2023 UTokyo LAINAC Mexico Month

2023 UTokyo LAINAC Mexico Month

Graduate Student Academic Exchange Program

1) Academic Tutoring Sessions

Program Highlights:
This program is designed to provide students of The University of Tokyo with precious opportunities to meet experts and professors of our partner universities in Mexico, receive valuable advice, build academic networks, and make use of these networks in their future research and professional activities.

Tentative Plans:

February 24 (Friday) – March 10 (Friday)
Academic tutoring sessions at Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, Tijuana, Baja California
Academic tutoring sessions at Colegio de la Frontera Norte, Tijuana, Baja California
Academic tutoring sessions at University of San Diego
Academic tutoring sessions at University of California, San Diego

March 10 (Friday) – March 17 (Friday)
Academic tutoring sessions at El Colegio de México, Mexico City
Academic tutoring sessions at Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana Azcapotzalco, Mexico City

2) Field Excursion to Tijuana

February 24 (Friday) – March 10 (Friday)

Program Highlights:
This excursion program gives UTokyo students an opportunity to engage in field research experiences based on advice given by scholars in both Mexico and Japan. The students are expected to share their experiences with scholars and students in Mexico and of UTokyo once the field excursion is done.

Location: Tijuana, Baja California Norte

  1. Visit El Colegio de la Frontera Norte
    -Library visit
    -Academic tutoring session (above)
  2. Visit La Universidad Autónoma Baja California
    -Library visit
    -Academic tutoring session (above)
  3. Visit El Gobierno de Baja California to gather information about medical tourism
  4. Visit IMAC for discovering helpful historical sources (El Instituto Municipal de Arte y Cultura)
  5. Cross the border to the United States to visit some prominent authors of key literature residing in San Diego
  6. Interview medical doctors and dentists at their offices
  7. Meetings with the people who have already participated in previous online interviews
  8. Visit La Casa de Migrante to discuss the most-updated migration trajectory phenomena with the director, Pat Murphy
  9. Visit local entrepreneurs to enhance the understanding of the urban development of Tijuana 
  10. Visit the organization of Tijuana VERDE
  11. Academic tutoring session (above)


3) UTokyo-Colmex-UNAM Student Meetings

March 10 (Friday) – March 16 (Thursday)
UTokyo-UNAM Student Meeting

Program Highlights:
This program is designed to nurture ties between UTokyo students and students of our partner universities. The participating students will decide what they will actually do in the field.

Time: TBD
Location: TBD

4) Students' Reports

Yukiko Nagata (The University of Tokyo)

After 12 hours of a direct flight from Tokyo to Mexico City, I had a five hour lay-over for my domestic flight to Tijuana which was about three-hour long. After three years of the unprecedented pandemic, I was filled with emotion to come back and greet to the country I love and am passionate about.

My fieldwork was in full swing from the first day. Initially, I was going to take uber to move around the city, as I have always done in my previous stays in Mexico. Nevertheless, due to the tense and dangerous condition of the city these days, all of my friends and acquaintances urged me not to take uber during this fieldwork. Many of them rearranged their schedules among themselves so that someone was always available for helping me to move from one place to another. With planning and talking with my dear friends, time flew by and I was gearing up for my three weeks in Mexico before I knew it!

【1】Academic Tutoring Sessions / Field Excursion to San Diego

1) After exchanging multiple emails to organize the meeting location and time which can be indeed tricky as it involved border crossing and was on Sunday, I could finally meet with Dr. Paul Ganster, the prominent scholar of U.S.- Mexico transborder history, region and politics. He has been awarded the highest recognition called Ohtli award by the Mexican Government and is a professor emeritus at San Diego State University. Getting a chance to speak with him before launching into the interviews to highly educated professionals was perfect, because he gave me advice as to how I can formulate some questions and navigate myself during the upcoming interviews, based on his abundant experiences as a fieldworker. He even gave me one of the books he co-authored which I have been studying in a heartbeat as it is full of valuable information and thorough analysis on the topic of my academic interest.

With Dr. Paul GansterSan Ysidro Port of Entry – Crossing from MX to the US

2) Dr. Roberto Reyes, a well-known professor and entrepreneur, and I have had several meetings on zoom, and he has always given me ample time and guidance for my research. I had the honor to meet him in person with his family. As he lives in San Diego and is highly involved in various sectors on both sides of the border, he listened to my sharing of the progress intently and suggested some new approaches for my research. Moreover, it was a wonderful surprise when he mentioned that he wanted to invite me to a doctors’ meeting which was going to take place three days later in Tijuana. He told me that he would be delighted to arrange the details because it would be beneficial not only for my research but also for those Mexican doctors to build connections with a young scholar who is researching on medical tourism in Mexican border cities. I gave a presentation at the meeting in which I explained about my research as well as the medical service system and the health insurance system in Japan; we discussed the possibility of establishing an alliance with regards to enhancing medical tourism between Japan and Mexico. As much as the topic sounds of an enormous scale project, I hope to continue nurturing this relationship to see where it takes us in the near future.

