There is however a huge difference between these two powerful regions; while Europe has shown that it is possible to create a suprastate without affecting local cultures and nationalistic feelings, Canada, the United States and Mexico have limited their cooperation to NAFTA (North America Free Trade Agreement); recent criticisms by presidential candidates notwithstanding, the treaty has benefited the three countries by increasing trade and creating jobs. The question remains: “Is it likely that we will see an alliance similar to the EU in North America in the next 10 years?”.
The idea has surfaced recently to adopt a single currency, the dollar, for all NAFTA countries. It is a fact that you can travel all over Mexico and Canada without ever exchanging your U.S. dollars for the local peso or Canadian dollar. So what’s holding up the change? One word only, Mexico. Nationalism surfaces in the Aztec country whenever a foreigner suggests changing national symbols, such as language, currency and/or PEMEX (the nationalized oil company). While moderate Mexican politicians attempt to strengthen the ties with Washington, the far left led by the PRD (Party of the Democratic Revolution) organizes public manifestations, occupies the podium in the federal Congress and makes a huge nuisance of itself. As a result, relations between the two countries hover between glacial and warm.
The major thorn in our relations is without a doubt illegal immigration. Since there is no easy solution, except maybe opening the border completely to persons and merchandise, poor Mexicans will continue to seek a better life in the U.S. and American immigration officials will continue returning some of them to their native country. It is an endless and frustrating game of human ping-pong that is costing millions of dollars and thousands of lost lives. Building a wall on the border will of course not solve the crisis; it will only make us look foolish in the eyes of the world.
It is important to go back to historical roots to understand the innate distrust in all things American on the part of Mexicans. Our southern neighbor has lost half its territory to the extremely unfair Treaty of Guadalupe in the 19th century. A heavy-handed United States has always imposed its will on Latin America, beginning with the Manifest Destiny declaration and the numerous military interventions throughout the years. Latin America has been known as the “backyard” of America and until recently, only Cuba had been able to challenge our mighty power.
To answer the initial question regarding a possible supra-alliance among Canada, the U.S. and Mexico requires a good knowledge of history and a profound understanding of the undercurrents of nationalistic forces in the respective nations. The extreme right in the U.S. rejects Mexico as an unworthy political partner; the extreme left in Mexico rejects any possible alliance with the U.S. as a submission to an imperialistic power. Republicans speak of a nation besieged by corruption and of Mexican politicians “bought” by drug cartels. Mexican intelligentsia accuses Washington of not doing enough to crack down on American drug dealers, leaving the main task to the Mexican military.
An American Union in the offing? Not in the next 10 years, not in the next 20 years. It would require a political earthquake in both countries, Mexico and the U.S. (Canada is already integrated into the American political sphere). It would also require for Mexico to equal the American and Canadian levels of prosperity amongst ordinary people, a factor which would automatically solve the immigration problem. Meanwhile, Washington would do well to pay more attention to Latin America and less to other parts of the world. The results would certainly be worth the effort.
I was born many years ago in Geneva, Switzerland, where I learned various languages, including English – the Brit type – before emigrating to America where Uncle Sam was waiting in ambush with the draft. I wasn’t a citizen but that did not matter to the government, and I suddenly found myself doing push-ups in front of a barking top sergeant. After 3 years, I married a beautiful Mexican lady who convinced me to live for several years in her country where I learned a lot about Latin America. We now live in Brownsville, Texas, where I teach special education in a local high school.