Latino Initiative – Law Enforcement 2017: In Country

Orientation | In Country | Follow-Up

Day One

The first day of travel, September 11, 2017, brought the Go Global NC Latino Initiative – Law Enforcement 2017 delegation of law enforcement officers together from Charlotte, Wilmington, Durham, and Orange County with the destination of Mexico City, by way of Dallas, Texas. The short bus ride from the airport to further into Mexico City began to open the officers’ eyes before they reached their first destination. The unfamiliar traffic patterns, lack of space between buildings, and the mix of classes in the street caught their attention en route to their first meal in Mexico.

After everyone settled into the hotel, Lynda Martinez del Campo of Understand Mexico introduced the delegation to Mexico’s history 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 the Go Global NC Latino Initiative – Law Enforcement 2017 delegation’s understanding of the history of Mexico with a tour of Chapultepec Castle. The castle is surrounded by Chapultepec Park, an area that draws tourists and residents alike and features food stands during the day, much like Central Park in New York. The park is often referred to as the “lungs of the city” for its greenery in the center of a developed urban area. Spaniards built the castle in the 18th century as a retreat for viceroys, who were the governing leaders who had local oversight of Mexico on Spain’s behalf. Over time, Chapultepec Castle 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 Go Global NC delegation was allowed to enjoy the entire palace without any other visitors present.

Day Two

The Go Global NC Latino Initiative – Law Enforcement 2017 delegation began their second day of travel with meeting 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. The director and his colleague, Rafael Peralta Zayas, 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 toured the National Palace and Metropolitan Cathedral. The historic center of Mexico City was especially crowded due to preparations 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.

In the evening, the group experienced a unique Mexican cultural activity: lucha libre. Partipants agreed it is a night they won’t forget. Read more about the history of lucha libre or click on the audio player below.

Day Three

The Go Global NC Latino Initiative – Law Enforcement 2017 delegation left Mexico City for the state of Guanajuato and more specifically, the city of San Miguel de Allende. The destination: Centro de Readaptación Social (CERESO)-San Miguel de Allende – a different approach to prison. The inmates of of the center are provided with education opportunities, job skills that will help them upon release, mental health evaluation and therapy, and materials and space to create crafts that can be sold at the centers for social reintegration. The money inmates make can be used to support their families; the center stresses the importance of connection with family. The goal is to give inmates skills that can be used on their first day out of the center. While touring the facility, law enforcement officers found it interesting and different to see that inmates were free to move around areas like the workshop and exercise yard without handcuffs.

After leaving the center, the delegation headed to a small hacienda in the town of Trancas. The Hacienda Las Trancas has a long history, officially becoming a hacienda in 1709. It was restored by its current owners, North Carolinians, in 2003. The setting was perfect for authentic Mexican food and an introduction to the work of the nonprofit Fundación Comunitaria del Bajío made by Adriana Cortés Jiménez, the organization’s executive director. The nonprofit, a partner of Go Global NC’s for sixteen years, promotes community development, supports access to and building of infrastructure, and other basic services and opportunities for the community. The foundation has been a valuable partner to 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 music group is coming to North Carolina in 2018 to perform.

Day Four

The fourth day of the Go Global NC Latino Initiative – Law Enforcement 2017 program brought a study in contrasts. In the morning, the delegation of officers visited C5i, a state command center in Silao. “C5i” stands for: Control, Command, Communication, Computer, and Quality Center (Sistema Estatal de Coordinación, Comando, Control, Comunicaciones, Cómputo e Inteligencia). 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. C5i employees led the delegation on a tour and even demonstrated their fingerprinting technology by scanning the prints of Captain Daniel Edwards of the Durham Police Department. The North Carolina officers also saw a few of the vehicles that are used for law enforcement in the region and talked with Mexican officers like themselves.

Watch the short video in Spanish below for a look inside the center.

After leaving the advanced and modern C5i, the group visited the humble 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 host the delegation, showing the officers around their community and homes, and talking candidly about the challenges they face from lack of infrastructure resources, limited access to jobs, and community members forced to leave their children behind to emigrate to the United States to earn money to support themselves.

