September 14, 2001

Mexicans Stunned — Fear Consequences of Intimacy With U.S.

By: Louis Nevaer

MEXICO CITY—In the wake of terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, Mexicans are having second thoughts about becoming so intimately interconnected with so many gringos.

Though Mexican President Vicente Fox today said that the people of Mexico reject "all forms of violence," Mexico sealed off the border with California. Fearing that accomplices would flee the Los Angeles area by crossing into Mexico, security personnel were mobilized to safeguard major public buildings as well as the American Embassy, which is located on Paseo de la Reforma—a broad boulevard that runs through the historic center of Mexico City.

Thousands of air travelers were stranded as all airlines cancelled their several hundred daily flights to the U.S. On an average day about 40,000 people travel between the U.S. and Mexico. But more than the inconvenience of cancelled flights, Mexicans are stunned by how their nation—every day more intertwined with the United States through the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)—stands to be affected.

Televisa and TV Azteca—largest Mexican broadcasters—provided continuous coverage of the events in New York. With more than 200,000 Mexicans living in the New York City metropolitan area, television networks were overwhelmed by callers wondering about the fate of their relatives who work or live in New York.

More than the financial implications (The Mexican Bolsa suspended trading after the financial shockwaves from the terrorist attacks sent that stock exchange into a free fall), what Mexicans have found arresting is the fate of their own nation.

"If we are seen as an ally of the United States," said David Gonzalez, a student interviewed on the street near the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, "will we be targeted?"

This sentiment is important, for it speaks of the anxiety many Mexicans feel at how "globalization" is linking the fate of Mexico with that of the United States. Since NAFTA, Mexico has gone out of its way to reassure other Latin Americans that it has not "gone Anglo," but remains very much "Hispano." Regardless of how Americanization has overtaken Mexican business life and politics—Vicente Fox is the most Americanized politician Mexico has ever known—the sentiment of callers flooding the television and radio programs in Mexico City shows the tremendous fear for Mexico's safety.

Louis E.V. Nevaer, who lives in Mexico City, is an economist, author, consultant, and editor (nevaer1@hotmail.com).

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