Ladies and gentlemen,

 

Distinguished guests,

 

Good afternoon and welcome to the Mexican Cultural Institute.

 

We are gathered here today to celebrate the 156th anniversary of the Battle of Puebla and to honor two highly distinguished leaders with the national Ohtli Award.

 

On May 5th, 1862, Mexico fought and won the famous Battle of Puebla against the invading French army, one of the most powerful in the world in that time, which was trying to impose a foreign Prince as Emperor of Mexico, after years of an internal civil war between liberals and conservatives.

 

Historical records report that members of indigenous communities joined the Mexican contingent and fought barefoot with machetes against the invading army.

 

Contrary to all expectation, many inhabitants of Puebla who supported the conservative side, asked for weapons and joined the ejército juarista ‒considered an ideological adversary‒ in the trenches.

 

Among them was a company of theatre actors. Women, in the midst of the crossfire, raised the wounded from either side to take them to the hospitals.[1] The role of these unexpected heroes was essential for our unforeseen victory.

 

The victory of the Battle of Puebla became a symbol of courage, unity and strength, in the pursuit of freedom and justice for our young nation at that time.

 

Here, in the United States, its commemoration by Mexicans and Mexican Americans, known as “Cinco de Mayo”, has spread more and more into American culture and is now an occasion, throughout the country, to recognize Mexican Americans and Hispanics and their significant contributions to this great nation.

 

The date serves as an opportunity to recognize our communities, millions of people who have been working, growing, overcoming adversities, thriving, helping others, innovating, and contributing tirelessly to the United States for decades, keeping the American Dream alive, as well as the diversity, and vitality that characterize the American culture.

 

Cinco de Mayo has become, in many ways, a binational celebration of our shared values, and a reflection of the deep ties between Mexico and the United States.

 

What makes the Ohtli Award of this year so special, is that our awardees truly embody the essence of values that I have referred to, at the same time, what our Mexican, Mexican-American and Hispanic communities represent: millions of people who have been working, growing, overcoming adversities, thriving, creating and contributing tirelessly to the United States for decades, keeping the American Dream alive, as well as the diversity, dynamism and vitality that characterize the American culture.

 

The term “Ohtli” is a Nahuatl word, that means “path.” With the Ohtli Award, the Mexican government celebrates the achievements of outstanding leaders that have contributed to the well-being of Mexican communities in the United States.

 

We recognize their courage and ability to open new paths, paving the way for the advancement of others and, at the same time, encouraging them to create their own routes.

 

It is a distinct honor and privilege for me, as the Mexican Ambassador to the United States, to bestow upon Gabriela Pacheco and Héctor Sánchez, the national Ohtli Award.

 

           Like the fighters of Puebla, Gabriela Pacheco gained strength in the face of adversity and has achieved what many would consider impossible.

 

Gabriela arrived in the United States as a child from Ecuador, and despite situations that severely limited her and her family´s opportunities, she obtained several university degrees, all aimed at promoting the development of others.

 

Gabriela’s desire to help others did not stop there. From a young age, she used her abilities to give undocumented youth recognition and opportunities.

 

Along with other young activists, she walked from Miami to Washington, D.C., advocating for the creation of the program of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and became the first undocumented Latina to testify in Congress.

 

           Her tenacity has made her become a very influential young woman in the country.

 

Gabriela, through so many brave actions, you have paved the way for others, you have reminded us that these young men and women have a voice and that they deserve to be heard and seen.

 

From the Trail of Dreams to fundraising for scholarships, you have forged opportunities for thousands of dreamers like you, all across the nation.

 

For dedicating your life to give hope, to strengthen, and to raise the voice of the Mexican, Mexican-American and Hispanic communities, it is an honor for me to grant you, on behalf of the government of Mexico, the national Ohtli Award.

 

Gaby, please step forward.

 

Héctor Sánchez was born in Mexico and with more than 20 years of work to improve the lives of the most vulnerable populations, he has made the United States his home as well.

 

He has been involved in many relevant activities for Mexican-American communities: human and civil rights, workers’ rights, gender equality, education, electoral participation and the defense of DACA.

 

He is the President Emeritus of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda or NHLA, a coalition of the most important Latino organizations in the United States with the most diverse backgrounds.

 

Under Hector’s leadership, NHLA found common ground to act as a united front.

 

Between 2012 and 2018, with Héctor as president, NHLA consolidated and expanded its membership; a victory that has strengthened and placed its members in better positions to access the opportunities that lay ahead for Hispanics in this country.

 

Héctor has proven to be an essential leader for the Hispanic and Mexican-American communities.

 

His life and career have contributed to strengthening others and encouraging them to work together for a common cause.

 

Looking at the events that took place at the Battle of Puebla, we know what can be achieved when commitment and unity come together.

 

For your extraordinary efforts in promoting the union, solidarity, and well-being of the Mexican, Mexican-American and Hispanic communities in the United States, it is an honor for me to grant you, on behalf of the government of Mexico, with the national Ohtli Award.

 

Héctor, please step forward.

 

Gabriela and Héctor, you embody many of the qualities that characterize the Hispanic and Mexican-American communities.

 

Through your actions and examples, you are contributing to forge the bright future of this great country.

 

A future that will be shaped in part by the growing relevance of Mexican-Americans and Hispanics in general, by the pride they find in themselves, in their cultures, in their strengths, in the depths of their histories, in what brings them together, in the invaluable contributions they make to the United States and its people.

 

These Mexican and Mexican-American communities are the most vivid reflection of the deep links between our countries.

 

Through decades of building trust, collaboration and the search of mutual interests and benefits, Mexico and the United States count now with a mature and strong relationship.

 

This is an asset that increases our strengths and mutual capacities for facing the challenges of the current international system.

 

Let´s celebrate the invaluable links between our both countries.

 

Let´s commemorate the trajectories of Gabriela and Héctor and of many others who manage to achieve the impossible.

 

Let´s celebrate every Cinco de Mayo the values of the Mexican and Mexican-American communities, their triumphs, their contributions and their future.

 

Thank you for joining us here today.

 

 

 



[1] Las referencias históricas se consultaron en Rodrigo Fernández Chedraui, ed., Protagonistas de la Batalla del 5 de Mayo de 1862, Editorial Las Ánimas, Veracruz, 2011.