Mexico, US, Canada: little understanding

The only hope is cooperation and dialogue to overcome North American parochialism

No, I’m not going to write about immigration or Donald Trump again, at least not directly. Rather, just a gnawing puzzlement about how little most Americans really know about the average Mexican, and how little most Mexicans knows about America.


And of course how, until we do, few mutual problems can be successfully addressed.

A stateside friend recently saw a photo of me with my students on Facebook and asked, “Are you still teaching in Mexico?”

“Yes,” I replied. “Why do you ask?”

“It’s just that your students seem so [insert hesitation for doubt of a politically correct term] white.”

I hadn’t really thought about it before, but in a group of 20 students there were only two could be said to be swarthy. In northern Mexico, particularly in Chihuahua and Sonora, light skinned, light or red-haired and tall Mexicans are ubiquitous.

Blue and green eyes are not anomalies worthy of special notice. Surnames like Bremer and Schmal and Arikado are almost as common as Sánchez and González. Other states have significant black-Mexican, Italian-Mexican, Arab-Mexican and Jewish-Mexican populations.


Aside from the obvious Spanish Conquistadores, Mexico, as it turns out, is a land of immigrants too.

But this brief exchange started me thinking about the persistent ignorance of each other we share, despite our common geography and intimately inter-tangled histories and economies. We more often than not get it wrong when thinking about each other.

Impressions and stereotypes run as deep as the tap root of an ugly backyard weed that keeps coming back no matter how many times you pull it.

But let’s first sift out where understanding is common. Wealthy Mexicans and wealthy Americans who do business together understand each other perfectly well – they celebrate contracts in New York and yacht together along the Riviera Maya.

Middle-class Mexicans who travel to the U.S. for business and holidays understand America well enough too. Border communities, like El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juárez, have no problem getting along, and indeed the border has its very own language and culture, epitomized as “todo diferente” in Juan Gabriel’s pop classic La Frontera.

The million or so expatriates living and working in Mexico (and not barricaded by minds or walls inside foreign resort condos) also have an appreciation of what the “real” Mexico represents.

But that leaves about 300 million Americans and 30 million Canadians who don’t know much, if anything, about Mexico or Mexicans, and a significant segment of Mexico’s 120 million population who know the U.S. and Canada only by way of myths and generalizations.

This is not a criticism as such, just an observation of North American parochialism – equally applicable to ignorance of European societies and cultures. But America and Mexico don’t share borders with Estonia or France.

Most middle-class Americans’ contact with Mexicans is largely limited to poor laborers – maids, gardeners and the gaggle of ambitious but underemployed men outside Home Depot ready to install your tile floor, repair your roof or clear your lot.

When these same gringos vacation in Mexico at coastal resorts or colonial towns, they are again surrounded by equally poor gardeners and cooks and maids in the service industry. The widespread perception perpetuated in the media and by superficial experience from foreign visitors is that Mexico is a poor third world country, and it is all-too-often reinforced through limited personal experience.

The common image of America by the Mexican underclass is blurred as well. It is a land of plenty, of wealth, of leisure, of order and progress, if popular American TV programming is any guide – the visage being further reinforced when these same Mexicans come into contact with average American and Canadian vacationers, or immigrate to cut grass or wash cars in American middle-class neighborhoods.

The reality of our respective societies, taken as a whole, is slightly more complicated, and much more nuanced.

My 10th semester law students were recently shocked to learn that there are more than 50 tent cities in the U.S. for the homeless. They were even more shocked to learn that many of these homeless camps are not occupied by mentally ill alcoholics and drug addicts, but rather the full-time working poor who simply can’t afford rent in major metropolitan areas.

Although still oddly disputed by the brown-shirted, hard-core jingoists, the best demographic studies indicate that more Mexican laborers are returning to Mexico than trying to escape it. In fact, just last week the border patrol reported that for FY 2015, border apprehensions dropped to a half-century low.

Apparently for good reason. Despite Mexico’s prolific problems of bad governance, corruption and violence, the Mexican middle class is surging. The American middle class, by comparison, is in endemic decline. Accuse me of being a self-hating American or shill for the Mexican government if you like, but these facts are easily verifiable.

My current Mexican reality is common among American expatriates. We (wife and two children) live in a gated middle-class neighborhood, which is neither a resort nor a country club. I’m the only American.

Our neighbors are working professionals: doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, small business owners, artists and skilled tradesmen (and probably a drug dealer or two). The electricity is cheap and reliable (and subsidized), and the trash is collected three times a week.

