In their own words
By Inside México Original Print Publication: February, 2009
For the "25 Mexicans You Should Know" edition of Inside México (November 2007) our editorial team sat in a room for hours, proposing and debating names of candidates, eventually whittling the list to a mix of well and less-well-known figures, each illuminating some aspect of this country.
For "25 Expats," we decided to do something different. We put the word out. We invited you, our readers, to tell us who to highlight. E-mailed nominations poured in from around the country, and several of you even called.
This inaugural group of 2009 finalists is a diverse bunch in terms of where they are from, where they live and what they do. You've helped us round up the expat equivalent of the "butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker." In this case, however, it is the activist, the developer and the expat filmmaker...and the dog rescuer, the theater founder, the birder, and the book store owner. The list goes on.
The common thread running through each selection is the effort these people make to build community between expats and Mexicans. We think that by doing so, they are helping to expand the definition of Mexico. That is what immigrants do.
Expat: Henry Wangeman
Business: Amate Books
- 25 expat voices: Anado McLauchlin & Richard Schultz
- 25 expat voices: Attilio Tuis Berto
- 25 expat voices: Barbara Franco
- 25 expat voices: Barbara MacKinnon vda. de Montes
- 25 expat voices: Caren Cross
- 25 expat voices: Ed Krause
- 25 expat voices: Father Vincent Schwahn
- 25 expat voices: Henry Wangeman
- 25 expat voices: Jeanne Chaussee
- 25 expat voices: Joanie Barcal
- 25 expat voices: Kevin Pickolick
- 25 expat voices: Lee Carter
- 25 expat voices: Maggie Galton
- 25 expat voices: Marcia Hass
- 25 expat voices: Marie Dwyer-Bullock and Ray Bullock
- 25 expat voices: Milou de Montferrier
- 25 expat voices: Molly Fisher
- 25 expat voices: Paul Crist
- 25 expat voices: Rachel Micah-Jones
- 25 expat voices: Ron Buchanan
- 25 expat voices: Susana Trilling
- 25 expat voices: Susana Valadez
- 25 expat voices: Umair Khan
Originally from: Before Mexico, I lived for fifteen years in Berkeley, California, where my wife Rosa and I owned TzinTzunTzan and distributed Mexican folk art nationwide. I was born in Puerto Rico.
Lives in: San Agustin Etla, Oaxaca.
Living in Mexico: Since 1992 we have lived in Oaxaca, but we have been doing business in Mexico since 1978.
Why did you move to Mexico?
When we were blessed with a son, Zack, we wanted to raise him in Oaxaca. Children are royalty in Mexico. People often know me as Zack's dad, and not for my own accomplishments.
Tell us about Amate Books. How did you get it started? What's it like running a business in Mexico?
We first had a folk art store in Oaxaca. Our house has always been filled with beautiful pieces of Mexican folk art. Once when I thought we had so much that you couldn't turn around, I took a few pieces to sell in the store. Somehow it upset my wife so she took a stack of my books to sell. The books sold better than the folk art.
I have always loved books. Often just having them around makes me feel good, so sharing them with others is great. But what got me excited was the idea of having all my favorite books on Mexico in one place. Many of the classics, like Zapata by Womack, The Caste War of the Yucatan, by Reed, or Pedro Paramo, by Rulfo (in English) you cannot find in a normal bookstore. So Amate Books has the wonderful role to try to have the best on Mexico in English, whether it is art, cooking, literature, history, anthropology, etc. We try to supply tourists, visitors, and the general public with books that will help them understand and enjoy Mexico better. You couldn't ask for a better job than that. We feel like unofficial ambassadors.
The hardest part of running a business here in Mexico is the taxes. In the US we sold ten times as much as we do here but the tax accounting here is ten times more work. We pay our accountant here every month what we paid our US accountant for the entire year. I am ready for the flat tax here in Mexico! Wasn't that a campaign promise of President Calderón?
What other organizations, activities, or hobbies are you involved in here?
Work, work, work, barbecue, hike, and travel.
Do you have a specific Mexico "moment" that makes you think, "That's what I love about this place"?
Every time I return to Oaxaca, we go to a little fonda in Etla and I eat a tlayuda with all the toppings. It is the best welcome home. The food of Oaxaca is amazing, but also the way people say hello. The other day after returning from the US, I was running down the street with my new to-do list in hand. I ran into a friend and shook hands while I sped past. He didn't let go, pulled me back, and asked "have you forgotten to give abrazos?" We looked each other in the eyes, smiled, and embraced, and I knew I was home.
What are both the best and the hardest things about being an expat in Mexico?
The governmental bureaucracy and the banks are the hardest. The best was once explained to me by a young boy in Tepoztlán. When Cortés was burning the feet of Cuauhtémoc, the fool didn't realize that the wealth of Mexico was not gold, but its people and culture.