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RELATIONS WITH THE UNITED STATES

What is the impact of geography on Mexico?

Mexico's proximity to the United States—the two countries share a 1,954-mile border—has had an extraordinary effect on Mexico economically, politically, and culturally. The disparity in income levels between the two countries has, had numerous consequences. Perhaps the most important of these was the influence exerted by the United States on Mexico's economic development in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. During the reign of Porfirio Diaz, from 1884 to 1910, US investment and involvement in numerous sectors of the economy, including mining, railroads, and petroleum, allowed private actors to play an inordinate role in political and economic matters. No better example of this exists than the fact that the owners of the Cananea Consolidated Copper Co. were able to request that Arizona Rangers cross the border and come to their aid during a major strike against the company in June 1906, representing a flagrant violation of Mexican territorial sovereignty. In the twentieth century, Mexico became the United States' second most important trading partner after Canada (recently trading places back and forth with China, which achieved first place in 2015), whereas the United States remains Mexico's most important trading partner, suggesting that geographic proximity has encouraged those commercial ties. But beyond direct foreign investment—53 percent of the total by the United States in 2015—and the magnitude of the two countries' trade relations, Mexican immigration to the United States, the most significant of any country in the world, is the product of that proximity. For decades Mexicans have sought economic opportunities in the United States. In recent years, many Mexicans have sought asylum in the United States as refugees from the crime and violence in their own country. In addition to the large numbers of undocumented Mexicans who enter the United States, and the multitude of contemporary social and political issues it generates, Mexico and the United States also share the largest exchange of documented citizens in the world. It is now estimated that between 600,000 and 1 million Americans live in Mexico. (See Table 4.1 for how the geographical proximity of the United States and Mexico has affected Mexican and American views of each other.)

The proximity of the two countries historically has led to multiple conflicts, the most significant of which was the Mexican-American War of 1846, when Mexico lost much of its national territory to the United States. These historical encounters led to a strong sense of Mexican nationalism with respect to the United States. Only in recent years, reflected in the willingness of the majority of Mexicans to join in a free trade agreement with the United States if it would improve their economic situation, has Mexico tempered its nationalistic stance toward its northern neighbor. Furthermore, Mexicans have demonstrated an increased openness to more direct US involvement in security affairs, especially if they believe it will reduce the level of violence and crime in Mexico. Beyond the traditional political effects of geography on the US-Mexico relationship, the cultural consequences have been extraordinary. Given the asymmetrical nature of the relationship between the two countries and the global reach of musical, literary, artistic, and other elements of US culture, it is not surprising that Mexico too has adopted many aspects of US culture. On the other hand, in the past two decades, the cultural influence

Mexicans (%)

Americans (%)

Statement

Agree with the statement

Favorable impression of Americans/ Mexicans.

35

85

Favorable impression of American/ Mexican government.

27

27

Mexicans are very hardworking.

49

53

Americans are very hardworking.

11

21

Mexicans are tolerant.

74

76

Americans are tolerant

43

79

Mexicans are law-abiding.

71

71

Americans are law-abiding.

62

91

Mexicans are racists.

49

50

Americans are racists.

73

35

Migrant workers benefit US economy.

80

67

Mexicans are discriminated against in the United States.

80

73

Democracy is more important than effective government.

63

62

"Distant neighbor" best describes how United States sees Mexico.

36

49

Which language is the best second language, English/Spanish?

89

78

Cultural impact of Mexico on United States is favorable.

40

43

Cultural impact of United States on Mexico is favorable.

21

48

Would you approve of your child marrying American/Mexican?

52

81

Community is more important than the individual.

69

72

Source: Encuesta CIDAC-ZOGBY Mexico y Estados Unidos, "Como miramos al vecino," 2006.

exerted by Mexico on the United States has grown significantly, especially in the realms of Mexican cuisine, popular music, and language. Spanish is the most widely taught language in the United States, due in no small part to Mexico's proximity and the number of American travelers to Mexico.

 
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