Artur Sarukhanian’s entry form into Mexico, 1930
Grazed by a bullet
Like many who escaped the Genocide, Angele owed her survival to a series of miracles. In 1915, when mass deportations of Armenians began in the Ottoman Empire, Angele’s family was rounded up by the Turks and deported to the coast, where they were to be executed. “My great-grandmother – who did not survive the Genocide – bound [Angele’s] chest and cut her hair so the soldiers would not realize she was a woman,” Arturo recalls.
Most of Angele’s family was shot in front of her eyes. Angele herself had a bullet graze her forehead and was left for dead in a ditch with other corpses.
She managed to escape along with her sister, an uncle and aunt, and was later aided by Greek fishermen, who helped her to cross over to Thessaloniki.
Sarukhan recalls that he spent a lot of time with his grandmother, but like many survivors she did not dwell on the past. “She was usually very quiet about her experiences,” Arturo says. “She would mainly speak about my grandfather… and it was actually my father and aunt who would talk to me about what my grandmother lived through during the Genocide. My grandmother’s references to the Genocide were usually to admonish us when we didn't eat or left food on our plates.”
Responsibility to protect
While a small number of proud and active Armenians do live in Mexico at present, many members of the Mexican-Armenian community that formed as a result of the Genocide moved on to the United States or Canada after World War II. Arturo Sarukhan, however, feels his Armenian heritage has been crucial to shaping his career in Mexican diplomacy.
Sarukhan studied international relations and history in Mexico and received his postgraduate degree in American foreign policy from John Hopkins University (SAIS) in Washington. He joined the Mexican Foreign Service in 1993 and came up to Washington as the Mexican embassy’s chief of staff. He also served as chief of policy planning in the Foreign Ministry and the consul general of Mexico in New York City. He then went on to head one of the principal embassies in Washington.
The experiences of his ancestors served to guide him as a diplomat, he says. His Armenian background “formed my commitment to key principles of a 21st century rules-based international system, such as the responsibility to protect (or R2P) and the need for historical memory as the basis for reconciliation.”