Today's Topic



Mexico's Cultural

Natalia J. Garland

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The Mexican government seems to want us to believe that America is an economic region rather than a sovereign nation. When viewed as an economic region, it is easy to nullify America's immigration laws and to justify illegal immigrant labor. This is why Mexico's president, Felipe Calderón, who cannot adequately govern his own country, could boldly recommend that the American government pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation. This is why Calderón, while standing on American soil, could laughingly intimate that some of his relatives are illegal immigrants.

Calderón apparently feels no disgrace over the fact that the citizens of his country, possibly including his own relatives, cannot find jobs in Mexico. On the contrary, Calderón seems quite comfortable with the fact that approximately 20 percent of the Mexican population has fled to America in search of a better life. Although Calderón claims to be committed to improving job conditions in Mexico and keeping families together, he also views immigration as a "natural" process and good for both countries.

The Mexican diaspora to America has a long history. Over the years, the economic impetus of the diaspora has given rise to a cultural focus. It is the magnitude of this cultural focus that enables the Mexican government to acquire an ethnic-bound political stronghold in America. Since this stronghold has been conscientiously pursued, it can be viewed as an imperialistic endeavor on the part of Mexico.

The complex factors of American democracy, civil rights, wealth and consumerism, and the porous border between the U.S. and Mexico, have been manipulated by both Mexicans and Americans for self-serving purposes. Although illegal immigrants may seem to be at the center of concern, it is doubtful that all immigrants, like many working-class and middle-class Americans, really know what is going on. The American system of government is open to abuses by political radicals as well as by unscrupulous businessmen. There are aggressive individuals and organizations whose voices overpower the everyday worker. Let's trace the development of some of these complexities.


Relationship Between Mexico's Cultural Imperialism
and America's Failure to Enforce Immigration Laws

  • Mexico is unable to manage its own government.
  • Mexico is unable to educate and employ its own citizens.
  • There is an economic diaspora of Mexico's poor and dark-skinned peoples to America.
  • Mexico disregards the national sovereignty and geographic territory of America by permitting illegal emmigration.
  • American businesses disregard American immigration laws.
  • American government fails to enforce its immigration laws.
  • Mexicans and Mexican Americans in America become major contributors to the Mexican economy through remittances and through purchase of Mexican exports.
  • 1970's: Mexican foreign policy begins promoting the development of Mexican culture and Mexican national identity among Mexicans and Mexican Americans residing in America.
  • 1975: American government recognized Hispanics [and Asians] as a victimized minority by amending the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Hispanic electoral districts were then created.
  • 1986: American government passed the Simpson-Rodino Act which granted amnesty to over 2 million illegal immigrants.
  • Mexico begins to re-define itself as a borderless, cultural, collective unit as well as a geographic territory.
  • 1990: Mexican culture-based foreign policy was made official when the Program for Mexican Communities Abroad was established by Mexico's Secretariat of Foreign Affairs.
  • 1996: Mexico declared that Mexicans who become American citizens are still recognized by Mexico as Mexican nationals.
  • Fostering cultural pluralism and the self-esteem of Mexicans and Mexican Americans in America is now regarded as the joint responsibility of the American and Mexican governments.
  • 2007: President of Mexico, Felipe Calderón, says, "Mexico does not end at its borders."
  • 2008: Calderón tells the American government how to manage the illegal immigration problem: "It is clearly important to have comprehensive immigration reform, and that comes at the federal level," (i.e., state rights and city ordinances should not go into effect when the federal government refuses to enforce current immigration laws).
  • 2015: Mexicans, Mexican Americans, and other Hispanics will form a majority in California and Texas.


The continuation of the endless supply of illegal labor is justified by two premises. The first is that America cannot survive economically without illegal immigrant labor. The second is that illegal immigrants do the jobs that Americans will not do. It has not been proven that either of these premises is true. Nevertheless, the advocates of illegal immigration, the Mexican government, and some American businesses promote illegal immigration based on this perceived need for such labor in America. Let's take a look at how each premise unfolds in political reality.


