The first day of travel, September 11, 2017, brought the delegation together from Charlotte, Wilmington, and Durham with the destination of Mexico City, by way of Dallas, Texas. The short bus ride from the airport to lunch in Mexico City began to open participants’ eyes before they had reached the first destination. When asked, the delegates mentioned the different traffic patterns, lack of space between buildings, and the mix of classes in the street as things that caught their eyes en route to the their first meal in Mexico.
After everyone settled into the hotel, Lynda Martinez del Campo of Understand Mexico introduced the travel-weary group to the history of Mexico and its influence on the present. Among the topics covered: the importance of food, the history of the metro system, Indian culture, and being polite-Mexican style.
Lynda continued building on the history of Mexico with a tour of Chapultepec Castle. The castle is surrounded by Chapultepec Park, an area that hosts food stands and visitors during the day, much like Central Park in New York. The park is often referred to as the “lungs of the city” for all of its greenery in the center of a developed urban area. Spaniards built the building itself in the 18th century as a retreat for the country’s viceroys (the governing leaders who oversaw the country on Spain’s behalf). Over time, it became the official residence for Mexico’s heads of state before it was converted in 1944 to a museum about Mexico’s history. Thanks to Lynda, who was once a docent for the castle, the delegation were the only visitors and had an entire palace to itself.
The second day of travel began with a meeting at Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Relations Director General Adjunto (deputy director) of the Instituto de los Mexicanos en el Exterior (Institute of Mexicans Abroad), Jorge Alfredo González de la Vega Otero. He and his colleague, ____________________, shared information about the organization’s programs for Mexican immigrants in the United States. The officers also had the opportunity to ask questions about situations they face in their daily police work and how the ministry might be involved in solutions.
After leaving the ministry, the delegation took a tour of the National Palace and Metropolitan Cathedral. The historic center of Mexico City was especially crowded during the visit as workers put up decorations and risers to prepare for Mexico’s annual Independence Day celebrations. On September 15, the president of Mexico appears on a balcony of the National Palace and performs the “Grito Mexicano,” a patriotic chant that reflects the original speech which inspired the independence movement.
That evening, the group took in a cultural activity: lucha libre. This was a first for the Latino Initiative and a night that the participants won’t forget. Read more about the history of lucha libre.
The delegation left Mexico City for the state of Guanajuato and more specifically, the city of San Miguel de Allende. The destination: Name of the prison/rehabilitation – a different approach to prison. The inmates are given opportunities for education, taught job skills that will help them upon release, and given the materials and space to create crafts that can also be sold at the centers for social reintegration. The money they make can be used to support the inmates’ families. While touring the facility, inmates were free to move around areas like the workshop and exercise yard without handcuffs – a change that a few of the officers found interesting.[INSERT VIDEO OF TALKING ABOUT THE PRISONS]
After leaving the center, the group headed to a small hacienda in the town of Trancas. The Hacienda Las Trancas has a long history, officially becoming a hacienda in 1709. Its current owners, North Carolinians, restored the hacienda in 2003. The setting was perfect for authentic food and an introduction to the work of Fundación Comunitaria del Bajío made by Adriana Cortés Jiménez, the organization’s executive director. The work of the nonprofit is aimed at promoting community development, supporting access to and building infrastructure, basic services, and opportunities for the community. The foundation has been a valuable partner for Go Global NC and helps facilitate parts of the Latino Initiative programs.
A pre-hispanic music group, Maxorhu, performed at the hacienda in the evening, educating the delegation about the handmade instruments they play as well the history behind the music of Mexico. The group is coming to North Carolina in 2018 to perform.
