Migration, Remittances, and Latin America:
A Conversation with Three Women Who are Making a Difference
Christina A. Gold, President and CEO, The Western Union Company
“In reality migration is a win-win situation for the developed and developing world.
That said there is no gainsaying the hardship migrants face. President Arroyo of the Philippines calls the migrants who are so important to her nation’s economy “modern heroes,” and I believe that’s right for migrants in every corner of the globe.
Because the loneliness, struggle and even privation they endure are very real.”
Christina A. Gold
In much of the developed world, we no longer need to travel beyond our front yards to see the impact of Latin America in our communities. Workers from Mexico, Guatemala, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Ecuador work on most American farms, in restaurants, hair salons, clothing shops, grocery and chain stores. The money those workers send home in the form of remittances has become crucial in raising the standard of living for their families.
In addition, the produce we buy comes from Guatemala, Ecuador, Peru, Chile not to mention the hundreds of thousands of cups of Latin American coffee. Yet, if you scan the press for news about Central and South America, you will come up short
Barry Featherman, President and CEO of the Inter-American Economic Council, has set an agenda to change that.
In 1999, the Inter-American Economic Council was founded as a Not for Profit Non Partisan Association. Headquartered in Washington DC, its focus is to promote economic growth and development in the Nations of the Western Hemisphere.
In 2000, the Council entered a cooperative agreement with the Organization of American States. All Council programs are conducted at the highest levels with Regional Governments including the active participation of Presidents, Prime Ministers and Cabinet Members from these countries, as well as senior executives from the private sector.
The fight against corruption, the promotion of transparency and the rule of law, health care, trade liberalization, economic integration, education and human capital are some of the issues that have figured prominently in Council Programs. Since its establishment the Council has held programs in collaboration with the White House, the Organization of American States, the Carter Center, the Inter-American Development Bank, the IberoAmerican Summit, the Andean Parliament, the United Nations, the Caribbean Development Bank and under the Auspices of/or in collaboration with the Governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Barbados, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United States of America.
I had already met two of the past recipients of the Council’s Excellence in Leadership Award, Ivonne A. Baki, President of the Andean Parliament and Ecuador’s former Ambassador to the United States; and Harriet Mayor Fulbright, President of the J. William and Harriet Fulbright Center.
So, when Featherman invited me to Washington D.C. to attend the Inter-American Economic Council’s 2008 Gala honoring Christina A. Gold, President and CEO of Western Union, the largest transferor of remittances to Latin America, I said, “Yes.”
In the grand hall of The Organization of American States (OAS) whose mission is to bring together the nations of the Western Hemisphere to strengthen cooperation on democratic values, defend common interests and debate the major issues facing the region and the world, I sat down with Ivonne A. Baki, Harriet Mayor Fulbright, Christina Gold, and Barry Featherman.
Ivonne A. Baki
WRR: Ivonne A. Baki, if I may start with you. Your work as a politician has been instrumental in promoting public/private sector cooperation in North and South America. You received the Excellence in Leadership award in 2003. What does the award mean to you in terms of your work in Latin America, especially in your role as President of the Andean Parliament?
Well, first, I’m very proud to be sitting here with two amazing women. I think I was the first woman to receive the award. It meant a lot to me because the Inter-American Economic Council works to connect those of us in the public sector with those in the private sector. This is important because if the two groups don’t work together, we cannot find workable solutions.
When I am asked about this award, I say always say the work of the Inter-American Economic Council should be taken into consideration in every country. Nothing works in government if you don’t also work with the private sector, especially if we are talking about eradication of poverty, which is one of the major causes of problems in the world.
If you’re talking about terrorism, if you talk about trade, it’s the issue of poverty that is most important. And to eradicate poverty you have to involve the private sector with the government.
