By Maria Fernanda Camara Perez
During the summer of 2019, the Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores (SRE; Secretary of Foreign Relations), through its Instituto de los Mexicanos en el Exterior (IME; Institute of Mexicans Abroad), convened the first Cultural Immersion and Volunteer Work Program for young students of Mexican descent, in which 147 youth from mostly California but also some from North Carolina, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts and Texas, participated. In total, 50 universities and community colleges were represented.
Students participated from nine of the 10 University of California campuses and from 22 of the 23 California State University campuses. In Mexico, 18 secretaries of state, federal institutions and state governments participated, among them, the Secretaría de Educación Pública (SEP; Department of Education), el Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH; National Institute of Anthropology and History), the Comisión Nacional de Cultura Física y Deporte (CONADE; National Commission of Culture and Sports), the Instituto Nacional de Pueblos Indígenas (INPI; National Institute of Indigenous Peoples) and the Instituto de la Juventud (INJUVE; Institute of the Youth).
Disseminated in social media with the hashtag #MXRoots, the objective of the program was to encourage the involvement of participants with their origins in Mexico and invite them to become aware of their history, culture and traditions so that they can share this wealth wherever they go. They participated in 300 educational activities, cultural tours and talks with figures in the political and economic spheres in Mexico, as well as in environmental, educational, promotional, community development and sports activities.
The participants contributed a lot to their country of origin and learned the impact they can have on the communities from which many of their families come. In the words of Mexico’s Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, “Our culture is a reason for strength and brotherhood,” and the students had the opportunity to learn and dialogue with each other, and with various authorities, about the challenges and opportunities of Mexico in the 21st century.
Through the Mexican Consulate in Fresno, nine students were able to take advantage of this opportunity, representing the Mexican communities in Merced, Bakersfield, Madera and Fresno. Over five weeks, they had the opportunity to visit Mexico City and several communities in one of the five states that were part of the project: Hidalgo, Jalisco, Michoacán, Oaxaca or Yucatán.
The SRE hopes that the synergies between the institutions that were part of this effort will be preserved so that it can become an annual program, benefiting a greater number of young people and other regions in Mexico and the United States. Diaspora linking is a priority for Mexican communities in the United States, to which the authorities hope to respond successfully and in that manner contribute to strengthening the pride of Mexican-American youth.
For more information about the program, including a gallery of photos, visit http://ime.gob.mx/intercambio/.
María Fernanda Cámara Pérez, a member of the Mexican Foreign Service since 2010, is the community consul for the Mexican Consulate in Fresno. In that capacity during the last four years, she has collaborated with organizations and agencies in the Central Valley seeking the well-being of Mexicans in the area and invites them to maintain their connections with Mexico. Contact her at 559-233-3065 or firstname.lastname@example.org.