LONDON, ENGLAND – While in London, I was invited to visit the Mexican embassy. I don’t go to embassies very often; in fact the last two visits have both been to US embassies or consulates; in London and Mérida respectively. Consequently visions of guards with guns, high security fencing, x-ray machines, metal detectors, and the surrendering of all electronic items before entering were in my head, and I arrived for my appointment 15 minutes early to allow for the formalities.
I approached the address to find a building that looked like a house. Could I be at the right place I wondered? The discreet plaque, and Mexican flag over the door confirmed that indeed, I was. But where were the guards? The fences? The guns? Still doubtful, I rang the doorbell, and the door immediately opened. I stepped inside, where a smiling receptionist greeted me. No security check, no need to leave my electronics, no x-ray machine or metal detectors.
Five minutes later I was in the office of the press attaché. Ambassador Diego Gomez Pickering (who has been in the country only since January this year, and was officially introduced to Queen Elizabeth II yesterday) was in his own office down the hall.
What a different type of embassy. The advantage of being a country with no international enemies is obvious; and for those of us lucky enough to live in México, it’s another great benefit.
While at the embassy, amongst other things, I learned that approximately 7500 Mexicans live in the UK; far fewer than I had imagined; and that around half of them are students on multi-year degree courses. I also learned that the UK is the main market for Mezcal in Europe, consuming 2.5 million liters in 2013, and that Mexican food has now surpassed Chinese food to become the second most popular ethnic cuisine in the country (Indian, of course, remaining far out ahead as number one)!!
2015 will be the “Year of Mexico in the United Kingdom and Year of the United Kingdom in Mexico”, with festivals, cultural events, and educational exchanges taking place in both countries; and the Mexican government has set a target of 500,000 tourists annually from the UK to be reached by then. With increasing interest in Mexico being witnessed in the country, the target looks certain to be exceeded; indeed UK travel company TUI has this month launched direct flights from London and Manchester to Puerto Vallarta, on Mexico’s Pacific coast; highly significant since no direct flights to the Mexican Pacific from the UK have existed until now.
Mexico’s current program of reforms is attracting investments from the UK and the rest of Europe, and the ambassador has been visiting universities throughout the UK to promote exchange programs and projects of cooperation. Mexican nationals do not require a visa to visit the United Kingdom (or other parts of the European Union) as tourists or business visitors (nor do the British to visit Mexico,) which greatly simplifies travel plans and the ability of companies to operate in both countries.
Stories about Mexico appear with increasing regularity in the UK press – in January this year, the flagship Guardian newspaper ran a story entitled “Has Mexico’s moment finally arrived?”.
In February this year, UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, accompanied by Trade and Investment Minister Lord Livingston, Mexico Trade Envoy Baroness Bonham-Carter and more than 40 UK business leaders visited Mexico to promote bilateral trade and investment, and cooperation in scientific innovation.
With so much interest about Mexico in the UK currently, it is to be hoped that the state of Yucatán will make efforts to share in the benefits sure to be heading across the Atlantic Ocean very soon.