Zarek, living Europe!
Thirty-year-old Hermes Soto, mostly known as Zarek, came from Culiacan, a small city in the northern part of Mexico. He moved to Budapest two years ago leaving everything behind to start a new life, to reinvent himself without knowing that it was going to happen.
How was your life before moving to Budapest?
I was living back in my hometown with my family, working as a producer in a big model agency, which gave me so much insight and knowledge about life and work. Now that I think back, that gave me the first sparkles of accepting who I am, even if by that time I was already out of the closet and had a boyfriend, but it had a big role in coming to terms with myself and gaining respect from my work.
We don’t usually hear about Culiacan. Could you tell us a bit more about your hometown?
It is my city; in my eyes it is perfect. I know that it is not one of the best cities in the world but as a “Culichi”, which is how we call people from Culiacan, we have a strong sense of friendship and personal relationships and that is why it always felt like the best place to be. It doesn’t matter if I don’t know you, you’re a friend from the moment I met you, so everyone is kind to one another; we are also very friendly and welcoming with foreigners. Sharing big meals, drinking, taking care of visitors as if they were family, everything. Besides this, it is very warm, we can reach more than 40 degrees without problem… that makes us love the beach, and we also have great seafood.
Do you have an active gay life in the city?
It has improved a lot in the past few years. 5 years ago you had to be really careful and live a double life because we come from the typical “Mexican macho” culture and Mexico is quite traditional, so you have to behave as “the normal people”. Now, it has improved a lot and actually gay marriage is very close to be adopted in my state, following the example of some others that have approved it already. Now you see gay people on the street holding hands and the change of generations has brought a lot of acceptance; also the digital era has had a big impact as people have new sources of information other than the traditional school and family channels. I’m really thankful to my friends who are activists and stayed there to reshape the culture we were living in.
And what made you move to Budapest?
To be honest, I already had an idea of moving out of Mexico for a while but I finally made the decision because of a breakup. I needed some time out and figure things out to discover new opportunities. I had some personal connections in Budapest and that made everything easier after being selected for an internship through AIESEC.
You have been living in Budapest for more time than most people we have interviewed in Humen. What is your opinion after two years?
This is a wonderful city, one of the best in the world. Coming from a small town with violence problems, in a country with a culture as rich as Mexico, Budapest is a gem of contrasts where you find everything. I think for me this is influenced by the fact that I work with people from 53 countries and with 33 languages. The diversity here is a big deal.
The gay life in Budapest and Hungary is not evolving as fast as my hometown’s but even if I am not an activist, I defend the right to be equal as juch as I can and I have no problem holding my boyfriend’s hand on the street or living my life here. There’s not a single reason why people should have to live a double life… you are at home, you should not have to be afraid or go back in the closet. We don’t live in that era anymore and Hungarians will have to learn that eventually. Nevertheless, I should mention that I have never felt discriminated here.
Have you had any cultural shock?
A positive one is that I am still not used to the beauty of the city and when the taxi takes me home next to the Danube, I always feel like living here is a dream come true. A surprising one was that as a northern Mexican, I had to learn to lower the volume of my voice. And I also had a funny one: I love singing so I do it while walking on the street and people look at me quite weird, but now I don’t care.
What do you do in Budapest?
I still work for the same company, I finished my internship and I decided to stay longer as my contract got extended. Now I am a trainer for the new IT members and I love my workplace! Going to the kitchen and listening to all the languages, everyone eating the food from their culture and having the chance of getting along with so many nationalities. All of us love Budapest and loving the things we do is part of us, which is an energy injection that us, as expats, give to a country like Hungary. Especially Latin people.
What made you stay here?
I am seeing things from a different perspective and Budapest is the city of my “firsts”: first cultural shocks, first personality challenges, first time feeling fulfillment at work. I have achieved what I’ve wanted and I feel that what I do is appreciated. Here I feel very proud of being Mexican, as I have understood my role as an ambassador of my country. Being Latin is a plus here and I have managed to use it for my benefit in many levels of my life.
Also, all my life I wanted to sing in a band and Budapest is the place where I have made this dream come true. Our band is called “Eli y los Mexas”. We play Latin music and that is practically what I am doing in my free time. I have been studying Hungarian for a month now and I have learned to love this language.
I like to say I am “living Europe” instead of “living in Europe”.