At Southwest Airlines, we believe community is more than a place – it’s at the heart of what brings us together. Fostering an environment that encourages diversity of ideas, knowledge and actions is paramount to our operational excellence. We work tirelessly to build strong, mutually beneficial, strategic relationships. By fostering these true partnerships, Southwest proves its commitment to People in diverse groups. Such is the case with Dr. Rafael Fernández de Castro, the director of the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies at UC San Diego and his pivotal role in leadership and influence in policy. As a professor and former foreign policy adviser to Mexican President Felipe Calderón, he is an expert on bilateral relations between Mexico and the U.S. We applaud his efforts to understand and help build a better relationship between Mexico, Latin America and the United States.
As a Mexican Graduate student in the U.S., Rafael Fernández de Castro worked in the office of legendary U.S. Representative, Henry B. González, one of the first Latinos to serve in Congress. This experience changed his life, leading him to become highly interested in U.S. political institutions returning to Washington a year later to pursue a PhD in Political Science.
Mexico’s history, present and future is marked by its relationship with the United States. As with any relationship, there are problems and benefits. Throughout his career as an academic and policy maker, Dr. Fernández de Castro has always insisted that Mexico view its northern neighbor as an opportunity. In his own words, this has set him apart from many Mexican academics and diplomats who view the shared border with the U.S. as a misfortune.
Dr. Fernández de Castro’s real passion – and the goal for his professional legacy – is for Mexico and Latin America to better understand the United States. He has written three books that try to answer the question “What is the United States?”, and what Mexicans should know about its political institutions, society, and culture. He is known to be relentless with his students, especially those who will become Mexico’s future diplomats, teaching them that they can’t judge the U.S. before getting to know it.
Developing a deep understanding of the U.S. has been the trademark of the International Relations undergraduate program Dr. Fernández de Castro founded at one of the most prestigious colleges in Latin America, Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM). Today, the program’s graduates actively participate in the country’s international business sector and diplomacy corps, working every day to build a stronger North America.
When serving his country as a diplomat in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the beginning of his career, former Mexican President Felipe Calderon selected him as one of his foreign affairs advisers. In this role, Dr. Fernández de Castro was selected for the great honor of writing a white paper which proposed a roadmap for U.S.-Mexico relations during the four years that Felipe Calderon (2006-2012) and Barack Obama (2008-2016) overlapped in office.
After three years of working on Mexican foreign policy, he decided to go back to academia. During a long flight back from South Korea, Dr. Fernández de Castro told President Calderón that he wanted to return to the classroom in order to share all that he had learned, ultimately becoming a professor at the School of Global Policy and Strategy at UC San Diego and the director of the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies. His goal is to instill in his students, fellow researchers, and the CaliBaja community that there still is a lot to do to improve the relationship between the two countries.
The goal of the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies is to ensure that the research that the university produces helps resolve the two countries’ shared challenges. Ranging from bilateral education between California and Baja California and how they can inform the course of the U.S.-Mexico security cooperation. Reflecting on those who have made an impact on his mission, Dr. Fernández de Castro wanted to especially thank Southwest Airlines, who he says has “been instrumental in helping us achieve our mission of connecting leaders from government, civil society, and academia through conferences, workshops, and cultural events. We look forward to continuing this fruitful friendship between the Center and Southwest Airlines.”