The Arizona-Mexico Commission has strengthened Arizona’s relationship with Mexico, especially Sonora, for six decades now. But, where did it all start?
Former Arizona Governor Paul Fannin founded what is now called the Arizona-Mexico Commission in 1959 following his election.
After his appointment, Gov. Fannin attended the Arizona-Sonora International Conference in Tucson held by the University of Arizona and the University of Sonora and in Hermosillo.
The intent of the conference was to expand cultural and trade relations of the two states.
“Among the things that people were discussing [was] the possibility of relationships that could be developed. And so, my dad proposed- with the consent of everybody there- that he appoint a real committee that people from Sonora and people from Arizona would develop and explore specific objectives, things that could be done to enhance and further develop the relationship between the two places, Sonora and Arizona,” Governor Fannin’s son, retired lawyer and former U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic P. Robert “Bob” Fannin said.
Gov. Fannin and the Governor of Sonora at the time, the Honorable Álvaro Obregón were motivated by the conference and decided to create a permanent Arizona-Sonora Committee.
However, Gov. Fannin knew the value of maintaining and building a relationship with Arizona’s neighbors in Sonora before his political career.
Bob Fannin explained that his father, Gov. Fannin, and his father’s brother had a business that involved propane gas tanks, gas appliances and chemical fertilizer.
There was a high-demand for Gov. Fannin’s business in Sonora, Mexico that led to a partnership with business people in Mexico.
“That’s how my dad was really heavily involved in business with Mexican citizens,” Bob Fannin explained. “It was a good relationship and I think it may have been in part to my dad’s desire to have that situation grow, to help Arizona and increase trade with Mexico which is really blossoming.”
Gov. Fannin wanted to open doors for Arizonans and Sonorans so both could benefit from economic opportunities.
“Well, I think to my dad if you have a worthwhile economic relationship, it’s really necessary to have an understanding of the other,” Fannin said.
He added, “As my dad would say, ‘No good business man would disagree with the proposition that to have a worthwhile economic relationship, there needs to be an understanding based on respect between the two parties.’”
At the first meeting after the committee was formed, leaders from both Arizona and Sonora embraced the importance of the growing relationship.
“During that meeting, my dad overheard one of the Sonoran business leaders or people say those words: ‘God let us be neighbors, let us be good neighbors,’” Fannin explained.