Esfera Cuántica Tlahtolli dedication

Mexican Government Celebrates UTEP Centennial

By on September 12, 2014

With a trio of free public events, the Mexican government and its people contributed to UTEP’s Centennial Celebration Wednesday, Sept. 10.

In recognition of UTEP’s role in educating thousands of Mexican students and as a token of friendship for the University’s Centennial, the Mexican people presented UTEP with an original piece by renowned sculptor Sebastián.

Sculptor Sebastián (far left) poses in front of his newest work, which was installed in front of the Fox Fine Arts Building Sept. 10. Joining him are (from left to right) UTEP President Diana Natalicio, Ambassador of Mexico to the United States Eduardo Medina Mora and Jacob Prado, Consul General of Mexico in El Paso. Photo by J.R. Hernandez / UTEP News Service
Sculptor Sebastián (far left) poses in front of his newest work, which was installed in front of the Fox Fine Arts Building Sept. 10. Joining him are (from left to right) UTEP President Diana Natalicio, Ambassador of Mexico to the United States Eduardo Medina Mora and Jacob Prado, Consul General of Mexico in El Paso. Photo by J.R. Hernandez / UTEP News Service
The dedication of the sculpture Esfera Cuántica Tlahtolli kicked off an afternoon of gifts from Mexico. Several hundred spectators enthusiastically gathered in front of the Fox Fine Arts Center. Everyone’s excitement rose when the sculptor arrived and began rotating his massive spherical creation to demonstrate its interactive and ever-changing qualities.

Jacob Prado, Consul General of Mexico in El Paso, opened the ceremony and recognized the leaders in attendance, including Juárez Mayor Enrique Serrano, U.S. Consul General in Juárez Ian Brownlee, Texas State Sen. José Rodríguez, judicial dignitaries, members of El Paso City Council and Ambassador of Mexico to the United States Eduardo Medina Mora.

Medina Mora spoke on behalf of the Mexican people for the official presentation of the sculpture. He stated it was a unique opportunity for Mexico to demonstrate its gratitude to UTEP for contributing to greater cooperation in an increasingly globalized world. He discussed the Bilateral Forum on Higher Education, Innovation, and Research – recently launched by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry – and included UTEP as an important player in this initiative toward expanding economic opportunities for both the U.S. and Mexico by developing a workforce attuned to the needs of the 21st century.

“Over these past hundred years, UTEP has been a key actor in developing our border region,” Medina Mora said. “It has adapted the unique reality of this area – a bilingual, binational and bicultural setting … [and] is precisely the arena in which we can talk to each other, understand each other and build up a new narrative that is shared in looking toward the future.”

Prado then introduced Sebastián, who gave a hands-on demonstration of his new work’s textures, including the two X shapes that stand for the letters in the names Texas and Mexico as well as the Nahuatl character expressing the transmission of ideas and dialogue for which the sculpture is named.

Esfera Cuántica Tlahtolli’s design also symbolizes the historical bonds between Mexico and UTEP, which began with the inclusion of a Mexican national in UTEP’s first cohort of students in 1914 through today with the University enrolling more Mexican students than any other in the United States.

Sebastián explained his process of conceiving the sculpture as a work that would join the area’s ancient roots with its modern goals while expressing his own personal connection to the locale – he lived in Juárez during his youth while his family lived in El Paso.

“Hence, I know the region and I love the region,” he said. “And I leave this work here with much affection for El Paso.”

UTEP President Diana Natalicio pointed out the particularly special meaning the new sculpture had for UTEP.

“We value deeply the many ways that we are united as a community: strong familial ties, a strong heritage, a common commitment to higher education and social mobility as well as a belief that there are no boundaries to our shared hopes and dreams for the future,” President Natalicio said.

“As good neighbors standing side by side, we will continue to work together to improve the lives of people in our locations, our hemisphere and the world,” she continued. “As we do, Sebastián’s sculpture will be a cherished source of pleasure and pride for future generations, inspiring contemplation of ideals such as friendship, communication, partnership, diversity, opportunity, access and excellence.”

Immediately after the sculpture presentation, a multitude of people asked Sebastián to pose for selfies in front of his artwork. Afterward, approximately 350 people filled the Undergraduate Learning Center for Medina Mora’s Centennial Lecture – the first of the new academic year. He touched on a variety of subjects including trade, energy and Mexican politics, but his main focus was education.

Medina Mora praised UTEP several times during his presentation for its role in promoting the hopes and dreams of students and families in the Paso del Norte region. He also lauded UTEP President Diana Natalicio for her leadership in making the University a transformative force in education and a willing partner in research and innovation.

The ambassador mentioned UTEP’s role earlier this year in hosting a work session of the Bilateral Forum where an eclectic group of government, private, public and academic leaders discussed the border’s potential for cooperation and exchanges among institutions of higher education.

“We want to harvest the type of social mobility that UTEP is creating,” said Medina Mora, who also noted UTEP’s inclusion among the Top 10 universities in the country, according the Washington Monthly magazine rankings.

While mostly upbeat, the Mexican official lamented that only 14,000 Mexican students annually cross the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border to attend U.S. colleges compared to 72,000 from South Korea.

“We have to do better than that,” he said.

While Medina Mora listed various reform efforts by the Mexican government, he reiterated education given the country’s need for a well-educated workforce to drive growth and preparedness for tomorrow’s challenges.

“Education reform is a perfect example of a sector that needed a complete overhaul in order to prepare our citizens for a brighter future to unleash Mexican potential,” he said. “I’m happy to say that education reform is now being implemented.”

Casandra Reyes, a senior organizational and corporate communication major, said she was happy the ambassador visited UTEP and hoped his remarks would resonate with students. She was happy he acknowledged her concern during a question-and-answer session that more visas are needed so skilled foreign workers can stay in the United States after they graduate.

“He spoke to many of the issues relevant to UTEP’s Mexican students,” said Reyes, a native of Monterrey, Mexico.

Frank G. Pérez, Ph.D., associate professor of communication, said he was shocked to learn how few Mexican students attend U.S. universities and added UTEP is well positioned to increase those numbers. He referred to several current multinational programs that could be grown.

“We’re at the forefront so we have a good opportunity to increase UTEP’s presence,” he said.

To close out day of celebration, the Consulate General of Mexico presented a free concert by Mexico City-based jazz group Matías Carbajal Ensemble in the Fox Fine Arts Recital Hall.

Matías Carbajal Jazz Ensemble – led by Sebastián’s son – is a melodic and rhythmic combo combining elements of classical jazz fused with funk and a Latin flavor with occasional ventures into world music and electronica. Pianist Carbajal was accompanied by guitar, bass, percussion and wind instruments for a musical expression of multiculturalism in the spirit of the day.

Daniel Perez contributed to this story.

Lisa Garibay is a writer in UTEP's Office of University Communications.