The Royals as 2015 World Series champions and the Chiefs inevitably come to mind when mentioning Kansas City in my country.
Mexico has the second largest fan base of the National Football League outside the United States. Some even evoke The Beatles’ song of 1964, “Kansas City,” and the recently published lyrics by Bob Dylan for “The Basement Tapes.”
As a new consul of Mexico, a central part of my work consists of taking those general references and transforming them into a more detailed picture of the possibilities this great area has to offer, with its innovative spirit and its welcoming, diverse society. Simultaneously, I will work to portray an accurate picture of Mexico in the heartland of the United States and maximize the contributions of Kansas and Missouri to our bilateral relationship.
In these past weeks, I have noted the dynamic diversity of the Kansas City area. It is home to nearly 60,000 people of Mexican origin who greatly contribute to its economic vitality, technological development and artistic identity.
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To me, it is clear that the integration of the people whom my office serves leads to a general betterment of the 17 metropolitan counties in terms of better schools, health care access, improved infrastructure and trust of law enforcement. To achieve that integration, the consulate will strive to overcome the simplistic view of “I win-you lose” when considering the Mexico-U.S. dynamic, and rather remark how our countries have a permanent win-win situation.
As an example, we can always recall our annual $500 billion in bilateral trade, or the fact that 28 states have Mexico as their first or second export destination, as is the case of Missouri, with $5.6 billion exchanged in 2015 and 120,000 direct jobs depending on that commerce. Or the intense academic exchange programs — an excellent tool for building bridges not only between our countries but between our peoples. Missouri is the 10th largest recipient of Mexican students in the United States.
Still, as important as those figures are for giving a true dimension of the prosperity our countries are building together, the well-being of main-street individuals will come first in the work of the consulate. For example, how many people know that in 2015 Kansas City, Kan., donated three ambulances to its sister city of Uruapan, Michoacán, proudly shipped by the emblematic entity of North America, Kansas City Southern?
As consul of Mexico, it is my obligation to contribute to these local-level efforts. The fact that Mayors Sly James of Kansas City and Mark Holland of Kansas City, Kan., have taken pride in the diversity of their cities and have made explicit their rejection of any form of intolerance is a robust foundation that we can continue to build upon.
The team I have the privilege to lead will always strive to provide a better quality of life for the single mother who is learning English after work with the sole purpose of improving her son’s school performance. The team works to assist the immigrant who requires urgent medical services and is too afraid to ask for help.
The group also aids the wonderful new generation of proud Mexican-Americans who are learning how to use their voice to demand better opportunities from both Mexico and the U.S. as a powerful reflection of our present integration and our intertwined future.
Alfonso Navarro-Bernachi of Overland Park is the head consul of Mexico in Kansas City, serving a consular district encompassing Missouri, Kansas and western Oklahoma. He is a career diplomat with 23 years of experience. He began his tour-of-duty in Kansas City last June.