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Migration and sports in Mexico

Copyrights: Mexican National Olympic Committee

Migration and sports in Mexico

The Mexican Olympic Committee is teaming up with refugee agencies and organizations to change the attitudes and perceptions of refugees among local Mexicans, and to build cohesion in communities. 

Due to its geographical location, Mexico has historically been a place where migrants from Central and South America stop over, while trying to reach the United States of America and Canada, in search of better living conditions. Likewise, we are also the country of origin of thousands of migrants who, year after year, move to the north. Twelve million Mexicans are estimated to live abroad, mainly in the United States (97%), according to the Institute of Mexicans Abroad at the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Relations.

By being a country of origin, transit, destination, and return of migrants, we are sensitive to the vulnerability of these groups. The border cities to the north and south of the country have important settlements of displaced peoples of several nationalities who, owing to multiple reasons, cannot return to their countries of origin or continue their journey to the north.

It is a painful reality that the displaced are victims of discrimination, misunderstanding, and intolerance from both citizens and the authorities themselves, mainly because of fear and ignorance. In 2017, the National Autonomous University of Mexico carried out the National Migration Survey, which found that one in five Mexicans believe that foreigners weaken our traditions, four out of ten people would not rent a room in their homes to a foreigner, and practically half of the population would not agree that a person born abroad becomes president of the republic even if they have got Mexican parents.

Recognizing this problem, the Mexican Olympic Committee has made an effort to approach displaced people and join the initiatives that target them, including the International Olympic Committee and the United Nations Refugee Agency.  We have come together, aware that we have at hand one of the most powerful instruments of wellbeing, union, and solidarity: sport.

Both Olympism and sport are meeting points for people. The Olympic Games carry a message beyond borders, and sport can be of great value in recovering the social structure in refugee communities and areas with high migrant population traffic, such as border cities to the north and south of the country.

We have also partnered with the National Council to Prevent Discrimination to conduct integration and awareness-raising activities in the cities of Tapachula, Chiapas, and Tijuana, Baja California, with sport as the main axis. These campaigns have allowed communities to come together to get information about the migrants' countries of origin, collectively identify themselves, and receive information on human rights. And all of this has been done while engaging in various physical and sporting challenges, to help promote a sense of community.

These activities are aimed at obtaining the three key results for the protection of migrants and refugees:

1. Social inclusion
2. Social cohesion
3. Psychosocial wellbeing

Undoubtedly, we still have a huge task ahead. And the global COVID-19 pandemic has only complicated things. In January 2020, we carried out activities in Tijuana, without knowing that the situation would change completely in only a couple of months. The global situation that exists due to the pandemic has set all these activities on pause. Hence, we will have to resume as soon as the required security conditions have been established, and will have to adapt the activities to also attend the psychosocial consequences of confinement, isolation, and fear. We are going to find a new reality and it is essential to work on the tools to face it.

[This article has been edited by the Operating Team.]


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Jimena Saldaña


Friday, September 18, 2020 - 13:54