This time, the Latvian Radio program “Diplomatic Lunch” takes guests to the Latin American country of Mexico, the image of which for many is formed mainly from Hollywood film productions. But Mexico’s history and present are much richer.
Tequila, cacti, sombrero, drug cartels and murders: these were the answers most often given to people who met Mexico on the streets of Riga.
Residents of Riga about Mexico2min
Almost every inhabitant of Latvia will have heard about Mexico for various reasons. The most common reason is the films made by their American neighbors. For at least the last few decades, they have tended to portray Mexico as a country dominated by drug cartels, corruption and crime, where everything is yellow-orange.
One of the cradles of civilization
Mexico is one of the “cradles of civilization” in the world. There are six in all: Ancient Egypt, Ancient China, Ancient India, Mesopotamia – all in the Old World, as well as Norte Chico in modern-day Panama and, of course, the Olmec civilization in Mexico.
Evidence of Mexican history can be found for at least the last 10,000 years. Of course, the best known period is the reign of the Aztec civilization and its collapse after the discoveries of Columbus and the warfare by the Spanish conquistadors.
The territory of Mexico was colonized by the Spaniards in 1521. Modern Mexico was formed after the War of Independence against Spain, which ended exactly three centuries later, in 1821.
Mexico is a federation consisting of 31 states and the capital, the federal district of Mexico City. In terms of population, Mexico is among the 10 largest countries in the world with a population of more than 130 million.
The predominant language in Mexico is Spanish, spoken by almost everyone. At the same time, about 7 percent of the population speaks native languages, including Mayan.
From a racial point of view, almost two-thirds of the Mexican population are litters, and another nearly a third are Americans. People in Mexico are not counted or divided in Mexico.
Ethnic and linguistic diversity in Mexico is as wide as the diversity of flora and fauna. Mexico is among the five countries in the world with the highest biodiversity.
Mexico is among the ten most visited countries in the world. More than 30 million people travel to Mexico every year.
Such popularity might seem strange when one thinks about the impression of Mexico on Hollywood and news programs with stories about regular drug cartel wars.
Drug cartel wars are no joke, and efforts by the US and Mexican federal governments since 2006 to reduce the impact of organized crime and violence have actually resulted in up to some 350,000 deaths. Mainly among cartel members, as violence has only tended to increase. More than 40,000 people are counted in the fighting, 5,000 of whom are members of Mexican law enforcement.
Participation in organized crime is most often the result of poverty and lack of opportunities. The massive participation in the criminal organizations we are seeing in Mexico is already pandemic. And in its drug production and exports to the United States, its southern neighbor is an unbeatable record holder.
Mexico’s legal economy is about one trillion euros. It is similar in size to the Italian and Spanish economies. For comparison: Latvia’s gross domestic product is about 30 billion euros. But if you look at the GDP per capita, then according to the World Bank, it is twice as high in Latvia: less than 15,000 euros against 7,000 euros in Mexico.
At the same time, in terms of life expectancy, Mexico is almost one and a half years ahead of Latvia. The life expectancy of people in Latvia is 75.6 years.
One of the most pronounced problems in the Mexican economy is income inequality. But to a similar extent, this is also a problem for Latvia.
Millions of Mexicans have moved to the United States
The United States is Mexico’s largest trading partner. Three-quarters of Mexican exports go to the United States and more than half of the country’s imports come from the United States. This clearly shows not only the degree of economic integration of the two countries, but also the level of integration of Mexico into US production chains. And, of course, the dependence of one partner in the national economy. Free trade agreements are essential for Mexico to maintain and grow its level of economic development.
Today, the most frequently discussed issue in both countries is the migration story. It is estimated that about 10 percent of Mexico’s population has moved to the United States.
The rapid increase in emigration began right in the middle of the 20th century, and it is now estimated that there are approximately 12 million U.S. immigrants of Mexican descent. That’s a quarter of all. It is worth noting here that the citizens of the United States have also moved to Mexico, including its beautiful beaches.
Mexico is also home to the world’s largest American diaspora. Three quarters of immigrants in Mexico have come from the United States. And it’s not just Mexicans who return to the United States to gain citizenship.
Mexico is also a transit area for migrants to the United States from other parts of the world, especially the rest of Latin America. We asked Juan Pablo Gonzales, a Mexican citizen and student of the International Management and Diplomacy Program at Riga Stradins University, to comment on this issue.
“A group of journalists and students recently arrived in Mexico from Afghanistan. Following formal congratulations from the Foreign Minister, they were granted visas on humanitarian grounds. At the same time, thousands of people who have left Central America live in tents near Mexico’s northern border, sometimes for months waiting for them to be able to defend their asylum application before an American judge.
These two examples illustrate very well the contrasts between Mexican migration. And if we look at this phenomenon over the decades, we will see that this is one of the biggest challenges facing the Mexican Government, both in domestic and foreign policy. Immigration has the most direct impact on economic and political life, as well as on relations with the region’s neighbors, ”says Gonzalez.
An important source of income
“Remittances sent home to Mexico by Mexicans living abroad have become the largest source of international income, outpacing foreign direct investment, oil exports and international tourism.
And it also reflects how important Mexicans working abroad are to their homeland’s economy. It can be said that both formal and unregistered migration has been one of the drivers of Mexico’s economic integration in the North American region, as the North American Free Trade Agreement between the United States, Mexico and Canada also takes these factors into account.
But in reality, migration has provided both lighter and darker moments for Mexico’s foreign policy. The Mexican Foreign Service regularly emphasizes the need to find and tackle the causes of migration in order to find a long-term solution, with a special focus on human rights. However, this is a very difficult task, as it is very difficult to provide some practical information to vulnerable people who, despite the risks, are willing to travel long distances at the risk of their lives. ”
Mexico’s relations with the United States are complex, both politically, economically and in terms of human relations. It is also expected from countries with more than 3,000 kilometers of border. But the importance and influence of Mexico as a country in world politics and the economy cannot be underestimated. It is not for nothing that Mexico is one of the G20 countries – the world’s most influential economic communities.
Mexican cuisine has also given the world a Caesar salad
Mexico is also famous all over the world for its cuisine and culinary heritage, which, incidentally, is one of the 35 Mexican places and things included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Mexican food was added to the Intangible Cultural Heritage List in 2010.
Mexican cuisine is based on a mix of Spanish colonizer traditions for the products and cooking skills of the firstborn. Extensive use of local plants – corn, avocado, beans, cocoa, tomatoes and other ingredients is the basis of Mexican cuisine. Corn in Mexico alone is found in 64 ways.
It would be important to note here that Mexican food found in US fast food chains has been significantly modified. However, rice with cheese is less common in real Mexican cuisine. Famous burito or enchiladas are made a little differently than offered, such as Taco Bell and Chipotle.
By the way, the famous and popular Caesar salad was invented in Tijuana, Mexico. They have little connection with the Roman statesman Guy Julius Caesar, but the most direct connection with the Italian chef Caesar Cardini, because he invented this salad in 1924. Legend has it that in the absence of products after the celebration in the restaurant.