Juniata College hosted the Oaxaca Cultural Night on Wednesday.
The event was coordinated by the Center for International Education with the assistance of Alberto Lozano-Vazquez, Distinguished Visiting Professor of Politics. He is teaching two college courses this semester as part of the Fulbright-Garcia Robles Mexico Studies program.
“I want to show students and the community why Mexico matters to the United States,” he said. “We have a big impact.”
The event began with a presentation by Carlos Obrador Garrido Cuesta and Guillermo Zamora.
Obrador Garrido Cuesta is Mexico’s Chief Consul in Philadelphia. In his position, he helps protect the Mexican interests of the country and its people.
In his presentation, he talked about the importance of Mexico’s relationship with the United States.
“We are allies, partners and friends,” he said. “A lot of jobs on both sides depend on trade.”
Mexico, most years, is the first country to trade with the United States. Often, traded products come and go multiple times as part of a collaborative effort.
Products include auto parts, computer parts and air bags.
Obrador Garrido Cuesta also explained a consul. Although the consul’s job is different depending on the region, he said his focus right now is on providing visas to foreigners and citizens traveling to Mexico.
“There are currently two million Americans in Mexico,” he said.
The Philadelphia area covers the entire state, Delaware and eight southernmost New Jersey counties. It is the second oldest sector in the United States.
Mexico’s cultural impact on the United States is also strong. Being the most populous Hispanic group in the country, Mexicans make up 18.5% of the country’s population.
In Pennsylvania, of the 12 million inhabitants, more than 163,000 are Mexican.
“Because of these high numbers, it is important that we promote culture,” he said. “Partnership can help bring us all together.”
Zamora works in the office of international relations as deputy director of the government of Oaxaca.
In his presentation, he discussed the particular growth of his state of Oaxaca and why it is an important part of the country.
Currently, Oaxaca is part of the corredor multimodal interoceánico (interoceanic multimodal corridor) that will help modernize and unite the ports of Veracruz and Salina Cruz.
“With this plan, residents will have more access to things they didn’t have before, like water and energy,” he said.
Although there are concerns about the impact this railroad could have on Mexico’s ecosystem and economy, Zamora and Obrador Garrido Cuesta said the government is being careful.
“The government has worked hard for reforestation,” said Obrador Garrido Cuesta. “For every tree they cut down, they want to plant many more.”
He said the government plans to plant a billion trees without a set budget. Because the government uses savings money and is getting stricter with corruption, it also said it would not borrow money from other countries.
“The government is making sure locals and indigenous people are involved,” Zamora said. “It’s as much their project as anyone’s.”
The two men also discussed how the government is trying to improve the education system in Mexico.
According to Obrador Garrido Cuesta, the government wants to provide basic scholarships to every child, regardless of their economic status.
“They also want to build 100 public universities that would provide free education,” he said.
Zamora said the railway project would be beneficial for this, as it would help develop the southern end of the country, as well as provide more job opportunities.
The Mexican-American students present expressed their joy at such an event.
According to Juniata College student Giselle Godinez, it’s “a breath of fresh air.”
“Because there is so little Mexican culture in this area, we sometimes feel isolated,” she said. “It’s great that they’re here to talk to us, but also for those who don’t feel like they have a voice.”
Student Jacob Verduzco said the experiment could help Mexico’s undocumented population.
“A lot of undocumented Mexicans are too scared to talk to government officials,” he said. “We can work as a median between them.”
After the presentation, attendees were treated to an authentic Oaxacan meal in the Pheasant Lounge which included mole negro, quesillo and horchata. After dinner, those aged 21 and over can experience a Mezcal tasting in the Sill Board room.
The student feedback, in addition to being able to teach at the college, was an honor for Lozano-Vazquez.
“I learn as much as the students. This region is such a new experience,” he said. “I hope it will open more people’s minds in the country of Mexico.”