With Dr. Roberto Reyes & Wild Nature in Tijuana – Cactus everywhereAfter the Presentation at Colegio de Medicos & The Beautiful Scenery of San Diego

【2】Academic Tutoring Sessions / Field Excursion to Tijuana

1) I had the great honour to see Dr. David Piñera at Universidad Autónoma de Baja California (UABC) – Institute de Investigaciones Históricas again. He is a prestigious scholar and has been the only recipient of a prize called “Investigador Nacional Emérito” which is the highest level of recognition as an emeritus professor at UABC. After encountering him during my field research in 2020, he has been giving me such generous support with my studies; he has connected me with his students who have been kindly helping me with finding relevant books and articles for my thesis. This type of connection which I was fortunate enough to start building from my first encounter with him has been an asset as it is difficult to access resources at the university library when I am living in Japan. It was a precious opportunity to converse with him who has written a considerable number of books and articles on the history of various cities in Mexico and has a panoramic vision of this topic. He advised me to visit Instituto Metropolitano de Planeación (IMPLAN). When I visited there, which is an important institution for managing the city planning, I was permitted to enter thanks to my namecard of the University of Tokyo, as the security is quite strict in these types of places in Mexico. It was very kind of them to take time of their busy day to walk me through their resources. An architect, Felipe García Naranjo supported me throughout my stay in Tijuana and I am beyond grateful to him for everything.

With Dr. PiñeraWith Arq. Felipe and His Dear Friends at his HouseWith Belen at IMPLAN

2) When I visited the Colegio de la Frontera Norte (COLEF), which is a top-level research institution that has various branches in the border cities on the Mexican side including Tijuana, I was able to meet with Dr. Tito Alegria, who is one of the pioneering scholars in the border-region studies. Every time I am in Tijuana, COLEF has always been one of the key places to visit. During my last fieldwork in 2020, I got to know Eduardo Morales, who was working on his PhD at that time. Now that he has completed his studies and is teaching at COLEF, he spoke with Dr. Tito about me; as it had been very difficult to get a hold of him until this time, I felt grateful and relieved when I could finally visit him at his office and talk for about an hour and half.

With Dr. Tito Alegría at COLEFWith Eduardo and his friends from COLEF

3) It was my first time visiting the IBERO University. Thanks to Professor Raul Rodriguez Gonzalez, who had been introduced to me by Professor Carlos Paredes whom I encountered at UABC in 2020, I was able to freely access the library and was given a user ID. When I e-mailed Professor Paredes with some questions about my research, he put me in touch with his close friend, Professor Raul Rodriguez, saying that he would be the perfect person for me to talk to. I could not be more grateful for this type of network expansion, because I would not have been able to visit IBERO and become friends with the director of the library, Lic. Ketchul Humberto, had it not been for the help of those two professors. IBERO has a considerable variety of resources, and having their contacts has been of a great help.

IBERO UniversityWith Professor Raul Gonzalez & With the Director of the Library

4) I still remember landing on Tijuana for the very first time in 2016, only having exchanged emails with a couple of people. Dr. Jose Jaime Esqueda Elizondo was one of them and has always been on my side. Even though he is a professor in the mechanical engineering department, he has connected me with a myriad of people who have been helping me with my research. Thanks to his generosity and unwavering support, I feel safe and secured even though I am conducting fieldwork all alone on the other side of the globe from Japan. He had me over at his office to catch up and I had a chance to observe one of his classes. Although he even invited me to give a talk in his other class, the schedules did not align…he said that it might be possible on zoom once I go back to Japan! He and one other professor from the medicine department have passionately talked to me about their interest in establishing a partnership between The University of Tokyo and UABC. It will be a great pleasure to dedicate myself for that to come true in the near future.

The High Fence between Mexico and the U.S.With Dr. Jaime Esqueda & Prof. RoblesAutonomous University of Baja California (UABC)

5) Getting to visit IMAC (Instituto Municipal del Arte y Cultura) was a wonderful experience, as I was able to consult books, newspapers and resources that could only be found at this place. It is a historical archive which has been the first one to be open to the public. In other words, similar types of institutions that hold historical resources in Mexico are not usually accessible to scholars unless it is someone of a prestige with many years of career in that specific field. Even I was a foreigner, everyone there welcomed me, and I was fortunate to be able to explore this institution which also consists of the historical museum of Tijuana. As most of the sources date back to the early 1900’s, it was compulsory to wear a mask and gloves to not only prevent the materials from getting damaged but also to protect ourselves from the dust.

