By Maria Vazquez
College Dean Maria Vazquez
Maria Vazquez is Dean of the South Omaha Campus of the Metropolitan Community College in Omaha, Nebraska. This daughter of Mexican immigrants has a distinguished career in the state ranging from being the first Latina to serve on the cabinet of Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey as director of the Greater Omaha Workforce Development to being named Latina of the Year in 1995 by the Nebraska Commission on the Status of Women.
Ms. Vazquez also holds another position of distinction â€” she is one of 125 members of a special U.S.-based Mexican advisory council known as the Advisory Board to the Institute of Mexicans Living Abroad.
Started in 2003 as an initiative of Mexico’s Foreign Ministry, the advisory council is made up of both Mexican immigrants and Mexican-Americans. Members range from college deans, like Ms. Vazquez, to construction contractors and small business owners.
The board’s mission is to promote economic development in Mexico and the U.S. while defending migrants working outside Mexico.
Ms. Vazquez, who is finishing her term on the advisory council this year, shares with Latina Lista readers the goals of the group, her experience in being part of this special board and the benefits she gained from listening and working with the Mexican government to improve the lives of Mexican immigrants and Mexican-Americans on this side of the border.
As a community member of Omaha, Nebraska and as an â€œalternateâ€ in the official capacity of the Consejo Consultivo del Instituto de los Mexicanos en el Exterior (CCIME), I have had the great pleasure to serve as the Nebraskan â€œsuplenteâ€ or alternate for 2006 â€“ 2008.
The purpose of the CCIME, to put quite simply, is to promote strategies, deliver programs, heighten awareness, and implement recommendations that elevate the quality of life for Mexican and Mexican-Americans living in the U.S. and in Canada.
While serving as an alternate, I have attended two meetings in Mexico City and the most recent one in April in Dallas, Texas during the XI reunion (meeting) of CCIME.
In addition to gaining a better understanding of the goals of IME during my attendance at the first two meetings, I also felt a sense of pride as a Latina, and as a Mexicana living in the United States with a connection to such rich cultural history and incredibly intelligent and passionate individuals that comprise CCIME.
I found that my role as a â€œsuplenteâ€ took a bit more effort in understanding the process of this group. I found myself observing, listening, and connecting with folks outside of the formal meetings in an effort to gain knowledge of what other similar states are working on to address the challenges and opportunities for Latinos/Mexicanos in the US.
Clearly, issues of immigration reform, educational access and completion, and health disparities were at the top of discussions in both formal and informal conversations during my entire involvement with IME.
Though I arrived a day after the official opening of XI CCIME session, according to my colleagues, Mexicoâ€™s President Felipe Calderonâ€™s appearance in Dallas was positive and supportive of IMEâ€™s work and he acknowledged future challenges that Mexico and the U.S. must overcome in the areas of Immigration reform.
In addition to Mexicoâ€™s President, there were several additional dignitaries at the meeting, such as Josefina Vazquez Mota, Secretaria de Educacion Publica (SEP), Candido Morales, Director of IME, and governors and mayors from states in both Mexico and U.S.
The highlight of the meeting for me was the exhilarating discussion regarding the election and voting process for the upcoming â€œConsejo Consultivo,â€ (representatives) for the next three years.
During this session, I was reminded of the strength of a fair and democratic process. Much discussion surrounded the final outcome to include language that was much more inclusive of people interested in the opportunity to serve as a representative of CCIME.
I also had the opportunity to attend the committee regarding educational issues â€“ â€œCommission de Asuntos Educativos.â€ We heard from representatives from Banco de Mexico regarding financial educational support for Mexicans studying abroad.
Also, Hector Flores, immediate national past president of LULAC gave an overview of a successful program that recruits teachers from Mexico to work in the Dallas Independent School District. Nebraskans look forward to hearing more about the strategies involved in this program as the school districts in this state are in need of bilingual and bicultural teachers.
I look forward to my continued involvement with CCIME in the future. I am inspired and motivated by all the fantastic work across this country and in Canada by IME representatives to better serve Latinos/Mexicanos in areas of health, education, immigration, economics, and politics, and the media.
There clearly is much work to be done in all areas to ensure Latinos/Mexicanos succeed in this country with all of the benefits and opportunities important for all.