Mural, scholarships highlight UTEP-Mexico partnership

UTEP student Paloma Vianey speaks Thursday as her mural, “A Bridge Uniting Two Countries” is unveiled at the Mexican Consulate. Pablo Villa/El Paso Times

Ahead of Mexican Independence Day, the University of Texas at El Paso marked its binational partnership with Mexico on Thursday with three events at the Mexican Consulate in El Paso.

UTEP President Diana Natalicio joined leaders from the Consulate General of Mexico in El Paso and the Mexican state of Durango to highlight partnership efforts between the campus and the country.

Natalicio helped award scholarships to 12 students from Durango enrolled at UTEP.

Durango, which is located about 650 miles from Juárez, is the second Mexican state to forge a partnership with UTEP to award scholarships to its students. The students who were awarded scholarships Thursday are the first beneficiaries of that partnership.

“These (scholarships) are an example of our promise to improve the lives of students in Mexico,” said Rubén Calderón Lujan, secretary of education of the state of Durango. “We hope this helps strengthen relationships between UTEP and Durango.”

Marcela Aguilera, a master’s student in bioinformatics, was one of the scholarship recipients. She expressed gratitude at being selected for the award, which is worth about $3000 per student per academic year based on the conversion rate, according to UTEP officials.

“It makes me feel very special and very thankful that somebody acknowledged our effort,” Aguilera said. “It’s going to help a lot.”

Also Thursday, a mural painted by UTEP student Paloma Vianey was unveiled.

The artwork will be a permanent fixture on a wall at the consulate.

The painting, titled “A Bridge Uniting Two Countries,” depicts a lush green landscape as viewed through two windows. One side represents Mexico, while the other represents the United States. An ornate bridge links the two windows, which depict many ethnicities in both countries, signaling a welcoming and diverse environment.

Vianey is a senior art history major who crosses into the United States from Juárez daily to attend classes. She said she wanted to depict the intricate connection between the two countries through her work.

“I cross the border every day, and I think that UTEP is very good at representing people from Mexico. They make them feel welcome,” Vianey said. “I’m proud to call myself a Miner. Despite everything that is happening (nationally), students should keep working hard to demonstrate that they are doing something, that they are contributing to society.”

Marcos Bucio Mújica, the consul general of the Consulate General of Mexico in El Paso, lauded UTEP’s efforts in helping Mexican students obtain their education. He said Natalicio has been a champion in helping more than 60 students from the Instituto de los Mexicanos del Exterior receive scholarships since 2010.

“Thank you, Dr. Natalicio,” Bucio Mújica said. “Thank you for your dedication and hard work so UTEP will be a point of pride for the region in Texas and the United States. And thank you most of all for your great love of Mexico.”

Natalicio said she is glad to see the campus deepen its relationship with its neighboring country.

“Today’s events are a demonstration of the dynamic relationship between UTEP and Mexico,” Natalicio said. “The common theme between these events is building bridges, bridges of understanding, support, education and culture.”

Earlier Thursday, leaders presented findings from a bilingual research project dubbed “Cultivating Values.”

The initiative of the Mexican Consulate and an academic team led by Eva Moya, an associate professor in UTEP’s Department of Social Work, delves into elementary school children’s views of values such as honesty and respect. The collaboration has resulted in a series of bilingual published books distributed in area schools and recognized internationally.

Pablo Villa may be reached at 546-6345; @pvilla50 on Twitter.