By James Field
Claudia Cañedo is adaptable. She’s travelled half way across the globe yet her Dyslexia frequently causes her to see maps in reverse. She’ll dare you to mention a job she hasn’t done to pay for tuition, often hampered by Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD) to complement her Dyslexia. Her town of Mazatlan at the heart of Sinaloa state, Mexico, is home to the notorious Sinaloa drug cartel. Now living in Groningen, she is starting her own piano school as well as researching music and dyslexia at the University.
Claudia values sincerity above all so she doesn’t mince words, or pause very long between them. Her frenetic speech is matched only by her simmering disappointment as she talks of her native land, and the looming prospect of a Trump led leviathan to the north. The hopes, fear and memories she shares with her friends and family across the atlantic.
Before the record button can be pressed she’s already halfway through her second anecdote. She talks with energy and enthusiasm, as if to an old friend. The effect is only increased by her easy smile and deep brown eyes. She pauses long enough for a question.
Do you miss Mexico?
Well… yes and no. I miss the people more than the place. That’s why I go out with Mexican people sometimes. It’s the humour, the music, the parties. I’ve met people from all nationalities, you name it, nobody parties like Mexican people. [laughs]
Is there anything not to love about Mexico?
I feel that my country is stolen. It’s not the country I left. I see the news and I don’t recognise it. When I talk to my friends they say “don’t come back, if you think its the country you grew up in, you’re not gonna find it.”
Has it changed so much?
There’s been a lot of violence against women recently. My dad worked in Tijuana. At 15 I used to travel by bus, totally on my own, to Tijuana. It was so relaxing. I would read, enjoy the road. Now nobody does it. It’s just too dangerous. A girl, 15, alone. You gotta be crazy. I feel that lifestyle was taken.
Is there hope of getting it back?
A couple of generations… I calculate two generations to put these things in the history books and call it “the time of the cartel”. I’m an optimistic person. I hope that when I’m an old lady I can go back and be proud, but my parents and my sister live in the US now.
Are they worried about Trump?
They aren’t, I am. I understand some of Trump’s points, I really dream that one day there is not one single Mexican in the US. So I’m not in favour of immigration, I know its controversial, I can’t say it around too many Mexicans, they’ll throw tacos at me in the street. But I cannot accept the offences. There are some places in Texas where if you speak Spanish they say “get out”, and I think “ok, you can keep this horrible place for yourself.” So I told my parents, “we’ll meet in Mexico, I’ll not step a foot in the US, I have too much dignity, pride.”
You have no affinity with the US then?
Actually I have some English ancestors. It was one of the reasons I wanted to go to England.
You can google it. A descendent of the family dedicated all his time to making a family tree. He contacted us and one of our ancestors was a famous guy in San Diego, ‘Henry Delano Finch’. He was a descendent of British people who came in the Mayflower. My father is Roberto Finch. It shows you, who’s authentic nowadays? So when they tell my Dad “you’re not American”, I think, “let me invite you for a coffee and show you some books”.
So you’re first stop in Europe was University in England?
It was an adventure to try to survive in a very strange country, I was 20 I’m now 31. Just throw me somewhere with google, internet and a mobile and I’m gonna survive.
You think England’s a strange country? Did you have problems there?
Oh yes, yes! Two of them quite serious. I almost ended up in a pimps hands. I was very innocent. I had no idea who was bad or good. I couldn’t distinguish. If I was in Mexico I could just look at someone and hear them speak and think “this guy looks weird”, but in the UK I still hadn’t developed this sense.
What happened with the pimp?
Well, fortunately I have a strong temperament, so it was ok, I called the police.
Any details? how did you get into that situation?
Are you gonna publish this?
With any luck.
Hmm…I’d rather not say then. [laughs]
Ok, and the other ‘serious problem’?
I came to Gatwick with 80 dollars in my pocket. So I just had to survive. I found a Polish guy, who at first was flirting with me, I couldn’t even tell he was flirting. But he was nice, he helped me get a job cleaning houses.
How did you find your way to Holland?
In the UK I met a Dutch guy and that’s why I moved to the Netherlands, but we broke up… in a friendly way. I went to Belgium, then I wanted to go to Asia, to be a missionary there. I had a goodbye party and I met my current boyfriend, at the goodbye party. Life got in the way and I ended up here.
The Dutch men persuaded you to stay?
Absolutely! It’s so funny. There’s 3000 Mexicans in Holland. I guess the Dutch guys like Mexican girls because most of them are women. They didn’t even know where Holland was. That was my case, I didn’t know on the map, I had to look. [laugh]
Holland is the place to find love for Mexican?
Yes, my best friend from Maastricht married my best friend from Mexico. It was my work of art. I introduced them. When I met her I knew, she’s for Miguel. It was my masterpiece.
Did they thank the artist?
She’s seven months pregnant now, I’m the godmother.
How’s life with your Dutchman?
Very happy, I think I made the right decision. In the north of Mexico we are very straight-forward. We like things said as they are, so here we feel great. Just go to Sinaloa one month. You will see the mentality is strong. Not everyone likes us, people go to Sinaloa and they hate us, we are the most arrogant, rude people. But I’m very adaptable.
For someone not as adaptable as you?
Oh ye ye ye, there gonna suffer.
I guess you survived across the Atlantic, like you’re ancestor on the Mayflower.
This is something from Mexico I will keep with me, this strong survival gene we have in the north. My interpretation is, if you get to a land where there is nothing there, you have to do it yourself. There is nobody else to blame, that’s like me.
But you went in the other direction.
I often see maps reversed. That’s my dyslexia.