Mexico is often in the news in the United States, but for those of us serving here, it can be a bit frustrating to see the constant, almost exclusive focus on security issues. Without a doubt, security and drug trafficking form a significant part of the bilateral agenda, but there are also many other important and interesting things going on between our two countries. That is why many of us were quite excited when Secretary Clinton made time on her recent visit to Mexico to meet with an inspiring group of indigenous students and teachers who have participated in exchange programs in the U.S. They engaged in a roundtable discussion at Mexico City’s beautiful and historic Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts).
All participants in these DOS- and USAID-funded exchange programs are chosen for their leadership skills and demonstrated records of dedication to developing their communities. The five who participated in the dialogue with Secretary Clinton have gone above and beyond, turning the education and leadership skills gained during their one- or two-year exchange programs in the U.S. into a variety of on-the-ground development efforts. For example, Miguel Arias Martínez of the Tsotsil community has used his exchange program experience to develop a program for pedagogical leadership training in indigenous instruction that supports dozens of teachers, several hundred youth, and about 4,000 schools. Adriana Roque Corona of the Hñahñu community, who has used her U.S. exchange experience to develop a program to help young children read and write in their native language, said “[the United States and Mexico] share two important things in common: teamwork and respect…. We share a relationship that is more familial than diplomatic.”
Secretary Clinton was enthusiastic about the success of this program and the positive difference participants are making in their Mexican indigenous communities. She said, “[w]e think partnerships for more educational experiences and opportunities is a very tangible way for us to deepen and further the relationship between our two countries.” She also added the hope that “… in my country as well as in Mexico, we can finally arrive at a point where no child’s dreams are denied, where it will be up to every single child to decide what he or she is willing to work for, … but that that work will be rewarded.”
To date, over 270 students and teachers from towns all over Mexico have participated in these exchanges. Every one of them has returned to their home towns to carry out development projects that are changing lives and the future course of the participants’ communities. Speakers and staff alike were thrilled to have the opportunity to highlight just one shining example of the multi-faceted nature of our bilateral agenda.