A cohort of 23 McCourt students from ten different countries spent their spring break in Mexico, immersed in the country’s civic discourse and exploring the many political, economic, and cultural ties between Mexico and the United States.
The student-led trip, organized by Alejandra Reyes (MPP ‘18) and Cristina Martinez (MPP ‘17) of the Latin American Policy Association (LAPA) and accompanied by Master of Public Policy Faculty Director Barbara Schone, consisted of a full itinerary with meetings and activities held primarily in Mexico City, a bustling metropolis that is home to more than 20 million people and serves as the seat of the federal government.
Reyes, reflecting on the timeliness of the trip in light of political discourse in the United States, said “it was a good time to bring people over – to show them how policy works, but also to show them what Mexico is really like.”
Substantive dialogue with top lawmakers and public administrators would begin to provide such opportunity.
The McCourt students met with Carlos Perez-Verdia, Chief of Advisors to the President, and Julian Escutia, Chief of Advisors of the Foreign Affairs Undersecretary of North America, for a discussion on pressing topics including bilateral relations, education initiatives, and anti-corruption efforts
Following a guided tour of the Senate, the group also met with Senator Gabriela Cuevas, who serves as Chairwoman of the Foreign Affairs Committee. They delved into core issues affecting Mexico and the United States, namely trust in institutions, political participation, youth involvement, democratic stability, and immigration.
“We were lucky enough to meet with many political and policy experts in their field…with whom we spoke candidly of the changing Mexico-U.S.A. relationship, as well as the role that Mexico will take in the coming decades on the global stage,” said Moha Thakur (MPP ’18).
Also on the itinerary were engagements with private sector, think tank, and NGO leaders to discuss the role of their respective sectors in Mexico’s political and policy processes and the opportunities and challenges they are facing. Topics included corporate social responsibility, water and nutrition, financial markets, and more.
Among the leaders with which the group met were Rodrigo Gallegos, Executive Director of the Mexican Business Council; Jose Luis Chicoma, Director of ETHOS think tank; Ilsa Ruiz, Chief of External Affairs at FEMSA Foundation; Juan Pardinas, Director of IMCO think tank; and several high-level directors and managers of the global financial institution GBM.
Despite a rigorous schedule of civic engagements, student leaders Reyes and Martinez emphasized the importance of the group also taking in cultural activities – and setting aside some time for the outstanding local cuisine.
The students found themselves visiting the Teotihuacan pyramids and Chapultepec Castle, experiencing the Amalia Hernandez Folkloric Ballet of Mexico, witnessing lucha libre (Mexican wrestling), strolling the Coyoacan food market and Frida Kahlo Museum, and touring the National Palace.
Additionally, the group was welcomed for a reception hosted by Father Matthew Carnes, Director of the Georgetown Center for Latin American Studies, which was joined by other Georgetown alumni in Mexico.
A contingent of the group spent the final days of the trip in Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende for further activity.
“I personally learned a lot, which will be personally valuable as I engage in my policy career in international development,” said Julian Koschorke (MPP ’17). “Mexico offered me very interesting insights and raised some questions which I had not considered before.”
LAPA, which won the 2016 Outstanding Graduate Student Organization Award by the university-wide Graduate Student Government, facilitated a policy trip to the Dominican Republic last year. The group began had begun planning the 2017 trip soon thereafter.
“The context was right to do a trip to Mexico City,” said Martinez. “Everyone was not only surprised but enjoyed themselves with everything from the great food to high level meetings with people who were open and honest. It was an opportunity to get cultural and policy perspectives on the local level as well as from a national and global perspective.”