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The Mexican Issue

A Mexican In...Melbourne

Vice: Hi Jenny, what brought you to Australia?

by Briony Wright, Photo: Daniel Aloisio
02 June 2008, 12:00am


Jenny Salguero

Vice: Hi Jenny, what brought you to Australia?

Jenny:
I grew up in one of Mexico’s biggest cities, Puebla. It’s southeast of the capital. When I was young, I met a man from El Salvador and we were married and moved to El Salvador to live. It was very dangerous there due to the civil war that went on throughout the 80s. My husband wasn’t allowed to live in Mexico, partly because of government corruption. We had to get out of El Salvador, and Australia opened its doors for us. That was almost 17 years ago.

What do you do here?

I run a community group called Fiesta Mexico, which has about 18 members. The idea is that we perform traditional Mexican dances at festivals and private events. The Mexican community in Australia is very small and we all miss our culture, so this is a good way for us not to feel so isolated.

Do you think you’ll ever go back?

I wish I could but I’m here with my three kids. After 17 years, you feel like both places are your home and you lose your original roots. If I went back there now I’d miss Australia.

How different is the Mexican lifestyle?

Two of the major differences are school and work. See, education in Mexico is free for everyone, so you don’t need to pay to learn to read and write. This applies to high school and university too. I don’t remember anyone dropping out either. I think that the idea of getting a better life and a better future drives Mexicans to try a lot harder over there. Work is also very different. If you are a full-time worker in Mexico, you work two shifts every day—9 AM to 1 PM, then you leave for a two-hour lunch break and go back to work for the afternoon. And the working week is from Monday to Saturday. School starts very early but finishes early too so kids can spend more time with the family.

Did you feel like you had equal opportunities as a woman in Mexico?

Absolutely. The only difference that I really notice is all the attention that you get in Mexico, you don’t get here. For instance, in Mexico if you wear a short skirt, you’ll get so much attention from Latin-American guys, whereas here guys don’t comment at all.

Mexicans love a festival. Do you remember the festivals?

Of course, Mexico has so many. All year round we have celebrations. One of our big celebrations is called the Day of the Dead and it’s on the same day you have Halloween. This is our time to remember the dead. Most homes will make an altar for the people who have died in their family and put their picture and things that they liked when they were alive on it. For my dad, we put a packet of smokes and some tequila because he liked to smoke and drink. For my sister, we put the food she used to like there. I still try to do this even in Australia.