Mexico and the United States - Vol. 1

Mexico and the United States - Vol. 1

Mexico and the United States - Vol. 1

Mexico and the United States - Vol. 1

Excerpt

Porfirio Díaz, president of Mexico from 1877 to 1880 and again from 1884 to 1911, famously observed [Poor Mexico, so far from God, so close to the United States.]The view of the United States as a neocolonial power exploiting its poorer neighbor still persists. However, even at the time, Diaz's observation was more memorable than it was accurate. It ignored the rich and positive cultural exchange that had existed between the neighbors for centuries, predating the border itself. It disguised the eagerness with which Mexican leaders, including Diaz himself, encouraged U.S. investment in the Mexican economy and the economic opportunity that the United States offered Mexican workers and exporters.

The 2,000-mile border emerged in the midnineteenth century after an expansionist United States wrested control of the Southwest from Mexico. Almost at once the border was characterized as dividing the developed from the developing world, the rich from the poor, the orderly from the lawless, the dynamic from the lazy. In this view the northern neighbor is the economic, cultural, and military powerhouse of the world, and Mexico's presence on its doorstep is a source of trouble: illegal immigration, drug trafficking, cheap produce. Again, such a view owes more to received attitudes than to reality. For hundreds of thousands of people on either side of the border—the 40,000 who cross daily from Tijuana to San Diego alone, for example—the dividing line is not a barrier but a porous membrane that is crossed regularly for work, for shopping, for nightlife or a soccer match.

Elsewhere in the United States, too, developments indicate a new attitude toward Mexico that reflects changing demographics. The 2000 U.S. Census counted more than 20 million Mexicans or Americans of Mexican descent living in the United States, making Mexicans the fastest-growing segment of the Hispanic population. Most Mexican Americans—or Chicanos—live in Texas and California, but there are sizable populations in many

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