Mexican president visits, calls for a consulate in Minnesota

Vincente Fox ended a Midwestern tour of the United States in Minneapolis Friday.

Jared Roddy

Mexican President Vicente Fox ended a Midwestern tour of the United States in Minneapolis on Friday by calling for a Mexican consulate in Minnesota within three years.

Fox was the first foreign leader to visit Minnesota since Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991.

Fox and his wife arrived in Minnesota on Friday morning and got a private reception at the governor’s mansion in the first of three stops in the Twin Cities.

Ramon Leon, executive director of the Latino Economic Development Center, spoke with Fox.

“I told him we were expecting good news about the consulate,” Leon said. “And we would like him to work with the United States for immigration reform.”

After meeting with the governor, Fox went to the St. Paul charter school, Academia Cesar Chavez.

Rachel Martinez and Katie Groh – members of the University’s Mexican student group, La Raza – were in the crowd at Academia Cesar Chavez.

“(Fox) saw the Latino community at the school,” Groh said. “He opted to speak in Spanish; it’s a huge statement for Chicanos and Latinos.”

Martinez said she was excited that Fox recognized the Latino population in Minnesota.

“His coming here showed us that we’re still part of the Mexican family,” Martinez said. “It also has us taking a stand, saying we won’t take a back seat anymore.”

Fox then headed to the Minneapolis Convention Center for an official “Head of State” dinner.

Among the hundreds of invited guests, several uninvited Mexican immigrants, dressed in jean jackets and paint-stained boots, waited patiently in the eaves to see Fox.

Local immigrants said a Mexican consulate in Minnesota is important to them, because they currently have to travel to Chicago to address immigration issues.

Joaquin Castillo, who attended with his sister Maria Guitierez and her sons, said they were hoping to get a picture of the president.

“When you’re a Mexican, you can’t drive too fast, you can’t make mistakes,” Castillo said, as Guitierez translated. “We need better policy for immigrants.”

Tex Ostvig, coordinator for the University’s multicultural and academic affairs office, attended the dinner.

“This trip sends a message that we’re part of a global world now, and we need to think beyond our own borders,” Ostvig said.

He said approximately 65 percent of the Latino immigrant population is of Mexican origin.

Ostvig said a consulate would help Latinos navigate through bureaucracy and give them a greater sense of community awareness and pride.

After a dinner of walleye and wild rice, guests turned to the head table for the final round of speeches. Local community leaders, including Angel Morales, took the rare opportunity to address Fox and Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

“Governor Pawlenty,” Morales said. “I urge you to reconsider your stance on immigration and hope that you can lead the states in recognizing the immigrant community, not just for dollars and cents, but for basic human dignity.”

Pawlenty said the United States is looking for a “reasonable, orderly immigration policy.”

Before giving his final oration, Fox went off-schedule, inviting his wife to the podium to give a short address during which she said Mexico’s greatest exports are its values of family, honesty, dignity and freedom.

When he eventually took the podium, Fox spoke to the 700-plus crowd in English, though he broke into Spanish on one occasion for several minutes.

Fox discussed education, free trade and improved health care for Mexican immigrants in the United States, pledging Mexican dollars for the initiative.

“I’m sure in the near future, Mexico will have the capacity to absorb all of its talent and energy,” Fox said. “I’m motivated to work for a better Mexico.”