Mexican Treasures of the Smithsonian

Smithsonian Castle, Enid Haupt Garden

September 4, 2007

Thank you very much Cristian for your kind introduction and for your support of Latino culture. Many thanks also to the Smithsonian National Latino Board and in particular to Pilar O’Leary, Director of the Smithsonian Latino Center, and Columba Bush who have been the driving force behind this great celebration of Mexican culture. And last but not least, I would like to thank Fundación Cultural Banamex for making this exhibition possible.

Distinguished friends
Estimados amigos,

It gives me great pleasure to be here tonight to help inaugurate Mexican Treasures of the Smithsonian, the keystone of Mexico at the Smithsonian, as I truly believe that there are no two countries in the world today that are more important to each other than Mexico and the United States. The intensity and complexity of this relationship is not surprising: we share a long border; key values; and a transnational community with roots on both sides of the Rio Grande.

Moreover, independently of the flags that we fly and of the national anthems that we sing, there is a very real and dynamic everyday interaction between Mexicans and Americans. Our bilateral relationship operates not only at the “top” between our two federal governments, but also manifests itself in daily life, on the High Street of every city and the Main Street of every town.

This vibrant exchange is nowhere more apparent than in the arts and culture. Innovative aesthetics and original voices; music and novels; theatre, film and cuisine, all provide a means through which our societies understand and interact with each other. And, as the people of this country are enriched through culture brought to the United States by the vast diaspora of Mexicans and Latin Americans, we as nations become irreversibly intertwined.

As Allen Ginsberg said, “the best parts of American culture are the unmelted lumps within the American melting pot.” These lumps are what we recognize and celebrate tonight. But, as Octavio Paz also wrote, “so that I can be, I must be another; I must leave myself and seek myself among others.” Like Paz, Mexico must also leave itself to find its full existence among other nations. Our cultural heritage and the vitality of our society will only reach their full expression if they transcend our borders and belong to everyone. Tonight’s exhibition, along with the multiple events that make up Mexico at the Smithsonian, are most certainly a contribution to this cosmopolitan endeavor.

Historically, much of Mexico’s international prestige and reputation has been built primarily on its cultural and artistic vitality. I am convinced that in a rapidly changing world, culture will continue to be our best letter of introduction abroad, allowing Mexico to punch above its weight. It is for this reason that culture is such an important part of our bilateral relationship with the United States, and I believe that as a result of this cooperation today will mark the beginning of an unprecedented cultural presence of Mexico in Washington DC and, indeed, throughout the US.

In this regard, all of us here tonight should be proud of how the Smithsonian Latino Center and the Mexican Cultural Institute have worked together to present a series of events that will showcase the dynamism, plurality and vigor of Mexican culture. This partnership is a great example of what can be accomplished when institutions on both sides of the border, both public and private, work together.

Thank you very much for coming and I hope to see all of you tomorrow at the Gala.

It is now my honor to introduce to you my dear friend Mr. Sergio Vela, President of Mexico’s National Council for Culture and the Arts.