Trump’s Rhetoric Awakens New Spirit, New Questions In Mexico

More than 500 people, both Mexican citizens and U.S. expatriates, took to the streets of San Miguel de Allende in the central Mexican state of Guanajuato on Feb. 12 to express their pride in Mexico and protest Trump’s words. (Photo by Emily Zentner/Cronkite Borderlands Initiative)

By Emily Zentner

Since the North American Free Trade Agreement was signed between Mexico, the U.S. and Canada in 1993, Mexico has experienced rapid economic growth. As education levels and financial status have risen and a booming aeronautics and auto industry has emerged, Mexicans now want to be seen as an equal partner to the U.S. — and to have the respect that comes along with it.

But since the heated rhetoric of the U.S. presidential campaign that led to the election of President Donald Trump, a shift has happened in the relationship between the United States and Mexico, as U.S. words and policy have sparked anger and a drive for independence within Mexico.

A new economic future

In the 24 years since NAFTA was negotiated, Mexico’s annual gross domestic product has more than doubled to $1.144 trillion in 2015, according to the World Bank . Education has been on the rise, as Mexico had the fastest growth in high school graduation rates from 2000 to 2011 among countries involved in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, according to the organization.

These changes have left is a Mexico fundamentally different than that of 20 years ago. But one thing that hasn’t changed is the deep-seated trade relationship between Mexico and the U.S.

The No. 1 source of Mexico’s imports, and No. 1 destination of its exports, is the United States, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Observatory of Economic Complexity. For the U.S., Mexico is No. 2 in both categories.

While a clear economic disparity exists between the countries, the gap has been closing as Mexico’s GDP rises and companies like Ford and Bombardier move manufacturing into Mexico, further connecting the two countries. The U.S.-Mexican relationship is sure to continue, but some see the friction caused by Trump’s election as an opportunity for Mexico to begin to forge other fundamental economic and diplomatic partnerships, particularly in Europe, Asia and other parts of America.

“I really think that it is a great opportunity for Mexico to review the current state of affairs with the United States and to find opportunities of diversification in terms of a strong economy, a strong port of exports and imports, because the height of alliances based on NAFTA is, of course, with the U.S. economy,” said Rodolfo Hernandez, senior adviser to the Center for U.S.-Latin America Initiatives at the University of Texas at Dallas.

This diversification can already be seen in Mexico’s trade relationship with the European Union. Mexico signed a Free Trade Agreement with the union in 2000, and since then the flow of goods between them has grown from €26 billion to €53 billion, according to the European Commission. The two partners have made moves to accelerate the process of updating their trade agreement since Trump’s election.

With Mexico’s growing and globalizing economy, what many are demanding now is respect from their northern neighbor — something they feel has already been lacking during Trump’s presidency.

Mario Lopez had this in mind when he decided to organize a march in San Miguel de Allende, a city in Central Mexico that hosts a large population of U.S. expatriates, after Trump’s election. Lopez’s march was a part of a larger series of nationwide marches on Feb. 12 organized by the Vibra México (“Mexico Moves”) movement.

Of the 520 participants that Lopez counted at his march, however, about 400 were expatriates there to show their opposition to Trump. For the 120 Mexicans who were there, Lopez said it was a chance to participate in a larger national movement to demand respect and show pride in their country. And while he believes strongly in continued collaboration between the two countries, he also said that it is time for things to change.


-Expatriates in San Miguel de Allende talk about relations with the U.S. (Cronkite Borderlands Initiative audio by J McAuliffe)

“Our relationship.… We need each other,” he said. “But I think it’s good to recognize each other as different countries and cultures, now that we are moving into another age. We want respect.”

While the fundamental relationship between the U.S. and Mexico is in a state of flux right now, many hope that, coming out of it, Mexico will be a stronger, more independent power.

“I think in the long run Mexico is going to be in a more equal base … with the United States and to be presented as a more independent partner and neighbor with respect to the U.S.,” Hernandez said. “So I think after all, everything, this is a good opportunity to review the circumstance and to present Mexico eventually in a stronger and more powerful place in terms of interacting with the United States.”

History always plays a role

While Trump’s presidency has presented new challenges to the U.S.-Mexican relationship, the strain between the nations is hardly new.

Mexico’s recent demands for respect are informed both by Trump’s inflammatory words and policies – from talking about the “rapists” coming to the U.S. from Mexico to demanding the deportation of the “bad hombres” to threatening to build a wall along the Southern border – but also by the countries’ long history.

The event that sits at the forefront of many Mexicans’ minds is the Mexican-American War of the 1840s, and in particular of the loss of Mexican territory to the U.S. that followed.

