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‘I am a Mexgerian’

She has a certain energy, insight and warmth, and possesses a healthy appetite for life. She is also something of a scholar and traveller, and…

She has a certain energy, insight and warmth, and possesses a healthy appetite for life. She is also something of a scholar and traveller, and is very passionate about the things she likes, one of which is Nigeria, and Nigeria is a living, glowing intuition within her. This is a quiet Mexican lady doing beautiful work in Nigeria, building a new, fresh fondness among Nigerians for their country, and also acting as a communicator of Mexican culture. It seems as though, like the late Suzanne Wenger of Oshogbo, she has found her way home, both culturally and spiritually. When you meet her, the passion for Nigeria which is very alive in her spirit affects you, such that the Friday morning interview becomes a sort of baptism, and you sense a spontaneous, joyful rebirth, occurring deep within your spirit. In your  mind’s eye she  is like a Priestess and her  Mexican  accent, which rises and falls as she makes one arresting point after the  other, together with the amazing pictures she produces from an album, which is  life occuring in brilliant reverse mode, help to convey this impression of a priest-like personality at work.

She loves Nigeria with a passion and opines “I say that the spirit of life is here. For me, in Nigeria there is so much energy, so much happiness. If you go to a place in Nigeria where they are working, or you go anywhere you will see the inner strength of the people, and the people are very dedicated. They give everything in their work. I say that that is the spirit of life. So people are blessed to be in Nigeria.” Maria Adegoroye’s   past seems to have been a period of grooming for life and work in Nigeria. Early in life she had developed a passion for art, culture, nature and the environment. Her three Masters degrees also revolve around some of these fields. Her words “At the time when I was studying, I was promoting Mexican culture. For example, I organised an exhibition of Mexican food, and I taught the people how to use different plants which grow naturally. I always tried to draw a link between Mexico and the country where I was studying.”
 Marriage brought her to Nigeria. The story detailing how it came about is as unforgettable as the subject here. During a conference in Zimbabawe she met Goke Adegoroye, the gentleman, and former head of the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA), who eventually became her husband. She confesses that she did not immediately see her husband at the conference. Her words “I did not see him. He saw me… Later, anytime I turned my face towards the right, he was there looking at me. I asked myself what is this?” Very soon love blossomed between the couple and then the wedding bells rang when the time was right.
According to Maria “We got married in different places.These included the USA and Mexico, but the real marriage was in 2007, when my parents came for the first time to Nigeria. It was a very nice experience, especially for my parents. We turned our house into a Mexican house. At that time I felt that I had a Nigerian family.” There was something transforming for her when she got married.
Her words “Something changed in my life. Since I met my husband he taught me to love Nigeria, because he is passionate about his country. He is always trying to do his best to help using the little bit of knowledge that he has.” They now have a daughter, Maria Yamide. Maria Adegoroye has a selfless, loving nature which has made her live in different parts of Nigeria doing good work in many towns, free of charge. Some of this was done even before she got married.
According to her “I was in Calabar doing work on environmental education. Later, I was in Obudu, working with children about the protection of the forest. I was also in Akure working with women. I was working with a group in Tie and Dye. I saw that they were doing nice things, but they were not organized.” She also spent time with teachers in a school in Akure. This was an eye opener for her. She says “This was the time my horizon broadened to the fact that Nigeria is a sea of opportunities. I saw a future in many things. For example, I was working with a group of children, and I got them to paint for me. I couldn’t believe that children could do such beautiful art. I took this art to Mexico, and put it in an exhibition. Finally, I did an auction, and raised a lot of money for Nigerian art in Mexico.I brought the money back to the school and the children were very excited, that I had collected all this money for them, and the school saw some development with these funds.” This was an important moment for her.
According to her “Then I realised that my life is here. I needed to come here to support my husband. Soon after our wedding in Nigeria, the mind of my parents changed. Now, they are the number one admirers of Nigeria. They have been coming here every year since 2006. They will come around mid November, and stay till the first week of January. When they come in November they will see the Abuja carnival. They will travel to Obudu, Yankari, and then they will do Christmas, the Nigerian-Mexican Christmas, which holds every Christmas in Akure. Last year 300 children were present at the celebration and it is an important part of the Christmas calendar in Akure.”
Now, she is working on a project which will show Mexicans what Nigeria is like, and also show Nigerians what Mexico is like. Her words “We are trying to show Mexico to Nigerians. I am also trying to show Nigeria to Mexico. I want to show that Mexicans can do beautiful arts and craft, and how these arts and crafts involve family values, and hard work. This is why she set up the Casa Mexicana shop in 2008, which she hopes will arrest the creativity of the Nigerian mind, the Nigerian youth, so that they can use Nigeria’s naturally occurring materials to earn a living for themselves.”
She adds that the products that she brings from Mexico and sells in Nigeria, are all handmade, and they are done by families living in rural remote parts of Mexico. “So, you would hardly find a Mexican begging on the street. Everyone is doing something,” she says. She has done a lot of travelling across Nigeria in her quest to project Nigerian arts and crafts. Her words “I am visiting different areas of Nigeria, examining the potentials that they have. Nigerians, for me, are people that I admire so much, because you have the energy ,and the potential to do many things.The only thing is that Nigerians need to be organised to work on the products, and the quality of the products, in order to make the products nice enough to be liked by anybody in the world.” The shop in Mexico which showcases Nigerian art is in her parents’ house. She says “Immediately, the people know that I have arrived, they would go to see the items and buy them. In one hour they would have bought everything I brought from Nigeria. Nigerian art is like hot cakes in Mexico.”
Next, she began a project with the wives of Diplomats in Abuja, when she realised that they knew very little about Nigeria. In her words “The project meant that they were to be Nigerians for one day. That they will live like Nigerians for one day. I brought my dresses, and I dressed them like Nigerians. I took a lady from the market here to do the ‘Gele’ for them. I prepared Nigerian food, Egusi, Moi-moi, pounded yam and stew. I taught them and I showed them the beauty of Nigeria.They were so moved, they cried. For all of them the mentality changed. Some of them left Nigeria crying.” She has so far worked with three groups made up of 25 women each, meaning 75 wives of Diplomats have come under her influence. She adds “When they leave, many of them write back about how much they miss Nigeria.”
Speaking generally, she now says “In Mexico many people want to come to Nigeria. I will always recommend Nigeria first. It’s a place of culture. The diversity of cultures is impressive.” One of her future plans is to build a Casa Mexicana, a Mexican house, in Abuja “so people can see what Mexican houses are like. Mexican houses don’t have doors inside, and the colours are all so bright within. When people come I want them to think that they are in Mexico. I want to create a special area in the house for food. Another area for the arts.” She also wants to build a Nigeria house in Mexico which will also showcase Nigeria’s rich arts and crafts. Between 2002 and 2006 she was the only Mexican in Abuja, but over the years the numbers have increased, and there are quite a number of Mexicans working in Rivers state, as well as in Makurdi. Now, there is a Mexican Embassy in Abuja.In the past it was necessary to go to Ghana, New York or England to get a Visa to Mexico. Not so anymore. Her husband Goke Adegoroye, who was present during the interview, says on this “When Nigerians go to the Embassy here they won’t give them a Visa of less than 5 years. This is because of the way she has presented Nigerians.” Also, she has been organising the Mexican Day in schools within Abuja. This has gone on for four years now. According to her, “The children are made to dress in Mexican attire, and this is done in primary and secondary schools around Abuja. This activity is done to give Nigerian children a feel of what Mexico is like.” Married to a Nigerian, and loving the country so much, she says with a smile “I am a Mexgerian.”

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