Mensaje de la Embajadora Martha Bárcena Coqui en ocasión de la entrega del Reconocimiento Ohtli Nacional 2019 a Teresa Romero y Domenika Lynch.
We are gathered here today to celebrate the 157th Anniversary of the Battle of Puebla and to honor two notable women with the national Ohtli Award.
On May 5th, 1862, Mexico, led by Ignacio Zaragoza, a Mexican general born in what today is Goliad, Texas, and was then known as Bahía del Espiritu Santo in the State of Coahuila y Texas, defeated the invading French army in Puebla, with an impressive display of courage and tenacity since France had one of the most powerful military forces at that time.
Had it not been by the resolve shown by Mexicans, some of whom fought tooth and nail with stones, clubs and machetes to defend their homeland, Mexico would have not been able to claim a decisive victory, and our history would’ve trod a very different path.
In the early 1960s, the pride that came from the Battle of Puebla in Mexico became a driving force in the U.S. for many Mexican-American activists involved in the country’s growing civil rights movement.
This is why we now proudly commemorate Cinco de Mayo as a celebration of all the contributions that Mexicans make to this great country, and of the Mexican resolve in times of adversity.
This is also why we chose to bestow the Ohtli Award on 5 de Mayo.
Ladies and gentleman,
The term Ohtli means “path” in Nahuatl. With the Ohtli Award, the Mexican government celebrates the achievements of outstanding leaders that have contributed to opening new paths of success and well-being for the Mexican and Mexican American communities in the United States.
As the first female Ambassador of Mexico to the U.S., I am proud to present this year’s award to two valuable women.
The first one is Mrs. Teresa Romero, who has worked tirelessly throughout her life to defend farmworkers’ rights, through the United Farm Workers Union, that was established by the iconic César Chavez.
In current times, the defense of the rights of farmworkers, including immigrant workers, is critical not only to protect their communities, but as a way to assure that the civil rights of every person in the United States are respected.
One of the most vulnerable groups among immigrants are farmworkers. There are approximately 3 million farmworkers in the United States, and according to the U.S. Department of Labor, most of them -68% of the total- are Mexican.
The truth is that without Mexican and Hispanic farmworkers, the food security of this country would be at risk.
Without their hard work, we would not be able to enjoy most of the food we eat at reasonable prices.
Nevertheless, farmworkers continue to be some of the lowest paid and least protected workers in the U.S., and immigrants in this field are even more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. Farmworkers are constantly facing a struggle against corporate entities with greater influence and power.
In this context, organizations like United Farm Workers have been crucial in the defense of Hispanic and immigrant farmworkers’ rights.
In December of last year, Teresa Romero, a Mexican who migrated to the United States more than 30 years ago, became the first woman to lead this organization.
United Farm Workers has given its workers the voice and the courage to stand up for their dignity and win battles in the defense of their fundamental rights.
You have made history by becoming the very first Mexican woman to lead such an important organization, the biggest union of farmworkers in the United States.
Therefore, it is a distinct honor and privilege for me, as the Mexican Ambassador to the United States, to bestow upon Teresa Romero, the national Ohtli Award.
The second woman that we honor today is Domenika Lynch, who stands as an example of a true leader who has persistently worked to help young Hispanics succeed in their communities.
We know that integration of the Hispanic and immigrant community into the economy, culture and social fabric of this country has resulted in growth and prosperity to the American society as a whole.
The Hispanic community is, nowadays, the most economically vibrant. It holds the highest rate of new businesses creation than any other. community.
The more than 4.3 million Hispanic-owned businesses contribute with over $700 billion to the American economy each year.
Nevertheless, the integration of immigrant and Hispanics in the United States has not been an easy process.
Therefore, the constant work of leaders and organizations such as the ones that you all represent are essential to keep opening spaces for a greater integration of the new generations of Hispanics.
During her career, Domenika has worked tirelessly to provide better educational opportunities for young Hispanics.
For over a decade, as the executive director of the Latino Alumni Association (LAA) at the University of Southern California, she raised millions of dollars to provide scholarships to Latino students and increased the membership of this association.
Since 2016, when she became President and CEO of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, Domenika worked to strengthen the organization, and to include more young emerging Hispanic leaders into leadership development programs and educational services.
As a recognition to your constant work in benefit of young Hispanics, it is an honor for me to grant you, on behalf of the government of Mexico, the national Ohtli Award.
Your hard work has been fundamental to empower Hispanics by helping them to maximize their full potential.
Teresa and Domenika:
Your courage has changed the life of many people and your work will continue to shape the next generation of Hispanic leaders and, in consequence, the future of this country.
You both stand as a reminder that adversities can be overcome with courage; that change can be achieved through exceptional leadership, and that the defense of the rights and dignity of every person in this country —is and will continue to be—a fight worth fighting.
157 years ago, courage and tenacity led the Mexican army to win a decisive battle on a cinco de mayo.
Today, the Government of Mexico is proud to recognize the courage and tenacity of these two notable women, and will continue to work alongside all relevant organizations in favor of the protection of the rights and dignity of Mexicans in the U.S.