Sergio Aguayo headshot for alumni profile.

Sergio Aguayo: Foreign Fulbright Student Program Alumnus

After witnessing the grassroots civil rights activism taking place in the United States during the 1970’s, Aguayo returned from his Foreign Fulbright Student Program to Mexico with a commitment to fight political struggles in democratic and non-violent ways.

Over thirty years ago, Sergio Aguayo embarked on his Fulbright Foreign Student Program. After obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations at El Colegio de Mexico, Sergio received a Fulbright grant to pursue graduate studies in the United States. When asked why he chose to leave Mexico during the late 1960’s and pursue higher education in the United States, Sergio explained that he was overcome with a “growing interest in the world as a whole.” Sergio grew up surrounded by anti-American sentiments stemming from the nationalist Mexican Revolution, but he chose to leave revolution behind and earn a Master’s degree, and then a PhD, from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.

Sergio’s experience in the Fulbright Foreign Student Program was truly transformative and helped to mold the professor, activist, and columnist that he is today. When Sergio left Mexico, he was hesitant to trust foreigners, especially Americans. He admitted that during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s Mexico was “full of stereotypes, because we had been isolated from the world, notwithstanding our geopolitical location. We were so parochial!” He did not expect to find himself in an America that was brewing with self-criticisms and torn over issues of civil rights, foreign affairs, and political scandals. He was met with an influx of differing ideas, opinions, and ideologies. He met not only with Americans, but also with scholars and colleagues of other nationalities: “Shattering the walls of prejudice, I have understood something simple and profound: we are part of the world.” His experience as a Fulbright Foreign Student transformed his view of America, and Mexico as well.

After the conclusion of his studies in the United States, Sergio brought a new perspective and fresh inspiration for grassroots civil rights activism to Mexico. He founded multiple human rights NGO’s, many of which are still key players in Mexico’s democratic and non-violent fight against political struggles. He established and led SEDEPAC, Civic Alliance, and the Mexican Human Rights Academy. Sergio exemplifies leadership not only through his activism and organization building, but also academically and intellectually. Since his return to Mexico, he has been a professor at the Center for International Studies, El Colegio de México. He has lectured at other universities in Mexico, the US, and Europe. To date, Sergio has written 29 books, 18 monographs, 94 academic articles or book chapters, 1,600 journalistic publications, and he has taught 47 academic courses. His academic and intellectual work revolves around post-WWII Mexico and the evolution of security, political systems, and human rights. He has received nearly forty national and international academic honors, including the National Social Sciences Award and the “Stephen P. Dugan” International Understanding Award granted by the Institute of International Education (IIE). Sergio has also received national and international civic awards. In 2012, he was named one of the "Quien 50": The people who Move Mexico, granted by Grupo Expansión. Earlier, in 1997, he was one of TIME Magazine’s “People of the Year.” Additionally, Sergio has received numerous awards for his journalistic endeavors.

Sergio began writing for newspapers in 1971 and continues to regularly share his thoughts with the public. He was a founding member of the newspaper La Journada. For decades, he has published an uninterrupted column discussing his research areas in a public outlet to promote democracy and human rights in Mexico. Since 1996, Sergio has been writing a weekly column in El Reforma, which is disseminated to fourteen other daily newspapers in Mexico and the United States. Recently, he began working on a biweekly column for Proceso where he discusses civility and violence. He is also featured in the Table on Political Debate with Carmen Aristégui, Radio MVS and he has been a panelist on Primer Plano, a weekly television program, for over a decade. Sergio organized a talk series, Cambio - OnceTV México, to address transitional issues facing Mexico in a free and fair space. As Sergio continues to promote his ideas through print and televised news media outlets, he is also quite active online through his personal website and social media accounts.

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