Op-Ed: “Why Mexico Will Never Be A First-World Country”


With 13,000 years of a vibrant and rich history, an
over-abundance of natural resources, beautiful sea resorts on the Pacific and
the Atlantic, Mexico should be another Canada or another United States, but
it’s not.


As the
southernmost nation in North America, Mexico remains an island of sorts within
North America – a lost country that has seen little change for those of us who
follow these things.


There was a
time not too long ago when we could visit Mexico for the typical touristy
activities such as having an inexpensive grandiose, delicious lunch at a
restaurant in Ciudad Juárez, Nuevo Laredo, Ojinaga, or one of the many other
border cities. We’d cap off the day shopping for trinkets, blankets, boots,
custom-made picture frames, pottery and other very inexpensive items we could
bring back to the U.S.


Those days
are over, and unfortunately, those days are likely not coming back any time
soon because of the highly volatile security situation with the drug cartel

delving into the current situation, it would be helpful to look back in time,
not to pre-Columbian days, but to the days after Mexico won its independence
from Spain after 1821. Mexico would not be Mexico without Spain’s far-reaching
influence. For more than 300 hundred years after Spain absorbed Old Mexico in
1519, Mexico remained an important mainstay colony for the Spanish Empire,
bringing in almost half of Spain’s wealth to the Spanish Crown.


about 700,000 Spaniards would eventually come to the Americas and settle in
Mexico, and that’s part of this story that will be discussed later.


Mexico has
always had a tumultuous history with numerous invasions from within, from
France and the United States. Following its independence, the country never
really had a stable government with leaders such as Antonio Lopez de Santa
Anna, Benito Juárez, Porfirio Díaz, Francisco Madero, Emiliano Zapata and host
of others.

The United
States defeated Santa Anna during the Mexican American War in 1848 (begun in
1846), and Mexico ceded almost half of its territory to the United States.

The constant
shift from liberal leaders to more conservative leaders left the new Mexican
republic with an ever-changing patchwork of amendments and reforms to its
constitutions. Mexico formed its first political party in 1929, the Partido
Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), a party that would stay in power for 70

From its
inception, Mexico has been shaped by the Aztecs, the Mayas and other native
peoples that were part of the Old Mexico centuries before the Spanish
“discovered” Mexico. In 1325, the Aztec capital,Tenochitlan (Mexico City), was
the largest city in the world.

Cortés conquered the Aztecs and Tenochitlan in 1521, and thus began a campaign
of “Europanizing” the Indians with the
Spanish language, instituting Catholicism and generally, trying to eradicate
centuries of Aztec culture, rituals and language.

Perhaps more
than any other single event that has taken place in Mexico, the eradication of
the Aztecs by the Spaniards is a monumental moment in Mexico’s history that can
be traced with its consequences today. In other words, Mexico’s troubles are
diverse, complicated and cannot be blamed on any one factor, but we argue that
Mexicans today remain affected by the draconian cultural changes introduced by
the Spaniards centuries ago.


Ask almost
anyone to describe Mexico, and the most regularly used response is
“corruption.” The PRI ruled Mexico for 70 years until the election of Vicente
Fox in 2000 of the Partido Acción Nacional (PAN). Under President Fox, little
changed except for the escalation of the drug cartel violence that killed
thousands of Mexicans including members
of opposition cartels, innocent bystanders and business owners who refused to
pay bribes to the cartels.


During this period, Ciudad Juárez became the
murder capital of the world. The once prosperous, eclectic and bustling city of
more than one million residents practically became a ghost city. Travel between
El Paso and Juárez virtually stopped. Tourism dwindled. Shopping malls closed
down. Restaurants were either burned by the drug cartels or the owners were
forced to take their business to El Paso.


Although the
rampant murders have declined, few Americans take the risk of entering not only
Juárez, but any border city for fear of being caught in the crossfire of drug
cartel violence or being kidnapped.


Before the
drug cartels took over the governance of Mexico, the country was already marred
with corruption at the highest levels of official government. The “mordida,” or
the bribe, has always been accepted as a business practice in Mexico. The
elite, including federal and state government officials, as well as wealthy
businessmen have always preyed on the weak in Mexico.


For all
intents and purposes, there really is no middle class in Mexico. It’s akin to
India’s caste system. The very rich control everything, and as Marie Antoinette
told her subjects, “Let them eat cake.” It may sound a bit harsh, but realities
don’t lie. The poor in Mexico will always remain poor because the upper class
will ensure that those at the bottom will never be able to reach even the
middle rungs of the economic ladder.


The poorest
citizens of Mexico will never have access to a decent education, let alone a
decent job. They will continue to work the fields of the wealthy farm and dairy
owners, work at factories for pennies on the dollar. Women will serve as “sirvientas,”or
servants, catering to every whim of their employer. These men and women will
barely eek out enough money per week to pay for their children’s food, but they
are loyal soldiers, and they will find whatever means to go to their job, lest
they arrive late or lest they stay at home because of an illness. This is just
cause for termination.


The 700,000
or so Spaniards that eventually settled in Mexico after Cortes established what
he called “New Spain” were clearly European. Although we cannot authenticate it
unequivocally today, we are told through our ancestors that the new immigrants
from Spain were a sharp contrast to the more indigenous people of Mexico.
Spaniards were known to have very light skin, much lighter brown or blonde hair
and either blue or green eyes.


Once the
Spaniards mixed with the indigenous population, they became “mestizos,” or a mixed
race. Genetics determined the final outcome. Since that time, the light-skinned
Mexicans have always been preferred over those with darker complexions with
Indian features. This fact has not been lost in popular culture and in real

cartoons always exploit the darker skinned characters as the antagonists, while
the fairer, more European complexions always remain the protagonists, as
witnessed in the wildly popular telenovelas.


Aside from
these prejudices, Mexico remains a country in flux. The government apparatus in
Mexico City has failed miserably to implement a fair education system whereby
every student receives at least a secondary education. A college education for the majority remains
as elusive today as it did when the PRI became the first operational political


In Mexico,
the rich get richer through the help of the government and the poor get poorer
through no fault of their own. The poor’s’ only sin is having been born into a
life of poverty.


For more
than 85 years, the federal government has had a chance to improve the lives of
its people through a workable education system, through infrastructure and by
eradicating corruption, but that hasn’t happened. Regardless of which party
assumes the presidency every six years, the results are the same: the same tired rhetoric and more corruption.


Mexico has
an identity problem, not to mention a cultural problem. For those at the very
top, life is beautiful; life is great.


It’s too bad
because Mexico is rich in natural resources that it could exploit to improve
its living conditions for almost every citizen. Mexico could be a “Canada of
the South.” Mexico could be the country of choice for Americans to vacation and
visit regularly. Mexico could be so many things, but that’s wishful thinking.


For all
these reasons, Mexico will never be a Canada. Mexico will never be a United States of
America. Mexico will never be a first-world country.


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