Mexico in the Era of Trump

“¿De dónde eres?” When I respond “I’m from Washington, D.C.,” most Mexicans usually follow with: “Did Trump send you to deport us?” Although a harsh statement, I know they mean it innocently and are just hoping to catch some laughs. However, I can’t help thinking that their playful responses are a coping mechanism for how Trump has hurt the Mexican community.

Cold and rainy in Mexico City, the climate reflected how Mexicans felt the morning Trump had won the U.S. presidential elections. A sense of gloominess swept through my university; everyone was in shock. That day, Trump was the central topic. But instead of confronting the problem of Trump, my professors passively responded with: “The United States has always treated Mexico poorly,” or “Trump has problems; he doesn’t understand what he’s saying,” and even “At least now more Mexicans are learning about politics.”

At that moment, they began to make excuses and even jokes instead of confronting the situation. But how does one respond when your neighboring county threatens to build a wall to keep the “rapist” Mexicans away? Instead of crying or protesting, in Mexico City everyone seemed to find laughter in the situation to try to mitigate the pain.

Later on that day as the mood began to lighten, Facebook filled with memes joking about Trump, the wall, and even Mexico’s president Enrique Peña Nieto. I remember one meme with Peña Nieto building a wall saying, “A chingarle, este muro con se va construir solo (Let's get to work. This wall isn’t going to build itself.)” Other memes included Uber drivers deporting Mexicans and Mexicans playing ball over the U.S.-Mexico border. All of these were in good humor, of course. But when does it become the right time to confront the problem?

Now in my second semester in Mexico City, I’ve seen Trump’s threats and discourse devalue the Mexican peso, weakening the economy. ICE raids continue all over the United States; many Mexicans have already been deported. My Mexican friends are still too scared to travel to and from the United States. This situation continues to cause anxiety within the Mexico community. Is it now time to confront Trump?

In many ways the Mexican government is already starting to handle Trump’s presidency by looking south and towards China for new economic and political partners. However, this is not the solution Mexico wants. The Mexican government still hopes to heal relations with Trump, despite all the damage. The Mexican economy relies heavily on NAFTA, a trade agreement that has benefited both countries. As a result, many Mexican politicians bite their tongues, refusing to make the situation with the United States worse.

But as a U.S. citizen with Mexican roots, I continuously ask myself why Mexico reacts passively to the situation, while Trump sends out tweets about Mexico that are so impactful they even cause the value of the peso to decrease. Furthermore, Trump’s discrimination against Mexicans is detrimental to Mexican-U.S. relations: relations that have managed to heal even after the Mexican-American war of 1847. Thus Mexico must demand respect from the United States, as its neighbor and its economic ally, in order for both countries to continue benefiting from their economic relations.

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