Vice: When did you come to New Zealand and what on earth led you all the way here?
Xavier: I grew up in Mexico City but left in 1979 to travel. I met my wife, who is a Kiwi, in London. We lived in Mexico for four years before moving to New Zealand for good. I now live and teach in a place called Raglan, about 30 miles from Hamilton, but I go back to Mexico to visit a lot.
How did you like growing up there?
It was fantastic—a really beautiful city. It’s quite different now though. When I was born, there were 4.5 million people and today the population is 22 million, I think.
Is that mainly due to migration or people having lots of kids?
I believe it’s mainly people moving from the Mexican countryside. Since the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994, the country people have no income. It doesn’t make economic sense to be a farmer in Mexico now. You have to compete with the USA, where the government gives them money to farm. They can’t do it.
And is this making Mexico a worse place to live?
Not really. It never ceases to amaze me. Even with over 20 million people, the city continues to function—and function well. For example if you go to Auckland at peak hours, its traffic and air pollution is worse than Mexico City’s even though its population is only 1 million. In Mexico City there are 1 million private cars but the public transport system is so good that many people use it instead. Also, in the late 1400s Mexico City was the biggest city in the world, so they have a history of dealing with crowds and the people themselves know how to live among the masses.
Does the overcrowding lead to problems with crime?
Well, it should but I don’t think it does. I feel more threatened in the USA. Every time I go through LA, I feel more nervous because there’s a lot more guns and more crime. I’m not saying there is no crime in Mexico City, but as far as I see, it’s safe. That said, a lot of people in Mexico City are poor and starving and that leads to petty thefts for survival, but that’s often as serious as it gets.
What were your first impressions of New Zealand?
I thought it was like peaceful, lucky, green, and had lots of water. The people are very, very friendly.
Are there many Mexicans living here?
Not at all. There are some Chileans who migrated here during the Pinochet government, so there are some Spanish speakers, but very few Mexicans. It’s very far away and almost everyone who has the chance to leave Mexico goes to America.
Do you miss Mexican food?
The only good Mexican food you can get in New Zealand is here at my home. When we go to Mexico, the main reason is to eat. It’s really fantastic.