When conflating the economic data with a life lived “in the field” as it were, it is exceedingly difficult to argue that Mexico is not on the rise and America is not slowly fading. Although I’m a direct beneficiary, I don’t necessarily wish this to be the case, and moreover this objective fact has little to do with the Mexican government’s policies, or often lack thereof. It is largely the result of globalization and implementation of neoliberal economic ideology.

Mexicans and Americans have more in common than either would like to perhaps admit. For different reasons, both of our governments are mostly feckless. The Mexican government has always exaggerated the meme of victimhood at the hands of the world’s hegemonic superpower to cover its own glaring faults. Meanwhile, successive American administrations have blamed Mexico for the outsourcing of American jobs while at the same time promoting domestic policies which encourage the very same – and if that were not enough – it relies on immigrant labor to keep the economy afloat while at the same time decrying illegal immigration for political purposes.

It’s complicated, I know. Geopolitics has become somewhat like soccer hooliganism – enjoy the game and then bludgeon the opposing fans bloody whether your team wins or loses.

But progress might be made (I am not hopeful) if we were to acknowledge our commonalities.

The working poor in Mexico are not all that different from the working poor in the U.S., except that few poor Mexicans are homeless. The super wealthy in both countries have successfully gamed the system, creating an illusion of democracy built upon the underlying invisible lattice of plutocracy.

I’ll end with two thoughts about law and public policy (if you’ve stayed with me so far without your eyes glazing over, please keep reading – I’m almost done).

The days when we elected the best and the brightest are a couple of hundred nautical miles behind us (if you doubt me, just read Gordon S. Wood’s Revolutionary Characters: What Made the Founders Different). The electorate doesn’t want the smart, the knowledgeable, the sophisticated.

Voters want leaders who think like they do (which is to say not much), and if you want to get elected you pander to stupidity. (“All politics is yokel,” as the late Christopher Hitchens once quipped.) Politicians embrace asinine aphorisms, slogans and memes which sooth the souls of hectoring hillbillies.

But then at some point you have to make policy by passing legislation putting these ideas into effect (if reelection is of any value to you). Data from the social sciences is of no value unless it can be cherry-picked and spun to support your spurious position. That’s how the sausage gets made, and bad public policy gets enacted through legislation. On both sides of the border.

The reality is that American economic prosperity does not mean Mexican poverty, or vice versa. It is not a binary, zero-sum game world, and it never has been. Our only hope is cooperation and dialogue. That is, if we want to have a sustainable western hemisphere, something remotely resembling a civilization.

Glen Olives Thompson is a professor of North American Law at La Salle University in Chihuahua, a specialist in law and public policy and a regular contributor to Mexico News Daily. Some of his other non-academic work can be viewed at

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  • Econo facts

    Great article, Glenn. I must say though economic fact does show that Mexico is on the rise and America is on the decline. My retired CPA wife said it best, “Do you want to spend your latter years in a Country where the sun is rising or one where the sun is setting.” We live full time in Mexico enjoying our life, the people and the culture.

    • Peter Hobday

      Yes, the party was once in the USA, with Canada trying to sleep upstairs. Now the party has moved down to Mexico, and the USA has turned very grouchy, and Canada is happy again.

      • Richard Barnett

        The party has been in Mexico since I have been traveling there during the 1970’s. I live in the coastal bend of Texas and have driven into Mexico many times. The people are as generous as you will find all through Mexico and Central America. When I was growing up the migrant workers coming across into Texas from Mexico were very honest hard working people. The problem now is the smugglers of illegal aliens and illegal drugs commit horrendous crimes against the undocumented workers they are smuggling and anyone that gets in their way of delivering their payloads. Our corrupt media takes advantage of this, slanting sensational stories that sell. Also our present federal administration encourage illegal importation of workers from Mexico by sending confusing messages about who they will deport and who they will offer aid to just to build a greater number of voters for their party. It’s complicated and corruption occours on both sides of the border. We must make changes to legalize marijuana and stop the funding of the cartels. They are devastating the innocent lives of people on both sides of the border. The war on drugs has failed miserably and is making life in the southern states of Mexico and the bordering States with the United States dangerous to live in. I have personally been flagged down by smugglers on back roads where I live to accept drop offs all because I wear a hat from Mexico and my truck looks like their contacts. Scary stuff. A friend living in Cancun tells me the difference in the level of corruption between Mexico and the United States is that in Mexico our class can afford to influence those that are corrupt, but in the United States we are not welthy enough to influence the corrupt. So what I am trying to say is this, it’s complicated and unfortunately your average Joe in the United States is not interested enough to experience or educate themselves about the situation in Mexico or issues dividing the two countries. It’s a shame, I have made many friends in Mexico but I believe the risk is too great to hop in my truck and travel into Mexico.