With much to think about, the officers returned to the hacienda and were treated to a performance of traditional dances performed by local Trancas families. The dance group formed as an effort to keep the children in the community from falling into drugs and gangs. The dancers even presented the officers with souvenirs to remember Mexico: an amazingly large sombrero with Go Global NC written on it and a smaller hat for group leader Lorena Patterson.

Day Five

On the morning of the fifth day, officers from San Luis de la Paz gave a presentation to the Go Global NC Latino Initiative – Law Enforcement 2017 delegation about their role in the community and the challenge of building trust with their constituents. The San Luis de la Paz officers then presented the Go Global NC delegates 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 that their own families would be in jeopardy because of their role in law enforcement; 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 them warmly and discussed potential future partnerships.

The evening brought an opportunity to relax and celebrate Independence Day in the town where the movement for independence began – Dolores Hidalgo. The officers got a front row seat to the enthusiastic revelers, witnessed how Mexican firework shows are done, and danced to music from local bands.

Though not filmed by one of our participants, the video below captures the excitement and sounds of the festivities.

Day Six

In the morning, the Go Global NC Latino Initiative – Law Enforcement 2017 delegation traveled towards the final city on the itinerary – the city of Guanajuato – with cultural experience stops along the way. In Santa Rosa de Lima, 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 an afternoon with the opportunity to explore the city on their own, officers 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.

Day Seven

The final full day in the city, with the morning free, gave Go Global NC Latino Initiative – Law Enforcement 2017 participants the opportunity to select their preferred experiences in the morning. One group went to the local market where trinkets, homemade crafts, meat, produce, and other local food favorites are sold.

In the afternoon, small groups were paired with host families that represented a more prosperous side of families in Guanajuato. One host family had both a background in architecture and law enforcement; one host was a former judge. They all 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. The officers all noticed 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.

Day Eight

With the final morning in Mexico, the Go Global NC Latino Initiative – Law Enforcement 2017 delegation was 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, migration from Mexico and Central America, 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.

Speaking Words of Wisdom

“Bring comfortable shoes.” “Don’t be too anxious.” “Bring an umbrella.” “Be open-minded, be a sponge. Be open to information.”

A panel of five law enforcement officials from the Charlotte–Mecklenburg Police Department offered advice to the upcoming delegation of Go Global NC’s Latino Initiative (LI) 2017 Law Enforcement participants. The alumni of the inaugural LI Law 2016 program imparted their wisdom to the 2017 participants, sharing how their experiences changed how they approached their work and their personal lives.

Officer Robert Roberts, one of the panelists, said he was skeptical of the experience before traveling. Having been told that the program was life-changing, he was still prepared to be underwhelmed. However, Roberts said, “It was a reality [that it was life-changing].” His coworkers teased him about his “vacation,” but he he felt it was important to make them understand the power of the experience he had on the program.

When asked about specific examples of how the program affected them, Officer Marty Baucom shared how his outlook on language barriers changed. Before the program, he did not understand why Latino immigrants didn’t speak English – until he met families in Guanajuato, Mexico and realized it takes time to learn a new language. After returning to the United States, Baucom participated in Spanish classes with fellow officers to do his part to bridge the language barrier, even traveling to Costa Rica for a month-long immersion program. As a result, he passed a language competency test within the department and is now considered bilingual.

Baucom also began participating in “Kops and Kids”, a program officers use to engage children and teenagers in Mecklenburg County. Focusing their efforts on the Latino community, officers began building trust and understanding with the youth in the area and their parents as well.

Major Sherie Pearsall followed up her learning experience in Mexico with a more personal approach to building relationships within the Latino community in her area, taking on two mentees – one from high school and one from middle school. She said the program helped her build empathy for anyone who is struggling, which is part of the reason that she sought mentorship opportunities.

The incoming 2017 participants hail from departments from across the state and include officers from police departments in Durham, UNC Wilmington, and Charlotte-Mecklenburg and sheriff from Orange County and Mecklenburg County Representatives from El Centro Hispano in Durham and UNC Wilmington’s Centro Hispano will also accompany the officers, expanding the partnership with community resources available for law enforcement officials. The group will be led by Lorena Patterson, Latino Initiative program director for Go Global NC.

During the 2017 program, Go Global NC will be providing live updates through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using #LILaw17.