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Good Hombre
Roberto Dondisch has high hopes for the Mexico-United States friendship.

Image: Brian Smale

Roberto Dondisch Glowinski arrived in Seattle in July and hit the ground running. The new head consul of Mexico has been traveling around the Northwest with his “consulate on wheels,” calming the fears of the Mexican community and helping people understand their rights.

“The relationship between Mexico and the United States is not something you can manage in Washington, DC, or Mexico City,” he says. “It’s about society, it’s about family, it’s about links, it’s about commerce, and that’s happening no matter what decisions are happening in Washington, DC, or Mexico City. That’s something that’s very important to understand. So, for us it’s all about creating bridges and creating the capacity to work together. Any problem that North America faces, we can better address it together. That’s what we are trying to do, at least on our part.”

Dondisch grew up in Mexico City going to Jewish schools. His maternal grandparents, having escaped Poland the day the Nazis invaded, were caught by Russian soldiers, who hired his grandmother to play piano at their military camp. She and Dondisch’s grandfather eventually left Russia via Iran and went to India, where his grandfather was drafted into the Royal Air Force. That took them to Australia, where they boarded a ship to America. But when it stopped in Acapulco, they got off — and stayed.

After college, Dondisch joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, then went on to achieve a master’s in foreign service from Georgetown and another master’s and a PhD in international studies at Johns Hopkins. Upon his return to Mexico, he coordinated Mexican participation in the UN Security Council before being appointed Mexico’s head negotiator for the Arms Trade Treaty. After the treaty was adopted, he went on to be director-general of global issues and Mexico’s head negotiator for the Paris Agreement. Passionate about renewable energy and efforts to slow climate change, he imagines alliances from Mexico up the West Coast around clean energy.

Americans, however, tend not to think about Mexico in terms of progress and clean air. “Very few people really know Mexico,” he laments. “We have a lot of people here that know some of the beaches and beautiful places, which is great, and I want them to keep on enjoying them, but Mexico is a country that has been through a lot of changes.” In 10 years, 28 million people moved from poverty to the middle class, he notes. The crime rate in Mexico City is lower than in several US cities. Business is booming, he says, with 500 Starbucks shops, 37 Costcos, an Amazon fulfillment center, and a new Expedia headquarters. Mexico is the largest importer of apples from Washington state, too.

There are cultural bridges yet to be built. Dondisch wants to bring Mexican musicians and younger artists to the Northwest to showcase up-and-coming talent. Mexican culture “is so wide,” he says. “It is about the mariachi, but it’s also about the modern architecture in Mexico City. It goes from classical music to rock to contemporary music. We even have Klezmerson, which is a highly renowned modern klezmer group, and they’re Mexican.”

Other aspects of US–Mexican relations don’t need much improving, at least in this Washington. “You have pretty good Mexican food,” he says. “There are quite a few good places around the state. You can get very good tacos, but you can also get more of a modern Mexican cuisine. So that’s really good.”

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