  • Patricia Dolan

    Spot on!

    • Beau

      Falsehood? Just ask the crop growers in Georgia- millions of pounds of watermelons were left to rot in the fields last summer along with peaches, blackberries and cucumbers. Lack of farmworkers prompted an epic farm labor shortage and desperate howls from its planters. Florida will be next, and this is just the beginning, hopefully.

  • ksmartbl

    “…it [America] relies on immigrant labor to keep the economy afloat…” One more ridiculous, yet pernicious, falsehood.

  • PintorEnMexico

    I heard a North American say today that he’s for Trump because he wants to be like him. He wants a helicopter. It’s just sad that he doesn’t realize that people of Trump’s class have for centuries been doing everything to assure that he gets as little as possible.

  • Felipe_Calderoff

    And now for a dose of reality. Very few Mexicans live in a gate-guarded middle class neighborhood where the trash is collected three times a week. So few in fact, one has to wonder why Professor Thompson would even mention it. Do they not teach the Fallacy of the Hasty Generalization in that law school? The fallacy is that picking one example from a population of 120 million Mexicans, does not prove the other 120 million live the same way.

    The biggest chunk of Mexico’s economy comes from exporting its own people to the United States. In fact, 10% of the people born in Mexico now live in the United States. Not only do remittances from Mexicans living abroad bring in lots of hard foreign currency, but it also takes the heat off of Mexico’s perpetually incompetent and corrupt politicians to have to create job opportunities in Mexico, Emigration is a pressure relief valve to prevent massive internal dissent and anarchy. The Mexico cheerleaders, like Professor Thompson, will tell you Mexico is about to become great. Not true. Mexico is a country where the two biggest components of its economy are exporting people and exporting illegal drugs. You can add to that the fact that large swaths of Mexico are not under the control of the government, but of parallel governments of drug cartels. Mexico exists on the ragged edge of failure, which could happen at any time if even one of those two sources of revenues are cut off. And that is why Donald Trump scares Mexico.

    • Patricia Dolan

      You’ve got it backwards. Trump does not scare Mexico. Mexico is embarrassed for the rest of the USA by Trump. The world is embarrassed by Trump. BTW….Mexico’s economy is thriving.

      • Michael C

        A new Audi plant under construction here in Puebla! Largest Volkswagen plant outside of Germany! Mexico has surpassed Brazil in auto manufacturing!

    • PintorEnMexico

      How about a little fact checking Felipe?

      According to FocusEconomics, out of Barcelona, ( Mexican GDP in 2015 was 1,143 (USD bn). Remittances were 24.8, or 2.17%. 2016 estimates have the numbers at 1,088 and 26.3 for 2.42%. How is that within a mile of being one of “the two biggest components of its economy?!?” As for drugs, show me credible numbers. Again as a percentage of 1,088 billion, it can’t come close to being one of “the two biggest components of its economy.”

      From World Economic Forum: “Today’s Mexico is large, diversified, and growing stronger….Mexico has a $1.26 trillion economy, making it the 15th largest economy in the world, and the 11th taking into account power purchasing parity. This makes Mexico a so-called “middle power”: falling just short of being a G7 economy, it is nevertheless an economic power to be reckoned with.”

    • Peter Hobday

      No. Mexico is the 6th biggest oil producer in the world, and the 15th biggest exporter in the world. Mexico mostly exports petroleum, cars, trucks, computers, and plenty of avocados too. An example is USD $7.31 billion going to Spain, so not just to America and Canada. China is one of Mexico’s biggest markets.

    • Glen Olives

      If you read this piece and thought that I implied that most Mexicans, or Americans, or Canadians, live in gated communities, you have a reading comprehension problem, or perhaps you read a different essay.

      And speaking of the fallacy of the hasty generalization, did you really mean to write that “[t]he biggest chunk of the Mexican economy comes from exporting its own people to the United States.”? This meme, along with the assumption that the other largest export is illegal drugs, is quite obviously a Fox News or possibly a Trump/Coulter mental copy-paste. It has no basis in reality, which is to say facts. One need only glance at the peer reviewed demographic studies, the border patrol’s own numbers, and the most recent economic data. I would be happy to provide the links.

      Lastly, Donald Trump doesn’t scare Mexico, or Mexicans. He scares Americans. His incomprehensible and almost unintelligible border wall would result in increased Mexican migration, not less.

      Are Mexican governments infected with corruption at the local, state and federal levels? Are they routinely coopted by wealthy drug cartels? Sure. No disagreement there. But then the same questions must be asked regarding local, state and federal governments within the US. The answer, too, is yes, but fewer (if any) laws have been broken. Corruption has in essence been institutionalized.