My Friends Working at IMACWith the Director of IMAC & Inside the Archive

For all my visits and encounters at UABC, COLEF and IMAC, I must emphasize how none of them would have been possible without my last fieldwork three years ago in 2020 which was also supported by LAINAC. I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude. I keenly realized the importance of accumulating experiences and nurturing the networks among the people over the course of long time. It is not something that can be formulated in an instant; it takes time and effort, but the everything that comes with the network cultivation process is precious and I am very grateful to have been able to play a role as the bridge between Japan and Mexico. I got to meet with Mtra. Atzimba Villegas, who manages the medical tourism which is one of the most significant factors that shapes the city’s development. She and her colleagues showed interest in my studies and how The University of Tokyo has a department for Area Studies particularly for Latin America.

With Atzimba and the Special Caps!Me with the View of TijuanaWith Atzimba and her Colleagues

【3】 Mexico City

The latter half of my trip in Mexico was spent in the capital, Mexico City. What a vibrant city with full of people and traffic everywhere! The jacaranda flower, which is known as the Sakura in Mexico, was in full bloom, making the city scenery very picturesque. The weather was perfect and the bright sunshine cheered me up every morning to get ready for days full of appointments with the professors and friends from the two universities which The University of Tokyo has a partnership with: National Autonomous University of Mexico and Colegio de México.

Me at UNAMThe enormous campus is well-known for its numerous mural paintings by famous artists.

1) Getting to visit Dr. Jorge Cadena-Roa at his office on my first full day in Mexico City was a perfect energy booster after an intense and fruitful stay in Tijuana. Talking with him opened new windows for me in many different ways, and I am truly grateful to my supervisor, Dr. Takeshi Wada for kindly introducing me to him. Not only did we get to discuss my research but also, he strongly recommended that I take part in one of the major events which will be taking place this October. Everything will be online and the one-week-long event is open to anything related to the field of social-science. I have already started talking about organizing a panel with some of my friends in Mexico, and I am very much looking forward to organizing the details. Words cannot express how thankful I am for the librarians at the library for dedicating me their time and knowledge for perfectly navigating the plethora of resources at UNAM. I deeply appreciate the partnership that The University of Tokyo possesses with UNAM.

With Dr. Jorge Cadena-Roa at UNAMWith the Wonderful Librarians at UNAM

2) Dr. Jorge Cadena-Roa introduced me to two other professors from UNAM: Dra. Luciana Gandini and Dra. Laura Vazquez Maggio. Interestingly, Dra. Luciana flew to Tijuana on my last day there – the day before I flew to Mexico City. She was in Tijuana to give a speech at a conference and an intensive course at COLEF. She and I were both thrilled that our schedules magically overlapped in such a way, and I had the honor to attend the conference at a symbolic cultural center in Tijuana. I talked with her after the event, and even though it was only for a little moment, she kindly agreed to continue the conversation via zoom. With Dra. Laura Vazquez, who is a professor from the economics department at UNAM who also studies about Mexican migration to the U.S., I had a great time over a cup of coffee on UNAM campus. It has been a blessing to encounter those two professors who have generously shared a large file full of readings that are relevant to my research. They said they would love to come visit Japan, and we hope to plan some events together!

With Dra. Luciana GandiniTraditional Mexican Artwork “Alebrije”With Dra. Laura Vazquez

3) Dr. Erick Serna Luna and I first met when he came to participate in one of the previous events hosted by LAINAC in Japan three years ago, right before the pandemic hit. Ever since then, we have stayed in contact, and he was one of the first people whom I wrote to as soon as my plan to Mexico emerged. It was a fabulous opportunity to see him again, especially because we had both given a presentation during our first meeting in 2020; this meant that we could pick up from where we left off and share what we have been up to with our researches. Being able to talk with Dr. Erick who had also been working on this PhD when we first met three years ago is encouraging for me, because the visions and words he shares come from someone who is only a little ahead of where I am in my career. He gave me a lot of encouraging advice and we talked about the possibility of holding a forum at a conference in the near future. It will be wonderful to continue staying in touch and working together to develop an academic network between Mexico and Japan.

With Dr. Erick Serna Luna in CoyoacánIt was great catching up over some coffee and churros

4) Dra. Pilar Rey at UABC, whom I encountered in Tijuana, not only spared about an hour out of her busy day but also shared three of her contacts with me when I told her that I was heading to Mexico City. As I had been eagerly hoping to meet with more people from UNAM, her generosity meant so much to me. Before I knew it, I was exchanging messages with Maestra Ana Paulina Matamoros, Dra. Leonor Reyes Pavón and Dra. Erika Alcantara García. They welcomed me with such an open heart and organized a lunch party at the department of Maestra Ana Paulina. Even though their majors are not exactly the same as mine because two of them are from architecture and another is from history, I had a wonderful time getting to know them and it sure was such an inspiring opportunity for me as the three of them are of about the same age as me. All of us enjoyed sharing our academic interests and they are interested in getting to know more about Japan. There are countless occasions where I feel so touched by the warm-heartedness of the people whom I encounter in Mexico, and this event was definitely one of them. Mtra. Ana Paulina said “Mi casa es tu casa” which literally means “My house is your house”. I am grateful for the Amistad that piqued and am excited to expand this network over the years to come not only for myself but also for The University of Tokyo and UNAM.

