CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn today was joined by the Governor of the State of Mexico Eruviel Ávila for a wreath-laying ceremony to honor Benito Juárez and the 150-year friendship between Illinois and Mexico. Governor Ávila has traveled to Illinois as a result of Governor Quinn’s trade mission to Mexico City which took place in April 2013. This week’s visit is part of Governor Quinn’s commitment to strengthening relations between Illinois and Mexico.
Today the two Governors laid a wreath of red, white and green flowers – the colors of Mexico’s flag – at the statue of Benito Juárez in the Plaza of the Americas on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile.
“Benito Juárez transformed Mexico with his passion for freedom, vision of democracy and commitment to constitutional law,” Governor Quinn said. “He was one of humanity’s giants, and today we celebrate his accomplishments and his friendship with our President Lincoln.”
“Benito Juárez once said, ‘Law has always been my shield and my sword’, which are powerful words,” Governor Ávila said. “His legacy is similar to Lincoln’s legacy. Both opposed slavery and tyranny. Both successfully led their nations through war. Both are rightly remembered today as inspirational heroes.”
Juárez and Lincoln have often been compared – both came from humble origins, were self-taught and fought for human rights. They served as Presidents during the same period, during which they established a long-distance relationship. In 1861, Juárez dispatched his envoy – Matías Romero - to Springfield, Ill., to extend official greetings to President-elect Lincoln, the first such overture by a foreign nation.
That meeting is the subject of a unique theatrical performance at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (ALPLM). On January 19, 1861, Romero met with President-elect Lincoln at Lincoln’s home in Springfield. Romero delivered congratulations to Lincoln from Juárez and opened a dialogue about peace, understanding and cooperation that could be beneficial for both nations. It led to a “friendship through correspondence” between Presidents Juárez and Lincoln.
Following the wreath-laying, the two Governors will travel to Springfield for the world premiere of that performance, entitled “Of Mutual Interest: Lincoln and Mexico.”
While in Springfield, the Governors will also participate in signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to promote collaboration between the state’s major universities on agriculture and veterinary medicine.
Governor Quinn was the first Illinois Governor to visit Mexico in 13 years and only the fourth U.S. Governor to visit Mexico since 2005. There are now 1.6 million people in Illinois of Mexican origin, about one in eight Illinois residents. Mexico and Illinois have had a sister state relationship since 1990.
The country of Mexico is Illinois’ second-largest trading partner. With sales of $8.2 billion, Illinois is the third largest agricultural exporter in the United States, and the country of Mexico is one of Illinois’ strongest agricultural trading partners. Since 2010, the country of Mexico has purchased $1.9 billion in agricultural products from Illinois, including $780 million in 2012 alone, making it the state’s third largest agricultural export market.
Governor Quinn has vowed to make Illinois the most welcoming state in the United States, and has often noted the friendship between Juárez and Lincoln. Last year, Governor Quinn declared March 21 as “Benito Juárez Day” across Illinois. People across Illinois are reminded of Juárez’s legacy with the Benito Juárez Community Academy, the Juárez sculpture in the ALPLM and the Juárez Baseball League, one of Illinois’ oldest amateur baseball clubs.
Yesterday, the two Governors cut the ribbon on the Casa de Estado de Mexico, and enjoyed a live performance of the world-famous Orquesta Sinfónica del Estado de México at Benito Juarez Community Academy in Chicago. The performance was a gift from Governor Ávila to Governor Quinn and the people of Illinois.
Governor Ávila, 45, has been the Governor of the State of Mexico since 2011, succeeding Enrique Peña Nieto, now Mexico’s President. Ávila was twice elected Mayor of Ecatepec de Morelos and a deputy of the State of Mexico’s Congress.
For details about Governor Ávila’s state visit or the history of the 150 year friendship between Mexico and Illinois, visit 150years.Illinois.gov.