The fourth day of the program brought a study in contrasts. In the morning, the delegation visited Ci5, a state command center in Silao. What does the name stand for? Control, Command, Communication, Computer, and Quality Center (Sistema Estatal de Coordinación, Comando, Control, Comunicaciones, Cómputo e Inteligencia). There, the state-of-the-art facility monitors emergency response efforts, public safety, traffic, National Guard, and other services. By bringing the services together under one roof, coordination increases between the different entities. Employees led the delegation on a tour of the center and even demonstrated their fingerprinting technology by scanning the prints of Captain Daniel Edwards of the Durham Police Department. At the end of the time at Ci5, the group was able to see a few of the vehicles that are used for law enforcement in the region and talk with officers like themselves.
Watch the short video in Spanish below for a look inside the center.
— Go Global NC (@GoGlobalNC) September 14, 2017
Leaving the advanced and modern C5i, the group visited the community of Taretán in the municipality of Irapuato. The community is part of a project of Fundacion Comunitaria del Bajio. On this day, the families in Taretán offered to play host to the delegation, showing the officers around their community, homes, and talking candidly with them about the challenges they face from lack of infrastructure resources, limited access to jobs, and community members leaving behind their children to emigrate to the United States.
On the morning of the fifth day, officers from San Luis de la Paz gave a presentation about their role in the community and the challenge of building trust with their constituents. The San Luis de la Paz officers then presented delegates from each county with badges that had been worn by officers during duty in the small town, a high honor that greatly touched the North Carolina officers.
The delegation met and immediately formed a comradery with officers in San Luis de la Paz during a ride-along. The North Carolina officers noticed their peers in Mexico were heavily armed, worked longer shifts, and had a deep concern for the safety of their families; but the 30-minute ride-along also established their similarities as law enforcement professionals. Captain David Addison of Durham said the ride-along made him realize, “No matter where you are, there are commonalities between officers that can’t be escaped, and they outnumber the differences.”
After the ride-along, the delegation then met with the mayor of the San Luis de la Paz, giving them a different look at the government structure in a small town. The mayor greeted the delegation warmly and some discussion over potential future partnerships.
The evening brought an opportunity to relax and to celebrate an Independence Day in the town that the movement for independence began – Dolores Hidalgo. The group got a front row seat to the enthusiastic revelers, witness how Mexican firework shows are done, and dance to music from local bands.
Though not filmed by one of our participants, the video below captures the excitement and sounds of the festivities.
In the morning, the group traveled towards the final city on the itinerary – the city of Guanajuato – with a stop in Santa Rosa de Lima. While there, the delegates saw homemade pottery unique to the small village. They then visited Conservas 1998, a cooperative of five women who started a jam, candy, and snack business using local ingredients. They now have multiple products and ship across the world.
A stop just before Guanajuato City took participants’ breaths away. The tourist overlook was busy but was worth the traffic – the view is a prime location for pictures and selfies.
After a restful afternoon and the opportunity to explore the city on their own, they were treated to a musical tour in the evening. The callejoneada is a traditional promenade from colonial times in the city. Bards tell the history of the city as well as anecdotes with humor, music, and a lot of fun.
The final full day in the city, with the morning free, one group went to the local market. There, tourist trinkets and homemade crafts are available for purchase. Also available are meat and produce as well as local food favorites.
In the afternoon, small groups were paired with host families and shown a different side of Guanajuato. Each family had a different background – one host family had both a background in architecture and law enforcement; one host was a former judge – and took time to give delegates a tour and answer questions about daily life in the area.
That evening, the delegation met for a final debrief and discussion session, processing all that they had seen, heard, and learned over the entire week. A few common themes: the warmth and hospitality from Mexican hosts who often didn’t have much; the difficulties of class differences in both Mexico and the United States; and the differences between their expectations and the reality of the country and its people.
With the final morning in Mexico, the officers were given a presentation by Dr. Miguel Vilches Hinojsa from the Universidad de Guanjuato. As a researcher on immigration, he offered background on the causes of migration, the routes of migration from Mexico and Central America, the difficulties immigrants face during their route to the United States, and the personal stories of some migrants. The fascinating lecture gave the delegates much to think about during the journey back to Charlotte, Raleigh, and Mexico.
— Go Global NC (@GoGlobalNC) September 18, 2017