Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site


US-Mexico relations are officially off-the-wall

  • 28 January 2017


Last week, in the New York Times, renowned Mexican historian Enrique Krauze splendidly summed up the US conduct toward his country.

'For Mexico, the United States has been a difficult neighbour, sometimes violent, almost always arrogant, almost never respectful, rarely cooperative,' Krauze wrote. Donald Trump is the embodiment of all these.

Trump has taken the US disrespect towards its Spanish-speaking neighbour to a level even Mexicans — a resigned bunch — won't put up with any longer.

Trump and Mexico's president Enrique Peña Nieto were due to meet on 31 January in Washington to re-negotiate the 1994 Free Trade Agreement. The meeting is now off after Trump told Peña Nieto not to bother coming if he was not willing to pay for what he called 'the much needed wall'.

Ironically the Free Trade Agreement — that Trump and Peña Nieto were to discuss — was signed the same year the original wall, an assortment of rusting metallic bars and dodgy fences, was erected. Rather than a wall, it is a patchy fence of approximately 1100km along the 3200km that separates Mexico and the US. Bill Clinton built it in 1994.

Clinton's fence didn't reduce the numbers of migrants. What really happened was rather tragic; the number of dead migrants increased. Mexicans, and many others trying to reach the US, were forced to seek new and more risky crossings through the mountains and desert. In the last 20 years 8000 have died in their attempts to enter the US.

The wall Trump promised to build — with a 20 per cent tax on all imports coming from Mexico — comes at a time when the level of migration from Mexico to the US is at an all time low. Currently there are more Mexicans leaving the US than entering it. Between 2009 and 2014 one million departed and 800,000 arrived.

In this context one could argue that the wall Trump wants to build is just a symbol, designed to humiliate Mexicans and construe them as a threat to the US social tissue. 'Trump has a tower and now he wants a wall to demonstrate how machito he is,' Lucia told me over the phone. She is an old Mexican friend who has lived in Los Angeles for more than two decades.


"The wall has not only unleashed the fury of the Mexican left, historically anti-US and nationalist; it has also angered the right."


Lucia is undocumented, and is concerned about