Premise #1:
America cannot survive without illegal immigrant labor.

  • Illegal immigration is justified.
  • The most powerful nation in the world is dependent on a weak nation.
  • The weak nation can feel powerful and in control of the strong nation's labor situation.
  • The weak nation can exploit the labor situation to make demands on and to influence the politics of the strong nation.


Premise #2:
There are jobs Americans will not do.

  • Illegal immigration is justified.
  • Illegal immigrants contribute to America, economically and culturally.
  • The culture and language of illegal immigrants should be reinforced as a civil right.
  • It is the responsibility of government (especially schools) to nourish and protect the culture of immigrants' (legal and illegal) country of origin.
  • The American labor market calls for laborer mobility which, in turn, calls for binationalism.
  • Binationalism justifies cultural pluralism which, in turn, enables Mexican cultural imperialism within America.
  • Binationals have a right to vote in their country of origin.
  • Comprehensive immigration reform should be passed, thereby securing the right of binationals to vote in America also.


America has not been put to the test of survival without illegal immigrant labor. Certainly, there would be a temporary disruption in services during the period of transition to legal labor. Wages would have to be increased to attract American workers, jobs would have to be sufficiently advertised, and training or re-training would have to be provided.

Nobody really knows if there are jobs that Americans will not do. Unless America could experience a period of time without illegal labor, it cannot be known whether or not Americans would fill those jobs. If America needs foreign laborers, then we must enforce a legal pathway for skilled foreign workers to enter the job market, and develop ways to track their whereabouts and to enforce return to their country of origin when their labor is no longer needed.

America must not view itself solely as an economic region in response to globalism, but must re-motivate its historical success as a nation of self-reliant peoples--especially because we live in an era of globalism and we risk losing our positive influence. There are other ways to maintain a workforce and to promote the wellbeing of the nation. One way would be to develop prison work programs. Some of the most difficult and essential work in America is in agriculture. We seem to rely totally on immigrant labor in the fields and in the processing plants. However, prison work programs could reduce the need for foreign labor and promote prisoner good behavior.

American parents must teach their children the value of a dollar. One way to appreciate money is to work for it. Teenagers should be encouraged to get summer jobs. We need to bring back the 3-month summer vacation so that youngsters can earn a significant amount of money before returning to school. Maybe we need to go back to the olden days when youngsters, not illegal immigrants, mowed lawns and shoveled snow. America's overweight kids need physical activity, and raking leaves would burn some calories.

Now, what is really behind the two premises of illegal immigration? The premises seem to present a reversal of reality.


The Reality Behind Premises #1 and #2:

  • #1: Mexico cannot survive without remittances from America or without exports to America.
  • #2: There are duties that Mexico will not do: create jobs, provide education, and develop a sense of pride in Mexican culture for all Mexicans and within Mexico.


Whether or not American businesses need illegal immigrants, at this point it seems beyond argument that illegal immigrants place a financial burden on America's public coffers. One estimate, as per the Center for Immigration Studies (from research based on the National Academy of Sciences), is that each adult Mexican immigrant, over his or her lifetime, costs the American taxpayers $55,200.00 as of the year 2000 ("taxes paid minus services used").

What would happen if America enforced its current immigration laws, including penalties on employers who hire illegal immigrants? Some people assume that American businesses would then move their companies to Mexico in order to hire cheap labor and to maintain high profits. So, those jobs still would not become available to Americans. Illegal immigrant advocates argue that the jobs are going to go to Mexicans, whether they get the jobs in America or in Mexico, and so it is futile to try to enforce immigration laws. It may be true that the jobs would still go to Mexicans, but there are some overlooked accompanying consequences.


What If American Companies Moved to Mexico?

