Jorge Sosa, A Man of Two Cultures
YL: Where were you born?
Jorge: Merida Yucatan March 25, 1968
YL: Have you lived outside of Mexico? Where and for how long? What did you do there?
Jorge: California, 10 Years. I lived there as a young boy.
YL: Why did you leave Mexico to live elsewhere?
Jorge: I migrated with my family to the United States.
YL: Of all the places in the world and in Mexico, why did you choose to move to the city where you live now?
Jorge: We came back because my parents were feeling homesick, and were afraid of their children losing their heritage.
YL: How long have you lived where you live now?
Jorge: 27 years
YL: Would you consider going back to your hometown? Or moving outside of Mexico again? Why?
Jorge: No, I have made a life here.
YL: Were your parents born and raised in Merida? Or elsewhere in the Yucatan?
Jorge: Born and raised in Merida. However my mother was kind of a princess with a wealthy father, and my father was the rebel without a cause. My mom got sent to the states a couple of times (NYC) with relatives in order to keep them apart.
YL: Apparently that didn't work! Why did your parents move to the USA?
Jorge: My dad passed away many years ago, and my mom is away visiting relatives right now, so I'll have to answer to the best of my knowledge. From what I know, my parents were doing fine in Merida. However, at the time, Yucatan didn’t offer many opportunities since the fall of the Henequen glory. Many young families migrated to the United States looking for a better future. My dad was a salesman for the Ford dealership in Merida; I imagine he felt he could do better in the States so he decided to gave it a shot
YL: Where did you move to?
YL: Did you enter legally or illegally? (If you don't want to answer that, it’s okay...)
Jorge: I know we flew in and had passports. I don’t know the technicalities of the time, but I do know that immigration and working visas were not issues like they are today. At the end, my father had a green card and Social Security number. And one of my sisters was born there.
YL: What did your parents do once they were there? How did they make money?
Jorge: The beginning was tough for my dad; the streets were not paved with gold as he had thought. He worked in a gas station, pumping gas, and as a butcher. Later on he made a living for pretty much the rest of his life as a used car salesman.
YL: Did you go to school in the US? Do you remember any feelings of discrimination when you were there?
Jorge: Yes we all went to school but I was never discriminated against.
YL: What did your parents do for a living when they returned to Mexico? Did they/you experience a better or worse quality of life when you came back? Monetarily or culturally or both?
Jorge: After the family returned to Merida, we spent one year here. My dad was disappointed that he couldn’t make the same living as he was making in the States, so we all went back. But once we were back in the States, we felt the US was no longer our home. We couldn’t readapt, so once again, we all came back.Over the years my father traveled constantly to the US, spending long periods of time there to make money. In his last years, he was able to make a living selling used cars in Merida, and he never went back.
At the beginning, living in Merida was just horrible for all of us since there was nothing we could relate to. But once we adapted, we never wanted to go back.
YL: Do you have family in Mexico? In the US or other countries? Did the location of family members affect your decision to move back?
Jorge: I have numerous close relatives living both in the US and in Mexico. As I said, it was my parent’s decision to move back, and I believe that although family was an important part of their decision, family values was even a greater part.
YL: When you say that, what do you mean? What 'family values' or 'culture' do you think your parents were especially wanting to make sure you didn't lose by staying in the US?
Jorge: I was kind of surprised at my own response to this question. I was thinking about this and now believe I should have said “family tradition” instead of values.
My older sister was starting high school, had a boyfriend, and made the cheerleading squad. The rest of us barely spoke any Spanish. There was very little left of 'Mexican' in any of us. At the same time, I remember starting to realize the reality of life. At a young age we were constantly exposed in school to gangs, drugs, birth control, etc. I believe that my parents felt they were losing control over us. In Mexico, as in many cultures around the world, the parents maintained an enormous amount of control over the children and their decisions. In many situations this blind obedience towards parents was something positive since it kept kids in line and out of harm's way. However I also know many stories of lives that were destroyed by excessive control over the children.
I remember having this conversation with my mother, about how she realized that it wasn’t that she couldn’t teach her children what she believed in. But she could not control what happened on the street, with school friends or with neighbors.
At that time in Merida, everybody shared the same line of thinking. Standards of obedience were set in all families, so regardless of whom you hung out with, chances were that one of their parents knew your parents, and two, they shared the same standards of education. As a young teenager, none of my sisters, not cousins or friends would dare talk back or act smart in front of any authority figure.
So in essence I believe this obedience, for our own good, was what our parents felt we were missing.
YL: What are the most striking differences between where you were living in the US and where you live now?
Jorge: E V E R Y T H I N G!!!
YL: What are the most striking differences between the Mexico you remember and the Mexico of today?
