In FY08, Representative Charlie Gonzalez (TX-20) secured a congressional appropriation of $238,000 to support the UT San Antonio Mexico Center. These funds have directly helped to establish the UTSA Mexico Center as a nationally-recognized leader in U.S.-Mexico policy.
The UTSA Mexico Center, founded in October 2005, is the umbrella organization within UTSA that connects existing Mexico-related expertise at UTSA through cross-disciplinary collaboration on research projects and activities. The Center's primary goal is to address and generate transnational dialogue and research on public policy issues that affect the people of Mexico and the United States.
Under the leadership of Dr. Harriett Romo, the center sponsors a diverse range of activities in order to promote economic development, research collaborations, student exchanges, and policy discussions on issues related to Mexico. Since its creation, the UTSA Mexico Center has brought together academics, policy makers and community members from both countries to seek collaborative solutions to U.S.-Mexico border economic prosperity, border security, small business development, and educational issues.
The Mexico Center's operating budget is supported entirely by the congressional appropriation secured by Congressman Gonzalez and is funded through the U.S. Small Business Administration.
The UTSA Mexico Center has quickly become a center of excellence in U.S.-Mexico relations. UTSA is an outstanding location for a center that addresses crucial issues of how United States and Mexican policies and practices affect families and communities on both sides of the border. The state of Texas has the largest stretch of U.S.-Mexico border, and San Antonio is the largest and most important city of South Texas. San Antonio is a community with a majority of people of Mexican origin that already has numerous political, economic, social and cultural ties to Mexico. UTSA is the second largest university in the University of Texas System with an enrollment of 29,100 students. As a key border/south Texas center of education UTSA stands out for its inclusion of Hispanic faculty, staff, and students. UTSA is an officially designated Hispanic Serving Institution with an enrollment of 42% Hispanic students and 7% African American students.
The Mexico Center focuses its attention on four major research topics and programs covering a wide range of issues relevant to the U.S.-Mexico relation. These topics and programs are: research on economic development and global entrepreneurship with an emphasis on small business development; transnational family research; binational collaboration with academic institutions in Mexico to fund and develop research projects and policy reports relevant to U.S. Mexico relations; and study abroad programs.
The Mexico Center is administered by a Director, a Program Coordinator, a board of Faculty Fellows, and an advisory board comprised of distinguished community members. The Director of the San Antonio campus of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) and representatives of the City of San Antonio International Affairs Department and the World Affairs Council are members of the Advisory Board.
The UTSA Mexico Center already has in place important contacts and collaborations with Mexican institutions to address common problems and issues. The UTSA Mexico Center has signed collaborative agreements with several of the most prestigious universities in Mexico. Among them are the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) and the Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara (UGA), both of which have a campus in San Antonio. In addition, the UTSA Mexico Center has collaborative agreements with the Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, the Universidad de Veracruz, and the Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo Leon. To further its goals, the UTSA Mexico Center collaborates with the UTSA International Trade Center which has established small business development centers throughout Mexico, the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio to organize children’s health forums and health-related research projects, and the UTSA Small Business Development Center to sponsor academic conferences and policy forums. Dr. Romo, the UTSA Mexico Center Director, is a member of a U.T. System-wide committee of Mexico centers and also has close ties with other UT System Centers with a focus on Latin America and Mexico, such as the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, and its Mexican Center. Non-UT collaborators include the Mexican Cultural Institute, the Mexican Consulate Office in San Antonio, the Asociación de Empresarios Mexicanos--a non-profit organization of Mexican entrepreneurs, Mexicans and Americans Thinking Together (MATT.org), the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the City of San Antonio, the greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, and the World Affairs Council of San Antonio.
The Mexico Center project carries national and international significance by facilitating the discussion of key border security and economic issues. The Center has promoted exchange of ideas and technical experience among producers, manufacturers, small and medium sized businesses, and the public who may benefit by the application of social science through the publication and presentation of scholarly papers and participation in academic discussions and exchanges. In collaboration with the University of Veracruz, the University of Nuevo Leon, the local non-profit Asociación de Empresarios Mexicanos, the UTSA International Trade Center, and the Mexican and U.S. Consulate Offices, the UTSA Mexico Center has organized two successful workshops on How to Do Business in the United States. These workshops were designed to assist established and emerging small businesses in practical and technical information to improve economic opportunities. The workshops emphasized assistance with market research to facilitate international activities, market information and contacts, access to comprehensive information to assist with international planning processes, and information about U.S. taxes and visas. Each of these workshops was attended by over 250 entrepreneurs from Mexico and the United States who received information and assistance on how to develop and expand small and medium sized businesses in the United States.
