAE Embassy in Mexico, he said.
1,500 Mexicans living in the UAE
100 pilots work with four major airlines
750 Mexicans live in Dubai
350 Mexicans live in Abu Dhabi