MEXICAN RUSSIANS IN CLOSE UP
That was a mere sensation... Within two weeks of Sochi Olympics the 22 channel of Mexican TV interviewed the Russians staying in Mexico in prime time every evening. For the first time in history of the two countries the Russians were shown in close up on Mexican TV open-mindedly, with a great interest and obvious sympathy. Mexico rediscovered Russia and the Russians. One of the local reporters called it 'Russian Conquista'.
The television series were based on a book called 'The Russians in Mexico' recently published in Mexico in Russian and Spanish written in cooperation with the embassy of the Russian Federation by a group of authors from Russia. This book was also a kind of discovery.
'We couldn't even imagine that so many Russian people live and work in our country and how much they have done for their second motherland', confessed a reporter from the 22nd channel who had a chance to interview Russian immigrants in a live television broadcast. And this despite the fact that compared to other countries Russian community in Mexico is relatively small. Based on data of the local Migration Institute, over 20,000 ethnic Russians inhabit the territory. A drop in the sea! But a quantitative index isn't the basic one here. The most important criteria is the significance of the Russian presence in spiritual and cultural space of a country. And the Russians left a noticeable trace starting from the 16th century and up till now.
Do you know what specialists from Russia are most popular in Mexico today? Musicians and scientists! According to Migration Service data, today the country is inhabited by over 1,500 of highly qualified Russian scientists and over 500 highly qualified musicians and teachers of music. They don't just work but also make an invaluable contribution into different spheres of life of their new motherland.
Examples are as follows.
The largest scientific Nanotechnology Centre, analogous to the one projected in Skolkovo (Moscow), was recently opened in a small town of Ensenada on the north of Mexico. It united twenty nanotechnology specialists mainly those from the science campus in Novosibirsk.
Russian physicist and mathematician Alexander Balankin, author of over than 250 inventions and UNESCO Science Laureate, is a member of President's Advisory Committee on Science in Mexico.
We can't help mentioning Russian oil engineers who worked at ground zero of Mexican oil industry. Ivan Korzhukhin founded a department of oil engineering at the National autonomous University of Mexico in 1920. Vladimir Olkhovich, father of a famous film maker discovered dozens of rich oil deposits cooperating with his Mexican colleagues.
Presence of Russia in Mexican culture and art is even more obvious and marked with the names of outstanding artists, actors and musicians.
Mexican artist of Russian origin Vladimir Kibalchich, more known as Vladi, is called a person of the second millennium in the sphere of art and recognized as one of the most outstanding artists not only in Mexico, but in the entire world.
Famous producer and promoter Valentin Pimstein who is also from Russia is believed to be the ancestor of telenovelas. Over 200 TV series recognized in the world saw the light thanks to him.
Nadin Markova from Odessa was given the title of the best photographer of Mexico and young actress Anna Layevska is one of the top telenovela Mexican actresses.
The name of Russian linguist Yuri Knorozov went down in history of both Mexico and Russia: because he was the first in the world who managed to decipher the script of the Ancient Maya. In recognition of his outstanding achievements a memorial to Knorozov was opened in Yukatan, Maya centre, and a Centre of mesoamerican studies named after him was set up. The first of the Russians who was honoured was our great poet Alexander Pushkin, the bust of whom is installed in the centre of the Mexican capital.
Aleksandra Kollontai is the first female ambassador in the world who worked here for half a year and was able to clear the way for Mexican women to big-time politics.
Over 100 Mexican streets have names of outstanding Russian historical and cultural workers including Tchaikovsky, Musogorsky, Lev Tolstoy, Pushkin, Stanislavsky, Valentina Tereshkova, Yuri Gagarin, and Sergei Eisenstein. In 1931-1932 this great director made a film called Vivo Mexico with participation of numerous Mexican artists and people from the streets. According to opinion of Mexican critics he laid the basis for national Mexican cinematography.
Great Mexican artist David Siqueiros once said: 'Mexico was opened by Europe twice. First, with weapon and cruelty of Hernán Cortés's conquistadors, and second, with genial enlightenment of Soviet stage director Sergei Eisenstein four centuries later'.
The process of discovery wasn't unilateral. Russia discovered far off Mexico while Mexico was discovering Russia. The country of Aztec and Maya was a source of inspiration for many Russian masters of culture.
Russian poet Konstantin Balmont visited Mexico in 1905 and became obsessed with it. He was the first translator of poetry of the ancient Indians into the Russian language.
Mayakovsky stayed here for three weeks only but fell in love with the country for life. 'I have never seen such a land before and could never imagine that such lands could ever exist', he said after coming back home.
Living in exile, Joseph Brodsky wrote a marvellous cycle of poems called Mexican Divertissement and soon got the Nobel Prize. Can't it be considered as proof of special relationships between Russian and Mexico? And year by year the country occupies more space in the Russian soul... Is it because the Russian and Mexican people have a lot in common? The joyful sense of similarity, affinity of souls and human characters, likeness of understanding and reflection of reality is experienced within the first minutes of staying in Mexico.
A set of programs on Mexican TV where I had a chance to participate was called 'Break the ice' (“Romper el hielo”). I don't find the headline quite correct. The story of our relationships with Mexico that has recently celebrated 120 anniversary has had a lot: highs and lows, frost and thaw, flux and reflux but we never experienced the ice of hostility, standoffs and ever frost of alienation. I want to believe it will always be that way.
Inna Vasilkova, member of coordination council of the Association of Russian fellow countrymen in Mexico