Texas has approximately 1,969 miles of border with Mexico and, according to data from the Texas Governor’s office, Mexico is the principal destination of exports from Texas. Exports from Texas to Mexico totaled more than $56 billion in 2007 representing 33% of the state’s exports. Texas is the number one exporting state in the U.S. with an exportation value of more than $168 billion. In addition, Texas generated 75% of all new jobs in the United States. Texas, and particularly San Antonio, as well as other border areas have benefited from the new jobs created by small and medium sized businesses involved in trans-border commerce, services, and manufacturing. Additionally, over 22 million tourists visit San Antonio annually and over half are from Mexico. The UTSA Mexico Center is an important site to enhance this economic development and to promote bilateral discussions of border policy issues.
Recently, the UTSA Mexico Center collaborated with the U.S. Department of Education to host an open forum on the importance of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans and offered suggestions for policy directions for this important educational initiative. Participants discussed the role of community colleges, the high school dropout problem, preparation of teachers, and access to higher education. Increasing access to higher education is especially important to the 20th Congressional District where residents overall have very low levels of education with many lacking a high school diploma. The UTSA Mexico Center also organized and sponsored an open forum on Immigration, Citizenship, and Incorporation. Proceedings from that forum resulted in a white paper highlighting policy recommendations in this area that have economic and social implications for both Mexico and the United States. In all of these forums bi-national perspectives have directed attention to positive solutions of benefit to both nations. Continuing an emphasis on problems of economic development, the UTSA Mexico Center hosted U.S. Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis, to speak to a large audience of community leaders on labor issues. The Center also invited Alonzo Peña, from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, to talk about U.S. Border violence and strategies and resources to protect the borderlands. Forums, speakers and workshops like these reflect the UTSA Mexico Center’s mission to initiate academic dialogues about important issues affecting U.S.-Mexico relations in an atmosphere that encourages new ideas and solutions to difficult problems.
The UTSA Mexico Center is engaged in a research project investigating the experiences of elite Mexican immigrants and their families. These families enter the United States with investment resources, successful bi-national businesses, and other attributes that contribute to the U.S. economy. Many of them are concerned about the security of their families in Mexico. The U.S. border cities have historically provided a refuge for these immigrants in times of turmoil or economic crisis in Mexico. Our study focuses on the contributions of these immigrants, their incorporation into U.S. society, and their future migration decisions. The results of this study will allow policy makers to better understand the diversity of Mexican immigration and the contributions that these entrepreneurs make to the U.S.-Mexican border economy and to extended border cities such as San Antonio. Funding of the UTSA Mexico Center will allow us to disseminate the results of this research.
The UTSA Mexico Center received a small grant from a local donor to fund student travel to Mexico. Using those funds the Center initiated a request for proposals for funding of faculty-student research projects related to Mexico and has funded 12 small grants. Teams of faculty-student investigators have explored problems of health disparities, labor movements, curricula in high schools, public spaces in urban development, and immigration. The Center also hosted students from the University of Monterrey to come to UTSA and participate with UTSA students in a graduate class on the U.S.-Mexico border. These exchanges promote a global perspective on economic and immigration problems. Students in both countries have an opportunity for international experiences that they would not have otherwise. Funding of the UTSA Mexico Center will allow the Center to continue to promote these important exchanges.
In addition to economic and academic exchanges, the UTSA Mexico Center has collaborated with the Mexican Cultural Institute, funded by the Mexican government, to bring scholarly cultural events to the United States. The Monterrey Youth Orchestra performed for UTSA music classes, film producers and directors have shared recent film productions, and art and architectural exhibits have enriched community and student audiences. The cultural areas also stimulate economic development and contribute to enhanced international understandings.