I first met Eva Mercedes, better known as Meche, while we were both taking part in a co-design consultation day concerning the future inter-borough library at the limits of Montreal-North and Ahuntsic-Cartierville. This library is expected to open in 2020 on Henri-Bourassa Boulevard, west of St-Michel. A diverse group of citizens, librarians and actors of cultural and community organizations had been put together for the occasion to reflect on this new project. Meche was there at the invitation of the Café de Da.
A few weeks later, I received an email from her offering me to meet her family at their home in Ahuntsic for my quartiersnord.photos project. How could I refuse such an invitation? This is how I got to know her husband Michel, their daughters Amélie and Adriana, and their dog Pelusa, who all warmly received us, my wife and I.
Meche is from the Rimac district, on the banks of the river of the same name, in the city of Lima, Peru. For his part, Michel is from the Our Lady of Jacques-Cartier parish in the lower part of Quebec City, where the old local church, on Caron Street, now houses a social solidarity cooperative. Meche and Michel first met in Peru, at a party held by mutual friends. Michel remembers the date: November 14th 1987. At that time, he was working in cooperation in Peru.
Later, the couple returned to Quebec, where they lived for several years. Their girls were born there. Meche did some community radio at Radio Basse Ville. There, she and her first good friend in Quebec, Myriam Gauthier, hosted a social and political news program on the countries of Latin America. Later, for one summer, she hosted a show devoted to Latin American music with her husband. I was entitled "Buscando América", a title inspired by a song of the Panamanian singer Ruben Blades.
Meche told me how surprised Myriam was when she invited her to move-in with Michel and her, even if they hardly knew one another. This natural disposition for hospitality seems common in Latin America. Many newcomers have indeed told me that they were surprised to have to wait for formal invitations to visit their friends in Quebec, while they entered without knocking in the house of their friends and neighbors in their home countries.
Among the other things she misses most here, she mentions the music and dances of Peru: huyano, festejo, marinera norteña. She notes that these are still practiced by Peruvian youths, while here folk dances are only perpetuated by a few enthusiasts.
Along with her Public Communication Studies in Peru, Meche learned some French at the French Alliance. In Quebec City, she completed a Certificate in French as a second language and one in French Literature, as well as a Masters in Communication at Université Laval. This allowed her to be a freelancer in the Hispanic sector of the CBC - Radio Canada International.
In 2001, the family moved to Peru to take up new challenges and to give their daughters a chance to know the Peruvian culture. They spent good years there, working again in international cooperation, this time with SUCO (an acronym that stands, for Solidarity, Union and Cooperation). The spouses are particularly proud of their participation in a project promoting the economic independence of small family farmers, many of them women, in the Andean highlands, the Puna. They contributed to the development of a family support program aiming to improve milk production, as well as its processing and marketing in local markets.
When the time came for the girl’s to pursue higher education, Michel first came back with the eldest, Amélie. The following year, Meche and Adriana came as well. Today, their daughters are respectively studying at UQAM and Concordia. They are not only trilingual, but grew up in two cultures.
Michel still works as Program Officer for SUCO in Montreal. He regularly goes to Haiti and Peru, where the organization supports local development projects, agrobiological production and rural entrepreneurship.
For her part, Meche worked for Oxfam-Québec after her return, until last this summer. She is now looking for a new job, while volunteering as an adoption counselor for the SPCA.