In signing the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo to end the war with the U.S., Mexico ceded nearly half of its territory in giving the U.S. ownership of California as well as what was left of Mexican territory in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and Nevada.

For Lopez, there is a definite connection between the feelings then and the feelings of many after the election of Trump, as Mexicans try to adjust to the changing relationship between the two nations.

“We are afraid … in the sense of when you feel betrayed,” Lopez said. “Each 10 (Mexicans), at least four feel betrayed because of this nonsense election.”

Hernandez, who grew up in Guanajuato and lived in Mexico City before moving to the U.S. 23 years ago, said that this loss has fed the sense of nationalism that led to the feelings of pride and the demand for respect following Trump’s election.

“In the case of Mexico, the sense is that we lost,” Hernandez said. “That’s why this is a driver on the individual level of this notion of nationalism, and that is the way Mexicans are educated.”


– Cronkite Borderlands Initiative audio by Emily Zentner

Hernandez said that nationalism is in the “DNA of the Mexican” as they grow up imbued with a sense of history and national pride that leaves many still grieving the loss of their lands to the U.S.

The loss of this territory stung in particular due to the vast oil reserves that sat in this land. While it was far in the past, many Mexicans still mourn the loss of the land, and the resentment that came with it has not disappeared.

“Well, we lost half of our territory,” Lopez said. “We already lost half of it already, and I had a teacher who said it was the biggest half, the biggest half because it’s the petroleum. But I think not only my point of view, we weep as a nation for the territory. It was the worst thing.”

But some are afraid that by invoking this long-ago loss in discussing the current situation between the countries, the sense of anti-Americanism that followed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo could return and permanently harm the nations’ relationship.

Rafael Fernandez de Castro, the head of the Department of International Studies at the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México, has this concern in mind with some of the responses to Trump in Mexico that he has seen.

Fernandez, who served as an international adviser to former President Felipe Calderon and Calderon’s wife, current presidential candidate Margarita Zavala, said the nationalism that formed after the loss of this territory was good for Mexico in the long run – but it may not be good for Mexico today.

“In the 19th century, when we lost half of the territory, vis-a-vis the U.S. … Then Mexico became very anti-American and that is Mexican nationalism,” Fernandez said. “At the time, that nationalism was very positive because it was the glue that allowed Mexico to stay together, to keep together, because we were disintegrating.”

Despite the benefits of nationalism then, however, Fernandez stressed the importance of the friendship and collaboration between the two nations and said that this attitude may not be the best solution to the current problems.

Mario Lopez , who organized a national pride march in San Miguel de Allende on Feb. 12, said that he, like many Mexicans, feels betrayed by Trump. (Photo by Emily Zentner/Cronkite Borderlands Initiative)

Looking inward: A chance to redefine

But of all the concerns that Mexican citizens and officials have, there is one good thing many see that could come from Trump’s shake-up of the status quo between the countries: A chance to redefine the relationship to suit a modern Mexico.

“Like, now we need to ask ourselves like a nation what is happening,” Lopez said. “We are not anymore the manufacturing country of the United States… It’s a breaking point. As a community, as a continent, as good partners, I think we need to make a link and start to do something.”

In working toward re-evaluating the partnership, many hope for Mexico to turn more to its domestic economy in order to strengthen its own markets instead of relying so heavily on the U.S.

Despite the importance of maintaining the relationship between the nations, it is also time for Mexicans to figure out who they are in the 21st century and to make sure that their partnerships are working for them, Lopez said. Out of the tumult of the last year, he said, comes a chance for Mexico to rediscover its own identity.

“At the end, we don’t know our partner and that’s why it’s really, really a good question – who the United States are now, today, who is Mexico now?” Lopez said.

17 Comments on "Trump’s Rhetoric Awakens New Spirit, New Questions In Mexico"

  1. “Of the 520 participants that Lopez counted at his march, however, about 400 were expatriates there to show their opposition to Trump. For the 120 Mexicans who were there, Lopez said it was a chance…” to spread the hate.

    They used to be so proud of living in their own squalor until Trump lifted the curtain.

  2. Mexicans now want to be seen as an equal partner to the U.S.

    As long as families rule the country and they still don’t have a sewer system that is capable of disposing of toilet paper, then don’t come whine to me about being an equal. When you take care of your own poor and pay them welfare like we do when they come across the border then you got a good start. How about the narco wars? How about the education system? How about the economy that is propped up by money sent home by the ILLEGALS? How about the corruption by government officials? Oh,wait, we are equals in that aren’t we…. Sorry.

