THEY may live thousands of miles apart, but the distance between Ireland and Mexico was erased as President Michael D Higgins was welcomed to the Central American country as a "dear friend" by a man with his own family connections with Ireland.
The family of Jose Antonio Meade, Mexico's Foreign Minister, left Ireland for Mexico in the 1880s and yesterday the politician spoke of the friendship between the two countries as he greeted Mr Higgins.
The two men took part in a wreath-laying ceremony in Mexico City honouring Irish soldiers – the Battalon de San Patricio – who fought for Mexico against America between 1846 and 1848.
Mr Higgins spoke of the "unbreakable link" between the two countries as he began his 12-day official visit to Central America that takes in Mexico, El Salvador and Costa Rica.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, Mr Higgins told of the growth of international students coming to Ireland from the region with over 20,000 young people expected to study at Irish institutions over the next four years.
Nine trade agreements will be signed during the course of his visit and Mr Higgins said the Irish people are "going to see Irish job creation in Mexico (and) Mexican investment in Ireland of a very significant kind" as a result of the tour.
However, aside from the economic aspect of his trip, Mr Higgins said Ireland enjoyed a "very warm relationship" on the international stage with the Central American countries he is visiting.
Mr Higgins, who was accompanied by his wife Sabina and junior minister Joe Costello, then had a private breakfast with Mr Meade before paying a visit to the Museum of Anthropology.
Today he will attend another wreath-laying ceremony.