Mexicans voice their dreams and fears
They came to talk about their children’s education, farm prices, their jobs, their dreams, their country.
It was a community meeting like so many others that have taken place in the United States over the decades, the centuries.
But while this gathering was taking place in Glenwood Springs, Colo., U.S.A., the country on everyone’s minds was Mexico.
Some 50 Mexicans gathered at the Glenwood Springs Community Center Thursday evening to visit with Mexican Consul General Leticia Calzada, of Denver.
House paint still speckled a laborer’s face, a woman cradled a baby, men wore baseball caps and jeans, others came in suits.
While they appreciate the economic opportunities in the United States – enough that those without legal documents are anxious to get them – many also want to return to Mexico if the economy there could sustain them.
What, one such Mexican asked Calzada, can she and others in the Mexican government do “so that the people don’t have to migrate here to the United States?”
What can the government do to support crop prices so people could start a small farm back in their Mexican hometowns?
Calzada – whose comments were translated for this reporter by her spokesman, Mario Hernandez – told the man that Mexico’s current economy prevents guaranteeing prices to farmers.
But she knows many Mexicans would rather stay in Mexico.
“Yo prometo,” – “I promise,” – she said, that Mexican President Vicente Fox’s government is working to invest in rural areas of Mexico to create employment so people don’t have to leave.
One way Mexicans in the United States can help in this investment is through a new program called “Tres por Uno,” or Three for One.
Every dollar in funding that Mexicans in the United States donate for community projects at home is matched by a dollar from the Mexican federal government and a dollar from the Mexican state or municipal government. The projects are overseen by community committees.
She said she is familiar with one such program in her home state of Guanajuato.
“It works very well,” she said.
Some American companies that employ Mexicans, such as Keystone Resort, are helping to boost economies in the workers’ home communities. ConAgra is considering a plan, too.
“Now it gives prestige to companies to be socially responsible,” she said.
In Glenwood Springs, as everywhere, Calzada was asked how she can help undocumented residents live in the United States legally. It’s estimated that 3.5 million Mexicans are living in the United States without proper documents.
“It is not in my power; I cannot help you with that,” she told her fellow Mexicans Thursday.
Relaxing U.S. immigration laws for Mexicans is the top foreign policy priority for Fox, she said, and conversations continue with the U.S. government.
“Many things have to be taken into consideration. It’s going to take time,” she said.
“Existe esperanza,” she said, “There is hope.”
Calzada’s constituents in Glenwood Springs and across Colorado and Wyoming also want to make it easier for those in the United States to travel back and forth to Mexico to visit families.
With the sealed U.S.-Mexican border, such a trip is almost impossible.
Agreement between the two countries on a temporary work visa program could resolve that dilemma, Calzada said.
Calzada said she is always telling U.S. leaders that Mexicans want to obey the law.
She said she works to raise awareness how important Mexicans are to providing a qualified labor force in the United States.
When she’s dining with U.S. friends, she said, she’ll remark about the cheap price of a salad, and add, “Do you know why? Because Mexicans work in the kitchen.”
Then she’ll point to beautiful gardens and say that it was Mexicans who produced the plants and did the gardening and landscaping.
“We live this every day,” one Mexican man told her Thursday.
He and others congratulated Calzada and Fox for their efforts on behalf of Mexicans in the United States, although recent polls in Mexico show Fox’s popularity slipping as reform efforts drag out.
Said Calzada, “No es posible en un ano cambiar todo,” – “It’s not possible to change everything in a year” – but change is occurring, and there will be no going back.
Fox has promised that Mexicans in America will no longer be “the forgotten ones.”
Calzada asked local Mexicans to identify fellow citizens who might be working locally in manual labor jobs but were trained in Mexico to be teachers and nurses. These people could help Colorado address shortages in these fields, she said.
“We want to persuade the educational authorities of Colorado that here you have Mexican teachers that could support Mexican children in their transition from Spanish to English.”
Calzada, a former member of the Mexican congress and a cabinet officer, is the first woman to serve as Mexican consul general in Denver, where she serves a multistate region.
The office, which opened in 1893, provides passports, Mexican identification papers, death certificates, registration of children as Mexican citizens, marriages under Mexican law, power of attorney, tourist information for Americans, and military service cards.
With a new Mexican law allowing consulate offices to keep some revenues, the Denver office has tripled its income in the last year, Calzada said.
The Denver office, which will soon move from Cherry Creek to a building near the Auraria Campus, also coordinates civic celebrations, children’s days and Mexican holidays and distributes Spanish-language textbooks, children’s books and health-care information to schools.
“Tenemos un gran pais,” she said in conclusion, – “We have a great country.”
The consul general’s office can be reached by telephone at (303) 331-1870.
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