    • WannaBe Mexican citizen Billy Boy says they are equivalent. In fact, he acknowledges they have more rapes but no big deal. He asked his own network of acquaintances about your citing of the conditions in the third world country but says they don’t exist, “de nada”. It’s America’s fault.

      • What again, you remain an ol putz! of a man… “equivalent” you mean human? or are you just looking down at them and liking it, it’s what you do best. Acquaintances? and family, all of which I would hold in much greater value that you, but the greatest two commandments are Love God and Love your brother… so I’ll have to take care even you – pray I don’t get that mission. I’ve not said ‘conditions don’t exist’ but you so love to bend words so you have someone to blame – I hope you didn’t breed… America’s fault – nope, but they are the one’s using the narco’s drugs aren’t they? Who buys those drugs? Who buys the Mexican made cars? What’s in your wallet – made in Mexico or China? American’s fault – how about that IV they’ll put in your arm when you have your heart attack.. where was it made? Mexico? most are these days… are they the children of the raped women making the IV to be used on you? Now that would be ironic wouldn’t it. – true irony in my tone of course. What again you need a life in most desperate way..

  3. ya mean they are going to KEEP their ‘migrants’ at home? They going to educate them, give them welfare and pesos to live on off the government? Never going to happen, the folks they may be referring to are not the PEONs who come north, they are the ones with the pesos to do as they are writing about, not the average mex. As stated out of 500+ only 100+ were actual mex’s not some entitled expats who like the left here think they are supposed to be above the rest of the local society.

  4. When the idea of the Euro was being floated during Regan’s time. Dad bush got the legislation passed for NAFTA to bring all of the Americas aligned. So the US and the congress of the time attempted to equalize the monetary and living standard of the North American continent with a trade pact.

    As it turned out government and union pension funds investment went after this hard.
    In order to keep living standards for retirees, money mangers and such NAFTA was readjusted for investor return. Romney’s how’s your 401K look type more that half dont have and have no idea.

    What has happened the congress sold out bonds and control to European and Asian markets to international market control. Don’t believe me just pick up a produce bag and see what government represents the control of that market it is printed on the bag.

    This is one of the reason Grijalva buddies up to the Hague so much “International Court for the United Nations” NAFTA was to bring the standard of living up for the Americas. It was never meant for the international community to decide out ethnic or political make up. t
    That is what it was diverted to a huge retaliatory anger vehicle to align with the hate programs.

    I hope Mexico aligns with the Euro then Western Europe can have them drop the peso for the euro. then hey will do as they have done to Spain,Greece,Poland, Belarus, Italy and so on. The EURO powers can TELL THEM WHO MUCH THEY Are worth in domestic output and control. Then the UN can put international police on the scene then finally Mexico will be conquered again and the criminal in foreign prisons. After all the most violent city in the world with the most random murders is Juarez

  5. Leaving aside the general racism and jingoism associated with Mexican-American relations,
    I was caught up short by this statement:

    “In the 19th century, when we lost half of the territory, vis-a-vis the U.S. … Then Mexico became very anti-American and that is Mexican nationalism,” Fernandez said.“

    Do you have a receipt or bill of sale for that territory, Mr. Fernandez? You stole it, you lost it and you have screwed up the remainder of Spain’s ill-gotten gains for decades.

    If there can’t be an honest self-appraisal by Mexicans themselves, there will be little respect as things move on.

  6. $7.25/hr vs. $3.90/day and zero environment regulations, is all you need to know about NAFTA

    • I feel the need to correct you Mexico has some of he toughest environmental laws of any country and some of the harshest penalties and fines.

      However a law is only good when enforced like our EPA that any attorney or person of the court could be it’s own prosecutor and represent the state in civil matter for environmental violations. (This has been curtailed as it abuse looked like the RICO secret funds.) but the only people the court will levy action is against American companies or governments. I will go into the Delta damaged by the Salton Sea if we can go into the 4 times the US has rebuilt the fishing industry only to be kicked to the curb and run out of town.

  7. Working Man Blues | December 28, 2017 at 11:46 am |

    Clearly México is capable of and should safeguard their interests. But don’t expect the US to assume in part or whole any of their liabilities. The USA must protect their interests as well. Both economically and geopolitically.

  8. Look at Dothan Alabama – carpet capital of the nation – interesting story of all the Mexicans that came to make the American’s there RICH making carpet for them when the boom was booming – then the boom stopped and they blamed the Mexicans for making the carpet that made them rich. Why didn’t they make their own carpet? Oh didn’t want to do that nasty work? Oh not enough Americans willing to work? Oh they learned to like Tacos and all that good stuff and – well it’s their fault we are RICH now that boom pooped out and we’re not glutting at the labor anymore… hmmmm interesting how that worked out. What Again… this didn’t happen right?