      • Felipe_Calderoff

        In March, 2010, Wachovia Bank settled money laundering charges in the US. It admitted to laundering $380 Billion over a 3-year period, which is one-third of Mexico’s GDP, or 10% of its GDP per year. This was only one bank during one period. Illegal drugs are by far the largest component of Mexico’s GDP, and it is all off the books. That is why Mexico’s economy looks so much better than it really it. There is a lot of illegal cash circulating in Mexico, and it is being plowed back into legitimate businesses.

        • Glen Olives

          That would be an interesting argument if it were not for the fact that Wachovia (now Wells Fargo) is a US bank, not a Mexican bank. Of course illegal drug sales are off the books, so how could those sales be counted toward GDP growth? They can’t, of course, as with the sizable Mexican gray market. Contrary to your assertion, if official Mexican economic growth forecasts of around 3% (in line with World Bank forecasts), included the black and gray market economy, that figure would be decidedly much higher. If you look at things through the lens of political ideology instead of just trying to get the (sometimes complicated) facts right, you’ll almost always be trying put a round peg through a square hole.

      • Güerito

        “The Associated Press was the first to point out just how important Mexican immigrants, both legal and illegal, are to the health of the Mexican economy. Last year, Mexicans in the U.S. wired $24.8 billion to family members. That’s more than Mexico’s economy brought in from oil revenue and is nearly half of what a country the size of Brazil brings in from foreign direct investment (FDI). …

        Remittance payments have become an important economic lifeline for many Mexicans. According to an Inter-American Development Bank report on 17 Mexican families shipping money from the States, remittances are a difference between a working class lifestyle and poverty.

        By some standards, the Mexico government is facing a dereliction of duty. It has failed to support its lowest-skilled labor force nearly two decades after the North American Free Trade Agreement helped modernize its economy. Mexico is not alone in this. Similar critiques can be made about other countries in Latin America, where the bulk of U.S.-bound migrants once lived. Between drug violence in countries like El Salvador and rural poverty in Mexico, the U.S. is the closest hope for a decent life.

        Many Americans, particularly those in the southern border states, wonder why Mexicans are still moving to the U.S. even as U.S. manufacturing moves to Mexico. Here’s the simple reason: $2 per day poverty in the pueblos. Mexico’s elite, nearly all European descent, have kept the pueblo dwellers as second class citizens. Mexico City has been compliant in letting them turn to the U.S., often illegally, for financial support.”

        • Glen Olives

          Hi guerito, good to hear from you.

          That was quite a long quote. I’d like to hear your thoughts, though.

          I’ll assume the AP numbers are right come from Mexicans living in the US. Undoubtedly, some are illegal residents, some are permanent residents, some are legal visitors, some are legal workers with proper work visas, some are Mexican-Americans sending money home to their families. And it’s a significant chunk of the Mexican economy. How many illegals are sending money home? We simply don’t know. Western Union doesn’t ask, and illegals don’t tell.

          I get all that. What I don’t get is why this presents anyone with a particular problem. Certainly other foreign nationals on US soil, legally or not, send money home.

          A third of the US was once Mexico, and the families of Mexicans living in the West and Southwest didn’t suddenly die after the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, and neither did their families in Mexico. Our (admittedly broken) immigration laws are still mostly based on family relationships, and thus as one might expect, the Latino population in the US is the fastest growing demographic.

          In turn, for religious, sociological, and cultural reasons, Mexico has for almost two centuries been experiencing a population boom, and at the same time, for economic and political reasons, an excess labor problem, leading to migration to the the US as well as other countries.

          To the Mexican’s government’s credit, those two trends are in reversal — after decades the “small families live better” campaigns have taken root and contraception has become widely available (against Catholic opposition), and the economy has expanded.

          The conservative meme which Mr. Calderoff expresses quite well is essentially that the Mexican government is a net exporter of both its people and illegal drugs (the “safety valve” theory) in order to keep Mexico a stable, albeit corrupt democracy. It sells, but it is silly, and requires adherence to conspiracy theory rather than Occam’s razor. Of course it could be that this was the Grand Plan all along, and successive Mexican administrations have kept this secret cabal hidden for a hundred years, or it could just be the happenstance of the colliding of different cultures, histories, and realities of political economics.

          You tell me. Has Mexico “pulled one over” on the US?

          • Güerito

            Hello, Glen. Likewise.

            I’m not sure what you mean by “pulled one over” on the US.

            I’m also not sure you need to go back almost 200 years to talk about Mexican emigration to the US and the remittances sent back.

