Washington, DC, May 4th 2011



Dear honorees,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Amigos y amigas,

We are gathered here tonight to celebrate Cinco de Mayo and to honor two highly distinguished individuals with the Ohtli Award: Governor Bill Richardson and Dr. Juan Andrade, Jr.

Most of you know that after having assumed office as Ambassador four years ago, we recast our Cinco de Mayo festivities here at the Embassy. Besides a commemoration of the victorious 1862 battle in Mexico against French invading troops, which Mexican-Americans have throughout the 20th century made their own as a celebration of Latino identity, pride and unity, we have turned Cinco de Mayo into an opportunity to recognize individuals who have worked for the well-being and empowerment of, Mexican-Americans and Latinos in the U.S., individuals who have also left ladders down so that others who come behind them can continue to climb.

This year, the Ohtli Award ceremony comes at a time when the Latino community in the U.S. faces two contradictory trends. Este año nuestra ceremonia de entrega de los premios Ohtli ocurre en un momento en el que la comunidad latina en Estados Unidos enfrenta dos tendencias que se dan a contrapelo.

On the one hand, last year’s midterm elections and the 2010 census results speak volumes to the growing political, cultural, social, and economic empowerment of Latinos in the U.S. As the Pew Hispanic Center reported recently, more than 6.6 million Latinos voted in the past mid-term elections. That’s a record number for any mid-term election. And as the 2010 Census shows, Latino population growth contributed significantly to this tally and it accounted for more than half of the nation’s population growth over the last ten years. Latino population in the U.S. went up from 35.3 million people in 2000 to 50.5 million, and is the country's fastest growing and largest minority. Latinos represent now 16% of the population.

The effects of this growth will represent a political sea change over the next two decades, as immigrants become naturalized and they and their children register to vote. A new social map is being drawn in America everyday and Latinos are already heavily influencing politics and policy with votes, becoming a key instrument for the empowerment of the Latino voice.

It is clear that Latinos are therefore increasing their political participation, but there is still great potential for growth. Eligible Latino voters are still showing up at the polls in less proportion than other voters, so this reminds us that we cannot complacently cross our arms when there is still much work to be done to bring the Latino vote out. Latinos will only benefit from that as they will demonstrate the character and civic commitment of this community.

Moreover, we also need to think about those who still are not eligible to vote. While a third of Latinos are below voting age, a major factor for understanding the voting turnout difference vis á vis other population groups is the non-citizenship status of a large fraction of the Latino community. I am sure I don’t need to elaborate on how this affects Latino empowerment and highlights the urgency to build a cohesive and broad coalition to advance a solution to the situation of an important segment of the Latino community in the U.S., a solution framed within a new and more humane immigration system that fosters development and economic growth on both sides of our common border.

This brings me to the second trend we are observing. The rapid growth of the Latino population, especially in regions that are new immigrant destinations, together with the stagnant immigration reform process, has continued to prompt state and local authorities all over the U.S. to advance legislation and policies to address this complex phenomenon.

Unfortunately, Arizona has trumped Las Vegas: what happened in Arizona last year has not stayed in Arizona. Over the past year, we have witnessed how several city halls and state capitols have followed the path of Arizona in promoting potentially discriminating laws that fragment rather than build strong communities. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that “law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and when they fail in this purpose; they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress.”

No podemos permitir que la frustración, el miedo a las diferencias, y la ansiedad que genera en algunos la presencia de personas con un aspecto distinto dé pie a la proliferación de dichas leyes. Hoy más que nunca seguiremos levantando la voz y no bajaremos la guardia para salvaguardar derechos de las comunidades mexicanas y latinas en Estados Unidos y que son derechos universales. We must stand up against laws and the implementation of enforcement policies that criminalize migration, and potentially allow for racial profiling and the selective application of the law.

Nevertheless, more importantly, there have also been positive examples: cities and states that have understood integration, are building much more effective formulae to prosper together as a society. From Littleton, Colorado, and Columbus, Ohio, to Rhode Island and Virginia, many places are pursuing a more constructive path by successfully implementing programs that help incorporate Latinos and other immigrants into the larger social fabric, and to do so without losing sight of each one’s own, distinctive character.

I believe this openness is key for successful integration, and is the basis of empowerment. Integration should be understood as a two-way process, through which both Latinos that are trying to find their feet in a new environment, and the host communities are learning from each other. This is why we must continue to underscore the enormous contributions Latinos make to the economic, social and cultural well-being and prosperity of the receiving communities.

Como Embajador de México en Estados Unidos he podido constatar con orgullo el enorme esfuerzo y la incansable labor de muchos de ustedes en favor del empoderamiento de las comunidades Latinas y en pro de una reforma migratoria integral ofrezca una solución realista e incluyente. Por ello, esta noche reconocemos el trabajo ejemplar y las excepcionales contribuciones de dos grandes líderes de este país al bienestar y empoderamiento de los latinos en esta nación.

Ladies and Gentlemen. Queridos amigos.

On behalf of President Felipe Calderón, it is a distinct honor and privilege as Mexican Ambassador to the United States to bestow upon Governor Bill Richardson and Juan Andrade Jr. the Ohtli Award.

Governor Richardson, please step forward:

Few public officials in the U.S., let alone of Latino origin, have such a distinguished public service record as Governor Richardson. Indeed, few can match his wide-ranging experience in Congress, as U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Secretary of Energy, diplomatic trouble-shooter, and of course governor, and his level of dedication to protecting the rights and improving the quality of life of the people he has served throughout the years.

