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Looking For Hope In The Midst Of Mexico’s Trouble

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Headlines from Mexico are dominated by drug cartels and violence. A group of experts recently gathered at UC San Diego to turn the spotlight toward the country’s rich history and vibrant culture.

— About a dozen Mexican scholars and artisans gathered at UC San Diego Thursday to talk about the country’s deep troubles and uncertain future.

The theme of the one-day seminar, "Mexico Moving Forward", was based on the Spanish saying: "El que no mira hacia delante se queda atras." Translation: "He who doesn't look ahead, remains behind."

The writers, artists, historians and even one chef, discussed the country’s evolving literature, modern cuisine and recent contributions to world cinema.

The event was organized by UCSD's School of International Relations and Pacific Studies and the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies. Director Alberto Dias-Cayeros readily acknowledged the violence and corruption that plague Mexico. But his goal was to remind the world, if even for a day, there is much more to the country than the drug war.

UCSD Professor Cristina Rivera-Garza recently traveled to northern Mexico -- ground-zero for most of the recent violence.

She described seeing the streets of Juarez deserted at night. In Monterrey, she canceled a dinner with friends after being told it was too dangerous. In Matamoros, a young woman complained to her she was losing her youth because she was too scared to socialize after work.

The experiences served as frank reminders of how life has changed, for the worse, in Mexico.

Then the professor met Luz Maria Davila of Juarez. Her two sons were killed in a mass shooting last year in the troubled border city that left 13 others dead.

You could understand if Davila slipped into a depression and never left her house again after losing her children. Instead, she lobbies the government to protect the people from the drug war.

Rivera agrees with Davila that confronting Mexico’s problems is the only way to resolve them.

“She said we need to talk about what is wrong. We need to describe what is happening if we ever are going to be willing to fix it,” said Rivera, paraphrasing Davila.

Rivera told the audience that the vibrant spirit of the people she met on her trip left her optimistic about Mexico’s future.

“I witnessed sadness and despair. Fear and isolation. Rage," Rivera said. "But I also have witnessed solidarity and hope.”

Besides the discussions, there was also a Mexican dance troupe, an expo focusing on Baja California and free tacos for anyone who walked by.

UCSD graduate student Stephen Olivas felt the event was a success.

“I think one of the interesting points today was the role of language and literature along the border," Olivas said, "and how that influences both the good and the bad."

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