5 de mayo de 2017
Señoras y señores,
Good afternoon, and welcome to the Mexican Cultural Institute.
Perhaps no single event captures the depth of our friendship and the ties that unite us as well as the one that brings us here today: Cinco de Mayo. The festivities surrounding this historic date may have their origin in the victory won in 1862 by Mexican forces against an invading French army, but the anniversary of the Battle of Puebla has become a truly transnational celebration, symbolizing the friendship that exists between our two nations, connected as they are by ties of family, history, culture and trade, and by the values that we share.
We are gathered here today to commemorate the hundred and fifty-fifth anniversary of the Battle of Puebla, as well as to present the national Ohtli award to the National Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Association.
The world was an unpredictable and troubled place around the mid- nineteenth century.
During the eighteen sixties, our nations were facing two of the most delicate situations any country could face.
Mexico was under the threat of a foreign invasion, and the United States was being devastated by a civil war. Political polarization was present in both our countries.
While the Civil War in the United States was entering its second year, the French army marched towards Mexico City with recognizably superior forces.
On May fifth, the same day that Confederate and Union troops clashed in Williamsburg, Virginia as the first battle of the Peninsula Campaign, the Mexican army under the command of General Ignacio Zaragoza stopped the invading foreign army, forcing it to retreat.
Since then, May fifth has become a day to commemorate a chapter of courage in our nation’s history, and to remember the many challenges that our country has faced and overcome since then.
The victory of the Mexican people was not only known and celebrated in Mexico, but also in the United States. Fostering unity and later becoming a binational celebration in Hispanic communities.
The victory of the Battle of Puebla was also by the US Government, headed by Abraham Lincoln.
The defeat of the liberal Mexican government would have meant an impulse to the confederate forces, which threatened the values and policies President Lincoln stood for.
The leaders of both our countries, President Benito Juárez and President Abraham Lincoln, realized the common interests they had during these uncertain times.
President Lincoln understood that the relationship between our nations could be of mutual benefit.
He recognized that Mexico’s sovereignty, independence and prosperity were beneficial and even fundamental to the United States.
As history showed back then, the alliance between the United States and Mexico is essential to the security and well-being of both.
Almost a century and a half after the Battle of Puebla and the end of the Civil War, the world we live in again confronts turbulent times, polarization, uncertainty and fear.
As it was then, Mexico and the United States are facing challenges. Fortunately, not armed ships and marching foreign troops but the challenges of an increasingly competitive world.
Today is a day to remember that just like in 1862, our countries share the luxury of having a friend and partner as a neighbor. Throughout the years, Mexico and the United States have developed a special partnership, based on their shared geography and common interests.
Over centuries of shared history, respect and cooperation have been guiding principles that have helped Mexico and the US increase our mutual strengths and capabilities.
Our countries have succeeded in building the most advanced and extensive collaboration structure between neighbors.
Nowadays, our main strengths are integration, innovation and competitiveness in our economies, trade and infrastructure.
The US and Mexico are more intertwined socially, politically, and economically than ever before and these ties have provided numerous benefits to our nations.
Both countries have to continue working together to keep on developing our potential as a competitive and dynamic region.
And there is one main and fundamental factor behind all that potential: our peoples.
When talking about national capabilities and our peoples, we need to acknowledge the significant contributions of immigrants in the United States. A significant number of them, working day in and day out picking the food we eat.
Farmworker families play a key role in the agricultural and food industry of the United States.
However, they are one of the sociodemographic groups with the lowest incomes and least amount of access to public services and benefits.
Furthermore, extreme working conditions and exposure to chemical products make agricultural work one of the most difficult labor activities of our time.
With this in mind, we gather here today to recognize the important role of the National Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Association in the lives of seasonal and migrant families.
While parents are at work growing our food and other basic goods for our families, NMSHSA members take care of the youngest members of those families; providing a safe space, flexible hours and an early education curriculum.
These services go beyond addressing the needs of babies and toddlers at Head Start centers. The centers motivate parent engagement in their children’s early education, including services for their own development such as financial education, health prevention and awareness. Some NMSHA members are also part of the Plazas Comunitarias program, which allows parents to finish their elementary and middle school education in Mexico.
No further descriptions are needed to reflect the vital importance of the National Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Association. As I mentioned before, one of the main assets of a country is its people. Specifically, the well-being, health and development of its people. With its work, NMSHSA and its members improve the lives of more than 30,000 children annually throughout the country.
It also gives a voice to farmworkers through its work on Capitol Hill, where it advocates for resources for the Migrant & Seasonal Head Start program, promotes the creation of partnerships, and the creation of public policies. Also, through its Internship Program, students that went through the Migrant and Seasonal Head Start programs are exposed to career opportunities in Washington, DC, allowing them to know and be known in the capital of their country.
The Government of Mexico is grateful to NMSHSA, considering that more than eighty percent of all US farm workers were born in Mexico and that Mexicans have played a key role in US agricultural production.
Mexico appreciates and values your work. For these reasons and consistent with the spirit of unity, courage and overcoming adverse odds that we commemorate today at the anniversary of the Battle of Puebla, the national Ohtli award is presented to the National Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Association.
The Ohtli award is bestowed by the Government of Mexico to recognize and honor individuals and organizations whose efforts have made important contributions to the well-being, prosperity, and empowerment of Mexican communities abroad. The word Ohtli means path in the Nahuatl language. Ohtli recipients are individuals and organizations who have cleared the path for those who come after them and, in many cases, those who have cut new paths through the dense jungle of social and political forces that often prevent members of the Hispanic community from arriving at their desired destinations.
William Castellanos, Chairman of the Board, and Cleo Rodríguez, Executive Director. Please stand:
The leaders and members of the National Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Association are exceptional people who decided to devote their professional lives and their private lives to the well-being and development of one of the most vulnerable and yet most important demographic groups of the country. I am truly honored to present this award to your organization.
Cinco de Mayo is an ideal day for the entire Hispanic and immigrant community to proudly remind everyone in the United States the importance of their contributions to the economic, cultural, and social fabric of this country, and those contributions continue to grow larger with each passing year.
Hispanics and those that work to promote their well-being like NMSHSA, embody the values of courage and tenacity of the Mexican soldiers battling the most powerful army of the world in 1862.
This commemoration also serves to confirm the strong ties of friendship between our nations, the development of our shared interests and our collaboration, that have allowed both our countries become stronger.
Thank you for joining us here today to commemorate the hundred and fifty-fifth anniversary of the Battle of Puebla and the values that make us strong and prosperous.