At the Lunch Party with the UNAM ProfessorsThe Artwork – Map of Mexico

5) El Colegio de México always has a dignified atmosphere and every time I visit there, I can sense the academic prestige of that institution. I had the honor to visit Dr. Boris Graizbord, a professor at the center of demographic studies and urban development. Initially, it was going to be a rather quick meeting but by the time we finished talking, it had been almost two hours. He enlightened me with his abundant ideas and gave me a lot of advice of some key literature. He did not know about the partnership between COLMEX and The University of Tokyo, but was very pleased to learn it. He had been introduced by his brother, Dr. Carlos Graizbord, another prominent scholar. Dr. Graizbord told me that he was struck by my passion towards the topic of my thesis and he hopes that I continue pursuing my research with that high enthusiasm to complete my PhD career. He even offered the possibility of having me as a visiting scholar at COLMEX in the future if I am interested in that option. I would also be delighted to realize an event between the two universities.

The Entrance of Colegio de MéxicoWith Dr. Boris Graizbord

6) One of the highlights of my stay in Mexico City was that I was able to reconnect with the majority of the participants from Japan Mexico month from COLMEX back in 2018. Thanks to the internet and the social media, I have been able to nurture my friendship with them over all these years, even during covid. It was wonderful to reconnect with them to catch up. They took me to their favorite places in the city, which is another thing that I am grateful for, because exploring the city with those who are from there provides you with a whole new set of exciting discoveries. Their dedication and passion for learning Japanese and pursuing their research interest utilizing their language skills have always inspired me, and I appreciate that I share three languages in common with them. I am confident that our friendship will continue developing, thanks to the opportunities to meet and spend time together in Mexico and Japan.
I met Carlos Viveros Torres and Bernardo Olmedo at COLMEX in 2017. The following year, they came to The University of Tokyo on UTokyo-COLMEX program for a short stay. Nayelli Jacques, Erick Del Rio, Geo Castillo, Camila de la Vega and Edisabel Marrero Tejeda also were participants in the same program. It was very thoughtful of them to accommodate their schedules to mine. I am very glad I was able to see them again. No matter how convenient SNS is, seeing each other again face to face is just never the same! During 2018-2019, Carlos and Bernardo were in Japan to do their one-year exchange at Tsukuba University. That said, it was our fifth time getting together! One of the fascinating points about meeting with my friends from Mexico is that it feels as if no time has passed from the moment we see each other and hug each other. Because their researches were related to Japan, all of them are interested in coming back to Japan to either work or pursue their PhD studies in the near future. As an ambassador to Mexico from the other side of the world, it is an eye-opening experience for me to have friends who are interested in studying about the country of my origin. They know Japan so well that we always make a little joke saying that I know about Mexico more than them and they know about Japan more than me! It seems to me that one of the beautiful aspects of establishing relationships through those programs such as LAINAC is to go beyond the academia and stay close friends for the rest of our life!

clockwise from top left
My First Time – Coconut Water! / One of the Many Libraries at UNAM / With Camila at COLMEX / With Nayelli / Delicious Ceviche 😊/ With Erick, Geo and their Friends / The beautiful UNAM campus / Exploring the Handicrafts Market in Coyoacán / With Edisabel from Cuba / With Carlos and Bernardo

I could also reconnect with Antony F. Mérida, Anely Guerrero and Virginia Lorenzo Holm. They are my great friends whom I have been fortunate enough to make various colorful memories with, all thanks to LAINAC and my supervisor, Dr. Takeshi Wada. To list a few, Antony, Anely and I have spent time together in Tokyo and Yamanashi at excursions in the past. Virginia, who is a brilliant young scholar from Uruguay, and I first met in COLMEX and have also travelled to Oaxaca during the previous Mexico Month hosted by LAINAC. I also made a new friend from COLMEX, Arisbeth Hernández Tapia. I treasure all of my friends whom I have mentioned above, and I think that all the pictures perfectly captured our precious Amistad.
Last but not least, I am truly grateful to my supervisor, Dr. Takeshi Wada and LAINAC for sponsoring this trip and giving me the opportunity to travel to Mexico as an ambassador from The University of Tokyo. ¡Muchas gracias!

With VirginiaWith Antony and ArisbethWith Anely in front of the UNAM library

Program Sponsors: UTokyo LAINAC; UTokyo Strategic Partnerships Project