Victor del Rio
"Bumps in the road usually don’t stop us, we keep walking".
Victor del Rio
Country of Origin: Mexico.
State of Residency: VIC. Favourite place in Australia: Great Barrier Reef, Queensland. Upon arrival: Surprised by the economic and social equality
By Cristy Abela
Victor is a well-recognised education and crisis consultant within Mexican and Latin American academic circles. His passion for education led him to establish a consulting firm that not only advises the World Bank but universities and governments too. His leadership in promoting Latin American businesses and political relations has been outstanding during the 33 years he has been in Australia. He is also a point of reference for business executives in his role as president of the Australian and New Zealand Chamber of Commerce (ANZMEX).
Tell us your story
I first came to Australia because I fell in love with an Australian lady I met in Greece. When my marriage collapsed I considered returning to Mexico, but by then I had a well-established media business supplying information to Latin America, Spain, and the USA.
I had a difficult time finding my first job. After 3 months, I was desperate and decided to do the ‘picking fruit saga’ in Mildura. Making this decision was very hard for me since my last job in Mexico was as a high-level public servant in education. But we had to survive. One week before leaving, I received what I felt was a miraculous phone call. I got a job at the Spanish Latin American Welfare Centre (CELAS). My job involved researching unemployment among Spanish-speaking youth. My life turned around.
One year later, I returned to Mexico to complete my Master in Public Policy and Education at ITESM. While in Mexico, I was recruited by the ‘ECO network’ as a news correspondent for the Asia-Pacific region. In 1992, I was elected as a member of the Board of the Foreign Correspondents Association of Australia. In 1993, while covering a forum in Nauru I fell in love again when I met my now wife Erina Reddan.
In 1994, I moved to Sydney and worked at different corporations (Community Aid Abroad, OXFAM, and the Anti-discrimination Board). My last job in Sydney was for ECOS Corporation; however, it went through financial hardship and I had to let people go, including myself. For family matters we moved back to Melbourne. Our family had grown and now we were four. These were tough times for us as I couldn’t find a job for 9 months. Fortunately, I applied and got a scholarship from the Australian Research Council to study a PHD at Melbourne University. I studied and worked at the University in different capacities until 2006. During these years my wife developed RedRiver, a media and communications consulting firm. This saved us financially.
In 2010, I founded CBTSLA, a Latin American education consulting firm which advises leading universities in Latin America and Australia. A key achievement in 2011 was working with Synchotron Australia to organize the donation of a Synchrotron’s beam of light for Latin America’s scientific research. I am currently collaborating with different organisations to construct the first Mexican Synchotron.
Networks - I didn't know anyone when I moved to Australia. I decided to get involved with Hispanic associations and worked as a volunteer for various organisations (Fitzroy Legal Service and North Melbourne Migrant Centre). This helped me to establish a professional and social network. I became more involved in these organisations and actively contributed to create others. I was a founding and board member of the Spanish community branch at Radio 3ZZZ, board member of the Mexican Social and Cultural Association of Victoria (MEXVIC), and the Association of Iberian and Latin American Studies of Australasia. I am currently the president of the Talented Mexican Network (Australian chapter) and ANZMEX.
Language - When I arrived, my English was not good enough for the Australian workplace. I took English lessons offered at RMIT for newly-arrived migrants. I went through the ritual of learning professional English by making mistakes.
Establishing an identity - One of the biggest challenges is to recreate your identity; when you are in Mexico you miss Australia but when you are in Australia you miss Mexico. You feel you don’t belong anywhere; however, you need to realise that you actually belong to both places. There is no need to choose one identity over the other. As immigrants we represent the fusion of both cultures.
Solidarity - Australians believe in ‘a fair go’. I feel people genuinely help others because they believe everyone has the right to be successful. It is truly amazing! I have met many Australians who have helped me out without knowing me. Latinos have big hearts too, shaped by injustices seen in our own countries. We could learn from each other.
Resilience - We have developed a natural resilience because our home countries can be tough places to be brought up and to make a living in. Bumps in the road usually don’t stop us, we keep walking. When you are used to living in a tough environment it seems easier to put things in perspective. We have a great capacity to recover and rise again.
Piece of advice
Be prepared to be challenged - The first 3 to 5 years are tough and will test your character. You cannot skip that stage, so just deal with it as best as you can.
Nostalgia - Research indicates people living abroad feel nostalgia and cannot fully identify themselves with the country where they live because they don’t travel enough to their home countries. I see this situation like a long distance relationship. When you are far away you maximize the good and minimize the bad, but when you are close you maximize the bad and minimize the good. Therefore, my advice is to enjoy where you are, try to travel often, and find mechanisms that allow you to do so (e.g. I give lectures and participate in projects involving both countries).
Embrace both countries - Keep your roots alive: the roots from your home country and your new Australian roots. Both countries are providing you opportunities for unique experiences. Embrace the good things and put the bad things in perspective.
In the next few years...
Victor is looking forward to expanding the relationships between Australia and Latin America in the scientific and educational sectors. He is convinced that both parties can benefit from this kind of relationship. If you wish to contact Victor email us at email@example.com