Jorge: When I first came to Mexico, I felt that Merida was behind about 50 years from any average city of the US. Today in Merida or any large city of Mexico, you can hardly tell there is a difference in lifestyle between countries, other than cultural. In other words if you don’t have something in Merida that you would ordinarily find in the US, it's not because of any economic or technological difference between countries. It's probably just because the Mexicans are not interested in having it here.
YL: What do you absolutely love about living here?
Jorge: I honestly can say that here is where my home is, and for that I love it.
YL: What do you miss from your "former life" outside of Mexico?
Jorge: When I first came here, I missed everything. Today I miss nothing. I have found that today, in Merida, I can have whatever I want from whatever place in the world. (Special thanks to Internet, credit cards and FedEx)
YL: How is working or owning a business here different from working or owning a business in the US or other country you lived in?
Jorge: I believe there is a difference in the role your superiors, coworkers or employees make in your life. They often become your closest friends and are not expendable.
YL: Do you have to do more than one thing to make a living here?
YL: Do you work as much as you used to when you lived abroad?
YL: What are your concerns or opinions about the current debate over illegal immigrants in the United States these days?
Jorge: I feel the United States is a very important part of my life: past, present and future. It is important to mention that as far as nationality is concerned, I don’t feel either Mexican or American, probably due to the life I have led. I do feel Mexico is my home now, and given that, I feel that the USA is my neighbor. So I am not interested in debating what goes on in my neighbor’s back yard. I’m very concerned about what happens in my home. But not as concerned about what happens next door. I believe the American people have a right to decide how they want to live, and the Mexicans have no right over their decisions. I may not like my neighbors choice in the color that he paints his house, but the bottom line is that I am not living there.
YL: How do you feel about the increasing number of norteamericanos moving to Mexico?
Jorge: It seems to me there are two types of Americans and foreign citizens coming to reside in Mexico. People looking to do business here and people coming in search of a new life.
In the first group, although I welcome them entirely and am grateful to them since I have lived from their businesses for many years, I have some issues. I do find that there are certain dues that foreigners need to pay while they learn how to do business in Mexico. In watching this process, I have encountered situations where Mexicans are mistreated due to the ignorance of foreign businessman. I find this to be unfair and I have struggled with it plenty. We often hear how bad Americans have it in Mexico trying to establish their business. But I have also seen that Americans put Mexicans through many ordeals in establishing those businesses.
On the other hand, foreigners coming to Mexico looking for a new life seem to embrace and enjoy the differences between cultures and often find the experience enriching. If the businessmen came with the same attitude they could save themselves and others an enormous amount of grief.
As far as my opinion about foreigners coming to reside to Mexico, I feel grateful to see both groups, since in the short or long run I have found that they have a lot to offer and their presence enriches our lives as well.
YL: How is the city where you live different for residents than it is for tourists?
Jorge: As in any country, tourists only get “package deals” and miss out on so many wonders that this city has to offer. Only living here can you truly experience the culture, the food, the diversity...
YL: Are you bilingual? Do you find that to be an advantage here in Mexico?
Jorge: Yes, and double yes
YL: Do you have kids?
Jorge: Yes, my wife and I have a 4 year old boy.
YL: Does he speak English?
Jorge: Yes. I have never, ever spoken to my son in Spanish since he was in my wife’s belly. He is in a bilingual kindergarten, and we have Sky TV at home where we watch many channels in English. He speaks English as well as many of his classmates speak Spanish, but for now he is more fluent in Spanish.
YL: Do you think that's important and what do you do to ensure that he learns English?
Jorge: I believe that being bilingual will give my son better opportunities. At the minimum he is going to have more fun in life.
YL: What is the one most important piece of advice you would give someone planning a move to the Yucatan?
Jorge: Seriously... Read Yucatan Living online magazine! When someone plans to visit Japan (as an example), they understand they are going to visit an exotic and different nation. They travel with the full understanding that they will be entering a world beyond their comprehension. Unfortunately, since we are neighbors with the US, tourists don't come here with the same understanding. I find Yucatan Living extremely helpful for someone to understand that they are not taking a flight into Canada.
YL: How do you feel about the economic prospects of Mexico? Of the Yucatan?
Jorge: Sky is the limit. Mexico is way overdue to become a first world nation.
YL: What do you think is the Yucatan's biggest problem? And what do you see as the solution?
Jorge: In my opinion, politics is the biggest current problem, and it will only get better if more people demand results from their representatives.
YL: What are your plans for the future?
Jorge: To dedicate myself to my company and my family.
YL: If you could say something to the people of the United States, what would it be?
The Working Gringos met Jorge through his business, The Handyman, which provides maintenance, repair and building services for homeowners in Merida. Get in touch with Jorge via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.