Damien Cave (2013, Sept 21). “For Migrants, New Land of Opportunity Is Mexico.” The New York Times.
In the United States, Mexico has a reputation as a place that everyone’s trying to leave. But increasingly, that is no longer the case. The country has fared well compared to its recession-plagued counterparts in the U.S. and Europe. Rising costs of labor and transportation have motivated manufacturers to move from China to Mexico—“with some projections suggesting it is already cheaper than China for many industries serving the American market.”
All this economic success has led to a boom in immigration to Mexico. For the first time in recent memory, more Americans now move to Mexico than Mexicans move to the United States. Mexico is also attracting workers from all over the world: Honda and Volkswagen are opening new factories, and Korean immigration is booming to the point that Korean pop music is becoming popular in Mexico. Migrants from the rest of Latin America have also become more numerous.
Economic observers say that the rise in immigration is a huge opportunity for Mexico. However, the sudden global interest in the country is by no means a guarantee of progress. Mexico’s education system is still in poor shape, and many regions still struggle with basic law and order. Income inequality remains high.
Many economists, demographers and Mexican officials see the growing foreign presence as an indicator that global trends have been breaking Mexico’s way — or as President Enrique Peña Nieto often puts it, “the stars are aligning” — but there are plenty of obstacles threatening to scuttle Mexico’s moment.
“The fact that there is a Mexican moment does not mean by itself it’s going to change our future,” said Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal, Mexico’s economy minister. “We have to take advantage of the Mexican moment to do what is required of us.” The challenge, he said, is making sure that the growing interest in his country benefits all Mexicans, not just newcomers, investors and a privileged few.
For much of its history, Mexico has had very little interest in immigration. Restrictions against foreigners were prohibitively strict for most of the 20th century. Some observers say that influence from the United States has created a change of heart. With so many Mexicans living in the U.S., their opinions about immigration might soften.
Nonetheless, xenophobia is still common. Korean immigrants report often being told to “go back to your own country.” Visitors from elsewhere in Latin America are often treated poorly. The country’s southern border with Central America is particularly hostile to immigration.
Some observers feel that immigrants from the U.S. and Europe receive special treatment, as a racist legacy of the colonial preference for light-skinned people.
However, immigrants agree that Mexico is the place to be:
Marc Vigil, a well-known Spanish television director who moved to Mexico City in October, said that compared with Spain, Mexico was teeming with life and an eagerness to experiment.…Mexico has an audience that is larger and younger than the population of its former colonial overlord. Mr. Vigil said that allowed for clever programming, adding that he already had several projects in the final stages of negotiation.
“In Spain, everything is a problem,” he said. “Here in Mexico, everything is possible. There is more work and in the attitude here, there is more of a spirit of struggle and creativity.”
However, they also agree that Mexico can be a pretty strange place. According to another filmmaker, Diego Quemada-Díez:
“Europe feels spiritually dead and so does the United States,” Mr. Quemada-Díez said. “You end up wanting something else.”
He struggled to make sense of Mexico at first. Many foreigners do, complaining that the country is still a place of paradox, delays and promises never fulfilled for reasons never explained—a cultural clash that affects business of all kinds. “In California, there was one layer of subtext,” Mr. Quemada-Díez said. “Here there are 40 layers.”
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
- Would you ever move to Mexico, if there were opportunities in your line of work? Why or why not?
- Do you think Mexico’s economic success will lead to better education and security for most Mexicans?
- How do you think Mexico’s success will influence immigration to the U.S.?
Mexico is experiencing a boom in immigration, due to its recent successful economic performance. However, there are concerns about whether the country will be able to take advantage of this opportunity, and whether it will be equally shared by all Mexicans.
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