    • I had a client in Dothan, know the area and the manufacturing environment. Most of the workers you mention were illegal, brought into an organized group that provided them fake social security numbers, sources of food and housing in cash and most importantly, Accounting Services that processed their child credits, keeping a cut for their version of a Mafia. Little Rock is the same way. They infest the city, don’t assimilate, throw their garbage in the streets, just like home. And push out Americans that would have those jobs because the employers would pay more money if the cockroaches weren’t there.

      So in the last two days you have deflected blame for a child molester, discounted the rape rate 4 times higher than here, rejected a study by the International Women’s group and now support slavery/exploitation of the vulnerable, both times trying to equate the corrupt country of Mexico with the US. Nice guy.

      • the difference is ‘your version is pure feces’ – were they illegal, perhaps some, but not all – don’t know the percentages ; I’ll just say there were.. and they were all ‘hired by Americans’ because there were not Americans to do the work.. for the wages they were paying the Mexicans – oh the greed and profit of the American – so they hired and made huge profits and the industry grew and grew and the company’s loved having the Mexican’s available.. steady labor – keeping them poor and working them hard; keeping their taxes? Or were they paying them and government just keeps them?? False numbers — when the market boom stopped – the labor need died ; then the Americans complained the Mexican’s are here… yup had been for many good decades making their beds, cutting their lawns, making their tacos.. but now they were in the way – the Americans wanted work, but the plants wanted the Mexicans – proven labor. Oh they assimilated to well, with food ; work; houses; more than the Americans.. and that pissed off guys like you… but you like to make up the story as you see it. So here’s the deal WA – I pay my taxes, employ my company, run a very good shop, did my time in Military, with combat time, so I’ve fought for the nation, brought myself up without a father, believe in Jesus as the only reason I’ve done with I’ve done, I’m just using this for a short term till I’m gone.. I’m able to provide opportunity to many. My little old grandma ‘green card’ legal… provided the Nation 5 of us so far combat vets, decorated, company commanders (fight wing) One 35 year Marine, another who was on the Presidential honor guard.. and still serving. So what can I tell you WA – your an asshole.. but have a nice day.

        • Always blame Americans in defense of the corrupt third world country of Mexico, even so much as ignoring the legal age of consent for girls at 12. Good times for tios, maybe aged 30, 40, 50, 60 – you know, show them the ropes. And they can’t say anything, except yes. All good with you, no moral dilemma there.

          Good luck getting your Mexican citizenship. They deserve you. You would be one of the very few Mexicans that stand to improve their own country. It’s so much easier to take from the gringo or find a darker skinned Mexican to steal from.

        • Curbing child abuse in Mexico

          Not an isolated case

          Teen pregnancy in Mexico is rising, and some of those affected are very young. According to the 2012 national health survey, for every 1,000 women who give birth, 37 are adolescents between the ages of 12 and 19. That’s up from a rate of 30 in 2006.

          Eleven thousand births were registered to girls between 12 and 14 in 2011.

          What is worrisome about pregnancies at such a young age, particularly when the father is an adult, is that “the only explanation is sexual abuse,” says Juan Martín Pérez García, executive director of REDIM, the Network for the Rights of Children in Mexico.

          https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Americas/2013/0220/Curbing-child-abuse-in-Mexico

  9. So what’s your point WA? you say the same shit every day… its fun to play along – but getting boring – is this same rhetoric all you got? If you going to be a bigot your going to need some new material…

  10. Billy B – Mexicans love to blame the U.S., citing its desire for drugs. It’s never Mexico’s fault. Test Question: Let’s say Mexico began producing the Mexicar and the people in the U.S. bought them at a record pace. Months later, it’s discovered the Mexicar had faulty brakes that caused thousands upon thousands of accidents, many of them fatal. People like you would still say, “If it wasn’t for Americans desire to purchase the Mexicar, the accidents would never have happened. TRUTH: Mexico is far more corrupt than the U.S. and as such kept it a third-word nation. Until the citizens of Mexico (native and those in the U.S.) take a stand against the ‘bite’ and clean out their own nest of criminals manipulating the nation they love so much, the U.S. doesn’t need anymore unskilled and uneducated people who refuse to assimilate, bankrupt our medical system, welfare and education system. We don’t need anymore child molesters, drug and human traffickers, rapists and drunk drivers with little regard for human life or the laws of our nation. If you can’t understand that, then you must be totally immersed in the insanity known as Mexican-American Studies and a strong supporter of Reconquista, foolish nonsense fostered by Chicano bigots who are stuck on stupid.

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