The view from Mexico

From the March-April 2017 issue of News & Letters

Mexico City—The xenophobic, racist, anti-immigrant remarks against undocumented Mexicans that spewed from U.S. President Donald Trump—“They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”—during the election campaign have become the lying excuse for mass deportations.

Mexicali, B.C., Mexico: “Dia de los muertos” protest art in solidarity with migrant workers at the border with Calexico, California. By Hector Silva.

Mexicali, B.C., Mexico: “Dia de los muertos” protest art in solidarity with migrant workers at the border with Calexico, California. By Hector Silva.

In Mexico, Trump’s rhetoric and actions are close to the number one topic of discussion and inspired protest marches and rallies. The concern, in part, is the impact of his policies—such as the possible abandonment of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the absurd demand that Mexico should pay billions for a 1,900-mile wall on the U.S./Mexican border. Not to be underestimated is the money that undocumented workers in the U.S. send home to their families, dollars that help them survive in Mexico’s permanent economic crisis.

So insulting are Trump’s words and actions that almost all sections of Mexican society oppose him. The government of President Peña Nieto and most of the political parties are invoking patriotism as a unifying banner. But many here recognize that Nieto is not an authentic opposition to Trump and U.S. policy.

Among the Mexican poor the concern is the human suffering that Trump’s directives are imposing. The millions of undocumented people in the U.S. have millions of family members and colleagues here in Mexico who are hearing from those in the north. Already, Mexican newspapers are carrying stories and pictures of Mexicans deported from the U.S. A recent article reported on measures that Mexicans from the Yucatan are taking in the U.S. to avoid “la migra” (the immigration police). They have created networks to share information on immigration police raids, changed addresses to P.O. boxes, go directly from home to work and back without any stops.

Trump’s attacks on undocumented Mexicans is an extension of the U.S. imposing its economic, political and military will on Mexico. Mexicans have a long memory of this. Foremost is 1846 when the U.S. invaded Mexico and stole California, Arizona, New Mexico, and parts of Colorado and Nevada. In 1916, some 10,000 US troops were sent to try and capture Pancho Villa.

At times, the U.S. recruited Mexican workers to, for example, build the railroads in the Southwest. Then they were summarily expelled from the country. In the first part of the 20th century, U.S. oil companies controlled production of Mexican oil. Mexican President Lázaro Cárdenas became a hero when he nationalized the oil industry in 1938.

Much more could be added on the U.S.’s callous use of Mexican laborers in the U.S. and border industries, like the Bracero program, and the maquiladoras that U.S. capitalists established in Mexico’s border cities in search of cheap labor.

Mexico and Mexicans have forever been an object, an Other, for U.S. business and political interests. Trumpism is the latest, vulgar manifestation. What may be a new beginning is the possibility of a solidarity of resistance to these policies by citizens on both sides of the border.

—Eugene Walker

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