Exchange Matters / December 23, 2015

New Mexico: Truly Enchanting

“Land of enchantment.” That’s the official nickname of America’s 47th state since 1999. Anyone who has ever been to Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Taos, or other towns in the state will attest that New Mexico’s moniker is well deserved. It also hints at the international connections built into its name.

History ties New Mexico to both Spain’s Western Hemisphere Empire and the expansion of the United States west and southward across the North American continent. The region’s unique topography inspired artists as diverse as Georgia O’Keefe and actors Gene Hackman and Shirley McLean, who reside there. Santa Fe’s opera house is world renown. Founded 13 years earlier than Mayflower Pilgrims’ Plymouth Colony, the city is linked to Los Alamos and to the legions of physicists from all over the world who study there. Anthropologists love it too. Albuquerque, the city’ large neighbor to the south, enjoys a unique mixture of high-tech and cultural attractions. The state boasts a diverse population nearly evenly divided among Americans of Anglo and Hispanic descent, complimented by a sizeable Native American population.

New Mexico will always be remembered as the site in which the ultimate “hard power” event occurred – the development and testing of the first atomic bomb, in Los Alamos in 1945. The state’s “soft power” capacity is just as outsized. Global Ties U.S. has two community-based members in the state. Both are as vibrant as the people they represent. Their staff and membership are youthful and experienced, and even includes retired Foreign Service Officers. The two organizations are making invaluable contributions towards the foreign policy of the United States.

Like the state in which they are based, neither Global Ties Albuquerque, known as Global Ties ABQ, nor the Santa Fe Council on International Relations are strangers to adversity. They meet their challenges head-on, as readers will see below. Global Ties U.S. president Jennifer Clinton recently travelled to Albuquerque and Santa Fe, to celebrate their major milestone events and learn a bit more about how both organizations have made a mark for themselves.

Like many organizations throughout our network, the recently-re branded Global Ties ABQ is experiencing profound organizational change. Its leadership plans community-focused programs designed to fill gaps in Albuquerque, and generate needed revenue. The New Mexican capital city is fascinating for international visitors. Albuquerque is located near some of America’s oldest continuously-inhabited cities, such as Acoma Pueblo.

Like the state in which they are based, neither Global Ties Albuquerque, known as Global Ties ABQ, nor the Santa Fe Council on International Relations are strangers to adversity.

Global Ties ABQ leveraged Dr. Clinton’s visit to hold its first “appreciation celebration” in many years. According to Adele Lees, ABQ’s program manager, more than 100 volunteers and local partners took part to recognize the organization’s transition to their new name. Global Ties ABQ used the occasion to acknowledge individuals and organizations that made significant commitments to the goals of the international exchange community. Honorees included the Southwest Women’s Law Center; Americans for Indian Opportunity; and the Pueblo of Laguna, a small town whose tribal leaders and members have made themselves available to visitors for years. Three citizen diplomats were also recognized for opening their homes to visitors and coordinating meetings around the city, including Ms. Carmen Martin; Dr. Bruce Harrill; and Mr. Randy Trask. All are key to furthering ABQ’s mission in central New Mexico.

The Santa Fe Council on International Relations just celebrated its 50th Anniversary by launching a capital campaign designed to ensure its staying-power and capacity in the decades to come. Their reasons for doing so are compelling. Hit hard by a reduction in IVLP participation, Santa Fe faced a sizeable deficit in 2013. With skillful planning, they halved this figure in 2014. At this rate, however, the organization faced the prospect of running out of operating funds in under a decade.

Fortunately, the organization had an experienced fundraiser in its ranks. Thanks to his expertise and the board of directors’ leadership lead by Art McHaffie, the Santa Fe Council on International Relations embarked on an ambitious campaign designed to raise $500,000 between 2015 and 2017. As of now, pledges and promises indicate they are nearly half-way there. And local business and members have all pitched-in.

According to Patricia Poitras, The Santa Fe Council’s Executive Director, “positive change is the underlying principle of citizen diplomacy,” noting that “volunteers and those who offer home hospitality make an invaluable contribution” to the IVLP and those who take part.

“positive change is the underlying principle of citizen diplomacy”

Both ABQ and the Santa Fe Council enjoy long and successful track records of supporting international visitors. In 2006, Global Ties Albuquerque stepped-forward to help an Edward R. Murrow Fellow from Liberia regain his eyesight. Volunteers housed and fed the visitor; helped him extend his non-immigrant visa; and identified an ophthalmologist who performed the procedure with funds the group had raised. Even the area Commission for the Blind stepped in, with post-operative training to help the Murrow Fellow become proficient in the use of computers.

Santa Fe’s Council on International Relations has worked with 13,700 international visitors over the past 50 years. Their solid work and the city’s fascinating history has attracted a number of key foreign policy experts to work with the organization, including Ambassadors’ Ryan Crocker, Christopher Hill, and Marc Grossman. Janet Napolitano, the Chief Executive of the California public university system and the former Homeland Security Cabinet Secretary, recently delivered a lecture in Santa Fe at the request of the Council.

Global Ties Albuquerque and the Santa Fe Council are high energy community-based members with capabilities equal in size to the state they represent. We believe exchange visitors have much to gain from a New Mexico experience, particularly those from Latin America. Organizations looking for partners to work with, or examples to be led by, should give serious thought to the efforts being made by their compatriots in these two dynamic organizations and their enchanting state.

By Robert Zimmerman, Global Ties U.S.