Skip to main content

The new Mexico, beyond stereotypes

By Ariel Moutsatsos, Special to CNN
updated 11:46 AM EDT, Thu July 25, 2013
President Barack Obama meets with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in Mexico City in May.
President Barack Obama meets with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in Mexico City in May.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ariel Moustatsos: Ruben Navarrette's column full of misinformation about Mexico
  • Fewer Mexicans moving to U.S., he says, and U.N. lauds Mexico's immigration reform
  • Mexico's balanced budget and economic growth lifting many into middle class, he says
  • Moutstatsos: U.S., Mexico trade booming; nations share geography and people

Editor's note: Ariel Moutsatsos is minister of press and public affairs for the Embassy of Mexico in the United States.

(CNN) -- On his recent visit to Mexico, President Barack Obama called on both our nations to let go of attitudes "trapped in old stereotypes." Sadly, a column written for CNN by Ruben Navarrette -- "Should the U.S. be more like Mexico?" -- makes just the sort of sweeping generalizations about a diverse country of 110 million people that the U.S. president urged us to avoid.

It might come as news to Navarrette that the Mexico of his grandparents, which still seems to inform his view of the country, is no longer an accurate description of a nation that, in 2013, has a growing, sophisticated middle class and is a relevant and responsible actor in global affairs. Because Navarrette says Americans should be fully informed on the matter, his misinformed and outdated characterization of Mexican society deserves some correcting.

With regard to immigration, Mexico respects the sovereign right of the United States to determine its own immigration policy, and the American people and their political representatives will ultimately determine what course that policy takes in the United States. Navarrette's depiction of Mexico's immigration policy, however, is inaccurate and outdated.

Ariel Moutsatsos
Ariel Moutsatsos

To my knowledge, no Mexican official has ever expressed a desire for a porous northern border. Moreover, in 2011, Mexico passed its own immigration reform focused on the decriminalization of immigration and providing protection for migrants, regardless of their migratory status. The legislation earned praise from the United Nations and established a solid framework to assist in the protection of migrant rights while better aligning Mexico's domestic policy with international treaties on migration.

Those significant steps do not merit an easy dismissal with a rhetorical wave of the hand. They are meaningful changes that will affect lives. Navarrette's column goes on to paint Mexicans as desperate to escape their home country, but the numbers tell a very different story. According to a 2012 report by the Pew Hispanic Center, migration between the United States and Mexico is at net zero. And a recent Gallup survey found that only 11% of Mexicans would like to change their country of residence; that number is identical to the 11% of Americans who say the same thing.

By 2010, around 40% of Mexico's population had joined the ranks of the middle class, according to data from INEGI, Mexico's national bureau of statistics. The characterization of Mexico as a bifurcated country of rich and poor is less accurate than ever, and according to in-depth research from economist Luis de la Calle and writer Luis Rubio, authors of "Mexico: A Middle Class Society," that trend is expected to continue.

It is not something that has happened by accident. To say, as Navarrette does, that Mexico "has no real economic policy beyond tourism" is not to be paying attention. Mexico's fiscal discipline, which will include another balanced budget this year, has led to the steady macroeconomic growth that is directly responsible for lifting many Mexicans into the middle class.

Mexico backs Japan's TPP bid

Our tourism industry, which also somehow appears to be worthy of Navarrette's disdain, does so well because Mexico is heir to two of history's greatest civilizations, and is a country of astounding natural beauty. The Mexican government embraces those realities and so do the millions of visitors we welcome, who generated $11 billion in revenue last year. But the idea that Mexico is content to rest on its tourism industry requires willful blindness to the transformations taking place in our nation.

As a result of unprecedented agreements between the country's main political parties, Mexico has recently pushed through large-scale reforms to education, anti-trust laws and legal procedures, with energy reform still on the agenda. Does that sound like a country with no real plan beyond tourism? The administration does have a National Development Plan, although Navarrette claims it does not exist.

