Raul and his family

Mexican immigrants set down roots in Penticton after crossing Canada

Tag(s): Living Here, Local Profiles, Working Here

Around 16 years ago, Raul Fernandez and his fiancé (now wife) Diana Molina moved from Mexico City to Montreal with loads of hopes and dreams, and two suitcases. 

“I am the middle child. One of the three brothers. When we decided to move to Canada, my brothers were opposing a bit, but being the black sheep, I said ‘I can do it’ and we are here now,” says Raul.  “I am creative but I am also very persistent and patient. I keep doing it and doing it until things get resolved.”

Before moving to Canada, Raul worked on a number of art and technology projects and loved 3D design. He received a job offer from a company in Montreal and happily accepted it, as living in Canada was something he wanted to do for quite some time. 

Confronting challenges

At that time the immigration process was a bit easier than today, so within 1.5 years the couple became permanent residents. The biggest challenge was learning the language, which Raul and Diana learned “on the street” by listening and practicing, making mistakes and improving.

“Pronunciation is still an issue, but Canadian people are kind. They ty to understand and don’t make fun of you. I ask them to correct me because I truly want to learn,” explains Raul. 

“Another challenge was to adjust economically. When you come from the country where your currency is much lower, it turns out that the money you bring does not last long. But, on the other hand, the value of the money here allows you to grow faster.” 

Besides missing their families, the couple really missed their traditional Mexican food. At that time, there was only one store in Montreal that carried some of the Mexican groceries. 

Moving west

After spending a few months in Montreal, the couple moved to Edmonton, Alberta. 

“My French is worse than my English, so we decided to move to an English-speaking province,” chuckles Raul. 

In Edmonton, Raul and Diana started a family, and a family business. Their daughter Ashley, like her father, loves drafting and design, so the idea for the family business came naturally. 

“We wanted a business that our daughter could carry on and enjoy. The printing house made perfect sense,” says Raul. 

The home business grew out of the basement and became quite successful, with several schools as customers. The name of the company – Flatiles Designs – came from one of the first machines that Raul bought. It was able to print on flat surfaces, such as acrylic tiles, which are child and pet friendly because they don’t shatter if they fall.  

“I have been an entrepreneur since I was 18. My dad gave me the key to his company – a broom factory – and told me how much money he wanted per month, and I said, ‘okay.’ My friends were hanging out and partying but I already had 30 people on my shoulders, making sure they have income to feed their families. I started helping my dad very early and learned every part of the business starting with cleaning toilets,” says Raul. 

Arriving in Penticton

Raul’s friend, who lives in Penticton, asked the family to come visit – and finally they did. They fell in love with the warm weather, lakes and orchards, and decided to move here. Although they relocated during the pandemic, they were still able to bring their business here and make it succeed. 

“As a family business, we stand behind our products. If a client needs something very specific, very unique, that’s where we specialize. We work closely with clients every step of the way, and make sure they are happy.” 

Raul’s advice to newcomers is to never quit. 

“Keep trying. It’s worth it. Set your goals and break them into smaller, short-term goals. This way you can achieve them one by one, and not be overwhelmed.” 

This profile, written by Elmira Galiyeva, is a part of the Community Champions campaign of the South Okanagan-Similkameen Local Immigration Partnership (SOSLIP). The Partnership project is led by the South Okanagan Immigrant and Community Services (SOICS), which provides a range of services for newcomers to the region. The article was previously published on Castanet.

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