• Ulma agrícola

Iker Larreategi ULMA Agrícola expatriate in México

Jul 30, 2013
“It was back in 2001 when I had my first contact with Mexico. At that time I came as an academic exchange student at Tecnológico de Monterrey, in the city of Monterrey.

After a few months upon returning to San Sebastian to work and to finish my career, I decided that I liked Mexico enough to go back, so I started looking for a job that could take me there. After rejecting a few offers to work in the Basque Country I returned to Mexico this time as a business scholarship holder from the Basque government and after a year in this endeavours I ended up in ULMA Agrícola. Once in ULMA and being still 24 years of age, Alberto Galdos (back then the Export Manager and currently Manager of ULMA Agrícola), Jose Irizar (back then Area Manager of ULMA Agrícola Business within ULMA Construcción) and Carmelo Bilbao (back then ULMA Construcción Manager) placed their trust on me and I have been more than 10 years in a job and country that really fascinate me. From here we manage the North and Central American markets, and besides Mexico we have been able to take care of interesting projects mainly in Guatemala, Panama and Costa Rica."

ULMA Agrícola of Mexico was born with the aid of the subsidiary ULMA Packaging in Mexico and then years later we have helped the subsidiary ULMA Construcción in this country from ULMA Agrícola when it was required. I think this leaves it clear that the brotherly principals and values that unite all the businesses within the ULMA Group have transcended international borders, and that the relationships abroad are the same or better than the companies in Oñati, since both the professional and personal support is essential when someone has to face a new country, culture and different idiosyncrasies.

My life as an expatriateis not a division of friends, workmates, family...but a multiplication of these circumstances

What can I say about Mexico beyond what everybody knows? We could sum it up by saying that it is a country with huge contrasts. Several of the world’s richest men are Mexican according to the Forbes list and 50-60% of the country lives close to or below the poverty line. Mexico features and leads some of the most advanced business areas in the world and at the same time it still has the famous “bite” especially in the government sector. Mexico is the most violent country in the world without a declared war, but the common Mexican person is noble, a good friend and friendly as no one else in the world. The coldest beers and the hottest food are some of the other contrasts that attract thousands of tourists each year and especially “gringos” (as Americans are called here) to their beaches and coasts. It is difficult to speak of a single Mexico when we are dealing with a country that has 4 times the area of the Iberian Peninsula, but the City of Mexico (Federal District) shows well the country’s contrasts.

To do business in Mexico, the personal relationship between seller and buyer is a decisive factor

In terms of work, it is a country with enormous bureaucratic difficulties and where, as they say in this land, you had better have a “sharp fang”. I was lucky that during my scholarship from the Basque government in Mexico I had the opportunity to get to know quite thoroughly the successes and failures of many Basque companies in the land of Mexico; Fagor, Danobat, Danona, Iparlat, Irizar, Gestamp, CAF, Matz-Erreka, Elay, RPK... and I’ve been able to extract from them enough grounds so that the subsidiary of ULMA Agrícola, although with ups and downs, continues to be important within ULMA Agrícola and that the staff turnover during this period has been truly low, despite the preconceived ideas that people have when speak about Mexico. The branch staff is as much involved with the values and the breathing of the company as any headquarter employee could be and this is so even without the need for the parent company to get involved. I think the workers from the parent company that have slowly passed through here can vouch for that.

The fact is to apply here the same values that are found behind not only the Basque cooperatives but the feeling and behaviour in the business that have developed throughout the years in the small and family businesses of the Basque Country. Another one of the important differences in the way business is done in Mexico is that beyond having a good product and a good price, the key is found in the personal relationship between seller and buyer. Something that has always existed in our own land and that I feel has been disappearing as we have become (northern) “Europeans”.

Personally I married (and got divorced) to a Mexican woman and I currently enjoy Mexican nationality. I am in no rush to return to San Sebastian, although I do believe I will retire near the Cantabrian sea, so it could be said that the process of expatriation and integration in the destination country has been completely satisfactory. I go back to Oñati, and my house in San Sebastian, 2 or 3 times a year, which makes me not miss it more than what’s strictly necessary. You could say that my life as an expatriate was not a division of friends, workmates and family but a multiplying of everything around me. All through it, my constant relationship with the Euskal-Etxea’s people of Mexico has been essential, besides celebrating all the Basque holidays, no one can take away from us the dinners in the Txoko, the Fronton pala (bat) games, and of course, mousse. I am not encouraging you to come to Mexico because truly we are already too many. There are so many Spaniards arriving to Mexico in the last two years that the government has toughened the measures to enter the country for work reasons. When I arrived to this country, people came with a work contract from outside but the economic crisis is so bad over there that people are coming with their education but empty-handed as it had not happened since post-civil war times. The only difference is that now they come with an education, back then they just came hungry, but in both cases eager to work. Nevertheless, if you decide to come here you will be welcomed by the Mexican people, as it has always been from the first exiles of the Republic. Lastly, just a word of advice to all those people who are travelling the world: WHEREVER YOU GO, YOU WILL FIND THE HAPPINESS YOU BRING WITH YOURSELF.

Iker Larreategi ULMA Agrícola expatriate in México

Iker Larreategi in Euskal Etxea