American’s Knowledge Faulty When It Comes to Mexico

Mexico is a country rich in culture.

The middle class is booming in Mexico. However, it seems that all we hear about in the U.S. is the drug war violence over the border. Shannon O’Neil is a senior fellow at the Council on International Relations, and in her article, “Mexico Isn’t a Gangland Gunbattle,” she points out the hypocrisy regarding the drug trade and the American perceptions behind it.

Enrique Pena Nieto, Mexico’s new President, calls “skewed perceptions” the biggest challenge facing U.S.-Mexican relations. According to O’Neill, drugs dominate American psyches. Given by a strategic advertising consulting agency to get a better idea of how Americans think regarding Mexico, results of questionnaires revealed that most Americans’ lack of awareness contributes to the distaste for our neighbor down south. When asked to write down three words that they would use to describe Mexico, nearly every person answered “drugs” as their first choice. Other popular words included “poor” and “unsafe.” The survey revealed that Americans firmly believe that the Mexican government is corrupt, unstable and violent. In fact, Americans felt more favorably toward Greece, El Salvador and Russia.

O’Neil pointed out that such perceptions are just reflected from the news media. True, there are many murders and tons of drug trafficking. However, the truth is that the violence is limited to just a few Mexican states. Also true is that most Americans are ignoring the economic transformation and deeper ties to the U.S. that are transforming the up-and-coming nation. Being one of the most competitive economies in the world, Mexico has surpassed the U.S. and China in its GDP, reaching over 63 percent. Mexico focuses on manufactured goods, which gives the country a stronger economic base than other emerging economies.

“This transformed economy is also now profoundly integrated with the United States. A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that imports from Mexico are, on average, 40% ‘made in America,’ far more than the 4% in Chinese imports. This back-and-forth of parts and products across the U.S.-Mexico border through the expansion of North American supply chains has been good not just for Mexico but also for the United States, revitalizing companies and supporting the jobs of some 6 million U.S. workers.” – Shannon O’Neil

Although the survey found that over half of Americans still view Mexico as a developing nation, it’s now a middle-income country. During the last 1-5 years, Mexico’s middle class has grown to encompass about half the people. These households possess automobiles and houses, send their two kids (on average) to the very best schools they can manage, and purchase the most popular products. According to O’Neil, the skewed perspective comes from a lack of education. “Americans don’t know much about their neighbor. And we all know it. Just as several people admit we don’t know as enterprise a positive or negative view when asked questions about Mexico. Together with all the recent emphasis on illegal immigration, folks forget that there’s a lot more linking Mexicans and Americans,” wrote O’Neil.

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