Bill Richardson’s links to Mexico run deep in his family. He was born in Pasadena, California, although he could have easily be born in Mexico City, where his family was living at that time, and where he was raised until he was a teenager. He is the son of a Mexican mother, and a father who, while raised in New England, was also of Mexican descent.

But beyond his personal ties, Richardson has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the well-being of immigrants and Latinos more broadly in the U.S. This was particularly evident during his tenure as governor of what he once called “the nation's first majority minority state”.

In New Mexico, he proved himself a savvy executor of public policies that contribute to encouraging the integration of immigrants into that state’s communities. For instance, he defended the use of the “matricula consular” issued by the Government of Mexico as a valid ID to obtain a driver’s license and he pushed education policies that allowed the children of undocumented migrants to have access to higher education in similar conditions to those of the residents of New Mexico. And of course, he has been an adamant supporter of a comprehensive immigration reform, and has condemned initiatives such as Arizona’s SB1070.

A true charmer, Governor Richardson has managed to travel easily between the Latino world and everywhere else, helping to build bridges between communities. He used to joke by saying that "I have an Anglo surname, I speak Spanish, and I look Indian." Bill Richardson may see himself “Between Worlds”, but I actually believe he is one of those few who can truly help bridge several worlds into a single, united one. This ability has taken the young pitcher of Los Yankees de San Francisco, as his childhood baseball team was called in Mexico City, to very successful roles in international negotiations that have earned him several Nobel Peace Prize nominations.

Mr. Governor, in recognition of your contributions to the well-being, prosperity, and empowerment of Mexican communities abroad, the Government of Mexico decorates you with the Ohtli, National Degree.

Dr. Juan Andrade Jr., please step forward:

Mr. Andrade Jr. is a brilliant example of the American Dream come true. He was born in Texas, son of a proud Mexican father who joined the U.S. Army. He is also the grandson of Daniel Ochoa, who fought in the ranks of Pancho Villa during the Mexican Revolution. In fact, if you have seen TV interviews of Dr. Andrade conducted in his office, you can see his grandfather’s picture hanging over his shoulder.

As a child and later as a student, Mr. Andrade sold newspapers and washed dishes, pots and pans in restaurants. He hoed cotton, cabbage, peanuts, watermelons and cantaloupes and worked in factories, meatpacking plants, and as a custodian. But Mr. Andrade has not only accumulated blisters in his hands as a tireless worker, he has also accumulated an impressive array of academic credentials and has a long-standing record in fighting for the empowerment of the Mexican and the Mexican-American communities in the United States from the trenches of grassroots organizations. Juan Andrade is a natural mentor, from his roots as a farm worker to his success as a community leader his commitment to empowering Latinos has never wavered.

Under his leadership, today the USHLI has developed into one of the most powerful, nationally and internationally recognized Latino organizations in the country by organizing and conducting nonpartisan voter registration and leadership development programs in 40 states. The Institute has trained over 200,000 present and future leaders, registered over two million new voters and published 425 studies on Hispanic demographics since 1982.

His citizenship and voter registration drives have changed the dynamics of Latino civic participation in the Midwest of this country by empowering minorities and similarly disenfranchised groups, and by maximizing civic awareness and participation in the electoral process.

And tonight we continue to make history with Juan Andrade Jr., as he will be one of three Latinos in history to be highly decorated by both the Governments of Mexico and the United States. Sharing this distinction with the late Cesar Chavez and Mario Obledo is not a minor achievement.

Dr. Andrade, in recognition of your contributions to the well-being, prosperity, and empowerment of Mexican communities abroad, the Government of Mexico decorates you with the Ohtli, National Degree.

Señoras y Señores;

Coordinated efforts from the bottom-up work of the grassroots organizations, and from the top-down with the national leadership are crucial to empowering the Latino community. These two men have followed those two distinct paths toward the same goal. Both are leaders who have fought for the wellbeing of Mexican, Mexican-American and Latinos in general, and both have done so very successfully. Governor Richardson and Dr. Andrade Jr. have found ways to create bridges among communities, to bring them closer together, and in doing so they help this nation to continue thriving, based on the vigor of its cultural diversity, tolerance and inclusiveness.

Fostering social, cultural, economic and political engagement through integration and mutual understanding is the chief role the Mexican Government is playing today with the Latino community and should keep on playing in the future. Con ello, hemos redefinido viejos paradigmas de interacción con las comunidades migrantes en Estados Unidos y estamos ayudando a nuestra gente a realizar sus aspiraciones. Ayudar a las comunidades de migrantes mexicanos y de mexico-americanos a materializar sus sueños en un entorno favorable es nuestro propósito hoy en día.

We will therefore continue to engage local, state and federal authorities, civil society and business groups, building the necessary coalitions to make sure that everyone is aware that all of us are co-stakeholders to the benefits and opportunities that an orderly and legal flow of people across our nations present. Mantendremos el dedo en el renglón y recalcando la importancia de encontrar una solución integral al fenómeno migratorio. As President Obama said recently in a meeting with a group of influential Latinos, the status quo “is not an option if America is to win the future.”

The two individuals recognized tonight demonstrate the power of commitment, perseverance, and the importance of doing a good job by helping those within their reach and beyond. I am convinced that Latinos are poised to be the backbone of an America that remains energetic, ambitious, vigorous, productive, and inclusive. As Cesar Chavez once said, “we cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community... Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.” We must all continue working from our trenches to make that vision come true.

Enhorabuena, muchas felicidades!

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