Within one month of arriving in Toronto, Beatriz Juarez became associate art director of Flare magazine.
I was born in Mexico City in 1972. I lived there 27 years. I had studied my last year of high school here in Canada, in Banff, and I loved it. I met my now ex-husband when we were studying university, and I said, “I don’t know if you wanna be with me, because as soon as I finish my career, I’m gonna apply to go back to Canada.” And he said, “Sure!” And we moved in the year 2000. We wanted to experience a new life. We both have creative careers, and I wanted to work in the fashion industry and experience working with people from all over the world, and Mexico wasn’t where I could develop those dreams. Back then in Mexico—we’re talking ‘96, ‘97—there wasn’t a lot of aperture in terms of inclusivity and diversity. Because Mexico is very macho.
I came directly to Toronto. I knew this was the city to be. This was the market where the magazines were. I’m not a person who struggled when I got here. As soon as we moved here, in a month I was associate art director of Flare magazine. And two years later I was the art director of Elle Canada. It was just boom, and then boom.
But Toronto was quite a shock. It wasn’t as quaint as Alberta, but being from Mexico City, it still felt so small. I also didn’t have my family and my friends. In Mexico we share the same ideals, the same religion, the same traditions. And here, everyone has different religions and traditions. Finding my tribe was so hard. I befriended people who weren’t right for me just for the sake of having friends.
I divorced here. That was very hard. I lost my house, I lost everything—all my friends were his friends. I had to start from scratch. And I don’t have family here. But it was an adventure, and it allowed me to reinvent myself. I was like, “Okay, now I’m gonna do it My Way.” And My Way is wanting warmth. And now I love the people I’m with. I mean, it’s taken me eight years, right? But the divorce is probably the best thing that ever happened to me. In 2012, I left my job. Now I teach at Ryerson. I’m a university professor! I teach graphic communications in the School of Fashion. And I love it.
You know, what happened to me in my life, the divorce and everything, that happens to everyone in every country. But what doesn’t happen in every country is the opportunity to have these jobs, to be able to reinvent yourself the way you want. That’s something I couldn’t have had in Mexico. You can be literally whoever you want to be here. You just have to work. Hard.
Immigrants of Toronto is a weekly feature celebrating Toronto’s diversity as a vibrant city of immigrants, refugees, and newcomers, as told to Stephen Thomas.