            Modern emigration patterns from Mexico to the US began after the Mexican Revolution, and even more so after the Cristero War (1926-1929/34). Refugees fleeing from the violence of those two events established a pattern of migration that continues to this day. Heavy Cristero states, such as Jalisco, Michoacán, Guanajuato and Zacatecas, are still at the top of all indices showing emigration and remittances sent back.

            This trend continued with the Bracero Program during WWII. You’ll still see in the states mentioned above the old ex-Braceros and their family members protesting to receive money stolen from them during this program.

            (OT, but – This region of the country, much of it in “El Bajío,” is often credited with creating the Mexican poltical consciousness needed during the struggle for independence from Spain. Much of this culture of a “hardscrabble fight to get ahead” is now living in the US. This is a loss for Mexico.)

            I’ve long believed that emigration to the US, especially when it became something of a rite of passage for young men in high sending states, distorts the Mexican labor market. Why work for $5.00 a day in Mexico when you can get $20.00 an hour in the US.? Employers keep wages low in Mexico, knowing that those who can’t live on those wages have an alternative in the US or in the underground economy.

            The Mexican ruling class, largely European as the writer above correctly describes, is principally concerned with looting as much of the country’s resources as possible while in office. They show very little concern for the future of the country. So, yes, I believe that, while they may not literally “send” migrants to the US, mass emigration to the US allows the Mexican ruling class to put off needed economic and political reforms as they go about robbing the country to buy their condos in Miami and luxury houses in Texas and Spain.

            I would love to see net zero or net negative migration to the US, because it’s probably the only way to force the ruling class in Mexico to face reality and govern responsibly.

          • Glen Olives

            I don’t really disagree with much of the historicity of what you cited so I won’t quibble about details, and my argument wouldn’t require me to do so at any rate.

            But I would like to take issue with your thesis that “…I believe that, while they may not literally ‘send’ migrants to the US, mass emigration to the US allows the Mexican ruling class to put off needed economic and political reforms as they go about robbing the country to buy their condos in Miami and luxury houses in Texas and Spain.”

            Corruption is arguably Mexico’s gravest problem, no doubt, but this seems to be only a slightly more nuanced interpretation of what can be found on any conservative anti-immigrant website (By The Numbers, for example). Be that as it may, the central problem of this argument as that it imputes knowledge and motive to the “Mexican ruling class” of which there is no evidence. It smacks somewhat of conspiracy theory — it could be true of course, but to prove it you would have to get inside the minds of the principals, and there are easier and more elegant (in the theoretical sense) explanations.

            For example, you say that immigration distorts the Mexican labor market. Surely it has an impact, but one can’t ignore the fact that as a developing economy with traditionally high birth rates and a very young population, Mexico has always had an excess labor problem, and the US, with a mature economy an a labor shortage in unskilled low-wage jobs, it would be a miracle if there were not high traditional rates of immigration to the US. You can impute this to secret policies of the Mexican government if you like, but as I’ve said, there’s just no evidence of that. (I think William of Ockham would agree.)

            The topic of Mexican political corruption is fascinating, and I have a paper come that touches on a small aspect of it shortly, but no matter how hard I try I can’t find a logically consistent causal link between corruption and illegal immigration. Suppose, for example, that Mexico was a developed economy with full employment and zero loss of workers to other countries. There is no reason I can see that government officials would be less corrupt than they are now. It’s a non sequitur in my view.

            You seem surprisingly reluctant to accept that there is at minimum net zero immigration, and very likely a net loss of Mexican migrants. We’ve discussed this before and I’ve provided links to demographic studies — reliable studies from academics and not think tanks with dogs in the hunt. High birth rates for socioeconomic, cultural, and religious reasons, have been steadily going down in large measure do to the Mexican government’s “small families live better” campaigns and increasing use of contraceptives. (A counter example to the theory that the Mexican government actually encourages illegal immigration for domestic economic purposes.)

            If that were not enough, as I mentioned in the above piece, border interdiction of intending migrants is at a half century low according the border patrol’s own FY 2015 numbers, despite a massive increase in border security since 9/11.

            You’re obviously a smart guy, but I suspect (admitting I could be wrong) that you bought the conservative ideological meme that our endemic national economic problems are due to the actions of others (in the present case Mexican immigrants, but you can substitute the Chinese or Muslims or any other identifiable group). It’s satisfying, and I get the psychological comfort it brings (the self-serving cognitive bias), but it just doesn’t square with the facts.

            Because this general view is so prevalent among conservatives (the Mexican government encourages illegal immigration and props up its otherwise failing economy with remittances) I thought maybe I was missing something. I did an exhaustive search of the relevant peer reviewed academic journals and found nothing to support this view.

