Mattis’ Mexico Visit Kicks Off Hispanic Heritage Month

DoD News, Defense Media Activity

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis recently visited Mexico to participate in official activities and mark the country’s Independence Day celebration.

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis stands with Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, Mexico’s secretary of national defense, during an armed forces parade in Mexico City, Sept. 15, 2017. DoD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr

His trip also correlates with Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15 to October 15 and celebrates the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.

Here are a couple of stats to highlight the importance of the Hispanic-American community:

  • According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of July 1, 2016, the Hispanic population of the U.S. was 57.5 million. Hispanics constitute 17.8 percent of the nation’s total population, which makes them the country’s biggest ethnic or racial minority.
  • According to the Defense Manpower Data Center’s June 2017 data, 197,500 Hispanics or Latinos are currently on active duty in the U.S. military. More than 15,500 are commissioned officers.
  • According to the Defense Civilian Personnel Advisory Service, nearly 45,700 Hispanics or Latinos work as DoD civilians.
  • In 2015, census data showed there were 1.2 million Hispanics or Latinos who were veterans of the U.S. armed forces.

Hispanic Americans have brought traditions, innovation and leadership to our nation. These Americans have and continue to serve as members of our Armed Forces and as DoD civilians. From the Revolutionary War to present-day missions around the world, Hispanics have been integral to the fortitude of the total force. We thank them for their service!

Defense Partnership

Members of Mexico’s Naval Special Forces arrive in Barbados to train in Exercise Tradewinds, June 5, 2017. U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Garrett L. Dipuma

The United States and Mexico have a long-standing defense relationship. In World War II, the Mexican expeditionary air force supported allied efforts in the Pacific. More recently, the U.S. and Mexican military have worked together during joint exercises, including Exercise Unitas — one of the longest-standing naval exercises in the world — as well as Tradewinds and Amalgam Eagle.

The U.S., Mexico and Canada are cooperating in the North American Defense Ministerial Forum to expand the region’s capacity to collaboratively address regional challenges to include humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, cooperation in international defense organizations and security support to Central America and the Caribbean.

Growing Regional Leadership

Maj. Gen. Alfonso Duarte, commander of 2D Military Zone, Mexico, places a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery on behalf of the Fight Army Inter-American Relations Program on June 15, 2010. Army photo by Adrienne M. Combs

Mexico plays a growing role in regional global affairs. It has assumed the presidency of the Inter-American Defense Board, the oldest regional military and defense organization in the world. Together, the U.S. and Mexico co-hosted the Central American Security Conference in Mexico in 2017. In 2018, Mexico will host the 18th Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas.

Mexico has also participated as an observer in peacekeeping operation efforts in Lebanon, Western Sahara and Haiti. It is currently participating in peacekeeping in Colombia.

Sports Diplomacy

For the past two years, Mexico’s military academy – Heroico Colegio Militar – has played the sprint team from the Naval Academy in American football, after the collegiate football season is over. The exhibition games have rotated yearly from Mexico to the U.S. and have helped build relationships between the militaries. The guest team has stayed at the host academy during their visit, they dined with their counterparts, and they were guests at a celebratory reception after the game.

U.S. Naval Academy midshipmen take part in pre-game events for an exhibition sprint football game with their Mexican counterparts at Heroico Colegio Militar, Mexico City, Mexico, Nov. 14, 2015. DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando


Mexico is a huge boon to the U.S. economy. It’s our third largest trading partner, bringing in $525.1 billion in total goods trading in 2016. When it comes to tourism, Mexico is the No. 1 destination for U.S. travelers. More than 20 million U.S. tourists visited the country in 2013, according to the Department of State. Mexican tourists visiting the U.S. numbered more than 14 million that same year and spent about $10.5 billion.

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Mattis’ Mexico Visit Kicks Off Hispanic Heritage Month