A few years ago, I was asked to host an interculturalism programme for NEAR FM community radio station, the aim of which was to discover the similarities between Ireland and other countries through their writings/books/culture. It was a very interesting and enriching experience and it got me thinking about the many ‘links’, cultural and otherwise, that unite Ireland and Mexico.

On a personal level, I believe one of the strongest links between our two countries is our similar sense of humour, which in my opinion influences a person’s outlook on life in general, social (and business) interactions and values. This was the first ‘spark’ of a connection I felt with Ireland and part of what made me feel ‘at home’. However, the links between my birth country and my ‘adopted’ country go much deeper and further than that…

William Lamport(born in Co. Wexford, 1615), author of an early declaration of Mexican independence and whose life is thought to have inspired the ‘Zorro’ legend, is one of the earliest historical connections I’m aware of. Famously, the Batallon de San Patricio (St. Patrick’s Battalion) fought on the side of the Mexicans in the US-Mexican war of 1846-1848, perhaps drawn in by the Mexicans’ love of storytelling and music, good sense of humour and family values. The story of the San Patricios was the inspiration for The Chieftains’ ‘San Patricio’ album in collaboration with Ry Cooder, released in 2010; as well as the name of the only Mexican Mariachi band in Dublin.

Names such as Byrne, Walsh, Foley, Hayes and O’Brien are very common in Mexico, particularly in the North of the country. Some of these names have been converted to their ‘Spanish version’ – such as Obregon (from O’Brien), who was Mexican president 1920-1924 – but others retained the original name, like the influential Mexican artists Juan O’Gorman(1905-1982) and Pablo O’Higgins (1904-1983).

In economic terms, Mexico was Ireland’s 17th largest export partner in 2013, and the country’s largest trading partner in Latin America. Mexico has thirteen bilateral and multilateral agreements with 45 countries (more than any other country in the world) – the most important being the NAFTA treaty between Mexico, the US and Canada (signed in 1994) and the most recent the Pacific Alliance, a trade agreement with Chile, Colombia and Peru, signed in February 2014 – which makes Mexico a very valuable ‘gateway’ into the region. Irish business in the agri-business sector, ICT, education, engineering, manufacturing and aviation industries already have a strong presence in Mexico.

There are many examples of successful trade and partnership between our two wonderful countries – too many indeed to fit in one blog. My plan is to share more of these success stories over the coming weeks. Watch this space…

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