The visitors are greeted in Mexico, August 1963. Sponsored by the City of New Orleans’ International Relations Committee and the Office of international Relations, the 10-day trip included visits to Cuernavaca, Taxco, Mexico City and Acapulco. Official receptions and opportunities for sightseeing were included in the itinerary.
In August of 1963, 88 people representing the City of New Orleans embarked on a “Mission to Mexico,” led by Mayor Victor Schiro. The group was primarily composed of city officials, staff and their families, but there were also members of city boards and commissions, such as the Civic Beautification Association. According to Mayor Schiro, it was the first time in New Orleans history that a group had embarked to a foreign country as goodwill representatives of the city.
The purposes of the trip were: to discuss the placement of a statue of Mexican hero Benito Juarez in the Garden of the Americas on Basin Street; to discuss plans to increase tourism and commerce between New Orleans and Mexico; and to give city officials the opportunity to observe Mexico City’s municipal facilities, administrations and procedures.
Also on the agenda: presenting the gift of a live pelican to the President of Mexico. When New Orleans couldn’t find a brown pelican nearby (even though it was only a few years before the brown pelican was officially named the Louisiana State Bird), they had Audubon Park’s superintendent George Douglass obtain one from the zoo in Fort Worth, Texas – one they assured the mayor had been born on the Louisiana Gulf Coast. The Mayor held a secret meeting at City Hall the day before departure to brainstorm a name. The decided-upon name was “El Hombrecito,” in honor of John Chase’s New Orleans citizen character “Little Man” featured in his popular States-Item cartoon.
It seems word got out about New Orleans’ lack of pelicans. A week after the Mexico visit, the mayor of St. Petersburg, Florida, reached out to Mayor Schiro with an offer to donate several brown pelicans to the city of New Orleans as a gesture of friendship.