Carlos Arriola (OH) did not know how easy it would be to contact important executives and politicians from his country of origin, Mexico. Arriola, who co-directed the Harvard University Mexican Association (HUMA) during the past year, kept busy calling Mexican VIPs, inviting them to come and participate in conferences at Harvard. The result speaks for itself: HUMA was able to host 10 of those influential personalities, including Mexico’s Secretary of Labor; the president of Mexico’s most important newspaper; and, as the organization’s closing event, the leftist pre-candidate for the 2006 presidential election, Cuauhtemoc Cardenas.
“One of the most amazing things about this university is that you can pick up the phone and call anyone to extend him and invitation to come to Harvard and, most surely, you will get an answer,” said Arriola. “I did not know Mr. Cardenas personally before I called his office. As simple as that.”
Arriola and Alberto Saracho (KSG ’05), also co-president of HUMA, took over the reins of the organization at the beginning of the academic year that ends this month. Arriola and Saracho put together a team of 12 Mexican students, seven of which are from HBS, to carry out their effort to unify the Mexican community at Harvard.
“The association’s main objective is to foster the knowledge and discussion of Mexico’s most relevant issues within this academic institution,” said Saracho. “We also aim to promote the integration of the Mexican community and to strengthen the relationships between potential recruiters back home and the Mexican students here.”
This year, Saracho and Arriola added to their list of accomplishments the very successful “Ideas por Mexico”, a series of interdisciplinary forums about the country’s major issues, such as democracy and electric reform.
“The idea originated at KSG where a group of Mexican students were getting together every Friday to discuss different issues,” said Arriola. “Our organization later incorporated this idea and invited students from other schools.”
HUMA also hosted some fun events during the year. According to Arriola, the association successfully integrated the members of the Mexican community in Harvard through social events like a Mexican Independence Party held at the now extinct Sophia’s last September, a ski trip to Wachusett in February, and a traditional posada in December.
For this term’s last event, the Cardenas conference, HUMA enlisted the help of Harvard Business School’s Club Latinoamericano, an association dedicated to improve the experience of Latin American students at HBS. The response was overwhelming – approximately 100 students crowded Aldrich 209, and not all of them were able to get a seat.
Cardenas spoke mostly about his economic reform plan should he become Mexico’s president next year. It would be Cardenas’ fourth run as presidential candidate for the leftist party in Mexico, the Party of the Democratic Revolution. The students from Mexico and from other countries in Latin America questioned the politician extensively.
At the end of the event, Arriola, Saracho, and the departing board of directors said good-bye and welcomed the new administration led by Ernesto Chavar¡n (NG).
All in all, it was quite a year for the Mexican students at Harvard.
“I never thought that, through this past academic year, I would be shaking hands with several of the individuals that shape the different aspects of what my country is today, and will be in the near future,” said Arriola.