McALLEN, RGV – McAllen Mayor Jim Darling and McAllen Economic Development Corporation President Keith Patridge had the same message at a reception at the Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday morning: McAllen’s loss is Kenya’s gain.
They were referring to the imminent departure of Mexico’s Consul to McAllen, Erasmo Martínez Martínez, who has been promoted to the rank of Ambassador. The reception was held in Martínez’s honor.
Martínez is leaving McAllen to run the Mexican embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. The embassy handles diplomatic affairs for Mexico in the countries of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Seychelles, and Comoros.
In his tribute, Darling said he would often remark to Martínez about the fact that too many leaders in both Washington, D.C., and Mexico City had very little appreciation for what really goes on along the Texas-Mexico border. “It was very refreshing to meet somebody that understood that what happens to Mexico happens to us and what happens to the border happens to Mexico. It is something we are going to miss,” Darling said. He added that he hopes Martínez’s successor gets it.
Though he was educated in San Luis Potosi, Martínez hails from Reynosa. Darling said that on his many visits to Reynosa and other parts of Mexico he would bump into people who knew Martínez. He said they would tell him that not only was Martínez outstanding at his work but that he was a great guy. “To me, that means an awful lot,” Darling said. “I am going to personally miss you. We wish you the best of luck. Hopefully, in the future our paths will cross,” Darling told Martínez. “Our loss is Kenya’s gain.”
In his tribute, Patridge said that while the reception was being held to celebrate Martínez’s promotion it was also a sad time because he was leaving.
“You have become more than just a business associate. You have become a partner in our efforts to develop both McAllen and Reynosa. You have become a good friend. We will miss you for our community,” Patridge said. “We wish you the best of success on your new assignment in Kenya. We know that our loss is Kenya’s gain. We are really sad but we know you will come back. Thank you for all your hard work. Thank you for all you have done to help us. You have helped us grow, McAllen and Reynosa. You have literally changed thousands of lives.”
Congressman Rubén Hinojosa could not attend the reception because of his work at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. However, his assistant, Norma Brewster, read aloud a letter Hinojosa had penned. The letter stated:
Dear Consul Martínez Martínez,
Please allow me to extend my congratulations as you embark on a new and exciting phase in your extraordinary diplomatic career.
I also want to thank you for your dedicated service to the Mexican Consulate in McAllen, Texas.
With your work, dedication and perseverance you have played a major role in assisting the Consulate’s office to fulfil its mission here in the South Texas Rio Grande Valley. I am personally appreciative for all the vital services and guidance you provided me. Your understanding and sensitivity to constituents’ concerns and our various bi-national and community projects were invaluable and enabled us to accomplish our goals. You are an inspiration and a wonderful friend.
Again, please receive my deepest expression of congratulations and very best wishes as you continue your work as ambassador on behalf of the Republic of Mexico based in Kenya in Africa. We will miss you. Felicidades.
With best personal regards, I am sincerely,
Member of Congress
In an in-depth interview with the Rio Grande Guardian, Martínez spoke about representing Mexico in a border community and what might lie in store for him in Kenya. He said he is very optimistic about the economic vitality of the Valley and the northeastern border region of Mexico.
“I am very proud of the economic promotion and trade promotion we have worked on at the Consulate’s office. We have been involved in 45 economic activities and helped promote Mexican exports to the U.S,” Martínez said.
“This region is going to be, I think, the most important one along U.S.-Mexico the border. It has so much potential. Trade both ways has been increasing, especially from Mexico to the U.S.”
Martínez pointed to the new Mazatlán to Durango highway that now provides a direct connection to the northeast of Mexico. He said the highway will bring a lot more trade to the Valley, especially fresh produce from the state of Sinaloa. “The numbers have been increasing a lot. A lot of people are investing here. Recently, I met with investors from Sinaloa. I think they will be investing in Pharr. This trade will benefit the whole region.”
Martínez also pointed to the KIA automobile plant being built just outside of Monterrey and the oil and gas reserves in the Burgos Basin of northeastern Mexico. “This region is going to be strongly connected with other economic centers in Mexico. MEDC (McAllen Economic Development Corporation) is doing a very great job. They have been able to attract a lot of investment to Reynosa. It benefits the whole region. The important thing is to continue to work together. To concentrate on how we can help each other. My philosophy has always been to never leave anybody out. We need to connect all relevant actors to do more, to be more effective. We have tried to do this at the Consulate’s Office.”
