PLAYA DEL CARMEN - Brabanders and Latinos are quite similar in many respects. That's why relationships between them work so well. Rosan Ouwerkerk (51) from Eindhoven works as a systemic therapist in the Mexican coastal town of Playa del Carmen and specializes in multicultural relationships.
Her washing machine is malfunctioning. A repairman looks at it and after half an hour of work, he has some bad news: he cannot find the defect. That is not surprising, it is more often done here. Ouwerkerk signs the work order; it's ok. She is relaxed under the Caribbean sun, but restless at the same time. She has learned to let go without losing control.
During Corona time she bought this spacious apartment in Playa del Carmen. Close to the center, close to the beach, and yet in peace. The interior of the house is Mexican, with Dutch influences. Frida Kahlo on the wall, various trinkets, and Calaveras, the cartoonish Mexican image of a skull.
Ouwerkerk has a thriving practice, where she can organize her own day. Although she works long days, she also takes enough rest. She thinks Mexico is a great country, with its downsides. “This is really about your own social circle. That you know people. I know who I can trust. Outside of that circle, I am consciously very cautious.”
Ouwerkerk comes from Eindhoven and has a typical Eindhoven story: her father worked at Philips, and she went to the Lorentz Lyceum. “There were many expats who had already seen a lot of the world. I really wanted that too.” The urge for adventure is great. She wants to organize her life differently from others. Don't follow the beaten track.
She goes to Amsterdam and starts studying psychology. After two years she quits and transfers to the academy for social studies. As an internship she chooses the adventure in Suriname. “At first I thought it was terrible. I was used to southern Europe, this was shabby. Hardly any running water and toilets are often outdoors. But soon I didn't want to leave. I was in love with the culture, with all the stories I heard. My internship supervisor Ciska let me do my own thing, which I also found difficult, but which gradually helped me grow into my role.”
Melting pot of cultures
After a while, she has to go back to the Netherlands, with great reluctance, to finish her studies. Here she has several jobs. At Youth Care, at the Child Protection Board, at De Bascule in Amsterdam. She grows in her expertise: families and relationships. Why do we react to each other the way we react? What is the basis for this? I soon learned one thing: that children must be protected at all times. They are always related to their parents.” She sighs. ,,I have no children of my own, but what wimps are being raised now. Totally indefensible, in a demanding society. That is exactly the same here in Mexico, there are few differences in that respect.”
The knowledge she gained in the Netherlands can be put to good use here. She firmly believes in family therapy and how interesting is it to do that in a multicultural society like Playa del Carmen? The Caribbean beach city is a melting pot of cultures. Thousands of Americans, Europeans, Australians, and Latinos live here. ,
Everything we learn about relationships, we learn from the origin of the family. You copy and distance yourself from your parents, that choice always plays a role. History repeats itself, generation after generation. You are never really free and that is not a bad thing at all,” explains Ouwerkerk. Look at a child growing up in a violent situation.
“Such a child does not get a good example. Kids usually think it's their fault that mom and dad are getting divorced. They want to change to help them and always involve themselves if it doesn't work out. "I'm not good enough, I don't deserve affection," it thinks. You deserve that, but the parents are too busy waging war.” According to Ouwerkerk, women depend on their status in relationships, and men on success. In both cases, this is closely related to their upbringing and it is very difficult to distance yourself from it.
She will stay in Mexico for the time being, but she does not want to grow old here. ,,I certainly don't miss Amsterdam, but I am actually very Brabant again. The Mexican resembles the Brabander, I think the basis may lie with the Spanish Inquisition, which took place in the Netherlands up to the rivers. Both peoples have been oppressed, become Catholic, and have had to reinvent themselves.”
She doesn't know how long she wants to stay here. “I plan for ten years. I am not going back to the Netherlands, nor will I stay here. I'm thinking about Valencia right now," she says.
She has to work tonight. She likes it very much. “I already had ADHD before ADHD existed. You learn to deal with it, I just can't get a 9 to 5. I have lunch for three hours in the afternoon and well, on the other hand, I sometimes have to work in the evening. I manage my own time completely. In the Netherlands, I could earn three times as much as here, but in this life, I feel most free.”