The lady of her own destiny.
By Fátima Mesquita
Ângela Mesquita came to Canada in a different time, when the doors of the country were wide open and Brazilians used to come to work hard – and under the table – in construction or cleaning. But with perseverance and determination, the Mineira with a degree in business administration changed her destiny. Now far from the cleaning rag and the mop, Ângela – who does not hide her pride for her journey – is currently the driving force behind a successful business enterprise in Toronto.
Why did you decide to pack your bags and come to Canada?
Ângela Mesquita – I am from Governador Valadares, in the countryside of Minas Gerais; I studied Business Administration and worked there for some years as an executive secretary for the research department of CENIBRA (Cellulose Nippon-Brazilian). In my daily routine, I used to be directly in touch with foreigners and could make a decent living. In 1987, I reached the limit of my disappointment with my country, witnessing people going unpunished and the inequality in our beloved Brazil. I decided, then to try life outside the country, even if just for a few years. At that time, Canada did not request an entry visa, so I took the first plane and came here with only one thing that I knew for certain: the geographical location of Canada.
Opening hours adapted for the clientele
Today, you have a money transfer agency. The market for this kind of business, transferring money from developed countries like Canada to developing countries like Brazil, is very competitive, despite being characterized by small and medium enterprises. How did you find your way in this business and what do you think was the key to success?
Ângela Mesquita – When I started, the work was all done under very precarious conditions. In order to deal with the Brazilian immigrant, our opening hours were from four in the afternoon to two in the morning! And it had to be that way because, at that time, construction work and cleaning were, in general, the only sources of employment for Brazilians. And this is the origin of Brasil Remittance, which is the money transfer agency that I founded in 1993 and is now a respected enterprise in the Toronto financial market. Soon, for instance, through a contract signed with Banco do Brasil (Bank of Brazil), we will improve our services, offering the client an even better currency conversion rate and also more security, promptness and transparency. The business is already on track. It is going through the legal formalities and soon it will become a reality. With this new service, I hope to be able to also meet the needs of many Brazilian students that have come to Toronto.
Missing the life here and the life there
Let’s go back a little to your personal life in order to talk about two other matters that weigh heavily on the life of any Brazilian: family and longing. How do you deal with all that?
Ângela Mesquita – My dearest mother used to tell me when I dreamed about leaving the country: “Daughter, one who leaves their homeland, loses their homeland”. It is very true! When we are here we deeply long for the smallest details, like a “pastel” from the market or the time I used to spend on my porch in Brazil looking at the stars at night … Then, I organize myself to visit the country and put an end to my longing. Finally, the day of the trip arrives and I fly full of excitement. But after a week in Brazil, I’m crazy to come back. It is always like this: when we are here, we want to be there. When we are there we want to be here. Complicated, isn’t it?
Family and community
But in a certain way you surround yourself with Brazil and Brazilians and maintain a strong connection with the immigrant community, isn’t that true?
Ângela Mesquita – Yes, maybe as an attempt to address my lack of family and Brazil, I’m always trying to do something to connect our community. Brasil Remittance and I, Ângela Mesquita, became a sort of an information centre. It is very common for people to call on Friday, for instance, wanting to know what will happen on the weekend! And I’m always promoting parties; I organize the Carnaval Brasil in partnership with the Brazilian newspaper here in Toronto, which has already become a tradition. And this year I will also support a group of brave and patriotic Brazilians who will organize a celebration of September 7th, our independence day.
In addition to this, there is also Christmas. I think Christmas here is very sad because of my family’s absence. To change this atmosphere, we gather all our friends together in a different house every year. We call it “Big Family Christmas”. And last year, I had the honour of receiving 40 people at home.
You mentioned kids… How many are there, what have they been up to and what is your secret to being an immigrant, a business woman and a mother at the same time?
Ângela Mesquita – I’m a mother of three wonderful kids – Anne is 20 years old, Steven 18 and Yago is 10 years old. Anne is already in her second year of university, studying Business and Steven is following in his sister’s footsteps. And as a mother, woman and business woman, I live in a constant marathon. But I can only move ahead because I can count on an excellent team that has helped me a lot. And, in the end, I can only be thankful because today I am a very accomplished person. I have to thank God, my family, the Brasil Remittance team, my clients and Canada for this victory.