San Antonio's recently appointed Consul General of Mexico, Héctor Velasco Monroy, didn't mince his words during his first public speech on Thursday at the Frost Bank Plaza Club when he compared presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's rhetoric aimed at Mexicans to the xenophobic rhetoric in Europe during World War II.
"The eventual construction of a border wall...forget that," Velasco Monroy said in his speech. Immigration to the U.S. is at a historic low, according to Velasco Monroy, with a current migration rate of 0, and it's decreasing, he said.
"The Mexicans who want to keep coming back are just like you: well-educated, well-trained entrepreneurs...but more importantly, decent people," he said.
These were only a few of the many topics the new Consul General touched upon during his welcome reception on Thursday where hundreds of cultural, political, and economic leaders poured in to show their support and highlight the importance of the bilateral relation between Mexico and the United States. For San Antonians, the relationship between the city and Mexico has always seemed more stable and rooted in history, culture and family.
Top leaders from the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, the Free Trade Alliance, the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Asociación de Empresarios Mexicanos, San Antonio Mexico Friendship Council, Port San Antonio, World Affairs Council of San Antonio, and the North American Development Bank (NADB), were all in attendance. Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1), Councilman Mike Gallagher (D10), and Councilman Ron Nirenberg (D8) also made appearances and both Treviño and Nirenberg provided introductory remarks at the event -- in Spanish and English.
Treviño kicked off the reception and mentioned the importance of the Mexican government as a strong economic and cultural stakeholder in San Antonio. He touched on the exciting developments for the future and Velasco Monroy's recent introduction at City Council.
"We look forward to advocating important initiatives, collaboration with local businesses, educational and cultural institutions, and civic leaders on a wide variety of projects," Treviño said.
Nirenberg mentioned the increase of direct flights to major Mexican cities, including San Antonio's sister cities Monterrey and Guadalajara. He said the City's Aviation Department has done a tremendous job and that connections and economic partnerships will continue to expand.
"We have, for many decades, maintained important historical, cultural, and economic ties with Mexico ,and always seek to foster new connections and exchanges between our two regions," Nirenberg said.
Both Nirenberg and Treviño spoke of San Antonio's imminent Tricentennial celebration, and their knowledge of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto's support for collaborative efforts toward the city's 300th anniversary.
"One cannot avoid thinking about the extent and the depth which Mexico and San Antonio's histories intertwine..the futures of Mexico and San Antonio are (also) interdependent," said Geronimo Gutierrez, North American Development Bank (NADB) managing director. "It is precisely this interdependent future that led the Mexican government, it's Foreign Ministry, and in particular, the president of Mexico, to appoint Héctor Eduardo Velasco Monroy as Consul General of Mexico in San Antonio."
Velasco Monroy said Mexico was keenly interested in participating in the San Antonio Tricentennial, although he stopped short of promising a presidential visit.
It is no secret in Mexico that Velasco Monroy is a working colleague and friend of President Peña Nieto and has served as an advisor. As to his credentials, Velasco Monroy has previous international experience working at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), served as undersecretary for agricultural development, and also as general director of DICONSA, a government-run distribution network that offers financial services to low-income, rural Mexican families through its nationwide network of rural stores.
In addition, Velasco Monroy was a state and federal congressman for several years. He holds several degrees in communication science, political communication, and political strategic analysis and has taken seminar studies at George Washington University and Georgetown University. Velasco Monroy holds a masters degree in public administration and public policy from the Instituto Tecnológico de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (TEC).
"It is imperative to count on good consular and diplomatic representation at times when the importance and value of those relations are put in doubt by some, as it happens unfortunately every so often, on both sides of the border," Gutierrez said.
The Mexican Consulate has worked for many years with different organizations promoting culture and business ties, as is the case with the Asociación de Empresarios Mexicanos.
"AEM has worked for many years with (Mexico's Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and business groups in Mexico to promote an image of Mexico that is not necessarily the image that is shown in the media," said AEM San Antonio President Roberto Espinosa, during a phone call with the Rivard Report on Friday. "( We are very happy ) to have a consul of this quality (in the city) such asVelasco Monroy and start a new phase of collaboration. "
In fact, AEM was founded largely with the support of the Consulate of Mexico 20 years ago, at the time the Consul General of Mexico in San Antonio was Carlos Sada, who is now ambassador of Mexico in the United States, Espinosa said.
On Thursday, Velasco Monroy said that the main pillar of the Consulate's work is to promote a healthy and productive relationship between Mexico and San Antonio. He invited attendees to reflect on the key role that San Antonio has played in historical transition periods between different nations that inhabited the land, where a confluence of many cultures now intermingle because of it.
Velasco Monroy then narrowed focus to the current political situation in the U.S.
"We must remember that we are in a critical time frame since this country is about to define its future during the next presidential election," Velasco Monroy said. "We have to decide whether we want to work together. If history has taught us something is that when we have cooperated things have been better for both sides of the river."
The New Consul General then repeated remarks by Claudia Ruiz Massieu, Mexico's foreign affairs secretary, who recently delivered a speech in Washington, D.C. before a conference of Jewish community leaders in the U.S.
Massieu stated that the recent political climate in the United States is sending a message of ignorance and intolerance similar to that of Europe in the Second World War: Foreigner, back home.
Velasco Monroy urged for a change in discourse.
"With that unfortunate experience that ended in a genocide, the Mexicans and Mexican Americans can say that neither are foreigners nor they are problems, but part of the solution," he said.
Mexico is one of the 20 most developed countries in the world and one of the top 10 tourism economies, he said. This year, The New York Times ranked Mexico City as the number one travel destination. Most might not realize it, but six million American jobs depend on Mexico's economy and Mexican immigrants pay $90 million in taxes, Velasco Monroy said, and anyone who says otherwise "is misinformed.
"Mexico is and has been a country of open doors for Jews, Spaniards, Argentines, or Chilean migrants." Velasco Monroy said. "I will try my best to instill in the American people a new vision of Mexico."
Velasco Monroy fills the diplomatic vacancy left by the departure of Mexican Consul General Armando Ortiz Rocha, who has held the position on two occasions in San Antonio and was reassigned as Consul General in Portland. OR in 2014. At the time, Ortiz Rocha said Portland would be the final stop in his own diplomatic career, and that upon retirement he and his wife will make their home in both Mexico City and San Antonio.
Top image: Héctor Eduardo Velasco Monroy was newly appointed to be Consul General of Mexico in San Antonio by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. Photo by Scott Ball.