In Mexico, an expat learns how much Madiba put SA on the map

2013-12-09 00:00

I AM sitting in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, now and remembering a few days ago when I first saw someone post about Mandela’s death on Facebook.

Of course, at first you don’t believe it and simply think its another fake story, but then I checked online and confirmed that the story was true.

I was at a restaurant and an Argentinian friend asked me what country I was from again, and as soon as I told him South Africa, he put his arm around me and said to me in Spanish, “I’m really sorry my brother. Mandela was a great man.”

Upon hearing where I’m from, every­one I meet while travelling always begins with either, “Ah! Nelson Mandela” or “el Mundial” (the World Cup). As much as we all knew this day would come, nothing ever prepares you for it, as you never know how you would react or feel.

When I found out I was stunned, but the emotions really hit when people that I had briefly met or that I vaguely knew came up to me and started talking about Mandela and South Africa. You realise then how much he meant to South Africa, as a nation and in terms of world recognition.

I got back to my hostel to watch CNN and see the coverage. People again started coming up to me and giving their condolences. This made me realise that the world sees Mandela as a father figure to South Africans, and I feel that strongly too. As a black South African, I know that I would never have been able to do what I am doing and experience what I am experiencing right now had it not been for the role Mandela, Sisulu and Tambo played in the liberation of our country.

For their efforts, I grew up seeing myself as an equal to everyone I meet from everywhere in the world, irrespective of race, nationality or religion and for that I am truly grateful.

When you first leave South Africa to travel the world, you meet people from all these famous countries that everyone has heard of and you never expect people to know much of South Africa or its history or past, but this day has shown me that South Africa is well and truly on the map and is viewed in such an amazing light by people, mostly due to the influence of Mandela and what he has helped do.

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