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OP-ED: 'In Order To Build Bridges, Younger Generations Need to Participate in Events Like Saltillo Day'

OP-ED: 'In Order To Build Bridges, Younger Generations Need to Participate in Events Like Saltillo Day'

 Photo Courtesy: Kiona

Photo Courtesy: Kiona

Texans and Mexicans alike were breaking bread, sharing stories, kissing cheeks, and welcoming each other with open arms. My news coverage was completely different than anything on any news site.
— Kiona

Austin And Saltillo -Building Bridges Not Walls

Between Trump, walls, and cartels, it seems like the only narrative being discussed about Mexico and The United States is the large gap between them despite their physical proximity. The media is full of negative discourse which makes it seem like these two countries couldn’t be more at odds with each other The irony is that, in real life, things look completely different.

A Short History

Texas was a sovereign nation in 1835 and joined the United States in 1845. But before that, Texas was a part of Mexico. Indigenous people and Mexicans lived throughout this land until the colonizers invaded. When Texas withdrew from Mexico, the state capital of Texas moved from Saltillo, Mexico to Austin, Texas.

Today, Austin and Saltillo share a unique history as the two capitals of Texas. Austin Sister Cities is an entire organization dedicated to this connection. As Austin’s oldest sister city, the City of Austin has dedicated a day to commemorate Saltillo, Mexico in a celebration called Saltillo Day.

Saltillo Day

Saltillo Day is held every year in Saltillo Plaza located in downtown Austin. This event attracts politicians, city council members, families, and vendors and artists from Mexico that have come by bus to enjoy a day of arts and crafts. Attendees get free glasses of Saltillo wine while enjoying the authentic Mexican live music and cuisine in a fantastic fusion of culture. This year was special because it was Austin and Saltillo’s 50th anniversary of being Sister Cities.

50th Anniversary of Austin Saltillo Sister Cities

 Photo Courtesy: Kiona

Photo Courtesy: Kiona

To honor this long-lasting relationship, the mayor of Saltillo, Manolo Jiménez Salinas, flew from Mexico to celebrate this commemorative day with the mayor of Austin, Steve Adler. As they were casually shaking hands and exchanging some private words, crowds of people began to swarm them. They walked up to the podium together, smiling and chatting. Then after a few speeches, in a heartfelt moment, Mayor Manolo Jiménez Salinas received the keys to the city from the hands of Mayor Steve Adler. The crowd erupted into applause.

Mayor Manolo Jiménez Salinas brought what seemed like a never-ending carousel of gifts. The gifts he presented to the Mayor of Austin included an encased dinosaur bone (Saltillo is known for its famous dinosaur museum), wine bottles (Saltillo is also known for being a wine region), cultural photos of traditional Saltillo landmarks, and a bronze handmade plaque by a sculptor from Saltillo commemorating the 50th Anniversary of The Sisterhood between Saltillo and Austin.

 Photo Courtesy: Kiona 

Photo Courtesy: Kiona 

While Mayor Steve Adler was visibly overwhelmed with the generosity displayed that day, this was also a shining example of how the government of the United States and the government of Mexico do have respectable diplomatic relations. What was solidified between the two cities was the compromise to continue working together in the spirit of collaboration. But more importantly, what was solidified in the crowd was the hope and confidence that our two countries would have a positive future.

 Photo Courtesy: Kiona

Photo Courtesy: Kiona

Building Bridges

Prior to Saltillo Day, those who had driven to Austin for Saltillo Day were welcomed with open arms for a reception luncheon amongst the wooden panels and crystal chandeliers in the beautiful Lieutenant Governor of Texas’s office. Yet just the day before, the news headlines stated in bold, “Trump Sends Texas Troops To The Border.”

So you can imagine the perplexity of walking into a room of Mexicans and Texans sipping coolly on punch and eating four different types of bruschetta served on silver platters together in front of my eyes. In the background, politicians from Mexico and Texas gave welcome speeches, fluidly and beautifully, switching between Spanish and English mid-sentence. But if I was to check my phone, the only images I saw were of men in uniform with weapons standing at the border.

In addition to the luncheon, that morning, The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and IBC BANK held a welcome breakfast to extend a hand of friendship with Mexican businesses. Mexicans, Americans, Mexican-Americans, and Americans who have lived in Mexico (longer than they have lived in America) of high and low societal positions were all in the same room, laughing, discussing international trade, and collaborating on projects in both languages that clearly displayed how Texas and Mexico are more alike than they are different. And in fact, they are not much different at all.

 Photo Courtesy: Kiona 

Photo Courtesy: Kiona 

A Need For A New Generation’s Involvement

While on the news it seemed as if the USA and Mexico were at battle, on the ground, it was the farthest thing that was happening. Texans and Mexicans alike were breaking bread, sharing stories, kissing cheeks, and welcoming each other with open arms. My news coverage was completely different than anything on any news site.

As I watched the devastating Trump border news online while simultaneously witnessing the joy of Saltillo Day, I couldn’t help but think where are the people in the media countering the narrative that gets fed to us online? Who is there to really report what is happening between the U.S. and Mexico? I started uploading the photos I took, the people I met, and the stories I heard onto my social media. To my surprise I was inundated with comments expressing thanks for challenging what people had previously thought about Texas, thanks for representing Texas in a different way, thanks for bringing some positivity into the news sphere, thanks for a live feed of what is happening on the ground, and even some thanks from people who shared they were scared of Texas thinking it was full of White People with guns, even though Texas has always been a powerhouse People Of Color (POC) state. People from around the world were able to tune into my live feed and see my on-the-ground coverage of these two nations supporting and celebrating in each other.

As I looked around, I realized I was the only young person in the crowd. Everyone doing business, politics, and creating change was a generation removed from the Internet world. These people were of the age of newspapers and TV, while as a millennial, most of my news is digested via Facebook and online apps. I swiftly realized the disconnect. There is a huge need for a younger generation to participate in the international events in their community in order to generate positive images and build relationships with the world.

 Photo Courtesy: Kiona

Photo Courtesy: Kiona

How To Get Involved

Events such as Saltillo Day are perfect opportunities for young people to create their own media, make connections with people from another country, get invited to the next cultural art event, meet with their local politicians, be local politicians, and network to build a community that is supportive of each other. These cultural events are perfect examples of how no walls are being built, just bridges; everything contrary to what the national media and society chooses to tell us.

In order for social change to stick, it is really millennials that need to carry on the spirit of collaboration by creating our own content and document what is really happening in our person-to-person interactions. Attending international events such as Saltillo Day is a great way to bring all the real life human connection into the online world. In addition, it’s also a great way to get involved in the politics of a city. Organizations such as Austin Sister Cities are actually looking for young men and women to join their ranks, attend meetings, contribute ideas, and execute events in order to create the positive content that we want to see in the world. So I highly encourage anyone out there reading this to reach out to the leaders of their cities and see what there is left to be done in order to continue building bridges, not walls.

For more information on Austin Sister Cities and an announcement of Saltillo Day 2019, click here.

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Angelique Sloan, Owner of ShopMucho

Angelique Sloan, Owner of ShopMucho