H. E. Eduardo Medina-Mora
Ambassador of Mexico to the United States
A Celebration of Mexico
US Library of Congress, December 12th 2013
There may not be another bilateral relationship on the planet as complicated the relationship between Mexico and the United States, and there may not be two countries that are more important to one another. We share a border that is two-thousand miles long; we trade more than a billion dollars’ worth of goods and services per day; we share a complex history that still continues to shape our current reality; and above all, we share a people.
Despite all that, we still don’t know each other as well as we should. Here in the Library of Congress, there is a famous map called the Waldseemuller Map. In fact, I believe Miguel León-Portilla, one of our participants in this conference, has written about it. The map is reported to be the first one of its kind to show the Americas as a separate land mass. If you look at it closely, you can see that the land that would make up modern Mexico is labeled as Terra Incognita. Of course, that map is over 500 years old, but I think for many Americans Mexico is still terra incognita.
In my first year as Ambassador here in the United States, one thing I’ve noticed is that when Americans ask themselves what Mexico means to them, their references are still too limited. They often fail to see the true diversity and depth of Mexico. We are neighbors, but too often we are those neighbors that peer over the fence at each other rather than inviting each other over for dinner. A relationship can only thrive through understanding, but, as in all relationships, if you want your partner to know who you are, you have to express yourself. And what are art and culture if not expressions of who we are as individuals and as a people?
Sharing our diverse cultural expressions not only enriches and educates, it can show us a way forward in our bilateral relationship. If we are to transcend stereotypes and achieve a greater understanding of one another we must understand not only contemporary circumstances, but the shared past that has led us here.
One of the most important contemporary challenges for Mexicans and Americans alike is the need to investigate our roots and see how both countries have been, and continue to be shaped by migration. The histories of both our peoples are histories of movement, and that shapes our contemporary lives and relationships to one another. Opportunities like this conference, where we can stop to take account of where we are and where we have been also help point the way to our future.
A Celebration of Mexico exists at this intersection of Mexico’s past and future. Miguel León-Portilla’s Nahuatl scholarship is not just about linguistic history; it commemorates a living language. Mexican-American stories are not just catalogs of a bygone era of immigrant identity, but vital accounts of the bilingual, bicultural Mexican-American experience. Our archaeological research doesn’t just provide insight into ancient cities; it is also reshaping the way we consider architecture today.
For that, and many other reasons, I am very excited for this event. Looking at the conference schedule, I believe the full bounty of Mexico’s national heritage is well represented—celebrated musicians, artists, and dancers are set to perform alongside some of the finest scholars from both our countries. Together, these events should serve as a thoughtfully-curated exhibition of our cultural narrative. Sharing these traditional and contemporary expressions from the hearts and minds of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans is an important way for our two nations to become better neighbors and better friends, and I look forward to taking that journey with you all during the next two days.