You might have heard it’s a tense time for relations between the United States and Mexico.
The president wants to build a wall between the countries. Immigration debates and fear among immigrants living in the U.S. are at a particular high. National leaders blast each other routinely on Twitter. The percentage of Mexicans who hold favorable views of Americans has fallen from 65 percent two years ago to 29 percent this year, according to a Pew survey released this month.
Meanwhile, some in Austin are pushing to build more bridges.
James Taylor, founder of Austin consulting firm Vianovo, has worked over the last year and a half to band with others in the Austin business and government scene to form the Aguila Alliance. Its goal is to improve the relationship between Mexico and Texas.
“We all have a connection to Mexico, and we see the negative and incendiary comments about Mexicans, and we wanted to create a group that could promote (ties) and stand up to those comments,” Taylor said. “The relationship is a critical relationship commercially and, from our demographics, from a family standpoint.”
The group’s reason to smile this week? A “science city network” agreement between Austin and Monterrey.
The agreement, tailored more specifically to education and commerce than a generic sister cities connection, is the first of its kind between Austin and a Latin American city. Austin has such agreements with seven other cities in other parts of the world, with quarterly teleconferences and tracking of economic outcomes such as jobs and trade.
Monterrey Mayor Adrián de la Garza, who was in Austin to sign the agreement Wednesday, said the cities have much in common. Both are known as wealthy cultural arts centers with top universities and growing technological spheres. Both, de la Garza noted, have transportation challenges.
“This agreement can help us exchange experiences,” de la Garza said in Spanish, adding that the national political climate makes it more likely that opportunities for collaboration could be missed.
Austin staffers said they expect the agreement will yield direct flights between the cities and more business engagements. The agreement also outlines an effort to help give opportunities for high-tech jobs to people in poverty.
“The overall strategy is to use our diaspora to unlock trade in other countries,” said Kevin Johns, city of Austin director of economic development. “Mexico is our biggest trading partner. … Monterrey is their tech city, and Austin is Austin.”