Originally published on July 28, 2022 on Middle East Eye.
The Iranian presence in Mexico dates back centuries, but became even more pronounced when the Shah of Iran sought refuge there after he was overthrown in 1979.
His former home in reality stood beside the Arabesque villa. It has since been demolished, but his memory lives on in Villa del Sha, a luxury complex that replaced it. After he fled Iran, Mexico was one of the few countries that offeredthe shah temporary refuge amid US pressure to let him in. It wasn’t totally unfamiliar for him; in 1975, he had embarked on Iran’s first official state visit to the Latin American country.
Mexico may seem an unlikely place to stumble upon reminders of Iran’s last monarch, but traces of his brief stay can be found in the homes, restaurants and hotels he frequented, especially in Cuernavaca, a resort town south of Mexico City where he was based. Two Mexican sisters, twins, even claim to be his children.
While the shah may be Mexico’s most famous immigrant from Iran, others have also become household names, such as actress Iran Eory and dancer Armen Ohanian.
Iranian migration has left a mark on Mexican culture and history that belies its sporadic nature. In recent decades, increasing numbers of Iranians have made their way here, making a home a world away in a country that many say reminds them of their homeland.