Wednesday, April 29, 2009
"You're going to Tijuana?!!! Haven't you heard about all the violence down there? Aren't you afraid of getting shot? You know the State Department has issued a warning to U.S. citizens about going to Tijuana! I won't let my kids go and I don't think you should go."
Those are the worried words of Michael Corcoran, PhD, President of The WorkThreat Group. Besides advising businesses on how to prevent and deal with workplace violence, he's also a former Secret Service agent and policeman. So of course, coming from his experience and perspective on the world, he's going to give his friend this kind of advice.
Did Sheri Long, owner of Amigos at Work, a bilingual consulting firm located in Newport Beach, CA, heed his advice? Well, she did read the State Department warning. It said to stay out of dark alleys and get out of town before dark. Mostly she has been doing that. Sheri must confess she has stayed after dark a couple times when she couldn't tear herself away from the irresistible chocolate pastries at L'Apricot, a French patisserie. When Sheri is there she admits that she totally forgets that she's in a Mexican border town. The elegant ambiance of the sweet little cafe transports her right back to Paris.
Sheri and her colleague, Richard Villasana, Principal of Marketing to Mexico located in San Diego, CA, have been going to Tijuana about twice a month since January this year. They are on a mission to find out what the burning business issues are for the maquiladoras (cross-border assembly plants) to help them prepare a business seminar they plan to conduct for the maquiladoras. They have had a great time interviewing a PhD college professor, managers from the Maquiladora Association and managers from some maquiladoras and their suppliers.
The locals' main concern about the violence is that the inflammatory news about it will deter new business investment in Tijuana. They continue to live their daily lives as normal. It's not like there's evidence of violence on every street corner. Quite the contrary, there's the expected hustle and bustle of an industrious population of three million people.
In fact, one maquiladora Human Resources Manager told Sheri and Richard that business people are not prime targets for kidnapping because they don't have enough money and their companies will not pay ransoms. The manager contends this violence takes place in an underground subculture of drug lords. Tuesday, 5/21/09, Sheri spoke to the President of AIM, Asociacion de la Industria Maquiladora, Lic. Javier Martinez Luna, who reported that the crime rate in Tijuana is now below that of other major cities with a high crime rate.
There are two reasons Sheri continues going to Tijuana in spite of her concerned colleague's advice. One is she feels confident traveling there with Richard because he lived in Tijuana ten years until recently. The other is based on the question Sheri's business coach, Therese Skelly, asked her. In regards to possibly putting herself in harm's way, Therese asked Sheri, "How do you want to live your life?" Sheri's answer is "I want to live my life boldly pursuing what's important to me without fearing what might happen to me."
Sheri Long is the founder/owner of Amigos at Work, a bilingual/bicultural consulting group that teaches companies cross-cultural communication between Americans and Hispanics as a way to improve their working relationships. Their international clients, such as Kwikset and Avail Medical, claim an increase in productivity of up to 75% as a result of Amigos' training. Sheri has a lifetime of bicultural and bilingual experience that began with growing up on a farm on the Arizona-Sonora border, and continued through attending college, living and working in Mexico and South America.