In 2005, my husband and I took the decision to move from Mexico City to Toronto, Canada. The motivation behind our move was both professional and personal, as my husband had lived a part of his childhood in Toronto, and I had previously had the opportunity to perform in one of Toronto’s major festivals. It was not an easy decision to make, but I personally felt a strong impulse to make a big change. And indeed, it was a big change; much bigger than we had expected.
We arrived in Toronto in the summer of 2006 with the idea of staying here for at least a few years. During the first few months after our arrival, we suffered severely from culture shock. Everything was different. The supermarkets were huge, but they seemed empty, as they didn’t have anything that we used to eat in Mexico. Where were the nopals, the panela cheese, the corn tortillas? The traffic laws were a total mystery: we had to stop the car at every corner to carefully read the signs listing the hours and dates when left turns were not permitted. Even walking around the city required a whole new range of resources. I remember very well the first time I accepted an invitation to dinner at the house of a Canadian friend, and she gave me directions to get to her house. “When you come out of the subway,” she said, “walk two blocks north and then turn east. The house is right there, on the southeast corner.” “What?” I wondered. “To the north, then east, the southeast corner?” In Mexico, they would tell you something like, “go straight ahead until the corner where the willow tree is, and then turn right towards the house with the yellow roof.” Nobody uses the cardinal points to give directions. It seemed that in Canada to find anything you need to take a compass with you.
Shortly after our arrival, my husband established his own company and I began connecting with the Canadian music world. Within a few months I started playing with the Ontario Philharmonic, the orchestra that I am still playing with now. Although everything was going well, my resistance to adapt to Toronto lay under the surface. I think they every immigrant must experience something like this, on different levels, as it takes its time to really open up to a new place. Now, looking back on that time, I see it as the seed of a great blossoming both personally and professionally.
Another important occurrence related to that blossoming was my meeting Barbar Croall, a Canadian composer, pianist and flautist. During our first fall in Toronto I had the opportunity to attend a concert where I heard her work Noodin for two transverse flutes. I remember that from the first to the last sound I was captivated by the beauty of the work and its powerful invocation of Canada’s winter wind.
A few months later, I had the opportunity to meet Barbara personally. After that meeting, we began working together on artistic projects, which has led us to what today is PULS, our musical and interdisciplinary ensemble, with which we have had the opportunity to perform at the CBC’s Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto, among other places. Over the course of our musical collaboration we have incorporated aspects of Mexican and Canadian indigenous cultures. Barbara is Ojibwe, and her connection with her culture is very profound and has a strong impact on her artistic creations. Her expression of her culture through her art has led me to reflect deeply on my own roots since I arrived in Canada, so that now both our work as a duo and my own work is influenced by Aztec culture. In this sense, I see out work as a meeting point between two American cultures, which evoke in us the need to express music from the perspective of an ancestral world where sound is something sacred.
Our creative work as a group together with the collaboration of Fides Krucker, an exceptional singer and voice instructor, and Alejandro Ronceria, Colombian director and choreographer, has led to the creation of Fire, a piece that forms part of our stage concert Four Visions. This piece clearly reveals the interconnection of the two indigenous cultures brought to the stage in a musical-dramatic performance. It is a kind of work that requires a lot of honesty on our part and humility in the face of artistic creation. Only in this way can the true essence of the work be made to emanate in all its fullness.
Without a doubt, my experience in Canada as an artist has led to artistic collaborations and creations very different to what I was previously familiar with as a classical violinist. They have been experiences that have led me to view and experience music from a broader, richer perspective. This has been due not oly to my musical experience but also to the fact of living in a country with different customs and cultures. One of the most enriching aspects of the experience of living here has been the opportunity to see Mexico “from the outside”, to reflect on my culture from another point of view. In this way, I have come to better appreciate the wonders of my culture, and also to recognize its limitations.
I believe that living in an environment different from your native country is something that can be extremely enriching; it’s just a question of allowing it to be so, and being open to new life experiences.
This post is also available in: Spanish