The Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies Senior Policy Advisor Denise Moreno Ducheny recently received special recognition from the Mexican government, in part for her commitment to the binational region. Ducheny was given the government’s “Premio Ohtli,” the highest honor bestowed on an individual for service to Mexicans living abroad.
“These kinds of awards not only honor you, but inspire you to continue,” Ducheny said to a packed house at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) conference held in San Diego June 26-28. NALEO is considered the largest gathering of Latino policymakers in the country.
Mexico’s ambassador to the United States, Eduardo Medina Mora Icaza, attended the conference’s National Congressional Leadership Luncheon to present Ducheny with the award, calling her a “truly inspirational human being” and public servant.
“Without a doubt, Senator Moreno Ducheny has fostered a more accurate public image of Mexico, Mexicans and Mexican-Americans,” Medina Mora said. “The more fluent relationship that we enjoy, as a result of her dedication, has brought a better ... understanding and greater acknowledgement of the important contributions our community makes to the U.S.”
Ducheny is a former California senator with deep ties to the San Diego-Tijuana mega region. She served on the San Diego Community College board from 1990 to 1994, followed by the California State Assembly from 1994 to 2000. She was elected to the State Senate in 2002 and served through 2011.
While in public office, Ducheny strengthened the Mexico-U.S. relationship by promoting numerous environment, business, education and health initiatives, organizing the initial meetings that later became the Border Legislative Conference, and establishing both the Office of Binational Border Heath and the Legislative Forum of the Three Californias.
Accepting the award, Ducheny said she was thankful to continue her work promoting the U.S-Mexico relationship.
“I am blessed today … to have been given an appointment at the University of California here in San Diego to continue this work with the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies,” she said. “I hope all of you will join us — continuing in that cause — to build a better relationship and a closer relationship that works for all of us.”
As senior policy advisor, Ducheny has been key in helping organize the Center’s Three Californias Initiative, which recently co-published a first-of-its kind study showing San Diego and Imperial counties, Baja California and Baja California Sur as a regionally important hub for employment and manufacturing. Called “Jobs Without Borders: Employment, Industry Concentrations, and Comparative Advantage in the CaliBaja Region,” the report is a collaboration between the Center, Colegio de la Frontera Norte in Tijuana, Mexico and the Cali-Baja Mega-Region Initiative.
“If you live in an area like this you understand it is one large metropolitan area. It is not two,” Ducheny said. “It is globally competitive only if we are together. It is not competitive if we try to stand alone.”
Additional projects of the Center’s Three Californias Initiative include the creation of a web-based governance handbook for the tri-state region that will link governments and businesses, a binational symposia series connecting young leaders at UC San Diego and the greater mega region and continued cross-border study on employment and industry.
At the NALEO conference, Ducheny gave a presentation and participated in a panel discussion that explored challenges and opportunities along the entire U.S.-Mexico border. Her presentation, “Realizing the Full Value of Our Cross-Border Economy,” highlighted Mexico as a growing economic partner and private binational business successes while calling for policy changes that would increases investment on border infrastructure.
“It has been a privilege over the years to be able to work with the embassy and consuls of Mexico to strengthen the economic, political and social ties between our two neighboring nations with the goal to improve the quality of life for all of our residents, particularly in our border regions,” Ducheny said. “Thank you all so much.”
(Denise Moreno Ducheny approximate start at 43:00)