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arango referIs Mexico Moving Forward?
Symposium speakers say yes, but ...

By David Gaddis Smith

The Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies at the University of California San Diego held a symposium on Thursday, Feb. 10, entitled "Mexico Moving Forward." It was designed to try to focus on Mexico's future and what is right with Mexico despite the country's current spasm of violence that has left mexico moving forward logomany in fear of traveling to Ciudad Juarez and many other places. The symposium, which featured 12 main speakers and was moderated by Laura Castañeda, is to be shown on UCSD-TV beginning March 21. There were four sessions: Arts & Culture; Museums & Culinary Arts; Science & the Environment; and Philanthropy & the Corporate Community.

Part of the university's 50th anniversary celebration, the symposium had the theme "He who doesn't look ahead, remains behind."

cristina rivera garza
       Photo by Pablo Mason

rafael tovar y de teresa


Novelist; researcher of mental illness in Mexico; professor of literature at UCSD

Novelist, expert on the history of Mexican art and culture

Known for monumental sculptures, many of them gateways for cities, around the world

Rivera Garza brought members of the audience to tears speaking about her visit to Luz María Dávila, a maquiladora worker who lost both her sons in a massacre in a house in her Ciudad Juarez neighborhood in January 2010.

Dávila confronted President Felipe Calderón and his preconceptions about the massacre and has been seeking justice for her sons.

Rivera Garza said that "because of women and men like her ... Mexico will move forward."

Tovar y de Teresa said Mexico is a country with prehispanic roots and that its arts and culture are fundamental to understanding the country. He said it was significant that among the first acts of Mexico's first president, Guadalupe Victoria, was to create a national history museum. Tovar y Teresa said the country was unable to focus in 2010 during the bicentennial of its cry for indepence on three fundamental questions: "Who have we been? Who are we? And who do we want to be?" He said the buildup to the 1821 bicentennial of independence may "help us vanquish or at least confront the taboos that have handcuffed Mexico to its past and prevented it from looking forward."

He said improving education is the key to a better Mexico.


Sebastián's sculptures grace Torreón, Chihuahua, Monterrey, Matamoros, Cancun, Manzanillo, Dublin, Tokyo, Beijing, Paris, Spain, San Antonio and other places.

His sculpture "Aguacero" was recently installed in El Paso, Texas.

He is working on a 40-meter sculpture in Ciudad Juarez, which he vowed to finish despite the violence, "Pase lo que pase," "Happen what may."

Sebastián, 63, was born in Camargo in the state of Chihuahua, the same state Ciudad Juarez forms a part of.


Tiny salamander "dedicated" to creator of gigantic monuments

diana magaloni monica patino roxana velasquez

Director, Mexico's Museum of Anthropology,
Mexico City

Owner of Mexico City restaurants, including La Taberna del León and Náos; TV chef

Executive director, San Diego Museum of Art; former director, Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City

Magaloni spoke about how her renowned museum is based on the Mayan temple of Uxmal.

She said the museum is heavily involved in reaching out to create a community of learning for children and parents.

She said the museum is celebrating contemporary indigenous culture, having indigenous groups perform ceremonies in museum. "These communities have a lot of social capital, a lot of knowledge, and we want the museum to be the house of this knowledge, and to be the house of these communities, so it is part of the discourse today of this great, timeless temple," Magaloni said.

She also said the museum is building a database of knowledge for future generations. She said Mexico's past can inform its present and future.

"I was born in a gourmet world. My father was a grand gourmet, my grandmother a good cook," Patiño said.

She said when she was growing up, "The culture outside the country was considered better than ours.... If you wanted to learn to cook, you went to France." She said growing up, she believed this, but also said that all the while, her home had a metate mealing stone and molcajete mortar and pestle and a cook proud of what she prepared. She said she did study in France, and later prepared French meals in Mexico. Patiño said over time, however, she turned to her Mexican identity and Mexican cuisine, traveling the country to learn more about Mexican cooking and incorporating this knowledge into her recipes. Mexican culture, including its cuisine, "is a jewel that is alive," she said.

Patiño responds to "Top Gear" insults about Mexican food



"I am very proud to be here and to be able to share with you what I believe is the best face Mexico has — the culture," Velásquez said.

She said Mexico is one of the top six countries with World Heritage sites. The latest figures show it has 31.

She said she would like to see more programs whereby students visit U.S. museums, as is the case with many Mexican museums run by the government, such as the Tijuana Cultural Center and Mexico's Museum of Anthropology.


Los Angeles Times May 2010 item on Velásquez




rodolfo dirzo exequiel ezcurra eduardo santana
Rodolfo Dirzo Exequiel Ezcurra Eduardo Santana Castellón

Ecologist, botanist; director, Dirzo Lab, Stanford University. Won Mexico's 2003 Ecological Merit Prize for Academics.

Plant ecologist; director, University of California Institute for Mexico and the United States; board member, WWF; former research director, San Diego Natural History Museum; former president of Mexico's National Institute of Ecology.

Professor, Instituto Manantlán of Ecology and Biodiversity Conservation, Universidad de Guadalajara. He is a winner of a Biodiversity Leadership Award.

Dirzo said Mexico's biodiversity is incredible and that it has 10% of the world's plant species as well as 10% of the world's animal species. He said virtually every type of ecosystem that exists in the world and every large type of ecosystem essentially can be found in Mexico. He said half of Mexico's species only can be found in Mexico. One of those is the smallest salamander in the world,
15 mm long, found in Oaxaca. Dirzo joked that the salamander was dedicated to the sculptor Sebastián, in counterpoint to the artist's gigantic monuments.

