The only times we seem to hear about Mexico is when main media outlets are talking about immigration policy or referencing Trump’s stump “wall” from the campaign trail (which seems now to be more of a metaphor for his general outlook of pitting people against each other, isolating the country, and overusing a few words than an actual possible construction project, but I digress).
With every policy utterance, President-elect Trump seems to send ripples of economic panic in Mexico. He has made promises like leaving NAFTA, charging Mexico for a massively expensive border wall/fence, and punishing U.S. companies for sending jobs south. 81% of Mexicans feel that Trump is a threat to their country.
Our neighbors to the north are much more present in our cultural conversations, especially with Trudeau beautifying our news feeds with his humanitarian acts. Could it be because the stereotypical Canadian looks and talks a lot more like white Americans? As a country, we seem less interested in the economic ‘pandemonium‘ caused by the hike in gas prices in the past couple of weeks than we do in celebrities’ matching tattoos.
The history of Mexican-Americans begins before the Mexican-American war (a.k.a. The Invasion of Mexico). We annexed much of Mexico and thereby repatriated about 100,000 Mexicans into the growing territory that were the young United States. In 1890, another 75,000 Mexicans became American citizens because of the need for cheap labor. The 1910 Mexican Revolution brought thousands more across the border, seeking refuge.
So, as you can see, many Americans of Mexican heritage have likely been in this country for much longer than many “white” families. They have contributed to our economy in countless ways and served in our wars. Yet, they continue to struggle with being treated like second-class citizens and are portrayed in movies.
The stereotypes of uneducated and minimum-wage job working Mexicans are all over our popular movies and in the media. And though there is nothing wrong with working jobs like that, it is very much wrong to paint an entire population with such a broad brush. Others stereotype Mexicans as criminals, drug dealers, illegal immigrants, and even rapists.
The media glooms onto the worst social problems and neglects to cover the political and economic environment or to acknowledge the rich culture in Mexico.
Here’s what the media fails to acknowledge: the gasolinazo, or approximate twenty percent hike in gasoline prices in Mexico has brought thousands out to protest the country’s economic situation. Over 1,500 people have been arrested, thousands have taken to the streets, several people have been killed, and dozens of businesses have been ransacked by looting.
This is more than just a show of “disgruntled consumers,” as the Wall Street Journal would have us believe, but a display by nervous citizens who are already experiencing the effects of oil shortages and more expensive prices, leaving many home bound.
Protestors in Rosarito, Mexico made every attempt to demonstrate peacefully against Pemex, the historically state-owned oil company with a monopoly on the market. They blocked access to a couple roads, gathered thousands of signatures, and even returned most of the tankers they used to close roads when Pemex expressed safety concerns.
These nonviolent actions were undermined when a rogue protestor unexpectedly drove his pickup truck into a crowd with anti-riot police. Many were injured, several killed, and journalists were beaten and arrested for covering the story.
That is only one city’s story of many.
The Mexican government claims that this increase in gas prices will increase imports and competition, after they broke up Pemex’s monopoly on their oil market in 2016. Protestors are concerned that this increase is the just one policy change of a shift that will cause overall prices to increase, hurting the most vulnerable in the country. Many posters hold the same eerie image: a gas-pump holding up a person, using the nozzle as a gun.
The Mexican people feel that their financial futures are threatened in general, and this price-increase for gas is the final straw for many.
Desperate Mexican drivers are streaming to California for some relief. And, to think of Californian prices as cheap is some indicator of how expensive gas is in Mexican states.
Many in the U.S. are more concerned with the security of our border than the security of those living south of it. For those, it might be helpful to re-engage with facts about immigration from Mexico. The hype about astounding or record-breaking illegal immigration was simply bombastic campaign scare-rhetoric.
In reality, between 2009 and 2015, we have actually seen a greater exodus of Mexican immigrants than influx. The net loss is estimated at about 140,000 over the past 5 years. And, President Obama deported more illegal immigrants than his two predecessors combined. Pew Research says that the overall U.S. immigrants who entered illegally has remained steady since 2009.
We claim to be concerned about democratic partners, but the recent economic protests and concerns in Mexico are not the first time we have neglected to cover the conditions of our southern neighbors. What we seem to forget is that we are close trading partners with this country and that many of our citizens are of Mexican origin.
Our identities and histories are deeply intertwined, as our economies. We should be concerned when there is civil unrest and economic uncertainty south of the border. And, we should read about it much more often, not waiting until the situation becomes sensational.