WRR: Harriet Mayor Fulbright, your work with Fulbright Scholars, world leaders and educators, has taken you around the world spreading the Fulbright Center’s Mission to promote world peace and nonviolent means of resolving conflicts through international collaborations and education programs. As the 2007 recipient of the Excellence in Leadership Award, what has it meant to you meant to you in terms of the Fulbright Center’s work in Latin America?
I was overwhelmed by the award. I never expected it and I was so pleased, especially to follow Ivonne because she does such excellent work. I feel that by getting this award, it has been easier for me to speak not only about international education, but about the importance of involving education and partnership in business and international trade, especially with our neighbors in Latin America, whom I feel must be attended to, especially in this decade.
This is the mission of the Fulbright Center, to create opportunities for scholars and educators to share their work in the field and bring it to a wider audience.
Harriet Mayor Fulbright
WRR: Christina Gold, could you talk about the impact of remittances, or money transfers, in Latin America and in the U.S?
The impact of remittances is quite remarkable. But it’s really the impact on individuals, about people connecting with their families. Over 200 million people are living in a country not their own. And last year, 369 billion dollars was sent to different parts of the world.
Think of it. These remittances are not million dollar grants. These are 350-dollar checks, sent one at a time from individuals who are working so hard in other countries to help their families back home.
Remittances are not new, of course, but their size and magnitude are – with recorded remittances actually doubling in the last five years. Total remittances in Latin American and the Caribbean, according to the UN, are almost $68 billion. Mexico alone receives over $24 billion in remittances each year. Remittances equal about half of Nicaragua’s exports, 60% of Guatemala’s, 75% of exports to Honduras, and almost all of El Salvador’s exports.
WRR: How does your collaboration with the Inter-American Council impact the scope of Western Union’s work in the Americas?
It’s a wonderful and important collaboration and partnership. Our company is looking for ways to be of assistance in many parts of Latin America. Also, it enforces our commitment to Latin America, which is such an important part of our business.
WRR: Ivonne A. Baki, you have been instrumental in empowering women in Latin America. How do you see the role of women changing in the private and public business sectors, and how is that impacted by your work with Inter-American Economic Council?
I believe that women should have been involved long ago in everything, not only in politics, but every sector that makes a difference, especially when it comes to social issues.
Politics is really about serving your constituents. That is the most important thing. And sometimes when men get elected into political positions, they forget why they were elected.
But, I think more and more we are realizing that women, wherever they are, are changing the world at the grassroots level and in the political arena. For example, Christina’s socially conscious work with remittances, her effort to make sure that each and every worker has the means to send money to their families in their home countries. And Harriet’s work to further international education makes a difference because we must make sure the next generation is secure and has the opportunity to receive a good education.
In my country, Ecuador, the second source income, after oil, is the money that people working outside of Ecuador send home. That’s the same in most Latin American countries. So, I believe women can make a difference everywhere, especially now, more than ever, because we need peace. And peace is not just the absence of violence. Peace begins with families, peace with every single person who has a job and feels accepted in society.
If you ask any person, “What makes you happy?” They don’t say, “I want millions of dollars.” They say, “To have a job that makes me and my family feel dignified.”
So, that’s what we have to work for. And I think the woman, more than anyone, understands the importance of a human being, what they need to feel motivated and to have a sense of self-esteem. So, that’s why I think women should have positions at all levels of society.
WRR: Harriet Mayor Fulbright, you have spoken to many leaders in Latin America. What educational programs do you see changing the region?
I think that women who are so prevalent now in education and in a huge number of institutions of higher learning – and who constitute the majority of the students in there – are the ones making the difference at the grassroots level. In my travels, I see that they have such a tremendous fervor for improving their lot and their children’s lot.
The work of the Fulbright Center is to encourage education of all, but especially women and their children. If, through education and the exchange of culture and values, we can raise awareness in all countries, and especially with our neighbors in Latin America, we can begin to create an atmosphere for peace.
I would love to tell you how my husband Bill Fulbright defined peace because Ivonne is right, peace is so important, and it is not just a warm and fuzzy feeling. Bill called it, ‘the constant struggle of energetic and restless human beings to find consensus and compromise for their differences under the rule of law.”