            Lots of smart people naturally have an ideological bent, and then search out facts that support it. If one is interested in truth, or at least how to get as close to it as possible, then this is exactly an ass backwards approach. I follow the facts to where they lead me and then make conclusions (sometimes wrong) even when I find them uncomfortable or inconvenient. A judge once told me that if both the plaintiff and the defendant are unhappy with his decision, he probably got it about right. And that’s where I find myself — hated by liberals on some issues (e.g. Islam, et al.) and hated by conservatives on others (e.g. immigration, et al.).

            I’ll leave you with this thought. Physics is easy (seriously). But we’re dealing with the social sciences here — a messy amalgam of history, political science, geopolitics, sociology, demography, law, and public policy. Sorting this out in a disciplined way is no easy task, and when you add ideology to the mix it only further muddies the waters. That’s why I don’t do it.

            At least on this issue, I believe you’re headed down the wrong path.

          • Güerito

            Thanks for the response.

            I think, in part, we’re hung up on semantics. When I say: “mass emigration to the US allows the Mexican ruling class to put off needed economic and political reforms as they go about robbing the country to buy their condos in Miami and luxury houses in Texas and Spain” – this in no way requires what you describe as “knowledge and motive” or a “conspiracy theory.” Why do you think it does?

            “Suppose, for example, that Mexico was a developed economy with full employment and zero loss of workers to other countries. There is no reason I can see that government officials would be less corrupt than they are now.” Really? Are you denying a correlation between political corruption and economic underdevelopment? Every one of the top 20 least corrupt countries are considered highly developed economically. Not one of the bottom one hundred countries is. Is that a coincidence?

            As for the net zero meme debate we’ve had, I’ve provided in previous threads evidence that Pew Research acknowledged the net migration loss 2009-2013 was reversed by a large increase in Mexican emigration to the US from mid-2014 (the latest date their much cited study used) through 2015. But, since the meme was only brought up by you to question the need for US voters to be concerned about illegal immigration, in general, I’ve often noted that even if, contrary to the evidence, there’s net zero migration from Mexico, the huge surge in illegals entering the US from Central American and the rest of the world means concerns about the issue should not be so easily dismissed (as racist).

          • Glen Olives

            It would require knowledge and motive in this context because the Mexican government could put off needed economic and political reforms regardless of the immigration issue — I can’t see how illegal immigration is sin qua non for corruption. One could argue that oil revenues allow Mexican politicians to put off economic and political reforms, or black market revenues from drug sales, or direct foreign investment, or tourism, or anything else you wish.

            Is there a correlation between political corruption and economic development? Of course. But it is far from a direct correlation. High development doesn’t equal low corruption and low development doesn’t equal high corruption. Oh, if it were only that easy I could write a book about it and retire!

            To illustrate, there 16 countries with developed economies (Chile, Portugal, Estonia, and Italy, among other notables) that struggle with corruption. China is notoriously corrupt, but the economy is expanding. Moreover, some academics have argued that (notwithstanding Transparency International’s surveys), the US is one of the most politically corrupt nations in the world, but corruption has been institutionalized and removed from the traditional definition. Incidentally, Transparency International recently noted that many “clean” countries on domestic corruption have extremely spotty records when doing business overseas. (The Swedish company TeliaSonera, which is 37% owned by Sweden, is under investigation for paying millions of dollars in bribes to secure business in Uzbekistan, which comes in 153rd on the CPI list — other examples abound.)

            Political corruption in Mexico is complicated and has deep historic roots; indeed what we think of as corruption today would be considered perfectly ethical when the Republic was founded.

            Having said that, one can’t deny that political corruption in Mexico is both a bane and drain on the economy. But somehow connecting or conflating it with illegal immigration requires a fair amount of casuistry and in my view isn’t justified.

            As far as immigration goes, I guess we’ll simply have to agree to disagree, despite the fact that while I see green and you see blue; the the studies are clear enough to me and comport with what one would expect from the comparative economies and demographics. As I’ve always said, there’s a long list of legitimate things to worry about, including climate disruption, wealth inequality, etc., but immigration isn’t one of them. It’s a sexy political issue, but not a practical one.

          • Güerito

            “One could argue that oil revenues allow Mexican politicians to put off economic and political reforms, or black market revenues from drug sales, or direct foreign investment, or tourism, or anything else you wish.”

            I’m glad you raised this point. Many of the things mentioned above (except perhaps direct foreign investment) are analogous to the gold and silver sent from the New World back to Spain in the 16th and 17th Centuries. Many historians believe the bounty derived from these natural resources allowed the Spanish ruling class to put off the needed economic and political reforms that Northern Europe, particularly England, was carrying out. In the end, Spain failed to adapt to the new economic world then emerging.

