GCU students probe Mexico presidential candidate

Mexico presidential candidate Juan Carlos Romero Hicks (left) looks to College of Humanities and Social Sciences Dean Dr. Sherman Elliott during the Dean Ambassador Series on Monday.

Photos by Ralph Freso / Slideshow

Juan Carlos Romero Hicks, a 2024 candidate for president of Mexico, asked Grand Canyon University students Monday morning to raise their hands if they are of Hispanic descent.

More than two-thirds of the 120 students attending his Dean Ambassador Series talk raised them high in the Theology Building’s Howerton Hall, where students filled every seat, all the ascending steps, and stood along the back walls.

“You can have dual citizenship,” Hicks told the students. “You can be a U.S. citizen and a Mexican citizen and can vote for senators of the state where your ancestors are from. You have people back home in Mexico, and they face these four cancers I mentioned.”

Students fill Howerton Hall to listen to Hicks.

The cancers of Mexico he outlined are: Lack of values and spirituality leading to disintegration of institutions, poverty, crime and violence, and corruption and impunity.

“We need to build a different world,” said Romero Hicks, federal congressman from Guanajuato, Mexico, and former president of the University of Guanajuato, governor and federal senator.

GCU student Daisy Fernandez Hérrera didn’t know about dual citizenship and immediately took out her phone to text her grandmother in Mexico to tell her of the possibility. Mexico, she said, needs help.

“Young women can be taken off the street just by what they are wearing,” she said. “My grandmother is afraid for me, being an American woman and how I dress, so when I go there, I stay inside or travel with my grandma. I just want less violence and to live there peacefully.”

Freshman Daisy Fernandez Hérrera (left) and Sarai Echeberria were surprised to learn of dual citizenship.

There were more than 30,000 murders in Mexico in 2022, sparking criticism of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s inability of his government to stop the violence.

Romero Hicks is of the conservative National Action Party, while López Obrador of the Morena party became the first leftist president in nearly two decades when elected in 2018.

Romero Hicks said the rule of law needs to be enforced in Mexico.

Crime was on the mind of another student in a question-and-answer session following his 15-minute address. She told Romero Hicks in Spanish that she originally came from a Sonoran village where many women had gone missing.

He said that “70 percent of women killed are in a relationship with the aggressor who killed them. For many years, domestic violence was pushed under the rug, and we can’t be passive about this,” he said, adding that a cultural problem of “machismo” is partly to blame, when some men think they are superior to women.

“I will leave my information, and if I can be of help with local authorities, let me know,” he told the student.

The interaction between students and a political leader was an example of why College of Humanities and Social Sciences Dean Dr. Sherman Elliott and former Arizona state representative Tony Rivero launched the Dean Ambassador Series a decade ago.

Romero Hicks' presentation was important, Elliott said, because “Arizona used to be Mexico. We are a land of many different races coming together — Anglos, Mexican, Native American — so our relationship is unique.

“What touched me so much is so many students of Hispanic origin came today. That blew me away.”

Elliott (right) introduces Romero Hicks.

Many students who attended were from Professor Dr. Tim Larkin’s sociology classes, and he was delighted that they asked probing questions to a political leader.

“My biggest fears are we are teaching students to be quiet and listen,” he said.

Student David Garcia-Barragan wanted answers. The government major wants to get into politics one day. He said he is a dual citizen of Mexico and the U.S. and asked Romero Hicks how to solve the education and corruption problems in Mexico.

Senior David Garcia-Barragan directs a question to Romero Hicks.

Garcia-Barragan said afterward that Romero Hicks didn’t directly address solutions in his answer to the problem of ties between government officials and drug cartels. “It’s what runs the country. It’s the No. 1 issue.”

Romero Hicks did tell the group that corruption must be stopped. “I’m not going to deny that it doesn’t exist.”

The government can’t be the answer to all these issues, he said. It starts with addressing his first agenda item — returning values to Mexican institutions, values he sees in institutions such as GCU, a Christian university.

“We need to go back to what solves it — the family, the churches, the social fabric of what it takes to be educated,” he said. “It’s universal. Truth, freedom, justice, health, welfare. It’s not the government that will tell you how to do it. All of us have different places that can influence this. The school, workplace, that’s what we need to address.”

The U.S. and Mexico trade $1 million in goods and services every minute, and the political and cultural ties are vast across the more than 3,000-kilometer border, he added.

“In today’s world, we probably want to build a North American community,” he said. “If we build a North American community, we will be more competitive and have better lifestyles. ... We need a global world.”

Romero Hicks said he is a testament to the U.S. and Mexico connection. His ancestors, he said, were among the first to come to America in the 1600s. His mother was from New Jersey and his wife is from Wisconsin. He earned a master’s degree from Southern Oregon University.

In his home state of Guanajuato, more than 60% have relatives in the U.S.

“At the end, you recognize that nobody is better,” he said. “We are all human beings.”

Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.

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