That’s what peace is.
WRR: Christina A. Gold, can you talk about the relationship between Western Union and the Inter-American Economic Council?
We’re working together to establish areas to improve understanding and relations between the U.S. and Latin America. Our foundation has launched a program – Our World Our Family – in a number of areas, one of which is called, Our World Strives. And one of the most important ways to effect change is to create jobs.
The Inter-American Council and Western Union are looking at ways to help families, and that is key to economic growth and change. As Harriet and Ivonne said, women are so important because if mother is the nurturer of the family, she must feel empowered so that she can pass that empowerment on to her children. So many women are involved in creating small enterprises, something they can do and still raise their families.
And the more that we can find parts of the Americas where we can work with organizations like the Inter-American Economic Council to make that happen, it creates a positive change in families, and we see that all over the world. It’s really quite remarkable.
WRR: Barry Featherman – Could you talk a little bit about these three women and what you see as the role of women in Latin America.
In terms of women in Latin America, there’s a transformational process taking place where women in business and government are breaking the glass ceiling in larger and larger numbers. We need to provide mechanisms to empower women. Ambassador Baki organized an event recently with Dr. Muhammad Yunus where he toured Ecuador. There, he talked microfinance. When he started his microfinance program in Bangladesh, it was taboo to lend money to women. And the women, who had never handled money before, didn’t want it.
They said, “Give it to our husbands.”
And he said, “No, I don’t want to give the money to your husbands. I want to give it to you.” He explained that it’s all a question of changing mindsets. And in order to change minds, you need leaders who dare to create a new and workable path.
Ivonne Baki was the first female candidate for president of Ecuador. And she set a path for other young women. On that trip with Dr. Yunus, young girls would come up to Ivonne and say, “You’re are a role model to us. We would like to one day become president of our country.”
The important ingredient, above all else, is to have role models like Ivonne Baki, Harriet Fulbright, and Christina Gold, women who men and women can look to as leaders and visionaries.
As an organization, we feel very strongly in promoting the work of women like them. And ultimately this past year we’ve looked at how to achieve the United Nations Millennium Goals. And all segments of society have to be empowered, and that’s what we are working toward.
In 2006, Joy E. Stocke founded Wild River Review with Kimberly Nagy, an outgrowth of the literary magazine, The Bucks County Writer, of which Stocke was Editor in Chief. In 2009, as their editorial practice grew, Stocke and Nagy founded Wild River Consulting & Publishing, LLC.
With more than twenty-five years experience as a writer and journalist, Stocke works with many of the writers who appear in the pages of Wild River Review, as well as clients from around the world.
In addition, Stocke has shepherded numerous writers into print. She has interviewed Nobel Prize winners Orhan Pamuk and Muhammud Yunus, Pulitzer Prizewinner Paul Muldoon, Paul Holdengraber, host of LIVE from the NYPL; Roshi Joan Halifax, founder of Upaya Zen Center; anthropologist and expert on end of life care, Mary Catherine Bateson; Ivonne Baki, President of the Andean Parliament; and Templeton Prizewinner Freeman Dyson among others.
In 2006, along with Nagy, Stocke interviewed scientists and artists including former Princeton University President Shirley Tilghman and Dean of Faculty, David P. Dobkin for the documentary Quark Park, chronicling the creation of an award-winning park built on a vacant lot in the heart of Princeton, New Jersey; a park that united art, science and community.
She is president of the Board of Directors at the Cabo Pulmo Learning Center, Cabo Pulmo, Baja Sur, Mexico; and is a member of the Turkish Women’s International Network.
In addition, Stocke has written extensively about her travels in Greece and Turkey. Her memoir, Anatolian Days and Nights: A Love Affair with Turkey, Land of Dervishes, Goddesses & Saints, based on more than ten years of travel through Turkey, co-written with Angie Brenner was published in March 2012. Her cookbook, Tree of Life: Turkish Home Cooking will be published in March, 2017 by Quarto Books under the Burgess Lea Press imprint . Stocke and Brenner are currently testing recipes for a companion book, which will feature Anatolian-inspired mezes from around the world.