  • Some illegal immigrants currently in America would follow the job market back to Mexico.
  • There would be competition for jobs between resident Mexicans and repatriot Mexicans.
  • There would be a housing shortage in Mexico.
  • Repatriot Mexican children would place a burden on Mexico's schools.
  • Mexico would be faced with the problem of bilingual education for the English-speaking children.
  • Repatriot Mexicans would take some level of an American identity with them.
  • There would be adjustment issues, psychologically and socially.
  • A cultural divide could develop between resident Mexicans and repatriot Mexicans.
  • Some family members, especially the American-born members, would stay behind in America.
  • Some illegal immigrants would choose to remain in America because they have grown to prefer America over Mexico, despite Mexico's cultural imperialistic efforts in America.


Even if American companies moved to Mexico, this would not be possible for every business that hires illegal immigrants. American farmers could purchase land in Mexico and continue to grow crops with Mexican labor. Food processing plants and other factories could relocate to Mexico. However, America would continue to need restaurant and hotel workers, mechanics, landscapers, miners, and construction and mason workers. The American economy would not halt.

Rightfully, any America-based jobs should go to American citizens and legal immigrants. But, even if Americans were not hired for those jobs or did not want them, the American taxpayers would save millions of dollars from the repatriot movement of illegal immigrants back to Mexico. For each outsourced job, Americans would save $55,200.00 (and more if that figure were adjusted for 2008) per potential immigrant who decided to remain in Mexico and work for a Mexico-based American company.

How does the the Program for Mexican Communities Abroad fit into the immigration picture? Rodulfo Figueroa-Aramoni, a former director of the Program, states that, "The program, supported by other federal agencies and state governments in Mexico, works to bridge the communication gap between those who live within Mexico and those who live abroad, to provide services aimed at improving the quality of life of the latter, and to encourage their acculturation to their host environment." He further describes the objectives of the Program as follows.


Objectives of the Program for Mexican Communities Abroad

  • "To promote and facilitate joint projects and to serve as a link between the Mexican community and individuals and institutions of the private and public sectors in Mexico;
  • To achieve better images of Mexico abroad and of Mexican Americans in Mexico;
  • To promote among the communities of Mexican origin abroad the knowledge of Mexican history, traditions, and culture to help them achieve the respect and fair treatment they deserve;
  • To support the organization of mechanisms abroad to improve their capacity for adjustment and self-reliance;
  • To improve Mexico's image abroad by making the struggles, contributions, and achievements of Mexicans at home and abroad known to a broader public.
  • And finally to encourage the specialization of the local officers who work for the program in the United States and those in the Mexican foreign service who direct and coordinate the program's activities."
    [End of quote.]


With the exception of promoting "adjustment and self-reliance," the above objectives are pro-Mexican. The focus is on the culture, business profits, and self-image of Mexico. Does this focus facilitate adjustment to America or ensure perpetuation of identification with Mexico? Why should a foreign government be permitted to influence the citizens or any immigrants living in America? Why does Mexico not admonish its citizens to obey America's immigration laws? Why do the two premises trump obedience to and enforcement of immigration laws?

Besides the economic impact of illegal immigration, there is the fact that third-generation Americans of Mexican descent remain poorly educated and have a large number of single-parent households. It must be questioned if preservation of native language and culture are the keys to self-esteem, especially now that we know Mexico has emphasized these qualities since the 1970's and officially since 1990. It would seem that a cultural focus, along with lack of education and lack of upward mobility, may have aided the marginalization of many Mexican Americans. Marginalization, in turn, renders Mexican Americans susceptible to political extremists.

If Hispanics become the dominant populations in California and Texas, then we must find ways to develop an educated and well-informed citizenry in those states, and we must resolve the illegal immigration crisis. Again, it must be questioned if Mexico's cultural imperialism is the best way to promote fairness and wellbeing in America. English fluency, assimilation into mainstream society, educational excellence, job training, strong families, respect for law and order, and love of America are the real keys to success for Mexican Americans. (Written 05/19/08: bibliography available.)

[NOTE: This is the second preparatory essay for future writing on what I call the Spanish Language Movement. To read the other preparatory essays, see Languages in America: Legislation and Costs (written 03/10/08), Every Child Should Speak English (written 07/17/08).]

Until we meet again..............stay sane.

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Copyright 2008 Natalia J. Garland