Last month, a Claremont McKenna College Board of Trustees member and a CMC government professor were awarded the Order of the Aztec Eagle, Mexico’s highest honor for foreigners.
The trustee, David Dreier CM ’75, is a former U.S. congressman. Roderic Camp, the professor, is an academic, scholar, author of dozens of books on Mexico in both English and Spanish.
The annual award honors a small number of foreigners for their exceptional contributions to Mexico and is given by the Office of the Foreign Minister at the direction of an established committee and the approval of the president of Mexico. Past recipients include Queen Elizabeth II, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Nelson Mandela, Walt Disney, Bono, and Bill Gates.
“The Order of the Aztec Eagle is a big deal if you’re a foreigner because it is the highest award that the Mexican government can give to a non-Mexican,” Camp said. “I’ve never heard of two people getting this award at the same time from the same institution. We just became friends about a year ago.”
Camp, who grew up in Southern California, credits his mother for inspiring him to study Mexican history and culture.
“She told me when I was in elementary school that I should take as much Spanish as I could, and she was absolutely right,” he said. By his sophomore year of college, he had determined that academia was his calling, and Mexican history and politics his passion.
“I’ve written books on intellectual life in Mexico, the educational system, political leadership, the relation between entrepreneurs and the state, and religion and politics, and I’ve written a number of biographical directories of Mexican leaders,” Camp said.
His literature is widely circulated and cited in Mexican schools, academia, and politics, and Camp is regularly credited with fundamentally altering the academic and historical landscape of the country.
“I am just delighted to receive the award for what I did as a scholar and as a person who has devoted his whole career to Mexico,” Camp said. “I’m just verging on five decades of teaching and I’m already at five decades of doing research on Mexico, so I am very honored to have this award.”
Dreier made his first run for Congress at age 24 and spent the majority of his adult life serving in the House of Representatives. After graduating from CMC and attending Claremont Graduate University, he jumped at the opportunity to shape the nation’s politics. One of Dreier’s key issues was free and fair trade, and for decades he was an advocate for the North American Free Trade Agreement and other legislative issues like it.
“In 1987, exactly thirty years ago, I introduced with two of my colleagues the first legislation that called for the elimination of tariff barriers among Canada, the United States, and Mexico,” Dreier said. That legislation, he said, “encouraged a greater degree of political pluralism and economic openness that had not previously existed in Mexico, and that lead to a greater opportunity for political engagement and free and fair elections.”
Today, Dreier is deeply troubled by the Trump Administration’s legislative agenda on trade.
“If we, the United States of America, don’t shape the global economy, then we will be shaped by it,” he said. “The North American Free Trade Agreement not only has led to tremendous commercial relations, but the sociopolitical and geopolitical ramifications have been very positive.”
Last month, Dreier and Camp were honored together at the Mexican Consulate in Los Angeles. Camp described the festivities as “animated.”
Camp said winning the award alongside another person associated with CMC was “very astonishing. David was as surprised as I was; I think that’s unique.”
Next week, Camp and Dreier will serve as panelists alongside Carlos García de Alba, the Consul General of Mexico in Los Angeles, on a discussion of NAFTA’s endangerment.