            I think remittances sent from the US to Mexico are quite similar, economically speaking, to the gold and silver sent back to Spain in the “Golden Age.” They don’t really contribute to economic growth or increased competiveness, and they allow lazy or corrupt rulers to continue the status quo. The same goes, of course, for narco dollars, but I think oil revenues and tourism probably fit in here, too.

          • Glen Olives

            That’s something I hadn’t thought about, and it makes sense. Once again, this has been a productive conversation. Thanks.

          • Güerito

            Thanks, Glen.

            Several years ago I was reading a book on the rise and decline of the Spanish Empire. The author referred to the gold and silver sent back to Spain as “remittances” and explained how they, in the long term, hurt Spain’s future.

            It was then that I made the connection.

    • Jeepers, I hope you don’t live down here.

    • Michael C

      Are you kidding? Major multi-national corporations, especially auto makers, continue to open new plants in Mexico! Mexico has recently surpassed Brazil in auto manufacturing output! Here in Puebla, Volkswagen has their largest plant outside of Germany, employing thousands of Mexicans! A new Audi plant is under construction here now, and Nissan is adding a THIRD production plant up in Aguascalientes! You are ill informed and uneducated, and should not be commenting on the Mexican economy!

    • Marcel Stierli

      México is #11 be national economics in the world. Usually this kind of statistics doesn’t count your two stupid arguments. If you point with your finger on somebody, remember that you point with three others to yourself

  • Juan Carlos Coéllar

    “…most Mexicans knowS about America.” (??!!) I certainly hope you’re not teaching grammar, or that the newspaper made the mistake, not you.

  • Gavan Connell

    You, yourself fall into the trap of calling the USA, ‘America’. We Mexicans hate that. ‘America’ starts at the horn and finishes in Alaska. Mexicans regard themselves as ‘Americans’ because of the fact they come from that part of the the continent of America known as ‘Central America.’ The book, ‘The illusion of ignorance’ by Janice Lee Jayes is a long and detailed record of how this all came about. It also has a section about the early USA workers forming enclaves in the early 20th Century and they still do it today. Much of the lack of understanding stems from not wanting to understand. From both sides. The Canadians seem to me to be less inclined to gate themselves away and tend to interact from my personal perspective.

    • In the real world where real people live, America means only one thing, and you know what that is. This business of Mexico being America too is, while technically correct, not how anybody at all thinks.

      • bushwah

        In the real world outside the USA, we here in Canada, at least, definitely do not tend to call the USA “America”, although Europeans do have that unfortunate tendency. In Canada, for a couple of centuries, the common term has been “the States”, from back around the revolution time, I would guess. Yes, we do call them “Americans”, although I tend to say “people in the States”, and, in written and sometimes spoken language, “USAmericans” is increasingly common (with equivalents in French, Spanish, etc.).

        One commenter here said “North Americans”, apparently referring to people in the US. I ran into this in Cuba, where the use of “americanos” to refer to people in the US is rejected: when I was asked whether I was a norteamericana, I said “yes, I am Canadian”, which confused the hell out of those asking. (In England, when asked what part of America we were from, we said “the Canadian part”.) The term “North Americans” to refer to people in the US is at least as obnoxious as the term “Americans”. And, of course, in addition to Canadians, Mexicans are also North Americans.

        The US failed to give itself an actual name when the colonies became independent and kind-of united. Too bad. Its arrogation of the name of the western continents to itself is not defining for the rest of us.

        I’m sure there are people in the US who think the Organization of American States is about them. They’re so vain. 😉

        • North America, of course, consists of three nations, Mexico, the United States and Canada. Now and then, I run into things online that put Mexico into Central America or merely omit Mexico in references to North America. It’s amazing how many people do not know Mexico is a North American nation.

          • Sharon

            Don’t feel bad – many US citizens do not even know anything about Canada. Some think we have snow all year and live in igloos.

          • miabeach

            we know fat white canadian men have poor taste in swimsuits. We know cheap Canadians crowd Costco parking lots and take all our inexpensive milk.

          • miabeach

            I never refer to Mexico as North American, only Latin American.

        • Sharon

          Well said – I too thought of Ellesmere Island upon reading that comment. Proving once again that some people have little knowledge of the continent, upon which they are living. Perhaps they were never taught geography in school.

        • miabeach

          Actually we think the OAS is a Latin American commie cesspool out to steal from us.