Martínez said that from his discussions with government officials in Mexico City he is convinced Mexico is going to give increasing help to the border region. He said the government understands its economic and strategic importance. He pointed out that during his time as Consul he hosted visits by Mexico’s current foreign secretary, José Antonio Meade Kuribreña, and its previous foreign secretary, Patricia Espinosa Cantellano. Just recently, Martínez hosted the under-secretary for foreign affairs, Sergio Alcocer Martinez de Castro, who handles North American issues.
“Mexico is very interested in improving things at this part of the border. For deputy foreign minister Alcocer’s visit we had a very rich agenda. We met with a lot of authorities. I am very optimistic. A lot of interesting things have happened here. We inaugurated two bridges (Donna and Anzalduas) for which President Calderón came. Efficiencies at the bridges are a top priority for Mexico. The bridges and ports are strategic in all senses and we have to pay a lot of attention to them.”
A key aspect of a Martínez’s work as consul has been to provide the services expected by Mexicans living in the Valley. He said he had to work hard to get sufficient manpower in the consulate to cope with an increased demand for services. As the Valley grew so did the Mexican population. “There are a lot of Mexicans that live here. We have high demand. Thanks to the Department of Foreign Affairs we got the manpower we needed to meet the demand. We have doubled the number of people we serve, regarding documents, migratory issues, looking after their rights, accidents and deaths. We have handled thousands of cases each year. Fortunately we have been able to help and the level of satisfaction with our services has reached 97 to 98 percent. I have a great group of colleagues. They are very professional.”
Martínez concluded his remarks about his stay in McAllen by saying: “It has been great to be in this city and this region, to work with many cities, many mayors and elected officials. I have had a great working relationship with all of them. There was always a spirit of cooperation. There are always problems but we were always able to talk and try to solve them in the best way possible. There was always respect and cooperation.
“I am leaving a lot of friends. I am happy for that. My mother used to say I had a big defect: that I always looked to the past. There have been very nice things in the past. I try not to lose the future but I take into account the fact that this is a great region that has helped me a lot.”
Looking ahead to his work in Kenya, Martínez said he is hoping to meet a lot of old friends. Martínez served as No. 2 in the Mexican embassy in Nairobi 23 years ago. He was there for four years and his twin daughters, Mariana and Adriana, were born there.
“I have been studying a lot, trying to update myself on what has been happening in Kenya over the last 23 years. I know Kenya has grown a lot. Its gross domestic product, when I left, was $8 billion. Now it is $55 billion. The population when I left as 23 million, now it is 43 million. There is a lot of new construction, a lot of investment, in the region. Kenya is noted for its agriculture and in particular its produce of tea and coffee but, for the first time, they are now producing oil. And, China is investing $3.8 billion in the railroad system and other infrastructure.”
Martínez said he believes Mexico can boost its modest level of trade in east Africa. “Boosting trade with Mexico will be one of my new challenges. There are several areas we have identified. For the production of corn maize we believe we can transfer the technique we use to produce corn in order to preserve nutrients, to make the product last longer.” Martínez said he met a trade delegation from Kenya in Mexico City about a month ago. “In Mexico City we have the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center. I think we can help Kenya.”
Martínez added: “I am very excited to be going there. The headquarters of two very important United Nations programs are in Nairobi, dealing with the environment and urban development settlements. The UN treaties you see developed in these arenas are negotiated in Nairobi. When I was there before I was part of the climate change and biodiversity convention that led to the international conference on the environment in Rio in 1992. I will be going back to these topics.”
Martínez has had a long and varied career in the diplomatic service. Before being assigned to Kenya he was part of the Mexican mission to the United Nations. After Kenya he worked in the United Kingdom, before going back to Mexico City for work in the North American affairs department. From there he went to the department of defense to work on national security issues. He was later Mexico’s consul in in El Paso, and then became the No. 2 ranked diplomat in the Mexican Embassy in Spain. This was followed by work on human rights, migration and refugees in Geneva.
“I feel very privileged to have had the career I have had. I grew up in Reynosa and was there until I was 15 years of age. It has been a blessing to spend the last few years close to my parents. My conscience is tranquil because I was able to enjoy my parents these past few years. Now I come to another new chapter, in Kenya again. It is going to be a great challenge. I will do my best to do something relevant there.”
Editor’s Note: The main photo accompanying this story shows Mexico’s Consul to McAllen Erasmo Martínez Martínez receiving a pair of cowboy boots from McAllen Mayor Jim Darling and McAllen businessman Kirk Clark.