Stocke’s essay “Turkish American Food” appears in the 2nd edition of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America (OUP, 2013). The volume won both International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) for Beverage/Reference/Technical category, 2014; and the Gourmand Award for the Best Food Book of the Year, 2014.
She is the author of a bi-lingual book of poems, Cave of the Bear, translated into Greek by Lili Bita based on her travels in Western Crete, and is currently researching a book about the only hard-finger coral reef in Mexico on the Baja Sur Peninsula. She has been writing about environmental issues there since 2011.
A graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, with a Bachelor of Science in Broadcast Journalism from the Agriculture Journalism School where she also received a minor of Food Science, she participated in the Lindisfarne Symposium on The Evolution of Consciousness with cultural philosopher, poet and historian, William Irwin Thompson. In 2009, she became a Lindisfarne Fellow.
Works by Joy E. Stocke in this Edition
AIRMAIL – LETTERS FROM AROUND THE WORLD
AIRMAIL – VOICE FROM SYRIA
ARTS – ART
COLUMNS – THE MYSTIC PEN
FOOD & DRINK – ANATOLIAN KITCHEN
FREYMAN & PETERSON- Your Life is a Book: How to Craft and Publish Your Memoir
LITERATURE – BOOK REVIEWS
LITERATURE – ESSAYS
LITERATURE – MEMOIR
LITERATURE – POETRY
LIVE FROM THE NYPL
The Euphoria of Ignorance: Being Jewish, Becoming Jewish, The Paradox of Being Carlo Ginzburg
Fountain of Curiosity: Paul Holdengraber on Attention, Tension and Stretching the Limits of Conversation at the New York Public Library
Paul Holdengraber – The Afterlife of Conversation
2013 – Three Questions: Festival Director Jakab Orsos talks about Art, Bravery, and Sonia Sotomayor
Critical Minds, Social Revolution: Egyptian Activist Nawal El Saadawi
INTERVIEW – Laszlo Jakab Orsos: Written on Water
Tonight We Rest Here: An Interview with Poet Saadi Youssef
Georgian Writer David Dephy’s Second Skin
On the High Line: Diamonds on the Soles of Our Shoes
Car Bombs on the West Side, Journalists Uptown
New York City – Parade of Illuminations: Behind the Scenes with Festival Director Jakab Orsos
The Pen Cabaret 2008: Bowery Ballroom — Featuring..
Anatolian Days and Nights: A Love Affair with Turkey, Land of Dervishes, Goddesses and Saints
Daring Collaborations: Rolex and LIVE from the NYPL at the New York Public Library Composing a Further Life: with Mary Catherine Bateson
WRR@LARGE: From the Editors – UP THE CREEK
Up the Creek: Volume 1, Number 1
Up the Creek: Volume 1, Number 2.5
Up the Creek: Volume 1, Number 3.3
Up the Creek: Number 4.4
Up the Creek: Beautiful Solutions
Up the Creek: Blind Faith, July 2009
Up the Creek: Create Dangerously
Up the Creek: What Price Choice?
Up the Creek: Before and After: September 11, 2001
Up the Creek: Candle in a Long Street
Up the Creek: Crossing Cultures: Transcending History
Up the Creek: Man in the Mirror; A Map of the World
Up the Creek: Stories and the Shape of Time
Up the Creek: The Divine Road To Istanbul
Up the Creek: What It Means to Yearn
WRR@LARGE – WILD COVERAGE
UNESCO World Heritage Site Under Threat of Mega-Devlopment Sparks International Protests
The Other Side Of Abu Ghraib — Part One: The Detainees’ Quest For Justice
The Other Side of Abu Ghraib – Part Two: The Yoga Teacher Goes to Istanbul