I wanted to know what ordinary Mexicans living in Mexico City thought about the crazy elections and overall political madness happening in their neighbor up north. So I went down south a couple of weekends ago to find out because why not? And their answers…well, check them out yourself.
While many Americans have voiced their disapproval of both candidates, Republican Donald Trump has received the most hatred from Mexican-Americans, Mexican immigrants and just about any American that also considers themselves Latinos/Latinas/Latin@s/Latinx (I honestly can’t keep track anymore). It’s all because of his offensive comments about Mexican and Latin American immigrants last year when he announced his presidency, of which we excerpt in their entirety here:
When do we beat Mexico at the border? They’re laughing at us, at our stupidity, and now they are beating us economically. They are not our friend, believe me. But they’re killing us economically. The U.S has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems. (Applause) Thank you. It’s true, and these are the best and the finest. Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people. But I speak to border guards and they tell us what we’re getting. And it only makes common sense. It only makes common sense. They’re sending us not the right people. It’s coming from more than Mexico. It’s coming from all over South and Latin America, and it’s coming probably—probably—from the Middle East. But we don’t know. Because we have no protection and we have no competence, we don’t know what’s happening. And it’s got to stop and it’s got to stop fast.
(Note: all quotes have been translated from Spanish unless they had a funny curse word like chinga in them.)
“I do think a wall should be built, but a wall in Southern Mexico in Chiapas [bordering Guatemala] to prohibit others to come into Mexico to get into the United States,” says Ygnacio Salmerón, a mechatronics engineer originally from Oaxaca currently working in Mexico City who is a Trump supporter and is “anti-immigrant.”
Salmerón’s sentiments aren’t uncommon in Mexico. According to a Pew Research Center study, “Mexico increasingly serves as a land bridge for Central American immigrants traveling to the U.S.” And like our Mexican-in-Chief has written for over a decade, Mexicans have historically treated Central Americans—especially Guatemalans and Salvadorans—the way gabachos treat Mexicans in the United States.
But not all Mexicans feel this way. “They [Central Americans] have to get through the entire country [Mexico] and in that they get robbed, killed, and taken advantage of, all because of immigration,” says Julietta Cuellar a restaurant server born and raised in Mexico City, “I feel really heartbroken when I see Central American women with babies in their arms begging for money in El Centro [Central Mexico City, a busy commercial district] to get through the country and no one pays them any attention. It’s harder for a Central American to get to the U.S than a Mexican. A Mexican knows their country and can travel to a border town, easily. A Central American doesn’t know this country and is unsafe crossing through all of Mexico.”
While an increasing amount of Central Americans escape their war and gang-torn countries for the American dream, more and more Mexicans are opting to stay in Mexico. Another Pew Research Center study, this time focused on Mexican immigrants and the United States, says Mexican migration to the U.S has actually slowed dramatically. In fact, more Mexicans left the United States than those who arrived after the end of the Great Recession.
“I’ve never found going to the U.S attractive after seeing what my brother suffered to cross into the U.S.” says Cuellar, “I prefer to chase a better economy here than to go to a country that will treat me terribly.”
Salmerón expressed an interest in visiting the U.S., but not as an immigrant. “I would like to visit but as a tourist—I’d like to go to the Super Bowl or the World Series,” he says, ” I’ve been invited to go but illegally. So, I turned it down.
While most Americans may have a stereotypical view of Mexico as a downtrodden and impoverished country, more Mexicans say their standard of living in Mexico is about the same of that in the U.S. 33% of Mexican adults say life in the U.S is neither better nor worse than life in Mexico, up from 23% who said the same thing in 2007, according to Pew.
El Zócalo, the city center of Mexico City.
Denise De La Cruz
“People magnify that we are in great poverty,” says Salmeron. “That’s not true. Our rate of inflation has been steady since 1999. A pair of shoes that you bought 15 years ago will still cost you the same price today or just one or two pesos more. We are not really as bad off as people say we are.”
“The truth is you won’t die of hunger here. If something doesn’t work out here you chase something else—si se puede (it can be done).” adds Cuellar.
When asked about Hillary Clinton and Trump, I received mixed opinions from the Mexican nationals.
“The man is extremely racist.” said Guillermo Perez, a retired chef in Ecatepec, a city in the State of Mexico. “Every race has their culture and benefits from each other’s culture. So, to be president, the candidate must be extremely prepared and humanistic. Obviously, Mexicans feel resentment towards him, we hope he doesn’t make it to the presidency because he will persecute mostly the immigrants, Latinos and the inhabitants of his own nation. Don’t forget that the United State’s riches were made on the foundation of immigrants.”
Other Mexican nationals weren’t so critical of Trump, “They make him out to be devilish but we don’t really know because we only see what’s ugly about him through the media,” said Erika Moran, a homemaker in Mexico City. “Just like how you [Americans] probably only hear about the bad things about Enrique Peña Nieto.”
“A lot of people get offended but unfortunately, there are a lot of poorly educated people in Mexico but I’m personally not one of them,” said Salmerón. “So, I’m not offended. I am offended that Hillary hasn’t visited us. Why hasn’t Hillary visited?”
Graco Ramírez is the Governor of Morelos, Mexico who looks like Trump’s Mexican doppelganger. The sign reads “Out! Graco Trump Ramírez, ‘The Liar'”
Denise De La Cruz
Even though Salmerón considered himself a Trump supporter, he says there’s one thing about Trump’s policies that he doesn’t agree with. “Mexico will never pay for a wall, that’s what he says but that’s not going to happen,” says Salmerón, “He can put up his wall but he can put it up on his side.”
“He laughs that we’re going to pay for a wall and all I can say is what a pobre pendejo (poor idiot),” said Moran. “But until I see it actually happening, then I can say something—but right now it’s just words.”
When asked about Trump calling Mexican immigrants rapists, drug smugglers, and criminals, Julietta Cuellar, who said she does not support Trump, had this interesting anecdote to share. “I’ve known people that have killed people or have committed crimes here, and almost everyone here in Mexico has a family member in the United States, so they’ll say, ‘Go over there [the U.S]’ and they do go and they don’t get caught unless they commit a crime over there and get deported,” she says, “The problem is the original folks that migrate into the U.S did go to work and to find better lives, but once their relatives got in trouble in Mexico, it became easy for them to take their family members in.”
“If Hillary was like Margaret Thatcher, I’d like her a lot more, but she seems too timid,” said Salmerón. “And yeah, she’s a woman and women are known to be timid, but to be a world leader you have to be more aggressive.” He added that Hillary’s policies feel like handouts and go against his up-by-the-bootstraps and anti-communist views, proving that conservatism and machismo is indeed strong in some Mexicans.
“I have a great respect to the United States,” Salmerón concluded, “because our country lacks order. Racism is alive over there and in all parts of the world but I don’t think all racists support Trump.”
Cuellar thought otherwise. “This [Trump candidacy] is why I don’t go to the United States. There’s too much racism. If anyone treats me badly I wouldn’t hesitate to tell them ‘Chinga tu madre.‘”
Note: This story was originally published in the OC Weekly. Read it here. Lead photo credit due to Kevin Warn.