House of Mexico cottage under construction in late March in Balboa Park. Image via Facebook

By Enrique Morones

This year has been very difficult and challenging for all of us. As we close out 2020, I am horrified and ashamed at how low a small group of people will go in order to steal an election. As election day approached, with a record number of voters and excitement in the community and the realization of a lifelong dream, it happened: an election stolen.

The heist happened thanks to fake news, failure to count every vote, elimination of candidates who had been announced, removal of voters who had been confirmed, refusal to follow established guidelines, failure to honor one’s word, corruption, nepotism, voter manipulation, harassment, denial of neutral observers, voter suppression and mucho mas.

This episode represents the worst of the American spirit. It’s shameful. Am I talking about the presidential election? Hell no. That was the most transparent election in decades. And the best man won.

Instead, I am of course talking about what is happening now, with the House of Mexico. The board election for HOM — which I founded in 1996 — was recently postponed and hijacked at the last minute.

I recall how, in 1995, as I walked through beautiful Balboa Park, I looked for a House of Mexico amongst the international cottages of “Pacific” relations. Y nada. Que paso, I thought to myself. Where is the House of Mexico?

I wanted to celebrate Mexico in Balboa Park. I remember seeing our beautiful Mexican flag waved proudly throughout the city. But then I recalled — that was not for the House of Mexico. Rather, it was many of us from San Diego, and throughout California, protesting in the streets against the very divisive and nativist Proposition 187, which was later deemed unconstitutional.

The outrageous ballot initiative, which was promoted by Gov. Pete Wilson, would have denied undocumented children the right to receive a public school education and non-emergency health care.

At the time, I asked: Wasn’t this supposed to be “America’s Finest City”? Is that how we treat “our poor, our tired, our huddled masses” in such a spiteful manner? Wasn’t this a country of immigrants?

I was puzzled. As I walked along the international cottages of Balboa Park, I thought maybe I could find an explanation, a sign in Spanish in San Diego’s biggest tourist attraction, Balboa Park. But sorry, amigo, no signage in Espanol and no “mi casa es tu casa.” Que pasa?

So as president of the San Diego County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and director of Latino and international marketing for the San Diego Padres, we joined the House of Sweden for a “mixer” in Balboa Park and in 1996 we celebrated Mexican Independence — with no casita to call our own. Gracias, Sweden.

I was extremely busy at the time. I was helping to lead the efforts — for the San Diego Padres — to have regular season games in Monterrey, Mexico, open a Padre store in Tijuana, and create “Domingos Padres Tecate” with buses across the border. And in my “spare time,” I also helped provide food and water to migrants living in the canyons of North County, later saving the lives of desperate migrants crossing in the desert.

I continued to push for a House of Mexico in Balboa Park. It was challenging to say the least. There was not a welcoming spirit in San Diego. There was a racist “light up the border” at the international border.

There were hundreds — and eventually thousands — of men, women and children dying in the desert as the U.S. built a wall on the southern border, but no one built a House of Mexico in Balboa Park. There had been failed previous attempts. But nothing had come of them. Nada.

Enrique Morones

One by one, I gathered supporters, including the Mexican Consulate, the Hispanic Chamber, Radio Latina, the San Diego Padres, Mexico Tourism, my family, then friends. In the months that followed, once I was no longer with the Padres and had substantially grown my non-profit, Border Angels, I again focused on establishing a House of Mexico.

But I continued to face many challenges. I eventually turned to Mike Aguirre, who was then city attorney. I mentioned our situation and the fact that, let’s call him “Alan””— then the President of the House of Pacific Relations in Balboa Park — had been “muy malo” on the issue and not at all friendly to me or Mexico.

Soon it was “Adios, Alan.” And wonderful people like Mateo Camarillo, and Carolyn and Gary Flor of the House of the USA who helped us get an audience with HPR to see if we could be voted in.

But wait, the House of Mexico? There was incredible tension and mean-spirited comments made about Mexico during the vote to let us in HPR and even the SDPD was called to be in the Hall of Nations, to keep the peace amongst the Houses of “PACIFIC” relations. The vote was close but we were voted in to a half-filled hall because several people left so as to not have to witness our “welcoming.”

Ay caramba! If this is “America’s Finest City,” what’s next? Children in cages? Oh wait, that came latter. It’s happening now, in fact.

I was soon elected, then unanimously re-elected, as board president for HOM. The first few years were very successful. We grew the House thanks to our team, later with Eunice Munros as president we continued growth.

But our success was short-lived as soon one of the seven deadly sins took over: envy. Soon, there was a “hostile takeover attempt.” People left the HOM and a once thriving group was suddenly lacking competent leadership. Things were so bad that we could not even get people to run for the board.

As the person who would always man a table for the House of Mexico at the annual Latino Film Festival, I met Bertha Hernandez. She joined HOM and soon thereafter ran for president. She did an incredible job. We had our best mixer ever at the Mingei Museum. We had a first-class HOM dinner at the Prado restaurant, and we began the see members finally returning.

But after Bertha’s tenure ended, the House of Mexico was compromised. With no board leadership, there was a major drop in support. A small group of us decided to celebrate Mexican Independence at Balboa Park’s Organ Pavilion. I was also asked to to lead fundraising efforts. And this year, I was asked to run for president of the HOM board, but I settled for parliamentarian in order to focus on bylaws and transparency. Now I withdraw my candidacy for president.

As corruption prevailed on the board of directors, a hostile takeover occurred again. The House was divided. It was no longer one. Chaos prevailed.

So here we are now with this most recent election being hijacked — and a sham election being passed off as a legitimate one.

It has been sad to see the desperation of a small group of ego-driven right-wingers and their rhetoric hijack a movement that was created not for people like them but for our children and for the betterment of the region.

We will rise again. So proud to see the overwhelming majority of House of Mexico members not validate this sham election.

We need to stand together so that the House of Mexico can rise again!

Enrique Morones is founder of the House of Mexico and The Committee of 100.

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