Dirzo said global warming could greatly reduce Mexico's biodiversity.

He said the National Commission for Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity is cataloguing species and habitat ranges. He cited one case in which the commission is using the information gained to assess the risk that different areas face from the hantavirus, which is carried by the deer mouse. He said that while there are ecological success stories for Mexico, scientists must find a way to do a better job of communicating with decision-makers.

Ezcurra said Mexico had good science well before the United States did and has many great scientists today. He said the botanist Arturo Gómez-Pompa, in an article published in the magazine Science in 1973, signaled to the world that the loss of tropical rain forests was a problem of great transcendence for the world.

Ezcurra also said there is no other country in the world that has given a greater inheritance to agriculture than Mexico, citing vanilla, cacao, tomatoes, pumpkins and corn, among other crops. Corn, he said, provides 30% of the calories we consume.

He said Mexico has made great strides in the area of conservation, particularly in the Gulf of California.

He said a big task is realizing that it is not a choice between progress and economic growth and having a healthy environment. He cited the importance of saving mangroves, and said studies have shown that in areas in Asia where mangroves had not been destroyed, the 2004 tsunami had a significantly lower impact on infrastructure and human life.


Santana said Mexico is moving forward, but wondered whether it is moving fast enough. He said the indigenous population is moving slower still, three or four or five times slower. He said half of Mexico is below the poverty line. He also cited, in an attempt to put Mexico's situation in context, a statement he teaches his classes: "The richness of our natural resources is the cost of our misery due to injustice." He cited open-pit mining, logging of old-growth trees, overgrazing of cattle, soil erosion and water table drops among other problems. He said some of the most endangered terrestrial ecoregions in the world are in western and central Mexico.

On the positive side, he cited reduced infant mortality and "an increased literacy rate to extremely high levels." He said Mexico has an increasing human-development index higher than the rest of Latin America, growing Internet use and an increase in natural protected areas. He said Mexico has an "increased number of facilities for managing solid residues and recycling."

He said, "We don't really have environmental problems. We have social problems with environmental consequences."

maneul arango herminio blanco roberto servitje sendra
Manuel Arango Herminio Blanco Roberto Servitje Sendra

Businessman, philanthropist; founder of the Mexican Center for Philanthropy

Mexico's chief negotiator for NAFTA; president, CEO, Strategic Solutions; chairman, IQOM

CEO, Bimbo Bakeries (world's largest producer of baked goods with $13 billion in sales). In 2005, Bimbo won Mexico's Ecological Merit Prize for business.

Arango said Mexico's biggest asset is its "wonderful people" but that the country needs the rule of law.

He said his center urges people to volunteer at least one hour a week. "When you share your time, when you share your talents, when you share your work — that is the real philanthropy," he said.

He said most philanthropical money goes to education and health.


arango refer 2

"I think there are a lot of positive things to talk about today in Mexico," said Blanco. He said Mexico has had a "robust minumum path of growth through sustained application of policies" but needs "to move faster." He said the dramatic reduction of Mexico's fertility rate has set the stage for greater growth in the country. He noted that Ford and Lincoln vehicles made in Mexico have received higher ratings than Japanese cars.

He said the wage gap between Mexican and Chinese wages has fallen from 238% in 2002 to 13.8% — making Mexican goods more competitive, especially considering the lower transportation costs from Mexico.

Servitje said Mexico is No. 1 in the growth of eolic energy (wind) and noted that the peso has been stable against the dollar in recent years. He said Mexican reserves are at a historical maximum. He said Mexico last year created 720,000 jobs, the highest in Latin America.

He said life expectancy has gone from 58 in 1950 to 75 in 2008. He said 52% of familes are now considered middle class (in direct contrast to Eduardo Santana's statement that half of Mexico is below the poverty line.)

Servitje also called Calderón "an excellent president."




Thursday, February 10, 2011

"Don't scorn Mexico. At least it has a cuisine."

"Don't scorn Mexico. At least it has a cuisine."

Plant ecologist Exequiel Ezcurra used this quote from the late Argentine writer Tomás Eloy Martínez on Thursday in counterpoint to the recent "Top Gear" BBC TV show in which Mexico and its food were mercilessly ridiculed. The cuisine was called "refried sick."

Mexico has been under fire from many quarters recently, not least of which from drug traffickers.Mexico Moving Forward The Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies at the University of California San Diego, in an effort to focus debate on issues other than crime and violence, on Thursday held a symposium entitled "Mexico Moving Forward."

alberto diaz cayeros"This symposium is not an exercise in denial," said center Director Alberto Díaz-Cayeros (right). He said, "Many of us are working to try to understand why Mexico went so bad so quickly."

He added, "We do want to change the emphasis of debate. We want to think about the future of Mexico."

Monica PatinoAmong the Mexicans invited to speak at the symposium were Ezcurra and Mónica Patiño, (left) the owner of several restaurants in Mexico City who also hosts a cooking show. "Once you taste Mexico you never forget," said the owner of La Taberna del León, MP Café and Bistro and Náos Restaurant. She said Mexican food was a living, changing cuisine with a bright future.

Asked later what she would say to the Britons who lampooned Mexican cooking on "Top Gear," she replied, "They have to try it again." She recommended that they visit the Wahaca Mexican food restaurant in London.

The conference's 12 main participants generally agreed that despite the violence, Mexico has tremendous potential and is moving forward in many areas.

Mexico wound up being discussed on "Top Gear" because the car show had tested a new Mexican sports car, the Mastretta 2011 MXT, which wound up being called the Tortilla on the program instead. Some commentators said the controversy brought the Mastretta more publicity than it could have dreamed of.