Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins asked how well Toledo’s Mexican population is assimilating into the community.
“The older ones always have problems,” Consul Solana responded, but pointed out that younger, second generation Mexican-Americans have already adapted well.
The mayor mentioned an effort underway by Lourdes University to bring some of its classes closer to the Latino community, focusing on the St. Clair St. area near Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church. Mayor Collins has already pledged the support of his office.
“The only pathway out of poverty is education,” stressed the mayor.
Consul Solana spoke of integrating México’s economy more closely with the Toledo regional economy, especially in the auto manufacturing sector. México has grown to become the world’s fourth-largest exporter of vehicles. He spoke excitedly about the possibility of sending ships down the St. Lawrence Seaway to the Port of Toledo. He stated that Great Lakes communities could grow their economies “with some out-of-the box thinking.”
“We want to promote that, looking for opportunities in commerce, working together,” he said. “I see Toledo with great prospects and potential.”
“We’re not even a shadow of what Toledo used to be for a variety of reasons,” responded Mayor Collins, who spoke of the city’s strong ethnic diversity and work ethic that led to the community’s heyday as the glass capital of the world. “We have the geography.”
The two men spoke of their heritage—Collins, the son of an Irish immigrant and Solana, a native of México who is working to restore a positive image to immigrants from his country who have become pariahs in the heated U.S debate on immigration reform. Both men lamented what has happened with the Americanized versions of traditions observed in their home nations—especially Cinco de Mayo and St. Patrick’s Day.
The Consul of México estimated that northern Ohio now has 100,000 people of Mexican descent, calling Toledo the “economic center” of that growing population.
“They’re going to be coming here, doing business here,” said Consul Solana. “We’re going to follow that and I will do as much as I can here.”
The Mexican consul offered to start a training exchange program, where Toledo police officers and firefighters go to México and vice versa to learn new techniques and develop relationships.
“I believe there should be an immersion in our police academies,” said Mayor Collins. “The reality is the Latino culture has a very significant presence. I don’t think we expose those young men and women who are going into law enforcement and fire/rescue service with a strong foundation so they understand the Latino community. Oftentimes, we assume everybody is like us. There are differences. There are significant differences.”
The mayor spoke of “the sensitivities that can be damaged as a result of inadvertent” actions and attitudes.
The Consul of México stated that police officers and firefighters could “stay with the families” and develop those sensitivities through such an exchange program. But he emphasized the need to “work both ways” by not only educating police officers on the Mexican culture, but by “educating the Mexican community” on the differences in police procedures between the two countries so that misunderstandings don’t become tense.
Mayor Collins stated that better understanding of Toledo’s diverse cultures could come by promoting as many ethnic festivals as possible to be held at a renovated Promenade Park downtown. The mayor stated that ProMedica, as it seeks to move 700 jobs downtown as part of consolidating its headquarters, has agreed to underwrite the cost of a stage at the park.
“We could have all the different ethnic festivals down there,” the mayor said. The only exceptions may be the Greek-American and German-American festivals, which already have venues set aside for their annual events. This year’s MidWest LatinoFest is set for Saturday, Aug. 30 at Promenade Park.
The Consul of México then offered to approach other consulates to hold an ethnic festival in Toledo where they could also serve the needs of each community with regard to the passport and visa services they offer.
|“We need to take some dramatic steps on immigration. I am sick and tired of what’s going on in Washington, D.C.,” said Mayor Collins. “There is no justification for some of the attitudes by the elected officials in this country over immigration, none whatsoever. Immigration is healthy for this country and we should be strongly, strongly saying our doors are open. With immigration, we bring in value-added to our whole community, to our whole country. To stigmatize that is unfortunate and it’s short-sighted.”
Nikki Morey, Ramón Pérez, Consul Solana, and Guisselle Mendoza
“I hope we find something in Washington [D.C.]—and soon,” said Consul Solana. “We have to work locally, too.”
“I’ve given up on it. I’ve given up on it in Washington,” said a visibly frustrated mayor. “Locally is the only way it’s going to get saved. We have to have strong cities to survive and it’s the only way for this country to survive.”
Despite the political discord in the U.S. federal government, the mayor listened intently to the economic and political reforms occurring in México. The two men concluded that the fortunes of the two countries are inextricably intertwined.
“We need a healthy America to have a healthy México,” said Consul Solana.
The Consul of México’s visit to Toledo is the sixth one since he relocated from Indianapolis to Detroit, to supervise Michigan and northern Ohio for the government of México. The mayor presented him with a Toledo lapel pin and book showing the history of Toledo. Consul Solana presented a book on the history of México.
The Consul of México also toured the renovated Ohio Theatre and other sites in North Toledo earlier in the day, a follow-up to a promise he made to ONE Village Council community organizer Ramón Pérez to help United North establish a “neighborhood of choice” as a welcoming community for immigrants. The Mexican consulate has pledged to help bring more Spanish-language movies to the Ohio Theatre.
Pérez along with Nikki Morey (Senior Manager of Community Programming of United North) previously met with partnering with various community agencies, including La Prensa, to feature both movies and comedy (with a Latin theme) to the community at the Ohio Theater.
The Mexican consul also met with Eugenio Mollo and other attorneys and staff at Advocates for Basic Legal Equality (ABLE), which provides legal assistance to migrant workers, undocumented immigrants, and other underserved populations.
The Consul of México already has scheduled two so-called “mobile units” to travel to Toledo to assist Latino individuals and families to obtain passports, visas, and matricula consular ID. One will be sponsored in partnership with Adelante, Inc., to be held at the Sofia Quintero Art and Cultural Center (SQACC), while the other will be held through United North community development corporation in North Toledo—the chosen dates will be in March and November of 2015.