April 23, 1999

First Ladies of Border Areas Attend Children's Summit

By Michelle Koidin

EL PASO, Texas - Texas first lady Laura Bush and the first ladies of four Mexican states have signed a declaration pledging to work toward improving children's health along the Texas-Mexico border.

The first ladies made the commitment Tuesday at a new event called the First Ladies' Children's Summit in El Paso. First ladies from several cities and towns along the border also attended the two-day event.

The first ladies acknowledged that no concrete initiatives were spawned from the gathering.

``This type of meeting is to get to know each other,'' said Angela Stelzer de Canales, wife of Nuevo Leon, Mexico, Gov. Fernando Canales Clariond.

She said their work has only just begun, but they already have scheduled a second First Ladies' Children's Summit, to be held next April in Monterrey, Mexico.

``What we hope to do is stay in contact with each other,'' said Mrs. Bush, wife of Texas Gov. George W. Bush.

Bush, a Republican, is considering running for president. His presidential exploratory committee has raised $7.6 million so far.

By signing the declaration, the first ladies agreed to: support initiatives to improve the health and education of border children; work to get all border children immunized against vaccine-preventable diseases; support nutrition programs; and provide information on early brain development and the importance of language, literacy and reading.

The women said they recognize the special needs of border communities, with all their complex health and social challenges.

``Just because we are poor doesn't mean we do not care,'' said Kenna Ramirez, wife of El Paso Mayor Carlos Ramirez, and co-host of the summit.

The gathering evolved from a conversation between Mrs. Ramirez and Mrs. Bush sometime last year. About 250 spouses of governors and mayors of border areas were invited, and organizers said more than 20 showed up.

Among the attendees were: Patricia Martinez, wife of Chihuahua, Mexico, Gov. Patricio Martinez; Maria Antonieta Morales de Yarrington, wife of Tamaulipas, Mexico, Gov. Tomas Jesus Yarrington Ruvalcaba; and Lucrecia Solano de Montemayor, wife of Coahuila, Mexico, Gov. Rogelio Montemayor Seguy.

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