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Mexican Consul Is Persuasive Advocate Of Reaching Across Countries’ Borders 11/29/16  11/29/16 10:01:29 AM Printer Friendly VersionPrinter Friendly Version

Mexican Consul Sánchez Salazar says her family’s “country is in our home,” making those frequent moves a plus and homesickness a non-issue.
Mexican Consul Is Persuasive Advocate
Of Reaching Across Countries’ Borders

By Julien R. Fielding
The Daily Record

To meet Maria Guadalupe Sánchez Salazar, the Consul of Mexico in Omaha, is to like her. Her welcoming and vivacious personality draws you in and her knowledge and enthusiasm keep you interested.
As an ambassador for her native country – she was born in Durango, Mexico – she serves it well. It is not hard to believe that she has always been a high achiever.
At 18, she left her hometown for Mexico City to study international relations and, following graduation, she joined the Foreign Service, which gave her the opportunity to “represent her country and to travel.”
“To have the high honor to represent my country gave me the strength to leave my family,” she said.
Being in the Foreign Service is sort of like being a parish priest or a professional athlete. You are routinely uprooted and sent to a new location, where you establish new ties, make new friends and learn new cultures, only to start all over again in a few years.
“We’ve spent an average of four to five years at each post,” Sánchez said. “Usually, we move in summer. It depends on the needs and decision of our authorities.”
She and her husband, who is a retired Ambassador, have traveled the globe. They have lived in such culturally diverse places as Belgium, Switzerland, Hungary, Jamaica and the Czech Republic. And in the United States, they have called Seattle, Detroit, Philadelphia and, since June 2014, Omaha their home.
“When my husband was Deputy Head at the Mexican Mission in Geneva, Switzerland, I was a full-time mother and wife for 15 years. Our two oldest sons were born in Switzerland; our youngest in Seattle.”  
In 2006, Sánchez served as delegate at the Mexican Mission to the U.N. in New York.
“It was a great experience to work with people coming from 193 countries,” she said.
She served as Chargée d’Affaires at the Mexican Embassy in Kingston, Jamaica, before being appointed as Head Consul at the Consulate of Mexico in Omaha.
As the Consul, she serves Nebraska and Iowa’s Mexican population in a number of ways, but more specifically in providing documentation and consular assistance.
She also focuses on the provision of health and education opportunities. “In terms of health and education, we have established strong partnerships with great community organizations, such as One World Health Community Center, and the Latino Center of the Midlands, through the implementation of thematic windows that promote our shared services. She has also worked with the Justice for Our Neighbors and Esperanza De Vida Community Center.
“We’ve also established strong scholarship programs with universities and community colleges, as well as with adult educational centers.” Consul Sánchez affirms that other institutional programs provided by the Government of Mexico cover aspects of financial education, cultural promotion, and labor aspects.
 “My dedicated team and I have done workshops for women on gender issues, and domestic violence,” she said. “We want to empower and educate.”
Much has been made in the recent months of the presidential election campaign about immigration from Mexico, but Sánchez said it might surprise Americans that within the last five years, migration from Mexico to the U.S. has actually been decreasing. “It’s now almost at zero. Nebraska is the only state where that isn’t happening,” she said.
People come here primarily from the southern Mexican states of Guerrero, Michoacan, and Campeche, for employment and because of family ties. She believes that two things have had an impact on immigration: the fact that the birthrate in Mexico has decreased – it’s almost the same as the U.S., and “the strengthening of the Mexican economy after the structural reforms implemented by the government three years ago.”
One of the goals of the Mexican government has been to work in a closer partnership with the U.S., and in May 2013, the two countries signed a memorandum to do just that. The purpose of the Bilateral Forum on Higher Education, Innovation, and Research is to “expand educational opportunities for citizens of both countries and to increase the presence of Mexican students in the USA and USA students in Mexico.”
With regard to this initiative, Sánchez said both countries have had a “good response.”
“UNO, Creighton, and UNI in Iowa, are hosting students from Mexico. By 2018, we want to have 100,000 [Mexican] students in the U.S., and we would like to see 50,000 American students in Mexico.
“We also want an educational exchange of teachers. We have a good education system in Mexico, but we need to do a better job of promoting it. I have witnessed big campuses here that are looking for diversity. We have mutual interests.”
Mexico has a bit of a “PR” problem, Sánchez admitted, and the Consulate is trying to provide “information that’s more accurate. Some places are dangerous, but 99 percent of the country is stable, and offers extraordinary opportunities and good prices.
“We want to be seen as an opportunity, not a burden. We need to temper the stereotypes. We have beaches, archaeological sites, authentic food and music.
“We have many sites that have been recognized as UNESCO World Heritage. [Specifically, there are 27 cultural, six natural, and one mixed site, including the cities of Chichen-Itza, Teotihuacan, and Uxmal.] These need to be discovered.”
Although it’s not readily talked about in the media, Mexico is popular with Americans, too. “We rank No. 1 in terms of its tourists – and about one million Americans, many retirees, live there.
“We have 66 consulates, and 51 are in the U.S.,” she said. “We have more than 150,000 Mexicans in Nebraska, and 180,000 in Iowa,” she said. Compare that to her last post in Kingston, Jamaica, where there were only about 100.
In terms of trade with Mexico, Nebraska comes out ahead, earning about $1.6 billion.
“That’s more than Mexico’s trade with all of Central America, excluding Costa Rica,” she said. “We buy all Nebraska soybeans in production, and more than 85 percent of its corn. With Iowa it’s $4.03 billion. They are trading more and even have a trade office in Mexico. NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) made the difference. It created more than 40,000 jobs in Nebraska and our commerce grew more than 1,000 percent. All of this is crucial for the economy.”
How has their globetrotting affected her family? Sánchez said that moving around as much as they have has resulted in “a tight-knit family; it was beneficial.”
And she has a no-fail way to always feel at home. “Our country is in our house,” she said. “Our sons are aware of their Mexican roots. They adapted well to moving. All are bilingual.
Sánchez has also adapted well to Omaha. “We feel very welcomed here,” she said.
When the time comes for Sánchez to retire – maybe in “about 10 years” – she would like to teach and spend time with her children and grandchild. “Our 21-year-old son is at UNO; another son is working for a French company in Houston; and a third is in San Diego working for a private company. He’s married with a son, my beautiful and only grandchild.”
Sánchez replaced Jorge Ernesto Espejel Montes, who now heads the Consulate in Douglas, Arizona. The Mexican Consulate is at 7444 Farnam St.
If Maria Guadalupe Sánchez Salazar has anything to say about it, the neighboring countries of the United States and Mexico will be forging even closer and stronger ties in the years to come.
– Additional reporting by Lorraine Boyd

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