The cultural and social relations between the UK and Mexico are longstanding and are advocated by The British Mexican Society through the organization’s mission to foster and promote knowledge and appreciation of Mexico’s cultural heritage in the UK. The main avenues for achieving this mission are through holding various events in the UK, mostly in London, and by charitable giving to small Mexico-based social organizations.
KITE Invest: As Chairman of the British Mexican Society, please share some of the defining moments, challenges and accomplishments during your tenure.
Richard Maudslay: A defining moment of The British Mexican Society is its formation in 1942 following an initiative by the first Mexican Ambassador to the UK, relations having been severed in 1938 following the expropriation of the oil companies. This expropriation of the oil companies in 1938 still ripples through the Mexican Parliament today, as seen in the discussions surrounding the ongoing liberalization of the sector through the current reform process.
In terms of successes can be listed the Society raising money for the charities we support and the bringing together of both British and Mexican individuals at our events, such as our annual Two Ambassador event, which brings together the Ambassador of Mexico to the UK and the Ambassador of the UK to Mexico for an evening of presentations and discussion.
Public relations, publicity and making sure that our events are attractive in order to generate interest and attendance are some of the biggest challenges. In London, where there are dozens of events going on every night, it is sometimes difficult for the Society to ensure that our events are fully attended. Additionally, younger people are less inclined to join Clubs and Societies these days, and addressing this will be a challenge for our Society as the years go by.
KITE: Support to charities forms a large part of the contribution that The Society offers. Please discuss these efforts and how they bring British and Mexican nationals together.
RM: There are two reasons why the British Mexican Society exists. One is to offer a forum for anyone residing in the UK, whether British, Mexican or of any other nationality, who has an interest in Mexico and its traditions. This forum offers to members events such as talks and art viewings, and, moreover, it provides the opportunity for anyone living in the UK with an interest in Mexico to come together and share their experiences with others.
The second thing that The British Mexican Society does is raise money for charities, particularly focusing on small charities where our modest donations will have the greatest impact. One of the two that we are currently supporting is New Life Mexico in Puerta Vallarta, an organization that helps to provide resources, such as sports equipment and water houses, to local schools in poor areas of the City. These water houses provide much needed purified drinking water for the children.
The other charity we are supporting at present is Amistad (Fundación Amistad Britanico-Mexicana), which was founded by the British community in Mexico after the 1985 earthquake. The Prince of Wales is the organization’s Patron. The focus of this organization specifically deals with the restoration and construction of buildings related to education and healthcare following major natural disasters such as the 2013 floods.
KITE: Throughout the life span of The British Mexican Society, has the focus of which charities are assisted changed? And if so, would you say that the shift is in line with Mexico’s changing economic climate?
RM: Yes, the charities that The British Mexican Society has assisted over the years have changed. During my 10-year involvement with the Society the regional areas have shifted. For instance, the Society used to help charities around San Miguel de Allende, but, following the support provided by the influx of Americans now living there, the Society was able to focus on different regions that did not have as much support.
KITE: In terms of the issue of Mexico’s perception, do you think that this plays a factor into some of the challenges the Society faces with increasing membership? How would you estimate Mexico’s perception within the UK?
RM: Mexico does have a perception issue within the UK partly because Mexico is not given adequate coverage in the media. For instance, the only newspaper that gives good, broad coverage of Mexico is The Financial Times. Consequentially, what Britons generally read in the mainstream media about Mexico usually deals only with drug violence, so there is sometimes an apprehension. Furthermore, traditionally speaking, the average person in the UK has never really looked to Latin America so the problem is wider than just Mexico.
The Society and KITE Invest can help to dispel incorrect perceptions of Mexico through the Society’s events and through KITE Invest’s publications and summits. Although perception issues remain, overall interest in Mexico is growing within the UK, especially due to the increase of direct flights to Cancun and Puerta Vallarta as well as to Mexico City. Our aim must be to increase knowledge about Mexico to new groups and demographics, not merely to people who are already interested in Mexico.
KITE: Lastly, as 2015 has been designated the Year of Mexico in the UK, the UK in Mexico, do you think that the upcoming year will be able significantly to alter perceptions and enhance UK nationals’ interest in Mexico, outside of the already keen investors?
RM: I think the Dual Year is going to be very positive. It is going to have a combination of economic linkages and cultural components, which will bring together not only people’s financial related interests, but also their appetites for Mexican cuisine and culture.
The British Mexican Society is engaging closely with the Mexican Embassy in the UK to ensure that the Society’s events fit with the Dual Year in the best ways possible and have maximum impact.