    • Sharon

      I like your comments – well said. I agree we are all North “Americans” . We are Canadians who are permanent residents of Mexico. We do not live in a gated community – shudder. We live in a small town that in winter is mostly populated by Americans and a smattering of Canadians. It is very much a beach town and on any given weekend there can be over 1000 visitors, as well as the rest of us. So it can be very noisy as times, we prefer a quieter place.

      We like Mexican culture and would love to experience more. If anyone knows a nice place to live away from tourist traps, but close to services, drop me a message.

      • Michael C

        Puebla!! Has enormous culture, food, history, colonial Pueblos Magicos and mucha naturaleza! And, not a major expat landing spot, if that is desirable.

        • Sharon

          Thank you Michael – we will check it out. Is that where you live………..How are services like internet, shopping etc.

    • Sharon

      We are Canadians who are now PR`s and we know for a fact that around here – we have more Mexican friends than most of our US buddies do. They tend to look at Mexicans as wait staff, maids, gardeners, boat crew or shop keepers. They tend not to interact with the locals and some refuse to learn the language. Even if you are a snowbird you need to learn some basic Spanish – if only to order food.

  • alance

    The quality of life in the United States has deteriorated considerably in the last decade causing much discontent and confusion. The cost of living is increasing each year while the culture keeps imploding with racial, social, religious, political and ethnic division. Both political parties have become completely dysfunctional.

    The Mexicans simply have much more experience surviving hard times and a corrupt government. Mexican society is not imploding and is better at adapting to change by keeping their core values and cynical attitudes.

  • Three score and ten

    One thing not mentioned that I think greatly influences US citizen’s concept of Mexico is the media. News programming always presents some bias, but movies and television programming still promulgate the image of unkempt Mexicans bumping down a narrow dirt road in a 50 year old bus with a chicken in their lap. Until they see Mexicans on a first class bus watching movies and riding down the autopista, not much will change.

    • Peter Hobday

      Yes, if a story about Mexico isn’t about ‘cartels’ then the viewer becomes puzzled, and may watch a different news program in future.

    • Michael C

      Love those first class buses and good highways! Viva Mexico!

  • James Smith

    “understanding and cooperation” will not begin until or unless the mexican government and mexicans accept the legitimacy of other nations laws, rules, and regulations regarding immigration and the obligation of mexico and mexicans to abide by them.

    • mrpoohead

      What a pile of garbage – you are such a wind-bag. did the US respect Vietnamese laws, Iraq’s or Afghanistan’s. Just how dim are you – that was a silly question was it not? Miss me?

      • James Smith

        and you are nothing but a trolling queer.

    • Marcel Stierli

      “accept the legitimacy of other nations laws, rules, and regulations” How this fits with NSA and CIA?

      • James Smith

        ah…the voice of the anti-american bigot raises its ugly smarmy head.

        • Marcel Stierli

          This ? at the end of a sentence means that it was a question. So if you have more to show than this low level comment, please go on and answer….PS: The US is not America, but this may you will learn in the 2nd year of classes…

          • James Smith

            wow…you and i are definitely not from the same planet. get lost troll.

          • Marcel Stierli

            your arguments are getting less and less.

          • James Smith

            case closed. get lost, troll.

          • urielfernandez

            PS: They call it America because back in the day when all those people were migrating to the United States of America, they simply said “i’m going to America!” which was in fact correct since they were traveling to the American continent. Now it just seems like they use it because it’s a short way of referring to their country. Stop feeling so belittled by the fact that they chose to put a descriptive name to their nation’s foundation (A group of states that were all in America and then they got united).

            I too used to hate that Americans took the continent’s name. That was when I was in third grade and my teacher told us that gringos were pretentious and took something that didn’t belong to them.

  • People worldwide are parochial. I’d guess the parochial level of Mexicans is actually a good bit higher than that which exists in the U.S. Most folks just do not get out much, and they read even less.

  • Peter Hobday

    Yes, that road trip from Texas to Mexico has a reputation. My friends who drive down to Mexico take a different route, but most fly into Cancun and catch the bus into Merida (very safe). Flights into Merida from Texas now go from Houston and DFW and are much cheaper than last year. Your friend from Cancun is probably right. In Mexico we all know and see the corruption. In the USA it’s more hidden. Both are bad. And of course, where ever Americans are found, that’s where the drugs go.

  • I have always wondered why more effort is not made in Canada to learn more about Mexico, I believe in NAFTA and if anything believe it should also address labor mobility. Trump is becoming a terrible disaster for both Canada and Mexico

  • Hailey Mannering

    Yes, we need to do as much as possible to end the War on Drugs ! By the way, Latin American countries don´t get much thanks from the US public for the huge sacrifices they make in fighting the war. So we should end it.