The tone of the column pits Mexico and the United States in a sort of competition, deeming one of our countries "superior" to the other. For our part, we stand by the U.N. Charter that affirms the sovereign equality of all its members. Careless comments about superiority easily lend themselves to racism and xenophobia. Thankfully, bilateral cooperation between our nations has long since moved beyond such thinking.

Twenty years after the implementation of NAFTA, Mexico and the United States have become global partners. Our relationship is not one of competition and rivalry but of synergy and complementarity. For example, the National Bureau of Economic Research has estimated that nearly 40% of Mexican exports to the United States contain components manufactured in the U.S. Mexico is also the second largest export market for U.S. goods. In fact, according to the Woodrow Wilson Center's Mexico institute, some 6 million U.S. jobs depend on trade with Mexico.

Our nations build things together to sell here and abroad, and business is booming. In 2011, trade between our two countries reached $500 billion. But we share more than business and value-added chains -- we share geography and people. Our people live together, work together and break bread together. Given that 30% of immigrants in the United States are of Mexican origin and Mexico is home to the largest community of American expatriates in the world, both our countries have a responsibility to ensure that we continue to grow together.

Mexico and its people are evolving, and both our countries are stronger for it. If I may invoke the words of President Obama once more, "It's time to put old mindsets aside."

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions in this commentary are solely those of Ariel Moutsatsos.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:42 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
updated 8:12 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
updated 12:09 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
updated 6:45 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
updated 4:34 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
updated 2:51 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Jeff Yang says the film industry's surrender will have lasting implications.
updated 4:13 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Newt Gingrich: No one should underestimate the historic importance of the collapse of American defenses in the Sony Pictures attack.
updated 7:55 AM EST, Wed December 10, 2014
Dean Obeidallah asks how the genuine Stephen Colbert will do, compared to "Stephen Colbert"
updated 12:34 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Some GOP politicians want drug tests for welfare recipients; Eric Liu says bailed-out execs should get equal treatment
updated 8:42 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Louis Perez: Obama introduced a long-absent element of lucidity into U.S. policy on Cuba.
updated 12:40 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
updated 11:00 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
The Internet is an online extension of our own neighborhoods. It's time for us to take their protection just as seriously, says Arun Vishwanath.
updated 4:54 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
Gayle Lemmon says we must speak out for the right of children to education -- and peace
updated 5:23 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
Russia's economic woes just seem to be getting worse. How will President Vladimir Putin respond? Frida Ghitis gives her take.
updated 1:39 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
Australia has generally seen itself as detached from the threat of terrorism. The hostage incident this week may change that, writes Max Barry.
updated 3:20 PM EST, Fri December 12, 2014
Thomas Maier says the trove of letters the Kennedy family has tried to guard from public view gives insight into the Kennedy legacy and the history of era.
updated 9:56 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
Will Congress reform the CIA? It's probably best not to expect much from Washington. This is not the 1970s, and the chances for substantive reform are not good.
updated 4:01 PM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
From superstorms to droughts, not a week goes by without a major disruption somewhere in the U.S. But with the right planning, natural disasters don't have to be devastating.
updated 9:53 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
Would you rather be sexy or smart? Carol Costello says she hates this dumb question.
updated 5:53 PM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
A story about Pope Francis allegedly saying animals can go to heaven went viral late last week. The problem is that it wasn't true. Heidi Schlumpf looks at the discussion.
updated 10:50 AM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
Democratic leaders should wake up to the reality that the party's path to electoral power runs through the streets, where part of the party's base has been marching for months, says Errol Louis
updated 4:23 PM EST, Sat December 13, 2014
David Gergen: John Brennan deserves a national salute for his efforts to put the report about the CIA in perspective
updated 9:26 AM EST, Fri December 12, 2014
Anwar Sanders says that in some ways, cops and protesters are on the same side
updated 9:39 AM EST, Thu December 11, 2014
A view by Samir Naji, a Yemeni who was accused of serving in Osama bin Laden's security detail and imprisoned for nearly 13 years without charge in Guantanamo Bay
updated 12:38 PM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
S.E. Cupp asks: How much reality do you really want in your escapist TV fare?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT