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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

New to the Parish: ‘I like Ireland because it is safe’


Francisco Ruvalcaba had just finished his degree in business information systems, was living at home with his parents and had begun working with a friend on a website when he booked a flight to Spain in 2010 to walk the Camino de Santiago. He also decided to stop off in Ireland for a few months on his way home, to improve his English.

“I was 24, living with my parents and said ‘I’m gonna do the Camino, study English and I’ll be right back’,” he recalls.
More than six years later he is still living in Dublin.
“Initially my plan was to learn English and then return home to Mexico, but somehow I’ve ended up staying here far longer than I expected or intended.”

He arrived in Ireland with very little money and, after signing up for an English course, he found a job as a waiter in an upmarket city-centre restaurant.
“I worked in a sushi bar in Mexico, and it was mainly serving cocktails and two types of sushi. But here it was completely different. It was by Marco Pierre White and super-formal, and you had to know all the menus off by heart.”

A few months after he arrived in Ireland, Ruvalcaba found a job in a tech company. One night, when he was celebrating the birthday of one of his colleagues, he met Agnieszka.
“If I had to name one reason for staying in Ireland, I’d say it’s her. My whole plan of going back to Mexico changed after we met, and I thought maybe I should stay another year.”
His family back home in the city of Guadalajara were very impressed when he told them he had met a Polish girl.
“In Mexico it’s more common for people to go to the US or Canada. Mexicans have a more romantic ideal of Europe. When something or someone is ‘European’, a wine or a car or even a woman, it has this air of ‘wow, European!’ It develops this mystic value.”

When his study visa expired, he decided to apply for permission to stay in the EU as his girlfriend’s partner. To get this visa, they had to prove to the Irish immigration authorities that they were in a legitimate relationship.

Weekend trips
“It’s tricky because how do you prove something like that? We knew it was going to be read by people we didn’t know, so we had to send lots of pictures and flight tickets of our trip to Mexico. We went on to Facebook and downloaded and printed most of our pictures.”
The couple’s application was accepted and he was given leave to remain until 2019. The couple continued exploring Europe, taking weekend trips to cities such as Rome, Valencia and Barcelona.

“What we love about Ireland is from here you can fly for just two hours and you land in a completely new place with a different culture, different food and different climate.”
He also began working as a technical analyst for a website called Indeed, which provides an online platform for jobseekers around the world. He was also pleasantly surprised to discover that the company offered six weeks’ paternity leave.
He and his girlfriend had already discussed having children and were eager to start a family.
“We knew we wanted a child and were more afraid of not being able to have one than having a child too early, so we said, ‘Let’s just go for it.’ ”
The couple were married in a small ceremony at a registration office in Dublin last year, and seven months later their son, Franek, was born.

Franek was five weeks premature, so Francisco spent the first week of his paternity leave hastily preparing their home in Maynooth while Agnieszka recovered from the birth.
Ruvalcaba says the traditional Latin America macho mentality towards women is changing among his peers, but says that most Mexican men still expect women to look after the children.

“My paternity leave here allowed me to support her in a way that I could not at home. In Mexico you’d have to take that time out of your holidays. That first week was key, with all the preparations while my wife was in hospital.
“It’s incredible the amount of things you have to do when the baby arrives home. Your life changes completely and just revolves around your child. My wife is breastfeeding, so all those things you have to do around the house, that’s where I supported her. My paternity leave allowed me to support her and I’m so grateful for that.”

Irish son
He is still getting used to the idea of having an Irish son. “When I went to the office to register him and then saw the birth cert was from Ireland, I was like ‘holy crap, I have an Irish son’.”
His parents are equally excited to have a European grandson.
“I sent a copy of the birth cert to my parents, and they were like, ‘We never thought we’d have a grandchild in Europe’. Now when they call they ask, ‘How is our European family doing?’ ”
He would like to return home to Mexico some day but says he and Agnieszka, who is now an Irish citizen, have a much better quality of life in Ireland.

“When I go out in Maynooth it’s so quiet and safe. I can let my wife go out, and I’m not worried when she goes for a walk with the baby. They would need to be more careful about that in Guadalajara.
“Of course, I’m not going to tell her ‘You have to stay at home’, but you have to be more careful in Mexico. You have to drive with your windows up and know the places where you can go. Those details matter, and here you don’t have to worry about that.”  

Socha Pollak